An Apology for this Translation
My commentary on Isaiah contains a New Translation. This translation was compared with the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew Masoretic text (received text) and much attention was given to the Dead Sea Qumran text of the Isaiah Scroll. The latter was carefully checked and compared with the Masoretic Text and the differences carefully noted. Although this work had been done and was catalogued by others it was felt that first hand investigation would produce the results sought. The Qumran text is decidedly human with many spelling errors, lapses, misspellings, archaic spellings, homonyms, synonyms, and corrections are added to the text by the copyist or some later editors. There were more than one original copyist, indicated by a consistency in peculiarities of spelling which is then broken and repeated at intervals. At least one of the copyists had poor hand writing, much like my own, hence, with the many mistakes, the allusion to humanity above. In some rare instances the Qumran text is preferred over the received text and these are noted in the commentary.
Although the King James version of 1611 is the basis of the translation used here it is a much different and improved translation than that produced by the 17th century English scholars. The language needs to be updated for a modern reader and the archaic spelling eliminated. But there are good reasons for retaining the King James Version as a base instead of the translations from texts that more modern translators have used. The more modern translators are gifted linguists and their forte is in nuances of language. The earlier KJV translators and those on whom they based their revision (Tyndale and Coverdale) were careful students of the Word of God. This is of particular importance since understanding much of Hebrew syntax is dependent on contextual ideas that are a part of a continuing flow of thought.
This is particularly noticed in giving the sense of Hebrew verbs and verbal cognates. The tense-time of Hebrew verbs continually escapes the most serious scholar and there is wide variety of translation among the most learned as whether a verb ought to be given as past, present or future. The King James translators had as much difficulty in these areas as do modern linguists, since, in Hebrew, the time, (past or future) is more dependent on the context than on the supposed tense of the verb, wrongly called Perfect, Imperfect and Future. The explanation given in grammars, of syntax which is supposed to govern the time set by a main verb and the consecutiveness of the following verbs, falls down. In actually reading the text there is no such uniformity and the rules become simply guidelines. The modern translators call attention to this paradox as well. They point out that after all of the grammar is noted, in the final analysis, it is the immediate and broader context that will determine the tense-time of a verb and not the grammatical form. In the introductory section of the New American Standard Version of the Bible called "Principles of Translation" this difficulty is recognized in the following quotation:
"Hebrew Tenses: Consecution of tenses in Hebrew remains a puzzling factor in translation. The translators have been guided by the requirements of a literal translation, the sequence of tenses, and the immediate and broad contexts."Thus they recognize that the final judgment on what tense-time a verb is to take in translation is based in the context and not in the grammar.
However the King James scholars had one more advantage in translating, beside their better understanding of the total Biblical context and the train of total thought. They discovered, what the revived Israeli Hebrew language has adopted, that the present idea of a continuing action in the "now" is a part of Hebrew morphology. This concept is carried in the mechanism of using a participle as a verb to indicate present time and continuing action. Carrying a definite concept of tense -time is contrary to consecutive verbs as explained above. However the combination of a pronoun and participle, used as a verb, is almost always close to present continuing action. There are many such examples. For instance "Ani shokeyn" means "I am dwelling." The King James may translate this as "I inhabit." If you would rather emphasize the sense of the participle, you would translate it as "I am the one dwelling" or "I am the inhabiter" or "I am the one who inhabits" it would mean the same thing. All these carry the idea of present continuous action. This construction found in Isaiah 57:15 refers to the one who inhabits eternity and uses the same word later in a verbal form which repeats that "he inhabits" a high holy place. Both NIV and ASV choose "lives" to translate the participle "shokeyn" which is a poor choice although they are correct as seeing it as a present continuous idea which makes the next, and usually translated, future tense verb to also be translated as present tense. Other modern translators may take the same construction in a different context and make it a past or future depending on their doctrinal point of view. For instance check several translations of Zechariah 8:1-3 to see the variety of choice of tense there which changes with the doctrinal viewpoint of the translator. The point here is that in spite of the KJV being outdated and the language hard for a modern reader, basic understanding of the broader context and of the meanings and ideas in the scriptures is decidedly weighted toward the KJV translators over the modern. The latter make several mistakes because they do not know the content thoroughly. Although they are incredibly well informed textual students and linguists, they often can not see the forest for the trees.
-------------------- A Qumran text similar to the Isaiah Scroll --------------------Fred would like to hear your comments or answer any questions via e-mail.
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