The Old Testament was not only written in Hebrew. It was written a long time ago. It was written a long way from Georgia, and it was written in a very different culture. What does all of that mean? Translating the Bible can be a difficult task. One particular kind of phrase that is tough for our brave men and women translators, whom I applaud for tackling this task, are colloquialisms. Just think about all the local phrases we have here in the south.
“I am fine as frog hair.” “He is like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” “He’s got a burr in his saddle.” “Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.” “He’s only got one oar in the water.” I had a college roommate who loved hockey who said while watching a game, “look at him standing on his head.” How would these phrases sound to someone outside the South? How would you explain these phrases to people outside of your culture? On top of that, could you imagine trying to translate, “Bless his heart,” with the dozens of possible ways we use that phrase.
Colloquialisms offer a unique translation difficulty for Bible translators. To use an above example, would you translate the exact colloquialism and leave it, “he is like a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” or would you write, “he is nervous, worried, and scared.”
Today let’s look at a colloquialism from Genesis 18:11, and what it says about God and His promises.
Genesis 18:11 says, “Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.” HCSB