He restoreth my soul

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Deacon, Oct 18, 2007.

  1. Deacon

    Deacon
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    He restoreth my soul:
    He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
    Psalm 23:3 AV 1873

    My life He brings back.
    He leads me in the pathways of justice for His name’s sake.
    Psalm 23:3 Alter


    Robert Alter, in his new translation of Psalms [LINK], takes the position that we often insert Greek [and Christian] meanings into our reading and translation of the ancient Hebrew text.

    Case in point is the word “soul” translated from the Hebrew term, nefesh.

    Nafesh [נֶפֶשׁ] as noted in the BDB Lexicon has quite a wide range of meanings.

    “It covers so many different meanings that it is impossible to translate in all contexts with the same English equivalent….” Alter (xxxii)

    Alter contends that to translate nefesh as “soul”, “strongly suggests a body-soul split--- with implications of an afterlife--- that is alien to the Hebrew Bible”.

    Here are two more examples of his translation with comparisons to other versions.

    Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
    Psalm 69:1 AV 1873

    Rescue me, God, / for the waters have come up to my neck.
    Psalm 69:1 Alter

    Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.
    Psalm 69:1 ESV

    *******************

    For our soul is bowed down to the dust:
    Our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
    Psalm 44:25 AV 1873

    For our neck is bowed to the dust, / our belly clings to the ground,
    Psalm 44:25 Alter

    Rob
     
    #1 Deacon, Oct 18, 2007
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  2. TCGreek

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    One question I'll ask Alter, What is meant by My/Our neck?
     
  3. Deacon

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    Robert Alter replies:

    “The translation is also on the whole quite literal…
    Where English usage has compelled me to depart from a literal rendering, I have noted the divergence in my commentary.”

    “As previously noted, nefesh often occurs in Psalms as an anatomical term for the part of the body between the head and the shoulders. This usage is widely recognized by modern scholars, though in my view it is more frequently applied in Psalms than is generally allowed.”

    Re: Ps 44:25: "The present translation renders this line as ‘For our neck is bowed to the dust, / our belly clings to the ground,’ in fidelity to the poet’s strong concrete image of a person thrust into a prostrate position on the ground from neck to belly.” :thumbs:

    Again, the Hebrew word used is nefesh [נַפְשִׁי]
    Here’s another example from Psalm 63:1
    Of particular note is the rendering offered in the Holman Christian Standard Version.

    God, my God, for you I search.
    My throat thirsts for You,
    My flesh yearns for You
    In a land waste and parched, with no water.
    Alter

    God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
    I thirst for You;
    my body faints for You
    in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
    HCSB

    O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee:
    My soul thirsteth for thee,
    My flesh longeth for thee,
    In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
    AV 1873

    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
    ESV

    Rob
     
    #3 Deacon, Oct 18, 2007
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  4. TCGreek

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    1. And what is it about the neck in Hebrew thought in the Psalms?

    2. Is this a case of synecdoche, a part for the whole?
     
  5. Deacon

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    How high do the waters have to go to cover the soul?

    What are the symptoms of a thirsty soul?

    Rob
     
  6. Deacon

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    I’m not quite sure where this is going but I’m enjoying the adventure.

    Here are two definitions of the same word: nefesh [נֶפֶשׁ]

    1. throat Is 5:14; — 2. neck Ps 105:18; — 3. breath Job 41:13,
    Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (242).


    (5) With suff. נפְשִׁי, נַפְשְׁךָ etc.; it is sometimes I myself, thou thyself …
    Ps. 3:3, “many say of me (to my soul לְנַפְשִׁי), there is no help for him in God.”
    Ps. 11:1, “why say ye to me (my soul לְנַפְשִׁי) flee as a bird to your mountain?”
    Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. (560).


    In these two instances, the KJV used the word in the second sense.

    Isaiah 5:14a [נַפְשָׁהּ]

    Therefore hell hath enlarged herself,
    And opened her mouth without measure:
    AV 1873

    Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
    and opened its mouth beyond measure,
    ESV

    Therefore Sheol enlarges its throat
    and opens wide its enormous jaws,
    HCSB

    Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat
    and opened its mouth without measure;
    NASB95

    ********************************


    Psalm 105:18 [נַפְשׁ ]

    Whose feet they hurt with fetters:
    He was laid in iron:
    [note † Heb. his soul came into iron.]
    AV 1873


    They afflicted his feet with fetters,
    He himself was laid in irons;
    NASB95

    His feet were hurt with fetters;
    his neck was put in a collar of iron;
    ESV

    They tortured his legs with shackles,
    His neck was put in iron,
    Alter

    Rob
     
  7. TCGreek

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    1. What does Alter do with Ps 42:5: Why are you in despair, O my soul?

    2. It can't be: Why are you in despair, O my neck/throat, unless they point to something else deep within.

    3. How about Ps 43:5: Why are you in despair, O my soul?
    And why are you disturbed within me?

    4. When soul is so used, I always understood it to be referring to the deepest recesses of the human heart.
     
    #7 TCGreek, Oct 18, 2007
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  8. Deacon

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    Psalm 42: 2-4a
    My whole being [נַפְשִׁי] thirsts for God,
    for the living God.

    When shall I come and see
    the presence of God?

    My tears became my bread day and night
    as they said to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

    These do I recall and pour out my heart: [nafshi, [נַפְשִׁי] “my life breath” or “my very self”]

    Good one, Alter dances carefully here, attempting approximate the rhythm and concise cadence of the original text without mangling his “soul”. :laugh:


    Psalm 43:5 “How bent, my being, how you moan for me!”.
    IMHO, it fits quite well here with the imagery and parallelism in the text.
    It's not quite as smooth and beautiful as we are used to though.

    Rob
     
  9. TCGreek

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    So, since Alter mangled himself, Are you taking him seriously? :laugh:
     
  10. npetreley

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    Necking is good for the soul.
     
  11. Deacon

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    Robert Alter not one to simply dismiss.
    He has a different philosophy of translating that he discusses in the preface of each of his books.
    It’s different from mine and from many other translations.
    I learn a lot by examining the differences and choices that were made.

    My own amateur attempts to translate Hebrew text are pointedly devotional.
    I can compare it with the professional translations;
    my purpose, to make the text personal. How will the text effect me?


    Anyway regarding Alter's use of "heart" ... it’s not a fault; some others have translated nefesh as “heart” and found it acceptable.

    Psalm 10:3

    For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire,
    And blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
    AV 1873

    For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
    ESV

    For the wicked did vaunt in his very lust,
    Grasping for gain---cursed, blasphemed the LORD.
    Alter

    In John Goldingay’s, Psalms (Volume 1), he made a similar decision.
    (he follows the LXX in his numbering of Psalm 9-10)

    (ל) Because the faithless gloried over the desire of his heart,
    The robber worshipped,
    The faithless distained Yhwh
    Goldingay

    Here I believe Alter comes close to making the best translation, correctly translating the idea of the composer.

    Rob
     
    #11 Deacon, Oct 19, 2007
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  12. Deacon

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    I thought this quote was interesting:
    I find Alter’s "soul theory" plausible
    [to translate nefesh as “soul”, “strongly suggests a body-soul split--- with implications of an afterlife--- that is alien to the Hebrew Bible and to Psalms in particular”]

    At least in the book of Psalms there is no need to translate nefesh as soul
    ...but clearly further revelation revealed much more (e.g. Matt 28:10; Mark 12:30 etc.)

    As I was studying this, I got to thinking that this may have been a part of the controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Jesus’ time.

    From Josephus:

    But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of anything besides what the law enjoins them; for they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent;
    (Antiquities18.15-16).

    What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers;
    and concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them,
    (Ant 13.297-298).

    14. But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned: the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect. These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God,
    and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does cooperate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.
    But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil;
    and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men’s own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades.
    (Wars 2.161-166).

    If the concept of an eternal SOUL wasn’t clear to the Sadducees, who followed the “written word” rather than tradition, should we translate the psalms to make it more clear?

    Rob
     
    #12 Deacon, Oct 20, 2007
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  13. Deacon

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    A simple search

    In the Book of Psalms, the word “soul” is found:

    134 times in the AV 1873
    117 times in the NASB
    97 times in the ESV
    10 times in the HCSB

    Rob
     
  14. Mexdeaf

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    That dependeth upon with whom thou dost neck.
     
  15. Deacon

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    But does a good soul neck?
    ...or is a neck'ed soul good?

    “Soul Psalms” in the Holman Christian Standard Version

    Psalm 19:7
    Psalm 57:8
    Psalm 62:5
    Psalm 103:1
    Psalm 103:2
    Psalm 103:22
    Psalm 104:1
    Psalm 104:35
    Psalm 116:7
    Psalm 146:1

    There is a bit of a textual variant in the Hebrew text of Psalm 57:8, some manuscripts read [כְבוֹדִי ] = “kevodi” = “my glory” while others read, [כְּבֵדִי ] “kevedi” = “my liver”, both would imply the sense of “my full being”.

    Awake up, my glory;
    awake, psaltery and harp:
    I myself will awake early.
    AV 1873

    Awake, my glory!
    Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
    ESV

    It’s interesting that the Holman Christian Standard Version, that only sparingly uses the word “soul” in the Psalms, chooses to use it here.

    Wake up, my soul!*
    Wake up, harp and lyre!
    I will wake up the dawn.
    (* Lit glory)
    HCSB

    Robert Alter’s translation reads:

    Awake, O lyre,
    awake, O lute and lyre.
    I would waken the dawn.

    He notes that one Hebrew manuscript and the Syriac version reads “my lyre” [ כִנּוֹרי “kinori”] which, in his opinion, seems more poetically likely.

    Rob
     
    #15 Deacon, Oct 25, 2007
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