Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's with this translation?

I read the NIV2011 of Prov 3:5–6 yesterday that made me do a double take. Here it is; tell me what's wrong with it:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Hint: it's in verse 6a. Maybe this will help:
Here's the Hebrew:
‮בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

and here's the Greek (first half of the verse):
ἐν πάσαις ὁδοῖς σου γνώριζε αὐτήν

Just for fun, here's the Latin:
in omnibus viis tuis cogita illum

And just to complete it all, here's the Syriac:
ܕܥܝܗܝ ܒܟܠܗܝܢ ܐܘܪ̈ܚܬܟ (that font is so small I can barely read it, so it might not have pasted correctly...)

Any of those say "submit"? Hardly! For those of you who can't read the languages, here's a bit of help:
The Hebrew דָעֵ֑הוּ is an imperative from ידע which means "to know" with the object of knowing attached at the end, "him." The Greek is a bit different, coming from the root γνωρἰζω with a meaning of "make known, reveal" which causes some to think the the LXX translator read the Hebrew as a Hiphil (causative) instead of a Qal and that wisdom is what you make known (wisdom is feminine in Greek and the pronoun is feminine) Here's what Fox says in the HBCE volume:

[The LXX translator] uses γνώριζειν only for the H- and A-stems of ידע (or a synonym), never for the G-stem, and there would be no reason for דעהו to throw the translator off track. Once he understood the verb in 3:6a as “make known” rather than “know,” he took the direct object to be wisdom (hence the feminine αὐτήν). The result, “In all your ways, declare [or ‘teach’] it,” accords with G’s assumption that the wisdom mentioned in 3:5 is of the virtuous sort. Proverbs, pages 98–99
What about the Latin? Jerome gets the Hebrew right, using the standard Latin word for "know," cogito. That just leaves the Syriac, which uses the same root as the Hebrew, yd`, which means "know" in Syriac as well. The Targumim in Proverbs are just a translation back into Aramaic from the Syriac, so they are no help.

So where does the NIV2011 get "submit"? I checked my handy old 1978 version of the NIV and it says "acknowledge"—just like almost every other translation. But, when I checked the TNIV, guess what? Yep, here's what it says: "in all your ways submit to him." So where did the TNIV get it from?

That I don't know, but it certainly wasn't from any of these versions...


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for writing about this verse!

Personally, I find the translation "acknowledge" not so helpful. It seems to hold the meaning "to confess" in other places.

I'm happy to find out that dae'hu is the imperative form of yada, the very very intimate knowing as between husband and wife.
So it says "In all your ways know Him!"

This is why now I understand how other translations use "submit". Because knowing God is only carried out by submitting to Him.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1 Sam 15:22)

jps said...

Be careful about over-translating yadaʿ. It means "know" in general and in specific contexts can mean sexual union, but that isn't its core meaning. As for "submit," if the Hebrew had said šamaʿ, I would agree that it is a good translation. It is very true that obedience is a necessity, but that's not what this verse is saying in the Hebrew.