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I am black BUT/AND comely

In King James Version of The Song of Solomon 1:5-6, the Shulamite says: (emphasis added)

I am black, BUT comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me, because I am black; because the sun hath looked upon me...

The Hebrew Bible reads: (emphasis added)

shekhorah ani VE na'vah benot yerushala'im ke ahalei kedar kiri'ot shlomo: al-tir'uni she'ani shekharkhoret sheshezafatni hashemesh (sound representation approximate)

There is no distinction between "but" and "and" in Hebrew. The Hebrew conjunction ve serves as both "but" and "and". The translator decides based on context whether to translate ve as "but" or "and." Unfortunately, this choice can make a significant difference in the English language.

Why "but"? Why not "and"?

Song of Solomon 1:5 could just as easily read "I am black AND beautiful..."

Were the translators of KJV justified in translating the ve as a "but" instead of an "and?"

We only have the KJV at hand, so if anyone has any other translations of the Bible in languages that distinguish between "and" and "but", send that rendering of Solomon 1:5 (in English, please) to us. We will compile and repost. If you possess other English versions of the Bible, feel free to send the rendering of that verse. Thx.

Submitted by Doc Jones on 6/4/2007:

I believe in 1995, the American Bibliical Society revised its American Standard Version of the Bible for only the fourth time, and this had been preceded by a nice article in the Atlantic Monthly, which had reviewed the history of the English translations of the Bible, from about the Tyndale, through the most recent revisions, including the King James. The article had suggested that despite their rarity, some changes might occur in the upcoming revision.

Because I had researched this passage, I was not surprised to see that the ABS changed its New Revised Standard Version (NSRV) translation in 1994 to 'and', although it chose to leave its King James translation unchanged, as 'but'.

In the soft back, the (NSRV) fourth edition was a red or pink and white cover, while the King James was a blue and white cover, and I had purchased copies of each, not only for the inspection of these passages, but certainly also to see if changes would be made.

While surprised that both versions had not been changed, I did feel that some progress had been made since the ABS had at least established that 'and' was indeed an appropriate translation in one of its revisions, even if this had taken many centuries to do in English, especially after the Atlantic Monthly had explained how significant even the slightest change would be.

Here is the verse from the New Revised Standard:

I am black and beautiful.

Submitted by Yafeu on 8/6/2000:

Here's a thread on the subject:

The respondants are all Jews. Some Afrikan, African American, European American and Latin American. Except as otherwise noted by the respective author, the translations are direct from the original Hebrew of the Masoretic Text. I do hope this aids understanding.

Submitted by WEDGE5WOOD on 4/12/00:

The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament (Zondervan Publishing House 1987):

Dark am I, yet lovely.

All Bible quotations are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.