Then the Lord was all like, “Come no closer!”

I posted this thought on Facebook this weekend – that it was fun to think about translating vayomer as “and he was like” or “and he was all like” (for those he don’t know much Hebrew, this form is often translated “and he said” or something similar).  That popped in my head after a recent visit to a mall where the teenage boy next to me used “quotative like” what seemed like 25 times in the brief time I sat near him.

I would never actually use quotative like to translate vayomer, not least of all because as Halliday states “Written language is not spoken language written down.” But, I kept thinking about different verses where it sounded funny.  Moses at the burning bush was the funniest I could come up with, but feel free to try verses or passages in the comments or on your own blog that you think might be better.

3 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses was like, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he was like, “Here I am.” 5 Then he was all like, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he was like, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord was all like, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And he was like, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.” Then he was all like, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations ….

4 Comments

  • That’s pretty funny. I always like it when I hear scripture put into English in ways it hasn’t been done before (silly or serious), and particularly, in examples that are so common place that it’s initially jarring to hear otherwise—though it may in fact be more accurate.

    I’ve only recently come across the Common English Bible (CEB) and I have to say, I really enjoy reading it. When I’m not digging through Hebrew or Greek, I have, by matter of default, resorted to common translations like the NASB, ESV or even NIV. But these have gotten so mundane and dry over the years (to me at least), that the CEB was a welcome discovery. There’s of course plays where I wonder what the translators were thinking, but overall, I feel it captures the English language in a way that is more on target with its current stage of “existence”. The narrative just seems to flow better, and some verses in the Psalter have just come alive—as in I’ve no idea what I’ve been reading for the past 10 years in my NASB and now, all of a sudden, I get the point!

    Anyways, thanks for the sharing some silly thoughts.

    • Thanks, Kris. And thanks for “stopping by.” I assume you’re the same Kris Lyle I’ve heard so many good things about from Christo.

      I’ve enjoyed the CEB very much as well, so far. I’ve become ambivalent about certain translations in many ways too. But, for me, it’s been a lot with the New American Bible and NRSV. I use the NAB a lot when I teach in my church parish because it’s what almost everyone has. But, it is sometimes dreadful. The newest revision is better but most people in my parish don’t have it yet.

      The other translation I’ve grown to appreciate a lot over recent years for the Hebrew Bible is the New Jewish Publication Society version. It’s got it’s flaws, but doing things like translating “judges” as “chieftains,” it makes me stop and think more sometimes when I read it.

      I just clicked on your blog a bit earlier. Looking forward to be able to read a bit more there.

      • Hi Jeremy. Thank you for the kind words and interest in my blog. I’m actually currently in Stellenbosch doing some small work for Christo and collaborating with a post-doc student of his (Alex Andrason). The wealth of knowledge that I’ll reap from hanging out with these studs is sure to surface in some posts within a week or two.

        Anyways, I too really grew to appreciate the JPS (don’t have the NJPS) during my MA writing, and was always pleasantly surprised by their rendering of certain phrases or translations of specific words. It’s always nice when translations slow you down, and re-orient your reading to being more culturally sensitive, I think (e.g. “cheiftans” instead of “judges” as you say).

        • Ah. Then color me very jealous. I’ve only spent about 10 days in Stellenbosch, but eagerly await the chance to return. I don’t yet know Alex personally, only his writing and what Josh has told me. I hope I will get a chance to meet him in person at some point … And yourself now as well!

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