Translation commentary on Baruch 1:11

Pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar … and for the life of Belshazzar …: This does not mean that the lives of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar were in danger. It is simply a way of wishing long life to them. Good News Translation “pray for King Nebuchadnezzar … and … Belshazzar, that they may live as long as the heavens last” captures the idea.

The only Belshazzar known to history was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, but of Nabonidus, who was the last of the Babylonian kings. Nabonidus came to power a few years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. Dan 5.2 also has Belshazzar as son of Nebuchadnezzar.

For Babylon see the comments on verse 9. Here it refers to the country of Babylonia (so Good News Translation).

That their days on earth may be like the days of heaven is given a slightly different interpretation in the New American Bible (New American Bible), which says “that their lifetimes may equal the duration of the heavens above the earth” (compare a similar expression in Deut 11.21). This is an equally possible literal understanding of the Greek text, but the meaning of either rendering is expressed in Good News Translation with “that they may live as long as the heavens last.” Heaven or “heavens” here refers to the universe, and in some languages this clause can be expressed as “that they may live as long as the sun, moon, and stars last.” It may sound strange that the exiles are calling on their fellow Jews in Jerusalem to pray for the welfare of their captors, but it is only what Jeremiah himself called for in his letter to the exiles (Jer 29.7).

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Baruch 2:22

There is a rather complicated sequence of verbal ideas in Good News Translation:

if you refuse
to obey
my command
to serve him.

One of these levels can certainly be eliminated. An alternative might be “if you refuse to serve the king, as I have commanded you….” Another, more drastic option is to reverse the clauses in verse 21 and shorten verse 22 as follows: “If you want to stay in the land that I gave your ancestors, then obey and serve the king of Babylonia. If you do not do so….”

Notice that this verse literally speaks of the voice of the Lord. In this context, of course, it refers to God’s command. Good News Translation restructures this phrase as a first person reference to God (“my command”) for the sake of consistency with the verses before and after it.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Baruch 3:19

They have vanished and gone down to Hades: This does not mean that they have vanished into thin air, but simply that they have died. Hades is the world of the dead; see the comments on Bar 2.17. If possible, translators should keep the figure of “the world of the dead” (Good News Translation) or even “the place where the dead go.”

Others have arisen in their place: This does not mean that some dead people have come to life, but rather “others have been born to take their place” (see verse 20).

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Baruch 4:14

Let the neighbors of Zion come: In Greek this verse begins with a strong imperative (“Come…”) just as do the stanzas beginning at 4.9b, 4.21, 4.27, 4.30, 4.36, and 5.5. For neighbors of Zion, see the comments on verse 9.

Remember the capture of my sons and daughters …: There is an awkward shift of person in the verbs of this verse. The verb in the previous line (Let … come) is expressed as a third person imperative, but the verb here (remember) is a second person imperative. This is very likely original to the text of Baruch, but the translator is advised to make the verb forms consistent. Good News Translation does this by rendering them naturally in English as “come and consider…” (similarly Contemporary English Version “Come and see”). Remember here means “think about,” “give thought to,” “consider.” The Greek noun translated capture is the same noun rendered “captivity” in verse 10. Verse 15 makes it clear that once again the word refers to the act of capture rather than the state of captivity.

In fact, the capture of my sons and daughters and which the Everlasting brought upon them are word for word in Greek the same as the corresponding expressions in verse 10. It is hard to see that much is lost by translating the two differently, as Good News Translation has done, but the repetition could mark the beginning of a new stanza in the author’s thinking. If the translator wants to honor the author’s decision to repeat the expressions, there is usually a way to do it. For instance, verse 14 in Good News Translation could be reworded to read “… come and think about my sons and daughters taken into captivity, a captivity brought on them by the Eternal God.” This is at least a stronger statement than verse 14 actually is in Good News Translation, and it probably gains strength from its being a repetition. The reader or hearer senses the author’s insistence on the point by having it repeated. In fact, a small danger lurks in “consider how….” That could be misunderstood in English as an invitation to think about the way in which God sent the people into exile.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• Come, all my neighboring cities, and see how the Eternal God has caused my enemies to drag my sons and daughters away into foreign countries.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Baruch 5:9

For God will lead Israel with joy …: Translators may omit the connector For at the beginning of this verse. The Greek verb translated lead has definite overtones of “guide.” With joy describes Israel, not God. Good News Translation restructures this verse to make this clear and to take advantage of the fuller meaning of the verb lead. Good News Translation begins with the simple statement, “God will lead Israel home.” Since this is the last verse of the book, it would not be overdoing anything to say “Yes, God will lead Israel home.” Then it can be said that “They will return with [great] joy, guided by his mercy and righteousness….”

In the light of his glory: See the comments on verse 7. Here the connection of God’s glory with light is made explicit. Good News Translation “surrounded by the light of his glorious presence” is well put. This phrase may also be rendered “lit [or, illuminated] by his glorious presence.” However, this rendering does not work well in English. An alternative model for the last two lines of this verse is “God’s bright glory [or, light] will guide them, and as they travel he will be merciful and just [or, fair] toward them.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Letter of Jeremiah 1:32

The priests take some of the clothing of their gods: In verse 11 we were told that the images were dressed. Here we are told that the priests have been known to take some of the clothing—not all of it—for their own families to use. Good News Translation misses this point with “They take the clothing off their gods,” but Contemporary English Version follows Revised Standard Version by rendering “They even take some of the idols’ clothes.” The Revised Standard Version footnote here explains that their gods is literally “them” in Greek. Revised Standard Version has spelled out the pronoun for clarity.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on Letter of Jeremiah 1:64

The refrain here is almost word for word in the form found in verse 29. Revised Standard Version reflects the literal difference between “by these things” in verse 29 and then in this verse. For fear see the comments on verse 4.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men 1:26

If integrated into the book of Daniel: 3.49

The angel of the Lord: Use of the definite article the here is not to claim that the Lord has only one angel. In English “an angel of the Lord” (Good News Translation) or “one of the Lord’s angels” (Contemporary English Version) is more appropriate. The word angel translates a Greek word literally meaning “messenger.” The Greek word usually translates a Hebrew word of the same meaning. In some of the oldest stories of the Bible, the writers gave little thought to what kind of beings these messengers were; they are pictured much like ordinary men, though they come and go miraculously (compare Jdg 6.11-22; 13.3-20). The book of Daniel is one of the latest of the Old Testament books. By this time the Jews had given considerable thought to angels, who were understood, as here in this story, to be more than human; they are immortal beings who are sent on God’s errands. In a number of languages, the angel of the Lord may be expressed as “one of God’s heavenly messengers.” See also the comments on LetJer 7.

Came down into the furnace: Good News Translation says “fire” rather than the literal furnace, which of course, in this context, means the same thing.

To be with Azariah and his companions: Good News Translation expresses this as “where the three men were” and Contemporary English Version has “to protect Azariah and his two friends.”

Drove the fiery flame out of the furnace: Drove … out is literally “shook out.” Finding a good verb to use here is a challenge, since the text is describing something that does not ordinarily happen. The picture seems to be this: the angel causes the fire to move outward from the center of the furnace to the sides, where it goes streaming upward in broken flames. The fiery flame (literally “the flame of the fire”) is presumably what the angel shook out. One may understand this as simply “the flames” as in Good News Translation or New English Bible, or as an amplification, such as “the scorching blaze” (Moore). An alternative model for this final clause is “He forced the flames to move out of the furnace.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Shorter Books of the Deuterocanon. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2006. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.