Did David Kill Goliath?

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Joined  05-04-2008
19 February 2010 13:29

Again, concerning the ‘business’ of Biblical translations-from Hector Avalos:

Insofar as the general public is concerned, nothing maintains the relevance of the Bible more than translations. According to one estimate, by the year 2000, the Bible had been translated into 2,000 languages. If it were not for the translations that made the Bible accessible to countless millions of people over the centuries, it probably would have been forgotten.

Indeed, the Bible is such a foreign text that translators and scholars become assistant’s to the reader. The preface to the New Century Bible says; ‘ANCIENT CUSTOMS ARE OFTEN UNFAMILIAR TO MODERN READERS’....so these are clarified either in the text or in a footnote. But, even more surprising is the assumption that the relevance of the Bible is best maintained by using translations to hide and distort the original meaning of the text in order to provide the illusion that the information and values conveyed by biblical authors are compatible with those of the modern world. In Translation Theory, Biblical translators maintain the relevance of the bible by distorting and even erasing what is said in the original languages.

As one example-

‘In the famous story recorded in I Samuel 17;49-51, David the shepard boy kills a giant named Goliath from the Philistine city of Gath. Being from Gath, Goliath is described as a Gittite. However, the Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 21;19 says that a man named Elhanan killed Goliath the Gittite. The NRSV, NAB, REV and NJB, all translate this accurately, despite the contradiction that is apparent. The King James Version, however, removes the contradiction with this translation: ‘Elhanan…slew the BROTHER of Goliath’ The KJV is ‘lying’ here, for the words ‘the brother of’ are not in the Hebrew text. Again, the difference between formal and functional equivalence is not at stake, and , in any case, the KJV is usually regarded as being a formal equivalence translation.

In fact, this attempt at harmonizing the contradiction concerning David and Goliath probably began with the Biblical author of I Chronicles 20;5, whose version of the earlier story in 2 Samuel says ‘Elhanan….slew Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam’ (KJV) The KJV therefore probably just transferred ‘the brother of’ found in I Chronicles 20;5 to 2 Samuel 21;19. Note, however, that the KJV picks and chooses, as it does not transfer the name Lahmi.

Many biblical scholars surmise that the more original story, if accurate at all, was probably that a man named Elhanan killed Goliath. It is less likely that the credit for an act universally known to have been performed by the famous David would have been transferred to someone of lesser-known status. It is more likely that someone famous was given credit for what a lesser-known person did. And Elhanan, indeed, has been forgotten by most readers. The insertion of ‘the brother of’ by the KJV also helps refute the common defense that there were two Goliaths. Why would it have been necessary to insert ‘the brother of’ if it were widely known that there was another giant killed and named Goliath?’

Thus, Biblical translation theory, arranging and coercing mythological stories to convince readers of authenticity and accuracy. If done with this world famous Old Testament story, how many countless others?

More from Dr Avalos in summary-

‘Jean Baudrillard, a keen observer of how appearances are manipulated, once remarked that, “Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the ‘real country’ all of ‘real’ America’, that is Disneyland” Similarly, each biblical translation functions as a Disneyland, hiding the fact that all biblical translations are illusions constructed by translators.

Overall, translators know that the Bible is the product of cultures whose modes of life and thought were very different from ours. In some cases, the Bible’s philosophy is so barbaric and violent that it defies explaining why anyone would consider it sacred at all. The difference between ‘formal equivalence and dynamic/functional equivalence, proves inconsequential because the function of both approaches is the same; to prop up the Bible’s illusory relevance. Mistranslation is, in this sense, often the goal of all biblical translations.’

The Bible. Inspired by God, and edited by man.