Translation talk:Leviticus

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Retranslating Chapter 1[edit]

There was an old translation here.

Old Chapter 1[edit]

1. And the LORD called to Moses, speaking from the tent of the Tabernacle, saying:

2. Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them that if any man brings before the LORD an offering, you shall bring before him a beast of the herd or from the flock.

3. If his offering is to be a burnt offering from the herd, let it be a flawless male brought before the door of the tent of the Tabernacle, in the presence of the LORD.

4. And he shall place his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make amends for his sins.

5. And he shall kill the bullock in the presence of the LORD. And Aaron's sons, the Priests will bring the blood and sprinkle it around the alter and the door to the tent of the Tabernacle.

6. And he shall carve the burnt offering, and he shall cut it into pieces.

7. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the alter, and shall arrange wood upon the fire.

8. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall place the pieces, the head and the fat on the wood which is in the fire upon the altar.

9. And the offal and the legs he will wash in the waters, and then the priest will burn all of it upon the altar, as a burnt offering, an offering made by fire and a fragrance pleasing to the LORD.

10. And if the offering he is giving be of the flock, from the sheep or from the goats, to be a burnt offering, he shall bring a flawless male.

11. And he shall kill it on the side of the alter facing north, before the face of the LORD. And the sons of Aaron, the priests shall sprinkle its blood around the alter.

12. And he shall cut it into pieces, its head and its fat. And the priest shall arrange them upon the wood of the fire which is upon the altar.

13. And he shall wash the insides and the legs in water, and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar as a burnt offering, an offering made by fire and a fragrance pleasing to the LORD.

14. And if his burnt offering to the LORD is of the flock, he shall bring forth as his offering turtle-doves or two young pigeons.

15. And the priest will bring this sacrifice before the altar and wring of its head, and will then burn it upon the altar, and its blood shall be poured upon the side of the altar.

16. And he shall remove its crop and pluck it of its feathers, and then shall fling these before the east side of the altar into the pile of ashes.

17. And he shall cut it at the wings, but will not divide it in half completely, and the priest shall burn it upon the wood of the fire which is upon the altar, an offering made by fire and a smell pleasing to the LORD.


The new translation is basically the same, but avoids fixing the tone errors in the original. Some sentences adress someone as "he" and switch to "you" in the middle, other sentences are not perfectly constructed, with sentence fragments and the like. This is not normal, most of the biblical text is written well.

There are some difference though:אֶל-מְקוֹם, הַדָּשֶׁן. in verse 16 is translated as "to the place of ashes", but "Deshen" doesn't mean ashes--- it means something nice. This is clear from Psalm 65. What it really means is where the fat is--- the burning fat that is rendered from the meat. It's where the sweet roasting smell is coming from.

In the same verse מֻרְאָתוֹ is translated as "crop". It seems to mean the whole feathery covering of the skin, but I am not sure. The crop might be too limited.

Another difference is זָכָר תָּמִים, which means "innocent male", but in this context, recalling Genesis adventure of Jacob, means "unmarked male". I think it is better rendered as "plain male", not as "unblemished male", but the meaning is not changed a lot. 05:43, 16 April 2011 (UTC)

רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ[edit]

I translated this as roasting scent, based on the context and the image of "nichoach" as somehow coming from "sniffing". But after listening to the word read aloud, it sounds like it comes from "Noach", the root meaning comfortable. So I changed it to "comforting scent" from "roasting scent". The same phrase appears in Genesis at the end of the deluge, and in Exodus in several places. 06:05, 16 April 2011 (UTC)


"The wood which is on the fire which is on the altar" I think refers to a makeshift wooden grill arrangement of sticks on which you put the meat to cook as the fire burns below it, fed by the fat running off. This is very similar to a modern barbecue pit, except our grills are metal, not wood. I would guess then that this wood is not consumed by the fire, unlike the wood that feeds the fire, which is described differently later.

Keeping this image in mind allowed me to use of the verb "grill" for "hiktir", which I didn't understand perfectly. This replaces the previous translation of "roast" which didn't work for incense--- you don't roast incense. The proper translation is probably closer to "placed in holy position" rather than "cooked by fire", but I was pretty confident that "grill" is very close to the actual intended image. 04:10, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Priestly, not Elohist or Yahwist[edit]

The writing here is very low level. It's full of backtracking, grammar omissions, tone mistakes, and just general legalese, and its design is not very spiritual, it just sucks property into the priesthood. You can't attribute this crap to the Yahwist author or to the Elohist, both of whom write great. This is "Priestly", the source for Leviticus. Priestly's contribution to Exodus was probably to tack on "And Aaron too!" whenever Moses does something.

This is not in the literature as far as I know, but there is a mysterious tradition in Judaism that says that Moses is a bad speaker. It's really deep rooted, with several mentions in the bible. Maybe this is designed to explain why Leviticus is written so badly. 19:20, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Although, to be fair, "priestly" does have the line: "You will love your neighbor as yourself", which is timeless in English and Hebrew both. 22:02, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Descriptive titles[edit]

I find it hard to remember what happens in which chapter, so I think a quick summary for a chapter heading would help. This will prevent the insertion of new section breaks into the text, as some translators do, but which is not a very good idea, but maintain the ability to find an episode quickly. 06:45, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Chapter 26[edit]

Does chapter 26 exist in Samaritan pentateuch? It reads post-exilic, and 100 times better than anything written by Priestly. It is also a testimony by God given directly to the text, without a "God said to Moses, who said to Aaron, who said to the people..." intro so common in the rest of this most crappy book. This chapter is a well-written work of a prophet of some sort, but who? Thematically, but not stylistically, it has some resemblence to later work of lamentations, which draws on the experience of the seige of Jerusalem. 12:17, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

So it exists in the samaritan pentateuch, but whether it is post-exilic or not, it is 100% certainly not written by "P" who couldn't write to save his life. 12:59, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

The chapter is the subject of detailed study by this theologian. But it doesn't seem that he takes the view that this has a different authorship than 27 or 25, although if you sit down and translate each sentence, it becomes clear as day that 25 and 27 are by the same shitty author, and 26 is by someone a lot more inspired. 13:47, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Chapter 27[edit]

The chapter says that one can "consecrate" various things to the priesthood for a certain value in silver, and redeem them at a 20% flat fee over their value for a certain time, and if you don't redeem them, then they are sold on the market for whatever price. This is what we call "pawning" today. Fortunately, I didn't see the hatchet job that other translations have made of chapter 27 before doing mine. King James gives the value of a "vow of persons" as the literal value of the person making the vow!!! It isn't. It is the price of a slave pawned to the priesthood. Understanding this is essential for a proper translation. I didn't get it until I was more than halfway through translating the chapter. Here, P's repetitiveness really helps. 05:17, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

This issue is confused by the fact that the person often is selling himself along with his family into slavery for the priesthood in exchange for the sum of money. The act of "vowing" or "consecrating" something to the priesthood might mean that you get the money on collateral, without actually forfeiting the item in question until the period of time expires and you haven't paid back your debt + 20%, so it might be more like a collateralized loan with a fixed period (of 1 year?) and 20% interest. 00:53, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
It seems that if you don't pay back your loan, with 20% interest, within the appointed time, you are killed. This is the death penalty for loan default!! That's completely out of line with any standards of a civilized society at any time and any place. 01:19, 23 April 2011 (UTC)