Re: Anthropology & Colossians 3:12-15

From: Nichael Cramer (
Date: Wed Mar 04 1998 - 21:02:47 EST

Edgar Foster wrote:
> >>I don't object too much to the KJV rendering here of "bowels". ...
> I dislike
> the NIV translation of "compassion" here.<<
> There are a few problems with your suggestion. For one, Biblical
> illiteracy is on the rise. Most persons who read the Bible are not
> scholars, nor do they have a knowledge of Greek. Therefore, the general
> populace must be kept in mind. Secondly, most scholars know what the
> Pauline "bowels" signify. So why render it in a literal sense? [...]

There are some interesting issues of translations here.

Paul's "bowels" presumably go back to the Hebrew where the "bowels
moved". One the one hand, one can make a good argument that "to feel
compassion towards" *is* the literal translation of the phrase, since
--in a very real sense-- that is what it "means".

On the other hand, if one argues for a genuinely "literal" translation
here, how far is one prepared to go? For example, what are we to make of
the passage where Benjamin stands before Joseph in Egypt, and it is
Joseph's "womb" that moves?

Perhaps the most appropriate thing to do with such "disruptive"
translation is to relegate them to the footnotes.

One of the best examples of this is perhaps Sarah's "seminal emission" in
the Epistle to the Hebrews". Perfectly sensible when read in the context
of Hellenistic physiology of the 1st cent CE. But likely to be, well, at
least a little disconcerting to the casual modern reader. (As witness the
fact that virtually no modern translation includes the "literal"
translation even in the notes.)


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