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the invisible American English erasure of the Jews

April 26, 2015

Now, one has to ask, however, whether one actually comes into contact with “Jewish culture” when one reads “ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι πᾶσαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ” or “Berilah salam satu dengan yang lain dengan cium kudus. Semua jemaat Kristus di sini mengirim salam untukmu,” since the effects of the intercultural process, at first, at least involve constructing the Other either in terms of “vulnerable insider” to be welcomed and defended or “outsider” to be ignored or even defended against.
Yancy Smith

Nevertheless, when English is invisible, the key is to make it visible and, as you are doing, query the translation choice for its implied habitus.
Yancy Smith

[this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue] It seems that the concept of translation and the inadequacy of language is at the heart of [Paul] Celan’s work, so that a translation OF Celan has to be even more conscious of itself as translation than is typical even for good “translations” (insofar as they exist as such) of poetry.
Courtney Druz

Juis-je juive ou fuis-je femme? Jouis-je judia ou suis-je mulher? Joy I donna? ou fruo filha? Fuis-je femme ou est-ce je me ré-juive? // Am I enjewing myself? Or woe I woman? Win I woman, or wont I jew-ich? Joy I donna? Gioia jew? Or gioi am femme? Fruo.
Hélène Cixous

When I was a little “American” boy growing up in South Vietnam the last ten years of the war there, the nation of my father and mother was also there saving the world from Communism and the Vietnamese people from the Viet Cong and the Viet Minh. And my parents themselves were there also, Southern Baptist Protestant Christian Americans, saving the world from Hell and the South Vietnamese people from Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, animism, and the veneration of the dead.

The classifications were key.

None of us talked in our English much about the Jews.

The Old Testament was the backdrop for the New Testament, if necessary then but a mere pretext for the main Christian text.

My siblings and I were allowed to watch the big American films in which, it is true, the actor Charlton Heston did play a Judah Ben-Hur and a Moses. But we saw him also as John the Baptist, whose cousin, Jesus, looked like this:

Jesus has blue eyes and a straight nose and white skin, like ours, and speaks English, like we do. Even the black-and-white “more-biblically-accurate” films my father would show in his evangelism efforts had Jesus speaking our language (quite literally “invisible”), with the Vietnamese subtitled in, a visual subtext. Even these made our hero, and our savior, more one of us than an Other unlike us. Even these accurate films did what The Greatest Story Ever Told did.

According to Stephenson Humphries-Brooks in Cinematic Savior:


When Jesus comes up from the waters of adult baptism, the white dove rests on him, the Father, God Himself, speaks in our American tongue. This is not a Mikvah. We don’t need to know what that is. We are Christians (not even among Jews, who might oppose us).

The classification has given way to the “rendered unidentifiable.” These things happen in stages, in steps, from classification, says Gregory Stanton, watching (for) genocide.

As an adult (still growing up), I read what Yancy Smith and Courtney Druz and Hélène Cixous have written (above).

Does the Christian English-Bible reader “come into contact with ‘Jewish culture’ when one reads “ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι πᾶσαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ”?

Can translators make this visible?

Might it be the case that “a translation OF [a Christian Saint Paul or of a Christian Saint Peter] has to be even more conscious of itself as translation than is typical even for good ‘translations’” for the holy kiss of peace?

Wasn’t the LXX translator playing with the Hellene rending of the Hebrew when writing this of what we know as the Holy Prophet kissing the first pre-Christian Christ of the Jews (what we call the Septuagint version of 1 Samuel 10:1)?

καὶ ἔλαβεν Σαμουηλ τὸν φακὸν τοῦ ἐλαίου
καὶ ἐπέχεεν ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἐφίλησεν αὐτὸν
καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ
οὐχὶ κέχρικέν σε κύριος εἰς ἄρχοντα ἐπὶ τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ Ισραηλ
καὶ σὺ ἄρξεις ἐν λαῷ κυρίου καὶ σὺ σώσεις αὐτὸν ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ κυκλόθεν
καὶ τοῦτό σοι τὸ σημεῖον ὅτι ἔχρισέν σε κύριος ἐπὶ κληρονομίαν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἄρχοντα

Isn’t the kiss of peace pre-Christian or at least not only a Christian ritual from Paul’s and Peter’s writings? Why does Menachem M. Brayer in The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature say so?




And could this get erased? What and who have been erased? Why would Michael Philip Penn in Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church suggest this?


What does translation matter when the stereotexts become one-tracked and one language and one culture? And what if that language stays invisible, erasing all Other?

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