Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Isaiah 40.6: Constancy, Beauty or Loyalty?

Posted in Translation by Bacho on March 16, 2011

Isaiah 40.6 reads: קול אמר קרא ואמר מה אקרא כל-הבשר חציר וכל-חסדו כציץ השדה

NRSV: A voice says, “Cry out!”  And I said, “What shall I cry?”  All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.

ESV: A voice says, “Cry!”  And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

NRSV tells us that people are grass and that their constancy resembles that of a flower of the field.  ESV chooses the wording of beauty to refer to the same phenomena.  The Hebrew word here is חסד. The standard meaning of this word as recorded in HALOT is faithfulness, loyalty, and graciousness.  This meaning seems to fit well in Isaianic context here. Human beings are fickle and unreliable.  Their faithfulness is marred by its brevity.  Their short-lived loyalty stands in stark contrast to the enduring quality of God’s promises and decrees.

Any thoughts on why NRSV and ESV choose to translate this verse in the way they do?

Translating Isaiah 24:4

Posted in PhD Research, Translation by Bacho on March 7, 2010

I am working through the translation of Isaiah 24.  Here is verse 4:

אבלה נבלה הארץ אמללה נבלה תבל אמללו מרום עם-הארץ

NRSV:The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.

ESV: The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

KJV: The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

What is the best translation in this context?