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This article is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Chatter & Donne Mark Dow
THE BRIGHT-ORANGE-plastic-covered, vest-pocket-sized New King James Version given to me on Flatbush Avenue was published by the Gideons International of Nashville, Tennessee. ‘THIS BOOK NOT TO BE SOLD’ is printed on the inside front cover. The preface begins opposite an image of the American flag, and it includes a sentence with problematic syntax that seems to say that the Bible itself ‘will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents’ – despite which the edition includes the complete New Testament but only Psalms and Proverbs from the Old. Another note says that John 3:16 has been translated into ‘over 1100 languages’ and ‘is here recorded in 26 of the important’ ones. These follow alphabetically, from Afrikaans to Icelandic to Vietnamese.    

Some scholars think the King James translators didn’t understand the Biblical Hebrew technique
of parallelism. This is from is the vest-pocket NKJV’s
Psalm 102:7:

I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.

Here’s the 1970 Anchor Bible version:

I stay awake and have become like a sparrow,
                          like a chatterer on the roof all day long.

Anchor translator Mitchell Dahood restores the parallel structure. He argues that the Hebrew bōdēd, usually read as an adjective meaning ‘alone’, is actually a noun apposite to ‘sparrow’, and he renders it as ‘chatterer’. Dahood, a Jesuit philologist, explains: ‘That bōdēd, “chatterer,” aptly describes a bird is sustained by the analogy of English “chatterer,” any of several passerine birds having ...

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