Functional equivalence comparison #2: 1 Samuel 3:13 – What blasphemy?

The comparison between functional equivalent translations continues with the First Samuel 3:13.

NLT: I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.

GW: I told him that I would hand down a permanent judgment against his household because he knew about his sons’ sin—that they were cursing God—but he didn’t try to stop them.

NIrV: I told Eli I would punish his family forever. He knew his sons were sinning. He knew they were making fun of me. In spite of that, he failed to stop them.

Message: I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them.

GNT: I have already told him that I am going to punish his family forever because his sons have spoken evil things against me. Eli knew they were doing this, but he did not stop them.

NCV: I told Eli I would punish his family always, because he knew his sons were evil. They acted without honor, but he did not stop them.

CEV: He knew that his sons refused to respect me, and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever.

REB: You are to tell him that my judgement on his house will stand for ever because he knew of his sons’ blasphemies against God and did not restrain them.

In the original Hebrew, it is not very clear what “making themselves vile” really means. What were the sons of Eli doing to actually make themselves contemptible or vile? To make oneself vile is taken to be a blasphemy against God. But was it an act directed against God’s holy sacrifice (as the NCV implies), or were they doing something to themselves that made them vile? Amongst the functional equivalent (F.E.) translations, the NL T renders it as “blaspheming God”, which is the traditional rendering (also NRSV, ESV, TNIV). It is all by itself on this one because the other F.E. translations are very wide and far apart in their interpretation of the nature of this blasphemy.

The NCV’s use of “acted without honor” implies a physical action. Whereas, GW (“cursing God”), NIrV (“making fun of me”), and GNT (“spoken evil things against me”) implies speech. The renderings of CEV, Message, NLT and REB could go either way—action or speech. CEV’s (“refused to respect me”) uses an inactive adverb; whereas, NIRV’s (“making fun of me”) uses an active verb. However, this is very subjective because everyone may have their personal opinion as to what constitutes speech or action.

I prefer the rendering in The Message the best because it seems to most accurately describe blasphemy while covering both aspects of blasphemy in speech and action, and is easy to understand. Most people do not know what “blasphemy” means so I have to prefer a thumbs up for The Message. HCSB also has an excellent rendering: “his sons were defiling the sanctuary”. It’s extremely clear and understandable, but it’s in the mediating translation category.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

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