Update: Peter adds some thoughts. And in response to a question, I cannot find references to makrothumeô in classical Greek – it appears to be from the LXX.
My preceding post on Psalm 103 was partially tongue in cheek, but also a reflection on the fact that Hebrew poetry uses gender, concrete metaphor and other features of language in ways that cannot be translated into English so the study of Hebrew is very rewarding.
However, I also wanted to point out what has been mentioned before on this blog, that “long in the nostrils” is the underlying metaphor for “slow to anger” in English Bibles. This occurs in Ex. 34:6 and Ps.103:8 among other places.
This expression was translated into Greek as μακροθυμεω which is found in 1 Cor. 13 as “suffers long” or “is patient.” But it is the same expression.
It is regrettable that there has never been enough sensitivity to the Septuagint to translate these two corresponding expressions, one from Greek and one from Hebrew, with the same English word. I have not seen this phrase cross-referenced with the Hebrew Bible either although I may have missed it.
I am not mourning the loss of the literal translation for these expressions – to a certain extent both “slow to anger” and “suffers long” are literal. What is lost here is that Paul is describing love in terms of the Hebrew Bible. This passage is not in contradistinction with the Hebrew but is a reiteration of the Hebrew scriptures.
So why not use “slow to anger” in 1 Cor. 13:4. “Love is slow to anger.” Love is slow to anger, love does not keep track of wrongs, doesn’t this remind us of Ex. 34:6 and Psalm 103? Love waits a long time before getting angry, love forgives, love hopes and love endures.