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“Behold” in Matthew

Chris Hamer-Hodges muses about the word behold in the Bible:

When the New Testament writers use the word “behold!” they do so to get our attention. They do so because what follows is of special significance and importance. The word “behold” itself in the English is not ideal, because it is not widely used today and so can make a passage seem dated or religious, and that certainly is not the intention. But it is hard to think of a better alternative, especially considering the literal translation is the imperative for look….

There is no single English word that fits. One phrase I thought of was, “Mark my words!” In a language that originally lacked punctuation, it could also be seen as a literary device similar to the exclamation mark or bold italics.

He goes on to give an example from Mark Matthew of how the writer uses behold to focus the reader’s attention to certain elements in the text.

Update: Chris was actually quoting from Matthew, not from Mark.

September 19, 2007 | Posted in: ESV,Translation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 1:34 pm | (2) Comments »

New Article: ‘Transparent’ Translation Quietly Gaining Ground

A new article about the ESV (‘Transparent’ Translation Quietly Gaining Ground) is now available in the Articles section of this site.

In the article, Jim Coggins interviews J. I. Packer for CanadianChristianity.com. An excerpt:

Packer said all of those involved [in translating the ESV] were also “evangelicals, Bible believers…. A Bible translator needs to be a believing Christian and draw on the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a spiritual side to Bible translation.” Most were from the U.S.; some were from Britain and elsewhere.

Packer said the leading of the Holy Spirit was evident in the way “the good Lord brought us to a real consensus” on almost every point.

Packer said the intent was to produce a “general purpose” Bible, suitable for preaching and exposition, reading in churches, memorization, lay Bible study, and personal Bible reading by people of all ages. A deliberate attempt was made to use simple words when possible, and to make the text “dance along,” or read easily.

Packer said the producers were very careful to not make extravagant claims or get into a competition with other translations. The ESV was not launched with the “trumpets and drums” of some other translations launched about the same time, he said.

Rather, the ESV was released quietly and soberly and allowed to “find its own level.” ESV’s natural audience is “serious evangelicals who want a translation they can trust to be transparent to the original.”

Packer said this appears to be what is behind the growing sales. Pastors are examining the translation, finding they can trust it and then recommending it to their congregations—and in some cases “retooling” their churches by using ESV as a pew Bible.

August 6, 2007 | Posted in: ESV,Translation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:11 am | 1 Comment »

Translating Specialized Terms

Some new editions of the ESV include a section in the preface explaining the ESV translators’ philosophy toward translating certain specialized terms. If you’ve wondered why the ESV translates YHWH as “the LORD” (with small caps), why “Christ” instead of “Messiah” occurs consistently throughout the New Testament, or why the ESV uses “behold,” here are your answers:

In the translation of biblical terms referring to God, the ESV takes great care to convey the specific nuances of meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek terms. First, concerning terms that refer to God in the Old Testament: God, the Maker of heaven and earth, introduced himself to the people of Israel with the special, personal name, whose consonants are YHWH (see Exodus 3:14-15). Scholars call this the “Tetragrammaton,” a Greek term referring to the four Hebrew letters YHWH. The exact pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain, because the Jewish people considered the personal name of God to be so holy that it should never be spoken aloud. Instead of reading the word YHWH, they would normally read the Hebrew word adonai (“Lord”), and the ancient translations into Greek, Syriac, and Aramaic also followed suit. When the vowels of the word adonai are placed with the consonants of YHWH, this results in the familiar word Jehovah that was used in some earlier English Bible translations. As is common among English translations today, the ESV usually renders the personal name of God (YHWH) with the word LORD (printed in small capitals). An exception to this is when the Hebrew word adonai appears together with YHWH, in which case the two words are rendered together as “the Lord [in lower case] GOD [in small capitals].” In contrast to the personal name for God (YHWH), the more general name for God in Old Testament Hebrew is ’elohim and its related forms of ’el or ’eloah, all of which are normally translated “God” (in lower case letters). The use of these different ways to translate the Hebrew words for God is especially beneficial to the English reader, enabling the reader to see and understand the different ways that the personal name and the general name for God are both used to refer to the One True God of the Old Testament.

Second, in the New Testament, the Greek word Christos has been translated consistently as “Christ.” Although the term originally meant “anointed,” among Jews in New Testament times the term came to designate the Messiah, the great Savior that God had promised to raise up. In other New Testament contexts, however, especially among Gentiles, Christos (“Christ”) was on its way to becoming a proper name. It is important, therefore, to keep the context in mind in understanding the various ways that Christos (“Christ”) is used in the New Testament. At the same time, in accord with its “essentially literal” translation philosophy, the ESV has retained consistency and concordance in the translation of Christos (“Christ”) throughout the New Testament.

A third specialized term, the word “behold,” usually has been retained as the most common translation for the Hebrew word hinneh and the Greek word idou. Both of these words mean something like “Pay careful attention to what follows! This is important!” Other than the word “behold,” there is no single word in English that fits well in most contexts. Although “Look!” and “See!” and “Listen!” would be workable in some contexts, in many others these words lack sufficient weight and dignity. Given the principles of “essentially literal” translation, it is important not to leave hinneh and idou completely untranslated, and so to lose the intended emphasis in the original languages. The older and more formal word “behold” has usually been retained, therefore, as the best available option for conveying the original sense of meaning.

February 21, 2007 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV,ESV,News & Announcements,Translation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:46 am | (3) Comments »

“Wonderful Counselor” or “Wonderful, Counselor?”

Romilayu at Atticus Is Dead asks whether we should translate Isaiah 9:6 as “Wonderful Counselor” or “Wonderful, Counselor” (with a comma):

Some translations (KJV, NKJV, WEB, RSV, ASV) call Christ both wonderful and a counselor, but not a “wonderful counselor” while other translations (NIV, NASB, ESV[, NLT, HCSB]) call him indeed a “Wonderful Counselor.” Even the NIV allows for a mistranslation by putting a footnote that reads “also Wonderful, Counselor.”

More recent translations tend to use “Wonderful Counselor.” The NET Bible notes give you some more background on this verse if you want to know more.

January 16, 2007 | Posted in: ESV,Translation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 10:00 am | Comments Off »

Translating vs. Transliterating “Beulah”

Mark at Every Thought, Every Word talks about the Hebrew word beulah in Isaiah 62:4.

The KJV transliterates the first instance of the word and translates the second:

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

The ESV and other translations translate both instances (the ESV adds several footnotes to this verse):

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.

Mark goes on to explain some of this passage’s implications. We simply wanted to point out the strategies different translation teams can take when faced with a choice between transliterating a word and translating it into English.

He also has a nifty ESV banner on his blog that we haven’t seen before:

ESV Bible

July 12, 2006 | Posted in: ESV,Translation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:07 am | (2) Comments »