<DIV><DIV><P>PART I</P><P>Getting Started</P><P>1</P><P>THE KING’S ENGLISH: WHY WE’RE ALL STUCK IN THE MIDDLE AGES</P><P>"If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me."</P><P>That quip by Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson to her Texas constituents last century actually reflects a common attitude toward the Bible. While of course most people know that it wasn’t originally written in English, they also think that the ancient text is conveyed pretty accurately in the familiar English quotations: "The Lord is my shepherd . . .," "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth . . .," "Thou shalt not covet . . .," "Let my people go . . .," and so forth. Most people think they know what the Bible says because they’ve read it in English.</P><P>But they’re wrong.</P><P>Sometimes the familiar English is just misleading, obscuring the focus of the original or misrepresenting an ancient nuance. Other times, the mistakes are more substantial. But the errors are significant and widespread.</P><P>This book is a straightforward exploration of where things went awry, how we can recover the original meaning of the Bible, and what we learn from better translations. As we work toward answers, we’ll travel a fascinating path that meanders through history, metaphor, sociology, ethics, the law, and even such obscure topics as zoology and Babylonian mathematics, in addition to our primary tools of linguistics and translation theory. Modern linguistics will guide our understanding of ancient Hebrew, and translation theory will help us render what we understand in English.</P><P>Because the familiar English translations are, well, familiar, we’ll use them as a reference point, looking at where they succeed and, perhaps more importantly, where they fail, starting with an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem.</P><P>The majority of English translations stem from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), first published about four hundred years ago. Named for King James of England, who commissioned it in 1604, the KJV is a literary classic, a volume so central that, like Shakespeare’s works, it helped shape the very language in which it was written. But a lot has happened since the early 1600s. English has changed over four centuries. Our understanding of the past has improved. And advances in translation theory and linguistics have opened new doors into antiquity.</P><P>Like medieval scholars trying to understand Egypt without carbon dating, or a doctor two hundred years ago trying to fathom the Black Plague, Bible translators throughout most of history have been working blind, struggling—though of course they did not know it—without the numerous benefits of twenty-first century knowledge.</P><P>Some people initially don’t like the idea of mixing modernity and the Bible, because, as they correctly point out, the Bible isn’t modern. Nor, they observe, is the Bible scientific, and they therefore wonder why a book like this one introduces linguistics, history, archaeology, and other modern approaches as we probe the Bible. But the matter is more nuanced than that. Even though the prophets who commented on the Five Books of Moses were unaware of modern literary theory, for example, we can still use that framework to help us understand what the prophets were doing and how they wrote. For that matter, they may not even have known about the rhetorical devices they used in the poetry, but we can nonetheless use our modern understanding to understand their ancient work.</P><P>We might compare the situation to that of a Renoir painting found languishing in a garage somewhere. Even though the painting is a nonscientific work of art, we’d use science to determine its authenticity. And if it were authentic, we’d use more science to clean it up and to recover as much of the original as possible. Depending on the state of the painting, we might want cleansing agents, infrared photography, or even a complete reconstruction. These modern nonartistic steps would restore the older art. Similarly, modern science, rather than turning the Bible into what it was not, helps us retrieve what it was.</P><P>Because the KJV is so widely used, and because it has been so central in English translations of the Bible, we’ll start by looking at that translation more closely. When we do, we’ll find three main sorts of shortcomings. The first problem is that English has changed in 400 years. The second is that the authors misunderstood some of the Hebrew, so they didn’t always appreciate the meaning of some parts of the Bible. And third, their conception of translation was seriously flawed, so that even when they did understand the Hebrew, they were not always able to convey it properly in English.</P><P>These problems are not limited to the KJV. They afflict other translations, too. The proportions differ, with more modern versions from last century offering (obviously) more modern English but frequently and surprisingly sometimes doing an even poorer job of translation. First things first, though. Let’s look at the KJV and see how it actually blurs and distorts the meaning and beauty of the Bible.</P><P>THUS SPAKE KING JAMES</P><P>Not surprisingly, the English of the twenty-first century differs from that of the seventeenth century.</P><P>Some of the changes in English are obvious, such as the verbs in "Abraham clave the wood for the burnt offering" (modern English demands "cleaved" or, better, "split"), "The LORD God of heaven . . . which spake unto me and that sware unto me" ("spoke" and "swore"), or "God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do" ("has" and "shown"). Similarly, the fifth plague in Egypt is called "a very grievous murrain" ("murrain" is a disease of cattle and sheep) and the sixth "blains upon man" ("boils," perhaps), both times using terminology that modern readers find foreign. Isaiah 31:3 warns, "He that is holpen shall fall down" ("helped").</P><P>While these obsolete words give the modern reader the mistaken impression that the Bible, too, is obsolete, they also red-flag their own shortcomings. Words like "clave," "blains," and "holpen"—and many more like them—don’t mean anything in modern English. So they don’t convey the wrong meaning of the Hebrew so much as they sometimes fail to convey any meaning at all.</P><P>Other changes in English are more subtle and insidious, because the older words still exist in modern English but with different meanings. The KJV translation "I shall not want" had nothing to do with desire but rather with lacking, so "I will lack nothing" is the real point. Moses is called "meek," but to indicate humility, not powerlessness. The "vail under the taches" that adorns the Tabernacle might now be called a "curtain." (And "taches" are clasps.) On its face, Proverbs 28:21 seems odd: "To have respect of persons is not good." But "respect" meant "to be partial," and the point was to avoid favoritism.</P><P>Similar changes include "let," as from Isaiah 43:13, "[God] works; who can let it?" The text there uses "let" not in the modern sense of "allow" but, rather, its opposite, "hinder" (a term preserved in tennis but otherwise rare nowadays). "Prevent" (from the Latin praevenire) used to mean "go before" or "precede," which is why Psalm 59:10 reads "The God of my mercy shall prevent me" in the KJV, while now we would say, ". . . will go before me." The beautiful imagery of Song of Songs, "the flowers appear on the earth . . . the voice of the turtle is heard," now wrongly suggests a turtle; the animal is in fact a bird, now called a "dove" or a "turtledove." And modern readers do not immediately think that a talking donkey is the same as a talking ass.</P><P>In addition to changes in the meanings of English words, we find differences in what linguists call "register," such as how formal langu <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>And God Said</b> by <b>Hoffman, Joel M.</b> Copyright © 2010 by Hoffman, Joel M.. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.