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This area of the site offers a number of personal translations of portions of the Old Testament. There are a number of different purposes to them - some are for general interest, others with a view to highlighting certain textual parallels with other material. A number have been done in connection with research work towards an M.Phil being carried out under supervision by John Bimson at Trinity College Bristol.
Any translator makes certain choices about how to render the original language into the desired target. As regards Old Testament translation, most modern translations have chosen to adopt a vocabulary and writing style that is quite unlike that of the original documents. For example, Old Testament narrative portions rely extensively on systematic repetition of specific words and phrases, in order both to establish a motif for a given character, and to create connections between superficially separate textual units. Most modern translations vary the words used in translation considerably, to achieve more variation in the passages, and so obscure this. In poetic portions, modern translators typically keep some of the literary devices used in the original (such as parallelism or progression) but lose others (such as chiastic structures or repetition of consonants). The aim is frequently to make the Old Testament text seemingly more widely accessible by using the sorts of techniques that a modern author might employ. There are good reasons for this, but it inevitably dilutes something of the power and simplicity of the original text. Along with this, there has been a trend to make all Old Testament narrative passages read in a very standard way, whereas the original text frequently exhibits great variation in complexity of style and word use. A glossary of some literary terms is included to assist with the technicalities.
The choices made here in narrative blocks are:
The choices made here in poetic blocks are:
I have found various works by Robert Alter stimulating while in search of appropriate translations, and frequent feedback from family members - who are informed both Biblically and in a variety of literary disciplines - has been highly appreciated.
Another tradition in Biblical translation - this time of long standing - concerns the various names of God used in the text. As well as a number of titles (Lord, Most High, etc), there is the frequently occurring divine name. Most English Bibles represent this name by LORD (in capitals, to distinguish it from the title Lord). The Hebrew consonants here are YHVH, and conventionally the vowel-pointing is that for the title adonay (Lord). There are also a number of epithets used that slide easily across the gap between name and title. In these translations, the different names and titles have been preserved - my belief is that the authors chose a specific word for a specific occasion, and we come closest to understanding their intention by retaining these words. The clearest example of this is of course for the divine name, rendered here by Yahweh. The principle has been carried out thoroughly with all similar names and titles, inviting the reader to decide whether name or title is more appropriate at any stage. The specific situations are as follows:
|Epithet||Translation here||Familiar translation||Comments|
|YHVH||Yahweh||LORD||Sometimes referred to as the tetragrammaton|
|YH||Yah||LORD||A shortened form of the above, used occasionally|
|'El||El||God, god||The name of the chief god of the Canaanites, also used generically to indicate a god, whether true or false|
|'Elohim||Elohim||God, god||Can be seen as a plural form of the above, arguably sometimes also used of exalted or highly regarded humans. There is evidence of parallel usage in other ancient languages from the late 2nd millennium BCE onwards, to indicate a quality of deity or divinity. This would suggest that sometimes the meaning is something like "godlike", "divine", or "holy". In other places the word is used as a direct parallel to El or Yahweh.|
|'adonay||Adonay||Lord||Substituted for Yahweh for reasons of piety when reading the Hebrew scriptures|
Comments and suggestions about these translations, or the principles used in them, to email@example.com are very welcome.