God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Where’s the Poetry?



It turns out it’s hard to write poetry, at least good poetry. But even so, many efforts seem to focus more on the words than on the poem.

Job 38:36 is an interesting example, because no one knows for sure what the words there mean, particularly tuchot and sechvi. Still, the poetic nature of the line is clear.

Yet we end up with translations like, “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?” (NRSV) and “Who gives the ibis wisdom [about the flooding of the Nile], or gives the rooster understanding [of when to crow]?” (TNIV). And the NAB offers the particularly unfortunate, “Who puts wisdom in the heart, and gives the cock its understanding?” It doesn’t sound poetic to my ear.

With so many possibilities for what the Hebrew words mean — the LXX expands the options by translating, “And who has given women skill in weaving, or knowledge of embroidery?” — surely no one can feel locked into any one word or phrase. Yet still we don’t have poetry.


And does anyone have a suggestion for a poetic rendition?

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