The literary form of the prescript of ancient royal letters and a hint for its translation : Ezra 4:17 as case study

Kim, Joohan (2012)

CITATION: Kim, J. 2012. The literary form of the prescript of ancient royal letters and a hint for its translation : Ezra 4:17 as case study. Scriptura, 111(3):544-554, doi:10.7833/111-0-35.

The original publication is available at http://scriptura.journals.ac.za

Article

Two English versions of the prescript of the letter embedded in Ezra 4:17, i.e. KJV and NIV, show variations in the translations. While KJV starts the letter with a greeting, NIV opens with the name of the recipient. From this difference, we should ask which translation most closely reflects the original intention of the author, who incorporated this royal letter into his work. Thus, by examining this generic feature (the prescript) of ancient royal (and official) letters and the technique of embedding them, this article attempts to determine which translation is preferable. This inves-tigation is possible because the prescript pattern of ancient royal letters was very often consistent in the Mediterranean world at this time. In other words, the person at the highest social level (i.e. the king in the case of royal letters) is always placed first in the prescript, no matter whether he is the sender or the recipient. Besides this, ancient authors (including the author of Ezra) tended to adopt this convention when they embedded royal letters in their work. Taking these facts into account, this article suggests that the translation of the type of KJV reflects the original intention of the author of Ezra more exactly.

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