Original Research

'My tongue is the stylus of a skilled scribe' (Ps 45:2c): If so in the Scriptures, then why not also in translation?

Ernst R. Wendland
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 34, No 1 | a777 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v34i1.777 | © 2013 Ernst R. Wendland | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 August 2012 | Published: 26 June 2013

About the author(s)

Ernst R. Wendland, Department of Ancient Studies and the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa, Stellenbosch University, Zambia


In this study, I survey seven characteristics of the poetic-rhetorical style of Psalm 45, with special reference to the ‘sound effects’ (phonological features) of the Hebrew text. This leads to a brief discussion of the translation of this psalm in Chewa, a Bantu language of southeastern Africa. How ‘skilful’ does this version sound in the vernacular, and why is this an important aspect of the translator’s task in order to ensure that the ‘good word’ (טוֹב֗ דּבר֘) of the Bible is faithfully as well as forcefully transmitted? Suggestions will be offered to indicate how the current standard Chewa versions might be improved so as to ‘stir the heart’ (בּיִ לִ רחשׁ֘) of listeners also today. The results of the present study may be instructive and/or applicable in varying degrees to similar projects that aim to render the biblical text poetically, rhetorically and oratorically in the language of translation.


Bible translation; biblical orality; Chewa Bible; Hebrew poetics; psalmic analysis


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