Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Lost with translations?

Sunday's Old Testament reading caused some interesting discussions regarding Leah (Laban's daughter) and her eyes (Genesis 29.17) because the NRSV - which is used by many churches as the standard volume of the Bible told those gathered that her eyes were 'lovely' BUT those who use other versions were left with the impression that she was in possession of dodgy eyesight!

As requested - I have compiled a list of thirty-eight Bible versions - six of which go with 'lovely, nice or attractive' whilst the rest all point to something else and point to the challenge of different translations and their take on things.

Many of the translations look back to the King James Version as their starting point - seeking to move forward from this start point and put the Bible into contemporary language and, using 'modern' linguistic tools,  change words translated incorrectly.

There are (as I recall) three main types of translation available to us: At one end of the spectrum we have the free translations (like the most excellent Message) whilst at the other we have the literal translations (English Standard Version, New American Standard Version to name but two) with the dynamic version (one of which is the New International Version) acting as the fulcrum.

  1. Literal translation. Seeks to maintain exact words and phrases of original using modern style and grammar (including the King James - which fits the bill for time it was written!).
    Not always the easiest but most accurate of the translations.
  2. Dynamic equivalent translation. Seeks to keep timelines and facts with modern writing style and grammar. Trade off between accuracy and readability.
  3. Free translation or Paraphrase). Keeps the stories but modifies way they're told to give gist rather than 'word for word' or 'close enough' realities of the other two.
    Eminently readable, but rather loose - but you get the idea of what story/history/stuff is about.
Each translation has its strengths and weaknesses - Reading level is a good consideration, so here's some of the translations grouped by type and reading levels to help you compare (and perhaps select for yourself):

The Message (MSG): Leah had nice eyes
The Living Bible (TLB): Leah had lovely eyes

Contemporary English Bible (CEB)Leah had delicate eyes
Good News Bible (GNB): And Leah was tender eyed
New Living Translation (NLT): There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB): Leah had lovely eyes
Revised English Bible (REB):Leah's eyes were weak
New International Version (NIV): Leah had weak eyes
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB): Leah had ordinary eyes
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): Leah’s eyes were lovely

New American Bible (NAB): Leah had lovely eyes
English Standard Version (ESV): Leah's eyes were weak
Revised Standard Version (RSV):  Leah’s eyes were weak
New King James Version (NKJV): Leah’s eyes were delicate
Amplified Bible (AMP): Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking
New American Standard Bible (NASB): And Leah’s eyes were weak
King James Version (KJV): Leah was tender eyed

So it's simple: Don't rely on just one translation of the Bible!

I try to take one of the free and one or two from the other types of translation when I consider the passage before me to ensure that I have a good grasp of what's on offer and the accuracy and tenor of the words before me.

I hope this is of some help


And if you're having fun - here's some more to consider:
ASV:And Leah's eyes were tender.
CJB: Le’ah’s eyes were weak
CEV: Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn’t sparkle
DARBY: And the eyes of Leah were tender
DRA: But Lia was blear eyed
ERV: Leah’s eyes were gentle
ESVUK: Leah's eyes were weak
EXB: Leah had ·weak eyes [frail/tender eyes;  likely means unattractive]
GW: Leah had attractive eyes
GNT: Leah had lovely eyes
HCSB: Leah had ordinary eyes
JUB: Leah was tender eyed
KJ21:Leah was tender eyed
AKJV: Leah was tender eyed
LEB: Now the eyes of Leah were dull
NOG: Leah had attractive eyes
NABRE: Leah had dull eyes
NCV: Leah had weak eyes,
NET: Leah’s eyes were tender
NIRV: Leah had weak eyes
NLV: Leah’s eyes were weak
OJB: Leah had weak eyes
VOICE: There was no brightness to Leah’s eyes
WEB: Leah’s eyes were weak
WYC: but Leah was bleary-eyed,

No comments: