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Eavesdropping on Dinah’s rape

November 18, 2012

This short, sweet and sad story of Dinah, in Gen. 34, sounds quite different in the Latin of Jerome and Paula, and the Latin of Pagninus.

 וַיַּרְא אֹתָהּ שְׁכֶם בֶּן-חֲמוֹר, הַחִוִּי–נְשִׂיא הָאָרֶץ; וַיִּקַּח אֹתָהּ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ, וַיְעַנֶּהָ.

וַתִּדְבַּק נַפְשׁוֹ, בְּדִינָה בַּת-יַעֲקֹב; וַיֶּאֱהַב, אֶת-הַנַּעֲרָ, וַיְדַבֵּר, עַל-לֵב הַנַּעֲרָ.

And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her; and he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her.

And his soul did cleave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spoke comfortingly unto the damsel. JPS

But the Latin of Jerome has additional information. He has commented on the story giving his take, and since we know he discussed his translation line by line with Paula, we have to take that into account also. Sometimes, in reading Jerome’s translation, one has the feeling of eavesdropping on a conversation between two people as to what exactly happened to Dinah. But one gets quite a different experience reading Pagninus as we shall see later.

Here is the Vulgate and the Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate,

Quam cum vidisset Sichem filius Hemor Hevæi, princeps terræ illius, adamavit eam: et rapuit, et dormivit cum illa, vi opprimens virginem.

Et conglutinata est anima ejus cum ea, tristemque delinivit blanditiis.

And when Sichem the son of Hemor the Hevite, the prince of that land, saw her, he was in love with her: and took her away, and lay with her, ravishing the virgin.

And his soul was fast knit unto her; and whereas she was sad, he comforted her with sweet words.

In this version, Shechem falls in love with Dinah, he takes her and in Latin, rapes her and oppresses her. But then she is sad, and so he speaks tenderly to her. We know what happens next. He asks to marry her.

Here is Pagninus Latin version,

Et videt eam Sechem filius Chamor Chiuuaei principis terrae, et tulit eam, et concubuit cum ea et afflixit eam.

Et haesit anima eius Dinah filiae Jahacob, et delixit puellam. Et locuts est ad cor puellae.

There are few English translations that stick this close to the Hebrew. “Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, saw her and took her and slept with her, and afflicted her. And his soul was attached to the daughter of Jacob and he loved the girl. And he spoke to the heart of the girl.”

And then, as before, he asks to marry her. The most striking thing about this story is the sharp contrast with the story of Tamar and her half brother, Ammon. Ammon spent a long time being “in love with” Tamar, but when he had raped her, he wanted nothing more to do with her, although she pleaded with him to ask permission to marry her.

In the case of Dinah, Shechem loves her, but the story in Hebrew suggests that he really falls in love with her after he has slept with her, and that is when he asks to marry her. However, Jerome’s translation suggests a different sequence. It seems that Shechem is in love with Dinah, he takes her by force, and then she is sad – this detail is not in the original Hebrew. At this point, he speaks tenderly to her and asks to marry her.

The differences are subtle, but the question remains, what did Jerome see in this story that Pagninus did not. It is relatively easy to see that Pagninus sticks to his goal of delivering a literal translation that lets us see what is written in Hebrew. This was his gift to the Reformation. I haven’t yet figured out why Jerome’s translation reads more like a commentary, but his letters suggest that he often worked through his translation line by line with Paula. Did they disagree at this point, and not come to a simple translation but left in place some added commentary on the basic plot?

Update: Here is the Septuagint for this passage.

34:2 και ειδεν αυτην συχεμ ο υιος εμμωρ ο χορραιος ο αρχων της γης και λαβων αυτην εκοιμηθη μετ’ αυτης και εταπεινωσεν αυτην

34:3 και προσεσχεν τη ψυχη δινας της θυγατρος ιακωβ και ηγαπησεν την παρθενον και ελαλησεν κατα την διανοιαν της παρθενου αυτη

2 And Sychem the son of Hemmora the Chorrite, the ruler of the land, saw her, and seizing her he lay with her and humbled her.

3 And he attended to the person of Dina the daughter of Iakob, and he loved the maiden and spoke with her according to the maiden’s mind.

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