When It Was Counting 7 Weeks (the 50th Day), not anything like the algebra of ש (or Π).
Earlier this week my co-blogger Theophrastus announced the coming of this Day, the arrival of the so-called “Shavuos and Pentecost.” The difference between these two is generally taken today, that is in this day and age, as the difference between the arrival of the Torah, celebrated in Judaism, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, celebrated in Christianity.
But the borrowing of Hebrew (and Aramaic) and Greek terms in transliteration (that is, in English spelling to try to retain the sounds of the original terms) obscures. Transliterating שבועות as simply “Shavuot” and Πεντηκοστή as merely “Pentecost” loses much. The whole emphasis of the holiday, the remembrance, is on counting. And yet in English, the now proper-nouns Shavuos and Pentecost, retain none of the numeric focus on the passage of time that the Hebrew and the Hebraic Hellene had. We might as well just use Algebraic variables: S and P, or better ש and Π.
When translators only simply merely transliterate, then footnotes are required to expand the original meanings. For example, Willis Barnstone, translating the New Testament Greek and “restoring” it into its Hebraic meanings, gives this footnote:
Barnstone gives this footnote after translating I Corinthians 16:8, this bit from Paul’s letter to Greek reading diaspora Jewish Christians in Korinth. Paul’s Greek goes like this:
Ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς
The King James Version translates that like this:
But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.
And Barnstone then attempts to restore that like this:
Yet I will stay in Efesos till Shavuot.
This, to me, seems confusing. The Greek reader in Korinth would have read it more like this:
Yet I will stay in Ephesus till the “Fiftieth.”
And the Greek reader would have understood this as a reference (in Hebraic Greek) for the (Hebrew) holiday of counted days, of the “Weeks.”
One of the earliest texts that ties these two terms together is The Book of Tobit (Chapter 2, verse 1). In the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is the reference to the festival, to the counted on holiday and festival, to the “Weeks.” Likewise, in the Greek of the Septuagint, there’s the reference, but the reference to the more specific counting of the days up to the “Fiftieth.”
If the King James Version translators had had access to the DSSs, then likely they would have simply transliterated. The apt phrase rendered from Hebrew into their English would have gone something like this:
…. on the day of the feast of Shavuot …
The same KJV translators did find the Greek to translate (i.e., ἐν τῇ πεντηκοστῇ τῇ ἑορτῇ ἥ ἐστιν ἁγία ἑπτὰ ἑβδομάδων), but they did indeed simply merely only transliterate, like this:
… in the feast of Pentecost, which is the holy feast of the seven weeks …
… on the day of the Feast of Weeks …
I still haven’t found a true translation of the Hebraic Hellene (which is the same in both Greek versions) into English. A good one, I think, would go like this:
… in the feast of the “Fiftieth,” which is the holy feast of the seven weeks …
Clearly, the LXX translators are giving a bit more explanation of the Day counted, the significance of the weeks and the number of them. And wouldn’t English translators of the Hebrew also, and of the Hebraic Hellene too, do so well?