Friday, July 27, 2007

An odd quirk of gender neutral language

Psalm 7:14 NIV: "He who is pregnant with evil ..."

Psalm 7:14 TNIV: "Those who are pregnant with evil ..."

Of course TNIV is right to be consistent in its gender language policy here. But by dropping the striking gender clash of NIV, which is in the original (one of only two places in the Hebrew Bible where the verb "be pregnant" is used in a masculine form, the other is Isaiah 33:11), TNIV seems to have lost something.

Actually there is an advantage of the TNIV reading here: it avoids the possible misunderstanding in NIV that this verse is still about God, the "he" of verses 12-13.

5 comments:

Joe Myzia said...

Hey Peter,

I can't read any Hebrew. But knowing that one of the common complaints about the TNIV is making singulars into plural to be gender accurate, do you know if the Hebrew is singular or plural?

I looked at all my other translations. Some don't even mention "pregnant" but "travail" so the gender isn't as much of an issue.

I'm simply wonder if that is a critique the critics could use here and if the TNIV would be better of reading "the one who is pregnant" or "the person who is . . . ".

My Greek knowledge is barely better than my Hebrew. Looking at the Septuagint, I think it's translated as a masculine singular. But I could very well be incorrect on that.

Thanks,

Joe

Peter Kirk said...

Joe, the Hebrew is masculine singular, but with a gender generic meaning probably. TNIV commonly changes singulars to plurals to be gender generic. The problem with using "The one" or "The person" here is that that should continue into verses 15-16, which leads to difficulties with "they", "them" and "their" in verse 16, also masculine singular in Hebrew.

Glennsp said...

Obsessing about being gender generic is probably a cause of the problem as well

R. Mansfield said...

Maybe also, the image of being "pregnant" with evil doesn't translate well into English.

Peter Kirk said...

Actually, Rick, I think the image of being pregnant with evil works rather well, in a poetic context like this. But I can understand why some translators prefer to avoid it.