Jorge Luis Borges and Margarita Guerrero together wrote a series of essays on various deities and monsters in literature. These were compiled and published in book form under titles such as Manual de zoología fantástica and El libro de los seres imaginarios. Two different English translations were produced respectively by Norman Thomas di Giovanni and by Andrew Hurley.
Borges and Guerrero likely collaborated with di Giovanni on the one English translation of the original Spanish. But “original Spanish” is open to dispute. Hurley explains this:
It it clear that for much of the material in the original Spanish [book] — sometimes entire “entries” — Borges was translating directly from a source, acknowledged in some cases, unacknowledged in many others, or was using a Spanish translation of a “classic.” Quite often, he seems to have been translating (or rewriting) into Spanish from an English translation from, for example, the Greek…. The nature of Borges’ erudition, creativity, and sense of fun is such that it has been simply impossible to ferret out all the originals, where originals in fact ever existed (some of his “quotations” are almost certainly apocrypha, put-ons)…. [My own translator notes] may make the book [in English language] seem stodgier, more academic, less fun that it was clearly always meant to be. I hope that readers of this volume [translated by me], dipping into it here and there as Borges hoped they would, will not lose (or be stripped of) their sense of playfulness by feeling that they have to go look up the page numbers for Pliny [for example] — think of it as just another of Borges’ ways of blurring lines between the serious and the playful.
I have dipped into just one entry for this particular blogpost. Below is the essay entitled “Lilith” in the Spanish and in the two respective English translations.
For more on Lilith, blog readers may want to consider this BLT Blogpost written by Ann Nyland.
In addition, here is the entry in the online work, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, written by Rebecca Lesses.
2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of the notorious Paris premiere of the Nijinsky ballet and Stravinsky score of Le Sacre Du Printemps conducted by Pierre Monteux.
The May 29th premiere reportedly generated quite a negative response, according to contemporary accounts, such as this recounting in the New York Times (note, however, that when the lights were turned up, status-conscious Parisians stopped booing):
Aren’t you glad you didn’t see that stinker! (Although Bel Air Classiques has just reissued in DVD-book format its recording of the Mariinsky/Valery Gergiev reconstruction of Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring choreography)
In honor of the 100th anniversary, there are a bevy of very nice box rereleases of the recording. Decca has released a box set of 35 recordings of the Rite of Spring (along with three recordings of the piano duet version and one recording of the Violin Concerto in D)
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1946) Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Eduard van Beinum
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1950) L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1954) RIAS Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Ferenc Fricsay
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1954) Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1956) Orchestre des Cento Soli, Rudolf Albert
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1956) Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, Pierre Monteux
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1957) L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1959) Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1963) Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1963) London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1969) Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1972) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1973) London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1974) London Philharmonic Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1974) Wiener Philharmoniker, Lorin Maazel
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1974) Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1975) London Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1976) Concertgebouw Orchestra, Colin Davis
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1977) Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
- The Rite of Spring (1913 version; recorded in 1978) National Youth Orchestra, Simon Rattle
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1979) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1981) Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
- The Rite of Spring (1913 version; recorded in 1982) Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein
- The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1984) Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Charles Dutoit
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1985) The Cleveland Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1991) The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1991) Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Georg Solti
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1992) The MET Orchestra, James Levine
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1994) Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester, Berlin, Vladimir Ashkenazy
- The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1995) Orchestre de Paris, Semyon Bychkov
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1995) Berliner Philharmoniker, Bernard Haitink
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1999) Kirov Orchestra, St Petersburg, Valery Gergiev
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2006) Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2007) Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung
- The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2010) Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel
- The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1968) Bracha Eden & Alexander Tamir (piano)
- The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1983) Güher & Süher Pekinel (piano)
- The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1990) Vladimir Ashkenazy & Andrei Gavrilov (piano)
- Violin Concerto in D (Bonus CD. recorded in 1935) Samuel Dushkin (violin), Lamoureux Concert Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky
Russell Platt wrote a thoughtful review of the box set in the New Yorker.
Not to be outdone, Sony has issued its own box set which is notable for some very early recordings:
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1929/1930) Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1940) New York Philharmonic, Igor Stravinsky
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1951) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Monteux
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1955) Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1960) Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1968) Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1969) Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1972) London Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1989) Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen
- The Rite of Spring (recorded 1996) San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson-Thomas
as well as a single disk of Leonard Bernstein’s 1958 recording with the New York Philharmonic.
This bevy of recordings provides a remarkable opportunity to see just how much influence a conductor can have on a recording, as one compares the differences between styles. This remarkable recorded history is a wonderful tribute to the genius of Igor Stravinsky.
Bilingual poets are just fascinating. They live in a world of ambiguities, two worlds. Jorge Luis Borges is one such individual. This week I’m a bit compelled to call him and his language(s) “optimistic.” At the very least, I think I want to make a case that Borges was not pessimistic about language. Yes, he quoted G. K. Chesterton, a lot, and was indebted to him frequently, for the Englishman’s use of and expressions about language.
What I’m pushing back against is a caricature of the view of language that Borges expresses and practices. This week on the Language Log, Mark Liberman quotes George Carlin on language followed by another quotation, “[a] less optimistic spin from G.K. Chesterton” followed by another quotation from “Jorge Luis Borges [who] used this quotation from Chesterton, in Spanish translation.” One commenter, then, asserts further: “It’s obvious that, as Chesterton and Borges said, language is a flawed and often inadequate tool for communicating the ineffability of life.” Well, I’d say from my own readings of Borges (and of his of Chesterton), that the translating poet sees language as much more powerful and positive than the blogger’s and commenter’s assertions would have him see it. Let’s take a second look at this.
If anything ought to be obvious it’s how carefully, and very very very precisely, Borges renders the English of Chesterton into his own Spanish, in this particular case:
He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest [...] Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semitones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals. He believes that an ordinary civilized stockbroker can really produce out of his own inside noises which denote all the mysteries of memory and all the agonies of desire.
El hombre sabe que hay en el alma tintes más desconcertantes, más innumerables y más anónimos que los colores de una selva otoñal… cree, sin embargo, que esos tintes, en todas sus fusiones y conversiones, son representables con precisión por un mecanismo arbitrario de gruñidos y de chillidos. Cree que del interior de un bolsista salen realmente ruidos que significan todos los misterios de la memoria y todas las agonias del anhelo.
Liberman does link to sources for the quotation, both in English and then in Spanish. When quoting the English from his linked source, nonetheless, he fails to capture what Alberto Manguel says about Chesterton’s quotation, and it is after all Manguel who is quoting Chesterton in his introduction to On Lying in Bed and Other Essays by G.K. Chesterton. Immediately following the quotation, Manguel asserts:
Paradoxically, in words like these, written against the power of words, Chesterton raises the reader’s trust in that same questioned power.
Both Liberman (saying Chesterton is making a “less optimistic spin” about language) and also the commenter (saying “as Chesterton … said, language is a flawed and often inadequate tool for communicating the ineffability of life”) fail to see Chesterton’s paradox.
Borges gets Chesterton and all of the nuance as well.
First, as I’ve said, he uses Spanish to say very very precisely, what Chesterton in the quotation has said. It’s not a translation with a “spin”; it’s not Spanish that is either flawed or inadequate for communicating the Englishman’s English. Liberman links to the Borges translation in his essay, “El Idioma Analítico de John Wilkins.” I’ve also found Borges quoting Chesterton, in translation, in his essay, “De las alegorías a las novelas.” And to introduce and to make conclusions about this quotation, Borges begins: “Chesterton para vindicar lo alegorico.” He is noticing how Chesterton is vindicating allegorical language. Is there pessimism relative to what the comedian Carlin is saying? Is there some expression about flaws in language or its inadequacies for communication? Only if one fails to understand Chesterton’s language, or Borges’s.
Second, just to pick up on allegory and metaphor and so forth, I’d like to turn to how Chesterton (and Borges translating him) uses forest here, and elsewhere, tree.
For Chesterton, the image of “forest” here is a ground for radical variation. Language, in the believer in language that he’s talking about, is to “more” varied, the more being the adjective on the various variations “in the soul” of the language believer, which, are, supposed by this language believer to be “accurately represented” by his language, his words, his utterances, his “grunts and squeals.” The “forest” then is clearly inadequate, from the get go, as a complete analogy to the “soul.” And yet, this is exactly precisely the sort of powerful, optimistic, adequate point of what Chesterton’s astute readers, like Manguel and Borges, are beginning to get. As we all know, the “forest” need not be confused with the “trees.” :) In this particular paragraph, the metaphor is intended to be for the readers (and perhaps this imagined language believer) as something rather invariant (though full of variations upon variations). I’m not trying to run this explanation into the ground, to overexplain. But some the point of a metaphor is how inexhaustible it is, semantically speaking. In other words, to say something like, “A soul is a forest” is to introduce not just one possibility but several. The fun of this little paragraph is that it introduces an argument, as if there can be logic to expose the flaws in the metaphor: “A soul is NOT forest.” :)
This little paragraph somehow reminded me of a conversation that Willis Barnstone, also a multilingual poet, had with Borges (reported in several of Barnstone’s works). It was in English. It goes like this:
BORGES: When you write down the images, those images may not mean anything to you. It’s what you get in the case of Poe and of Lovecraft. The images are awful but the feeling isn’t awful.
BARNSTONE: And I suppose a good writer is one who comes up with the right images to correspond to the feeling.
BORGES: To a feeling, yes. Or who may give you the nightmare feeling with common objects or things. I remember how I found a proof of that in Chesterton. He says that we might think that at the end of the world there is a tree whose very shape is evil. Now that’s a fine word, and I think that stands for that kind of feeling, no? Now, that tree could hardly be described. While, if you think of a tree, for example, made of skulls, of ghosts, that would be quite silly. But what we said, a tree whose very shape is evil. That show he really had a nightmare about that tree. No? If not, how would he know about that tree?
BARNSTONE: I’ve always been puzzled why my tongue moves, why words come out of my mouth or from in my head. These words are like seconds of a clock happening, sounding almost by themselves.
In this conversation, there’s a similar sort of topic. Is language adequate, if representational? What about when I utter things with my mouth? What about when a poet writes?
And then there’s a quotation of Chesterton, by Borges.
Instead of a forest, there’s the mention of a tree. If you know Chesterton, then you know he uses the tree as an image quite a bit. But Borges is keying in on one little particular instance. The concern is whether Chesterton describes it right. There’s the mention of shape. There’s the metaphor of evil. It’s an apocalyptic, end of the world moment.
So, when and where does Chesterton say this? It’s the opener of Chapter VI of Chesterton’s novel, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare -
Such were the six men who had sworn to destroy the world. Again and again Syme strove to pull together his common sense in their presence. Sometimes he saw for an instant that these notions were subjective, that he was only looking at ordinary men, one of whom was old, another nervous, another short-sighted. The sense of an unnatural symbolism always settled back on him again. Each figure seemed to be, somehow, on the borderland of things, just as their theory was on the borderland of thought. He knew that each one of these men stood at the extreme end, so to speak, of some wild road of reasoning. He could only fancy, as in some old-world fable, that if a man went westward to the end of the world he would find something—say a tree—that was more or less than a tree, a tree possessed by a spirit; and that if he went east to the end of the world he would find something else that was not wholly itself—a tower, perhaps, of which the very shape was wicked. So these figures seemed to stand up, violent and unaccountable, against an ultimate horizon, visions from the verge. The ends of the earth were closing in.
Notice the language here. “Fancy” and “as in” and “fable” and “that if” and the subjunctive “he would find something” and the supposition “say a tree” and the equivocations “was more or less” and the qualification / modification “possessed by a spirit.”
What we don’t find here in Chesterton’s English is anything about a shape of a tree. Rather, the whole description has morphed, by the time we read the word shape, to “a tower, perhaps, of which the very shape was wicked.” And so we find Borges doing more with Chesterton’s language. The “tree” is the “tower.” And “evil” really is “wicked.” And yet Borges is able to move his tongue with a system of grunts and squeals, with un mecanismo … de gruñidos y de chillidos. The imprecision, the arbitrariness, the wonder at whether there’s precise representation, is all beside the point. Or perhaps is the point. Language is image. Powerful imagery. Adequate. Optimistic. More or less. Forests. Trees. And so is the language of Borges on the language of Chesterton.
Just a few brief citations from Franz Rosenzweig regarding Mendelssohn’s choice of Der Ewige (The Eternal), first from here, page 175 1923,
Rosenzweig congratulates Mendelssohn for capturing or attempting to capture, in one phrase God’s providence, eternity, and necessary existence. Yet identifying God with eternal being can be something of an evasion. Buber translates God’s proper name as ‘He-is-there’ (Images of Good and Evil, p. 67) and Rosenzweig translates … ICH BIN DA. … The Emphasis which Rosenzweig wishes to bring out here is not on the everlasting being of God but on his eternal presentness,
and from here, page 263, 1929,
[T]his interpretation of the divine name as “The Eternal” or, alternately, as “the eternal essence” was “austere, sublime,” and “genuinely ‘numinous.'” But its origins were Hellenistic, not Jewish. … According to Rosenzweig, this fundamentally “Hellenistic” interpretation missed Judaism’s richly personalist and this-worldly understanding of God.
(Click on the tag “Eternal” in the top right corner for the other posts in this series.)
This will be a bit sketchy, a plane to catch this afternoon. But the problem with LORD is that it is anthropomorphic, and extension of a word for a certain type of human, a male boss, with sometimes unlimited rights. Almost all names for God are anthropomorphic except when He is called our rock and our shield, etc. Even putting the word in all caps doesn’t really make the word LORD non-anthropomorphic.
But another problem is that both “Lord” and “God” are semantically gendered words in English and are not semantically gendered words in Hebrew. That is, they have grammatical gender in Hebrew, they are referred to as “he.” But this is a function of the grammar of the language. A mother eagle can be a “he” or a table is a “he.” That’s just how it goes.
But in English “Lord” is semantically gendered because it is the opposite partner to “lady,” and “God” is semantically gendered because it has the opposite partner of “goddess.” Note the lower cap. They are not equal.
However, in Hebrew Elohim for God has no semantic gender. It is not male and cannot designate a human or indicate that God is male. It has no female contrasting equivalent. It is a plural word to begin with but takes a singular verb or pronoun. However, it has no semantic masculine content.
Yahweh, translated LORD, in the King James Bible, is the same. It has no feminine contrasting partner and no masculine content. Yahweh is the one who exists forever. Yahweh is also a personal being who relates to humans. Yahweh is not masculine or feminine, but Hebrew has only masculine and feminine grammatical categories, so grammatically it is masculine. This does not mean that Yahweh is masculine any more than a table is masculine. We are wrong to attribute to Yahweh Elohim attributes which we value in males over attributes which we value in females. Actually, humans are skewed in this. Overall, we value courage, honesty, loyalty, and a love of fun – for both men and women. We need to pull this one together and eliminate the great chasm dug between men and women.
Yahweh Elohim Shaddai, another name for God, can command armies and provide women with fertility. Yahweh exists forever as Itself. How shall we refer to Yahweh? As The Eternal? Next post will deal with Franz Rosenzweig’s opinion on this topic just preceding the Holocaust. Who is this Yahweh God?
LORD God in English marches to a masculine tune, but Yahweh Elohim does not. It doesn’t sound feminine, it sounds non-human but relating to humans.
Note: I snuck Shaddai in there and some want to call this the “Breasted God.” I find this icky, I don’t want a phallic God or a breasted God. Just silly. “The One who is sufficient” that is the possible meaning of this name.
Clicjk on the tag “Eternal” at the top to read all posts in this series.
Historically, Jewish and Christian translations of the Bible into English have tended to use ‘Lord,’ with some exceptions (notably, Moffatt’s ‘The Eternal’).
But we know that Grace Aguilar, a very well known Jewish writer in her day (died 1847), used “The Eternal,” Benisch, 1852 used “The Eternal” in his translation, and Leeser, 1853, used “The Everlasting One.”
Exo 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Everlasting One, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Buber and Rosenzweig used Ich Bin Da, “I am present” in German. But David E. Stein found that “The Eternal” was the most popular choice for a translation of Yahweh for the Gender Sensitive Jewish translation. However, for a variety of reasons it was not used. Stein writes,
The most favored rendering was as “the Eternal” — which is popular well beyond the bounds of the Reform movement, where it has appeared in Bible translations and liturgy for at least fifteen years. Most informants involved in ritual settings gravitated toward the idea that the Name is related to the Hebrew verbal root for existence — a connection made by the Torah itself at the Burning Bush (Exod 3). This understanding commended renderings such as the Eternal, the Eternal One, The One Who Will Be There, the One, Being, Eternal Being, Becoming, Source of Being. Of these, “the Eternal” was most often named.
Some who suggested such renderings did so because they understood that for many contemporary Jews, God as a persona either makes no sense or is anathema. A few respondents mentioned der Ewige (a German coinage in 1783 by the Jewish philosopher and translator Moses Mendelssohn) or L’éternel (used in the most widely accepted French translation among Christians, by Louis Segond, 1874). Familiarity with those precedents seemed to make it more likely to find “the Eternal” unexceptional. However, a few respondents objected that such a term over interprets how the Torah presents its Deity; and another considers it “far too impersonal.”
Others focused less on the Name’s meaning than on its sound, finding it remarkable that the Name consists only of vowel-letters, such that its original pronunciation must have been unusually breathy. For Arthur Waskow, a rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement, this warrants rendering the Name as “the Breath of Life.”
The editors opted for Yahweh written out in the Hebrew letters – a non-interpretive choice. There is a lot of philosophizing and theologizing to be done on this topic, so more to follow.
If you click on the tag “Eternal” at the top right of this post you should get all 7 posts in this series.
I have found “The Eternal” used in Jewish English Bible translations but it seems to have disappeared again. In the early 1800’s, the very successful Jewish author of fiction and non-fiction, Grace Aguilar, used the expression, The Eternal, in her writings. I found this in Let Her Speak for Herself. But Aguilar died in 1847, before a Jewish English Bible was published. She was, however, known and read by Benisch and encouraged him to produce a translation of the Hebrew Bible. He did this, and published it in 1852, several years after her death in 1847. We Know that both Aguilar and Benisch called God, The Eternal. We also know that this was lost in the JPS 1917 translation. We don’t know who brought “The Eternal” into English, but Aguilar spoke French and translated a book from French and Benisch spoke German. It may be useless to try to narrow this down further.
I am happy to see that not only the Darbyites, but women too, have their own wine. Last night I enjoyed a meal cooked by a woman, wine distilled by women, over five generations, Les Chateau Doms wines, and reading sermons by women – Let Her Speak For Herself , by Heather Weir and Marion Ann Taylor – all in the congenial company of men and women. If you are committed to being aware, you can find women involved in anything and everything. Why do I need convincing? Brought up in a world where men do this and women do that. Anyway, it was a very good wine for those who like Merlot, very smooth and soft.
Marg Mowczko quotes the NIV and adds a little interpolation in brackets, when she says the following:
Numbers 11:12 indicates that God wanted Moses to lead in a maternal way.
Moses complains and says: “Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse [i.e. a breast feeding woman] carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?”
I mention this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/masculine-and-feminine-leadership/
Reading her comment now, I can hardly stop imagining Moses himself writing this. It is in the Torah (i.e., the Pentateuch, or “The Five Books of Moses“).
And don’t we also imagine him writing down, in the Hebrew language, the story of his own name. It’s right there in what we refer to as the second chapter of שמות, Sh’mot, “Names,” or from the Greek translation of it, in the second chapter of ἔξοδος, Exodos, “the birthed-way out.”
His name is an Egyptian woman’s Egyptian language for something like “delivered.” She’s one of his surrogate mothers, who delivers him out of the waters of the Nile and who calls on his sister to find a wet nurse for him. And we know the story. The three women conspire to deliver this little baby from death, his surrogate mother, his sister, and his wet-nurse, his very own birth mother.
We must imagine, then, that Moses is a translator. He’s clearly bilingual. He’s clearly literate in Hebrew too. So he’s able to write down for his readers, even for you and for me, we might suppose, what his surrogate mother called him. We think of his name usually as the most Hebrew of Hebrew names, but he somehow gets in a play on his Egyptian name and the Hebrew verb meaning “pulled out,” “rescued,” or even perhaps “delivered as a baby is delivered.” And so his name is motherly from the get go. And it goes into Greek then and now into English as a transliteration that sounds something like Moshe(h) or Moses or Μωυσῆς.
The passage Exodus 2:6-10, with the bit of Egyptian language translated presumably, provides some of the Hebrew language, and then the Greek language for Numbers 11:12. Perhaps you can look at your Hebrew Bible and then at your Septuagint translation for all of that.
I imagine Moses himself having fun writing all of this. I imagine, then, the Septuagint translator in Egypt having fun with the Greek. I, then, imagine NETS translator Peter W. Flint having fun making the Hellene rendered Hebrew of Moses into English:
Was it I who carried in the womb all this people, or was it I who gave birth to them, that you are saying to me, ‘Take them to your bosom, as a nurse might take up the sucking child,’ into the land, which you swore to their fathers?
Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.
Jeremiah 10:2-4 (ESV)
HT James F. McGrath, who gets us looking at “what is problematic about prooftexting – whether carried out by the Bible’s authors or by modern apologists.”
The points made are worth exploring.
I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren or the Darbyites, as outsiders might call us, to identify us with John Nelson Darby. In French this group was called the Darbystes. I was researching the Darbystes and the first hits were the name of a Belgium beer. I did not at first think that there was any connection. But apparently there is! Our family and our religious group, in North America, were complete teetotallers. We did not touch alcohol or allow a bottle of any alcoholic drink in our house – ever.
This beer seems to have had fig juice in it, so you could say you were drinking fig juice – with 5.8 % alcohol – so it was better than whatever else these people were used to. The ad says, “Recipe of our grandmothers who, considering the low alcohol content, would have attributed this drink to the Darbystes (disciples of pastor Darby) still existing in the Borinage. [an area of Belgium.]
This links to Challies post about Arthur Guinness. I had never really associated beer with Christianity before.
Here’s from a couple of pages of Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: A Womanist Theology by Diana L. Hayes:
With the violent rebellion of Nat Turner, a black slave minister, and the growing Northern agitation against slavery, much of the slaves’ freedom to worship was abruptly ended. In a matter of weeks, harsh and oppressive Black Codes were passed in the Southern states that forbade the teaching of reading and writing and stripped black ministers of their right to preach and gather a church. These restrictions severely crippled religious freedom and activity for blacks in the South until after the Civil War. Once-thriving churches were closed, often violently, and religion in the South became white-dominated and white-oriented. The observance of black religious services took place out of sight of the masters, at night, in the fields or not at all.
What type of religious beliefs were the outgrowth of this mixture of freedom and oppression? They were beliefs expressed in terms of the paradox and mystery of God’s dealings with humankind. There was an intertwining of emotion with perception that led to a unique theology of hope. It was not a religion of complacency or compensation. Nor was it a religion that looked only to “pie in the sky when I die.” Rather, it was a faith rooted in an encounter with injustice from which sprang a theology of God’s mysterious exercise of sovereignty over human history expressed in judgment or forgiveness, but most of all, in love.
Blacks took the stories of the fall of Adam and Eve, of Moses, of Mary, and of the cross and interpreted them in the light of their own encounters with despair and hope.
Moses became the deliverer of an enslaved people as well as the bearer of the Ten Commandments. Jonah’s trembling denunciation of the sin of the Ninevites affirmed their suspicion that the rich and powerful were not necessarily God’s chosen. Biblical accounts of the conduct of believing Jews during the Babylonian exile — of Daniel, of the three who would not bow down, and of Esther the Queen — seemed to Christian Blacks, as to generations of Jews, to be allegories of promise to the oppressed. The baby Jesus, needing tenderness and care, revealed a God whose love made him somehow vulnerable and dependent, and weakness of human faith joined him forever with the meek who would inherit the earth. [quoted from "Slavery and Theology: The Emergence of Black Christian Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century America" by Timothy L. Smith in Church History]
Over at Gaudete Theology, I’ve done a fairly close read of the questionnaire that is part of the Preparatory Document for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that Pope Francis has called for October 2014. This is the questionnaire that caused
a flurry of media and blog coverage about whether this was the first time such a thing had ever been done, whether it amounted to a survey on church doctrine, which bishops’ conferences and individual bishops were posting the survey online for easy lay participation, which were not, which were posting something kind of like the survey but simplified (and possibly slanted), and which lay groups were doing the same.
I discuss these issues, and go through the questionnaire in some detail, providing commentary and interpretation of the questions and the overall effort.
Although the blog post is oriented towards, and contains some advice for, Catholics who are encouraged to respond to the questionnaire, it may be of interest to anyone who would like to follow what the Catholic church is doing in this area.
The blog post is titled
because that is what Catholics are being asked to do by means of this document. If you’re interested, please click through to read and discuss it there.
There seems to be an ongoing dearth of good books about women of faith who are dynamic leaders in stereotypic male domains. The women exist, the books exist, so here are a few of my recent favourites. I already mentioned (I think):
The Creation of Eve about Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian portrait painter in the Renaissance. Of further interest is this book, Invisible Women, about approximately 100 women painters of the renaissance. I have always loved women artists of this time for the touching portrayal of mother love, of female agency, of human beauty, and the great innovation of painting people with their mouths sometimes open. Such a novelty! It is clear that women were recognized, contributed, innovated, earned a living and supported their families by painting.
The next book which honours women is The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible by Alan Levenson. Yup. There is a great chapter on Nehama Leibowitz, who is called “the most influential Bible teacher of the twentieth century.” Yes, a woman. (Theophrastus introduced me to her on the blog – somewhere – a few years ago.) Also some discussion about feminist approaches to the Bible and especially that of Tivka Frymer-Kensky, whose book Reading the Women of the Bible, is a model of interpretation for me.
Now I am reading the recently published book, The Spymistress, about Elizabeth Van Lew, a 45 year old single women, who with her widowed mother, of a wealthy class, started a Union spy ring in Richmond, Virginia. Elizabeth Van Lew was recently inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. These women were not supported or lead by any man or men, or males of any species. They were single independent women who decided to remain loyal to the Union and spy for the North. They defied all men in their social circle and deceived the Confederates that they dealt with. Their main mission was to bring aid to Union prisoners of war held in the south, and to pass military information to the north in order to shorten the war. Another woman of the same type is Clara Barton who founded the American Red Cross.
Then I also read Song of Songs by Tremper Longman, about a book, perhaps written by a woman, where the woman initiates lovemaking. This reminds me, funnily enough, of Daniel Silva’s thriller series, which I enjoy, about an Israeli assassin. The women, various lovers, usually initiate the lovemaking, and contrary to conservative rhetoric, it is she who embraces and takes her lover into herself. Funny this, because Grudem likes these books, books of strong women who initiate lovemaking. Who knew? Of course, the main character is emotionally loyal to his wife who lives on in a catatonic state in a nursing home after a terrorist bombing. She is the perfect silent woman. (I shake my head in puzzlement. Having it both ways?)
Anyway, the mainstream Christian blogs have got to get their butt in gear and write about women of faith as exegetes, innovators and creators of important trends and organizations. These are all books about women moving in the mainstream, not on the margins. No mamby pamby stuff here. Of course, for Christmas, I will buy my daughter-in-law a baby book for her growing baby bump. I am not an unregenerate feminist. And a tie dye onesie in a tiny size.
Well, sort of: pictures of cats with Latin captions on them. No LOLSpeak involved, thank goodness. (I get a kick out of LOLspeak in English, but in Latin it would be… just wrong.)
This one made me laugh out loud:
(Translation: We have all sinned: some of us gravely, some of us lightly)
But there are plenty more over at the Go Proverbs! Proverb Laboratory – check them out.
We celebrated Hanukkah and Thanksgiving at the same time yesterday, and it will not happen again for 80,000 years! We were trying to figure out how to say Thanksgiving in Hebrew without much luck. We do know that “thank you” is תודה (todah) and “many thanks” is רב תודות (rav todot) or תודה רבה (toda rabah). You can see to todot תודות at the end of line 3 and line 5 in this passage from 2 Chronicles 29:31 referring to the “thank offerings.”
וַיַּעַן יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ וַיֹּאמֶר
עַתָּה מִלֵּאתֶם יֶדְכֶם לַיהוָה,
גֹּשׁוּ וְהָבִיאוּ זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,
וַיָּבִיאוּ הַקָּהָל זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,
וְכָל-נְדִיב לֵב עֹלוֹת.
καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Εζεκιας καὶ εἶπεν
νῦν ἐπληρώσατε τὰς χεῖρας ὑμῶν κυρίῳ
προσαγάγετε καὶ φέρετε θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως
εἰς οἶκον κυρίου
καὶ ἀνήνεγκεν ἡ ἐκκλησία θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως
καὶ πᾶς πρόθυμος τῇ καρδίᾳ ὁλοκαυτώσεις
Then Hezekiah said,
“You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord.
Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings
to the house of the Lord.”
And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings,
and all who wereof a willing heart brought burnt offerings.
One thing really shocked me. For North Americans, Thanksgiving usually means giving thanks for the abundance of food and things that we have. But in this blogpost, there is a different Jewish slant. Wouldn’t it be lovely to think of liberty and religious freedom for all, not just for ourselves,
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share the emphasis on gratitude for life, liberty, family and religious freedom, Zalmanov said.
What Americans call “the first Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation by the 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans after their first harvest in the New World, said Rabbi Emeritus Michael Stevens, of Temple-Beth El in Munster.
The New England colonists celebrated “thanksgivings” regularly, Stevens said. These days of prayer thanked God for such blessings as a military victory, the end of drought or a good harvest.
The notion of liberality in thanksgiving comes into the passage above. At the end of this passage, the word translated as “willing” is also sometimes translated as “noble” or “liberal.” Let’s have noble hearts.
I’ve started a new blog project, devoted to the little things that every Catholic should know, but often don’t. Every week or so I’ll put up a brief post about one of those little things, along with a poll where you can vote on whether or not you knew that — and of course, use the comments to expand on your answer, share your thoughts, reactions, stories about the topic, or further related questions. There’s also a suggestion box where people can ask questions and suggest topics.
Current and former Catholics, and interested non-Catholics, are all welcome.
I’m hoping this will be a fun way to share some information about Catholicism, and also gather information that can be used by catechists and preachers about gaps in Catholic education.
The gospel of John seems to have Jesus observing the feast but in a dispute on Hanukkah.
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.
The footnote reads this way:
22: Festival of the Dedication, Hanukkah (beginning on 25 Chislev, a date that [usually] falls in December), commemorating the rededication of the Temple (164 BCE), after it had been desecrated by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (1 Macc 4.52-59). It is unclear clear [sic] how this feast was observed in the first century.
If we flash back to read 1 Maccabees 4 (also in the New Revised Standard Version), then we find what follows here:
1 Now Gorgias took five thousand infantry and a thousand picked cavalry, and this division moved out by night 2 to fall upon the camp of the Jews and attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. 3 But Judas heard of it, and he and his mighty men moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus…. 58 There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed. 59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
There’s some odd gospel Greek here that seems to be lifted from the Greek of the Septuagint, of Maccabees. What the NRSV translators make “the festival of the Dedication” in the gospel is their rendering of ἐγκαίνια; and what the translators make the days “of dedication” in 1 Maccabess is their rendering of ἐγκαινισμοῦ. In the entire New Testament, and in the gospel of John, the phrase never appears again.
There are a number of odd Greeky things here. And without ado let’s get to them.
First, Greek readers see how Jesus is in a dispute with οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι as if he’s not one of them. We notice this in particular because in 1 Maccabees 4.2, we read that Ιουδας is leading those in the camp “of the Jews,” or τῶν Ιουδαίων, as opposed to the others of “the Gentiles,” or ἐθνῶν. The NRSV translators make him into the English transliteration Judas, when we all know it refers rather to יהודה המכבי, which could be instead transliterated Y’hudhah HaMakabi or Judah Maccabeus. In the gospel, it would seem that Jesus and the Jews are in opposition, and there’s a different Judas, and not a hero, who ends up betraying him. And who knows where that leaves Jesus in the end, among the Jews or the Gentiles?
At any rate, second, on Hanukkah, as the odd Greek here of the odd gospel might suggest, Jesus and the Jews are doing something interesting. He appears to be engaged in a kind of teaching that is as much Greeky Aristotelian as it is Jewish Messianic. The Greek goes like this:
23 καὶ περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἐν τῇ στοᾷ τοῦ Σολομῶνος. 24 ἐκύκλωσαν οὖν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ·
A particular pedagogy here is suggested by the verb peripatei. And a particular learning engagement is connoted by the verb ekyklosan. Jesus is the teacher, the one walking about in the stoa. The Jews are following him around, encircling him there and asking him things somewhat socratically. It’s all, in Greek, rather reminiscent of the Peripatetic school. Now the prologue to this gospel comes right out with this Greeky-Jewish mix of Septuagint Genesis and logos, calling Jesus that right in the Beginning [Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος]. Readers this far into the gospel would have already been impressed by the rhetoric, the Hellenistic rhetoric, with words such as pisteis, which were components of rhetorical enthymemes, or the body of a “proof.” (The Greek of the gospel of Matthew seems to reflect such a reading of enthymeme and of pisteis too.) John’s Jesus has him asking his opponents where their pisteis is, exclaiming and countering twice that there is none in them: οὐ πιστεύετε. This is all beginning to sound rather technical. And so most translators, trying to help readers of English who really don’t bother with all of that Greeky and all of that rhetorical stuff, will just have Jesus talking about “faith” and about “belief” as if that’s the key here. The Greek key in this short Hanukkah context seems to be on Jesus as the teacher here. He’s insisting on good listening [ταῦτα μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ], on workings of creativity or of poetry [τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ], on good retorts [ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς], on good vocals [τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούουσιν], on good follow-ship [ἀκολουθοῦσίν μοι], on good epistemology [κἀγὼ γινώσκω αὐτά], on the proper sort of circling [ἐκύκλωσαν οὖν αὐτὸν] around the pedagogue. And so most translators lose all of that and get distracted just by the dispute itself. This is “the Jews” who are opposing Jesus. Hanukkah, of course, is rather inconsequential, especially to Jesus opposed there and then by “the Jews.”
What an odd mix. The Greek is odd. The Greek lifts from the Septuagint. That Greeky older bit is purely a Jewish account, whosoever’s canon might tolerate it. And much of the Hebraic and Jewish nature of the text, of the odd gospel Greek, gets lost.
There are a few translators who have tried, nonetheless, to restore what others have lost.
David H. Stern, “an American-born Messianic Jewish theologian of Israeli residence,” offers one. Another is offered by another Messianic group in America. Biblegateway.com posts both of these, and you can click here to view them.
The best and most complete work to show what mainly Christian translators of the New Testament have lost and covered over is by Willis Barnstone. Barnstone is a polygot, is Jewish, is a poet, is a translator, is a classicist. Click here to find his New Testament. The rhetorical Hebraic Hellene restored by Barnstone’s English is much beyond any Christianish WWJD affair. Notice the emphasis on the odd gospel Greek rhetoric. Follow his translation that offers how, on “Hanukkah in Yerushalayim,” “[s]ince Yeshua is a Jew … Yeshua argues … as a Jew, [and] he uses the Jews’ common law to prove his point” -