witness

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “witness” in English is translated as “truly have seen” in Highland Popoluca, as “telling the truth regarding something” (Eastern Highland Otomi), as “know something” in Lalana Chinantec, as “verily know something to be the truth” in San Mateo del Mar Huave, as “we ourselves saw this,” in Desano, as “tell the truth about something” in Eastern Highland Otomi, as “know something is true because of seeing it” in Teutila Cuicatec. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

Translation commentary on Psalm 27:11 - 27:12

For Teach see comments on “instructs” in 25.8; for lead see its use in 23.3; and for path see its use in 16.11.

Thy way is the way that Yahweh wants the psalmist to take, that is, how he, the psalmist, should live as a worshiper of Yahweh. In verse 11b the word level (see “level ground” in 26.12) may mean “safe” (as Good News Translation has it) or “without obstacles” (Bible en français courant); however, as Anderson says, it may be “a way of life that is right in the sight of God” (also Weiser).

The two different words, my enemies and my adversaries in verses 11c, 12a, are synonymous.

In verse 12a the Hebrew text is “Don’t give me to the nefesh of my enemies.” The word nefesh here (see 3.2) is taken to mean will by Revised Standard Version and others; New English Bible and Weiser have “greed”; Traduction œcuménique de la Bible “desire.” Bible en français courant is vivid: “Don’t let me fall into their claws (or, clutches).”

The enemies are described as false witnesses who breathe out violence. The verbal phrase breathe out violence is a vivid portrayal of hostility and hatred. The language suggests a trial in which lying and hostile witnesses accuse the psalmist of having committed a crime. Whether this is conventional language or whether it reflects an actual situation is impossible to decide. If the translator follows the suggestion of false witnesses, it is possible sometimes to say “men who tell lies about what I have done have stood up” or “people sit down to decide my affair and tell lies about me.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1991. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .