Using textual transposition to create better English

Posted: 23rd September 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Staying with Proverbs 8, I wanted to note some translation differences between the NEB and the REB. The latter is generally considered to be more ‘mainstream’ in its textual emendations, a “conservative corrective” to the more daring renderings of the NEB.

However, in some cases, like Proverbs 8.32-34, the changes toward the literal have perhaps created a slightly less idiomatic or impactful translation.

Now, my sons, listen to me;
to instruction and grow wise;
do not reject it.

Happy is the man who keeps to my ways,
happy the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my threshold
with his eyes on the doorway;

Now, sons, listen to me;
are those who keep to my ways.

Listen to instruction and grow wise;
do not ignore it.
the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my threshold
with his eyes on the doorway!

Do you see the difference? By rearranging vv.32-33, the NEB creates immediate pairs of “listen” and “happy”. The repetition strengthens each argument, with the second clause expanding the command and providing the result of obeying. One could argue that the REB does the same thing without changing the text, however, the NEB reads more naturally to me, the result of daring to move the text around to create more impactful English.

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Interesting example. Does the NEB have any notes explaining this change? I wonder if the change was really done for literary reasons or as an attempt to reconstruct the text of these verses in the light of the variants in LXX and the Vulgate.

  2. Nathan Stitt says:

    Excellent comparison. As much as I love the REB, there are many times when I prefer the original choices found in the NEB.

  3. @Peter: no, unfortunately there was no relevant note in my NEB regarding this change. Given the NEB’s propensity to use textual variants or conjectural emendation, a reconstruction might equally be a valid conclusion.

    @Nathan: I hear what you’re saying. The thought occurs to me from time to time that the REB revision team suffered an NIV infection during the last 10 years of their work (1978-1989).