God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

On Literal Translations – A Quick Note

A post by Polycarp on his blog calls into question John Piper’s demand for a translation “that has all the words.”

I frequently find it useful to look at modern languages to see how valid a particular approach to translation is. For example, if I’m translating from French into English, which would I prefer?


  • How you call you?
  • How you call yourself?
  • How do you call yourself?
  • What’s your name?

I started with the French, Comment vous appelez-vous? which is how one asks, “what’s you name?” in France.

September 6, 2009 Posted by | translation theory | 3 Comments

More On Parallel Passages

On Thursday, I posted about the English translations of near-parellel passages in Mark and Matthew. It got me thinking about Chronicles, which frequently quotes other books such as Kings. II Chronicles 6:1-5, for example, seems to be an update (grammatically and in terms of spelling) of I Kings 8:12-16.

In particular, I Kings 8:15 and II Chronicles 6:4 are identical in Hebrew except in spelling and that the former has yado (“his hand”) where the latter has yadav (“his hands”) — and this, too, may originally have been a matter of spelling.

Still, in most translations the English (for identical Hebrew!) doesn’t match, even in the “word by word” translations.

Do you think this is a problem?

Comparison of Translations
(Differences are marked with italics, except for the KJV which is too different for that to be practical.)

I Kings 8:15 II Chronicles 6:4
KJV And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying, And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying,
NIV Then he said: “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said, Then he said: “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hands has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David. For he said,
NRSV He said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand* has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David, saying, And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand* has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David, saying,
NAB He said to them: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own mouth made a promise to my father David and by his hand has brought it to fulfillment. It was he who said, He said: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own mouth made a promise to my father David and by his own hands brought it to fulfillment. He said:
NLT “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father,

(*) The English is the same but the Hebrew is different.

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Bible versions, translation practice, translation theory | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments