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The Psalm Rendered by the Strange, Furious Tongues of the Goyim

April 17, 2015

Kurk, this [Englishing of the Greeking of the Hebrew Isaiah] is in many ways brilliant, particularly in its conveying so much information in so little space, and being simultaneously a translation of the Hebrew (crossed out) and the Greek. It does capture the strangeness and fury of the prophetic experience.

This translation will certainly be of interest to people who already know a little bit about this passage in Isaiah. At the same time, I wonder if it might not be too difficult for someone who is reading Isaiah for the first time.

Theophrastus

Though at times the translator [of the Tehillim as the Psalmoi] might be charged with throwing at his reader the Hebrew text in Greek guise, to call him a hack would be unfair. Instead, as has been suggested, his translating… informs his task. Indeed, from that perspective it clearly makes little sense to charge him with inadequate knowledge of Greek and lack of stylistic sensitivity…. [H]e at times introduces an interpretive spin…. [And] it is clear that the translator often puts the form of the text above its meaning…. Indeed, one can even find some literary sparks….

Albert Pietersma

Let’s say the original Septuagint texts had two audiences, an insider Jewish readership (who studied the Hebrew Bible and knew it by heart) and an outsider readership (who could only read the Hellene, or Greek, and didn’t have a clue about the Hebrew). The insiders would have known at least a little bit about the passages of the scriptures. The outsiders would have found the reading slightly difficult, as a text suffering perhaps from translationese and suffering most definitely from the strangeness and the fury of the threatening Other.

The Hellene (or that Greek) to convey the Hebrew (or those Jewish) meanings would give way to something else. The insider translators would not only be speaking to their own on the inside. The insider translators would also be displaying how facile they were, also, by speaking and by writing using the tongues of the Goyim, the ethnicities and the especially-dominant nations outside of the heart of Israel. This might have been somewhat unnerving to those Goyim. The Royals in Alexandria, Egypt, for example, whose mandate from Conqueror Alexander the Great had been to conquer, even by the Logos, would have been unnerved when The God (reigning Supreme in the minds of the Jews over all Greek gods, even Lord Alexander Himself) was being referred to by this minority of people in their Majestic Polis as, The Theos, The Kyrios. In English, of course, this would be something like God-And-None-Other, Master-and-Lord.

Today, then, when reading the Greekified versions of Isaiah and of the Psalms, we English readers would do well, I think, to note all that the translator left out, especially the elided Hebrew. Again, the insiders would have known the Hebrew that gets replaced by the Hellenisms. And these insider readers would also have known what the outsider readers realized: that in Egypt the Jewish scriptures signaled a Politic that would resist re-enslavement or any sort of domination of the Jews there by the Greeks. If anyOne is to be dominant, according to the Greeked Jewish Bible, it would be The Mono Theos, The Mono Kyrios. All the Goyim, all the Ethnē, would do well to understand.

To help us get a sense of what it might have been like to read the Hebraic-Hellene Bible so bi-focally, I like to try to bring across in English both (1) the elided Hebrew and (2) the resistant Greek, or (2a) the Hebraisms-through-the-Hellene and also (2b) the politics-through-the-Greek-tongue. My English, then, is Greeky, or Greekish [with the Hebrew erasures shown as winks and sounded as whispers]. (If I had more time, I would go on and on talking about the Greekishness being not the Pure UnAmbiguous Greek that Aristotle taught his students including Alexander the Great. If we had more time, I would say much much more about how the Greek of the Jews in Alexandria around 250 BCE sounds much more Homeric, much more Sophistic, much more Sapphic and poetic than the dialectic of Plato’s Socrates and than the syllogistic logic and prosaic reasoned rhetoric of the Aristotle who followed Plato.)

For now, below, please just find my attempt to English the Greeked Hebrew of what we refer to as Tehillim 117 (or in the Septuagint, Psalm 116). Below that, please find Paul’s slightly twisted, paraphrase as excerpted for his Jewish and Greekish and Barbarianish readers in the Polis of the Empire called Rome. (If you’d like to peek at the originals, they are here with some additional commentary.)

A translator’s LXX version —

HALLELOY-YAH
Hail to The Kyrios [YaHWeH]
Oh Pan-Ethnics

Epic Hails to Him
Oh Pan-Laity

For Extra-Kratic have been
The Elisions, His own, Effects on us,
And the Hailing AletheiA,
Of The Kyrios [YaHWeH],
Remains for-Ever Hailing
[HallELouYAH]

Paul’s slight NT re-vision —

Hail, Oh Pan-Ethnics, to The Kyrios
And
Epic Hails to Him Oh Pan-Laity

How (non-) Jewish the Ψαλμοὶ?

April 15, 2015

First of all, this must be noted:

  1. The very shortest of all the Hebrew Tehillim is the one that seems to include all peoples, Jewish and not.

And then let’s note three other things:

  1. The Hebraic Hellene of the Septuagint version called the Psalmoi includes what Albert Pietersma might see as “literary sparks” and “interpretive spins.”
  2. Paul writing an Epistle — to fellow Jews first and then to Greeks (if also to Roman Barbarians) in Rome — quotes the 2 and 1/2 century old Septuagint version of this very short Ψαλμος, and he quotes it with a bit of a syntactic twist.
  3. Finally, English language translators are consistently inconsistent in translating the Hebraic phrase we might transliterate as Goyim (and its Hebraic Hellene counterpart transliterated Ethnē).

1. Now, more on that first point.

Robert Alter very succinctly brings into English this 117th “Psalm.” As he translates, he often refers to the Greek rendering called the Septuagint to correct and/or to clarify the ostensible original Hebrew from the so called Masoretic Text. And as he translates, he avoids what he notes to be “the heresy of explanation,” or “the use of translation as a vehicle for explaining the Bible instead of representing it in another language, and in the most egregious instances… explaining away the Bible.” Alter refuses to join most other “translators in their zeal to uncover the meanings of the biblical text for the instruction of a modern readership”; thus, he does not (as they tend to do) “lose sight of how the text imitates its meanings — the distinctive, artfully deployed features of ancient Hebrew prose and poetry that are instruments for the articulation of all meaning, message, insight, and vision.” That said, he does provide helpful, explanatory footnotes. The following, for example, is both a distinctive, artful deployment of Hebraic features of “meaning, message, insight, and vision” in English and also a clear set of notes on the initial clause and the final phrase of the first line:

Robert.Alter.Psalm.117

 

I’d like us to focus initially on “all nations.” In his footnote, Alter explains that the reference is to “not Israel but all nations.” He does not say whether “nations” is his English rendering of the Hebrew Goyim or of the Hebraic Hellene concordant phrase of the Septuagint Ethnē. Alter does not need to say. Both the Hebrew and its Jewish-Greek translation say the same thing: “nations.” That brings us to the Jewish-Greek, or what I’ve been calling the Hebraic Hellene.

2. Let’s look at the original text and its original translation:

Tehillim.117

Pardon my formatting (above). I’m trying to illustrate some of the changes made (below).

Psalmoi.117

 

One of the changes, most obvious, is in the syntax. I’m using this word syntax loosely or broadly and liberally to suggest that the translator(s) in Alexandria, Egypt decided to start this Psalm with a Greek-alphabetic transliteration of the final Hebrew phrase. In other words, the הַלְלוּ-יָהּ that ends the original is the αλληλουια that begins the translation.

This Hebraic Greek allows the readers to sing the Hebrew. And those Hebrew sounds resonate, then, alliteratively and meaningfully through the short Hellene Psalm.

αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε αὐτόν αὐτοῦ λήθεια αἰῶνα

The opening Alpha (α) matches the opening (ה) of the Hebrew and vocalizes that opening with the most open of all human vowel sounds. It’s the sound that we all make as babies when first calling for our Mama. It’s the sound of a baby nursing. It’s the sound physicians and medical practitioners around the globe ask patients to make when trying to get the tongue out of the way to look down the throat. It’s the sound symbolized by the International Phonetic Alphabet’s /a/.

And the very next Hebraic phrase is the Hellenic command that is also as vocalic: αἰνεῖτε. This second word, in the Greek, is the translation of that first phrase, in the Hebrew. It means “Praise” or “Speak openly and aloud.” The shape of the mouth in speaking the word is the meaning of that word. /aineite/.

The next Hebraic alpha word, repeated, is the pronoun for Him: αὐτόν αὐτοῦ. Again the mouth is open initially, open in reference to the one spoken aloud about and given open praise to.

The final Hebraic alpha-Hellene phrases both begin and end as does the Hebrew Hellene, αλληλουιαThe phrase λήθεια is a word for truth, for an un-covering or a dis-closing or an un-veiling; it is a phrase that both starts and stops with the speaker’s mouth open:  /a-lethei-a/.

And the final word is for forever, the endless age, the eon that goes on and on and on and does not stop; it also leaves the singers of the Psalm with their opened mouths open: αἰῶνα. /a-ion-a/.

So the first and the last thing to notice is that the Hebraic Hellene translator(s) punctuates the beginning of the Psalm and its end with spoken Hebrew (or is it Hellene?) praise.

A second thing to see is how two other Greek letters, one consonant and another vowel, run through the Psalm. The consonant is π (Pi) as in πάντα and παινέσατε and πάντες. The sound is the one we English speakers use to say “purple” and “pappa.” Our lips purse and pucker together to form this sound: /p/. The repeated Hellene word roughly means The Complete, Comprehensive Plurality. Translators usually use “all.” Pan-Hellenic stands for all that is Greek, for example. The other word with this sound is a repetition and prepositioned paraphrase of the translated word for Praise: αἰνεῖτε = π-αινέσατε. The other vowel sound that runs through this Hellenic/Hebraic Psalm is ε (Eta). I’m not going to say as much about it. Please only just see how it starts the critical, inclusive word in question: (“Ethnē”θνη

And that brings us to how Paul writes the Psalm in what we call Romans 15:11.

3. Paul is a Roman, by citizenship. He is literate and proficient in both written and rhetorical Greek. He is an expert in the Bible, a Hebrew of Hebrews by his own actions, his body, his confession. He does not write in the official language of the Empire, not in Latin. He writes to fellow Jews first and then to Greeks – Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι – He is in debt, he writes as a Jew first, both to the Greeks and also to the Romans (quite transliterally “to the Hellenes and to the Barbarians”) – Ἕλλησίν τε καὶ Βαρβάροις. His audience is rather universal. His distinctions, his classes of humans, are these three national or ethnic or religiously and linguistically distinctive groups. His own Greek language, or Hellene writing, is decidedly a nod to all three sets of peoples. It alphabetizes Latin names, proper nouns like Romae, Iuniam, Iuliam, Gaius, and Quartus, transliterating them (perhaps as Greek loans) with Hellene letters. Likewise, it makes Hebrew names written in the Greek alphabet and generally follows the Greek language of the Hebraic Hellene translation (i.e., lexicon, syntax, referents, meanings) when it comes to the Christo-Judaism propagated by Paul.

When he excerpts Psalm 117:1, here is how the Jewish Paul does it for his Hellene readers in Romae:

αἰνεῖτε – πάντα τὰ ἔθνη – τὸν κύριον

καὶ

ἐπαινεσάτωσαν – αὐτὸν – πάντες οἱ λαοί

His syntax, his ordering of the phrases, places those who are addressed by the Psalm – πάντα τὰ ἔθνη – before the Person to be worshiped – τὸν κύριον. This is not the rendered Hellene reading out of Alexandria, Egypt by a Jewish translator of the Hebrew Tehillim some centuries earlier. Rather, it is saying that “all nations” or “all ethnicked groups” or “all goyim” or “all gentiles” or “all non-Jews” are the ones commanded here to speak open praises to Kyrios, The Master, The Lord (aka YHWH or HaShem or Adonai or G-d), and by all means not to Lord Caesar. The emphasis, made by the syntax fronting this phrase, is clear. What is not as clear is which of these meanings does Paul intend his readers to mean?

And that brings us to our final observation of how English translators interpret, and whether or not they commit any heresy of explanation in their interpretative English translations of both the Hebraic (Hellene) Psalm and the Hebraic Hellene Epistle.

4. Most Bible translation teams have “nations” for Goyim (and/or for Ethnē) in the Psalm. Some, like the Holman Christian Standard Bible translator(s) even tip the reader off with a heading to signal that this particular Psalm – presumably because of the Hebrew (or Hebraic Hellene) phrase – is a clear “Universal Call to Praise.”

Inconsistently, the same Bibles will then have “Gentiles” for what Paul writes in the 15th chapter of Romans. Click here to start comparing some of these. Even those that have “nations” for what Paul quotes of the Hebraic Hellene Psalm will resort to “Gentiles” or to “non-Jews” or “non-Jewish people” later in the chapter. It’s as if Paul is more discriminating of classes of ethnicity and of religion and so forth. Is that really his emphasis in the text?

Some of my favorite, and individual, translators will do what The Names of God Bible editors do with, say the GOD’S WORD® Translation. For the Psalm, they write the unspeakable Hebrew name transliterating with their English letters Yahweh or YHWH or Jehovah as the Person to be praised by the “nations.” For the Greek Epistle quoting or directly paraphrasing the Psalm in Greek, they use “the Lord” or “God.” I’m thinking of Ann Nyland, who’s translated both the Psalms [from both the Hebrew and the Greek versions] and the New Testament; and of Craig R. Smith, who’s translated the Inclusive Bible; and of Julia E. Smith, who’s translated the complete Christian Bible.

Smith and Smith both use “nations” for the Goyim in Psalm 117:1 and for Ethnē in Romans 15:11. Nyland does what most translation teams have done with this, inconsistently translating the former phrase as “nations” and the latter as quoted by Paul as “non-Jews.” And even Craig Smith has the “Gentiles” for Paul’s Greek word in Romans 15:16 (whereas Julia Smith retains “nations”).

The question is whether Paul’s writing changes the Septuagint translating sufficiently.

And Just How (non-) Jewish are the Ψαλμοὶ in this instance?

4 winners for the 2014 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize

April 10, 2015

For the 13th annual Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, there are four winners. Congratulations go to Roger Sedarat, Alfred Nicol, A. M. Juster, and Michele Herman.

If you entered the contest, as I did, then you received the following notice:

Willis.Barnstone.Translation.Prize.2014.winners

If anybody might be interested, here is the entry I submitted (with a Translator’s Note at the end):

Helen of Troy. A Poem translated by J. K. Gayle

 

oh, the humanity in the Hebraic Hellene to the Korinthians (I Cor. 15:20-22)

April 5, 2015

Anthropos definitely means “human” and not “divine.” The problem with the word “person” is that we can say God is a “person” but God is definitely not “anthropos,” that is “human.” The “man” thing is just a product of translation into English.
Suzanne McCarthy

The product of translation into English often misdirects us readers. And the best Greek readers miss critical emphases. For example, for what we’ve all come to know as I Corinithians 15, the claims that human beings die and then are resurrected because a certain particular mortal human being was resurrected after death get overlooked. The very common translations by most New Testament translation teams, nonetheless, have this:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

This is the “English Standard” Version (aka the ESV). Teams for other versions have, likewise, tended to view the Greek phrase ἄνθρωπος /anthropos/ as referring merely, only, simply unambiguously to the male persons named Adam and Jesus respectively:  Adam, “a man”; Jesus, “a man.” Both men, of course, are not women, not female persons. This “English Standard” tells us so. Amen and Amen.

Individual translators, especially those who look at the more ancient Greek and also at the Hebraic Hellene of the Septuagint, sometimes show us more. Here, for example, are three of my favorite translations by three of the best Greek readers I know. The first is Willis Barnstone, restoring the Hebraic nature of the New Testament. The second is Ann Nyland, looking at “source” and at how other translators tend to work against excluded human beings. The third is Richmond Lattimore, who first translated with acclaim many of the most ancient Greek texts before turning to the challenge of the Christian scriptures. Notice how the three differently emphasize various aspects of Saint Paul, the Jew, writing to Greek readers in Korinth:

Hebraic.Hellene.to.Korinthian.readers

Now, see how Craig R. Smith, showing the inclusive nature of the Bible, reads anthropos. It’s not “a man” as if the important thing were that Adam and Jesus were “not women.” It’s not “a person” as if Adam and Jesus were like any other being, mortal and immortal, of the human race and of the divinities. Rather, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation correctly and accurately, like no other translation yet, has this:

Smith.resurrection

The emphasis in the Greek and now in the English is on the non-gods, the humans, dying first and then all coming to life again. Adam is the first human, of course. Christ is the firstfruits of those humans in the resurrection of the dead.

(For more on how the Greek reads, please see the comments in conversation following this post. For how the Greek of the epistle to Korinthians really is Hebraic Hellene, just compare the first-century original language with some of the individual translations by Barnstone, Lattimore, Nyland, and Smith.)

—–

Post Update: I just realized that N. T. Wright, like Craig R. Smith, uses “a human” (not the gender-limited “a man” or the overly-general gods-and-humans “a person”) for the Ancient Greek Ἄνθρωπος (Ánthrōpos). Here’s that in the bit of context:

Wright.resurrection

The Rudest Translation (of Jesus, on Good Friday)

April 3, 2015

Here is the rudest translation (of Jesus, on Good Friday):

33
“We are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Human Being will be betrayed to the chief priests and Bible scholars.
They will condemn him to death,
and they will hand him over to the non-Jews.
34 The non-Jews will make fun of him and spit on him,
violently beat him with a Roman whip of leather straps embedded with metal designed to rip off the flesh,
and kill him.
Three days later he will rise.”

So let me explain. It’s Ann Nyland’s English translation of the Hebraic Hellene quotation of Jesus predicting “Good Friday” events and beyond. We call that Mark 10:33-34, and it looks like this originally, more or less:

33 ὅτι
Ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα
καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθήσεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν,
καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ
καὶ παραδώσουσιν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν
34 καὶ ἐμπαίξουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐμπτύσουσιν αὐτῷ
καὶ μαστιγώσουσιν αὐτὸν
καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν
καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται.

So let me explain a bit more. Why “rude”?

Let me focus on Nyland first, and then on Jesus and Mark second.

I’m taking the idea of “rude” from D. A. Carson’s apologetic for Christians being rude (in his book The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism in which he himself seems to gag on, and has the God of Christianity gagging on, a plurality of marked perspectives such as feminist theology, open theology, progressive theology, green theology, liberation theology, black theology, and, of course, postmodern theologies). He discusses what it means for Christians (with pure, un-marked theologies) to be rude (in his book chapter 8, “On Drawing Lines, When Drawing Lines is Rude”). For example, he writes acknowledging how “extremist Muslims” sometimes feel they have to draw lines, and then he draws a line between Islam and Christianity:

carson.gagging

Clearly, Carson believes drawing lines is not only reasonable but also “utterly critical” for Christians who are pure, evangelical. He presumes that lines must be drawn not only between Christianity and Islam but also between Christians and feminists, Christians and open theologians, Christians and liberation theologian, Christians and black theologians, and Christians and postmodernists. This is “rude,” this line drawing, he says. So be it, he says.

And so, what’s so “rude” about Dr. Ann Nyland’s translation of the gospel of Mark here? The phrase, “the Human Being,” does not draw lines. It is inclusive. It is more inclusive, in fact, than “the Promised One,” which is the English language translation of the Greek “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου” here in Mark, by The Inclusive Bible, an important translation by Craig R. Smith, my BLT co-blogger. Other fairly inclusive English translations are: “the earthly sonby Willis Barnstone, and “the son of Adamby Robert Funk, whose “Jesus” seminar colleagues vote these words in Mark to be words Jesus really uttered in fact for the most part. Most translations, like the one D. A. Carson himself favors for Christianity — the ESV — have non-inclusive language: “the Son of Man.” (By the way, Carson has written a book on “the inclusive language debate,” and he is the most recent “Logos March Madness champion!” for what that’s worth). “The son of man” is not inclusive English, obviously. And Carson would see that as Christian, as less pluralistic and as more purely evangelical. And he would say it draws lines (i.e., Jesus is a son, NOT A DAUGHTER. Jesus’s father is a man, NOT A WOMAN. And the Greek says so. And so does the ESV). And that, Carson would say, is necessarily “rude.”

But I want to suggest that Nyland’s translation, even “the Human Being,” is the rudest. She lets Mark, the gospel writer, let Jesus, this Human Being, self-referentially be NOT A GOD!

And then it gets worse, the line drawing, the rudeness:

Nyland has Jesus saying and Mark writing of “the chief priests and Bible scholars.” A chief priest is NOT AN UNDERLING and a Bible scholar is NOT A BIBLICAL ILLITERATE.

Then she has Jesus uttering and Mark enscribing, drawing lines, being rude, to mark “the non-Jews.” Barnstone uses this phrase in a footnote, where he also explains that “τοῖς ἔθνεσιν” here in the Hebraic Hellene also refers generically to “foreigners.” Other translators use “Gentiles” and more particularly “the Romans.” But “the non-Jews”?! A “non-Jew” clearly is NOT A JEW. The hyphenated phrase marks this very very clearly. The lines are drawn. Lest we English readers miss it, Nyland draws on this very phrase twice. It helps to end the one verse. It sharply starts the next.

and they will hand him over to the non-Jews.
34 The non-Jews will make fun of him and spit on him,

This rudest of translations punctuates the historical facts that there were no Christians, not even evangelical ones, as Jesus says this in his Hebraic tongue and then as Mark writes it on his Jewish Greek parchment. The lines are drawn. Non-Jews are τοῖς ἔθνεσιν of Good Friday.

Finally, Nyland carefully looking at the Hellene choices of Mark notices how he selects this phrase:

καὶ μαστιγώσουσιν αὐτὸν

She knows the graphic classical literary Greek contexts in which this refers to bloody whippings and brutal public beatings. The context of the non-Jews in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus gets the English translator drawing lines, in the rudest of ways, around the more-than-rude ways of the non-Jewish Romans:

violently beat him with a Roman whip of leather straps embedded with metal designed to rip off the flesh,

The relief of this text is this: “and kill him” or “καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν.” Death by killing, after non-Jew spit is in the face and after Roman-whipped flesh is ripped off the body, is relief.

In this rude context, comes a later conclusion, another episode to the brief Jewish-prophetic story: καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται. or “Three days later he will rise.”

Again, the lines are drawn. The antistrophe, the turn about in the prediction, is a resistance against τοῖς ἔθνεσιν of Good Friday. And no other English translation of this saying of Jesus and this quotation by Mark (also quoting the Jewish prophets and also quoting the Hebraic Hellene of the Septuagint translation of these Jewish prophets) is as rude as Nyland’s.

What Are Slave Owners (who are female) Called?

March 31, 2015

Marg Mowczko has a very worthwhile and interesting post up today at her blog New Life: “The Household Codes and Male Slaves with Female Masters.” One reader notes how odd (how marked) “Female Masters” and “Women Masters” is.

In her reply, Marg remarks:

It’s a real problem. When we say “lady” we usually don’t think it’s the feminine of “lord”, and when we say “mistress” we don’t usually think it’s the feminine of “master”.

“Lady” and “mistress” often don’t convey the literal meaning anymore.

English may have evolved since slave times. I would be interested in learning about other languages whether they encode femininity differently than English does for terms of Lords and Masters of human slaves when the owners of people are female or women.

And how about ancient Greek, used for systems of slavery prescribed by the likes of Plato and Aristotle? I’m looking now at how playwright Euripides has this line: κυρία γάρ ἐστι νῦν. Was this standard at any time?

Whose Ἀντι Γονικη? Mine, Yours, Theirs?

March 30, 2015

Where we tend to go wrong is in assuming that if there is to be a correspondence between two systems it must be a one for one correspondence–that A in the one system must be represented by a in the other, and so on. But the correspondence between emotion and sensation turns out not to be of that sort. And there never could be correspondence of that sort where the one system was really richer than the other. If the richer system is to be represented in the poorer at all, this can only be by giving each element in the poorer system more than one meaning. The transposition of the richer into the poorer must, so to speak, be algebraical, not arithmetical. If you are to translate from a language which has a large vocabulary into a language that has a small vocabulary, then you must be allowed to use several words in more than one sense. If you are to write a language with twenty-two vowel sounds in an alphabet with only five vowel characters then you must be allowed to give each of those five characters more than one value. If you are making a piano version of a piece originally scored for an orchestra, then the same piano notes which represent flutes in one passage must also represent violins in another.
– C.S. Lewis, “Transposition

What do you hear when you hear somebody say Ἀντι Γονικη? You’re not exactly likely to hear Ἀντιγόονη. And it probably doesn’t even sound like “Antigone.” You might think more of the scientist Aristotle hearing something like that, or like this: ANTIGO  NICK. And you might even think less of the playwright Sophocles if you didn’t know better.

Our first questions are these. Are these titles the same? Are they all plays? Ἀντι Γονικη = ANTIGO  NICK = Ἀντιγόνη = “Antigone”?

If these all were written as titles, as plays, then which would not be a version for the stage? Theophrastus, my BLT co-blogger, has confirmed his conclusion after both reading and seeing, recently, one of these versions. His confirmed conclusion:

this [version called ANTIGO NICK] can only exist as a book — this work cannot be properly performed.

I do look forward to seeing the work that Theophrastus alludes to as a stage play improperly (and impossibly) performed. He and I both have read it as a book. And my own humble assessment is this:

this very book is a rather like a performance (if a not so proper one).

When I wrote a review of this book on a tiny iPhone screen in the space of 10 minutes or so, here’s some of what I remember thinking. I recall typing with both thumbs:

Once upon a time, Greek men used the little suffix “-ike” or “-ic” to make very technic-al all the things they didn’t understand. Hence from logos came log-ic, from oikos and nomos came econom-ics, from the muse came mus-ic, and this allowed men disparaging others to render the other mute. You can find Carson talking in an interview online about this work, but she will never give all of that away. How could she? You must read this book to hear it.

And this morning, I re-read and re-heard the book, a proper anti-performance perhaps. Here’s what I thought again and a bit of how I hear it–>

Anne Carson, the translator, is playing with Greek sounds and Greek meanings and Greek words. ANTIGO NICK is how we “see” the word(s) in English on the page. There’s a plurality, a division of white space in this title. NICK looks, and sounds, a little like ΝΕΙΚΕΣ, as in Πολυ-Νείκης. And yet ANTI-GONICK looks, and sounds, a little like ἈΝΤΙ ΓΟΝΙΚΕ.

If you hear the person saying  Ἀντι Γονικη in Modern Greek and ask her to explain its meaning in English, then she might rather accurately reply to you,

Anti Gonike? Well, it seems a little strange to say, perhaps, but it sort of indicates ‘To stand in for the parents’. Maybe the way a foreigner would say ‘Adoptive parent’?

That’s modern Greek, on the one hand.

On the other hand, Ἀντιγόνη, is inventive, ancient Greek. But we don’t have to think about the playful name much these days, not in English anyway.

Antigone is today what we using English have come to learn as both the name of the protagonist, Antigone, in one of the plays written by Sophocles and also the title of that play of his. It’s been translated many, many times, and the English-writing wikipediaists have made for us a good list here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigone_(Sophocles)#Translations_and_adaptations

The additional facts are these. The playwright likely has this titular character, this prot-agonist of his so named, to mean something like “Instead of her Mother.” It’s hard to be sure of his intention, exactly, since the letters of the Greek alphabet so strung together are somewhat ambiguous. They also seem to suggest an Agony, a struggle or a contest. Who we know as Polynices is the dead brother of Antigone, whom she strives to bury despite the order of the King, which would be against her and anti this dead body of this dead brother. As we all know by now, Poly Nices, means something like Many Strivings, the root of the phrase meaning strivings, Νείκης. Was this intentional by the playwright Sophocles?

About all we can be sure of on this side of the translations into English is that this play has a main living character whose name is the title; and the titular phrase itself is a play, a theater of letters, a play on words, if you will.

And so comes Anne Carson translating Sophocles’s Ἀντιγόνη, published in 2013. She enlists Bianca Stone. And she changes what Sophocles intended, or at least she changes his particular play on words, his theatre of the alphabet, that ancient inventive ambiguity of his; and she calls it ANTIGO NICK.

Those who judge the resulting book of hers see its cover. An art panel (by Stone) divides the title in parts: Antigo Nick (and the playwright’s own right to be named as the very original author is relegated to parentheses).

There is the hint that the English translation is playing with ancient Greek forms. The alphabetic letters are written by hand.

and they are ALL UPPERCASE / SOME BLACK OTHERS RED.

Why the transposition? Is this real translation? Is this really a play?

The play on letters is more severe than that, some of us readers think. We listen and see:

We see poetry. We see word play. We see a performance of letters and sights and sounds. Probably they are not proper. How can actors bound to a strict interpretative script play with these?

Since I’m writing yet another full post here (thankfully taking a bit more time after a second read and typing with fingers also and not just on an iphone), let me repeat a bit said earlier in the initial review:

Carson knows ancient Greek better than any classicist or rhetorician or New Testament or Septuagint scholar that I know of. She plays on the English word, “nick.” Antigone, of course, is the titular protagonist of the play. And Nick, she notes in her list of the cast, is “a mute part [always onstage, he measures things]” (her brackets). I mention this detail, as if it’s not obvious to all readers, simply because when you understand the play as a commentary on the lack of agency of females when it comes to the law and to rhetoric, then you get a hint of what Carson the translator means by her title for the work.

Nick, I suggest here, is agony and striving, if everpresent and mute. Nick, in English, has its own connotations quite apart from this Greek play (and play on words). It can’t always be good, and Carson suggests this in her own original works such as in “On Sunday Dinner with Father,” (a poem), in which she has (her) father asking things like,

Are you going to put that chair back where it belongs or just leave it there looking like a uterus?

And

Are you going to nick your throat open on those woodpecker scalps as you do every Sunday night or just sit quietly while Laetitia plays her clarinet for us?

Nick seems pretty personal to Carson, the translator, the poet, the one who performs with words and plays. Nick is “a mute part [always onstage, he measures things]” (her brackets). Nick, like the dead Πολυ-Νείκης, can neither perform (though always on stage, he measures things) nor “be properly performed.”

(And Ἀντι Γονικη, which is what I hear every time I read ANTIGO NICK, makes me think not of Sophocles but of Aristotle. Like his teacher Plato, Aristotle used the suffix -ικη with regularity to coin new words, neologist-ic stuff. Language scientist and rhetorician and historian Edward Schiappa noted this:

Plato’s creative use of language is well established, as is his need to invent a proper philosophical vocabulary. In particular, it is significant that Plato was a prolific coiner of words ending with -ική denoting ‘art of.’

Now that sounds proper indeed when, for Plato philosophical vocabulary and then for Aristotle tech-nic-al terms of log-ic and such. This may be one of Carsons’ plays against Greek sounds by such men. It just may not have played properly as a stage version. And it makes me ask, Whose Ἀντιγόνη? Mine, Yours, Theirs?)

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: One — Jesus is Condemned, by Henri Nouwen

March 16, 2015

J. K. Gayle:

Henri Nouwen was a man not only of words but also of action. Here is he marching in Selma:

http://www.henrinouwen.org/Resources/Articles/Editorials/We_Shall_Overcome.aspx

Originally posted on The Value of Sparrows:

From Walk With Jesus

A man behind bars. He is condemned to death. He is put in the category of the “damned.” He is no longer considered worthy to live. He has become the enemy, the rebel, the outsider, a danger to society. He has to be put away, cut out of the communal life.

Why?  Because he is different.  He is black, and blacks are dangerous.  He is gay, and gays are perverts.  He is a Jew, and Jews cannot be trusted.  He is a refugee, and refugees are threats to our economy.  He is an outsider, saying what we do not want to hear, and reminding us of what we would rather forget.  He upsets our well-ordered lives.  He tears aside the veil that covers our impurities and breaks down the walls that keep us safely separated.  He says, “We belong to the same humanity, we are all…

View original 664 more words

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem

March 12, 2015

Just received this in an email and thought I should pass on this thoughtful and positive reflection on how to respond to anti-semiticism.

FROM ARENDT, ABOUT DENMARK: “The story of the Danish Jews is sui generis, and the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe—whether occupied, or a partner of the Axis, or neutral and truly independent. One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence. … of the three [countries] that were in the German sphere of influence [and that were opposed to the “final solution”] … only the Danes dared speak out on the subject to their German masters. …

When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation. It was decisive in this whole matter that the Germans did not even succeed in introducing the vitally important distinction between native Danes of Jewish origin … and the fourteen hundred German Jewish refugees who had found asylum in the country prior to the war. …

What happened then was truly amazing; compared with what took place in other European countries, everything went topsy-turvy. … riots broke out in Danish shipyards, where the dock workers refused to repair German ships and then went on strike. The German military commander proclaimed a state of emergency and imposed martial law, and Himmler thought this was the right moment to tackle the Jewish question …

What he did not reckon with was that—quite apart from Danish resistance—the German officials who had been living in the country for years were no longer the same. Not only did General von Hannecken, the military commander, refuse to put troops at the disposal of the Reich plenipotentiary …; the special S.S. units … employed in Denmark very frequently objected to “the measures they were ordered to carry out … [Despite Eichmann sending a ruthless enforcer to Denmark] von Hannecken refused even to issue a decree requiring all Jews to report for work. …[Later, when police sent from Germany came to take Jews to Theresienstadt concentration camp, the Reich plenipotentiary] told them they were not permitted to break into apartments, because the Danish police might then interfere, and they were not supposed to fight it out with the Danes.

Hence they could seize only those Jews who voluntarily opened their doors … [when the Jews were scheduled to be taken to the camp] a German shipping agent … having probably been tipped off by [the plenipotentiary] himself, had revealed the whole plan to the Danish government officials, who, in turn, had hurriedly informed the heads of the Jewish community. They, in marked contrast to Jewish leaders in other countries, had then communicated the news openly in the synagogues on the occasion of the New Year services. The Jews had just time enough to leave their apartments and go into hiding, which was very easy in Denmark, because … ‘all sections of the Danish people, from the King down to simple citizens,’ stood ready to receive them.”

The Danish fishing fleet then helped evacuate Danish Jews to Sweden, the poor Jews having their passage paid by wealthy Danish citizens. “It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. … they had met resistance based on principle, and their ‘toughness’ had melted like butter in the sun. … That the ideal of ‘toughness,’ except, perhaps, for a few half-demented brutes, was nothing but a myth of self-deception, concealing a ruthless desire for conformity at any price, was clearly revealed at the Nuremberg trials, where the defendants accused and betrayed each other and assured the world that they ‘had always been against it’”.

Sexualized Racism: Hebrews 6:6 and SAE at OU

March 12, 2015

Earlier in the year, I posted “Sexualized Racism: Crucifying Jews and Lynching Blacks.”

Today, this post examines Hebrews 6:4-6 as a backdrop to discuss the anti-black racism of white student members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Yesterday, Jacob Cerone referred to “these verses” as “some of the most debated passages within the New Testament” in a post he entitled “Public Shaming of Christ.” He did not in that post discuss the anti-Semitic racism of the Roman fraternity of Pontius Pilate’s imperial military force at The Praetorium in Jerusalem.

Cerone did not show this image:

But without commenting on it at all he did show this image, a bit of graffiti found in the Roman city of Pompeii:

And Cerone did see “the word παραδειγματίζω” (the final Greek phrase of Hebrews 6:6) as meaning to “‘hold up to contempt’ or ‘disgrace publicly'”;

and he did “look through the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament” to “find it [i.e., that Greek phrase of Hebrews 6:6] used in a number of places,” particularly Num. 25:4 and Esth[er] [4]:11 and Dan. 2:5 in order to state, among other things more central to his point, that “crucifixion isn’t in view in these instances.”

BACKDROP OF HEBREWS 6 (TO DISCUSS THE RACIST DEEDS OF SAE AT OU)

Now, I want to suggest quite pointedly and centrally that crucifixion actually is in view in the Hebraic Hellene version of Esther.

Let me first say (again) that scholars such as Adele Berlin say things like this about Ἐσθὴρ (that is, about “Esther” in Greek and how it gives Jewish views on the Hebrew Bible):

The Septuagint is a window onto how Greek-speaking Jews of the early pre-Christian centuries read and understood the story of Esther.

Then allow me to conjecture (again) that the book of Hebrews, where Cerone examined the Greek in comparison to Esther, may be a Greek-speaking, early Jewish-Christian statement of violence.

Given all this language of herem here, we might read Hebrews 4 as rather devoted and dedicated and destructive language.

Now let’s look at the Hebraic Hellene called Hebrews 6:6 –

καὶ παραπεσόντας, πάλιν
ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν,
ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς // τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ
καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.

Without yet viewing the meanings, please hear the alliterations and the rhymes. Or at least look at the bolded font above to see the parallels in sounds represented by the Greek alphabetic prefixes and suffixes. The last phrase, παραδειγματίζοντας, both starts and ends with the same sounds as the first phrase, παραπεσόντας. And there are two phrases in the middle that have the same start:  ἀνακαινίζειν and ἀνασταυροῦντας.

Now let’s look at Willis Barnstone’s English translation of this bit of Greek-language Hebrews, which he entitles “Yehudim or Jews” –

But have collapsed [παραπεσόντας], it is impossible
For them to come into a new [ἀνακαινίζειν] repentance
Since they are crucifying [ἀνασταυροῦντας] the son of God
And making him a public spectacle [παραδειγματίζοντας].

Note how Barnstone, who is a Jew restoring the Jewishness to the New Testament and who not a Christian, has the English phrase “have collapsed” for the Hellene παραπεσόντας. Christian translators of the New Testament, in contrast, have for this Greek phrase English phrases such as “have fallen away,” “turn away from,” “have committed apostasy,” “would sin again,” and “have deserted [Christ].” (This may be in part how Cerone has been able to note, “Now, these verses are among some of the most debated passages within the New Testament.” Christians do not want to lose their salvation in Christ, and they argue over who is apostate and how one becomes apostate and whether one can become apostate since, for some, “once saved always saved.”) I’d like us to see how this Hebraic Hellene phrase παραπεσόντας is used in the Septuagint, in Esther.

In Esther 6, the Old Greek addition (not in the Alpha addition), here’s the use of that same phrase with my formatting and with my attempt at a Barnstonian English translation:

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῷ Αμαν
Καθὼς ἐλάλησας,
οὕτως ποίησον τῷ Μαρδοχαίῳ
τῷ Ιουδαίῳ τῷ θεραπεύοντι ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ,
καὶ μὴ παραπεσάτω
σου λόγος ὧν ἐλάλησας.

But the king said to Haman,
Well spoken!
Thus do to Mordechai
The Jew serving the court,
And ensure your word so spoken
Will not collapse [παραπεσάτω].

Of course, in the narrative, Haman keeps his word and has to publicly show off the Jew named Mordecai as exemplary of the type of person the king extols publicly. And all of us familiar with the story know what happens to Haman at the end of the very next chapter of Esther. Again, here’s the Old Greek addition (and another Barnstonian English rendering by me):

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ βασιλεύς
Σταυρωθήτω ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ.
καὶ ἐκρεμάσθη Αμαν ἐπὶ τοῦ ξύλου,
ὃ ἡτοίμασεν Μαρδοχαίῳ.
καὶ τότε ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐκόπασεν τοῦ θυμοῦ.

But the king said,
Crucify him on it.
And they hanged Haman from the tree
That he had readied for Mordechai.
And thus the king had no more anger.

So we see that there is, there really is, some view of crucifixion here. Haman hated Jews and the Jewish man named Mordechai, and he was preparing to lynch him, to get public permission to show him worthy of a hanging.

From this point in this text, this crux, this crucial literary point, we might fast forward in time to that other text called Hebrews (or Yehudim or Jews). And there we see crucifixion still in view. Instead of the anti-Semitic racist Haman hanging the Jew named Mordechai, it is the anti-Semitic Roman racists who have hanged a Jew named Yeshua. In Hebrews 4, two different Jews named Yeshua are noted. In Hebrews 6:6, the crucifixion of one of them is mentioned again: “Since they are crucifying [ἀνασταυροῦντας] the son of God.” And here the mention is of those who are lynching, are hanging, are crucifying him all over again. This is certainly not a literal crucifixion of this Jew, but it’s a figural hanging, a literary sort of violent public spectacle lynching meant.

And from our point in the Esther text where the Jew is not lynched but the anti-Semitic racist is, we might back track a bit in the story again. We might return to Esther 4, again to the Old Greek (and we hear a prayer of Mordechai to the Hebrew God who is only here explicit in these Hebraic Hellene additions):

μὴ παραδῷς, κύριε, τὸ σκῆπτρόν σου τοῖς μὴ οὖσιν,
καὶ μὴ καταγελασάτωσαν ἐν τῇ πτώσει ἡμῶν,
ἀλλὰ στρέψον τὴν βουλὴν αὐτῶν ἐπ’ αὐτούς,
τὸν δὲ ἀρξάμενον ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς παραδειγμάτισον.

Do not betray, Oh Lord, your royal scepter to those who do not even exist.
And do not let them laugh at our collapse.
Rather, turn their wishes upon themselves.
But make this arch-ruler against us a public spectacle.

The Hebraic Hellene texts of Esther and of Hebrews both share a view of anti-Semitic racism that involve the public spectacle of lynching, hanging, or crucifixion. In fact, three different moments in the story of the Septuagint text are reflected in the short space of the one little verse in the New Testament. Behind Purim, behind Harem to a degree, is sexualized anti-Hebrew, anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic racism. The public spectacle of naked hangings motivated by hate is alluded to and implied and understood.

A RELATIVELY LONG DISCUSSION OF ANTI-BLACK RACISM

For some time in the States of America, artists and writers have linked the sexualized hangings and lynchings perpetrated by anti-black racists with the crucifixions by anti-Semitic racists. Here are some examples in contexts where Jesus (or the one Yeshua mentioned in Hebrews) is the Christ of Christianity:

In 1916, there was this Political Cartoon – “Christmas in Georgia.” It puts Jesus there with the victim of a lynching.

In 1931, Langston Hughes published the poem “Christ in Alabama.” It makes Jesus black, on the cross.

And then there were these analogies made between the lynchings and the crucifixion (noted in the pages of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey):

pre.James.Cone

Aaron Douglas, Crucifixion, 1927

An Illustration by Charles Cullen. Frontispiece to Countee Cullen’s “The Black Christ and Other Poems,” 1929.

Another Illustration by Charles Cullen. Frontispiece to Countee Cullen’s “The Black Christ and Other Poems,” 1929.

Christ in Alabama, Prentiss Taylor, 1931

Julius Bloch, “The Lynching,” 1933

And all  of this seems to have stirred up Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a way sympathetic not to the white Christians in America but to the black Christians, as his own people in Germany were killing Jews in their attempt to extinguish the entire race. Here’s a bit from Willis Jenkins’s history on Bonhoeffer:

Dietrich

Writers wrote, and painters painted, and theologians theologized as much as they could to try to expose the lynchings as as significant an issue in the States of America as the Holocaust was becoming in Europe.

And at Lincoln University in the States of America, not long afterwards, Albert Einstein had to say this even after the lynchings and the news of them were finally no longer tolerated:

My trip to this institution was in behalf of a worthwhile cause. There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.

Einstein was painting with his words, using “disease” as a metaphor for hatred and utter irresponsibility towards humans on the planet. He also elsewhere, for example, had to write this:

As a citizen of Germany, I saw how excessive nationalism can spread like a disease, bringing tragedy to millions.

And he wrote:

The Germans as an entire people are responsible for these mass murders and must be punished as a people if there is justice in the world and if the consciousness of collective responsibility in the nations is not to perish from the earth entirely. Behind the Nazi party stands the German people, who elected Hitler after he had in his book and in his speeches made his shameful intentions clear beyond the possibility of misunderstanding.

And that brings us to the quicker discussion of the fraternity of white men at the University of Oklahoma this very week, of March, 2015. Their well-rehearsed and profoundly memorized racist chant was this:

There will never be a nigger in SAE. There will never be a nigger in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a nigger in SAE.

If anybody objects to my quoting their use of the n-word (linked from Michael W. Twitty’s blog Afroculinaria), then please also object to my also pasting in the first image above showing a naked Yeshua and two other clearly Jewish men being lynched by anti-Semitic Romans. (It’s from the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney’s blog.)

What I’d like us all to see is that the racism is the white man’s disease, based on separation and on particular separations:

  1. The white brothers in the SAE fraternity chanting on the bus are pledging their separation from the black man.
  2. They pledge to separate the black man from the world of the living by lynching him.
  3. Other white men in Professor Nolan L. Cabrera research confess to separating the racism in their jokes, ostensibly, from real racism.
  4. These also separate themselves physically (when telling their “we’re just joking” jokes) from non-whites.
  5. These also separate themselves from those they claim are overly sensitive to their expressions of racism.

Here’s a figure from Dr. Cabrera’s research showing these separations as rationalizations:

figure1.Cabrera.Research

The figure is from the article, “But We’re Not Laughing: White Male College Students’ Racial Joking and What This Says About ‘Post-Racial’ Discourse.” And Cabrera explains more this week in an interview here with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

TOWARDS CONCLUSIONS

Well, this may be too much in one little post. Racism is too much.

There are interesting parallels in this month of Purim between what happened in the story of the Septuagint Esther and what has happened in the news of the University of Oklahoma. The tree intended as a public spectacle of shame and death for the Jew named Mordechai is where the racist named Haman gets hanged. The joke intended as a private denigrating pledge against men who are African Americans in university in the States of America is a public spectacle of separation from their fraternity and their university for the white men telling it.

There is an interesting parallel between the Hebraic Hellene phrase μετάνοια (which Barnstone translates into restored Jewish English in Hebrews 6:6 as repentance) and the calls for profound re-thinking and paradigm-shifting and re-orientation and re-training and real-educating sounded by a few. For example, Twitty in his blog suggests this:

Make these boys take classes in African American history. Make them work with young Black kids with a Black fraternity. Make them understand that working together we have more to gain than we do constantly figuring out ways to misunderstand each other. Make them go to an HBCU in an academic exchange so they can feel what it’s like to be in the minority for a change. Make them see the world differently, make them care.

And Professor  recommends these things in her instructive blog post here:

  1. how about we cut these boys a little slack?

  2. after 12 years of a steady diet of erasure, dismissal, and hypocrisy when these boys have a full blown cardiac arrest of racism, rather than giving them a defibrillator of God’s grace and challenging them to see the sacred worth of all—we pull the plug and do a dance on their [sexualized racism’s] graves.

  3. Rather than marching and shouting, what if President Boren [of OU] invited the young men on that bus who sang their hateful song to sit and watch the video with the black staff members of the SAE house who fixed their meals and cleaned their rooms? Just played it over and again or even ask them to sing the song live. What if after their live performance President Boren finally allowed Walter, the man who cooked their meals for the last 15 years to ask the young men one simple question: “is this what you really think of me?” See most racists, like homophobes hold to their views in isolation. I believe when those young men came face to face with the people who cared for them and loved them, the full impact of their behavior would then be clear—“How can you profess love for a God you have not seen while hating (hurting) your brother that you see every day?” As the boys and girls who withstood Bull Conner’s hoses will tell you— the human conscious is a most power ally in the battle for social justice. [[And Twitty has already suggested we all get this: http://blacksportsonline.com/home/2015/03/gofundme-started-for-black-sae-house-chef-whos-now-unemployed/]]

  4. do something meta-noia like about this:  They have learned that racism must never be articulated; it must be hidden; it must enacted but never espoused.

There’s indeed an interesting parallel between the sort of sexualized racism that wants to make a shaming public spectacle and the sort of repentance for that racism (with all its dependency on secrecy for and by the racists) that calls for prayer and fasting and real exposure to education that brings persons of difference in contact to confront the hate.

Anne Carson: withness

March 10, 2015

one

com.Anne.Carson

two

pros.Anne.Carson

three

Anne Carson has one book (Glass, Irony, and God) in which she writes poetry on three subjects. She mentions in one of her poems a single Latin prefix and asks with that mention about the sort of meaning it means in English.

Anne Carson has a second book (Economy of the Unlost) in which she writes prosaicly on the poetry of Simonides of Keos with the poetry of Paul Celan. She there mentions on one of her pages a single Greek preposition and asks with that mention about the sort of meaning it means in English.

“Withness” is the concern from the Latin with the Greek. My interest in this is their difference and similarity. I am thinking a lot about Bob MacDonald’s comments after the post I entitled, הוה : three perspectives on the gender(s) of G-d. With gender, and with Hebrew letters, and with God, I wondered about what Anne Carson writes about what Aristotle writes about a certain Greek adjective that he means different things for depending on whether he applies it to women or to men. The mix of the two Anne Carson “withnesses” seems more interesting.

יהוה : three perspectives on the gender(s) of G-d

March 9, 2015

one

NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION

8. The gender of God: Even though, like most people, I do not conceive of a deity who is male or female, there is no way around the fact that the Torah does in fact present God in consistently masculine terms. Even the name of God is masculine. (The feminine would be THWH.) I have therefore conveyed the masculine Hebrew conception in the translation as well. My point is that in each case I am translating an original work that someone else wrote, and I do not seek to impose my theological conceptions on that person’s work, nor do I want to hide that person’s views by means of a translator’s power.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, (2012-09-18). Commentary on the Torah (Kindle Locations 37324-37328). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. (ht EricW via fb)

two

Yet… Judaism long ago acknowledged the validity of [the] feminine dimension of the Deity. The two names of God differ grammatically with regard to sexual connotation…

The Tetragrammaton (YHVH)…is…feminine;

it refers to God as if “He” were in fact “She.” Yet, as we have frequently noted, the Lord is also called ELoHiYM. That name ends with…masculine plural…. If human beings are created in God’s image, and the single most important thing we know about God is that He is One – why did God create two kinds of people, male and female, after His likeness? …God chose to create two different kinds of people on this earth, not in spite of the fact that He is One, but precisely because God in the deepest sense of the word is really two. Of course we do not suggest any kind of dualism implying separate identities. Rather, as the very names of God imply, there are two distinct aspects to the Deity. God is both masculine and feminine. This gender difference is not one of physical attributes but one of emotion and typology.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, (September 1992) Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed page 273. (qtd on wikipedia)

three

Eve = Ava = Havah

Y H V H

is

Yah & HaVaH

The Tetragrammaton is YHVH.  It is a four-lettered name translated as Yahweh or Jehovah.  Well Eve is right there.  She’s the HVH havah part. So the Yah-Havah –YHVH — is yet another plural god-name containing masculine and feminine deities.  We have a compound deity, God-and-Goddess for Elohim and for Yahweh, the most popular names for God in the Bible.  Used thousands of times.  In Samaria, what is now Tel Aviv and parts of modern Israel, the two names of the Tetragrammaton, both feminine and masculine were intertwined in Samaritan phylacteries –  the prayer ribbons Hebrews wrap around their forearms and put on their foreheads in little boxes.

This YHVH combination of four letters reminds me of the male female chromosome thing.  Males are XY and females are XX.  So you combine an XY with an XX and you get XYXX.  The result is a Y and the other three letters where the Y happens to be the lone masculine element while the other three letters are feminine.  Just like Yah and Havah.

Bishop Katia Romanoff (n.d.) God Has a Wife! Unveiling Goddess in Judeo-Christianity, Islam and around the world (Slide 93)

אשר : Μακάριοι : Blesseds

March 8, 2015

This morning, I’ve translated “the beatitudes” in the Hebraic Hellene gospel of Matthew into English.

Yesterday, and this is what got me going with the rendering today, I listened to Anthony Heald narrating Book One of the Iliad. He was reading aloud the brilliant English translation of the Greek by W. H. D. Rouse. And while listening to Heald (and Rouse), I was reading along in A. T. Murray’s English translation with Homer’s Greek original text.

Early enough (line 339), this is what I saw and heard:

πρός τε θεῶν μακάρων πρός τε θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων

blessed gods” and “mortal men”

And then again (406) and again (599):

μάκαρες θεοὶ

μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν

blessed gods”

blessed gods”

Do the Septuagint translators use this Hellene phrase this way? Well, it seems not. In fact, of the 20 uses of the Greek word translated “blessed” none is for God and all are for humans.

In Tobit (13:16), for example, there’s this:

αὶ μακάριοι πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι

And in 2 Chronicles (9:7), there’s this:

μακάριοι οἱ ἄνδρες μακάριοι οἱ παῖδές σου οὗτοι

And in the Greek translation of 1 Kings (10:8), there’s this very strange addition of women (not in the Hebrew text, which parallels the Hebrew of 2 Chronicles 9:7):

μακάριαι αἱ γυναῖκές σου μακάριοι οἱ παῖδές σου οὗτοι

There are no uses of this Greek word for the translation of the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses aka Torah aka (Nomos, the Law of Kyrios). But in the Psalmoi, we can find the phrase. And it’s repeated in poetic parallelisms so like the Hebrew text; here’s from the Hellene translation of one of the Psalms:

119:1  αλληλουια αλφ μακάριοι οἱ ἄμωμοι ἐν ὁδῷ οἱ πορευόμενοι ἐν νόμῳ κυρίου

119:2  μακάριοι οἱ ἐξερευνῶντες τὰ μαρτύρια αὐτοῦ ἐν ὅλῃ καρδίᾳ ἐκζητήσουσιν αὐτόν

At most, the references of “the blesseds” in the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures are in relation to Kyrios, and to the one God’s Law or instruction, and Kyrios (the LORD) translates here in the Psalms the tetragrammaton, יהוה. So humans, mortals, both men and women, and not G-d, are the “blesseds.” The happy Hebrew here is אשר [esher or ashar].

So Matthew writing in Greek has Jesus speaking Greek, beginning his famous sermon with the famous “beatitudes.” The Hebrew scriptures read in Hellene by that time have accustomed the Greek readers and audiences to thinking of the people of the Jewish God as the blesseds.

The Greek phrase blessed does not explicitly apply to The One G-d Himself, to Kyrios. In Homer, in the Iliad, in contrast, it blessed is the way the gods are described in contrast to the mortal human people.

 

And the people of the Hebrew scriptures are blessed because they are undefiled and are instructed in His ways and give testimony to Him and whole-heartedly follow His ways and seek Him.

This is the context in which one may come to the sermon on the mount of Matthew. Who are the blesseds?

Here, then, is Jesus speaking LXX (perhaps Homeric) Greek followed by my Englishing:

Matthew.Greek.formatted.by.JKGayle

Matthew.Greek.translated.by.JKGayle

 

 

 

Reading Womanly Sex in Shakespeare, Donne, and the Greek translator(s) of the Song of Solomon?

March 5, 2015

Readers of William Shakespeare and of John Donne have found allusions to the female anatomy and sexuality in imagery and puns. For example, where Shakespeare has this:

scarlet lip William Shakespeare pun

Pauline Kiernan in Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s Most Outrageous Sexual Puns reads this:

scarlet lip read by Pauline Kiernan

Similarly, John Donne has phrases that appear erotic, and so Robert H. Ray in A John Donne Companion (Routledge Revivals) compiles this:

Velvet glass John Donne pun

This sort of readerly expectation has come with texts much earlier, and especially when the subject matter has to do with bodies and love the images and allusions appear more forthcoming and rather obvious to the audience. For example, in reading the Song of Solomon 8:23, Carey Ellen Walsh in Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs has this:

Song of Songs Pomegranates

 

Is this a genre thing? Is this what love and sex literature does for us readers? Maybe so.

My BLT-coblogger Suzanne has pointed us all to the fact that, for some readers, “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.”

What is the Song of Solomon goes to Egypt as a Greek lyric despite Aristotelian and Alexandrian notions of τὸ ἑλληνίζειν (or “purest, correct Hellene)? Would the lover there sound much more like Sappho? Would the puns there, the imagery and allusions that readers see and that audiences hear and feel, be more profound?

Don’t the Septuagint translators mix the various ways and words of Greek love, of the Hellene tongue, in playful, sexual ways? Yes, we might read the “erōs (English ‘erotic’) never … in Scripture” way John Piper does, saying this in Desiring God:

Historically, ethicists have tended to distinguish these two forms of love as agape and eros, or benevolence and complacency. Not only is there no linguistic basis for such a distinction, but conceptually both resolve into one kind of love at the root. God’s agape does not ‘transcend’ His eros, but expresses it. God’s redeeming, sacrificial love for His sinful people is described by Hosea in the most erotic terms (11:8-9).” What?! I had to read that three times to even believe I read it. Here is another example of ignoring language. There is a very good reason why erōs (English “erotic”) never appears in Scripture, namely, because it speaks of the physical and sensual. Erōs is not used even for the physical relationship of a husband and wife because their love transcends sex alone.

And yet we might find in these Jewish texts in their Hebraic Hellene renderings a sexual mix of the phrases: ἀγαπᾷ (agapa), φιλίας (philias), and ἔρωτι (eroti).

Today, at the blog Feminism and Religion, Stuart Dean has up a post in which he reads the following connections between the LXX Song of Songs and the Lesbian lyrics of Sappho this way:

It is otherwise inexplicable for the main reason Songs in Greek sounds like Sappho: the explicitness of its female sexuality.  It has been argued Songs 5:5 could be interpreted as “a not-too-cloaked reference to a woman’s orgasm,” but based on the Hebrew that sort of argument has met with considerable pushback.  In the Greek version, however, the door’s bolt is kleithron, a word that, with only a minor tweak in pronunciation, would have likely been recognized as a pun on kleitoris (clitoris)(even with gender and case ending differences) by all but the most prudish or naive of Poppaea’s day.

Such a description of an orgasm would have been taken by Poppaea and other Hellenized Jewish women as an unmistakable legacy of Sappho’s influence (for all the many echoes of Sappho just in Songs 5:2-6 click here).  That is important because though Hellenistic culture generally celebrated the human body as itself a manifestation of the divine (e.g., nudity in Greek athletic competition and in Roman public bathing), Sappho’s description of her own orgasm (S. 31) especially influenced Greek medical thinking on the importance of orgasm to human health.  Eventually this led to the prescription by ancient Greek physicians of masturbation for men and women who for whatever reason did not have partners.

Of course, Dean may be a good bit sloppy with how he characterizes Poppaea. And in a note to the text that his link (S. 31) above provides, where he strangely reads the Septuagint as if translated by New American Standard Version, he has to conjecture:

τοῦ κλείθρου:  This word, neuter kleithron, -ou and the pun on feminie kleitoris, -idos, that it likely plays upon is not attested in Sappho–except a variety of scholars have suggested that the name Sappho gives her ‘daughter,’ Kleis, may have been a play upon the word kleitoris (See S. 132).  One scholar has strongly, but somewhat arrogantly, insisted no such sound play would have been possible, but exactly how Sappho pronounced her Aeolic Greek is a guessing game with no end because there is not enough evidence to end it.  The same scholar somewhat absurdly implies that because kleitoris is not attested until a first century CE medical dictionary it was at that time a neologism.  But dictionaries, then even more so than now, did not create words but rather attest to usage.  Whatever is the case with respect to Sappho’s daughter’s name, it seems unduly skeptical to dismiss the sound play of kleithron, -ou and kleitoris, -idos, and it would seem that would have been in the original written or oral material upon which Songs is based.

And yet he gets (us) readers reading the Hebraic Hellene for ourselves:

ἀνέστην ἐγὼ
ἀνοῖξαι τῷ ἀδελφιδῷ μου,
χεῖρές μου ἔσταξαν σμύρναν,
δάκτυλοί μου σμύρναν πλήρη
ἐπὶ χεῖρας
τοῦ κλείθρου.

And how does anyone hear these? How would those with ears to hear hear this?

A rising in me, a real waking resurrection I am,
An opening to my brotherly-lover,
My hands, dripping with myrrh,
My fingers, with myrrh drenched,
On the handles of
The latch.

Denying Human(s) Categories

March 1, 2015

On this first day of the month, I just read Mysia Anderson‘s “Celebrating black women during Women’s History Month.” And I was just as shocked just now reading Ana Marie Cox’s “Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian” (and confessed to my fb friend who posted the article that she is braver than I).

Let me quote a bit from each respectively and then respond.

Anna Julia Cooper was born to a black mother and a white slavemaster father and …. notably wrote, “Only the BLACK WOMAN can say, ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’”

With this bold assertion, Cooper poignantly articulated intersectionality. This term, coined by contemporary black feminist scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, acknowledges the interconnectedness and nuance of various forms of oppression, domination and discrimination. Crenshaw’s scholarship focuses on the double bind of gender and race. Her analyses of oppression looks at the ways that systemic oppression interacts with multiple aspects of identity.

and

I’ve lately observed conservatives questioning Obama’s faith with more than professional interest. Because if Obama’s not Christian, what does that make me?

I have not been public about my faith. I am somewhat tempted to embrace the punk-rockness of being a progressive, feminist, tattooed, pro-choice, graduate-educated believer—and then I have to remind myself that believing in God is about as punk rock as wearing pants, maybe even less so. Almost nine in ten Americans believe in God; in any given moment, how many are wearing pants?

In my personal life, my faith is not something I struggle with or something I take particular pride in. It is just part of who I am.

Well, Anderson, who is a woman, does not make a big explicit deal out of the fact that Cooper was “out” as a Christian, calling herself “black” when the proper term of her day was “Negro.” And, Cox, who is white, does not make a big explicit deal about Obama being as black as Cooper.

I find the human agency to self-label incredibly important. “Coming out” gay or black or Christian or woman is incredibly important and takes — in our days and months and years and centuries and millennia of homophobia, misogyny, black hatred, racism, and religion or science or intellect bashing — bravery.

It’s not just me. Some of my co-bloggers with me, and many of you thinkers and readers here and elsewhere, struggle with our human categorizations and categories. It’s the doubly and triply and mutiply marginalized who we do well to show the most attention and to give the most care and to allow the most agency.

I still think Carolyn Osiek is astute in helping those of us in our current set of categories recall the ancient set; let me re-quote (from a blog comment of several comments made by Kristen, Suzanne, Theophrastus, and me — at T.C. Robinson’s blog — before we commenters there decided to co-blog here); Osiek writes:

From a modern perspective, we would say the categories ‘women’ and ‘slaves’ are partially overlapping. Some women were slaves, but not all were; some slaves were women, but not all slaves were. But, in fact, in ancient categories it is the expression ‘women slaves,’ which seems to us more inclusive, that is a conceptual contradiction. While women and slaves of the ancient Greco-Roman world shared much in common within the male perspective of the patriarchal household, they did not belong to overlapping categories. Both were in Aristotle’s categories fit by nature to be ruled, not to rule. Both shared intimately in the life of the household, including its religion, economy, child production and nurturing, and burial. . . .

Both women and slaves in many ways remained in a state of perpetual liminality. Ancient literature regularly ascribes to one the vices of the other. But if females who were slaves had to be fitted either into the category of women or of slaves, the ancient thinker would have considered them slaves, not women. As females who were slaves, they were doubly fit by nature to be ruled and dominated.

Osiek gets at the rape consequences of the different categorization of humans as “‘women’ and ‘slaves’”:

There is an astonishing lack of specification about slaves even in the literature of marital advice. More ancient authors than might be supposed advocate the marital fidelity of husbands, including Aristotle . . . and Pythagoras . . ., but it is doubtful whether sex with one’s own slaves is included. Plutarch, on the other hand, considers it normal for husbands to take their debauchery elsewhere, to go wide of the mark . . . with a . . . slave. . . . If Plutarch is consistent, then his advice about educating freeborn males not to be overbearing with slaves . . . does not prohibit rape of slaves.

Rape today represents for us all one of the most egregious sins that any in our societies might perpetrate. And we startle at the fact that our forefathers metaphorically and physically might have allowed it, legally, ethically, and culturally. We know women (and in some cases children and men) who have been raped. We (in some cases) have been the victim. We share the devastation caused when a human with a penis sexually violates another human.

We would do well, in my humble opinion, to pay attention to the human categorizations that rape metaphorically.

Here’s some what I intend by that. I struggle to get to the issues, the marginalizing categories, objectively, especially when it becomes so personal and subjective. After my friend posted Cox’s “coming out as a Christian” I found myself wanting to write the following as a comment on facebook (and so I did):

 
It’s ironic that Jesus Christ never came out (had to come out) as a Christian: http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2008/03/jesus-was-not-christian.html
It’s the first day of Women’s History Month in the USA this year. We all would do well to pay attention and give care to those who multiply self identify as (black) (Christian) (manifold categories) women.

The Evolution of Siri in America

February 28, 2015

My first iPhone in the USA was a 3GS, and it had an app on it called Siri.

At the time, nobody knew either that it was intended to be called Hal or that Apple would buy it as an essential part of the later versions of iPhone. Yes, Hal, not Siri.

Not long afterwards, those with the upgraded iPhones with that essential Siri, people like Amanda Marcotte, began to wonder about the advice the app doled out:

Siri behaves much like a retrograde male fantasy of the ever-compliant secretary: discreet, understanding, willing to roll with any demand a man might come up with, teasingly accepting of dirty jokes. Oh yeah, and mainly indifferent to the needs of women.

At my house, we discovered this while playing with Siri’s quickly established willingness to look up prostitutes for a straight man in need….

More troubling and less predictable was Siri’s inability to generate decent results related to women’s reproductive health.

Apple’s spokes”woman” seems to have promised early on, in 2011, that these sorts of human observations about the sexist machine should go away. For instance, Natalie Kerris said:

Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want. These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, those sorts of human observations have continued through this year. For example, in late January 2015, there were a few more comments by Annalee Newitz:

Siri is a kind of disembodied presence, but clearly her gender matters. Indeed, there was no male version of Siri until 2013….

[W]e’re supposed to associate digital assistant work with traditional women’s roles. Siri is mother who actually cares about you, and Cortana is the most competent secretary you ever had. Which — of course, you never had a secretary. As David Wheeler pointed out last year on CNN, there’s a certain amount of wishful thinking here, given that the age of secretaries died along with the chain-smoking execs of Mad Men. There’s wishful thinking in the mother idea, too, since nobody has a mother who keeps track of their every whim the way Siri will…..

So what is it that Siri and Cortana deliver that a male voice cannot? I think the answer is submission. Again, there are many sexist overtones here. But the sad truth is that these digital assistants are more like slaves than modern women. They are not supposed to threaten you, or become your equal — they are supposed to carry out orders without putting up a fight. The ideal slave, after all, would be like a mother to you. She would never rebel because she loves you, selflessly and forever.

I do want to stress that Siri is female like this in the USA. In Australia, there’s also a female voice. In Canada, the voice is male. In England, the voice is, or was, male too. When he shifted to a she, then some Brits began to protest, if others began to like her:

But it’s not all bad for British users. Many have also posted that they are pleased with the work of female British Siri, saying she is much better.

And now humans using the iPhone get to choose, female or male. Here are the instructions for making the change from one to the other.

And since I’m focusing on the USA, if you speak Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Thai and Turkish languages here, then you’re in luck because Apple is working on a Siri that speaks and hears these languages as well.

If your language is English, then you’re still fine to use Siri. You’re okay, unless you want to use your Indian English. You still have to “the need to fake an American or British accent” to get her (or him) to work for you. But just wait, she (or he) is soon going to understand the South Asian lect.

That reminds me of another thing: One of my siblings, who is a Texan from the USA living in Europe as a Permanent Resident of the UK, to be understood, has to speak, not his Texan lect, but the British lect when driving left handed and ordering drive-through at a MacDonalds there. His Siri, an import from the USA, nonetheless, is that female American who tolerates his mother tongue just fine.

Aren’t these bodiless Siris a mere reflection of their makers? And what subtle, unconscious impressions do their replies make on us (if sometimes the responses are just funny)? And what will be the next evolutions of Apple’s Siri in America? What should they be?

Levine: Short stories by Jesus

February 28, 2015

Originally posted on Judy's research blog:

Last year, I bought a copy of Amy-Jill Levine’s new book, Short Stories by Jesus – the enigmatic parables of a controversial rabbi (HarperOne, New York, 2014) and have been meaning to post a review of it every since I started using it. I find that the perspective of Jewish scholars on Second Testament writings often helps me to shake of what I have ‘always known’ about the texts and allows me to see something different and I like Levine’s writing. She is one of the contributors to  Coogan, Michael David, Marc Zvi Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The new Oxford annotated Bible  (Oxford [England]; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) and one of the editors of Levine, Amy-Jill and Marc Zvi Brettler eds. The Jewish annotated New Testament: New Revised Standard Version Bible translation. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) but this is the first…

View original 210 more words

The Oscars? Men (not women)

February 19, 2015

osc-banner_statuette

Oscar is a man. And the Oscars (i.e., the Academy Awards) feature men more (even though a human named Cheryl Boone Isaacs is now the president of the Academy). And for some years now, out of research conducted at San Diego State University, has come the Celluloid Ceiling Report showing men make more films and make more money from them than women have made or can make. The past year is worse than the previous year, the data in the annual reporting by Martha M. Lauzen show.

One film watcher has decided, therefore, that this year (2015) she will watch 52 films, one per week,[per her clarifying comment below] 365 new films, one per day, made not by men but by women. “Initially I was just going to do [my watching of] the films directed by a woman,” she says, “but then I realized the statistics for female screenwriters are abysmal.” In women-directed movies also written by women, there seems to be a difference that Marya E. Gates has begun to notice already when watching the films and noting how men can be presented in them: “men tend to be more intimate in films directed by women.”

What more will be seen in the 2015 movies women have made that this woman is watching?

And don’t we already know what most film viewers otherwise will see? How about this:

With its tendency to follow conventional themes, clichéd metaphors, given genres, and above all stereotypes of the female figure—[movies of 2015 are] hardly a satisfying source for tracing women’s “real” presence (or the presence of “real” women). Rather than evidence to their presence, [the film set of this present year] furnishes manifestations of their absence and erasure. There are ample ways by which women can be made to disappear from the [movies that represent] them. Woman’s absence is represented by procedures of silencing (woman is ideally mute or notoriously garrulous); stereotypization (woman is “good,” “bad,” “ugly,” etc.); abstraction (allegorical woman as concept without body); mythologization and dehumanizing (nymph, Medusa, Amazon, demon, beast); objectification (woman is a reified body without subjectivity or mind; she is matter, commodity, chattel, prize), and the like. It is the task of [2015 film] criticism to follow the varied ways in which women and concepts of gender are manipulated—fictionalized, fantasized, poeticized, metaphorized, narrativized, dramatized—in [the movies this year].

Closely related to the question of women’s presence/absence in [film making] is the issue of female voices. To what extent are those female voices captured within [movies] “authentic” and unmediated? Aren’t they muffled by male transmission? Don’t they serve the [screen writer’s and the director’]’s androcentric position? Female voices seem often to embody patriarchal “truths” about women’s speech (women abuse language by lying, quarreling, complaining, enticing, and so on). However, utterances of female protagonists help to reveal the limits of the androcentric logic that produced them. They indicate points from which the homotextual hegemonic monolith can be dismantled.

Well, the two paragraphs above are not my words. And to be fair, they aren’t about 2015 films, who Oscar is, or the ways women are and fail to be represented in movies this year. That is not an excerpt from “Modern Hollywood Filmmaking: Portrayal of Women.” Rather, it is a quotation of Tova Rosen from her “Medieval Hebrew Literature: Portrayal of Women.” I just wanted to think about how different things might be from one era to another, from one medium to another, from one year to the next. What on this day in 2016 might be different? Who is Oscar’s sister anyway?

Masculine Greek: for an adulteress, not an authoress?

February 17, 2015

For some time, Greek readers of the unsigned and unclaimed New Testament epistle of Hebrews have wondered whether its author might be an authoress. Bloggers like me have wondered.

Facebookers continue to wonder. Yesterday, for example, one of my facebook friends posted this:

An oldie but goodie: Did Priscilla write Hebrews?

http://polumeros.blogspot.com/2009/01/is-priscilla-author-of-hebrews.html

One of the most prolific “biblibloggers” responded tersely:

no

And I asked:

absolute no?

http://robincohn.net/priscilla-author-of-hebrews/

http://robincohn.net/priscilla-author-of-hebrews-pt-2/

To which he replied, a bit more:

absolute we will never, ever know so no, no

Another of my friends (fb and IRL) entered the conversation to say how he wished the Harnack hypothesis that Pricilla wrote Hebrews were true but that he himself couldn’t overcome the fact that the author must be male because of the masculine Greek self-referential language used by the writer of the letter.

I gave a knee-jerk, bigger picture feminist response:

Recently, Deborah Copaken Kogan reminded us readers of the following:

… centuries of literary sexism, exclusion, cultural bias, invisibility. There’s a reason J.K. Rowling’s publishers demanded that she use initials instead of “Joanne”: it’s the same reason Mary Anne Evans used the pen name George Eliot; the same reason Robert Southey, then England’s poet laureate, wrote to Charlotte Brontë: “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be.”


The earliest epistolary literature of Christianity was not the biz of a woman’s life. Not even Priscilla’s, who would be inclined to use the masculine participle (to hide her being feminine), wouldn’t we all agree?

And the conversation has stopped. Now I want to start it up again only by getting back into the particulars of the masculine Greek.

A little primer in what the masculine Greek objection is all about and why it might not be relevant is here. Ruth Hoppin there is rightly quoted as explaining how the gender of the verb in question is ambiguous: that is, διηγούμενον may be not only masculine in grammatical gender but also neuter. The author might not be “telling” (or technically, rhetorically giving a διηγήσεται (or a diegesis, or ‘narration’) as a default male – as a man. It could be some somebody (with gender not specified), says she, Ms. Hoppin.

The whole sentence goes like this:

Καὶ τί ἔτι λέγω; ἐπιλείψει με γὰρ διηγούμενον ὁ χρόνος περὶ Γεδεών, Βαράκ, Σαμψών, Ἰεφθάε, Δαυείδ τε καὶ Σαμουὴλ καὶ τῶν προφητῶν,

In the KJV, that is Englished this way:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me [the man writing] to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

It’s the declension, the suffix if you will, that shows this verb takes a subject that is either a man or a gender generic (i.e., neuter) subject (i.e., anybody).

Even so, (and either ambiguous way) it is NOT a feminine verbal with a feminine subject.

But, however, nonetheless, and (as some of us, both anybody men and women, say in here Texas) hold your horses. There are examples in Greek literature, and Christian Greek literature, and Christian biblical literature (yes even the canonical Christian Bible, the Holy Bible) in which the masculine (or neuter) verb references a female. Yes, I know, that does not mean it’s feminist necessarily. The one example I want to give is of Jerusalem. Yes, that’s right. The Holy Polis, the Holy City. She is likened to a prostitute. She is called an adulterous adulteress who messes around with her own kind even. And not only the prophet of the LORD calls her that but also through the Prophet G-d Himself calls her that. Yes, I know. It’s a translation of the Hebrew scriptures. Yes, I understand; not everybody appreciates the Septuagint, that spurious translation done in Egypt, which enslaved the Hebrews. Nonetheless, here it is, what we call Ezekiel 16:34 –

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν σοὶ διεστραμμένον παρὰ τὰς γυναῖκας ἐν τῇ πορνείᾳ σου, καὶ μετὰ σοῦ πεπορνεύκασιν ἐν τῷ προσδιδόναι σε μισθώματα, καὶ σοὶ μισθώματα οὐκ ἐδόθη, καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν σοὶ διεστραμμένα.

Here is how Sir Brenton Englishes that:

And there has happened in you [sir] perverseness in your fornication beyond other women, and they have committed fornication with you, in that you give hires over and above, and hires were not given to you; and thus perverseness happened in you.

Now, to be clear, Sir Brenton did not write the implied “[sir]” because his context shows that Jerusalem is a she, not a he. I’ve added that to his English. I’ve added it because the Greek of the LXX translators implies a male (or at the very least a gender unspecified neuter), not a female.

My question is this, Why in Christian Greek scriptures are we not so inclined to allow a Priscilla to do what another Jewish Greek writer would do? If an adulteress can be referred to by male (or clearly Not Female) terms, then why can’t an author who is a woman?

The literary of the Jews of Egypt and the Sappho of Lesbos

February 16, 2015
tags:

This is a 10-minute post to add to the blog series on the Interpretive Spins and Literary Sparks in the Ψαλμοὶ. Abram K-J (who’s in a group reading the Greek Psalmoi this year) is the inspiration for this particular post. He wrote one yesterday that reminded me of one of the fragments of Sappho. He’s struck by the syllable count of one particular word as much as anything:

One thing that continually impresses me about Greek is its preponderance of multisyllabic words. / Much of this has to do with how its verbs are conjugated. The four-syllable verb μεγαλυνω, for example, when inflected in Psalm 19:8 (Psalm 20:7 in English Bibles), becomes a majestic seven-syllable ending to an already beautiful verse:… [read the rest here]

What Abram didn’t mention is that this long-syllable-phrase appears multiply. So let me show the LXX Greek on that, the Hebraic Hellene. Then let me show the Sappho fragment of Greek lyric. And I’m going to add my quick quick English translation.

ἀγαλλιασόμεθα
ἐν τῷ σωτηρίῳ σου,
καὶ ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ ἡμῶν
μεγαλυνθησόμεθα.
πληρώσαι κύριος πάντα τὰ αἰτήματά σου.

νῦν ἔγνων ὅτι ἔσωσεν κύριος τὸν χριστὸν αὐτοῦ·
ἐπακούσεται αὐτοῦ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἁγίου αὐτοῦ,
ἐν δυναστείαις ἡ σωτηρία τῆς δεξιᾶς αὐτοῦ.

οὗτοι ἐν ἅρμασιν
καὶ οὗτοι ἐν ἵπποις,
ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου θεοῦ ἡμῶν
μεγαλυνθησόμεθα.

We’ll cheer
In the rescue, yours sir,
And in the name of The god, ours,
We’ll Go Great Giving High Praise.
He’ll fulfill, Oh Kyrios will, all of the requests, yours sir.

Now I knew that He rescued the One, Honored-with-Oil, His.
He’ll hear Him, and out of High Heaven Holy, His,
In Power, the rescue of the right hand, His.

Those’ll praise in chariots
And those others in cavalry,
But we will in the name of The god, ours,
We’ll Go Great Giving High Praise.

ἴψοι δὴ τὸ μέλαθρον·
ὐμήναον·
ἀέρρετε τέκτονες ἄνδρες·
ὐμήναον.
γάμβρος εἰσέρχεται ἴσος Ἄρευι,
ὐμήναον
ἄνδρος μεγάλω πόλυ μέζων.

Go high with the Great Roof!
Oh Hymen!
Grab it, technicians, men!
Oh Hymen!
Groom of the Bride is coming, equal to Ares,
Oh Hymen
A Great man? Plenty Greater!

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