[b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sat Jul 30 07:50:23 EDT 2005

Dear Peter,

It is fine that you ask about contradictions, so I get the opportunity to 
clear up things in behalf of other list-members as well. Translation is 
interpretation, so a translator will all the time make decisions without the 
knowledge of the readers. In my view such decisions should be limited as 
much as possible - and that is the advantage of a literal translation - and 
footnotes should notify the readers of different possibilities.

One example of an ambiguous text is Psalm 22:17 K)RY YDY WRGLY, literally 
"like the lion my hands and my feet". Many solutions to this ambiguity have 
been tried:

NIV: "they have pierced my hands and my feet" ( LXX: "they have dug out my 
hands and my feet")
JPS: "like lions they maul my hands and feet"
NAB: "so wasted are my hands and my feet"
NET: "like a lion they pin my hands and feet to the ground"
NJB: "a gang of villains closing in on me as if to hack off my hands and my 
TEV: "they tear at my hands and my feet"
NWT: "like a lion /they are at/ my hands and my feet"

Poor readers!

I would say that the best solution here has NWT, which gives a literal 
rendering but adds in brackets three words that make the text legibile. The 
text is still ambigous, and the reader is allowed to do the interpretation.

The temporal references of verbs are more important than the meaning of 
single words, so in most cases it is fine for the translators to make 
decisions here. My view is that the temporal reference in *most* cases must 
be decided by the translators, but in a very few cases  the translator may 
decide to retain the ambiguity. Regarding words and clauses I think that the 
ambiguousness to a greater degree should be retained, but again, that is 
particularly possible in literal translations. And I fully understand that 
translators who for the first time translate a part of the Bible into a 
language take great care to make an unambigous text.  So the key for 
clearing up the supposed contradiction is "quantity"

A fine test-case of temporal ambiguousness is Psalm 107.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo
In most instances the temporal references of verbs are clear

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
To: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at online.no>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 11:47 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types

> On 30/07/2005 09:30, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>>... My view of Bible translation is that the translators should refrain 
>>from exegesis as much as possible and instead whenever possible make a 
>>text that gives the reader the opportunity to do the interpretation. ...
> Thank you for this clear statement. While I don't agree with this, at 
> least for typical target audiences, this is a clear and rational 
> principle. This seems to mean that where there is an ambiguity in the 
> meaning of the original, translators should make no attempt to resolve the 
> ambiguity but should present an ambiguous text to the readers. In general 
> I don't think this is possible, but it is a reasonable aim.
>>... There may be situations where the temporal reference is ambiguous in 
>>the original text and where the translators will preserve this 
>>ambigousness. But in most instances it is the duty of the translator to 
>>make decisions regarding the temporal reference of the verbs and convey 
>>these to the readers. In other words, the reader should be able to in an 
>>easy way to find the temporal reference of a passage in an English Bible 
> But now you seem to be contradicting your principle. For, rather than 
> refraining from exegesis and preserving the ambiguity, you now insist that 
> with verb forms translators should make the exegetical decision concerning 
> the temporal reference and resolve the ambiguity in the translation.
> So how do you reconcile this apparent contradiction between your general 
> principle and your instructions for this case?
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

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