Psalm 146: An observation on three Translations.

Ps 146.3 

NIV – 84

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.

NIV

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.

ESV

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Ps 146:5

NIV – 84

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,

NIV

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

ESV

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,

 

I am comparing two verses from Psalm 146 in the old NIV, the New NIV and the ESV.

 

  • The term “son of man” is changed to” human beings” in the New NIV and “mortal men” in the Old NIV.  You see that both try to contemporize an expression to present English.  “son of man” is awkward, and also makes some confusion with the use of that phrase as a title for Jesus.  ESV retains the word for word translation, which is clear with some thought.
  • V. 4 says that such a person goes to the earth.  In Hebrew “man” is “adam” and “earth” is “adamah”.  The pun is lost in all English translations.  However the allusion to Genesis is clear when one remembers that Adam was made of the dust of the earth.
  • The singular “he” is changed in the New NIV to a plural pronoun.  This was also the method used with several others: NRSV, NLT,  Contemporary.  One of the interesting things in Psalm 146 is the interplay between singular and plural.  “Hallelujah” which is a plural command, “Let us praise the LORD”.  The this changes quickly to the singular in verse 2 , “I will praise the Lord.”   The Beatitude of v. 5 is individual, and seems to call for a personal response.

Overall, an argument can be made for each. I benefit by comparing either NIV to the ESV.  For study with colored pencils and observation of words, I like ESV.  For readability, the NIVs are both smoother.  As one instructor said, “every translation is also a commentary.”

 

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