Translating is complicated because it involves so many factors. One factor is dignity. And that’s not the strength of some translations or paraphrases.
1. 1 Samuel 20:30a
- וַיִּחַר־אַף שָׁאוּל בִּיהוֹנָתָן וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ בֶּן־נַעֲוַת הַמַּרְדּוּת
- NASB (cf. KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB, 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!”
- Translator’s note: Heb “son of a perverse woman of rebelliousness.” But such an overly literal and domesticated translation of the Hebrew expression fails to capture the force of Saul’s unrestrained reaction. Saul, now incensed and enraged over Jonathan’s liaison with David, is actually hurling very coarse and emotionally charged words at his son. The translation of this phrase suggested by Koehler and Baumgartner is “bastard of a wayward woman” (HALOT 796 s.v. עוה), but this is not an expression commonly used in English. A better English approximation of the sentiments expressed here by the Hebrew phrase would be “You stupid son of a bitch!” However, sensitivity to the various public formats in which the Bible is read aloud has led to a less startling English rendering which focuses on the semantic value of Saul’s utterance (i.e., the behavior of his own son Jonathan, which he viewed as both a personal and a political betrayal [= “traitor”]). But this concession should not obscure the fact that Saul is full of bitterness and frustration. That he would address his son Jonathan with such language, not to mention his apparent readiness even to kill his own son over this friendship with David (v. 33), indicates something of the extreme depth of Saul’s jealousy and hatred of David.
- NLT: Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!” he swore at him.
- The Message: Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: “You son of a slut!”
- Original Living Bible: Saul boiled with rage. “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.
2. Acts 8:20
- Πέτρος δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν· τὸ ἀργύριόν σου σὺν σοὶ εἴη εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὅτι τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνόμισας διὰ χρημάτων κτᾶσθαι·
- NASB (cf. RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET): But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!
- KJV (cf. NKJV): But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
- HCSB: But Peter told him, “May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought the gift of God could be obtained with money!
- NIV: Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!
- NLT (cf. GW): But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought!
- GNT: But Peter answered him, “May you and your money go to hell, for thinking that you can buy God’s gift with money!
- Cotton Patch: Rock said to him, “You and your money can go to hell! Do you think you can buy with money what God freely gives?
- The Message: Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable—trying to buy God’s gift!
3. Romans 3:3–4a
- τί γάρ; εἰ ἠπίστησάν τινες, μὴ ἡ ἀπιστία αὐτῶν τὴν πίστιν τοῦ θεοῦ καταργήσει; μὴ γένοιτο·
- NASB: What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be!
- KJV: For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid:
- 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!
- GW: What if some of them were unfaithful? Can their unfaithfulness cancel God’s faithfulness? That would be unthinkable!
- NCV: If some Jews were not faithful to him, will that stop God from doing what he promised? No!
- NLT: True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not!
- GNT: But what if some of them were not faithful? Does this mean that God will not be faithful? Certainly not!
- The 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!
- Cotton Patch: All right, so some of them are hypocrites; does their hypocrisy nullify God’s sincerity? Hell no.
- Translator’s note: “Just about the proper strength for the Greek phrase.”
[Part of this blog post reproduces this one.]
- “The Best All-Around Book on Bible Translation”
- “How to Disagree about Bible Translation Philosophy”
- “Reproduce the Meaning”
- “Translation and the Doctrine of Inspiration”
- “Thank God for Good Bible Translators and Translations”
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).