Epistles of Thomas

June 25, 2007

Translation funtoid

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 23:24

You may not know that Jeremiah used a substitution cypher on three occasions in his book (25:26; 51:1, 42). In these places he disguised the name of Judah’s enemy Babylon. Jer 25:26 reads “and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.” Sheshach is code for Babylon using a cypher known as atbash. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is substituted for the last, the second for the second last, etc. Many English translations follow the ASV by retaining the encoded name (NRSV, NIV, HCSB, NASB) but others make the meaning clear by translating it as Babylon (ESV, NLT).

If an English translation wished to display “word for word” accuracy they should render Sheshach as Yzybolm which is the English equivalent of Babylon using the atbash cypher. No English translation does this and a search of Google for Yzybolm only returns two results, both in German. Why do no English translations render an accurate “word for word translation” of this word? I urge you to write the translation committee of your favourite English translation and harangue them until they make this change 😉

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