Psalm 146:2

On a separate thread, Danielo asks whether the NLT is perhaps too dramatic in the way it translates the last phrase of this verse:

“I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God even with my dying breath.”

He points out that some other translations translate the last phrase “as long as I live.” The challenge for the translator, of course, is to convey in English (or any receptor language) the correct meaning and the full impact of the original text.

In this verse the psalmist presents a couplet that communicates essentially the same message in each of the two lines. The Hebrew text has two expressions to communicate the concept of “all my life,” so the translator must also find two expressions to communicate the concept of “all my life.” The NLT uses “as long as I live” in the first line–as do RSV, NRSV, NET Bible, and ESV. So a different phrase is needed for the second line. Look at the variety in translations:

KJV: while I have my being
ASV: while I have any being
NRSV: all my life long
NIV: as long as I live
NET: as long as I exist
NLT: even with my dying breath

The Hebrew idiom doesn’t literally translate into English as “even with my dying breath,” but neither is it literally “as long as I live” or “while I have my being.” All of the translations are striving to communicate the sense of the idiom, which might be translated literally “with as long as.” The psalmist is expressing the absolute limit of his praise for God. So various translations use various expressions to communicate that same sense of the ultimate.

Back to Danielo’s question: Is the NLT being too dramatic? I don’t think so, since it strives to communicate in English that same sense that “I will praise my God with everything I’ve got for as long as I’ve got anything in me.”

5 thoughts on “Psalm 146:2

  1. You are right that the Hebrew, b'odi, is difficult to translate. It is like an ablative of the word "still" with the suffix "my," as if to indicate "while I still exist." It's parallel to the word b'chayay in the first part of the line, which is like an ablative of "life" with the suffix "my." So "so long as I live … so long as I exist" seems like a good option to me.The NLT choice of "so long as I live … even with my dying breath" seems like is destroys the parallel structure and introduces the new concept of "dying breath" that isn't in the original.Also, the Hebrew line appears both here and in nearly identical form in Psalm 104:33. The only difference between the two is that here in Psalm 146:2 the first word is ahal'la ("I will praise") while Psalm 104:33 starts with ashira, "I will sing." Yet in Psalm 104:33, the NLT opts for the less hyperbolic "…to my last breath" to end the line.I would prefer to see more consistent English used to translate the Hebrew in these two lines.-Joel

  2. Danielo,I'm glad to hear that the original Living Bible was instrumental in sparking your interest in reading the Bible in the first place. I hear that kind of comment from many people in all walks of life and all around the world. Keep reading and keep comparing translations. There is no one translation that is best in all regards (much as it pains me to say that!). Hopefully the NLT serves to open the text of Scripture for you and millions of others to enhance your understanding of the original.Mark

  3. Full disclosure: I work as an editor at Tyndale House PublisherAccording to BDB, a standard Hebrew lexicon, the literal translation of (Heb. be`odi) would be "in the continuance [of me]" which would be literal, but also would be poor English. Young's Literal Translation reads, "while I exist." This rendering does not capture the meaning either, since it is in synonymous parallel with the prior phrase "in [all] my life."While there is no formal "dying breath" the NLT captures_with warmth_the meaning of the lengths which this believer is committed to praise the LORD "all his continuance." This is a good example of how good translation cannot be some sort of algebraic data equation (Heb. X = Eng Y). Translation is ultimately the interaction of the soul and mind of the translator with the heart and mind of the orginal writer, as expressed through the written text in front of them (i.e., the Bible text).

  4. Re:the literal translation of (Heb. be`odi) would be "in the continuance [of me]" Ooo, love that, because to me this meaning goes beyond the dying breath, suggesting a mystical eternal connection where we'll still be singing. String theory and shoes? When I get to heaven, goin' put on my shoes . . . goin' shout all over God's heaven. Some kind of dancing shoes.

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