Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Keeping Up with Harran

Folks often overlook one of the other new features of the TNIV--that is, the revised spelling of certain proper names. The TNIV breaks with traditional spellings--or more precisely, Anglicized spellings--for certain names leftover from the KJV and other English translations.

For instance, Evil-Merodach is now Awel-Marduk and Succoth is now Sukkoth. Such changes are welcome for the sake of accuracy, but will no doubt frustrate some who attempt to look up certain individuals and places in Bible dictionaries and other reference works, at least until Zondervan and other publishers updates their references to reflect the spellings found in the TNIV.

There is a listing of revised spellings at the back of every edition of the TNIV.

Recently, while teaching in Genesis at church, one of the new spellings caught my attention:

"Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter–in–law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there." (Gen 11:31 TNIV)

Note the geographical location, Harran, traditionally spelled with only one R. Why the change? Does the Hebrew justify the change in spelling? Well, no and yes. Technically, there is only one resh in ‏חָרָן, however the Hebrew Haran/‏חָרָן is actually a Hebrew rendering of
the Akkadian harranu. More importantly, the change brings the spelling into line with the city of Harran in modern-day Turkey, which is almost universally believed to be the same city as the Haran/Harran mentioned in the Bible.

And as a consequence, now there is a slight distinction between Haran, the brother of Abraham and Harran, the city where Terah traveled with his family. Although the two names are in the same context in Genesis 11, the person and the place do not have anything to do with each other (and are spelled differently in Hebrew). In fact, Haran, the brother of Abraham and son of Terah died before the rest of his family left Ur.

No other major translation that I know of besides the TNIV has updated the spelling of the biblical Haran/Harran to match that of the known city.

However, there is one more interesting aspect to the change in spelling that caught my attention. When I looked at the maps at the back of my TNIV Reference Bible, I noted that the spelling in the maps had NOT been updated!

I'm assuming that the maps used in the back of TNIV Bibles are the same ones used in NIV Bibles, but one would think that Zondervan would want to update them to reflect the spellings of the TNIV. Leaving them the same can only cause confusion.

One final interesting tidbit about Harran. According to the Wikipedia article on Harran, legend has it that this is the location where Adam and Eve first stepped when they were first expelled from the Garden. Granted it's just legend, but isn't it fitting that it was in Harran where Abraham first heard his call from God to go to the promised land? From the point of expulsion and alienation from God, the journey began to enter into God's rest. I find this very appropriate--regardless of how one spells the location.

CORRECTION: As pointed out by Elshaddai Edwards in the comments, the Revised English Bible also includes the spelling, Harran. Upon further checking, I have also discovered the spelling Harran in the recently published New English Translation of the Septuagint, although it should be noted that the spelling of the city's name in the LXX is Χαρραν.

UPDATE: Some TNIV Bibles do have the updated spellings, specifically the TNIV Study Bible for one. Also, Zondervan has looked into the matter with the TNIV Reference Bible and will include a newer, updated set of maps in a later printing.


ElShaddai Edwards said...

I was corrected on the difference between Haran/Harran after making a comment to one of Suzanne's posts on Shaddai.

I believe that the NEB/REB are the only other translations I have that make this distinction in spelling.

R. Mansfield said...

Thanks, EE. I missed the REB because I ran the search in Accordance for Harran on my iMac in which I don't yet have all my translation modules installed. Running it on my MacBook gave me the results not only in the REB, but also in the newly published NETS. I've noted a correction in the post.

Peter Kirk said...

I presume your "no other translation" means "no other ENGLISH translation". Translations in other languages use the double "r". I don't have many to check at this moment as I am in the middle of moving house, but as already noted LXX Greek has the double "r", and so also has the Azerbaijani Old Testament - I know that because I made sure it was there!

Don't forget that English is only one of thousands of languages with a Bible translation.

R. Mansfield said...

Obviously, I was speaking of English translations, Peter, because logically and practically, I don't have any way of checking the myriad of non-English translations in existence. I do have the ability to check all major English translations.

Do you look for things to disagree with, brother?

Peter Kirk said...

No, Rick, I don't look for things to disagree with. But I do notice when we English speakers arrogantly assume that we are the whole world, and that something we have thought of is novel because it is not found in the very limited number of English-only translations which we have looked at.

Well, I accept that you did write "No other major translation that I know of". Did you revise this? I thought I originally saw some wording more like "No other translation".

R. Mansfield said...

I made a couple of minor revisions the first day I posted this entry, but I have not revised anything today or in regard to the statement in question.

Nor did I have the intention of assuming that English speakers were the whole world. FYI for future reference--unless I say otherwise, I am speaking on of English translation when I use the word "translations" because again, I don't have access to multiple translations in other languages.

Mark and Julie said...

This comment has nothing to do with this topic but I can't find any other way to send a suggestion for the blog.
New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel by I. Howard Marshall uses the TNIV and should be added to the bookshelf

Wayne Leman said...

Mark and Julie, thank you for another book title for our bookshelf. I hope to add the book to our bookshelf before too long (work permitting).

I have added a contact email address to our margin. You can also contact some of us bloggers at email addresses on our profiles in the margin.