There is a Semitic idiom which occurs frequently* throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. It is literally translated to English as “in the eyes of X,” or, slightly less literally, “in the sight of X.” In English we normally express the meaning of that idiom with wordings such as “X was pleased with Y” or “Y pleased X”, or “Y liked X”.
1. Most literal
The first instance of the Semitic idiom is found in Gen. 6:8 where we are told in the most literal translations of the idiom that
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (KJV)
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD (NIV, TNIV, NASB, ESV, Alter)
Noah, however, found favor in the eyes of the Lord (HCSB)
2. Moderately literal
The NRSV and NET Bible move one step away from the most literal translation by translating the Hebrew for ‘eyes’ with English “sight,” the action that is done with the eyes:
But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD (NRSV, NET)
In English we do not normally refer to doing anything “in the eyes of” anyone or even “in the sight of” anyone, whether we are referring to literal eyesight or cognition that is figuratively represented by eyesight. The wording “in the sight of” does come close to the English wording of doing something “in plain sight of” someone, but this wording refers to literal eyesight, not cognitive “eyesight” or consideration, which is the figurative usage of the Semitic idiom.
(UPDATE: See comment to this post by David Lang who points out some examples of “in the sight of” used in English. Further study is needed to determine how widely this expression is used by English speakers and whether it is a borrowing from literal versions of the Bible.)
3. Moderately idiomatic
Some translations move yet closer toward a natural English expression of the meaning of the Semitic idiom, as in:
Noah, however, had won the LORD’s favour (REB)
But Noah won Yahweh’s favour (NJB)
But Noah found favor with the LORD (NAB, NJPS, NLT)
4. Most idiomatic
Finally, the most natural translations of the Semitic idiom are found in these versions:
But the LORD was pleased with Noah. (TEV/GNB)
But the LORD was pleased with Noah (CEV, GW)
But Noah pleased the LORD (NCV)
What can you see (!) as the advantages and disadvantages of these four different degrees of literalness for translation of the Semitic idiom?
What audiences do you feel would these different degrees of literalness appeal to the most?
Which audiences do you think would understand the figurative meaning of the Semitic idiom from each degree of translation shown in the four categories?
*Some other occurrences of this idiom are in Gen. 38:7, 10; 41:37; Ex. 5:21; 24:17; Lev. 10:19; Num. 20:12; Deut. 4:25; 6:18; 9:18; 12:25; 13:18; Judges 2:11; 1 Sam. 12:17; 26:24; 2 Sam. 11:27; 15:25; 1 Ki 3:10; 15:5, 11; 16:25; 2 Ki 3:18; 1 Chron. 13:4; 2 Chron. 21:6; 25:2; 28:1; 29:6; Prov. 17:8; Is. 49:5; Jer. 52:2; Zech. 8:6
New Testament examples are literally translated as “before the ___,” or “well-pleasing to ___,” but are sometimes translated as the Semitic idiom, “in the sight of”, e.g. Luke 1:6, 15; Acts 4:19; 7:20; 8:21; 24:16; Rom. 12:17; Gal. 3:11; 1 Tim. 2:3; James 1:27