Tuesday, 26 May 2009
What ought to be removed from between an adulterous woman's breasts?
Translators have struggled to answer this question (raised by Hosea 2:2), and most have decided to just leave it as it is. Those who have changed the wording, though, haven't done so well. They started with misdirected modesty and ended up with vulgarity. Along the way they totally lost the impact of the anthropomorphic language that is key to understanding the message of Hosea.
Most versions are pretty straightforward:
OKJV: let her therefore put away her whoredomes out of her sight, and her adulteries from betweene her breasts;
NASB: let her put away her harlotry from her face And her adultery from between her breasts,
YLT: she turneth her whoredoms from before her, And her adulteries from between her breasts,
DBY: let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
WEB: let her put away her prostitution from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
NKJV: Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, And her adulteries from between her breasts;
The obvious meaning, as expressed in Hebrew parallelism, is to stop seeking and participating in adultery.
It is possible to put this in entirely modern English and still get the point:
NCV: Tell her to stop acting like a prostitute, to stop behaving like an unfaithful wife.
But it hasn't been all that obvious to some who take the dynamic equivalent approach; they just can't seem to put that geographically vital area between the breasts out of their sight:
NIV: Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
Adulterous "look?" This is heading us in the wrong direction--watch where it takes us!
NLT: Tell her to take off her garish makeup and suggestive clothing and to stop playing the prostitute.
Makeup?! Here we have a literal translation of the paraphrase "the 'adulterous' look."
And actually, I think taking off suggestive clothing is a big part of playing the prostitute!
MSG: Tell her to quit dressing like a whore, displaying her breasts for sale.
By the way, adulterous women don't sell their breasts; they buy them.
Alas, all this focus on breasts has completely missed the point of the passage. We would have been better off staying with the Living Bible, which avoids the word whenever possible:
LB: Beg her to stop her harlotry, to quit giving herself to others.