God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Christopher Hitchens on The Ten Commandments

In a widely viewed video, Christopher Hitchens mocks the Ten Commandments with, among other jabs, the contrast between a commandment and an observation. “#6: Thou shalt not kill,” Hitchens (mis)quotes at 2:46 into the video. Then he notes (2:48 into the video): “Almost immediately after the events at Sinai, and the delivery of these instructions by God at the top of the mountain, Moses orders all his supporters to draw their swords and kill all their friends and brothers for their profanity.”

His point, I guess, is the incongruity between “not killing” and then “killing.”

But it’s widely known that the 6th commandment (numbered 5 by Catholics) doesn’t prohibit all killing. Hitchens is misquoting the commandment based on a mistranslation that dates back to the KJV.

I go through the evidence in my latest book, but the information is well known, and even a cursory look at published translations shows how many people know that the original version didn’t read “do not kill.” The NIV, NRSV, and even ESV translate this commandment as “you shall not murder.”

So I wonder. Does Hitchens really think that the KJV is accurate here? Or is he setting up a straw man just to be argumentative?

June 7, 2010 Posted by | translation practice | , , , , , | 11 Comments