Epistles of Thomas

December 8, 2008

Awkward Message

Filed under: New Testament,Translation — Thomas @ 12:09
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I was reading the Message by Eugene Peterson today. Luke 20:27-30 caught my attention. It records the Sadducees’ question about whose wife a woman would be if she married seven brothers and had children with none of them. The Sadducees opposed the idea of resurrection and this question was obviously a popular one to boost their argument. What struck me was Peterson’s rendition of their question: “They asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote us that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to take the widow to wife and get her with child.” I have bolded the ending which is the part I have trouble with. Does anyone talk this way? Does it even make sense?

I compared this with some other translations. The TNIV translation is also awkward: “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.” At least the wording of marrying the widow is better but who says “raise up offspring”? The NIV said, “the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother” which seems much more natural in English. I wonder why the TNIV chose to change it. The only other popular modern translation that I can find that says “raise up offspring” is the ESV.

The best translation of this verse seems to be the NLT: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.” This renders it into natural English as well as appropriately explaining why this is happening.

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