Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I can say it better than God did

The road to hell is paved with good editorial intentions. I have nothing against editors (I know one pretty well), but sometimes the editor goes a bit too far, as when he feels the need to correct the Scriptures so that they don't offend or lead people astray. It seems innocuous at first, but actually it's quite offensive. It's saying the Biblical writer, though moved by the Holy Ghost, should have been more careful. Now the all-wise editor has come to the rescue, in effect correcting God. I'm sure there are some of you who have examples of this folly. If you can think of one, put it in as a reply, or send it to me privately (put "I can say it better than God did" in the subject line) and we'll see if we can keep the list going. I'm providing the first two here.

I can say it better than God did, I:

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. (Psalm 138:1)

That's KJV, but the New International Version (still the favorite of our good friends in the Wisconsin Synod) prefers this:

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise.

Notice the quotation marks around "gods"? Well, isn't that helpful? We wouldn't want Bible readers to get the impression that David is saying there is more than one true God, now, would we. So the NIV editors put in their quotes, and even add "O LORD," so that nobody gets confused. The problem is that Biblical Hebrew knows no quotation marks. It's just elohim, which means "God." Context has translators rendering the word in the plural (gods) though it would normally be translated in the singular as a reference to God. That part is proper translating, but as for the quotation marks, they're awful. Are the editors saying David should have been more careful? No one has had a problem misunderstanding the KJV version for hundreds of years, to say nothing of the inspired Hebrew. So here's the first instance of I can say it better than God did.

I can say it better than God did, II:

We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. - I Corinthians 1:23.

I've seen more than one Lutheran church pick up on part of this logion, "we preach Christ crucified," and make it their slogan, but with a little editorial fix: "We preach Christ crucified and risen."

Oh yes, we do need that corrective. Heavens, we wouldn't want people to think we deny the resurrection, after all! Have to make that fix, for sure. But St. Paul didn't. So, did he mess up here? Should he have said it with the "and risen"? Actually, if he had, he'd have been messing with his whole point. It's not the resurrection that is foolish to the Greeks, but the cross. Nor would the Jews stumble over the resurrection. But never mind. Nice to know we Lutherans can do better than the Apostle here. Which in effect is saying I can say it better than God did.

5 comments:

Latif Haki Gaba said...

I agree, Fr. Eckardt, with your point on the goofiness of NIV. It may be worth interjecting into this, however, that Elohim seems elastic enough for St. Jerome to render it angelorum. Douay-Rheims follows in his footsteps by giving us -in the sight of his angels- (In conspectu Angelorum). I have no big problem with the choice of either gods or angels; what is most inexcusable is to put it in quotes. I suppose the best way to read or chant that verse in the NIV in the liturgy would be to hold one's fingers up, in the manner of making quotes, when annunciating the word gods.

Latif Haki Gaba said...

To be clear, I should say that Jerome gives that verse to us both ways. He did a translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew, which I do not have handy, but I think there he used deorum. His Psalm translation from the Greek has angelorum, & that version became normative, in some ways we can say it simply remained normative, in the West. If someone wants to further clarify, or correct me, I would be welcome to such. LHG

Tina said...

Hello Fr. Eckardt,

Perhaps the following are not editorial corrections...I wouldn't know since I am no Theologian or Biblical scholar, but here are a couple of things that I have always wondered about. First is when scripture speaks of faith in Romans 3:22 Gal 2:16, 20, 3:22 and Eph. 3:12. The KJV says we are justified by the faith of Christ, our righteousness is by the faith of Jesus, and that I live by the faith of the Son of God. All the other versions I can find say we are justified by faith *in* Him, etc. Perhaps I am wrong headed about this, but to me this is a big difference. When I read or hear it read from the NIV or NAS, or any other version for that matter, I tend to (perhaps mistakenly) fall into a faith in my faith sort of thing, rather than trusting solely in the faithfulness of Jesus.

Another one that bugs me is Luke 24:47 in the NASB "...and that repentance *for* forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" rather than "...and that repentance *and* remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Small words seem to make a big difference in meaning to me anyway. I am of course, open for correction.

Father Eckardt said...

Hmmm, Latif, I'd say you know more about St. Jerome's Latin than I, but from what you have here, it sounds rather as though maybe his "angelorum" is a type of the coming NIV . . .

And I think Tina's contributions merit an additional post on the blog.

Cheers.

Father Eckardt said...

Actually, Tina's second point, about St. Luke 24, depends upon a variant reading. Where she (and I) prefer the received text, there is a strong list of manuscripts that have resulted in the alternate "repentance for the forgiveness . . ." Interesting subject, but not exactly a qualifying icsibtgd.