Christopher Heard: More TNIV woes 4


Christopher has a very good (and humorous) breakdown of the problems with the TNIV

In the last week and a half I’ve been teaching from the Latter Prophets in class, so here are some prime examples.

(1) Jeremiah 7:22-23

In Hebrew:

כי לא־דברתי את־אבותיכם ולא צויתים ביום הוציא אותם מארץ מצרים על־דברי עולה וזבח כי אם־את־הדבר הזה צויתי אותם לאמר שמעו בקולי

A fairly literal translation of this long complex sentence would read:

For I did not speak to your ancestors and I did not command them in the day when I brought them from the land of Egypt concerning matters of burnt offering or sacrifice, but rather this word I commanded them, saying, “Listen to my voice …”

For those of you unfamiliar with Hebrew syntax, the word pair כי אם (ki ’im), which I have translated above as “but rather,” introduces the positive alternative to a negative statement that was itself previously introduced by לא (lo’), translated above as “not.” In other words, a sentence with the structure לא … כי אם has a “not this … but that” logic. Jeremiah 7:22–23 flatly makes the claim that God did not give commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but rather about obedience. Of course, this does not quite square with Leviticus, and whether Leviticus is historically inaccurate or whether Jeremiah is spinning history to make a point is something that has to be determined through exegesis and interpretation. The syntax, however, is not at all equivocal: not about sacrifices, but about obedience, did God issue commands at the time of the exodus.

The TNIV translators, however, apparently can’t stand the idea of Jeremiah disagreeing with Leviticus, so without any warrant in the Hebrew text or in Hebrew syntax they add one small English word that completely changes the sense of the entire passage:

For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me …

By just adding just one little word, the TNIV translators have just completely reversed the claim that Jeremiah is making. I just really wish they hadn’t done that

(Via Higgaion.)

 

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4 thoughts on “Christopher Heard: More TNIV woes

  • Peter Kirk

    As I have commented on the original Higgaion post, it seems far from certain that כי אם (ki ’im) in Jeremiah 7:22-23 necessarily means what Heard insists that it must mean. He seems to insist that lo’ A ki ‘im B must mean “not A but B”. But there are certainly places in the Hebrew Bible, such as Genesis 32:27 (English 32:26) (one of a number of possible examples selected from BDB sense 2a of כִי אִם), where the meaning is “not (A and not B)”. The TNIV translation of these verses corresponds to the latter interpretation. This may not be Heard’s preferred exegesis of these verses, but it is surely a defensible one. It also has the advantage of not making Jeremiah say something (that God did not make any commands about sacrifices) which it is highly improbable, on any historical reconstruction, that he actually believed.

  • cbrady

    Peter, you still have me confused because rendering Jer. 7.22-3 along the lines of BDB 2a (p. 474), we have a translation along the lines of Christopher’s above: “For I did not… but rather….” Compare that with Gen. 32.27(26) which reads “I will not let you go, unless….” In either case you are still stuck with the first clause being negated.

    Which brings me to your final point, that Jeremiah would not say something that he actually (did not, I assume you meant to say) believe, i.e., that God gave no commands about sacrifice. What about allowing some literary style for the author? That he was, in fact, using hyperbole and intentionally beginning by stating what is upon the surface outlandish, that God gave no commands about sacrifices,* in order to emphasize what he believes to be more important, that they obey God’s voice and his commands. The point being, if they did that then all of the other commands would flow from it.

    *I agree that under any reconstruction, but the time Jer. 7 is being written it is clear that the majority tradition would be that God had given Israel cultic legislation in that earlier time of the wilderness.

    So, I think the answer lies not in the translation, I think CH is right about this, but in the understanding of Jeremiah’s use of the language.

  • Peter Kirk

    CBrady wrote: “…we have a translation along the lines of Christopher’s above: “For I did not… but rather….” Compare that with Gen. 32.27(26) which reads “I will not let you go, unless….” In either case you are still stuck with the first clause being negated.

    I disagree. In Genesis 32 the negation of the first clause is conditional, it applies only if the man does not bless Jacob. But in Christopher’s version of Jeremiah 7 the first clause is unconditional: God did not do one, but did the other. While it would not be good English to write “I did not… unless I did…”, that seems to be the logical structure implied by ki ‘im in Genesis 32 and, I believe, also in Jeremiah 7. Or at least it is a possible meaning of ki ‘im. Better English would be “I did not… without also doing…”.

    I accept that Jeremiah could be using hyperbole here. But first we need to be sure what are the possible literal meanings of his words. And it seems to me that even taken literally his words should not be understood as an unconditional denial of cultic legislation.

  • cbrady

    “And it seems to me that even taken literally his words should not be understood as an unconditional denial of cultic legislation.”

    My point was that sometimes language cannot be taken literally but I don’t think anyone in this discussion, Christopher included, was suggesting that Jeremiah was denying unconditionally or otherwise cultic legislation.