Monday, June 13, 2005

Botched Rhetorical Question and Relative Clause in Ezekiel 38 Translation

Daniel Block, in a seminar at the Preaching Apocalyptic Texts Conference, noted that the recently released TNIV renders the rhetorical question in Ezekiel 38:17 (“Are you the one I spoke of…?”) as a statement (“You are the one…”).

While it is often legitimate to render a RQ in Hebrew with a statement, it is not in this case, Block said. That’s because the rhetorical question actually implies a negative answer here, not a positive one. Gog was NOT the power that prophets foresaw as conquering Israel; Babylon was. Babylon was an instrument of God’s purposes by overtaking Israel; Gog would not be. So God is actually invalidating Gog’s ambition in this verse, rather than validating it.

I checked up on this and, assuming Block is correct, the NIV had it wrong, too, by adding the word “not” (Are you not the one…”), and then turning the relative clause modfying “prophets” (“who in those days prophesied…”) into a separate statement (“At that time they prophesied…”)

The Message also blew it:

Years ago when I spoke through my servants, the prophets of Israel, wasn’t it you I was talking about? Year after year they prophesied that I would bring you against them.

And look what the CEV does to it!

The LORD said to Gog: Long ago, I had my prophets warn the people of Israel that someday I would send an enemy to attack them. You, Gog, are that enemy, and that day is coming.

Posted by Nathan Bierma on 06/13 at 05:20 PM
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