A couple of things got me to thinking about idioms. I was listening to a radio program where there was a discussion of bible translations, where some translations are supposed to be 'word for word' and some are 'thought for thought'. Then a comment was made that there are around 1000 idioms in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the Bible, and that the King James Bible and other 'word for word' translations have translated these idioms 'literally'. I did a little web 'research' and found a lot of the idiomatic expressions along with examples of how the English translators had literally translated these idioms and many people misunderstand the passages because they are being read and understood 'literally'.
The second thing was, as I study the Bible in Spanish, I encounter idiomatic espressions from time to time, and of course, I don't know they are idiomatic expressions and I try my best to interpret them and that of course makes my heard hurt because the expression makes no sense literally.
For example, reading 2 Timothy 3:1
King James and Reina'Valera 1960 - This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come - También debes saber esto: que en los postreros días vendrán tiempos peligrosos.
New International Version/Nueva Versión Internacional - But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. - Ahora bien, ten en cuenta que en los últimos días vendrán tiempos difíciles.
Now, the idiomatic phrase is "ten en cuenta que". Of couse, there's no way of knowing if it is an idiomatic phrase until I come to SpanishDict.com and start researching, and then it all makes perfect tense.
It's easy for me to determine if a phrase is an idiom, either by asking someone here or searching through reference and find it. The bottom line is, I have to depend on a native speaker to confirm something is an idiom, so, with that thought in mind, how can you confirm that a phrase is an idiom that was written a couple thousand and more years ago, if you can't confirm it with a 'native speaker'? For example, if one were reading ancient Hebrew texts of the Bible and you knew every word you were reading, you're fine, but then you encounter a group of words that you understand perfectly individually, but they make no sense individually. Back then you might me able to ask a 'native', but what about now? You have to trust somebody that wrote a reference book i suppose.
So, considering the four examples I've given of so-called 'word for word' translations, they seem to be radically different. The first part of the verse seems to agree pretty much between the King James and the Reino-Valero 1960. I guess my big question is, using the NIV/NVI as examples, I think both of them use idiomatic expressions, namely But mark this amd Ahora bien, ten en cuenta.
In my opinion, there is no way to really know if something is truly an idiom if the language is dead and there's no one to speak it (like the old Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic). So how do we really know? Why would the NIV translators use "ten en cuenta (take note), plus it's using the verb Tener. If both Spanish translations are "word for word" it seems they would be closer to each other. On the one hand, I don't see how it's possible to do 'word for word' translations (realizing that there are a lot of words that can be translated word to word from English to Spanish and vice versa) but it seems to me that in all language translation there are a lot of idiomatic expressions in the mix. I'm constantly finding them in the Spanish bibles, and if there truly are around 1000 from the original texts, it really seems like an overywhelming job to try translating a book from one language to another.
What intrigued me about this 'argument' is, there are people that tear their clothes and throw dust into the air if you even talk about reading another translation of the Bible other than the King James (I know very well the pros and cons of this argument), and one of their main arguments is, "it's word for word from the original". The NIV translators also claim their version is "word for word from the original", so there you go.
So, if I literally interpret something, and it's "correct" (word for word), then a native speaker tells me that it's wrong, and then gives me "this is how we say it" but the words don't really mean that, at what point does that become an idiomatic expression? As I encounter more and more of these expressions in the Bible, I wonder, does an idiomatic expression give you a closer interpretation of the original, or is it possibly more problematic and more likely to be misunderstood?
Thanks for your thoughts