I have been doing quite a bit of thinking on this subject since I posted “Euphemism!” I have been discussing it with my co-worker as well, and I thought some of you might be interested in my thoughts. I wrote these in the comments on that post, but I didn’t think a lot of interested people would even see them there, so here are my comments as I posted them:
So what would be the best translation of this euphemism? Is it best to translate it literally and leave it to the preacher to explain it and the scholar to contemplate it? Would it be best to make it easy and leave nothing to the imagination, but run the risk of missing out on possible nuances? Perhaps it would be best just to ignore the issue and say like the CEV, “Adam and Eve had a son…”.
I just realized that I have the CEB free download of Genesis here on my computer. Keeping in mind that it’s still a work in progress and could yet be changed before publication, here is what it says in Genesis 4:1
“The man Adam knew his wife Eve intimately. She became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have given life to a man with the Lord’s help.”
Interesting that they have chosen to retain “knew”, but added the qualifier “intimately”, and then continued to state that Eve became pregnant. It keeps it relatively simple and easy to understand, yet it retains the original euphemism.
Which is making me wonder where they draw the line. When should a translator keep such a euphemism and when should they simplify it all and explain it for the reader? Do we need to take seriously the idea of “different” Bibles for different readers? Should there really be simplified Bibles for beginners and more literal, though more difficult, Bibles for those more advanced?