There seems to be an ongoing dearth of good books about women of faith who are dynamic leaders in stereotypic male domains. The women exist, the books exist, so here are a few of my recent favourites. I already mentioned (I think):
The Creation of Eve about Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian portrait painter in the Renaissance. Of further interest is this book, Invisible Women, about approximately 100 women painters of the renaissance. I have always loved women artists of this time for the touching portrayal of mother love, of female agency, of human beauty, and the great innovation of painting people with their mouths sometimes open. Such a novelty! It is clear that women were recognized, contributed, innovated, earned a living and supported their families by painting.
The next book which honours women is The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible by Alan Levenson. Yup. There is a great chapter on Nehama Leibowitz, who is called “the most influential Bible teacher of the twentieth century.” Yes, a woman. (Theophrastus introduced me to her on the blog – somewhere – a few years ago.) Also some discussion about feminist approaches to the Bible and especially that of Tivka Frymer-Kensky, whose book Reading the Women of the Bible, is a model of interpretation for me.
Now I am reading the recently published book, The Spymistress, about Elizabeth Van Lew, a 45 year old single women, who with her widowed mother, of a wealthy class, started a Union spy ring in Richmond, Virginia. Elizabeth Van Lew was recently inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. These women were not supported or lead by any man or men, or males of any species. They were single independent women who decided to remain loyal to the Union and spy for the North. They defied all men in their social circle and deceived the Confederates that they dealt with. Their main mission was to bring aid to Union prisoners of war held in the south, and to pass military information to the north in order to shorten the war. Another woman of the same type is Clara Barton who founded the American Red Cross.
Then I also read Song of Songs by Tremper Longman, about a book, perhaps written by a woman, where the woman initiates lovemaking. This reminds me, funnily enough, of Daniel Silva’s thriller series, which I enjoy, about an Israeli assassin. The women, various lovers, usually initiate the lovemaking, and contrary to conservative rhetoric, it is she who embraces and takes her lover into herself. Funny this, because Grudem likes these books, books of strong women who initiate lovemaking. Who knew? Of course, the main character is emotionally loyal to his wife who lives on in a catatonic state in a nursing home after a terrorist bombing. She is the perfect silent woman. (I shake my head in puzzlement. Having it both ways?)
Anyway, the mainstream Christian blogs have got to get their butt in gear and write about women of faith as exegetes, innovators and creators of important trends and organizations. These are all books about women moving in the mainstream, not on the margins. No mamby pamby stuff here. Of course, for Christmas, I will buy my daughter-in-law a baby book for her growing baby bump. I am not an unregenerate feminist. And a tie dye onesie in a tiny size.
Well, sort of: pictures of cats with Latin captions on them. No LOLSpeak involved, thank goodness. (I get a kick out of LOLspeak in English, but in Latin it would be… just wrong.)
This one made me laugh out loud:
(Translation: We have all sinned: some of us gravely, some of us lightly)
But there are plenty more over at the Go Proverbs! Proverb Laboratory – check them out.
We celebrated Hanukkah and Thanksgiving at the same time yesterday, and it will not happen again for 80,000 years! We were trying to figure out how to say Thanksgiving in Hebrew without much luck. We do know that ”thank you” is תודה (todah) and “many thanks” is רב תודות (rav todot) or תודה רבה (toda rabah). You can see to todot תודות at the end of line 3 and line 5 in this passage from 2 Chronicles 29:31 referring to the “thank offerings.”
וַיַּעַן יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ וַיֹּאמֶר
עַתָּה מִלֵּאתֶם יֶדְכֶם לַיהוָה,
גֹּשׁוּ וְהָבִיאוּ זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,
וַיָּבִיאוּ הַקָּהָל זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,
וְכָל-נְדִיב לֵב עֹלוֹת.
καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Εζεκιας καὶ εἶπεν
νῦν ἐπληρώσατε τὰς χεῖρας ὑμῶν κυρίῳ
προσαγάγετε καὶ φέρετε θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως
εἰς οἶκον κυρίου
καὶ ἀνήνεγκεν ἡ ἐκκλησία θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως
καὶ πᾶς πρόθυμος τῇ καρδίᾳ ὁλοκαυτώσεις
Then Hezekiah said,
“You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord.
Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings
to the house of the Lord.”
And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings,
and all who wereof a willing heart brought burnt offerings.
One thing really shocked me. For North Americans, Thanksgiving usually means giving thanks for the abundance of food and things that we have. But in this blogpost, there is a different Jewish slant. Wouldn’t it be lovely to think of liberty and religious freedom for all, not just for ourselves,
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share the emphasis on gratitude for life, liberty, family and religious freedom, Zalmanov said.
What Americans call “the first Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation by the 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans after their first harvest in the New World, said Rabbi Emeritus Michael Stevens, of Temple-Beth El in Munster.
The New England colonists celebrated “thanksgivings” regularly, Stevens said. These days of prayer thanked God for such blessings as a military victory, the end of drought or a good harvest.
The notion of liberality in thanksgiving comes into the passage above. At the end of this passage, the word translated as “willing” is also sometimes translated as “noble” or “liberal.” Let’s have noble hearts.
I’ve started a new blog project, devoted to the little things that every Catholic should know, but often don’t. Every week or so I’ll put up a brief post about one of those little things, along with a poll where you can vote on whether or not you knew that — and of course, use the comments to expand on your answer, share your thoughts, reactions, stories about the topic, or further related questions. There’s also a suggestion box where people can ask questions and suggest topics.
Current and former Catholics, and interested non-Catholics, are all welcome.
I’m hoping this will be a fun way to share some information about Catholicism, and also gather information that can be used by catechists and preachers about gaps in Catholic education.
The gospel of John seems to have Jesus observing the feast but in a dispute on Hanukkah.
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.
The footnote reads this way:
22: Festival of the Dedication, Hanukkah (beginning on 25 Chislev, a date that [usually] falls in December), commemorating the rededication of the Temple (164 BCE), after it had been desecrated by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (1 Macc 4.52-59). It is unclear clear [sic] how this feast was observed in the first century.
If we flash back to read 1 Maccabees 4 (also in the New Revised Standard Version), then we find what follows here:
1 Now Gorgias took five thousand infantry and a thousand picked cavalry, and this division moved out by night 2 to fall upon the camp of the Jews and attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. 3 But Judas heard of it, and he and his mighty men moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus…. 58 There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed. 59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
There’s some odd gospel Greek here that seems to be lifted from the Greek of the Septuagint, of Maccabees. What the NRSV translators make “the festival of the Dedication” in the gospel is their rendering of ἐγκαίνια; and what the translators make the days “of dedication” in 1 Maccabess is their rendering of ἐγκαινισμοῦ. In the entire New Testament, and in the gospel of John, the phrase never appears again.
There are a number of odd Greeky things here. And without ado let’s get to them.
First, Greek readers see how Jesus is in a dispute with οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι as if he’s not one of them. We notice this in particular because in 1 Maccabees 4.2, we read that Ιουδας is leading those in the camp “of the Jews,” or τῶν Ιουδαίων, as opposed to the others of “the Gentiles,” or ἐθνῶν. The NRSV translators make him into the English transliteration Judas, when we all know it refers rather to יהודה המכבי, which could be instead transliterated Y’hudhah HaMakabi or Judah Maccabeus. In the gospel, it would seem that Jesus and the Jews are in opposition, and there’s a different Judas, and not a hero, who ends up betraying him. And who knows where that leaves Jesus in the end, among the Jews or the Gentiles?
At any rate, second, on Hanukkah, as the odd Greek here of the odd gospel might suggest, Jesus and the Jews are doing something interesting. He appears to be engaged in a kind of teaching that is as much Greeky Aristotelian as it is Jewish Messianic. The Greek goes like this:
23 καὶ περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἐν τῇ στοᾷ τοῦ Σολομῶνος. 24 ἐκύκλωσαν οὖν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ·
A particular pedagogy here is suggested by the verb peripatei. And a particular learning engagement is connoted by the verb ekyklosan. Jesus is the teacher, the one walking about in the stoa. The Jews are following him around, encircling him there and asking him things somewhat socratically. It’s all, in Greek, rather reminiscent of the Peripatetic school. Now the prologue to this gospel comes right out with this Greeky-Jewish mix of Septuagint Genesis and logos, calling Jesus that right in the Beginning [Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος]. Readers this far into the gospel would have already been impressed by the rhetoric, the Hellenistic rhetoric, with words such as pisteis, which were components of rhetorical enthymemes, or the body of a “proof.” (The Greek of the gospel of Matthew seems to reflect such a reading of enthymeme and of pisteis too.) John’s Jesus has him asking his opponents where their pisteis is, exclaiming and countering twice that there is none in them: οὐ πιστεύετε. This is all beginning to sound rather technical. And so most translators, trying to help readers of English who really don’t bother with all of that Greeky and all of that rhetorical stuff, will just have Jesus talking about “faith” and about “belief” as if that’s the key here. The Greek key in this short Hanukkah context seems to be on Jesus as the teacher here. He’s insisting on good listening [ταῦτα μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ], on workings of creativity or of poetry [τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ], on good retorts [ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς], on good vocals [τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούουσιν], on good follow-ship [ἀκολουθοῦσίν μοι], on good epistemology [κἀγὼ γινώσκω αὐτά], on the proper sort of circling [ἐκύκλωσαν οὖν αὐτὸν] around the pedagogue. And so most translators lose all of that and get distracted just by the dispute itself. This is “the Jews” who are opposing Jesus. Hanukkah, of course, is rather inconsequential, especially to Jesus opposed there and then by “the Jews.”
What an odd mix. The Greek is odd. The Greek lifts from the Septuagint. That Greeky older bit is purely a Jewish account, whosoever’s canon might tolerate it. And much of the Hebraic and Jewish nature of the text, of the odd gospel Greek, gets lost.
There are a few translators who have tried, nonetheless, to restore what others have lost.
David H. Stern, “an American-born Messianic Jewish theologian of Israeli residence,” offers one. Another is offered by another Messianic group in America. Biblegateway.com posts both of these, and you can click here to view them.
The best and most complete work to show what mainly Christian translators of the New Testament have lost and covered over is by Willis Barnstone. Barnstone is a polygot, is Jewish, is a poet, is a translator, is a classicist. Click here to find his New Testament. The rhetorical Hebraic Hellene restored by Barnstone’s English is much beyond any Christianish WWJD affair. Notice the emphasis on the odd gospel Greek rhetoric. Follow his translation that offers how, on “Hanukkah in Yerushalayim,” “[s]ince Yeshua is a Jew … Yeshua argues … as a Jew, [and] he uses the Jews’ common law to prove his point” -
[Reposted from Wordgazer's Words]
When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back,
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron, water, fire, stone;
Five shall return, and one go alone.
- Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising, 1973
I first read The Dark is Rising (a children’s book series written by Susan Cooper, and also the title of one of the books in that series) when I was 12 or 13. I can’t remember exactly how old I was. What I can remember is how completely I was enthralled; it was one of those books that I lost myself in, so completely within that world that I forgot who and where I was and simply lived in the book, emerging for a gasp of real-world air and a snack every now and then, or when my parents annoyingly required something mundane of me, like setting the table or going to sleep. The Dark Is Rising series is about a young English boy named Will who finds he has a special destiny related to the myths and legends of ancient Britain, about three other children named Simon, Jane and Barney who help him, and about a mysterious old man named Merriman who guides the plot towards its ultimate end.
When I was 15 I became a Christian. I described that experience earlier in this blog– but one thing that happened as I became more involved in the church and more enmeshed in evangelical Christian counter-culture was that I learned to be wary and suspicious of all forms of literature, music and art that were not overtly Christian. I remember pulling my copy of The Dark Is Rising off a bookshelf at my parents’ house when I was temporarily home from college, and shuddering at a scene where the forces of evil (“the Dark”) attack during a Christmas service at the village Anglican church:
Farmer Dawson said very quietly but clearly from the group beside the door, “No, Rector.”
The rector seemed not to hearing him. His eyes were wide, staring out at the snow. . . He managed to half-raise one arm and point behind him: “. . . vestry. . .” he gasped out. “. . . book, on table. . . exorcise. . . “
“Poor brave fellow,” said John Smith in the Old Speech. ”This battle is not for his fighting.”
And then the Old Ones, the more-than-human beings whose destiny it is to war for the Light, place the rector in an oblivious trance and then fight off the forces of the Dark and restore peace. The rector and his Christianity are neither friends nor enemies; they are simply irrelevant. Later Will explains to the rector that
“Everything that matters is outside Time. And comes from there and can go there. . the part of all of us, and of all the things we think and believe, that has nothing to do with yesterday or today or tomorrow because it belongs at a different kind of level. . . . And all Gods are there, and all the things they have ever stood for. And the opposite, too.”
The college-age me got rid of the entire set of books and decided never to read them again.
But I always remembered the effect this series had had on me when I was younger. The sheer beauty of the settings and descriptions, the honesty and loyalty of the characters, the poetic justice and fulfillment of the exciting conclusion to each segment. Still, good Christians didn’t read neo-pagan books, and there seemed little doubt that The Dark Is Rising was neo-pagan.
This year, though, in the spirit of “testing everything and holding fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21), I decided to pick up the books again. I know the context of that 1 Thessalonians passage is about “not despising prophetic utterances” and “staying away from every form of evil,” but I think the principle can be applied to many things. I don’t actually know, now, whether Susan Cooper is neo-pagan or not; she is reticent about her beliefs on her website and in her interviews. But she does say in The Camelot Project interview that in The Dark is Rising series
I had to move away from [too close a parallel to King Arthur] because it seems to me that the Arthurian legend is parallel to the Christian story of the leader who dies for our salvation. Whereas what my books were trying to say is that nobody else can save us. We have to save ourselves.
Still, is there really nothing such an author can say to me, nothing in her books worth reading? Especially if the author is a critically acclaimed, award-winning writer, for obvious reasons?
I can no longer accept such a simplistic view of reality.
The thing is that, both now and when I was a child, I could recognize that these books are not a “form of evil” to be avoided per 1 Thess. 5:21. There is the homely goodness of a scene like this:
On Christmas night, Will always slept with [his brother] James. The twin beds were still in James’s room from the time before Will had moved [upstairs]. . . There was something about Christmas Eve, they felt, that demanded company; one needed somebody to whisper to, during the warm beautiful dream-taut moments between hanging the empty stocking at the end of the bed, and dropping into the cosy oblivion that would flower into the marvel of Christmas morning.
Or the ethereal grace of this:
The mare wheeled towards him, snuffling a greeting, and in the same enchanted, music-haunted moment as before, Will was up on the white horse of the Light, sitting in front of Merriman. The ship tilted and swung, fully afloat now, and the white horse wheeled out of its way to stand nearby. . . So the mysterious king lay in dignity still, among his weapons and gleaming tribute, and Will had a glimpse of the mask-like white face as the great ship moved away downstream. . . watching the light glimmer on the golden stag of the prow.
And there is the uncompromising commitment to preserving the dignity and freedom of the ordinary individual in the face of dark forces that seek to control and enslave– a theme arising out of Cooper’s childhood in beleaguered England in the midst of the Second World War. There is a quiet celebration of the love of family and the friendship of dogs, of the small English village and the rocky Cornish coastlands. And finally, there is the humor mixed into the magic like salt into soup:
“Too much punch,” said James, as his tall brother stretched gaping [yawning] in an armchair.
“Get lost,” said Robin amiably.
“Who’d like a mince pie?” said Mrs. Stanton, coming in with a vast tray of cocoa mugs.
“James has had six already,” said Mary in prim disapproval. “At the Manor.”
“Now it’s eight,” said James, with a mince pie in each hand. “Yah.”. . .
“Ho-ho-ho,” said Will sepulchrally from the floor. ”Good little children never fight at Christmas.” And since Mary was irresistably close to him, he grabbed her by the ankle. She collapsed on top of him, howling cheerfully.
“Mind the fire,” said Mrs. Stanton, from years of habit.
It turns out that my Christianity is not as fragile as the church once led me to believe. I’m not going to leave the faith because I read a book by an author who doesn’t share it. And my disagreement with some of her premises need not negate my enjoyment of, and even edification from, the joys of life and love and the beauties of courage and hope which she depicts so well.
The Protestant doctrine of common grace says that God’s mercies are over all the world and that God’s gifts and talents are spread generously among all people. There is nothing to fear from a manifestation of that grace in any person, whether they agree with my theology or not. The world is wider– and God is bigger!– than the narrow conceptions I had in the youth of my faith.
So I’m happy to once again call myself a fan of Susan Cooper and The Dark is Rising. To have come full circle back to the pleasure I had as a child in a really good story.
And to find the footprints of Christ there, as I may find them anywhere.
I really don’t think Ms. Cooper would mind.
When I was little, I was asked a riddle, “What is the beginning of eternity, and the end of time and space?” See the end of the post for the answer. I also noticed that the LORD was L’Éternel in French, my grandfather’s language. In German, the LORD is Der Ewige.
I finally decided to track this down. Here is Exodus 3:13-15 in several different translations, Hebrew, Olivétan 1535, Luther, 1545, and Mendelssohn, 1780 and finally Buber-Rosenzweig.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים
הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָא אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם, אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם;
מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה,
אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה;
וַיֹּאמֶר, כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל,
אֶהְיֶה, שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם.
וַיֹּאמֶר עוֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה,
כֹּה-תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל,
יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם
אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב,
וְזֶה זִכְרִי לְדֹר דֹּר.
Et Moseh dit à Dieu:
Voici, j’irai aux enfants d’Israël et leur dirai:
Le Dieu de vos pères m’a envoyé vers vous;
et s’ils me répondent:
Qui est son nom? Que leur dirai–je?
Et Dieu dit à Moseh:
Je suis qui suis Puis il dit:
Tu diras ainsi aux enfants d’Israël:
Je suis m’a envoyé vers vous.
Et Dieu dit encore à Moseh:
Tu diras ainsi aux enfants d’Israël:
L’Eternel, le Dieu de vos pères,
le Dieu d’Abraham, le Dieu d’Izahak, le Dieu de Jakob,
m’a envoyé vers vous.
C’est mon nom éternellement
et le mémorial de moi au siècle des siècles.
Mose sprach zu Gott:
Siehe, wenn ich zu den Kindern Israel komme
und spreche zu ihnen:
Der Gott eurer Väter hat mich zu euch gesandt,
und sie mir sagen werden:
Wie heißt sein Name?
was soll ich ihnen sagen?
Gott sprach zu Mose:
ICH WERDE SEIN,
DER ICH SEIN WERDE.
Und sprach: Also sollst du den Kindern Israel sagen:
ICH WERDE SEIN hat mich zu euch gesandt.
Und Gott sprach weiter zu Mose:
Also sollst du den Kindern Israel sagen:
Der HERR, eurer Väter Gott, der Gott Abrahams, der Gott Isaaks, der Gott Jakobs,
hat mich zu euch gesandt.
Das ist mein Name ewiglich,
dabei soll man mein Gedenken für und für.
Mosche sprach zu Gott:
wenn ich nun zu den Kindern Israels comme,
und sage ihnen
Der Gott eurer Väter sendet mich
und sie sprechen
Wie ist sein Name
was soll ich ihnen sagen?
Gott sprach zu Mosche :
Ich bin das Wesen, welches ewig ist !
Er sprach nämlich, so sollst du
zu den Kindern Israels sprechen, das Ewige
Wesen, welches sich nennt, ich bin ewig,
hat mich zu euch gesendet.
Gott sprach ferner zu Mosche
So sollst du zu den Kindern Israels sprechen
Das ewige Wesen welches sich nennt, ich bin ewig
Der Gott eurer Voraltern
der Gott Abrahams, der Gott Isaschs, der Gott Jakobs
sendet mich zu euch
Dieses ist immer meine Name,
und dieses soll mein Denkwort
sein in zukünftigen Zeiten
It seems that Olivétan was the first to use “L’Éternel” in a Bible translation and Mendelssohn followed that. However, he also wrote about the expression ho Aionios in the the Letter of Baruch. Here is a discussion of Rozenzweig’s response to the use of Der Ewige for God.
I am not sure if anyone else is interested in these things, but I am. It’s nice to have so many early Bibles online. I know the commentary mentions Calvin and not Olivétan, but Calvin did not produce a Bible translation. He did later write about l’Éternel in a commentary. I don’t know which influenced Mendelssohn. PS. And the answer to the riddle is “E.”
After thinking about wedding songs as the domain of women, I read here that drumming was also the exclusive domain of women in the Hebrew Bible. All references to hand drums, often called a tambourine or timbrel, mention women, Miriam, Japheth’s daughter, the maidens in Psalm 68, the young women who danced before the ark when it entered Jerusalem and so on.
All visual evidence, pots and vessels, statues and relief, portray only women as using the hand drum. I do hope that no men at the “Act like Men” conference were drummers, doing a feminine thing like that. It doesn’t appear that there were other kinds of drums for men in the Hebrew Bible. The men had to play a harp or lyre. Somebody let Driscoll know about that.
Of course, the early church had to eliminate the dancing and drumming of women, so that one thing that women did and men did not do, was made undoable. Of course, now it’s back. I talked to a man who attended the Act like Men conference, and the only thing he remarked on was how much fun it was to look at his new measure the decibels app and notice that safe levels were significantly bypassed. Typical that, playing with his latest mechanical toy. He was indeed “acting like a man.” Sorry, couldn’t resist.
How about the Septuagint translator(s) of the Hebrew Song of Songs if authored by a woman?
Was she also a woman, then, rendering the Hebrew into Hellene? And how would a female do that? What sort of Greek would she use?
Its use in 5.9 and in 8.1, where it translates אָח (“brother”), shows that Greek Song is using this diminutive as a term of endearment. Its use may suggest that the translator was a woman. Because ἀδελφιδός must have sounded unusual in Greek ears, the NETS translation [by Treat himself] consistently renders it with a formal equivalent that sounds unusual in English: “brotherkin.”
What’s strange and perhaps unfortunate is how Treat so cleverly and consistently uses “brotherkin” as a supposed womanly “unusual” sounding diminutive term of endearment coinage, as if this is just what a woman (not a man) might do. He also keeps on referring to the Greek translator of the Hebrew by “he” and not by “she.” So Treat is more consistent in his own talk about the translator as a default man; and yet he wants to have her also a woman who doesn’t really know what good Greek sounds like, and he inflicts that on his English readers’ ears.
Is there scholarship and research on the sex of the Song of Songs LXX translator beyond Treat’s guess here based on one odd Greek phrase?
I just can’t resist posting this pic of my daughter’s older Apple laptop. In my view, laptops are supposed to die with a whimper not a bang. This one was thrown outside and the flames were put out with a fire extinguisher. In other irritating incidents, the new OS on my iPad has made Kindle misfunction and about a third of my books won’t redownload, and the newest book I paid for on Kindle won’t download either. The Genius bar thinks this is Kindle’s problem, not theirs, but I don’t know how to access a Kindle help desk. Also my MacBook Air won’t connect with most wifi outside my own home. This restricts my posting when I am away from home. Sorry about the bitching, but this is life.
November 14th marks the hundredth anniversary of Swann’s Way, the first volume in Marcel Proust’s fabulous but challenging massive novel about time and memories: In Search of Lost Time.
In honor of Proust, French cultural agencies have sponsored special exhibitions and readings from Kiev to Paris. In the United States, events are focused in Berkeley, Birmingham, Boston, Coral Gables, New Haven, New York, and Providence.
But even if you do not live in these cities, you can still take part in the celebration of this amazing work of literature. On Thursday, Yale University Press officially publishes a new annotated edition of Swann’s Way by William Carter (revised from the Scott Moncrieff translation). Penguin has just released a hardcover edition of Lydia Davis’s fresh Swann’s Way as part of its cute (albeit gimmicky) “Drop Caps” editions. Naxos has just released a massive complete (120 CDs!) unabridged audio edition of In Search of Lost Time (if you order this currently outside of the EU from Amazon UK, this is a relative bargain, since without VAT it is a “mere” £229.59.)
I have been thinking a lot about Kurk’s post on Joseph and motherly instincts. Of course, this shows how little of the original culture shows through in English. The two women were both female, but only one had a biological link to the child. Joseph was Benjamin’s only brother of the same mother. The link is by the womb, but refers to a biological relationship, not a motherly relationship. Men had the relationship also, brothers had it, brothers and sisters had this relationship.
In Greek, the brother and sister are adelphos, and adelphé, of the same womb, biologically related. This is the supreme relationship in ancient times. The spouse, unless a passionate lover, as in Song of Songs, the spouse could be a throw away. Here is an instructive story,
Taking precautions against further resistance, Darius sent soldiers to seize Intaphernes, along with his son, family members, relatives and any friends who were capable of arming themselves. Darius believed that Intaphernes was planning a rebellion, but when he was brought to the court, there was no proof of any such plan. Nonetheless, Darius killed Intaphernes’ entire family, excluding his wife’s brother and son. She was asked to choose between her brother and son. She chose her brother to live. Her reasoning for doing so was that she could have another husband and another son, but she would always have but one brother. Darius was impressed by her response and spared both her brother’s and her son’s life.
Who was closer to her womb, apparently her brother. It was not about motherly feelings, but about family solidarity. But then even the eunuch has these feelings for Daniel. God for his people, mothers for children, brothers for brothers, these are the wombly feelings we find in the Hebrew Bible. I would suggest that sisters and brothers for each other, children for parents, parents for children, all the natural family ties, are the wombly feelings, not “motherly” feelings.
I don’t mean to downplay the difference in circumstance between men and women in Bible, but I do believe that in emotional makeup, men and women both, were to have wombly feelings, family loyalty. Here are a few examples,
And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. Gen. 43:40
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: Zec. 7:9
And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them: 1 Kings 8:50
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. Dan. 1:9
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever: Amos 1:11
Now that linguistic data has suggested that the Song of Solomon was written in the 3rd century BC, some are looking closer at its structure as a wedding song, in the same genre as Sappho’s songs, and wondering if there was an influence. Here is a thought provoking post, and I suggest a look at this book which is online also. On page 26, there is this speculation,
Does Song of Solomon follow the classical period when only a male nude was an object of beauty? Was Song of Solomon perhaps written by a woman? Certainly, the main voice is that of a woman, and women were responsible for so much of song, celebration and lament, in Hebrew culture.
When she’s a mother, even a mother in question, then readers and Bible translators have little trouble having her act motherly.
For example, in the biblical story of the man, King Solomon, and of that wisdom of his, there are women who are unnamed and unknown and whose character is called into question. What I hope we can all see is how the womb of an unnamed woman functions, in a literary way, to highlight the man and the brilliance of the man.
And so we may also be able to see how the male NET Bible translator also brings forth his translation, relying on the woman to mark what serves the decision of the man. Here comes 1 Kings 3:26a for the New English Translation Bible:
The real mother spoke up to the king, for her motherly instincts were aroused. She said, “My master, give her [the other mother] the living child! Whatever you do, don’t kill him [the male child]!”
Such arousal of motherly instincts even comes across and through the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, that “Old Greek” version of the Septuagint (which is also known as ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΩΝ Γ or 3 REIGNS 3:26a). So then born out of that Hebraic Hellene comes the NETS (or New English Translation of the Septuagint) rendering by Bernard A. Taylor:
And the woman whose was the living son answered and said to the king —- because her womb was troubled over her son —- and she said, “With regard to me, my lord, give her the boy, and by death do not put him to death,”
The original Hebrew phrase in question is נכמרו רחמיה /racham kamar /, and its Greek phrase counterpart here is ἐταράχθη ἡ μήτρα αὐτῆς / eTaraCHTHē hē Mḗtra Autēs /. In the English of the NET Bible and of the NETS translation this means something exactly like these noun phrases: “her aroused motherly instincts” and “her troubled womb.”
When we read the Hebrew text carefully, and if we notice the Hebraic Greek translation as well, then we understand how the “womb” here functions rhetorically for (male) readers. It’s the device that gives the Judge, the King, the Man, his insight. The unknown woman is there to give birth to this wisdom of his. She, of course, needs not be a protagonist in the story. And her reputation is only at stake when compared with another woman whose reputation is worse. These women are there in the story for the Kingly Judge (and for the readers themselves) to judge. Then at one point in the narrative, there is that something that’s telling, the revelation of the something that’s “motherly,” the demonstration and protestation of the aroused “womb.” Out of this motherliness marked in the text is birthed the male Monarch’s wisdom. Solomon is a wise man, the wisest man in all the land.
When we shift our reading back to the Torah (to the first of the Five Books of Moses), and when we fast forward to the Prophet (to the Book of Isaiah), then we see something similar.
There, however, both in Genesis 43 and in Isaiah 63 we find something quite different. The Hebrew demonstrates this. And some translations do too. This is where the man Joseph is the protagonist (in Genesis) where God is in the dock, is on the stand in the court of judgment (in Isaiah). The problem is that there is no explicit woman in either context. Hence Joseph and the LORD become surrogate mothers in a literary and a rhetorical sense.
Reader’s and translators alike tend miss how motherly the man Joseph and the LORD Himself are in the Hebrew.
Just by way of illustration, the NET Bible translator himself has the following respectively for Genesis 43:30 and Isaiah 63:15 -
Joseph hurried out, for he was overcome by affection for his brother and was at the point of tears. So he went to his room and wept there.
Look down from heaven and take notice,
from your holy, majestic palace!
Where are your zeal and power?
Do not hold back your tender compassion!
To be sure, the NET Bible translator does see something in Genesis akin to what he saw in 1 Kings. Thus, he offers his readers his footnote on the Genesis verse, saying:
Heb “for his affection boiled up concerning his brother.” The same expression is used in 1 Kgs 3:26 for the mother’s feelings for her endangered child.
“The same expression” for the NETS Bible translator must be, nonetheless, translated differently. For Joseph is a King, a Man, the Judge, in this context.
Joseph is not the unnamed mother being judged. Or isn’t he? Readers of the Bible can judge just how motherly the Hebrew language of the Torah makes him here. The verse before describes Joseph this way (as translated in the King James Version) -
And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.
The eyes of readers, even readers of this old English, are directed to the fact that Benjamin is described not as Rachel’s son but as his “mother’s son” (where the possessive pronoun his ambiguously refers to either brother); and we all can see how Joseph calls Benjamin, “my son.” A new ambiguity is introduced. The man Joseph is assuming the position of a parent, perhaps a father; and perhaps more implied is that Joseph is serving as mother.
Indeed the Hebrew of the very next verse, Gn 43:30, uses the same expression for Joseph as it does for the unnamed mother in 1 Kgs 3:26. The very response of Joseph at seeing “my son,” this “mother’s son,” is certainly a motherly response generated by profoundly aroused motherly instincts. (The Greek used by the Septuagint translator[s] is also the same for both 1 Kgs 3:26 and Gn 43:30. The NETS translation of Genesis [by Robert J. V. Hiebert] can only, nonetheless, manage just to hint at something like the labor of childbirth by making the Hebrew-to-Greek-to-English rendering the following: “And Ioseph was troubled, for his insides were twisting up over his brother, and he was seeking to weep. And going into the chamber he wept there.”)
Now to the Prophet. The Hebrew used about Joseph in Genesis and for the unnamed mother in 1 Kings is also the Hebrew used in Isaiah 63 for the LORD. Craig Smith’s The Inclusive Bible is the only translation that I have found that picks up on the motherliness of God in this rhetorical context of Isaiah 63:15 -
Now look down from heaven,
and see us from your holy and glorious dwelling place!
Where is your zeal, your strength,
your burning love and motherly compassion?
Why do you hold them back from us?
Compare this with what the NET Bible translator himself has -
Look down from heaven and take notice,
from your holy, majestic palace!
Where are your zeal and power?
Do not hold back your tender compassion!
And note how the Greek Isaiah translation has τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ ἐλέους σου (for which the NETS translator Moisés Silva has “of your compassions“).
At the very least, the Hebrew context of Isaiah shows G-d as a Parent. With the use of the same phrase as for the mother in the Solomon story and for Joseph in the story of his laboring physically over his “son,” the rhetorical question of the Prophet is as if a son’s question to a Mother, or at least to a Motherly God.
I picked up Invisible Women by Jane Fortune in Florence last week and set out to view some of the works by approximately 100 women painters displayed in Florence. Of course, I really wanted to see this picture by Artemesia Gentileschi so I made sure to visit the Caravaggio room in the Uffizi Gallery. Only to find out that the painting is currently in Chicago.
In1971, Linda Nochlin wrote an article titled “Why Have there been no Great Women Artists?” She stated,
The fact of the matter is that there have been no supremely great women artists, as far as we know, although there have been many interesting and very good ones who remain insufficiently investigated or appreciated; nor have there been any great Lithuanian jazz pianists, nor Eskimo tennis players, no matter how much we might wish there had been.
The question “Why have there been no great women artists?” has led us to the conclusion, so far, that art is not a free, autonomous activity of a super-endowed individual, “Influenced” by previous artists, and, more vaguely and superficially, by “social forces,” but rather, that the total situation of art making, both in terms of the development of the art maker and in the nature and quality of the work of art itself, occur in a social situation, are integral elements of this social structure, and are mediated and determined by specific and definable social institutions, be they art academies, systems of patronage, mythologies of the divine creator, artist as he-man or social outcast.
I think Jane Fortune and others have proven that Nochlin’s question was poorly worded. It should rather be “Why are we not equally aware of the great women artists as we are of the men?”
Fortune”s book Invisible Women cites over and over, commentary and evaluation by great contemporary artists that many women artists were accepted as equally great in their time. It is history that has betrayed us. Gentileschi had a successful career, not without difficulties due to her poor background and tumultuous adolescence filled with scandal, but was considered to be one of the more innovative and influential artists of the Renaissance, not just among women artists but among all Renaissance artists, both men and women. She was the first to portray women of the Hebrew Bible as strong and active, with righteous anger and agency, as protagonists equal to men.
Why are Artemesia Gentileschi and other women artists not better known? The answer, I think, stands in the Galleria dell’ Academia – the naked David. This is the dominant work of art in Florence. There is an art hierarchy and the naked male statue is at the top. Male beauty is the dominant value. General sculpture comes next, then paintings of biblical and pagan heroes, often nude or semi-nude, and then portraiture and still life. Women were excluded from dissecting cadavers, and from life drawing classes, which all involved male nudes. Men could sculpt, draw and portray nude men and women, but women could not. Many women artists excelled at portraiture, introducing new ways of portraying the family, women and the very young. But they were excluded from certain areas of art which have dominated historically. I personally can’t say why David and naked male beauty had dominated, but the architecture of Florence demonstrates that it has. I went on quickly to see Botticelli’s Venus, myself.
I believe that Gentileschi’s interpretation of women as protagonists made her art equal to men. But history was unwilling to recognize this as on par with men as protagonists. Not her fault. But this is why women need to engage in biblical studies. Men will not do justice to women on their own. Just won’t happen.
This is all just food for thought. If we didn’t have women artists, then the agency of biblical women would not be fairly portrayed in art form. If we have only male artists, then male bodies dominate. This demonstrates that self worship, not adoration of the opposite sex, is dominant. Gentileschi used herself as model for many of her paintings. Why not? Women need to portray women, and strongly, as she did. Chicago, here I come!
The difference that emerges here is not the polarity intrinsic in the dominant discourse, which reduces “woman to man’s opposite, his other, the negative of the positive.” No, this is an absolute and radical alterity that enfolds the other, as in pregnancy a woman’s immune system shuts down in such a way that she shelters and nourishes, rather than rejects and expels, the foreign body within her [as Julia Kristeva points out]: “Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. Within the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is an other. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on.” Feminine discourse is not the language of opposites but a babel of eroticism, attachment, and empathy.
– Nancy Mairs
Every so often, (women) writers in the blogosphere demonstrate a rather different way of engaging in discourse than the same old, ho-hum, binary structured writing. I like to highlight such communication and did so some time back (at another blog), to try to illustrate some of what my BLT co-blogger Suzanne (then also writing at even another blog) was writing, and how. Likewise, Rachel Barenblat was writing up some very interesting observations about languages that emerges (from roots), and so I tried to demonstrate that a bit with the same post. Probably it’s good just to quote the two directly (again):
But you might ask me whether or not the Herbrew really says “fathers.” It does, and it does not. In Hebrew, as in Greek, the common word for “parents” is the plural of the word for “father.” But it is clear from its constant use for parents of both genders that this is its meaning – parents. In the English of today, the word “fathers” cannot refer to parents of both genders.
– Suzanne McCarthy
[Notice the difference that emerges from a Bible translator] like Everett Fox, whose translation of the Torah plays a lot with word-roots and etymology…. To me as a poet, the word roots do say something meaningful because they offer a place for wordplay and poetic resonance. I think of a book like Rabbi Marcia Prager’s The Path of Blessing — reviewed here — and of how much I’ve learned from her teachings about how word-roots can allow connotations to echo. But Prager’s techniques are poetic and devotional ones, and … [s]he’s also talking about liturgy, … which makes a difference.
– Rachel Barenblat
Last week there were two other blogposts that use language with a difference (from the binary), language that even gets at the mother/womb metaphors that Kristeva and Mairs have noted. Here they are:
By surviving the operation, I grew up believing that I had cheated death. By living, I was thumbing my nose at the Creator. God had wanted me to die, and I had disobeyed.
“You birthed me,” I remember blaming my mother when I was a teenager after had criticized my dirty room.
“Yes, I did, didn’t I?” she reflected, pausing in her vacuuming, holding the attachment perfectly still in the air between us, and tilting her head inquiringly as she contemplated this fact. She smiled mischievously, delighted with her discovery. “It certainly is my fault, yes. I can’t deny it – I birthed you.” We both laughed, but underneath my accusation, I was searching for the answer to an unasked question. I remember her once saying, “Even though you had a stomach problem, I felt lucky to have a girl.” Even though.
– Wendy Patrice Williams (as quoted by Julia Marks)
Lately I have been contemplating my ‘source of being’. I had always assumed it was my connection to the earth. It is this of course, but my revelation came when I realised it was the connection to my mother, and my connection to her mother – me as mother, and not just my birth mother, but all mothers. The earth as mother, the universal mother, cosmic mother. All of them, my source of being.
My memories of growing up start from a very young age. In fact, so young, I have vivid memories of being born. I remember being breastfed and the smell of my Mum’s skin which was such a source of comfort. Thinking about my source and having these early memories re-surface has come at quite a pertinent time of the year, considering that it is Beltane in the Southern Hemisphere, and Samhain in the North. At Beltane we celebrate the coming summer with fire and blessings of fertility, life and abundance. While at Samhain we are remembering our ancestors, those who have passed and loved ones who are still with us. Yesterday, the 31st, I flew from Australia to the USA and I have been able to experience both transitions. This following poem and accompanying artwork represents these polar opposites; birth and death. More importantly, it is an ode to Mum.
– Jassy Watson
These (women) writers “speak” with voices that go beyond the binary. As Mairs writes it, and says it:
[Such is characteristic of] women’s language, since women, for a variety of reasons, live in a polymorphic rather than a dimorphic world, a world in which the differentiation of self from other may never completely take place, in which multiple selves may engage multiply with the multiple desires of the creatures in it. Some theorists would claim that all subjects function thus. But as Julia Kristeva points out, female subjectivity, traditionally linked to cyclical and monumental time rather than to linear time, lies outside “language considered as the enunciation of sentences (noun + verb, topic – comment, beginning – ending).” Possessing an “irreducible identity, without equal in the opposite sex and, as such, exploded, plural, fluid,” a woman may be driven “to break the code, to shatter language, to find a specific discourse closer to the body and the emotions, to the unnamable repressed by the social contract.”
λέγει ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν…
καὶ λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς,
τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί,
the mother of Jesus said to him…
And Jesus said to her,
what does this have to do with me?”
- John 2 (ESV)
Ἰησοῦς οὖν ἰδὼν τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὸν μαθητὴν παρεστῶτα ὃν ἠγάπα
λέγει τῇ μητρί·
γύναι, ἴδε ὁ υἱός σου·
εἶτα λέγει τῷ μαθητῇ·
ἴδε ἡ μήτηρ σου.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother,
“Woman, behold, your son!”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother!”
- John 19 (ESV)
If Mark’s gospel Greek has Jesus crying Αββα ὁ πατήρ, the odd gospel of John has its Jesus saying some odd Greek indeed.
The Greek word John’s Jesus uses when talking to his mother is not that very distant formal Greek phrase ἡ μήτηρ /hē mḗtēr/. Nor is is that childish childlike and girlish little girl Greek, that overly familiar term of endearment like μάμμη /mamma/ or the unambiguous μαμμία, μαμμία, μαμμία /mammia mammia mammia/.
No, those would have English equivalents respectively to phrases like these:
- what author P. D. Eastman wrote “To My Mother,” when he wrote his book for children entitled Are You My Mother, which happens to be incidentally one of the first books I ever read with my mother.
- what songwriter Freddy Mercury sang to his Mama (i.e., “Mama, I killed a man“), after he “did a bit of research” to write this, to sing further (i.e., “Oh mama Mia mama Mia Mama Mia”), which seems pretty clearly obviously to be what prompted:
- what songwriter Tommy Shaw wrote (i.e., “Oh Mama, I’m in fear for my life…”).
In Greek, never mind these English translations, the phrase μάμμη would be one where the writer of 4 Maccabbees is mixing up mother/woman/grandmother familial familiar Greek phrases (in chapter 16) and Paul would use it later when making clear to young Timothy that he keeps distinct his Mammy Lois from his Mother Eunice (in 2 Timothy, chapter 1). And the phrase μαμμία, μαμμία, μαμμία is what the little baby of Myrrhini is made to cry out by the nasty Cinesias in the play of Lysistrata by Aristophanes (lines 877 to 890, where the words for Mother, Mama, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, and γυναιξί [gynaizi] get all mixed up).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek twice calls Mary, or Mariam, his mother.
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek calls the unnamed loose wo-man of the outcast mixed-breeds of Samaria (in chapter 4).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek calls the unnamed wo-man caught in the act of having sex with another man’s husband (in chapter 8).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek twice calls an-Other Mary, or Mariam, who for all of her womanly public uncontrolled emotion fails to recognize him (in chapter 20).
It’s a far cry from crying Αββα ὁ πατήρ. So what are we to make of this odd gospel Greek?