Friday, September 08, 2006

The Big Noise, Nations! (Psalm 2)




BibleGateway.com is a fascinating site, whether the Bible is your book or not. It is a completely searchable site which has about 100 different translations of the Bible, including 21 different English versions. It is extremely interesting to compare different English versions of the text, from the modern freeverse breezy "The Message" translation to the lovely knobbly old King James. "Young's Literal Translation" makes for some intriguing circumlocutions and whatever the grammatical equivalent of neologism is.

Here's Psalm 2 in "The Message" version:

Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
"Let's get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!"

Here it is in King James:

1Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.

5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.


And finally, in the literal translation:


1Why have nations tumultuously assembled? And do peoples meditate vanity?

2Station themselves do kings of the earth, And princes have been united together, Against Jehovah, and against His Messiah:

3`Let us draw off Their cords, And cast from us Their thick bands.'

4He who is sitting in the heavens doth laugh, The Lord doth mock at them.

5Then doth He speak unto them in His anger, And in His wrath He doth trouble them:

6`And I -- I have anointed My King, Upon Zion -- My holy hill.'



It's possible to flip between versions (there's a drop down menu) to compare meanings, tones, choices of form, etc. It makes for a fascinating lesson in the use of language -- what do the non-semantic elements of language convey? What constitutes "translation"? etc.


My grandfather was a polyglot. (Man, he was hard to clean up after -- ask my grandmother.) He was not a religious man, but was fascinated by religious texts and knew Hebrew, Afrikaans, English, Yiddish, French, Russian, some German, and bits of other languages. I remember arriving one night late and seeing him have about five different bibles open in front of him, comparing the texts. He would have loved BibleGateway.com.


1 comment:

Razovsky said...

Hey, it looks like a DfB visual poem! DfB still owes me $75.

Stu