I believe a translation overhaul is needed for "Lord" in many modern Bible translations both in English and other languages. This overhaul is necessary for a relevant and yet faithful religious institution like Christianity.
Overcoming Hurdle 3: "Divine Combos"If you make this move - to switch the Yahweh translation from "The LORD" to "GOD", then there are some fresh problems to solve - I identify five of these. Overcoming the first obstacle, we established that it is more than faithful to ancient tradition to apply the lower case "g" to god, permitting the possessive "GOD, our god". Overcoming the second, we realised that often "Lord of lords" can be replaced by "king of kings", condensed or even "Commander-in-Chief". This now leaves us excellently placed to approach the third hurdle, which I collectively refer to as "Divine Combos". What do I mean by such a wacky descriptor?
Indeed, if we also added the LXX translation here, we would see that Amos 1:8 concludes: "λέγει κύριος". The unique characteristic that we see in the Septuagint is that the word translated "the Lord", κύριος, condenses both Adonai and Yahweh from the Hebrew (like CEV, MSG and TLB). However, it also dispenses with the article, the Greek equivalent of "the", like the many translations that choose to keep a reference to Adonai or Yahweh (or both).
Thus we see in the plethera of English translations commonly read today a diversity or even tension between the desires to:
- absolutely avoid redundancy
- transmit some of the Lordship language
- maintain the name aspects denoted by both the Hebrew and the anarthrous Greek translation, λέγει κύριος.
However, no-one ventures to remove the article before the antiquated title "Lord". Only Peterson in MSG realised that condensation and article dispensation could be legitimately and accurately rendered, God.
So, as I suspected, we arrive at our first solution via this second redundancy-risk scenario. There is indeed legitimate scope within the biblical translation tradition to condense when Lord LORD occurs, thus when Adonai Yahweh occurs in the Hebrew, and if God is acceptable for Yahweh and anarthrous κύριος, then it is also acceptable for Adonai Yahweh and, by inference, for Yahweh Elohim.
However, as with my proposed solutions for "Lord of lords", I would also like to provide some other possibilities based on this rich translation tradition that do not lean on antiquated Lord.
- Almighty GOD
- Awesome GOD
- All-Powerful GOD
- GOD our King
There is at least one other common divine combo to consider, curiously rendered "the Lord Sabaoth" in the NETS translation. I don't want to overextend this post with another full examination of the English renderings, but you can consult a sample verse of Isaiah 1:9 here. The classic idea is "the LORD of hosts", but "hosts" is vague. The Old Testament, however, is filled with allusions to a whole "host" (please excuse the pun) of heavenly action and agents that do not fit well with our modern ideas of monotheism (and maybe a splattering of angels and demons for the more "spiritual" Christians and churches). I have also discussed this in more length in response to Michael Heiser's work on the Divine Council worldview, clearly held and developed by the Israelites in the ancient Middle East.
Since this combo includes the proper Name "Yahweh", it is also a problem for our GOD rendering. Here, however, we can legitimately ask the question: to what extent does the English translation in question want to restore that worldview? Let's first assume that some representation is necessary. Although "host" is not as antiquated as Lord, it sure is outdated in this sense of "host". Worse, in fact. So it has to go. Options we can see emerging through the biblical translation tradition that I see as helpful and also relatively faithful to the Divine Council worldview, are "GOD of Heaven's Forces" (or Armies or Contingents). If context requires the subject to be the armies, GOD's Heavenly Forces (or Heaven Forces).
However, if the answer to the question is uncertain, then God's ultimacy over the Heavenly powers (also a possibility) is certainly included by the rendering provided in the all-caps GOD.
In my next post I will proceed to the 4th obstacle in the path of the Yahweh translation, GOD.