Problems for Translators
In many languages there are different ways of addressing a second person. French uses "tu" or "vous" and German uses "Sie" or "Du" which are used to talk to another person, with the use depending upon formality, deference and social trends. In English some people like to keep archaic forms such as "thou" which they feel is appropriate in religious language whilst others prefer "you" to reflect modern speech. This argument appears in languages which use a second-person-pronoun distinction, and it can affect the way people think of God.

Many languages have different varieties distinguishing between high/low, archaic/contemporary and polite/familiar forms. People have different opinions about which is most appropriate for the Bible or different parts of the Bible. When William Tyndale translated the Bible into English he said that he wanted the Bible to be understood by all even by "a boy that driveth the plough." Sometimes when Bibles are translated into a contemporary common language this is popular with people who are not familiar with the classical or archaic forms but others feel that it is inappropriate for the Bible.

When the Bible Reading Fellowship issued the "Bible in Cockney" in 2001, which rendered well-known passages of the Bible in a London dialect, many people complained that it was irreverent. Some people think that the Bible should be in contemporary language but when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament it is appropriate to use archaic English to reflect the idea that the Hebrew Scriptures were in an older language than the Hebrew spoken in New Testament times. There are no right or wrong answers to such issues but they need to be taken on a project by project basis.

There are a small number of rare words in the Old and New Testaments where no-one is quite sure exactly what the word means. Translators have to decide how to cope with these words. Sometimes they try to make an educated guess at the meaning which makes sense in the context, sometimes they omit the word if it is unimportant and other times they leave the word transliterated. Sometimes a new meaning might become apparent through textual studies on old manuscripts.

In the Psalms many of the psalms e.g. Psalm 46, end with the Hebrew word "selah". No-one really knows what this means although many people think that it is a musical term. Some Bibles leave the word untranslated e.g. the English NIV and the New Welsh Bible whilst some Bibles such as the English GNB and CEV omit the word altogether.

No-one knows what Noah's ark was made of. Some people think it was a reed boat and others think it was made of wood. The Hebrew account in Genesis 6 :14 states that it was made of "gopher". The NIV translates this as "cypress wood", the GNB and CEV say "good timber", but the King James Version and the New King James Version not knowing what it is but assuming it is a type of wood render it as "gopher wood".
sheep in Gambella, Ethiopia

In some languages whole concepts need to be translated. How do explain "The Lamb of God" to a tribe that has never seen sheep?

In the Berber tribe many people have never seen a ship and so the Berber Bible rendered "anchor of the soul" (Hebrews 6.19) as "tent peg of the soul", which was not a literal translation of the original word but was true to the original meaning in a way relevant to their culture.

Bible translators face these questions in many cultures and have to face them on a case by case basis.

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