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I found it interesting that all three popular Vietnamese Bible translations say something like this (translated back to English):

The fool mocks at sin but the righteous has God's favor.

Kẻ ngu dại chế nhạo tế lễ chuộc lỗi,
Nhưng giữa vòng người ngay thẳng có ơn Đức Chúa Trời.

(Fun fact: Vietnamese words don't have plural forms so it can either be "the fool" or "the fools")

This mention is not found in any English or even Spanish translation or the Hebrew interlinear.

The NIV renders it as:

Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

NASB:

Fools mock at sin, But among the upright there is good will.

Does the English "goodwill" imply "God's favor"? If all three translations agree with each other surely they must come from a common source?

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  • Several English translations do this as well, including RSV and NLT. Interestingly they say "God" not the Lord. I wonder if Vietnamese bibles elsewhere follow in the English translation of rendering yhwh as "the Lord" and elohim as "God." Jul 22, 2023 at 12:46
  • @DanFefferman yes you are right. I did make a mistake in the question, the word there should be God (Đức Chúa Trời) instead of the Lord (Chúa). For example, in Genesis 1:1, the title "Đức Chúa Trời" is used.
    – Luke Vo
    Jul 22, 2023 at 15:43

2 Answers 2

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Based on examining the Hebrew text, it seems that Proverbs 14:9 does not explicitly mention God in the original language. The key phrase in question is "בַּיְשָׁרִים רָצוֹן" which translates literally to something like "among the upright/righteous there is favor/acceptance/goodwill."

The Hebrew word "רָצוֹן" (ratson) has a semantic range meaning goodwill, favor, acceptance, or desire. It does not itself contain any reference to God.

The English translations using "goodwill" seem to most closely capture the original meaning - that there is benevolence and harmony among the upright. This contrasts with the mockery of fools.

The Vietnamese translations likely took interpretive license to add an explicit mention of "the Lord's favor." This seems to go beyond the textual evidence, but does convey a theologically-infused reading of the passage's intent.

Overall, while a metaphorical allusion to divine favor could be inferred from the text, there does not appear to be an explicit reference to God in the original Hebrew of Proverbs 14:9. The Vietnamese Bibles seem to have augmented the verse slightly for emphasis. But the core idea of virtue residing among the upright remains intact.

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  • Thank you very much. Maybe Vietnamese does not have the word for conveying the word "goodwill". For example, Luke 2:14 would be "Glory to God in the Heaven, Peace on Earth for those He [God] favors", all two modern translations with a note that it could be translated as "humans are granted favor by God".
    – Luke Vo
    Jul 22, 2023 at 6:36
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The Hebrew for Proverbs 14:9 does not reference God.

The Thai Standard Version (2011) has this for Proverbs 14:9:

คนโง่เยาะเย้ยเครื่องบูชาชดใช้บาป แต่คนเที่ยงธรรมเป็นที่ทรงโปรดปราน

...which translates roughly to "Foolish person mocks sacrifice/offering to recompense sin, but upright person is that divinely favored."

The "divine" is an implicit reference to God, based on the use of "ratchasap"--royal language that is only used for God in the Bible. For example, different words are used for common things like eating: we eat, God dines (though English does not really have a good example). However, the allusion to deity in this verse is hardly its only problem with respect to its translation accuracy.

Asian Bible translations suffer from inaccuracies of many causes. A short list of these might look something like this (with explanations below):

  • Poor grammatical match
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Limited Greek/Hebrew ability among translators
  • Cultural lack of precision-focus

The grammar of Asian languages does not match the Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek at all. Asian languages lack plurals, verb conjugations, equalities among people, e.g. "brother" or "sister" (must be "older brother" or "younger brother", etc.), and many words needed for grammatical sentence construction such as: neither, nor, either, never (for future), lest, of, etc. (Biblical languages do not have "of" but have grammatical forms that replace it, whereas Asian languages lack these forms.)

Chinese and Japanese have more words, but Southeast Asian languages are usually quite limited. Karen and Lao, for example, have around 18,000 unique word entries in the largest dictionary available. Hmong has even fewer, though Thai has over 30,000.

Many translations of the Bible are made from English, not from Hebrew and Greek.

The culture itself, perhaps based partly on the imprecise language, is not typically focused on precision or details. There is a strong "nevermind, it's all good" attitude pervasive in the culture. It is practically considered honorable to overlook the small things and to not worry about them.

These are my personal observations, as I have been often frustrated with these Bible translations. They lack quality, and are difficult to understand.

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  • What you list is mostly true to Vietnamese as well, I can confirm that! Vietnamese has about 40,000 words in comparison but it borrows a lot from Chinese and French. The only thing I would disagree is the Bible translation. The 3 translations I cited from, one is from 1925 translated from a French Bible, the other 2 are modern translations from original Hebrews and Greek, one of them is from and uses the same translation method as the NIV.
    – Luke Vo
    Jul 22, 2023 at 6:53

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