Thursday, August 21, 2008

Commentary on Psalm 1:1-2 BMV

Following the lead of the inimitable JHV from which translation I have benefited so much in the last two years, I am going to critique the BMV translation of Psalm 1 found here - just verses 1 and 2 for the moment. Working from the Hebrew, the LXX and the Vulgate, the BMV attempts to distinguish and capture whole thoughts from the Hebrew text.

1 beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum
et in via peccatorum non stetit
et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit
2 sed in lege Domini voluntas eius et
in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte

1 μακάριος ἀνήρ ὃς οὐκ ἐπορεύθη ἐν βουλῇ ἀσεβῶν
καὶ ἐν ὁδῷ ἁμαρτωλῶν οὐκ ἔστη
καὶ ἐπὶ καθέδραν λοιμῶν οὐκ ἐκάθισεν
2 ἀλλ' ἢ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ κυρίου τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ μελετήσει ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός

Notice how both the Latin and the Greek preserve the word order of verse 1. So the BMV retains the ancient word order. [Update - I couldn't resist the coloring]
1. Happy! is that one who has not walked in the advice of the wicked
and in the way of the sinners has not stood
and in the seat of the scornful has not sat.

vs 1. The BMV could avoid the traditional word sinner. Compare JHV villain. The form of the word order in this case is easy to reproduce without awkwardness in English. Even in French it works reasonably.
Heureux l`homme qui ne marche pas selon le conseil des méchants,
ou sur la voie des pécheurs ne s`arrête pas,
ou en compagnie des moqueurs ne s`assied pas.

Happy! is an exclamation - an overture of joy, not just a pious blessing. Avoiding the limitations of male nouns and pronouns in English leads to much grief. So BMV translates 'that one' for 'man' in verse 1 but in verse 2, BMV begins to get into trouble using awkward gerunds for the verbs.

2. Case in point: such delight in the teaching of יְהוָה
and in this teaching meditating day and night

Verse 2 is clearly an incomplete thought. This psalm is a statement about the two ways and is extensive with respect to the righteous one, and brief to the point of dismissal of the other path. Verse 2 could begin: Such a one has delight in the teaching of יְהוָה, but BMV was not satisfied with this rendition of the unique pairing of the Hebrew, כִּי אִם in this verse and verse 4. Verse 2 is not a completion of verse 1 but the beginning of something new. The Greek does not imitate this unique Hebraism, neither does the Latin, though the Latin has a nice repetition in verse 4: non sic impii non sic.

Is this Psalm about a male? Verse 1 can of course be seen as anticipating the One who is free of sin, Jesus Christ himself, who is of course male. Is such a one, male or female, happy? Joy, like the goodness of creation (Genesis 1) and the goodness of יְהוָה (Psalm 34) is a matter of faith, not necessarily of sight. How is the joy of the Son completed? (John 15:11, 16:24, 17:13) It is when the saints bind the kings. Such honour is not discovered in the Psalter until Psalm 149, a closing parenthesis to the opening of Psalms 1 and 2. So verse 2 looks forward and is not simply a commentary on verse 1.

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