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Nehemiah 8:8

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by Rippon, Jun 13, 2007.

  1. Rippon

    Rippon Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Dec 12, 2005
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    NET : They read from the book of God's law , explaining it and imparting insight . Thus the people gained understanding from what was read .

    NASB : They read from the book , from the law of God , translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading .

    NLT : They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read , helping the people understand each passage .

    NRSV : So they read from the book , from the law of God , with interpretation . They gave the sense , so that the people understood the reading .

    HCSB : They read the book of the law of God , translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read .

    There , that's fairly representative of renderings of this famous verse . I think this passage is an important one when we look at translations . In fact when the Book of the Law was being read they translated it according to several of these versions . They gave the sense . They gave the meaning .

    Preachers are to give the sense and explain the meaning of a given text of course . But I am interested in exploring this passage in light of Bible translating . Are translations to be focused on individual words , or the sense of the sentences ? Is it more profitable to translate in a phrase-by-phrase manner instead of word-by-word ? Why or why not ?
  2. franklinmonroe

    franklinmonroe Active Member

    Aug 2, 2006
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    I would like to point out a couple of things from the preceding context of this verse (Nehemiah 8:1-7, KJV) --
    And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that [was] before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.
    And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
    And he read therein before the street that [was] before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people [were attentive] unto the book of the law.
    And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, [and] Meshullam.
    And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
    And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with [their] faces to the ground.
    Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people [stood] in their place.
    So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading.​

    First, I think it is worthy of mention that it was the people's initiative to ask Ezra to read to them. Almost certainly, the "law of Moses" means the Pentateuch. They had to be publically spoken because there were virtually no copies available to individuals to read (for those that may have been literate). These scriptures would have been written upon a scroll (actually many scrolls), not a "book" as we normally think of pages bound in a cover (the codex format would come centuries later).

    Second, why do verses 2 & 3 state that these folks "could understand", and yet verses 7 & 8 state that the people were "caused to understand"? Does this in any way indicate that individuals cannot understand the scriptures without assistance?
  3. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Aug 23, 2002
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    Yup, especially if it wasn't in their written in a language they are familiar with.

    In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair.
    Nehemiah 13:23-25a ESV