Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Habakkuk 1:12 Revisited: The TNIV Angle

Last week, over on my other blog, This Lamp, I wrote about the way different versions handle Habakkuk 1:12. You can go to that post to see the details on the issue, but a good example of the different renderings is represented by the NIV and TNIV:


O LORD, are you not from everlasting?

My God, my Holy One, we will not die.

O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment;

O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.

[no note]

LORD, are you not from everlasting?

My God, my Holy One, you* will never die.

You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment;

you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.

*An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition; Masoretic Text we.

Again, you can read my other post for the details, but in a nutshell, this verse represents a place in the Hebrew text where the scribes purposefully changed the wording because they were so offended by even the suggestion that God could die. Of course this is not what it means at all. In fact, the NLT surely gets the intent correct by translating the phrase, "you who are eternal."

This is an interesting passage because although there are no manuscripts that say "you" instead of "we" (even the LXX says "we"), we have the testimony of the scribes that it was, in fact, changed.

So what do good translators do? Do they blindly follow a manuscript (in this case the Masoretic Text) even if they know it is incorrect, or do they offer a correct reading even if there is no manuscript evidence to support it? The TNIV translators chose to do the latter--that is, they chose to translate the passage as it was originally worded by Habakkuk under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This is yet another example of how the TNIV displays greater accuracy in translating the original texts than does its predecessor, the NIV.* If you're not using the TNIV, check out your own Bible. Does Hab 1:12 in your version reflect the words of the prophet or the words of an overly-pious scribe?

*Side-note: I've written a number of posts here on TNIV Truth that compares the TNIV with the NIV. However, I haven't ever paid any attention to the oft-forgotten New International Version: Inclusive Edition (or NIVi) that was released for only a very short time in the UK. If there hadn't been so much negative reaction and misinformation about the NIVi, we would simply be using that translation more than likely, and the TNIV would have never seen the light of day. The bright side of the NIVi controversy is that we actually have an even better translation represented in the TNIV. And this truth is evidenced in Hab 1:12 because the NIVi still carried forth the same translation as the original NIV. The NIVi was, in general, more accurate than the NIV. But with the TNIV, scholarship advanced another decade and this translation represents even greater accuracy in Bible translation.

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