A Few Random Comments on a Tuesday Morning

  • Nick Norelli has sent me the Hebrew-English New Covenant: Prophecy Edition which he recently offered as a prize for his caption contest. This handsomely bound volume features the King James Version and the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Hebrew New Testament, also based on the Textus Receptus. I should like to thank Doug Chaplin for forfeiting his rightfully earned prize, and Nick Norelli for choosing me quite arbitrarily to receive it in Doug’s stead!
  • Spanish-speaking readers might be interested to know that there exists a Spanish translation of the Septuagint, that by Guillermo Jünemann-Beckschaefer, a Chilean Roman Catholic priest and scholar of German ancestry. This is an extremely literal translation and in many ways, I have found, it paints a picture of the “translation Greek” quality of the original, much like the NETS does for English-speaking readers. Although completed in 1928, Jünemann’s translation of the Greek Bible was not printed in full until 1992, and is sadly now out print. Despair not, however: the full text (including his translation of the New Testament, which as far as I can tell is based on the Byzantine text) is available in an electronic edition which may be downloaded for free here!
  • According to Sitemeter, someone from Calvin College in my old stomping grounds of Grand Rapids, Michigan, found my blog via Lingamish! That is very exciting to me, for as is well known by all, Grand Rapids is the Holy City of God (i.e., the New GRusalem). Visitors from Calvin, in particular, must know that I am able to pass this test with flying colors and quite effortlessly, and that at least one unsuspecting Oma has declared in the past that I’m “a very nice Dutch boy.” Ere zij God, ere zij God
  • Sitemeter also notes that someone in Austria found my blog by searching for me by name. Clearly it is time for me to go underground.
  • I think the author of the best “Orthodox” blog in existence, Ora et Labora, is trying to tell me something.
  • The watchful Trevor informs us that a spokesman of the Patriarchate of Moscow has recently named The Simpsons as an example of a cartoon that “can be even called Christian and promote[s] family values.” Outstanding! Surely this means that, as I have long suspected, The Simpsons make for appropriate Lenten viewing.

When the English Bible Does Not Mean What It Says

The last line of my idiomatic rendering of Psalm 22, “for as long as I live” (KJV: “forever”), seems to have attracted the most comments (not only online, but even over the phone!). A number of people have told me that they had a εὕρηκα (heurēka) moment of sorts when it hit them that there’s no reference to eternity in the last couple of lines of this Psalm, which in fact speak of a lifetime devoted to God’s service. In this case, our English translations have long conveyed an incorrect meaning by adopting a free rendering that did not accurately represent in English the meaning of the idiom in the original.

Now our friend Jeff over at Scripture Zealot brings to our attention another instance in which our English translations have likely conveyed an incorrect meaning in English, but this time by slavish adherence to form: Psalm 119:92.

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction. (ESV)

But as Jeff notes, the idiomatic use of “perish” here doesn’t seem to mean precisely “to die,” but rather to be crushed under, to fall into despair. And much to his surprise (and to mine as well), only one English Bible seems to pick up on this nuance: The Message. Well, I guess that proves that it is not entirely useless, as I had previously thought! Go read Jeff’s post to take a look at Eugene Peterson’s rendering of this verse, and to read some relevant quotes from some older (and therefore better) Biblical commentators. (And to learn why I dutifully check out the likes of Matthew Henry, John Gill, and Adam Clarke before the thought of opening a critical commentary even crosses my mind, see the first paragraph of this older post.)

“Form,” while able to communicate meaning clearly in some instances, can be a hindrance in others. I can say in Spanish “Mi mamá me dio aliento,” which can be formally rendered as “My mom gave me breath;” however, this idiom does not mean that my mother gave me life, but rather that she encouraged me. Thus the formal translation quite plainly communicates the wrong meaning in English and so slavish adherence to form leads us astray here. Let it be noted, however, that I believe it is greatly misguided to dispense with form as matter of principle. That seems to be rather en vogue these days, but I just find it to be a hopelessly obtuse endeavor. As I’ve noted before, there’s no reason to try to make a translation easier than its original! But more about that later.

Two Spanish Book Notices

I. I recently picked up a most interesting volume published by Broadman & Holman: the Biblia Peshitta en Español: Traducción de los Antiguos Manuscritos Arameos. Even though (contrary to the claim in the promotional material) this is not “the first formal attempt to translate th[e]se manuscripts into Spanish” (there exists an earlier 20th century Spanish translation of the Aramaic Peshitta, that by Hernández and Trujillo), the B&H edition is still a very welcome addition to the ever increasing count of Biblical translations into Spanish. It is striking that this is not a reference (i.e., bookshelf) edition produced for an exclusively academic audience, but it is quite evidently meant for actual use by Bible readers and perhaps even churches. For a start, one notes that it is not a slavishly literal translation meant to give us the original Aramaic in Spanish trappings, but rather it strives to be an accurate, idiomatic translation, an endeavor in which it succeeds to a remarkable degree. According to the front matter of this edition (which includes an able and informative introduction to the Syriac Bible for the uninitiated), B&H’s “optimal equivalence” translation philosophy is followed throughout; if this is what “optimal equivalence” looks like, I should like to see much more of it. There are cross-references listed on nearly every page of the text, as well as a number of clear and succinct philological and interpretive notes addressing both textual and translational issues. Further, there is an invaluable 22-page annotated table appended to the volume which notes the chief differences between this translation of the Syriac text of the Peshitta and the “usual translation from Hebrew and Greek,” but we are not told which Spanish translation(s) they reference throughout. Also appended are helpful relations of common biblical words and names as they appear in this translation along with their Aramaic equivalents and short definitionsfor all practical purposes, a short dictionary of the Aramaic Bible.

Rather disappointing (though not of course surprising, given the source) is the fact that only the protocanonical books of the Old Testament are included. An edition of this type including the full Syrian canon would be a fantastic accomplishment, but needless to say, the wise should not hold their breath. This edition (along with, I believe, all other B&H Bibles) also prints Christ’s words in red. To quote Fr Ephrem Lash once again on this point, “I must protest most vigorously against the wholly unorthodox inverted Arianism of the typography whereby the words of Christ are printed in salmon pink, while his heavenly Father has to be content with mere black along with Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate.” Also printed in red are the “Messianic prophecies” of the Old Testament (not whole passages, naturally: only verses, and in some cases, even less than that; cf. Genesis 12:3). I’m quite unsure as to what advantage(s), if any, this crypto-Marcionite practice may present to the reader.

A peculiarity of this translation is that it uses the name “Yahweh” (and not “Yahveh,” which would be a more natural Spanish transcription) for the Tetragrammatonand this not only in the Old Testament, but even in the New (and, in the latter case, even outside quotations from the OT; cf. II Peter 3:9). According to the relation of names in the back, this is because the translators understand the Aramaic Marya to be a contraction of Mar Yah, that is, “Lord Yahweh.” I am told, however, that R. Payne Smith’s standard lexicon indicates no such roots for Marya; and, as I recall, Aramaist extraordinaire Sebastian Brock specifically notes that it is merely an emphatic form of mar. I wonder, then, at the appropriateness of the use of this idiosyncratic translation. As I understand the matter, the use of Marya in the Peshitta simply parallels that of the anarthrous Kyrios in the LXX as a replacement of the Tetragrammaton (and indeed, the standard replacement of Adonai for YHWH in Hebrew reading). And of course, it should be noted that failing to render Marya as “Lord” throughout the Old and New Testaments makes it exceedingly difficult to read the Peshitta as the foundational text of the Syriac Patristic tradition, which no less less than the Greek, relies on this use of “Lord” for YHWH in the Old Testament to read it christologically.

In spite of the limitations and problems listed above, this new translation of the Peshitta into Spanish (the only one, in fact, readily available in print) remains a valuable contribution to the advancement of Biblical knowledge in the Spanish speaking world, and for this we are greatly in the translators’ and the publishers’ debt.

II. Have you ever wondered about what kinds of projects the infallible Moisés Silva is up to from his retirement in Litchfield, MI? I, for one, often lie awake at night pondering this question. Well, during a recent trip to the local office of the United Bible Societies, I came across a copy of Un Comentario Textual al Nuevo Testamento Griego (shown to the left), a Spanish translation of the second edition of the late Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary by Alfredo Tepox and, you guessed it, Moisés Silva. This volume has been published by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, and therefore should be available through the United Bibles Societies anywhere around the globe. This is yet another important addition to the body of technical literature in biblical studies available in Spanish, and will surely be greeted with enthusiasm by both scholars and students alike. While I cannot comment on the quality of the translation as I didn’t acquire a copy (being that I have both the first and second editions of Metzger’s Textual Commentary already sitting on my shelf), readers of this blog are well aware that I haven’t yet met a project of Moisés Silva’s that I didn’t like, and so might suppose (rightly or wrongly) what my assessment would be! But of course, it may be that in a joint project such as this we might encounter a translated text of uneven quality; in that case, we would have recourse to the old rhyme regarding the Liddell and Scott lexicon, which goes:

Two men wrote a lexicon, Liddell and Scott;
Some parts were clever, but some parts were not.
Hear, all ye learned, and read me this riddle:
How the wrong parts wrote Scott, and the right parts wrote Liddell.

Naturally, in that imagined scenario, the right parts of Spanish Textual Commentary would be Silva’s, which would make Tepox the culprit, in the end. But of course, I only jest: I have no reason to doubt that this is an excellent translation, and hope that it will prove eminently useful throughout the Spanish speaking world (and beyondI note that, so far, I have only been able to find it available for sale in German and Portuguese language websites).

Psalm 22 (23): A Poor Attempt at an Idiomatic Translation of the Church’s Text

Biblioblogdom is abuzz once again with talk of idiomatic and literary translations of Scripture, and this most recent round has been aptly summarized by ElShaddai Edwards. I don’t generally contribute to these discussions, but I recently remembered a translational exercise I undertook about a year ago in which I attempted to produce idiomatic English translations of the ecclesiastical Greek text of several Psalms. (It goes without saying that these are not meant for use in public worship, but they grew out of my frustration with the translation of the ecclesiastical Psalter more commonly in use among English-speaking Orthodox, the Psalter According to the Seventy, which is basically incomprehensible at many points.) I’ve decided to post one of my translation drafts from time to time in order to gather input on translation theory and practice from others who might be interested to give it. My goal in this exercise was to render each Psalm coherently in contemporary, idiomatic English, taking liberties where necessary, but bearing in mind that form also can communicate meaning (and sometimes quite clearly!). But naturally, I have my limitationsas you might imagine, my Spanish substratum threatened to make the whole exercise an utter failure at every turn!I’ll start this week with Psalm 22 (23). The ecclesiatical Greek text is given below, followed by my draft. For Rahlfs’ (semi-)critical text, which differs from the ecclesiastical text in some rather minor ways, see here. For the Hebrew text, along with a fresh translation into English and a very helpful supporting bibliography, see John Hobbins’ recent post. I have followed here John’s arrangement of the Psalm for practical reasonsin particular, to facilitate synoptic comparison.

Ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυΐδ.

Κύριος ποιμαίνει με,
   καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει.
Εἰς τόπον χλόης, ἐκεῖ με κατεσκήνωσεν.
   ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με.
      Τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐπέστρεψεν,
ὡδήγησέ με ἐπὶ τρίβους δικαιοσύνης,
   ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ.

Ἐὰν γὰρ καὶ πορευθῶ ἐν μέσῳ σκιᾶς θανάτου,
   οὐ φοβηθήσομαι κακά,
ὅτι σὺ μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ εἶ.
   Ἡ ῥάβδος σου καὶ ἡ βακτηρία σου
      αὗταί με παρεκάλεσαν.

Ἡτοίμασας ἐνώπιόν μου τράπεζαν,
   ἐξ ἐναντίας τῶν θλιβόντων με.
Ἐλίπανας ἐν ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου,
   καὶ τὸ ποτήριόν σου μεθύσκον με ὡσεὶ κράτιστον.

Καὶ τὸ ἔλεός σου καταδιώξει με
   πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου,
καὶ τὸ κατοικεῖν με ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου
   εἰς μακρότητα ἡμερῶν.

A Psalm concerning David.

The LORD shepherds me,
   and I will lack nothing.
He made me encamp in a verdant place,
   he reared me by refreshing waters.
      He turned my soul around,
he guided me along paths of justice
   for his name's sake.

Even if I walked amid death’s shadow,
   I would fear no evils,
because you are with me;
   your rod and your staff
      have comforted me.

You prepared a table before me
   in front of those who afflict me.
You anointed my head with oil,
   and your strong cup inebriated me.

And your mercy will pursue me
   all the days of my life,
and the LORD's house will be my dwelling
   for as long as I live.

A (Nearly) Definitive Review of the Orthodox Study Bible

Our good friend Kevin Edgecomb offers a very insightful review of the complete Orthodox Study Bible in which he addresses important issues of translation, content and binding. If you’re looking for an honest look at this new volume untainted by the euphoria that the appearance of this new publication has caused in some circles, look no further. I know that Kevin has touched on issues that are of great interest to me personally, and surely others will also find his comments to be a necessary, balancing contribution to their final assessment of the complete OSB.

The Best "Orthodox Blog" in Existence (and a Couple of Others)

In his most recent update to the excellent Orthodox Christian Information Center, webmaster Patrick Barnes noted:

Ora et Labora. This is the best blog I’ve seen on Orthodox Christianity. The blogger, a Russian Orthodox clergyman who wishes to remain anonymous, posts frequently and with considerable insight and erudition.”

After only a few days of reading Ora et Labora, I can attest to the truth Patrick’s words and heartily recommend this wonderful blog to all.  I admit: by and large, I don’t read “Orthodox blogs.”* But here is indeed a notable exception to the pseudo-academic, obnoxiously self-important, dolefully provincial yet militant Americanist ‘Orthodoxy’ that seems to dominate the Internet.

Since some of you have asked in the past about blogs by Orthodox authors that might be worth your while, I will take this chance to highlight those listed on my blogroll in addition to Ora et Labora, which are the ones that I myself read and find useful and interesting:

I’m sure there are others, but again, these are the ones I read, and they have yet to disappoint. (N.B.: There is also, of course, Kevin Edgecomb’s wonderful blog Biblicalia, but I’ve always thought of it more along the lines of a “biblioblog” by an Orthodox author.)


* I have no earthly idea of what an “Orthodox blog” may be. I have never seen a blog being baptized, chrismated or communed. Allowing for some imaginative exegesis of these words, however, I suppose that they might refer to blogs dedicated to theology and the spiritual life (which are, after all, one and the same thing) written by Orthodox Christian authors from the perspective of the Tradition of the Orthodox Church. This was, in any case, my working definition for my limited selection here.

Highlights from the Blogroll… and Beyond

Nick Norelli is hosting on his blog the 2008 Trinity Blogging Summit, which features a number of excellent essays on this most important subject. (I’m delighted, of course, that it didn’t just become an outlet for pernicious perichoreting, in the end.) Both Mike Aubreyand myself had hoped to contribute to the 2008 TBS, but we didn’t complete our respective essays in time for the February 29 deadline. I know Mike is still working on his, however; and if I can finish my essay on “Liturgy’s trinitarian reading of the Bible in the Service of the Feast of Theophany” by next Monday, I certainly will submit it to Nick for posting.As many others have noted, the Biblical Studies Carnival XXVII is now available at Kevin Wilson’s blog, Blue Cord. I should like to note that, while I am pleased that his stop at the hermeneutics booth resulted in a link to one of my posts on Apostolic exegesis, I am also greatly distraught that in his very next stop at the tent of the guild of Biblical scholars, he picked up a post by one Alan Lenzi issuing a call for membership standards at SBLthis, of course, precisely as I’m processing my own membership in that learned society! Alas, I knew that the conspiracy to keep me out of SBL would not remain under wraps for long. ;-)

The divine Fleming Rutledge, one of the finest preachers of our generation, has posted a masterful indictment of P. C. readings of the Classics. It is apparently P.C. to express that one feels compassion for the likes of Emily Brontë and Jane Austen on account of “lamentable restrictions in 19th century women’s lives,” but the divine Fleming cannot agree: “[S]hould Emily Brontë on her dismal moor be the object of our compassion, or our dumbstruck awe?” In the end, by feeling sorry for these giants, we only perpetuate quite sexist approaches to their lives and works.

The amazing John Hobbins has posted quite the thought-provoking post on the question of just how well did St Jerome know Hebrew. Since I have conclusively proved earlier in this blog that St Jerome rocks, no further arguments to this effect are necessary; but let me tell you, reading John’s excellent piece can’t hurt!

Jim West (tagged by Chris Brady) has decided to respond to yet another vile and foul meme, this time elucidating for us all why exactly it is he blogs. I find answers a & 2 to be quite clear and satisfactory, but answer 3 seems, well, a bit vague. “I want to,” says he. Well yes, Jim, but why do you want to? Here we are inexplicably met with silence. Thankfully, and in spite of Jim’s seeming reluctance to flesh out his rather laconic response, I have been able to find a most enlightening illustration that fully explains the real reason behind Jim’s drive to blog:

Jim West at home, in front of his computer.
(And speaking of Jim West and Chris Brady, I learned yesterday that the latter had interviewed the former in April 2007 as the first in Targuman‘s “Bibliopodcast” series. It was a fascinating interview; I feel like I need to listen to it again and take notes! I know not, however, why the “Bibliopodcasts” have gone awry so soon; for his third (!) installment, Brady has chosen to interview the Rev Mr Tilling, a well-known Wrightianist and textbook example of why some sensible people just can’t believe there is a just and loving God. At least it was not a wholly wasted 27:30 minutes: I certainly did learn, for instance, that I cannot leave any of my original research around the prying eyes of Gordon Fee!)

And last but not least, those who enjoy the use of folk and contemporary music styles in the cultic gatherings of their faith communities will undoubtedly also greet with much delight this catchy praise song, addressed to one called “powerful sovereign lord.”

Who’s Honoring Me Now

Lingamish loves me!I. Let us start with the beginning: I have won a Lingy! This coveted award is handed out by Lingamish, also known as the Rev Mr Ker, annually on February 29. (Source: Lingapedia) Upon learning the glad (and altogether unexpected) tidings, my soul was filled with a melody, and I sang:

Lingy loves me, this I know,
For his blog post tells me so!

But then I noticed the category in which I was placed: “Pseudo-anti-orthodox.” Frankly, I don’t even know what this means, even though the Rev Mr Ker attempts to explain himself thusly:

“You might think the Orthodox [C]hurch is all about priests with big beards and funny hats. These guys [myself and one Mark Olson, also awarded in this category] show that it is just a bit more than that.” (brackets mine)

What stumps me, of course, is that I do indeed believe that the Orthodox Church is only about clergymen with impressive beards and funny (as in “awesome”) hats; I am unaware of where or how the Rev Mr Ker might have collected a different impression. Be that as it may, and given the actual description of the award, I suppose I could make my own Sally Field’s legendary acceptance speech at the 1985 Oscars:

“I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

N.B.- This was Fields’ second Oscar, even as the Lingy was my second award. In a week.

II. My superfriend Juhem has stated publicly that mine is, hands down, the best biblioblog he’s ever read. That mine also happens to be the only biblioblog he’s ever read is irrelevant to the veracity of the claim, as proved by the following quote, in which our hero, the infallible Moisés Silva, recounts an episode from his seminary career:

“During my student days [at Westminster Seminary], Galatians was used as the basis for the New Testament exegesis coursea practice going back to Old Princetona course for which I prepared during the summer of 1967 by going through Lightfoot’s wonderful commentary on the epistle. My middler year, I submitted a paper on Gal. 5:13-26, which was awarded the Thomas E. Welmers Memorial Prize in Biblical Languages and Exegesis (and I was assured that the decision had nothing to do with the fact that I was the only student that year to submit a paper for that competition).” (Moisés Silva, Interpreting Galatians: Explorations in Exegetical Method [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001], page 13; brackets mine).

I should note that Juhem made this remark in order to introduce his retelling of a story from our high school days. (So if you’ve been aching to know what kinds of things 14-year-old Esteban was up to, this is your chance!) There is one detail of the story that deserves further comment: note that we chose Pluto as the subject of our Earth Sciences solar system project. Therefore it is no wonder that, as Juhem notes, our presentation had “little science content”: as we now know, Pluto is not, in fact, a planet. In this we showed ourselves to be far ahead of the science then available to us, and I believe that, on account of this, we deserve extra credit to be retroactively applied to our grade.

III. My local Borders has bestowed upon me an exceedingly great prize: during a flash visit to the store this weekend, I found that they had placed in the clearance section a pristine copy of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses which was quite obviously meant for me, and I was thus able to obtain this important book for a mere $17! Clearly Borders is trying to make amends with me after sabotaging their formerly wonderful Bible section and earning a sound prophetic condemnation from Yours Truly. This is undoubtedly a good start; but ah, if only they would restore their Bible section to its former glory!