Words to avoid

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.
(Mark 10:13, ESV)

We read this verse in church recently. I had to stop myself from laughing.

What’s wrong with it? Any ideas on how could it be translated differently?

13 thoughts on “Words to avoid

  1. Rich says:

    So, the disciples rebuked those little tykes, eh? I bet Mom and Dad weren’t too happy about these men scolding their children.

  2. Jason says:

    “that he might bless them…” I can’t say that I wouldn’t laugh either. A similar thing happened to me not long ago when I happened upon this book. In our culture, such titles should really be reconsidered!

  3. Yancy Smith says:

    Yes, unintentional inuendo is such a difficulty for translators. Since people tend to focus on defects, a text needs to be carefully gone over with this in mind. Another problematic rendering is “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (John 7:4 ESV). Probably better is: “If you want to be well known, you must not hide what you do. If you can do such amazing things, let the whole world see” (ERV). Also problematic in the ESV here is the ambiguous “these things,” which probably needs to be disambiguated for today’s readers.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I would replace “touch” with bless and “rebuke” with “scold”, such as the NET does. It seems there is some discrepancy as to whether it was the children being scolded or the people who brought them.

  5. Mike Sangrey says:

    “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (John 7:4 ESV).

    Great observation!

    Though, come to think of it, perhaps Jesus’ brothers were attempting to imitate Will Rogers.

    Well, probably not. But it sure did make me think of Will Rogers.

  6. Mike Sangrey says:

    You might want to note 1 Cor. 7:1, too.

    περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι

    Now, concerning the things you wrote about. First, you wrote, “It’s good for a man not to touch a woman.”

    I translate with ‘touch’ to highlight the euphemism and to bring out the fact that ἅπτω is used here in 1 Cor. 7, the same word used in Mark 10 (καὶ προσέφερον αὐτῷ παιδία ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅψηται). I think the contexts in the original clearly disambiguated the difference. And did so without the reader needing to analyze the text.

    So, we have to make sure of two things in the translation:
    1. We choose a good word for ἅπτω.
    2. The context (ie. other word choices and sentence constructions) are built such that the reader makes the right choice when reading the translator’s word choice for ἅπτω.

    That is, it’s not just the word. It’s the word in context.

    FWIW: A clearer translation of 1 Cor. 7:1 should probably be something like, It’s good for a man not to go to bed with a woman..

  7. Dru Brooke-Taylor says:

    Can someone explain why “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (John 7:4 ESV) is problematic? It isn’t obviously so here.

    Is this the US idiom equivalent of what the effect would be in UK idiom if one were to translate the passage ‘“No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, expose yourself”? Or is it something quite different that I have not guessed?

  8. Donna says:

    I wonder if it would stretch the bounds of accuracy too far to instead say “so they could touch him”? The innuendo is removed because the children are the actors in the sentence, but the meaning (from context) would be interpreted as being similar, the idea of a blessing still comes through….

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