Thursday, August 25, 2005

And you will see your Life hanging before your eyes: on the need for literal translations


St. Athanasius sees in Deuteronomy 28:66 a prophecy of the crucifixion. The text, as the Douay Version has it, is " And thy life shall be as it were hanging before thee. Thou shalt fear night and day, neither shalt thou trust thy life." Athanasius sees the word "life" as referring to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is an interesting interpretation of the passage, which occurs in a curse give by Moses if the Israelites are not faithful. The word "life" which Christ uses to refer to himself is also the word used in both the Hebrew and Septuagint text, and it caused St. Athanasius to make a most fruitful connection.

But would you ever have thought of this interpretation if the bible you read is the official Catholic New American Bible? Let's take a look and see:

You will live in constant suspense and stand in dread both day and night, never sure of your existence.

ARGHHH!

Let me repeat a constant theme of mine: any serious student of Christianity will be hampered should he or she use the NAB.

7 comments:

Ryan Platte said...

Wow, that's even worse than the NIV!

Brother Sebastian said...

A nice illustration of the pitfall of using only one translation.

Bill said...

Are you familiar with e-Sword? It's a free Scripture program that runs under Windows. It's written by a Protestant and there are LOTS of Protestant add-ons, but you can also install the (clementine?) vulgate, the douay-rheims and the septuagint. You really need those to study with the Fathers.

esword also provides a text editor with which you can write notes that are linked to particular verses and which appear when those verses are selected. Good stuff!

http://www.e-sword.net/

(I don't get kickbacks; just a happy customer :-)

vulsearch is nice, too, but not as complete or as handy as esword - http://vulsearch.sourceforge.net/

Cheers -

bw

Karl said...

Dear Bill,

Yes, I am familiar with E-Sword. I use it regularly and heartily recommend it.

The excellent (but non-deutero-canonical having) RSV revision, the ESV (English Standard Version) is available for E-Sword, which alone makes it worth the download.

Ellyn said...

"You will live in constant suspense.."
sounds like some sort of fortune cookie rather than scripture.

Todd said...

Better still for a Scripture scholar would be to learn Hebrew and Greek and get the original text, not a comparison of translations.

Leslie said...

the LITV translation of Deu_28:66 reads 'And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and you shall fear day and night, and shall have no assurance of your life'.

For a start that life (in Greek zwh) ocurrs also in Jam 4:14 and Gen 3:20 (Septuagint).
But ascribing this as a crucifixion prophecy is a bit strange. Using the LITV again 'your life shall hang in doubt before you' and that word doubt appears in the following translations ASV ESV HCSB JPS KJV MKJV. Jesus though had no doubt concerning His life. He stated that He will be resurrected on numerous ocassions, the apostles though doubted. Mat 16:21 Mat 17:22-23 Mat 20:17-19 Joh 2:18-22