God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

There’s No Distraction in the Bible

Karyn Traphagen points out that there are no distractions in the Old Testament:

In doing some searches in Accordance, I happened to notice that there are no distractions in the Hebrew bible.

No Hebrew word is translated by ESV, NIV, NRSV, NET (or many others) as “distract,” “distracted,” or “distractions.” The KJV does translate afuna found in Psalm 88:15 as “distracted,” but this word is found only here in the HB and does not have consensus for translation. In the NT there is only one verse that is translated with the word “distracted” (Luke 10:40).

I would add that the NLT and NJB use “distracting” in Exodus 5:4, but in a sense that is one step removed from “distracted.” Pharaoh chastises Moses and Aaron for, “destracting [hifri’a] the people from their work.” And many translations use “[without] distractions” in I Corinthians 7:35, where the Greek is aperispastos, the opposite of the word we see in Luke 10:40.

Significantly, the NRSV uses the word “distracted” twice in a row, first in Luke 10:40 (for periespato) and then again in 10:41 (for the unrelated thorubazi). The NRSV thus emphasizes distraction beyond the force of the original. The error seems all the more important in light of Karyn’s observation that the now-common topic of distraction is so rare in the Bible.


December 8, 2009 - Posted by | translation practice | , ,

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