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Monday, August 21, 2006
 
Representing God's personal name in translation ::

Names are usually easy to translate, you don't. Speakers of the receptor language sometimes have to adapt names to make them easier to pronounce, but on the whole proper names do not get translated. Tim Bulkeley remains Tim Bulkeley however you pronounce me! But God's name is a problem.

There is a good discussion of the issues on the SBL Forum. David Stein who was part of a team revising the JPS translation sets things out clearly, explaining how already at Qumran (some couple of centuries BC) the "name" was treated in special ways by the scribes, and how the translators of the first Greek Bibles set a fashion when they rendered the name "Lord" (κύριος). Yet "LORD" even when printed in capitals sounds like a title not a name. Many popular non-Jewish writers have used a transliteration of the name as it appears in the Hebrew text (since the habit began in Germany representing Y with a J) as Jehovah. Non-Jewish scholars, recognising that this form is not Hebrew, but a deliberate mixing of the consonants of God's name YHWH with the vowels of "lord" in Hebrew, designed to be unreadable as so remind the reader NOT to pronounce the name) have made an intelligent guess as to how the name might have been said. Put this is offensive to Jews, who often even avoid saying or writing "God" (putting G-d).

In the Amos commentary I represented the name יהוה as "Adonai" which looks like a name in English, and links to tradition by representing the Hebrew word for "lord". However, this is an idiosyncratic approach (though it has some support in Reform Judaism see Stein footnote 3) and for the Hypertext Bible Commentary series, and the University Bible Dictionary we need a better approach.

Stein and the JPS will render the name by presenting the Hebrew characters thus:
You have seen with your own eyes all that יהוה your God has done...
But many people think the introduction of Hebrew characters will unduly interrupt the flow of an Anglophone reader, and would prefer Roman characters:
You have seen with your own eyes all that YHWH your God has done...
What do you think?

Of these three options: יהוה, YHWH or Adonai which would you choose? Or would you opt for another possibility? Any input will be considered carefully before the editors decide!




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