Excuse me, where is the toilet?

Oh brother, they have taken the toilet out of the gospel. I wouldn’t dare touch the Torah in the toilet but that doesn’t mean the toilet has to be entirely eliminated, does it? Who would have thought that a bunch of contemporary Bible translators could be so prissy!

I have been reading through Ann Nyland’s New Testament “The Source” since I now have my own copy complete with notes. There have often been times when I have thought of a way to translate a phrase but it is not found in any translation but hers. She has moments of extreme clarity and closeness to the meaning of the Greek. This is one of them. Sometimes her translation is more faithful than almost any other translation I am familiar with. Other times, not so much. That puts it on par with every other translation I read.

What I am really trying to say is that I feel that most of her translation is more or less as good or bad as any other, but sometimes it is significantly better. Tonight I read Mark 7:19 in her translation and wondered immediately what every other major translation had done with the toilet.

    Because it doesn’t go into the mind but into the stomach, and then it goes into the toilet. Nyland

    For it doesn’t go into your heart but into your stomach, and then out of your body. (T)NIV

    It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body. CEV

    because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated? NASB

    It doesn’t enter your heart but your stomach, works its way through the intestines, and is finally flushed. Message

    Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. NLT 2

    since it enters not his heart(X) but his stomach, and is expelled? (Note: Greek goes out into the latrine) ESV

    For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach (AG) and is eliminated (Note: Greek goes out into the toilet) HCSB

    since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? NRSV

    Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught KJV

    since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on? RSV

Now let’s look at the Greek.

    ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἀλλ’ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται

Okay, Liddell Scott calls ἀφεδρῶν the “privy.” I believe that means the toilet. So how did so many versions come to leave it out?

I think this little list affords a great opportunity to rate Bible translators on their squeamishness. Only Nyland is willing to call a toilet a toilet and leave it in the text where it belongs. A few other translations do offer an accurate translation of this word.

Addendum: I can’t help but notice that Nyland also translates 1 Tim 5:23 accurately as ” Don’t drink the water only – you must use some wine instead – on account of the act that the water is causing you the ailment of bladder frequency.” She also translates uncircumcision literally as “foreskin.” The truth is that you get a whole new light on what really is in the Greek scriptures reading her translation. Refreshing.

14 thoughts on “Excuse me, where is the toilet?

  1. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Maybe it would be more accurate as bowels. It goes into the bowels and then into the toilet.

  2. lingamish says:

    For my dialect of English “the toilet” is simply that white, strangely shaped porecelain thing in “the bathroom.” And “flushed” from The Message is an anachronism (so is “sewer”). This could be an example of Jesus being slightly humorous. I think the culture of that time was far less prissy than mine.

    Nice to have you back at blogging again…

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    Ah, but Lingamish, we must note that both Ann and Suzanne are subjects of the Queen, and both likely have a longer memory of the different senses (no pun intended!) of “toilet” that it has had over its usage history. You and I speak American, which is a dialect which sometimes has a short linguistic memory.

    Here’s meaning sense #7 from the OED:

    7. A dressing-room; in U.S. esp. a dressing-room furnished with bathing facilities. Hence, a bath-room, a lavatory; (contextually), a lavatory bowl or pedestal; a room or cubicle containing a lavatory.

    The first several years of my life we used an outdoor toilet. We had privacy (either pronunciation you wish!) but there was no comfortable white porcelain thing.

  4. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    Perhaps subjects of the Queen would be more comfortable with translations from their side of the pond?

    REB: “because it does not go into the heart but into the stomach, and so goes out into the drain?”

    NEB: “because it does not enter into his heart but into his stomach, and so goes out into the drain?”

  5. J. K. Gayle says:

    Fun stuff, Suzanne.

    HCSB puts it “and is eliminated” but adds by fn “Lit goes out into the toilet

    NET Bible has it “and then goes out into the sewer,” fn-ing this way: “Or ‘into the latrine.'”

    Is Nyland consistent in her translation of Matthew 15:17?

    Can’t find ἀφεδρῶνα in the narratives of Homer, Hesiod, or Sappho. Maybe they just didn’t go or had more poetic places. 🙂

    Thanks also for the post over at Complegalitarian. In the comments, I quoted an unintended toilet-related pun of F. A. Schaeffer’s in that sermon of his you excerpted.

  6. Peter Kirk says:

    Lingamish, I’m not sure what you think Suzanne is referring to, but as far as I can tell she is referring literally to “that white, strangely shaped porecelain thing”, except that here in the UK white is not so common as until recently it was out of fashion, and indeed public ones are not always porcelain. For it is specifically into this receptacle, not hopefully into the room in general, that waste is goes out from the body. Of course in Jesus’ time it would not be white or porcelain, but may well have had the same general form as well as function, so the word “toilet” is not too anachronistic. See this picture of a row of toilets from circa 100 CE, Sicily. Actually “sewer” is also not anachronistic, as they had them in ancient times.

  7. lingamish says:

    I can’t believe that, Peter. The usage by Limeys of my acquaintance is referring to the ‘loo.

    Which reminds me of a joke:

    Q: What is an ig?
    A: An igloo without a loo.

  8. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Can’t find ἀφεδρῶνα in the narratives of Homer, Hesiod, or Sappho. Maybe they just didn’t go or had more poetic places. 🙂

    Since Sappho’s poetry was intended to be sung at weddings you might not find mention of the toilet.

    In the Odyssey, no doubt, on board ship, it would be the “head.” And on the battlefield, …

  9. Mike Sangrey says:

    lingamish wrote:
    Which reminds me of a joke:

    Q: What is an ig?
    A: An igloo without a loo.

    You know, lingamish, of all the jokes I’ve ever read, that one is the coldest.

    🙂

    More seriously, I find nothing wrong with translating ἀφεδρών as ‘toilet’. And, lots right with it.

  10. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    The important thing is that my main bathroom is now functional again. I wrote this post in honour of the plumber who finished installing the “white, strangely shaped porecelain thing” just this week. 🙂 This is my first weekend with my new bathroom. Yahoo!

  11. Wayne Leman says:

    This is my first weekend with my new bathroom. Yahoo!

    Google!

    🙂

    And congratulations, Suzanne, on the completion of an important part of your home.

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