Saturday, July 09, 2011

Son of death

I always tell my students that it is very helpful to read a bible passage in a number of different translations. If you can read it in a foreign language, that is even better. Of course, reading it in the original languages is best, but not many of us can do that.

The other day I noticed a neat thing in the Latin Vulgate. In II Sam. 12, when Nathan confronts David about his sin with Bathsheba, by telling him the story of the man who stole the lamb from a poor man, David says, "Vivit Dominus, quoniam filius mortis est vir, qui fecit hoc." The RNAB translates it: "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death!" The literal Latin for "merits death," however, is "is a son of death." That is a much more colorful phrase, but does it reflect the Hebrew? I looked it up. Sure enough, the Hebrew says bn-muth, which seems to mean "son of death."

The other thing I noticed about II Sam. 12 was that in the RNAB, it doesn't tell you that in vs. 25 when Nathan names Solomon "Jedidiah," it means "Beloved of God." In fact, the Vulgate of Jerome doesn't say Jedidiah at all, but simply, vocavit nomen eius Amabilis Domino. The Nova-Vulgata of the Vatican has the name and the explanation: vocavit nomen eius Iedidia (id est Amabilis Domino). Now, I know that the Hebrew just gives the name, assuming that the reader will understand its meaning, but I wonder why the RNAB leaves the explanation out or doesn't simply translate it into English, like Jerome translated it into Latin? It sure helps us understand things better.

No comments: