Saturday, 7 January 2012

Psalm 8 - which 'version' is best?

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EITHER:

The King James or (Authorized) version:



O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

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OR

New International Version of the Bible (one of the most popular translations in recent use):


LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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This is a  fair comparison for me, since the NIV was the first version of the Bible I read extensively (and aesthetically it is far-from-the-worst translation), and it is used at two of the three Churches where I most often worship.

But - Good Heavens! Why would any sane person reject the first in favour of the second?

The first as great a piece of poetry as anything in English, and as profound a devotion as anything I have come across; the second... is... inferior.

Little wonder why the Psalms have lost their properly central place in worship...

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2011/08/psalms-and-cs-lewis-lewis-nods.html

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Note: The Book of Common Prayer, containing the daily liturgy for Anglicans, uses a different and translation of the Psalms, done earlier than the King James Bible and by Miles Coverdale.


The BCP Psalter is very good indeed; but not as good as the KJB Psalter - to go from the BCP to the KJB is like the difference between  somebody like Spenser, or Sidney and then Shakespeare.




Psalm 8 - BCP/ Coverdale:



O  Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy Name in all the world; thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens!


Out of the mouth of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies,


that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.


For I will consider thy heavens, even the works of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained.


What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?


Thou madest him lower than the angels, to crown him with glory and worship.


Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands; and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet


all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field,


the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.


O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy Name in all the world!


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4 comments:

Jonathan said...

The difference between "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" and "what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" is truly dismal. Makes me wanna smack whoever wrote the second one.

I do find the newer versions useful for clarification, though. I thought the "field" meant the farmyard until I read "wild" in the second translation. And the contrast between "because of thine enemies" and "against your enemies" makes me wonder what the original text really says.

bgc said...

@Jonathan - The ideal would be to make the Psalms an opportunity for implicit teaching by reading a literalistic modern translation first, then reading 'the real thing'.

I once attended a reading by the poet Sorley MacLean where he read (or rather chanted!) his own English translation first, then the original poem which was in Scottish Gaelic.

This worked superbly well - first the sense, then the sound - and if it works for Gallic then it would work for Elizabethan English.

(If you don't know who is Sorley MacLean - this is an example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow05S8JDdbk - a residue of bardism in modern times; and an example of the religious nature of the first generation who abandoned childhood Christianity and embraced communism, nationalism and art - their remarkable achievements leading astray the next and fully-secular generation.)

dearieme said...

Aye, I've been Sorley'd too. V fine.

alcestiseshtemoa said...

The KJV Version of the Psalm is better. I'm a bit disdainful of recent modern versions of the Bible.