The task of Bible translation is not complete until the translation is published so it can be used by others. I suspect that all of us would agree. And I suspect that most, if not all, of us share the same essential meaning for what “published” means in that first sentence.
This last Sunday, however, I heard a usage of “published” which struck me as odd English, something that we would not actually say. It was read from Isaiah 52:7 during the church service:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news (tidings: RSV),
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (ESV)
As some recent posts on this blog have emphasized, a translation should not be difficult to understand because it uses odd English. A translation may be difficult to understand because it is translation of a difficult idea. But there is no instrinsic reason why we need to express difficult ideas using difficult words. And there is no instrinsic idea why we need to express non-complex ideas using English wordings which none of us would ever normally say or write.
If we use odd English in a translation, we run the risk of distorting the biblical meaning and/or obscuring it from translation readers. I have no idea what it means to “publish peace” or “publish salvation.” I would need a Bible teacher familiar with the original Hebrew to explain what these English words are supposed to mean. But it would take less time if the translation used standard English words to express that same idea. Let’s keep our Bible teachers for the jobs we really need them for, to explain difficult concepts and help us apply them to our lives. Their job should not be to explain odd words in English Bibles.
The Hebrew ideas behind the words “publishes peace” and “publishes salvation” are not difficult. There are a variety of ways they can be translated to English, some using words that we would all agree are in common usage, while others are not.
How would you re-translate the odd English phrases “publishes peace” and “publishes salvation” to more standard English?