One of the most common expressions in Bible translations is a variation on the theme “daughter of so-and-so,” “father of so-and-so,” etc.
For example, in Genesis 11:29, we learn that Milcah was the daughter of “Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah” (NRSV, along with most others). Even the new CEB, which prides itself on using ordinary English, gives us “Haran, father of both Milcah and Iscah.” (The NLT “does the genealogical math” for us: “Milcah had a sister named Iscah.”)
But it seems to me that the way we translate Genesis 11:29 into English is, “Haran, Milcah and Iscah’s father.” Somehow, standard English grammar disappears from most translations.
This is how the start of the New Testament (Matthew 1:2) almost always becomes, in English, “Abraham was the father of Isaac.” (Other variations try to use an English verb for the Greek one: “Abraham fathered Isaac” [NJB] or the archaic “Abraham begat Isaac.”)
But again, the way we say that in English is “Abraham was Isaac’s father.” The grammar gets tricky a few words later — “Jacob was Judah and his brothers’ father” is a tad awkward — but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to abandon common English.
I understand that there’s a formal dialect of English that prefers “father of Isaac,” but I don’t that “Isaac’s father” is overly colloquial.
So I think the list should read:
Abraham was Isaac’s father,
Isaac, Jacob’s father,
Jacob, Judah and his brothers’ father,
Judah, Perez and Zerah’s father, with Tamar,
Perez, Hezron’s father,
Hezron, Ram’s father,
Ram, Amminadab’s father,
Amminadab, Nahshon’s father,
Nahshon, Salmon’s father,
Salmon, Boaz’s father, with Rahab,
Boaz, Obed’s father, with Ruth,
Obed, Jesse’s father,
and Jesse, King David’s father.
What do you think? Is there some merit to the standard phrasing that I’m missing?
My last attempt to see how people understand the accuracy of their Bible translations didn’t work. I got a lot of responses, but not one answer to the basic question.
So I’m trying again, with a poll:
Please feel free to comment after you’ve answered the poll.
I’ve just returned from a three-day festival of learning in Kerhonkson, NY, where I spoke about, among other things, Bible translation.
Right at the end I was asked a great question, which I repeating here: What percentage of your Bible translation is accurate?
We all know that there is no Bible translation that’s 100% accurate. So:
1. Which Bible translation do you prefer?
2. How much of it do you think is accurate?
I’m looking forward to reading your responses.