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Question About Psalm 139


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#1 Marie-Therese

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:09 AM

OK, so Psalm 139 is probably my favorite (138 in the Septuagint). However, there is a bit of translation that I am having problems with.

Verse 14 is rendered differently in a few different translations I have read and I am wondering which is the more correct.

Douay: I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well.

RSV-CE: I praise thee, for thou are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;

Vulgate: confitebor tibi quoniam terribiliter magnificasti me mirabilia opera tua et anima mea novit nimis

ESV: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Hebrew: יד אוֹדְךָ-- עַל כִּי נוֹרָאוֹת, נִפְלֵיתִי:
נִפְלָאִים מַעֲשֶׂיךָ; וְנַפְשִׁי, יֹדַעַת מְאֹד.
(this Hebrew verse was transliterated in English on that website as the following: I will give thanks unto Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.)


See my question? There seem to be two distinct differences in the translation. The Hebrew rendering seems to indicate that the verse is referring to the speaker marveling at God's greatness in their own formation, which is mirrored in the ESV. The Vulgate and related translations (RSV and Douay) seem to indicate that the phrase is rather a praise of God's fearfulness.

I admit that I am curious partly because I much prefer the Hebrew rendering, if that is indeed a correct translation. The idea of being fearfully and wonderfully made seems to make more sense in context with the subject of the psalm.

Can one of our scholars help me here? Which is more correct?

#2 mommas_boy

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:14 AM

OK, so Psalm 139 is probably my favorite (138 in the Septuagint). However, there is a bit of translation that I am having problems with.

Verse 14 is rendered differently in a few different translations I have read and I am wondering which is the more correct.

Douay: I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well.

RSV-CE: I praise thee, for thou are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;

Vulgate: confitebor tibi quoniam terribiliter magnificasti me mirabilia opera tua et anima mea novit nimis

ESV: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Hebrew: יד אוֹדְךָ-- עַל כִּי נוֹרָאוֹת, נִפְלֵיתִי:
נִפְלָאִים מַעֲשֶׂיךָ; וְנַפְשִׁי, יֹדַעַת מְאֹד.
(this Hebrew verse was transliterated in English on that website as the following: I will give thanks unto Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.)


See my question? There seem to be two distinct differences in the translation. The Hebrew rendering seems to indicate that the verse is referring to the speaker marveling at God's greatness in their own formation, which is mirrored in the ESV. The Vulgate and related translations (RSV and Douay) seem to indicate that the phrase is rather a praise of God's fearfulness.

I admit that I am curious partly because I much prefer the Hebrew rendering, if that is indeed a correct translation. The idea of being fearfully and wonderfully made seems to make more sense in context with the subject of the psalm.

Can one of our scholars help me here? Which is more correct?


I would tend to lean toward the Hebrew, because that is the oldest and most original.

#3 Marie-Therese

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:18 AM

I would tend to lean toward the Hebrew, because that is the oldest and most original.


That is also my thinking, but since my knowledge of Hebrew could fill a thimble, I wanted to get some more scholarly input about this verse's translation. I want to make sure that the Hebrew version I obtained was a good translation.

#4 mommas_boy

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:24 AM

That is also my thinking, but since my knowledge of Hebrew could fill a thimble, I wanted to get some more scholarly input about this verse's translation. I want to make sure that the Hebrew version I obtained was a good translation.


Ah. Is that the same Hebrew that the psalmist wrote, you mean.

#5 Marie-Therese

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:45 AM

Exactly.

#6 Nihil Obstat

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:55 AM

I would tend to lean toward the Hebrew, because that is the oldest and most original.



That is also my thinking, but since my knowledge of Hebrew could fill a thimble, I wanted to get some more scholarly input about this verse's translation. I want to make sure that the Hebrew version I obtained was a good translation.



Ah. Is that the same Hebrew that the psalmist wrote, you mean.

As well, you have to take transliterations with a grain of salt. Translating seems to be an art as much as it is a science, and some things just don't really get communicated well that way. ^_^

#7 Miss Hepburn

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 05:38 AM

Marie-Therese, I can't tell you how excited I was to see this topic. Anything at all that
can bring more attention to Psalm 139 the better.
It is the Psalm that first brought me to the reading of the Bible. I have not stopped for years.
I print it in minute letters in my art work so that it may look like some kind of pattern - until you look closely. It takes a long time using increased reading glasses strength!
A Christian Acapella group named Rescue have the best song reciting it.
Ahh, thank you for even if one
person here was not familiar with
Psalm 139 and turned to it - it was a blessing, imo.

Posted Image Miss Hepburn

Edited by Miss Hepburn, 28 April 2010 - 06:01 AM.


#8 Apotheoun

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 05:55 AM

This is a case of variant readings. The reading that you prefer is founded upon the Masoretic text, while the other reading is found in the LXX and the Syriac texts.

#9 Laudate_Dominum

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 06:55 AM

I can't think about Psalm 139 without considering Lil Markie.

#10 kafka

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 08:40 AM

"Truth transcends the telling" --Io

This maxim holds true even for Sacred Scripture which is the Word of God. So I would suggest that all translations put together cannot fully express truths the Holy Spirit is asserting in Scripture. So it may be the case that as long as the translators are using sound translation rules and principles that many different versions of the Bible may shed light on a single verse.

Here is the Jerusalem Bible:

for all these mysteries I thank you:
for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works.

CPDV:

{138:14} I will confess to you, for you have been magnified terribly. Your works are miraculous, as my soul knows exceedingly well.

'confess' generally can mean to praise, or it can mean to confess one sins.

Edited by kafka, 28 April 2010 - 09:26 AM.


#11 kafka

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 09:48 AM

oh sorry and I am not a scholar. I am not sure which one is more correct. I like the Hebrew construction better.

#12 Laudate_Dominum

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 10:15 AM

your skillful hand has made me who I am

#13 kafka

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 10:28 AM

your skillful hand has made me who I am

nice translation of verse 14 ;)

#14 Miss Hepburn

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 02:26 PM

I like a man who uses the Jerusalem Bible.

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