Unto God

Unto GodI was reading through a set of answers which were involved in translating passages from Biblical Hebrew to English. There were seven students, over in American somewhere. Good translators too. But one seemed to have the edge on the others…

She always used the word ‘unto’ in her translating while all the others just wrote ‘to’. So, for example, she would write, “I will give my heart unto God.” The others would put, “I will give my heart to God.” You might think she was being pedantic, but I don’t think so. Or perhaps she was styling her attempts in the language of the King James Version where ‘unto’ is used so much, being an older English word. But I think it’s more than that, so I started checking things.

I first found out that, like in English, there are two ways of saying ‘to’ in Hebrew. One, ‘le’ (like the French article) is the commonest way of saying something like “I am going to the seaside.” The other is ‘el’ or sometimes ‘al’ and it’s more forceful and focussed on something, like “I am indebted to my parents.” It’s this second word which is generally used when, in the Bible, someone declares their devotion, praise, commitment and love for God. It is for real, it is intensive and deeply meant. God is the point of the declaration, more than you yourself.

I’m not that critical of modern versions of the Bible which say, “Do to others as you would want them to do to you.” We get the point. But it does lack the emphasis, the deep consideration of what you are to be doing. “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” brings this out much more.

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