OT: Why that English word used? UBS Handbook?

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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Mar 9 2018 10:14 AM

I am enjoying all my language tools that Logos offers to dive deep into the Old Testament, concurrently with my Hebrew classes at seminary.

But sometimes I am interested in why translators chose to translate that specific word (morphology and all) into the particular English rendering. I'm using NASB as my baseline, but I'm not tied down to it. 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Lexicons, the Bible Word Study, TWOT or other dictionaries don't really do this. Some commentaries I have offer exegetical discussions, but certainly for not most or every Hebrew word. 

Perhaps the UBS Handbook is exactly what I'm looking for, perhaps not (https://www.logos.com/product/39479/ubs-handbook-series-old-testament-and-apocrypha)

 Any suggestions? 

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 9 2018 10:28 AM

Yes, The UBS Handbooks are a good place to check. Here is an example:

UBS Handbook on 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:11

This verse presents a real problem of interpretation. Commentators are divided as to the meaning of women in this verse: does it refer to the wives of the deacons (TEV text) or to deacons who are women (TEV margin)? The Greek word used for women does not provide much help, since it can mean either “woman” or “wife.” Some translations keep the ambiguity by simply translating The women (RSV, also JB, and NABR has simply “women”). Translations that don’t retain the ambiguity generally opt for “wives” (in addition to TEV, also KJV, NEB, NIV). Below is a summary of the arguments for either position:

Arguments for “wives of deacons”:

1. Deacons are mentioned in verse 8 and again in verse 12, which leads to the deduction that verse 11 refers to a category other than deacons. But of course one can counter that there was not yet at that time a feminine term for deacons.

2. One would have expected a more detailed description of this new office. But then there is very little description of bishops and deacons, so why should one expect this of woman deacons?

3. It would have been possible for Paul to use the feminine form of “deacon.” But of course one can counter that such a form did not exist at that time, and besides, there is evidence that the term “deacon” was used of women during Paul’s time; for example, the case of Phoebe in Rom 16:1–2.

Arguments for “woman deacons”:

1. The structure of the sentence allows it to be read as introducing a new category, that is, woman deacons. The word likewise is used in verse 8 to introduce the category of deacons, and its presence in this verse may indicate the same intent.

2. Had the wives of deacons been in view, the verse might have said “their wives” (as, for example, TEV, NIV, KJV).

3. No special requirements are mentioned for the wives of bishops. Both of these arguments (numbers 2 and 3) are arguments from silence.

4. The four qualities are roughly the equivalent of four qualities of the deacons inverse 8.

It is difficult to be certain as to what interpretation one should hold. A compromise solution has been offered by some commentaries to the effect that the verse speaks of women who were in some way involved in service as deacons, although perhaps at that time the title of “deacon” was not yet applied to them. This does not exclude the position that these women were indeed the wives of deacons, but it does allow the possibility for these wives (and other women as well) to be performing services as deacons.

It should be further noted that, if one holds to the position that the verse indeed refers to woman deacons, then a possible structure of the passage would be: 8–10, general qualifications for both men and women deacons; 11, specific qualifications for women deacons; and 12–13, specific qualifications for men deacons.

As has been noted, the four qualities of these women are parallel to the qualities mentioned in verse

serious—translates the same Greek word in verse 8.

slanderers—“double-tongued’

temperate—“not addicted to much wine”

The word for temperate also occurs in 3:2, for which see discussion there. Slanderers may be also expressed as “those who say harmful things about others.”

A fourth trait is mentioned, namely, faithful in all things. Some take this to mean that they should be honest (TEV) and absolutely trustworthy (NEB, Moffatt [Mft]). All in all this evidence seems to point toward women deacons being the focus of this verse, and it is recommended by this Handbook that translators follow this interpretation. The alternative “their wives” may be put into a footnote.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

The women (or, female) church helpers must also have a good character (or, be respectable). They should not say evil things about people and should not drink too much wine.

 Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and to Titus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1995), 75–76. 

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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 6:09 AM

Okay thank you, that does seem really helpful. Of course I am interested in the OT Hebrew right now, but I still think I get the gist. 

Does the Handbook only talk about those terms that are controversial? Or does it give an explanation (even a very brief one) for each word in the text? Thanks. 

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 6:46 AM

Alexander Fogassy:
Does the Handbook only talk about those terms that are controversial? Or does it give an explanation (even a very brief one) for each word in the text?

No, not every word, but also not just "controversial" ones. 

Do you have a verse or two you are interested in from the OT? 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 7:43 AM

I can't imagine there EVER being a resource that explains a translation. Most won't even admit to what greek they're using (with a hebrew base). Note the reluctance to use the DSS varients. I'd bet (being me, of course), that most scholars don't wish to admit their intellectual soul is tradition, vs swimming upstream. Remember the revolution at Gen 1:1. Oh my. So radical.


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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 8:20 AM

Denise, what revolution are you talking about? 

And JT, sure we can maybe do Jeremiah 33:25-26 and also Zech 12:10. Much appreciated!

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Reuben Helmuth | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 8:27 AM

Jer. 33:25

Thus says the Lord: See 2:2.

The clause begun with If I have not is contrary to fact: surely the Lord has established these things. tev makes this clear with “I, the Lord, have a covenant” here, and by beginning a new sentence at the beginning of verse 26: “And just as surely … so I will maintain.…”

rsv assumes that the verb established (occurring in the final position in the verse in Hebrew) has the double objects covenant and ordinances. However, since the verb established does not normally go with covenant, it is assumed by many scholars that the verb “is” or “exists” is understood: “if my covenant with day and night does not exist, and if I have not established the ordinances.…” This is the judgment of hottp. However, other scholars make a suggestion that the noun covenant is in reality the verb “I created,” which may be arrived at by altering one Hebrew letter in the word. This is the basis for njb “If I have not created day and night and fixed the laws governing heaven and earth.…”

The ordinances of heaven and earth: tev expresses this more clearly with “the laws that control earth and sky.”

33:26

In Hebrew verse 26 is a continuation of the sentence begun in verse 25. In most languages, however, reading will be easier if this verse is made into a separate sentence. See the discussion at verse 25. Restructuring the discourse in this way also has the effect of making verse 26 positive (tev “I will maintain” and “I will choose”) rather than the negative I will reject and will not choose of the text.

Descendants: It is interesting that the Hebrew word “seed” (occurring three times in this verse) is twice rendered descendants and once seed by rsv. It would have been more natural for English speakers to use “descendants” in all three instances.

I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them: See verses 7, 11 for restore their fortunes; the first occurrence of this phrase is in 29:14. For have mercy, see 6:23. tev puts these last two actions, restore and have mercy, in a more logical order: “be merciful … make them prosperous.”

Zech 12:10

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication: The expression pour out … a spirit of is a metaphor based on the picture of a spirit as a liquid (compare Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28). In some languages it will not be possible to maintain this picture, and translators will need to consider alternative approaches. tev, for instance, uses a somewhat different metaphor: “I will fill … with the spirit of mercy of …” (compare njpsv, gecl). Another possibility is “I will inspire … with a spirit of …” (frcl). If such metaphors are not possible, translators could say “I will give … a spirit of [or, heart/liver of].…” As a last resort, they could omit the reference to spirit entirely and say “I will make the descendants of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem feel deeply compassionate …” or “… have a willingness to be merciful to others and.…”

The house of David again means the families descended from David, and in this context seems to stand for the ruling classes, as in verse 7 and 13:1. The inhabitants of Jerusalem means the rest of the people. The two phrases together then mean “the rulers and people of Jerusalem.”

There is general agreement that a spirit of here represents a human disposition or inclination, as often elsewhere. Compare for instance “the spirit of jealousy” (Num 5:14, 30), “the spirit of wisdom” (Deut 34:9), “a spirit of confusion” (Isa 19:14), and “a spirit of justice” (Isa 28:6).

There is less agreement on the meaning of the terms rendered compassion and supplication. In Hebrew they both derive from the same root. The first term is commonly translated “grace” and is often used of finding favor in the eyes of someone (for instance in Gen 39:4; Exo 33:12; Num 32:5). In this case however, it seems rather to refer to the ability to look upon others with favor. Thus it is rendered in modern versions as compassion (rsv/nrsv), “kindness” (jb), “pity” (neb/reb, njpsv), and “mercy” (tev). Supplication (rsv/nrsv) may be addressed to people or to God. Here it probably refers to “prayer” (jb/njb, tev) to God, which in this context is most likely prayer for forgiveness (compare 2 Chr 6:21; Psa 130:2–4). Translators could therefore express a spirit of compassion and supplication as “a willingness to show kindness to others and to ask pardon from God.” In some languages a longer expression of this kind may be unavoidable.

So that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him: The new attitude of kindness and repentance which the Lord gives to the rulers and people of Jerusalem causes them to change their attitude toward something they have apparently done in the past. What this is, however, is far from clear, and it is also uncertain whether the past is recent or more distant.

The first problem is to decide what Hebrew text to translate. The traditional text says literally “they shall look unto me whom they have pierced …” (rv). Since the speaker is the Lord, and “me” can refer only to him, this raises the question of how people could be said to pierce the Lord. Some modern translations, including rsv/nrsv, nab, jb, tev, and cev, translate a slightly different Hebrew text that yields they look on him whom … (compare John 19:37 and Rev 1:7, where the references to Zech 12:10 are grammatically adjusted to the New Testament context). This clearly makes easier sense, but it has no support among ancient versions, and such weak support in the Hebrew textual tradition that it is not even discussed in ctat or hottp. Most modern commentators believe the traditional text (“unto me”) should be followed, despite its difficulty.

Some translators who accept the traditional text try to adjust the structure of the sentence to reduce the difficulty. Thus niv has “They will look on me, the one they have pierced …” (compare tob). This rendering gives the sense that the Lord is so closely identified with some human representative that he has sent that an attack on the representative is almost the same as an attack on the Lord himself. Presumably the rendering in neb/reb “… on me, on him whom they have pierced …” intends the same interpretation, but the sentence construction is so awkward that the intention is not fully clear.

Another approach to the structure of the sentence is shown in njb, which modifies the punctuation in the traditional Hebrew text to create two sentences: “they will look to me. They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced.…”

A third possibility is found in frcl “They will look to me on account of the one they have pierced.…”

A fourth possibility is seen in njpsv “they shall lament to Me about those who are slain.…” This view takes the injured party to be plural (“those who”), and to refer to Jews killed in the siege of Jerusalem described in verses 2–8. It assumes that the subject of they have pierced is the besieging armies. While this is possible, it seems an unlikely interpretation, especially in the light of the singular mourn for him in the next clause. It also gives an unusual meaning to the verb most translators render as look on or “look to.” Furthermore, it seems to rule out the strong tradition in both Jewish and Christian interpretation of seeing in this verse a reference to the sufferings of the Messiah.

There is no ideal solution, and all the possibilities discussed have drawbacks. Probably translators would do best to follow either njb or niv (see above). It may be noted that the verb translated look on suggests confident expectation and hope (compare Psa 34:5; Jonah 2:4).

The word translated pierced refers to a thrust with a sharp weapon like a sword (compare Num 25:8; 1 Sam 31:4). It does not necessarily mean that the resulting wound is fatal, but in the present context where mourning follows, the death of the person pierced seems to be assumed. Thus tev “whom they stabbed to death” is probably justified. In some languages the verb pierced or “stabbed” will require the mention of a weapon. In such cases translators may say “the one they have stabbed to death with a sword,” or in some cultures “the one they pierced with a spear,” as in cev. However, translators need to be aware of the temptation to say “with a spear” simply in order to fit in with John 19:34–37. This may in fact be the motivation behind the cev choice. It is noticeable that when translating the same Hebrew verb in 13:3, cev says “with a sword.” See also the notes on 13:3. The historical identity of the person referred to is a question that has been debated at great length. Suggestions include Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (2 Chr 24:20–22), King Josiah (2 Kgs 23:29), Zerubbabel (whose fate is unknown), the High Priest Onias the Third (2 Maccabees 4:34–35), and Simon Maccabeus (1 Maccabees 16:14–17), but none of them is widely accepted. Others link the person pierced with the so-called Good Shepherd of 11:4–14, but this too is not convincing. Yet others see a link with the suffering servant of Isa 52:13–53:12; this can be accepted, but it does not help to identify any individual. Fortunately translators do not need to commit themselves on this point. Indeed they must not, since the Hebrew text does not do so. Any additional information should be in a footnote, as in jb/njb, tob, frcl, and itcl.

They shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born: The change of attitude on the part of the leaders and people of Jerusalem leads to their mourning over the one they have pierced, and presumably killed. The mourning is a symbol of sorrow, in this case sorrow for the sin of rejecting one who was evidently the Lord’s representative. The bitterness of the mourning is described in two powerful similes. The first is as one mourns for an only child; such mourning is particularly sad because parents would expect children to look after them in their old age, and the loss of an only child would mean the loss of their security (compare Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10). The second simile is as one weeps over a first-born; a firstborn child was often regarded with special affection, and its death would be felt as a particularly sad loss. Thus the mourning over the pierced one is deep and genuine. Some translators may wish to follow the example of cev, and combine the two clauses as follows:

They will mourn and weep for him, as parents weep over the death of their only child or their first-born.

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Rich DeRuiter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 8:58 AM

Alexander Fogassy:
But sometimes I am interested in why translators chose to translate that specific word (morphology and all) into the particular English rendering. I'm using NASB as my baseline, but I'm not tied down to it. 

There have already been some fine responses to this. To those, I'll add my two cents.

Words are strange things: they often mean more than one thing, and at the same time (that's how many jokes work, like: Two men walk into a bar, the third man ducked.). In translating, it is rare for a word in one language to mean exactly the same thing, and/or all the same things that it means in another language. (If you speak more than one language you probably already know this.) There is also the matter that meanings can shift over time (e.g., "gay" used to simply mean "happy" and still does in some English speaking countries). Then there is the matter of denotation vs. connotation. Two words might mean the same thing but one is vulgar and the other simply descriptive (think "manure" and that other word often used on the farm for the same thing). Then there are words used in specific phrases that when translated literally make no sense. Think of the English phrase "Grass roots movement." Translating that into Spanish (e.g.) by using a word for word approach turns it into nonsense (grass does not move at all, let alone by its roots!). To translate that you'd have to know that "Grass roots" is a phrase that, when used in this way, refers to ordinary people (vs. people with power/authority). 

To put it more simply: we understand the meaning of words depending on the literary and cultural context they are used in.

Lexicons need to take into account all of these things as they attempt to give appropriate translations for words in all of their contexts. For an example in English, open any dictionary to the word "Get." In my Merriam-Webster dictionary (in Logos) has 38 entries for the verb form alone (divided into several sub-groupings of meaning). (Those learning English as a foreign language have told me that this word is a particular challenge for them. I can see why!). 

Hebrew is particularly difficult for translators for several reasons. First, there's very little Hebrew writing that isn't from the Bible, and most of what does exist is quite late (1st Century AD or later, plus extra-Biblical Qumran literature). Second the Hebrew Bible was written over a period of about 1000 years. If the meaning of "gay" has changed so significantly in about 50 years, imagine what a 1000 years can do to a language! (Of course, some would argue for much later dates, and/or for extensive revisions of the text - but I don't think that debate affects this discussion that much.) Another matter that Hebrew translators face is that sometimes, because Hebrew grammar is so different from our own, and because some usage has no other parallel or similar uses elsewhere in Scripture, it's hard to know what something means (this is where we find footnotes to the text that says something like "The Hebrew for this text is uncertain," or perhaps giving an alternative interpretation.) For this reason, sometimes English translations will actually follow the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT in use already at the time of Christ) more than the Hebrew text (and often insert footnotes to tell us this).

I'm not sure how much this helps.

Getting at some of this the UBS Handbooks can be helpful, as can the NET Bible and notes. Some good exegetical commentaries will also discuss some of these issues (if the commentator thought they were important).

I think it's really important for those of us who do not have PhD's in OT, or in Hebrew (etc.), to disagree with such scholars and translators with a bit of fear and trepidation. Yes, they're human: they make mistakes, and are swayed by biases they aren't always even aware of. Yet, they know a lot more than most of us ever will. It's a bit arrogant, if not hubristic, to think of oneself as more knowledgeable than people who have devoted their lives to the study of the Hebrew text! (After all, we're also human, make mistakes and are swayed by biases we aren't always aware of too.)

(A bit of a ramble, perhaps. Sorry about that.)

 Help links: WIKI;  Logos 6 FAQ. (Phil. 2:14, NIV)

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 9:07 AM

Rich DeRuiter:
I think it's really important for those of us who do not have PhD's in OT, or in Hebrew (etc.), to disagree with such scholars and translators with a bit of fear and trepidation. Yes, they're human: they make mistakes, and are swayed by biases they aren't always even aware of. Yet, they know a lot more than most of us ever will. It's a bit arrogant, if not hubristic, to think of oneself as more knowledgeable than people who have devoted their lives to the study of the Hebrew text! (After all, we're also human, make mistakes and are swayed by biases we aren't always aware of too.)

A healthy warning. I'll second that.  Smile

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JohnB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 9:11 AM

Rich, excellent!

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 9:23 AM

Rich DeRuiter:

I think it's really important for those of us who do not have PhD's in OT, or in Hebrew (etc.), to disagree with such scholars and translators with a bit of fear and trepidation. Yes, they're human: they make mistakes, and are swayed by biases they aren't always even aware of. Yet, they know a lot more than most of us ever will. It's a bit arrogant, if not hubristic, to think of oneself as more knowledgeable than people who have devoted their lives to the study of the Hebrew text! (After all, we're also human, make mistakes and are swayed by biases we aren't always aware of too.)

I'd (obviously) argue the exact opposite. One need only compare versions to see that scholarly certainty is no more than human hoping. In the example of Zec 12:10, one can easily note Tanakh 1985 , much less a large number of articles.  to conclude the obvious; it's a proposition (the translation). Similarly, on Sunday morning, a pastor's best doubter isn't a Phd or atheist .... it's the pastor right down the street, along with 31 more (in our little burg).

Alexander, the Gen 1:1 is an issue of 'in the beginning' vs 'when God began to create ...'. As above, see Tenakh 1985.  You can easily find considerable discussion.


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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:01 AM

Denise:

I'd (obviously) argue the exact opposite. One need only compare versions to see that scholarly certainty is no more than human hoping.

True. Nobody's perfect. However RD is warning about armchair critics and those who are armed with "a little knowledge". We've all met vociferous folks like that in our various circles.

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Rich DeRuiter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:02 AM

Denise:
I'd (obviously) argue the exact opposite.

And I'm not surprised. Smile

Denise:
One need only compare versions to see that scholarly certainty is no more than human hoping.

Comparing versions is a good way to see how scholars struggle (with each other often!), and how the text itself may have other interpretations. However, such differences are the exception, and not the rule. Further, if I am going to disagree with a translation, I'm going to look at other translations to see if any agree with me. If not, I'll question my assumptions, and look for others who might agree with me (and hope they're not heretics!). 

As for scholarly certainty, it's the nature of the work of translation that uncertainty, and certainly ambiguity are always a part of the equation - especially with a language as ancient as Hebrew, and a language that has so few extant examples outside of the Scriptures themselves. Further, scholars are often quite aware of where there uncertainties lie, and where they don't. As an outsider (though occasional observer) to the field of Hebrew studies, I'm not qualified to say where the pit-falls are, and where they aren't. 

If I have a pain in my side, I can go to WebMD and do all the research I want, and self-diagnose some bizarre disease or condition that fits my symptoms (and my fear of impending doom Wink). If I go to my MD with my diagnosis, he's likely to roll his eyes at me. Why? Because it's extremely likely that I'm not viewing nor applying the data in an appropriate way to make such a diagnosis. Now while he might not be certain of my diagnosis, and even after some tests might still not be certain, he's much more likely to be on the right track than me. Or I could just reject his opinion and start drinking nothing but alkaline water (e.g.), which apparently cures everything.

I'm not an expert, I need to know I'm not an expert, I should respect the experts for what they know, and I shouldn't disagree with experts without very good reasons, and with a great deal of humility, if I do.

I meant to say no more than that.

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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:12 AM

Thank you all.

Reuben, that excerpt was very helpful, thank you. I find the lack of the actual Hebrew words, morphology and syntax a bit disappointing. Perhaps that isn't the point of the UBS, and I need to look elsewhere (although the information still seems valuable). 

Rich,

I tend to agree with you that we shouldn't be so quick to feel ourselves superior to lifelong Hebrew/Greek scholars. I think that this is permitted only once we have a grasp of the particular issue at hand and can pin-down where the disagreement lies between what we might believe and what a particular scholar is saying. 

For example, and this might get to your point Denise, I understand it that the Tanakh favors certain interpretations because of Rabbinical tradition, and not because of pure commitment to the historical-grammatical interpretation of the text. 

But back to my original question, there are no commentaries or handbooks that discuss every word or almost every word in the Hebrew?

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:17 AM

Alexander Fogassy:

 there are no commentaries or handbooks that discuss every word or almost every word in the Hebrew?

In English, in the evangelical tradition, no. In Hebrew, maybe something approaching that.

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:28 AM

Alexander Fogassy:

For example, and this might get to your point Denise, I understand it that the Tanakh favors certain interpretations because of Rabbinical tradition, and not because of pure commitment to the historical-grammatical interpretation of the text. 

But back to my original question, there are no commentaries or handbooks that discuss every word or almost every word in the Hebrew?

Alexander, I’d be curious how you ‘understood’ the Tanakh translation?  They tend to be far more up-front when the meaning is literally unknown.

And the discussion is good. I think you changed to hebrew, from english translation. That’s Logos, Accordance and Bibleworks claim to fame.


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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:41 AM

Denise,

I am referring particularly to the Messianic passages that point to Christ. In my experience, some of their word choices seem to be informed by Jewish tradition/philosophy rather than solely the grammar.

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Reuben Helmuth | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 11:06 AM

Alexander Fogassy:
Perhaps that isn't the point of the UBS

That’s exactly right. They are specifically created to help translators with understanding each passage. Sadly, most translators are working from a translation to start with because of a lack of original language competency, so going into the details of the Hebrew would likely not serve their purpose. A set that I’ve found helpful is the Exigetical Summary Series. While not touching on every word, it does a GREAT job of letting you see what all (most) the discussion worthy issues are in each verse. 

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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 5:09 PM

Thank you Reuben. Again, I am particularly interested in the OT right now and Exegetical Summaries has barely any of the OT canon included. 

Unfortunate!

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Alexander Fogassy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 5:23 PM

I'm still surprised there is not something like this. 

Take the NASB for example. In the front matter of the book, it explains that the base texts used were the Masoretic texts with Septuagint influence. I'm presuming, then, that this means a team of scholars got together and painstakingly translated each verse from the MT + LXX into English. 

Why not, alongside this enterprise, also document the translation philosophy for each Hebrew word? 

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