Monday, June 22, 2009

Psalms and concordant translation

I did not approach the Psalms as I am approaching Job. Job is one book - ostensibly one epic poem. So when it is translated, it should be done with as much attention to the sound and feel of the words as possible. So where Elihu uses the words of Job or Bildad - and he frequently does, the translator should use the same English word so that the hearer can hear the similar sounds in the target language. But with the Psalms I did not begin to do this. ZMR for instance - sing, sing praise, make melody, psalm, hymn etc - I have been quite free with synonyms - or better said - quite careless. The psalms are one book but many poems. Within a poem I may have paid more attention - especially since I was looking for recurring words.

But should the Psalms be translated with such concordance? There are arguments against it - especially if different ages can be discerned. One would not expect Shakespeare to sound like Milton or Eliot. One would expect style and language differences and different nuances in the same sounds.

The psalms have done their job for me and in me - I approached them to learn Hebrew and to hear the ancient mind more fully. I learned much more than this. Now after a few more weeks with Job, I have a long journey back to the first century and then perhaps into my own time as well.


Anonymous said...

Very perceptive,Job is a journey on many levels.The reader brings his experiences,emotions,visions,in an 'oblique'way,the psalms are a direct dialoque.So the translator will perceive the words in a new way. Mara

Bob MacDonald said...

Mara - I hope you will take a look at my new alef-bet book - I wonder how difficult you would find it. See the St Barnabas blog here or my other blog here.