Pageviews last month

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The TNIV and the sons of Athaliah

I had not intended to revisit the subject of the TNIV yet another time, but alas, in a study of a rather well-known story in Second Chronicles, I found myself wondering as to the true interpretation of an obscure verse and turned in desperation to the TNIV sages to see what they would advise.

I give the passage in three translations: OKJV, ONASB, and ONIV.

2 Chronicles 24:7

"For the sonnes of Athaliah that wicked woman, had broken vp the house of God, and also all the dedicate things of the house of the LORD, did they bestow vpon Baalim."

"For the sons of the wicked Athaliah had broken into the house of God and even used the holy things of the house of the LORD for the Baals."

"Now the sons of that wicked woman Athaliah had broken into the temple of God and had used even its sacred objects for the Baals."

For comparison, here is a literal gloss:

"For Athaliahu The-Wicked female, her-sons have-breached the-house of-the-Elohim, and-also all-the-sacrosant-things of-the-house-of YHWH they-have-had for-Baals."

Now in the latest revisions of these three, the NKJV, RNASB, and TNIV:

"For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God, and had also presented all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD to the Baals."

"For the sons of the wicked Athaliah had broken into the house of God and even used the holy things of the house of the LORD for the Baals."

"Now the sons of that wicked woman Athaliah had broken into the temple of God and had used even its sacred objects for the Baals."

We see, first of all, that the NASB and NIV made no changes at all when they revised. This despite the fact that the NASB, famous for its literalness, had added a word to the Hebrew original--a word also inserted by the NIV, famous for its verbal looseness. Other than the NIV's insertion (along with the KJV) of 'woman' to show the feminine form of the word translated 'wicked,' the two read pretty much the same, in contrast to the KJV.

But the most perplexing thing is this: no version is any help to us in identifying these "sons of Athaliah." Earlier in 21:17 we read that all the sons and wives of King Jehoram were taken captive by a Palestinian/Arab confederacy in fulfillment of Elijah's written prophecy. In fact, 22:1 indicates that they were all killed. Only Ahaziah (TNIV) was excepted, although it is obvious from the near context that Athaliah also remained behind: one exception to each class.

Now here TNIV faces a problem. They love to translate 'brothers' as 'brothers and sisters' in the New Testament, but only once there do they ever translate 'sons' as 'sons and daughters'--in Hebrews 2:10, which they render "in bringing many sons and daughters to glory." Fact is, the phrase 'sons and daughters' already occurs dozens of places in the Bible, this being the only place as found in the TNIV where it is not an OT verse or an OT quotation in the NT. And throughout the OT, the TNIV seems very restrained in keeping the mentions of 'daughters' down to where they are actually found in the Hebrew. Even more to our point, in three other places in 2 Chronicles, 'sons and daughters' are specifically mentioned as being taken captive. So it was clear, even to the gender-equality-minded editors of the TNIV, that only sons were being originally referenced in 21:17.

But how about in 24:7? Is there any indication that it was only Athaliah's sons, and not her daughters, who looted the temple? Might not she have had some daughters as equally wicked as she, equally as zealous for Baal? And might she have spared these girls, that they might carry on her dynasty, when she killed all her surviving male descendants?

The Bible, in whatever version we might choose, is not clear. It says that Athaliah killed all the royal heirs--but later specifies that she killed the sons of the king--Joash, of course, being inadvertently excepted. So given the exceptions we've seen so far in this story, it's quite possible that she saved out one or even all of her unmarried daughters, they (and their future descendants) not being legal heirs of the king, and her married daughters being no longer under her control.

On far flimsier grounds than we have here, the TNIV has changed 'Men, brethren' to 'Brothers and Sisters' in Acts 1:16. So why does it not read 'the sons and daughters of that wicked woman Athaliah' in 2 Chronicles 24:7?

As for what actually happened, there are only three possibilities (if we accept the Word as written):

1) Ahaziah and at least one of his sons looted the temple;
2) Ahaziah and at least one of his sisters looted the temple, subsequent to the deportation and murder of all their brothers;
3) Prior to the Palestinian/Arab confederacy looting the temple, it was looted by the sons (and, we suppose, possibly the daughters) of Jehoram and his head wife Athaliah. This is the only possibility where 'sons and daughters' could be a historically accurate translation.

Option (3), however, turns out to be the least likely solution historically. Why would the Chronicler even mention the degradation of the temple unless it were a recent event, carried out since the reign of Jehoram?

Option (2), while in keeping with TNIV translation policy, still seemed so unlikely that the TNIV editors rejected it.

So we are left with Option (1). How likely is this possibility? Well, let's look at some numbers.

Jehoram was 32 when he began to reign, and he killed off all his brothers to make his dynasty sure (a rather unnecessary step, given the Davidic covenant). Ahaziah, his youngest and only surviving son, was 22 eight years later (according to the versional manuscripts followed by the TNIV), which was the year his son Joash was born. So Joash was born about the time his father was 22 and his grandfather 40. Thus if any desecration of the temple by Ahaziah and any of his sons was to have occurred, those sons must have been mere toddlers; six years old at the absolute maximum. I think we can also dismiss this option on historical grounds.

Yikes--three unlikely options. I have to say at this point that the only one I can't dismiss on historical grounds is the very option the TNIV should have been most eager to pick. Let's go back and look at it again, from the same historical perspective.

When Jehoahaz was 38, following the deportation of all wives and sons save one each, he became sick in the bowels. During this time of incapacity, it's likely that his feminist wife exerted her authority more and more, in anticipation that she may somehow be able to seize the reins of power after his death. Trashing out the temple with the kids she still had living at home fits this scenario very well; perhaps this was a part of grooming a daughter to follow her on the throne, and Azariah, totally oblivious to the plans his mother may have already had to murder his sons, joined in the fun.

For this scenario to be possible, the Confederation must have left behind at least one daughter of Athaliah--although, given the nature of secular warfare, they would have surely raped them first. In the grim aftermath of this raid, with his father writhing in agony and his brothers all dead, Ahaziah joined his mother and surviving full sisters in completing the looting the Confederacy had begun, so as to leave the temple desolate by the time he died only a year after his father. There it sat, gutted, until his only surviving son Joash began the restoration process some thirty years later.

This is the only likely scenario, and it involves both genders of Athaliah's offspring.

To conclude: In 2 chronicles 24:7, I am forced by historical reality to recommend that the TNIV follow its usual gender despecification plan and render 'sons' as, at the very least, 'offspring.'

"Now the offspring of that wicked woman Athaliah had broken into the temple of God and had used even its sacred objects for the Baals."

No comments:

Post a Comment

One comment per viewer, please--unless participating in a dialogue.