Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Sprinkle" or "startle?" --Just Another Bit of Translational Skulduggery from Westcott and Hort

Heard a great message on Christian radio this afternoon on Isaiah 53, which really starts back in Isaiah 52.  When the preacher got to Isaiah 52:15 he commented that the Hebrew word nazah, which is translated in the KJV as "sprinkle," is best translated "startle." 

The KJV has:
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
But supposedly it would be better as "So shall he "startle" many nations?" 

For me these days it's an unavoidable irritation to hear sermons where the preacher favors the Westcott and Hort-inspired translations over the KJV, and this one is especially irritating because "startle" just isn't anything like "sprinkle," so I wanted to find out what lay behind it.  It's not irritating, by the way,  because I think the KJV is perfect, which I don't, but because I know the KJV translators knew their languages and this felt like just another slap in their worthy God-fearing faces by the revisers who hated the KJV, I mean HATED it, which they even said in so many words, being closet Catholics.  So I have to suspect it's probably another one of those 36,000 unnecessary corrections made in Westcott and Hort's 1881 "revision"  (See Bishop Wordsworth quote Change for Change's Sake in right margin).

I decided to find out.

So I did a little research. 

The list of Bible versions at Blue Letter Bible for that verse shows that nine of the twelve English versions have "sprinkle" while only two of them, the New Living and the Revised Standard, have "startle" and one, Darby, has "astonish."

The Revised Standard Version IS Westcott and Hort's Revision.  ONLY theirs and the New Living Translation have "startle."  Interesting that all the other modern versions stuck with the KJV on "sprinkle" instead of following the lead of the RSV from which they're all textually descended.   Should that perhaps be explained as their recognizing that "sprinkle" is the better rendering, or is there some other explanation?

The Hebrew word nazah  according to Strong's Concordance, occurs 24 times in the Hebrew Bible. 
It is translated in the KJV 24 times as "sprinkle."  That is, it is never translated by any other English word than "sprinkle" any place it occurs in the text.

Strong's gives "sprinkle" as the main meaning in English but also notes a secondary meaning, "leap," from which "startle" is deduced. 

I've discovered that this is a typical pattern for the Westcott and Hort revision.  That is, it's as if they checked the Concordance for the English meanings of a particular word in Greek or Hebrew, and chose a meaning that is on the list but far from the most common rendering, in a way that looks like they had no other interest than to find a rendering that is as different from the KJV as they could get but still within the ballpark as it were. 

People who favor the new versions will argue, of course, that a particular word is simply a "better translation" than the word found in the KJV, although they have no expertise in the language themselves and in most cases there's really nothing to justify that opinion except the fact that it's in a particular translation and not in the KJV.  The argument becomes silly in those cases where there are many different words in the many different translations, which is often the case.  Which of those many words is the "better translation" is a matter of subjective judgment.  And often a word choice was made simply to meet the requirement to have a certain number of differences from other translations in order to qualify for copyright.  That is another reason for the babelous cacophony of the translations besides Westcott and Hort's basic motive of vandalism of the KJV.  

So, yes, it looks like this is one of those 36,000 unnecessary changes, and maybe because it occurs in the Revision itself it's accepted by even the best of preachers as "more accurate" than whatever the KJV has:
  • despite the fact that nine of the twelve versions at BLB give "sprinkle" in agreement with the KJV
  • and despite the fact that "sprinkle" is the most common rendering.
I suppose Darby got "astonish" from "leap" too, but his is an oddball translation anyway.

The New Living Translation gives "cleanse" as an alternative in a footnote, which is odd since "cleanse" isn't exactly a synonym of "startle," although it is of "sprinkle."  But this is an oddball translation too. 

The translation that counts in this context is the RSV, because I wanted to know if this particular change can be traced to Westcott and Hort's devious schemes, and it looks like it certainly can.

I also looked up the English word "startle" in Strong's.  The word does not occur in the KJV at all.

And the English word "astonish:"  It occurs in various forms in the KJV ("astonied" and "astonished"), not one of which translates a Hebrew word even remotely similar to nazah.

Information on the RSV at Blue Letter Bible:
Transcribed from: The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version containing the Old and New Testaments, translated from the original tongues: being the version set forth A.D. 1611, revised A.D. 1881-1885 and A.D. 1901: compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1946-52. — 2nd ed. of New Testament A.D. 1971. There should be enough in the rest of the description to identify the text.
Excuse me if my lip curls in a sneer as I read this.  I'm sniffing sulfur from the pit of Hell, knowing that the RSV was produced by people who hated the KJV, who ignored the instructions to keep the revision to a minimum of changes by making 36,000 UNNECESSARY changes in the English (I assume a few were necessary), AND by palming off as "older and better" a few corrupted Greek texts which happen to have been approved by the Vatican, in the place of the KJV's Textus Receptus on which all the previous English translations had been based.  So to claim that it has anything whatever to do with the "version set forth A.D. 1611" except to mutilate it, is a big fat lie.  "Compared with the most ancient authorities" is just another piece of the Antichrist lie about the corrupted texts they've reinvented to be the oldest and best.  More Vatican inspired forgeries and deceptions.   Go watch Chris Pinto's films and listen to his radio shows.