Thursday, July 13, 2017

In Praise of Paraphrase

A quote from William Griffin, translator of the deuterocanonical books in The Message:Catholic/Ecumenical Edition, while translating some of the Latin classics into English, as found in Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book:

"I fully intended to do the literal translation, of course, and yes, better than any of my predecessors had done, but I soon found myself faltering.  Fidelity seemed its only virtue.  Felicity was nowhere to be seen.  But Fidelity without Felicity in translation can be a very mean virtue indeed.... As many before me, I'd always thought Paraphrase was bonkers.  Why?  Because my intellectual betters had told me so, and I had no occasion to say them nay.  But what they never told me in so many words was that all translation was all too errant.  Soon thereafter I concluded that if err I must, then I'd prefer to err on the side of Paraphrase rather than Literalese (172)."

And of course, there is this classic quote from Msgr. Ronald Knox:

"The translator, let me suggest in passing, must never be frightened of the word 'paraphrase'; it is a bogey of the half-educated.  As I have already tried to point out, it is almost impossible to translate a sentence without paraphrasing; it is a paraphrase when you translate 'Comment vous portez-vous?' by 'How are you?'  But often enough it will be a single word that calls for paraphrase.  When St. Paul describes people as "wise according to the flesh', the translator is under an obligation to paraphrase.  In English speech, you might be called fat according to the flesh, or thin according to the flesh, but not wise or foolish.  The flesh here means natural, human standards of judging, and the translator has got to say so.  'Wise according to the flesh' is Hebrew in English dress; it is not English (Englishing the Bible 8-9)."


Tom said...

Amen! I've traveled the same path as a reader versus translator, at first wanting only something slavishly "objective" and literal (partially due to my distrust of modern translators, admittedly sometimes warranted), but now far more appreciating the paraphrase side.

Steve Molitor said...

Ooh Tim is in a feisty mood lately! Politics of bible translations, and now the third rail of bible politics, paraphrase vs literal! :o

I'm making popcorn!

Timothy said...

It is summer and I am off school for another month! :)

Anonymous said...

Being on summer vacation myself, I understand about having time on my hands to explore. I recently discovered JB Phillips' New Testament in Modern English, and I have fallen in love with it. Of course I've known about it for years, but never gave it a serious look until this summer. It is quickly becoming my favorite translation, so I heartily agree with Tim's post. Apropos to this discussion may be Canon Phillips' oft-quoted translation of Romans 12:2: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould."

- Keith S.

Timothy said...


Thanks for sharing this. Eugene Peterson notes in a number of his books that Phillips translation was instrumental for him. He truly discovered the Bible, after many years reading the KJV, only after getting those initial volumes of Phillips. Congrats on that discovery!

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed Phillips' translation. I used to read it on the train back in the 80s, while I was going to work. I was a Protestant back in those days and as usual, I remember hearing people complain about some of his choices but I didn't care. No matter what translation you read, there's alway going to be someone who doesn't like it, so you might as well read the one you want.

These days I'm retired and I have more time on my hands, so I pray six Offices a day. Consequently, most of my Bible reading is coming via the LOTH. Which is also a translation I really love. I also love listening to Alexander Scourby's audio version of the KJV. It's such beautiful language and the phraseology is often quite amusing. Plus, he has such a wonderful voice.

We're lucky to have so many choices, so grab whatever you like.


Biblical Catholic said...

Okay, you want to know what is wrong with excessive paraphrase?

Consider this:

"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well."

 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
6 “Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.
7-11 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?"

Let's be honest: if this kind of stuff is quoted completely out of context the way I just did, would ANY rational person, familiar with the Bible, think that this was an attempt to translate The Sermon on the Mount (of all things!) if it wasn't contained in a book where it read 'The Gospel of Matthew' at the top of the page?

This 'translation' is the worst kind of theological gibberish. This doesn't sound like the Bible AT ALL, it sounds like I am quoting from some self help book.

Ed Rio said...

The first Bible I wore out from actually reading it a lot was the Good News Translation CE. It was also the first one I read completely, if memory serves. So my most read have been the GNT-CE and NAB(RE). (I'm also very fond of the Liturgy of the Hours. Especially Psalm 95!)

The letters of Saint Paul really made me appreciate the more dynamic and paraphrased Bibles out there. The more literal stuff gave me brain cramps.

Surly Hermit said...


"Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege."

My immediate response was, paraphrastically speaking, LOLOLOLOLOLOL. That's the best Message quote ever. The Knox translation it is not. Rather hypocritical, it is.

Dwight Spivey said...

For me, the Message did what it's intended to do: it gave me a fresh perspective on the sacred texts. I've seen the Message on bookstore shelves for years but didn't give it the time of day. I've struggled spiritually for a while, and recently went on an 8-day silent retreat so as to rest and reconnect with God. Before I went, I wanted to acquire a book or two to read while on the retreat, and for some reason felt compelled to pick up the Message and read through some of my favorite passages that I've read in other translations many times over. I was blown away and wanted to simply continue reading right there in the bookstore. I determined to buy a copy and take it on my retreat, and I honestly believe it opened the Scriptures to me in a new and fresh way, and truly facilitated a spiritual awakening and a desire to dive back into Scripture again. I now use the Message right alongside my other translations, and am benefitting greatly from it. Incidentally, the other book I took on retreat was also by Eugene Peterson and it too is a game-changer in helping awaken my desire to jump into Old Testament study: "Run with the Horses." I'm Catholic, but I appreciate Peterson's insights and writing style; he's quickly becoming one of my favorites. It's funny: as a Southern Baptist I wouldn't give Peterson a second glance, but now that I'm Catholic I'm discovering what I've been missing. :)

Timothy said...


Your last two sentences read like the Yoda-eeze that Knox uses in the prophets and Psalms. :)

Timothy said...

What is the Bible suppose to "sound" like? Because I don't think that is an easy question to answer, certainly in modern English.

Also, I want us to look again at the two quotes above and consider them before we use examples. I mean, if we want to giggle at certain renderings, then there are certainly examples even in more literal translations. Heck, Knox spends an entire chapter in On Englishing the Bible documenting the problems with the Douay and its revisions.

And from my own anecdotal evidence as a teacher, I have seen with my own eyes my students actively engage the scriptures more dynamically with dynamic/paraphrasing translations than the standard literal ones.

Timothy said...

Great testimony Dwight. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote there.

Make sure to check out his latest (and last) book As Kingfishers Catch Fire. It is excellent.

Anonymous said...

Keith, I have to thank you for mentioning the Phillips translation. I hadn't heard of it before.

I have tried a number of times to sit down and read some "paraphrase" Bibles (NLT, GNT, The Message) and have just not been able to "get into it". I find myself reading the RSV-CE (1st or 2nd editions) the most, followed by the NABRE. I've been dabbling a bit with other translations and have enjoyed both the NEB and the REB. Going back to the Phillips translation, I took some time reading through it on Bible Gateway and really liked it (to my surprise) and have just purchased a copy from ebay! Thanks again.

- Ryan

Dwight Spivey said...

Will do, Timothy - thanks for the suggestion and kind comment!

Matthew Doe said...

The quote from Peterson does not really deliver any sort of argument, it is simply anecdotal and sentimental self-justification. I will just ignore it.

The quote from Knox is misleading in context. It's not really about paraphrase proper, it is about what one might call "idiomatic matching". It is a recognition that sometimes a word by word projection from one language to another does not work. Why? Because sometimes the meaning of a group of words is not constructed directly from the individual words, but assigned to a particular arrangement of them. The translation task is then to map that meaning of several words together in a sensible way, and that often means using words in the target language that do not individually map. Mapping idioms is really more of a "literal" translation attempt. One can see that insofar as a repetition would be mapped, i.e., another 'Comment vous portez-vous?' would become another 'How are you?'

A proper paraphrase however is an intentional rewriting to (hopefully) increase clarity of meaning. It does not try to conserve the text (if possibly at the level of idioms rather than single words), it tries to ameliorate it. It also operates typically at a higher level, i.e., one would typically paraphrase an entire sentence or more, not just a group of words.

I could also put it like this: would Know have approved of the Message? I do not think so. At least not in the sense that he would have considered it another attempt at translation similar to his own.

Finally, Knox makes a bad choice in the particular instance he is discussing, in my opinion. In fact, "Hebrew in English dress" would have been better in this case. In one sense the bible is more like a technical document than a piece of literature: it is infused with theology, sometimes this is explicit (as in Paul's letters), but often implicit. The "flesh" is really a technical term that needs conserving even if this introduces awkwardness on occasion. Chopping it up into semantic pieces translated differently (here is means this, there it means that...) obscures the network of meaning that is being built up across scripture.

Jeff S. said...

Sometime within the past 12 months, maybe even in 2017, it was mentioned on this
website about a Catholic edition of some translation finally becoming available
this fall of 2017 in about 3 months. I can't remember what that translation was.
At first I thought it was The Message, but that seems to be out already.
Can anyone here help me out? And give the date when it appeared on this
website so I can read it again.

Timothy said...

The New Living Translation Catholic Edition will be released in the US in October.

Jeff S. said...

Thanks very much, Tim!
Jeff S.
I just found a link for it:

And just as you said, it's listed as being available now
for pre-orde.

Pre-Order Now
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2017

Anonymous said...

Timothy wrote: “Keith, Thanks for sharing this. Eugene Peterson notes in a number of his books that Phillips translation was instrumental for him. He truly discovered the Bible, after many years reading the KJV, only after getting those initial volumes of Phillips. Congrats on that discovery!”

Thank you, Tim. I didn’t know Peterson was so influenced by Phillips. That’s great to know. I respect Peterson’s work a great deal, and although The Message is not my favorite reading Bible, he has done some of the most brilliant, inspired, and (arguably) most accurate translations. For example, Ecclesiastes is unashamedly my favorite book in the entire Bible, and I love how Peterson uses “Quester”, which I think in that one word gets at the essence and core of that book. I also appreciate (and actually understand) Paul in The Message. In addition, I was very pleased to find that Peterson translates Psalm 65:1-2 as:

Silence is praise to you,
Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.

I recently learned from Carl McColman’s contemplative prayer blog that no other major Christian translation includes the accurate “silence”; however, it is rendered such in the Jewish Stone/Artscroll Translation.

So, I am pleased to learn that Peterson was influenced by Phillips.

- Keith S.

Timothy said...


Nice to read that! I am also a fan of McColman as well.

Anonymous said...

Tim, yeah, McColman’s work is great.

Ryan wrote: “Keith, I have to thank you for mentioning the Phillips translation. I hadn't heard of it before. I have tried a number of times to sit down and read some "paraphrase" Bibles (NLT, GNT, The Message) and have just not been able to ‘get into it’. I find myself reading the RSV-CE (1st or 2nd editions) the most, followed by the NABRE. I've been dabbling a bit with other translations and have enjoyed both the NEB and the REB. Going back to the Phillips translation, I took some time reading through it on Bible Gateway and really liked it (to my surprise) and have just purchased a copy from ebay! Thanks again.”

My pleasure, Ryan! I’m glad that the Phillips translation caught you, too. Like you, I have read and/or test-driven just about every major (and minor) translation out there. I appreciate many. For example, I respect the solid scholarship behind the NRSV and it’s what I hear in church every Sunday, but I just don’t enjoy it; it’s not inspiring to me. Years ago I read somewhere online (Beliefnet, I think) where someone compared the NRSV to “steamed vegetables” – good for you, but just not that tasty. I concur.

I have spent a great deal of time with the NEB and REB, preferring the more radical NEB. It includes some of the most poetic and challenging translations. Knox, too. I will always have a soft spot for the GNT/GNB/TEV. It was my first Bible, given to me in CCD class. I still find reading it like a breath of fresh air. It has a certain charm. I love how Ecclesiastes is rendered as the Philosopher, and how Simon the Zealot/Cananaean is referred to as Simon the Patriot. Still, it is not the most poetic translation.

So, I was ecstatic to discover Phillips. He translated for young students, and his work is simple (in the best sense of the word), but I find it poetic and inspired. As I read Phillips, I experience and engage with Scripture anew. And, really, isn’t that what all this is about? Scripture reading should be inspiring, not dull. Annie Vallotton, the wonderful artist of the drawings in the GNT said, “Too many people read the Bible with a severe face, but I say no, the Bible is not that. The Bible is life, and it is wonderful!”

We should all be so lucky to find whatever translation/rendition/paraphrase of Scripture that speaks to us wherever we are in our walk with God. I believe God speaks to us in myriad ways; we just need to listen and not get too caught up in minutia.

- Keith S.

Timothy said...


Amen brother. I actually ordered Phillips' Letter to Young Churches. Really looking forward to it.

So much of what you have written above has been my journey over the past three years. I have come to appreciate pretty much all translations, but often more in an academic way. It has been different with Knox and Peterson. I am actually engaging the text more. More lectio. More contemplation. It has been both surprising and fruitful.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that, Tim. Amen, indeed.

- Keith S.

Biblical Catholic said...

"What is the Bible suppose to "sound" like? Because I don't think that is an easy question to answer, certainly in modern English. "

It should sound sacred, dignified and reverent, which, ultimately is the problem with things like 'The Message', The Message sounds neither sacred, nor holy, nor reverent, nor dignified.

The thing is, the task of transition is difficult. The problem I have with the 'dynamic' approach is that often the specific words ARE important to the meaning, and so a good translation should preserve as much of the original wording as possible.

Dynamic advocates always provide examples of excessively literal translations, they only rarely provide, or seem to acknowledge the existence of, excessively dynamic translations,.

Let's use a less controversial example than the Bible. Let's refer to the novel 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' by L Frank Baum.

Most people have seen the 1939 movie, but sadly, comparatively few people these days have read the original 1900 novel.

People who have not read the book often don't believe me when I tell them that just as in the movie, the novel starts out in black and white and turns to color once Dorothy gets to Oz.

How does it do this? It does it by constantly repeating the word 'gray', this is 'gray', that is 'gray', everything is gray. The specific word 'gray' is repeated over and over like some kind of mantra.

This word 'gray', that appears over and over again, is important, it important to the theme of the novel. Any translation into any language other than English ought to reflect this fact and ought to use the equivalent word for 'gray' whenever the original uses it. This specific word ought to be preserved.

Now, let's get back to the Bible, The Bible, like any book, also has many parts where the specific words used are thematically important. It is thematically important in the Gospel of John that Jesus says 'Amen, Amen I say to you', and not something like the 'I am telling you the truth' that appears in the NLT.

There are many disagreements among scholars over which precise words in the Bible are important and which ones are unimportant. Because making any decision to remove a particular word is inherently biased because the translator is deciding for the reader what the meaning of the text is.

Therefore, the translator has a responsibility to attempt to preserve as much of the original wording as possible.

I often hear the assertion that 'if a translator at the UN was to translate the way the NASB (or whatever particular translation is the overly literal bugaboo of the day) does then he would be fired.

But you know what? You can go the other way too if a translator at the UN was to translate the way that Eugene Peterson does, he would not merely be fired, he would be blackballed and never allowed to work as a translator anywhere for the rest of his natural life.

Dwight Spivey said...

The Message, from Psalm 139:

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!"

Sounds quite sacred, holy, reverent, and dignified to me, Bible Catholic. I know, I know - you could quote something else from the Message that would sound less so, but to be honest, your critique sounds more like animosity than well-intentioned criticism. Mind you, I respect your opinion and have enjoyed reading it in many of the posts on this site, but in this case I think you're coloring outside the lines a bit to make such a blanket statement about this translation (that's what it is, paraphrasal or otherwise).

Biblical Catholic said...

I'll be blunt: I find The Message and works like it, to be irreverent to the point where at times I have to seriously wonder if it isn't blasphemous.

But even more than that, there is a difference between a 'loose translation' and just flat out making stuff up, and The Messages does the latter far too often. I mean, honestly, to add in references to shampoo and toothpaste? I hate to point out the obvious thing, but there are no references to shampoo or toothpaste in the New Testament! These words have no place in an alleged translation of the Bible. I frankly find these kinds of 'translations' offensive.

And worse than all of this is the fact that in The Message, there are passages, many of them in fact, where the actual meaning of the text has been distorted beyond all recognition when I read these passages, I just have to shake my head in disgust and say 'that's not what that passage means at all.'

And the shocking thing to mean is to consider just how people there are out there for whom The Message is the only Bible they have ever read or will ever read. There are churches out there, evangelical churches, that actually use The Message in their liturgies. There are people who use it as their only Bible, and these people literally know absolutely nothing about the Bible and they will never learn anything until they put The Message aside and pick up a real translation.

Dwight Spivey said...

I understand your viewpoint, Biblical Catholic.

Jason said...

I've got a question...

Can't we agree to find a way to test a translation?

What I mean is this:

If I say in original English "Yes, I will see you later", and that gets translated into Spanish as "si, te veo luego", which then translates back to "Yes, I will see you later", then we've arrived at an accurate translation.

However, if I say "Yes, I will see you later", and my Spanish friend does a fast and loose translation to "si, hasta luego", and later it gets back translated to "Yes, see ya!".... isn't that proof the translation has lost accuracy and therefore the prior translation is more accurate?

I hope I'm making some sense here... my point is doesn't it seem that literal word for word translation, especially for the Bible, should be the preferred methodology?

Moreover, with documents like Liturgiam Authenticam establishing that Liturgical translations should be done with a word for word translation method, and with such important traditions such as the preface to the 1610 Rheims-Douai Bible, doesn't it seem like the main Catholic Bible translation methodology ought to be word for word?

Anonymous said...

I don't think 'accuracy and 'word for word' are necessarily the same. In your example "Yes, I will see you later", a word for word translation would have produced "Sí, yo te veré luego", which is spanish, but a spanish no native speaker would ever use. Your translation "Sí, te veo luego" is accurate and natural, but not 'word for word'. In fact "will see" is future and "veo" is present. Still, the sentence works well in spanish. On the other hand "Sí, hasta luego" is not exactly an accurate translation of "Yes, I will see you later". There is a sense of purpose in the english version which is lost in the spanish translation.
Another example of 'word for word' not conveying the meaning of the original into the target language could be seen in the translation of "He swam across the river". ‘Word for word’ would produce "El nadó cruzando el río". Which, again, is spanish. But is a form of spanish no native speaker would ever use. The accurate and natural translation would be: "Cruzó el río a nado". But the only words in the original to have survived the translation are 'the' and 'river'.
I hope this helps.


Biblical Catholic said...

"I hope I'm making some sense here... my point is doesn't it seem that literal word for word translation, especially for the Bible, should be the preferred methodology?"

It should be the preferred methodology when it is possible to do that. But it is often impossible.

The translators of the RSV and NRSV used a philosophy which they summarized with the phrase 'as literal as possible, as free as necessary.' This seems to me to be the correct approach.

When it is possible to do an exact word for word translation, AND it makes good, meaningful English, that is what should be done.

But there is no doubt that often this approach doesn't result in coherent English, and to turn it into coherent English, the translator needs to resort to a paraphrase.

But the question is 'just how much paraphrase is permissible before the attempted translation becomes inaccurate or a distortion of the text?'

And then there is the question of the translation of idioms. The biggest example of this is the idiom that occurs frequently in the OT to refer to marital relations.

Sometimes, this has been translated as 'lie back', and even though this is a very traditional rendering, it is actually a paraphrase. 'Lie with' is an English idiom, not a Hebrew one.

Other times, this idiom is translated as 'know', so it would be 'Adam knew his wife', this again is a paraphrase because 'know' is again an English idiom, not a Hebrew one.

Modern translations sometimes translate this idiom with more modern English idioms such as 'slept with' or 'had relations with'.

A strict, literal word for word rendering of the Hebrew idiom would be 'go into', so strictly speaking, a literal translation would be 'Adam went into his wife'. This is what the NABRE uses.

'Go into' is accurate, but in English, it sounds rather crude, and it is extremely explicit language, many people are likely to be offended by it, and of course using that kind of language in Church is controversial as well.

So how should this Hebrew idiom be translated if the literal translation is a little more, earthy than would be preferred?

It's a difficult question.

Steve Molitor said...

Jason that's an interesting way of testing translations. I think it would work, sometimes, for a translator to test his own work, or to evaluate someone else's work to see if you agree with it.

If you're trying to settle a debate however, it kind of begs the question. If you already think that the best Spanish equivalent of 'see you later is "te veo luego", then naturally you will translate it back into English as 'see you later'. But what if I think it's "hasta luego"? I am going get different results with your test than you will. In this case I would be wrong, but you'd have to find other means to demonstrate that to me, like asking a bunch of bilingual speakers. But in other cases, especially in ancient languages that haven't been spoken for millennia, the answer wont' be so clear cut.

More fundamentally, your test presupposes that there is a one to one correspondence between words or phrases in one language and another. Translation would really just be transliteration if this were true, a big multiple choice test where there is always just one right answer. Often however there are words or even concepts in one language that simply do not have equivalents in another language. If one translated "tender mercies", "loving kindness", and "merciful love" into ancient Hebrew, you'd probably end up with three different Hebrew expressions, and none of them would be "hesed" (which is what those English phrases translate). 'Hesed' does not have any English equivalent.

If Liturgiam Authenticam says that translations used in the liturgy should be "word for word" (or formal equivalence), then looser translations should not be used in the liturgy. " That does not mean they should not be used elsewhere, for personal reading for example. AFAIK Liturgiam Authenticam does not have anything to say about that issue.

BC I agree, if the tone of the original is sacred, dignified and reverent, then the tone of the translation should strive to be sacred, dignified and reverent. However are all of the scriptures texts sacred, dignified and reverent? Are they not sometimes earthy, or plain? I don't know the original languages so I can't really say. I think translations should try to mimic the tone of the original, whatever that tone might be.

A minor clarification: the NABRE does not say 'Adam went into his wife'. In Gen 4:1 for example it says "had intercourse with his wife Eve". (The NAB used 'had relations with'.)

Steve Molitor said...

I apologize for getting a little off topic here, but the Hebrew word used for marital relations in Genesis 4:1 and elsewhere is 'yada', which does mean 'know'. Sometimes it refers to sexual relations, and sometimes not. The DRC, KJ, RSV and NRSV all use "knew his wife". I'm guessing newer translations felt that younger readers would not recognize that euphemism?

Biblical Catholic said...

"A minor clarification: the NABRE does not say 'Adam went into his wife'. In Gen 4:1 for example it says "had intercourse with his wife Eve". (The NAB used 'had relations with""

But it doesn't use 'had intercourse with' 100% of the time, there are many places where it says the much more explicit 'went into'.

I just completed a year long reading of the NABRE, and I was struck by how often it says 'went into' where the 1970 OT used less explicit expressions.

I honestly don't known what the best translation would be, it's a difficult question.

Jason said...

Biblical Catholic I assume you're not remembering something correctly or you're conflating the NABRE with another translation.

Vigorous searching of the phrases "went into", "went in to", "went in unto", "he went into", etc. does not turn up even a single usage of anything like "Adam went into his wife Eve" anywhere in the NABRE OT, DC, or NT.

Not trying to nitpick here, but when we're talking about something so specific I think accuracy is important.

Steve Molitor said...

BC: I've been reading a lot of the NABRE OT this year, and the use of 'intercourse' repeatedly struck me. It seemed rather, uhm, direct.

I don't recall and can't find an occurrence of "went into" when referring to sexual relations. (Online bible search tool do find other uses of "went into", that do not refer to sexual relations.) I haven't read all of the OT yet, and anyway my memory is faulty. BC can you point me to a verse?

I sent a note to Mary Sperry a while back about an inconsistent rendering in the NABRE (the same word was arbitrarily being translated differently in a few spots), and see sent me a note back saying they would try to fix it in subsequent printings. So if there is an inconsistent use of "went into" instead of "intercourse", they might fix it.