NETS and NRSV: Psalm 1


    Happy is the man
    who did not walk by the counsel of the impious,
    and in the way of sinners did not stand,
    and on the seat of pestiferous people did not sit down.
    Rather, his will is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he will meditate day and night.
    And he will be like the tree
    that was planted by the channels of waters,
    which will yield its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf will not fall off.
    And in all that he does, he will prosper.

    Not so the impious, not so!
    Rather, they are like the dust that the
    wind flings from off the land.
    Therefore the impious will not rise up in judgment,
    nor sinners in the council of the righteous,
    because the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    and the way of the impious will perish.


    Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
    but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
    They are like trees planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

    The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
    for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

There has been some discussion by Kevin, Iyov, Stefan, and doubtless by others, on the recently published New English Translation of the Septuagint. One of threads is concerned with how closely the NETS follows the NRSV, the translation which it is designed to parallel.

I am sure you will immediately notice that the NETS is not a completely gender neutral translation. However, it is in principle, and in Genesis the word “humankind” is used for anthropos. But here the word is aner. Although there is strong case to be made for aner sometimes being translated as “person”, the preference, in a translation of this sort, is to maintain concordance where it works. Pietersma writes,

    Though I have eschewed any rigid policy of one-to-one Greek-English equation, a reasonable effort has been made to reproduce word echoes in the Greek, which may or may not reflect echoes in the Hebrew. In passing it deserves to be mentioned that this effort has not infrequently meant that the reading of the NRSV has been replaced by a synonym in NETS. Psalms: To the Reader

Other differences are the adherence to the Greek inverted word order and the grammtical endings such as plural “waters” in line 8.

On another note, Pietersma mentions a particular literary feature of the Greek Psalms which is the lyrical translation for ben adam in Psalm 49:3, where the translator writes, γηγενεις “earthborn”.

I note with some chagrin that when Pietersma mentions his grad students, the names appear to be all male. In my year, his class was well balanced with men and women, but the women did not stay in that field of study, although not for lack of a love of language.

Update: I certainly had no intention of saying anything negative about either the NETS use of gender language or the fact that there are so few women involved in this project. I only spoke with regret that I had not pursued this area myself. When I ask why why more Christian women are not in active leadership in certain areas, I am speaking first to myself.

12 thoughts on “NETS and NRSV: Psalm 1

  1. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thanks for this post, Suzanne.

    you say:

    I note with some chagrin that when Pietersma mentions his grad students, the names appear to be all male. In my year, his class was well balanced with men and women, but the women did not stay in that field of study, although not for lack of a love of language.

    and at Kevin’s post you comment:

    It is odd to realize that we [women in Pietersma’s classes] just didn’t see a future in biblical scholarship at the time.

    What encouragement at the time did you have? And now, why is there only one woman on the NETS translation team, your friend and classmate, Karen H. Jobes. Why?

    So note Psalm 4:

    How long, you people, shall my honour suffer shame?

    You sons of men, how long will you be dull-witted?

    Here the LXX translators chose anthropos not aner / andres as in Psalm 1. But now the English (sexist) choices.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    No, no, I don’t know Jobes at all. Isn’t she American? My girlfriend is a lawyer and I am a teacher. (I think this is a second career for Jobes.) But there are a couple of women in the year after me who are now teaching in seminary. So it was mixed, but more related to our family upbringing than the school. The professors were great and were ordaining women in the Anglican church of Canada in 1976. I was very disappointed in my experiences in some churches after leaving university, but that’s life.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    My instinct is that there is some other reason for the scarcity of women in certain domains in Biblical scholarship. I don’t really know enough about the demographics to have any useful observations. Maybe John can tell us more from the BLS conference. For example, roughly what percentage there were women, and are there more Jewish women in Biblical scholarship than Christian women.

    I truly am drawing a blank on this.

  4. Wayne Leman says:

    “pestiferous”, wow!!

    I hope that there are some reading level programs smart enough to know that words like that raise the reading level of a text.

  5. Wayne Leman says:

    Suzanne asked:

    are there more Jewish women in Biblical scholarship than Christian women.

    My guess is that there are. I know that there are a fair number of women rabbis in Judaism, at least in Reformed Judaism. My sense is that many Jewish parents, at least in the U.S., have encouraged their daughters to pursue whatever careers they are gifted for, including academic work and biblical scholarship.

  6. J. K. Gayle says:

    Suzanne, Wayne, or any of you BBB bloggers:

    Has anyone reviewed the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint?

    I can’t help but notice that of their 30 member translation team, only 1 is a woman: but Beth Sheppard does get to transate 3 texts, Ruth, Baruch, and the Letter of Jeremiah. (The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible has 1 woman of 9 translators total; the the the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament is by a man only).

    Phil Gons, at, just announced the prepub delivery of the LXX this week (December 19, 2007).

  7. Ryan Close says:

    In his book, Christ in the Psalms, Fr Patrick Reardon goes out of his way to show that the Psalms are meant to be prophetic of Christ. The first line of the Psalter is a case in point. The happy man who’s will is in the Law of the Lord is Christ. A gender neutral translation such as “Blessed is the person” totally eliminates the prophetic and messianic content. I am confused that no one has yet to point this out as the reason the NETS uses “man” here.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    Ryan, please don’t take Psalm 1 and much of the rest of the OT away from us by claiming that “The happy man … is Christ” to the seeming exclusion of the rest of us. Or are you really making the theological claim that these promises are not valid for Christians (and perhaps others) today?

  9. Ryan Close says:

    Good point, but I don’t think any of that follows from what I wrote! I re-read my comments and I didn’t say that. I guess if there were room in a Bible for two translations we could have one that was prophetic and the other personal, and Psalm 2 could read, “You are my son or daughter, today I have begoten you!” At least that way neither point of view is neglected. Of course I don’t think the NETS translation “excludes” anyone, while, “Blessed is the person” does exclude both the prophetic as well as the elegance of the English language. What if we translate Psalm 2 as “Everyone is my person, today I have preformed an activity with you.” Don’t want to confuse people with long words.

  10. Peter Kirk says:

    Ryan, I don’t want to do the same with Psalm 2 as with Psalm 1. But I don’t see how “Blessed is the person” excludes your Christological interpretation; after all, Jesus Christ is a person. Nor for that matter would “You are my offspring, today I have begotten you”, which would be a possible and more inclusive rendering in Psalm 2.

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