Judges 5:30

Henry Churchyard churchyh at ccwf.cc.utexas.edu
Sat Sep 25 01:01:36 EDT 1999

> Subject: Re: Judges 5:30
> From: Jim West <jwest at highland.net>
> Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 20:38:18 -0400

>> That reminds me, I wonder when we're going to get an honest English
>> translation of Judges 5:30, where _rah.am rah.amathayim_ may not
>> exactly be "coarse soldiers' slang" (Holladay), but probably has
>> some connotation of that nature.  "Maiden" (RSV) is an utterly
>> laughably inadequate modern English translation, considering the
>> word's connotations of medieval chivalry and courtly love (not to
>> mention virginity), while "damsel" (JPS) goes even one step beyond
>> in absurdity.  "Girl" (NRSV, NIV, Jerusalem) is kind of neutral and
>> bland, and does nothing whatever to capture the specificity of
>> _rah.am_ with respect to a more usual and general Hebrew word such
>> as _na`arah_.

> Well its just kind of hard for folk who read the Bible to swallow
> the word "slut" or its cognates in their sacred texts.  On this
> topic (but not specifically this passage) see Pinchas Lapide's 2
> volume "Ist die Bibel Richtig Uebersetzt?"

Actually, I doubt whether "slut" would be a good translation either,
since this indicates an inclination to immorality -- and while
_rah.am_ is a biologically reductionist term ("objectifying", in
feminist terminology), I'm far from certain that it necessarily casts
any imputation on the moral character of the prospective victims that
it refers to in that passage.  Anyway, I don't think that _rah.am_ is
really obscene in Biblical Hebrew (_reh.em_ certainly isn't), and I'm
not demanding an obscene English translation for it -- but "girl" is a
weak translation because it avoids the issue of the significant
meaning difference between _rah.am_ and _na`ara_h, while "maiden" and
"damsel" go in entirely the wrong direction.  I can't really blame the
translators too much, since I don't have an easy neat solution here,
but I still think this passage hasn't been adequately translated in
any of the versions that I've looked up the passage in...

Henry Churchyard   churchyh at ccwf.cc.utexas.edu   http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list