Here are a few modern translations of Psalm 91:1,
- You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Message
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. NLT
He who lives in the safe place of the Most High
will be in the shadow of the All-powerful. New Life Version
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. HCSB
Whoever goes to the LORD for safety,
whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty TEV
You who live in the secret place of Elyon,
spend your nights in the shelter of Shaddai, NJB
And here a couple of the recent Jewish translations. Although I would not normally have access to these translations in electronic form, I was able to find this verse in a post on Psalm 91 on Iyov’s blog.
- He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter,
in the shadow of Shaddai lies at night — Alter
O you who dwell in the shelter of Most High
and abide in the protection of Shaddai — NJPS
These translations illustrate well several of the elements of a literary approach to translation. The one element I have been focusing on in this series is the translation of a name of God – Shaddai, should it be translated, in this case not necessarily possible; transliterated, or replaced with its traditional translational equivalent, Almighty? On this point I would like to quote Iyov’s comment,
- The Israeli scholar Yair Hoffman, noting its eloquent expression of God’s unflagging providential protection, has interestingly characterized the poem as an “amulet psalm” with the idea that its recitation might help a person attain or perhaps simply feel God’s guarding power.
Some translators might wish to retain a traditional translational equivalent for Shaddai in consideration of the role of the Psalm in a particular faith community.
Other literary elements that seem rather obvious, but are nonetheless of varying difficulty to accomodate in translation, are: word order, alliteration, rhythm and meter, the use of figurative vs non-figurative language in translation, and as John raises here, the use of grammatical gender in metaphor.
Ultimately a translator has to account for the overall construction of the couplet in such a way that the second half relates to the first half in a way that imitates the original.