What Kind of Blessing Is That?

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In some cases a more informed understanding of the original setting of the Gospels can be communicated easily in a translation. A good translation will reflect that fuller, culturally appropriate understanding.

מְתֻרְגְּמָן (me⋅tur⋅ge⋅MĀN) is Hebrew for “translator.” The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process. For more articles in this series, click here.

And Simeon blessed them [the parents of Jesus] and said to Mary his mother, “Behold this child is destined for a falling and rising of many in Israel for a sign which is refused and a sword will go through your soul so that the thoughts of many will be revealed.

(Luke 2:34-35)

A translator faces several puzzles in the first verse of this passage. What kind of blessing did Simeon give? Was the direct speech addressed only to Mary and unrelated to the blessing? If the quotation is part of the blessing, what kind of blessing is it?

We continually need to refine our understanding of Gospel passages by viewing them together with what is known of their original cultural setting. In some cases a more informed understanding can be communicated easily in a translation, and a good translation will reflect that fuller, culturally appropriate understanding. We will look at two examples of this: a simple one in Luke 2:28-32, and a more difficult one in Luke 2:34-35.

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This article originally appeared in issue 26 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • Randall Buth

    Randall Buth

    Randall Buth is director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Home for Bible Translators. He is a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. Buth received his doctorate in…
    [Read more about author]

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