Andrew G. Shead
Andrew Shead is the head of Old Testament and Hebrew at Moore Theological College, Sydney, and is a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation.
Finally, translators, even with God’s help, are only human, and they do not get every phrase or even sentence exactly right. But context helps to correct these inaccuracies, and when more and more sentences are read together as a whole, their combined meaning becomes more and more accurate. The only exception to this is when a generally accurate translation strays from faithfulness in order to introduce a bias, or tendency. A good example is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. While most of its sentences are faithful, they add up to a portrait of a different God.
Take Ps 18:2, ‘my God is … the horn of my salvation’. The word ??? , meaning an animal horn, is frequently used as a metaphor of strength (e.g., Ps ; ; , etc.). But there is one verse where horn, because of its shape, is used to mean ‘ray of sunlight’ (Hab 3:4, where it is in parallel with ‘brightness’ and ‘light’), and Isaiah uses it once with the meaning ‘hill’, to create a rhyme (Isa 5:1).