Where’s my snow kilt?

It’s time for another vacation. My brother up in Connecticut has been threatening me with a ski vacation for several years now, and this year I decided to take him up on it. Starting early next week, I’ll be staying with him and his family and the lovely Lilith in Stowe, Vermont. There will be skiing (probably mostly of the cross-country variety), food, yarn stores, and at least one visit to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

I’m packing for the flight right now. I’m taking some knitting, of course, and clothes and medicines and toiletries and a couple of books. One book I might put in there is my copy of the New International Version of the Bible. This used to be my favorite translation of the Bible until I found a glaring translation error in in a few weeks ago. I want to go through it some more and see if I can find any similar errors.

See, I was sitting at home one weeknight, reading Leviticus (like you do) when I stumbled across the following passage:

“If any clothing is contaminated with mildew- any woolen or linen clothing, any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather – and if the contamination in the clothing, or leather, or woven or knitted material, or any leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a spreading mildew and must be shown to the priest.” (Lev. 13:47-49)

Now, Leviticus is part of the Old Testament, so it predates the books of the New Testament by several hundred years at least. (Wikipedia says ~400-550 BCE). And from my understanding of knitting history, knitting didn’t come on to the scene until well after a thousand years after the events described in the New Testament. So the translators of the NIV Bible have chosen a bad adjective for describing the types of fabrics that this passage is concerned with. This makes me kind of sad. I like the NIV because I find it much more readable than most other translations. And I know that translating is an art, and you’ve got to make a lot of compromises when translating a substantial work. It’s probably just because I’ve learned a lot about textiles since I started knitting that this mis-translation galls me so much.

Clearly, I’m over-thinking this. And it’s taking valuable time from my travel preparations.

Take care, all. I’ll try to update while I’m away, but in case I don’t, expect photos of snow and fun in about ten days.

No Responses to “Where’s my snow kilt?”

  1. Rachel Says:

    NIV is both a translation and a paraphrase. As you found the paraphrased portions can veer a bit too much. I think the NT has more paraphrased sections then the OT. (just from casual study – not from through research)

    I use NIV for my reading and a NAS for checking the parts that seem odd. Or if it is the NT I use ‘The Complete Word Study New Testament’ by Zodhiates.

    Lev. 13:47-49 (NAS)
    “When a garment has a mark of leprosy in it, whether it is a wool garment or a linen garment, whether in warp or woof, of linen or of wool, whether in leather or in any article made of leather, if the mark is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, or in the warp or in the woof, or in any article leather, it is a lepous mark and shall be shown to the priest.”
    (any errors are my typing)
    The NAS gives an alternate translation for ‘warp or woof’ as ‘weaving or texture’ Maybe that is where the NIV translators came up with knitting.

  2. Kat with a k Says:

    Very curious indeed. Then page ahead a few books to Psalms – Psalms 139:13 to be exact – there was some knitting going on there. And, also in Job 10:11 – a little more knitting. While I am no bible historian – it appears that God was the first and best knitter – kind of cool, huh?

    Thanks for sharing! What a great post!

  3. amanda Says:

    so i’m going totally off the top of my head right now and am probably misremembering things but….
    I read that Christ’s garment “without seams” had been believed to be knitted. Sadly when I was in Germany they don’t let you anywhere near the thing so I didn’t get to look for myself. You could see the ornate gate to the room, and the ornate box in the room but not what was in the box. And of course it was the actual garment. Why wouldn’t the knights bring anything else back from the Crusades?

    As for the technique of knitting, even if knitting as we know it wasn’t around, I think I have heard that there was at least a technique similar to nalbinding (sp?) which is closely related.
    Go ahead denizens of the internet—tell me where all my errors are. :)

  4. Juno Says:

    Have fun. Don’t fall down.

  5. Miss Scarlett Says:

    Hey – look at all the Biblical scholar knitters you have reading your blog!

    I was going to say that it was likely a translation of ‘woven’ — because that would be an uncommon term 😉

    I have The New World Translation “As for a garment, in case the plague of leprosy develops in it, whether in a woolen garment or in a linen garment, or in the warp or in the woof of the linen and of the wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, and the yellowish-green or reddish plague does develop in the garment or in the skin or in the warp or in the woof or in any article of skin, it is the plague of leprosy, and it must be shown to the priest.”

    My translation also reads that the ‘bones and sinews’ were woven together at Job 10:11

    So…some translaters were doing their job. I guess the others were thinking their point was made as well with knitting as it would be with the most accurate translation of weaving.
    Little did they know that knitters would be reading…

    Have a great vacation.

  6. marnie Says:

    Sweet, darling brother:

    1) Don’t take Wikipedia’s word for anything even vaguely important. There are a lot of idiots out there editing stuff they know nothing about.

    2) Although it is true that knitting is a relatively recent invention, there are close relatives of knitting (such as nalbinding) which are older by a couple of thousand years. In particular, I remember seeing an article in Vogue Knitting on the history of the craft in which a pair of socks from ancient Egypt were pictured. EVen though they weren’t “knitted”, by the current definition, they were certainly close enough to confuse most laypeople.

    Love you bro. Have fun and remember, wearing mixed-fiber garments is a capital crime…


  7. geeky Heather Says:

    Well, the important thing is, no matter how it’s made, if it’s mildewy or stanky, throw it out!! =)

    (And I’m still a NASB devotee, personally. My nephew calls NIV a “rubber sword”.)

  8. Lee Says:

    As a religious Jew, I’ve had problems with the list of things you’re not allowed to do on the sabbath, things defined as “work”. One of them is drawing one loop thru another loop. Hmmm. Sounds like knitting to me. But for me a shabbat without knitting lacks a meditative element, so I was in a quandary over this. My rabbi tells me that the list of items defined as work were all tasks necessary to build the first temple. So perhaps there was some knitted fabric of some sort involved? At any rate, reform judaism allows one to make educated, reasoned choices. After consultation with my rabbi, knitting was back on the roster for my shabbat.

  9. Wendy Says:

    My favorite is the New Revised Standard Version, which puts it thus:
    Concerning clothing: when a leprous* disease appears in it, in woollen or linen cloth, 48in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, 49if the disease shows greenish or reddish in the garment, whether in warp or woof or in skin or in anything made of skin, it is a leprous* disease and shall be shown to the priest.

    By the way, the head of the translating committee for the NRSV was a family friend who knew me when I was a little girl!