Note from the moderator: Students learning the biblical languages for the first time often produce wooden, overly literal translations dependent on what they know about words’ dictionary definitions. More experienced translators familiar with usage in ancient languages feel greater latitude when communicating God’s Word to contemporary readers. But in their zeal to bridge time and culture, translators must be careful not to disallow potential meaning embedded in literal phrases we no longer use today. This challenge emerges in passages such as 1 Kings 2:10.
Question: What is the best way to convey what happens to David in 1 Kings 2:10?
There is no single best way to render this verse. One has to first ask what the purpose of the translation is. Of course a literal translation of the verse is, “And David slept with his fathers/ancestors (both are literal) and was buried in the city of David.” And if the purpose of the translation is to render this verse literally and retain all original metaphors then the verb slept should be maintained.
However, if we want to render the verse into English that is more immediately understandable to a modern audience that does not tend to use slept to refer to death, we would better render it, “Then David died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.” Both are equally accurate, but the latter is more readable and understandable for the majority of readers today, and the former retains the Hebrew idiom for those who want to study the theme. I think serious students will need to consult both (and learn Hebrew themselves).
Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has been active in the area of Bible translation by serving on the central committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.
This entry was posted by Tremper Longman III and is filed under Old Testament.