Biblioblogdom is abuzz once again with talk of idiomatic and literary translations of Scripture, and this most recent round has been aptly summarized by ElShaddai Edwards. I don’t generally contribute to these discussions, but I recently remembered a translational exercise I undertook about a year ago in which I attempted to produce idiomatic English translations of the ecclesiastical Greek text of several Psalms. (It goes without saying that these are not meant for use in public worship, but they grew out of my frustration with the translation of the ecclesiastical Psalter more commonly in use among English-speaking Orthodox, the Psalter According to the Seventy, which is basically incomprehensible at many points.) I’ve decided to post one of my translation drafts from time to time in order to gather input on translation theory and practice from others who might be interested to give it. My goal in this exercise was to render each Psalm coherently in contemporary, idiomatic English, taking liberties where necessary, but bearing in mind that form also can communicate meaning (and sometimes quite clearly!). But naturally, I have my limitations—as you might imagine, my Spanish substratum threatened to make the whole exercise an utter failure at every turn!I’ll start this week with Psalm 22 (23). The ecclesiatical Greek text is given below, followed by my draft. For Rahlfs’ (semi-)critical text, which differs from the ecclesiastical text in some rather minor ways, see here. For the Hebrew text, along with a fresh translation into English and a very helpful supporting bibliography, see John Hobbins’ recent post. I have followed here John’s arrangement of the Psalm for practical reasons—in particular, to facilitate synoptic comparison.
Ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυΐδ.Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει. Εἰς τόπον χλόης, ἐκεῖ με κατεσκήνωσεν. ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με. Τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐπέστρεψεν, ὡδήγησέ με ἐπὶ τρίβους δικαιοσύνης, ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. Ἐὰν γὰρ καὶ πορευθῶ ἐν μέσῳ σκιᾶς θανάτου, οὐ φοβηθήσομαι κακά, ὅτι σὺ μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ εἶ. Ἡ ῥάβδος σου καὶ ἡ βακτηρία σου αὗταί με παρεκάλεσαν. Ἡτοίμασας ἐνώπιόν μου τράπεζαν, ἐξ ἐναντίας τῶν θλιβόντων με. Ἐλίπανας ἐν ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου, καὶ τὸ ποτήριόν σου μεθύσκον με ὡσεὶ κράτιστον. Καὶ τὸ ἔλεός σου καταδιώξει με πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου, καὶ τὸ κατοικεῖν με ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου εἰς μακρότητα ἡμερῶν.
A Psalm concerning David.The LORD shepherds me, and I will lack nothing. He made me encamp in a verdant place, he reared me by refreshing waters. He turned my soul around, he guided me along paths of justice for his name's sake. Even if I walked amid death’s shadow, I would fear no evils, because you are with me; your rod and your staff have comforted me. You prepared a table before me in front of those who afflict me. You anointed my head with oil, and your strong cup inebriated me. And your mercy will pursue me all the days of my life, and the LORD's house will be my dwelling for as long as I live.