Update: See an updated version of this post here.
Yesterday Jenni and I went on a long walk and listened to Robert Stein‘s first three lectures for his course on hermeneutics. He told some very funny stories about various Bible translations, and two rather shocking ones were news to me. These two translations occur below, each at the end of its list, and they illustrate the importance of dignified translations.
1 Samuel 20:30a
- NASB (cf. KJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV) Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!“
- NET Saul became angry with Jonathan and said to him, “You stupid traitor!“
- Message Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: “You son of a slut!“
- NLT Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!” he swore at him.
- The original Living Bible Saul boiled with rage. “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.
- KJV For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid:
- NASB What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be!
- ESV (cf. RSV, NRSV) What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!
- NET (cf. HCSB) What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? Absolutely not!
- NIV What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!
- Message So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Jews abandoned their post? God didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life!
- NLT True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not!
- Cotton Patch Version All right, so some of them are hypocrites; does their hypocrisy nullify God’s sincerity? Hell no. [fn.: “Just about the proper strength for the Greek phrase.”]
Update on 3/31/2017: In my latest attempt to explain how to interpret and apply the Bible, I include a chapter on Bible translation (pp. 50–81).