We’ve all heard about Jospeh’s coat of many colors, right? Well, it looks like you may need to throw that fond childhood memory out. Today’s lectionary reading is from Genesis 37. Here are a few translations in comparison with regard to “Joseph’s coat of many colors” (translation comparisons on this site are done in BibleWorks 8 using Parallels):
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. (Gen 37:3 NAB)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. (Gen 37:3 NASB)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was a son born to him late in life, and he made a special tunic for him. (Gen 37:3 NET)
Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph– a beautiful robe. (Gen 37:3 NLT)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. (Gen 37:3 NRS)
I don’t know a lot about this particular translation issue, nor do I think it makes enough difference to me in terms of overall understanding to go search out an answer. I just wanted to tear away from you your childhood belief in Joseph’s coat of many colors. At any rate, it seems like translators simply do not know what this word translated “long,” “varicolored,” “special,” or “beautiful” actually means. In fact, the Lexham interlinear (LOGOS – for which my supervising professor is the editor) simply lists the word as “uncertain meaning.” Lexicons seem to lean toward “long.”
So, are you going to still teach children about Joseph’s coat of many colors? Probably. But, just know inwardly that you may be lying to children ;-).