Literal translations can sometimes leave the reader scratching their heads and wondering what in the world is the bible saying. Here is a case in 1 Kings 10:4-5 I found as I was reading from the NRSV tonight:
“When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.” (NRSV)
…there was no more spirit in her. (NASB, NKJV)
… there was no more breath in her. (ESV)
When I first read this passage in the NRSV, it made absolutely no sense to me. Then I checked out the other formal translations and found them wanting of more interpretation. Obviously, we know that the Queen of Sheba was overwhelmed and made breathless when she observed the wisdom and grandeur displayed in Solomon’s house. This is a case where there is a great need for interpretation, otherwise, the reader is left utterly confused because it says the queen had “no more spirit in her.” What does that mean? The NASB and NKJV, the reads the same as the NRSV. The ESV is slightly better but not by much. Its rendering is a slight improvement over the RSV and NRSV.
Literal translations can sometimes:
1) fail to bring out the real meaning of the text;
2) is not the original writer’s intended meaning;
3) leave the reader with more confusion.
This gives the reader no choice but to desire a more accurate interpretation.
Where formal translations fail, dynamic translations can do a better job at bringing out a more accurate meaning:
… it took her breath away. (HCSB)
…she was overwhelmed. (TNIV)
…she was breathless. (NLTse)
… It left her breathless and amazed. (GNT)
… she was breathless. (GW)
… All these things amazed her. (NCV)
These dynamic translations, though interpretive, provide a more accurate meaning in the text. The ESV is still a little unclear. The T/NIV, GNT and NCV may border on being a little overly interpretive. With this particular verse, I feel the HCSB provided the best rendering. This verse is accurate, yet literal, and even manages to be idiomatic. It does not leave the reader wondering what is going on when they read this passage.