Translation issues in Job 13:15

Job 13:15 in the KJV reads:  "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."  The same verse in the NRSV reads: "See, he will kill me; I have no hope."  The sentiment of the first is the polar opposite of the second.  Which is the better translation?

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Pious margin notes

Job 13:15 contains two stichs (lines), both of which should be quoted to get the full context.  The RSV, as used by The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (1977), translates as follows:
"Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope; / yet I will defend my ways to his face."

The commentary at the bottom of the page, in my opinion, says it all:
"15:...the time-honored rendering, 'yet will I trust in him' [KJV], is based on a pious note in the margin of the manuscripts. -- The negative in the Hebrew text ['I have no hope'] is supported by the context, which suggests a mood of defiance, not of selfless devotion."  In fact, given the vagaries of Hebrew conjunctions, I think one could even translate: "Even though he slay me, and I have no hope, / yet I will defend my ways to his face." -- The Oxford Annotated Bible continues: "Job no longer claims that he is blameless; however, he discovers in the depth of his despair that his passionate desire to see God, his would-be slayer, is evidence of his inward purity, for 'no godless' man would ever dare to 'come before' God (13:16)."

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NRSV is better

Job 13:15.  The NRSV is the appropriate translation; the other, more positive, translation is based on a note written in the margin by a pious transmitter of the text (before printing presses) who had difficulty with the theological perspective presented by the text.

Author: Terence E. Fretheim
Another translation option

The NRSV translation is better than the KJV, but neither is as good as mine: "Look, He is going to kill me/I dare not delay [to press for a direct audience with God]."

Job desperately wants his day in court with the Judge of the Universe, to present his case, that he is innocent and doesn't deserve the skin disease that he has been afflicted with.

Author: Gregory Mobley
Both have merit

Several of the ancient translations, including the LXX and the Syriac, have "to him" rather than "no" so they read it as "He will kill me, but (or and) I will hope in him, or trust him (vs. "but (or "and") I will not trust him.")  Kittle's Hebrew Bible in the textual notes regards the "him" as the preferred reading; the NIV follows this choice.  Others, like the NRSV and the ASV, appear to regard the "him" as a correction of the difficulty of the "not" and so secondary.   The other influence on the choice is what best fits the context.  Kittle and NIV appear to see "I will trust him" as parallel to the hope such expressed in as in vv. 18-19.  I can see strong arguments either way.

Author: Stephen Charles Mott




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