Suggested New Translations Of Old Testament Poetry -- By: Elmer B. Smick

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 11:2 (Spring 1968)
Article: Suggested New Translations Of Old Testament Poetry
Author: Elmer B. Smick

Suggested New Translations Of
Old Testament Poetry

Elmer B. Smick, Ph.D.*

[* Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.]

Evangelical scholarship has much to gain for a better understanding of the Bible text through the first hand study of original documents. Without such continued study we become the victims of interpretations made by those who can handle these original sources. It is also most reasonable that those who hold to verbal inerrancy should have a large motivation to do exegetical and textual critical studies. These disciplines must have an increasingly prominent place if we are to maintain our integrity regarding the verbal authority of the original text of scripture. Far from being a nitpicking exercise in variant spellings and inconclusive possibilities, we see come to light every year new material for understanding difficult passages and for putting easier passages into sharper focus. Last year when asked for specific illustrations of how such passages have been illuminated, I reviewed M. Dahood’s use of Ugaritic in Anchor Bible 16 where he demonstrated, to the consternation of many, that the Psalms are full of references to immortality and resurrection.

At this time I would like to present further illumination of poetic passages from the Psalms, job and the Prophets. I acknowledge my indebtedness to Dahood but shall not limit myself nor follow his renderings slavishly.

Most of the lexiographical illumination is based on Ugaritic simply because it is the largest corpus of documents from the North West semitic sphere. However not only by lexiography but by a wider understanding of phonetics, grammar, syntax and the principle of poetic structure we can learn to translate passages with greater accuracy. Due to the limitations of time this paper will deal with lexiographical examples, centering around epithets for God, and including a bit of phonetics and grammar.

The second half of Ps 22 (vss 23–31) usually receives little attention. Hebrews 2:12 quotes the opening words of this section to show that the Lord was not ashamed to call those whom he had sanctified brothers. “Saying, I will declare your name (O God) unto my brothers, I will sing praise to you in the midst of the church.” On this authority Christians have considered these the words of the Resurrected Saviour though few have seen here the message of resurrection itself. This message is clearer than most have imagined but can be appreciated only with the help of Ugaritic lexiography.

The voice of ...

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