Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nida: translation pitfalls

Thursday, February 25, 2010
    It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”
    —Genesis 31:49 (NIV)
    In one language of East Africa, missionaries have been saying for more than fifty years, “The Lord be with thy spirit,” but they never realized until recently that, because of subtle grammatical distinctions, this important benediction actually implied, “Yes, the Lord be with your spirit, for we don’t want him.” When this fact was discovered, the missionaries protested to their native brethren and demanded [to know] why they would permit missionaries to go on making such a mistake for so many years. The only reply from the natives was that the missionaries were in the habit of saying a good many strange things, and since the missionaries all agreed in making the mistake, it must have been true, regardless of the strange implications. But this is scarcely [more] incongruous than the manner in which we have taken the Mizpah declaration, “The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other” [Gen. 31:49], and have twisted it from its original context in which two jealous, cheating men called upon God for protection one from the other, and have appropriated it as a request for mutual blessings and benefits.
    ... Eugene A. Nida (b. 1914), God’s Word in Man’s Language, Harper, 1952, p. 18 (see the book)
Quiet time reflection:
    Grant, Lord, that Your people shall deal honestly with one another.
CQOD    Blog    email    RSS
BDTC    search    script    mobile
sub    fb    twt


Post a Comment

<< Home