Wednesday 31 August 2011

Change of state

I may spin faster around a smaller circle, or slower in a wider sphere, but I am in a change of state. Sept 1, 2011 is my first day of retirement. For the first time in 45 years, I do not have to go to work. Mind you I do have to attend several days of director's meetings Sept 6-8 - but that won't happen too frequently, and I will continue to use and test our software as I finish my work on the psalms. And that will benefit both me and the company.

So I may have more time for posts and comments and things. In the next month, I expect to complete my full draft of notes on the psalms. I am currently working on 116, so 35 to go.  These notes will appear at the other blog, Poetry of Christ, every three or four days till late April, 2012.

There's always a chance that I won't make it that far, but let's hope for a useful retirement subject of course to the gifts that come my way from the (what shall I call you, my Love) Great Mystery of the Cosmos who engages us with Invisible marvels in our extraordinary space.

I must admit I would love some interaction on the psalms - those guys at BBB are all on about natural language and Greek NT - they almost never discuss TNK. Marcion would be proud.

Anyway - blessings to all my patient readers - I will try not to blather on too much.

Faith and scholarship

Hey - another minefield

Alan Bandy at Cafe Apocalypsis has reposted a whole bunch of scholar's opinions on this potential controversy. I haven't read them (yet maybe I will). But I did see this in the foundational document, part 2
Faith, by definition, is belief when evidence is absent
Well, how shrewd are you? Is this a correct statement? Or is it even adequate as a starting point?  It's not Alan's point of view but a quote from someone else. It's not a definition of faith that I could agree with.

I think it is largely true that scholarship should deal in verifiable evidence. But there is plenty of evidence that is not verifiable. For example, one person's subjective experience is not able to be verified by another person. That does not prove that there was no experience. Surely we need a language to talk about such things. Such a language might include words like spirit, life, God, relationship, obedience to an invisible, faith, self-delusion - and many other aspects of religious language. Defining the language is not without its difficulties. Using it requires some story telling.

Strangely enough, the following statement I agree with:
In other words, according to this view, if I depend on the illumination of the Holy Spirit as part of my argument or if my argument only makes sense when you accept Jesus as the Resurrected Son of God—it is not “evidence” and cannot be submitted in any scholarly argumentation.
The reason I agree is that both statements of faith above involving 'illumination of the Holy Spirit' and 'Jesus as the Resurrected Son of God' are either theological propositions, or language that some person is using to express experience. Theology can be talked about, and even form the basis of some logic in its own realm, but experience cannot, except to say that 'it happened to me' or some such statement (story) - in the way that psalm 34 invites the engagement with the mysterious. This faith, that the psalmist exhibits in the poetry, is not a theological proposition that you can discuss. But it is not a case of absent evidence.  The evidence is the psalm.

So what does the evidence mean? Perhaps it is a coercive culture where failure to conform to the propositions was punishable by death or expulsion. Some religions seems to work this way. This is not a type of culture that we like in the West. (At least not some of us some of the time). And such coercion is not conducive to experimentation. You taste and see - or else! Or perhaps it is a real psychology that is being wrestled to the ground and that calling on God is a way around the horror of the destructive tendencies we find in the world, the enemy within.  This might be worth exploring.

Still, without the scholars, I would be lost. Alan next moves to 2 Peter. I think that's a good place to stop. I have my ideas of why the NT is written the way it is, and what the transfiguration 'means'. It is a very full cup. But I am not ready to say that some story or other 'did not happen' - say that the trees-walking-partial-healing-of-the-blind-man is Mark's personal signature and not actually something that happened in 5 minutes, but maybe 15 years.  There is the problem - it is experience of seeing and not seeing, hearing and not hearing (Isaiah 35 - alluding to Genesis 3 - eyes open, ears unplugged).  We could talk about these aspects of our shared life, but not if coercion or violence is the only resolution to the discussion.

That's why I like the psalms. But I have experienced correction in mysterious ways. I can't explain it - I can only interact, and it's too good to miss out on. Nevertheless... my experience is not subject to another's verification, and my theology may be true to itself and useless to another (like some kinds of infallibility or inerrancy).

I suppose if I said anything useful, someone might comment....

Saturday 27 August 2011

On poetry and form

poetry or prose
A friend labelled my translations of a psalm as a 'prose psalm'. Well, they don't rhyme, and they don't scan, but they are not prose.  They are Hebrew poetry, trying to preserve Hebrew thought forms and drama, in English. And my desire is to hear and see them as they would have been heard or appeared to those who read them say any time between 2000 and 2500 years ago. What is poetry as they knew it?  It is not as foreign to us as we might think. We have blank verse, and free verse, and these days (compared to my youth) poetry is poetry if the poet says it is. (Too postmodern).

But it is foreign and not only in language but also in time and place. How does one see Hebrew poetry?

John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) has a very nice rule of 2 and 3 which we discussed in 2007 - also a long time ago in a different place. He suggests that the total number of lines in a poem may follow a rule.
A poem, if it contains more than 10 lines, typically consists  of 12, 18, 22, 28, or 36 lines, or combinations thereof. Among the Psalms, 14 lines is also a common length.
I did a quick test (I can count the occurrences of a line feed in the data) and it's not impossible that my psalm lengths in lines might cluster around these numbers. But I wonder if I 'made it happen' whether it would be proof of form.

Tim Bulkeley (Sansblogue, 5-minute-Bible) sent me this response to my question on form:
I think there will always be disagreement about poetry, and that we are having delusions if we expect it to neatly fit any "rule". But I find that counting word units usually gives a fair sense of regularity. With 3 as the commonest line length and 2 or 4 as variants (with often a shorter line at the start and/or end of a unit).
I like John's approach for its simplicity, though we will find more numbers than 2 and 3 as part of the forms. I like Tim's comment because it leaves me free to read (and I always found poetry difficult).

formal elements
While the brilliance of the poetry of the Countess of Pembroke is to be delighted in, it is not Hebrew poetry that she writes - though there is no doubt she heard it well and, I might add, her training in the classics far surpasses my own. She writes English poetry, I do not. (Her book is linked here under psalm 123.) Whatever the Hebrew forms are, they only occasionally rhyme, and there is no agreement on meter that I can hear at the moment. There is pulse as there is in Latin and English plainsong - so the rhythm of the final form will be important.

But I do not want to obscure what I have found in the words I have read and that is obscured in every translation I have looked at. What I have considered the most important is evident in all the tables of recurrence that I have put in my posts on the psalms. Also important are the ways in which such recurrence works: chiasm, parallels, and larger ring and cell structures. These structures work in tandem with the traditional parallel rhyming thoughts that we have recognized since the work of Lowth. (Though it is to be noted that Medieval commentators often interpret both sides of a parallel as if they were independent.)

Also I want to note that while I cannot imitate the language games that Hebrew poets play such as alliteration, or assonance, I do try to point them out. Metaphor and simile are easier to retain, and of course letter games, palindrome and acrostic are often poignant and sometimes structurally significant on a large scale. The large scale forms are both memory aids and teaching aids. I always translate an acrostic as acrostic using the Hebrew letter sequence.

Within these parameters, however, is the life-giving and life-sustaining interaction in covenant of the elect poet, expressing and representing individual and corporate lament, praise, joy, and story.

the choice of words
I have voluntarily constrained my glosses primarily in order to preserve recurrence, secondarily in order to facilitate hearing and seeing larger scale structures in the Psalter. I have had to search out many English synonyms because Hebrew has a large number of different words that mean similar things. In earlier work in 2009 on Job, I wrestled in public with many word groupings. I have not been so public with the psalms, but the wrestling was deeper and more prolonged. Many of the same groups appeared - like fear, dread, terror, or shake, shudder, and quake, or destroy, annihilate, cut off, or man, male, warrior, human, and so on. These groups of words are much larger than two or three and often overlap. Sometimes I have been chasing up to a dozen words at once. I have disallowed overlap to prevent the same English gloss from reflecting more than one Hebrew root. Exceptions are for homonyms and for acrostics - where I let myself go quite silly at times.

an example:
A single root in Hebrew may carry many meanings and shades of meaning just as homonyms do in English. אל for example may be a negative particle, a preposition, or a short word for God, or even a phrase implying importance, strength, power, or rank. We hear the different connotations in context. Most of the time, this little word gets ignored. It's just part of another thought. Occasionally, it is a puzzle as in psalm 82:1 where, at the moment, I am trying out 'rank' as a gloss (uniquely). This colon plays on the sound of אל (El). And the same word Elohim translates differently within a few words of itself.
אֱלֹהִים נִצָּב בַּעֲדַת אֵל
בְּקֶרֶב אֱלֹהִים יִשְׁפֹּט
So how would one approach these 7 words.
אֱלֹהִים stands in the counsel of אֵל
in the midst of אֱלֹהִים he judges
These are traditional glosses. I did not choose stands because I have already used it as the preferred gloss for עמד. In this case, I chose takes a stand. At least for now. I also allow stand to be distinguished from stand firm. As I describe this, I feel there are a lot of other choices I could consider. I also chose in the close combat of rather than in the midst of since again I have used in the midst of for בתוך. Further, I did not use counsel (עצה) but assembly (עדה). But which Elohim should be God and which Gods or gods? And what will we do with El?
אֱלֹהִים takes a stand in the assembly of אֵל
in the close combat of אֱלֹהִים he judges
The choices depend on who is doing the judging. It is singular like the singular form of takes a stand but I wonder, could El be the subject? I tried a few ideas

God takes a stand in the assembly of rank
in the close combat of gods he judges
I intended rank as signifying importance, not its homonym, putrid or smelly. But I think the adjective divine works. It fits the parallel: the divine A assembly B, the close combat B` of gods A` (just think politics). Verses 6 and 7 also helped determine my choice.
God takes a stand in the divine assembly
in the close combat of gods he judges
Close combat also reminds us of psalm 55. Why? The word recurs there 6 times.

You can find some other renderings of psalm 82:1 from the glue factory here.

The whole psalm as it currently stands for me is here. [p.s. my comments on the 'meaning' of this psalm will be posted on Sept 19 at PoC. I was surprised that this example arose in me today.]

Jim Gordon on Barrett

Lovely post here from Jim Gordon with this nice comment on Lexicons
R E O White used to quote Noel Davey, one of Barrett's close friends, who urged students to 'bury your head in a lexicon and you'll raise it in the presence of God"

The missing 'all'

There is not a missing nun in Psalm 145, but there appears to be a missing 'all'. There is a characteristic sound in psalm 145 that uses the letter kaf - in its praise in the second person singular subject and in the word 'all' (kol in Hebrew). The word 'all' is missing in the missing Nun verse.

Before the Samech verse add the missing Nun
נאמן יְהוָה בדבריו וחסיד בכול מעשיו
faithful is יְהוָה in his words and merciful in all his works

Do you think that the Lord is not faithful in some of his words and that that is the reason the Masoretes omitted the Nun verse from their text? [no - it would superfluous to add 'all' to that faithfulness]

Friday 26 August 2011

Venuti - the other side of monolingualism and domestication

What else can be done with translation in a foreign timbre? It can expand the expressiveness of your own native tongue. I was surprised by Venuti's description of the history of Frederick the Great - that he wrote his best work in French because German was scarcely a language for the elite in Prussia.  French was dominant.  Translating the foreign into German in a form that is not conforming to the host language thus results in extending the flexibility of the host language.  Translation into German allowed the formation of a German nation. Most of Venuti's quotes are Schleiermacher being quoted by several other authors - difficult to summarize.

But here it is: the translator can extend the flexibility of the host language by allowing foreign elements in the guest language to stand in translation, in this way the translator brings the reader on a slightly foreign journey. This results in growing the nationalist language and is seen as valuable when that language is weak or dominated by another culture. Or the translator can domesticate the foreign elements of the guest language. This is more likely to happen when the host language is already dominant. But it will lose more than it gains in this case. In either case it seems that nationalism and parochialism were the motivation - hardly a desirable outcome. I think when it comes to translation of the Bible, if there is any destabilizing truth in it, the opposite effect should be desirable: a third way.

This is what I was getting at in a comment I made recently to Kurk Gayle:
Translation must extend the scope of the reader, breaking the reader out of monolingual culture, comfortable pew, complacent acceptance of status quo etc. To the extent that translation of the Gospel assimilates into a culture foreign to Itself, It will undermine, transform, and reframe those cultural complacencies so that the subject is rebirthed and self translated into a new place. So my own assumptions and fears are reworked - and I think there is some benefit even to those who think they are far from God or Gospel. Why else the positive aspects of Western culture - freedom, openness, tolerance, care for the prisoner and orphan. But these are lights in many cultures and themselves need the invisible and unspeakable foundation. (Which all have or none would live at all - but the Gospel should make it easier to express - though not to understand or explain.)
Now I would add for a weak language, that translation should strengthen it but not for nationalistic purposes. It appears that in the area of theology German has extended itself considerably in the last 250 years. I don't think the French have done as well since Napoleon.  But I can't say that history has been anything but disappointing when it comes to nationalism.

So the question is - to what extent do we impose the old song by translating, and to what extent do we help teach a new song?

What are the most important 7 events/people in the OT

This question comes from Higgaion who for some reason I did not have on my aggregator. That's why my blogs have been less interesting recently. I must have decommissioned him for some strange reason.

I thought I should add a 'why' to the things I listed off the top of my head.

Since I am late come to a detailed study of TNK, I have found the most important things to be the questions that are assumed and answered by translators that never come to the student’s attention until they decide to try it themselves. These questions once seen should undermine the assumptions that I have had myself - but this growth process may be inhibited by my own defense mechanisms.

So what are my defense mechanisms?

1. I do not have proof of nihilism so I cannot live with an assumption of the same.
2. Fear and pain are avoidance motivating factors in spite of my engagement with God. I do not hide this. Reading psalms does this for you.
3. Love is a positive force but I find myself regretting my own actions even though they were agents for my growth (see psalms 6 and 38).

Here was my first cut at the important things in TNK
1 The exile and the assurance of acceptance even when losing the promised land (proof text Lam 3:32 – just about dead centre)
2 Abraham – just what was his engagement with the Most High
2a Melchizedek – recognizing the foreign
3 Zippora
4 The elect – Psalm 18:1 (Hebrew numbering 2)
4b the anointed, the son, the many levels of application of this to ‘Israel’
4c Jacob
5 The temple – from Bethel to Ezekiel, the place of the Name
6 The Shulamite and the foxes, Song 2:15 and its frame
7 Leviathan and the eyelids of dawn
7b Job
7c the accuser

To reframe these in terms of NT doctrine about say - the second Adam - is to rethink all my shortcut answers to the 'meaning' of the OT.

1 Exile - how does a Christian experience exile? What about the concerns expressed historically about sin after baptism and its consequences?  This would tie in of course with an allegorical interpretation of Israel's experience.
2 Abraham (and Melchizedek) - this is obviously a NT theme. But how do we live after the manner of Abraham's faith? The whole TNK is required reading for this.
3 Zippora - because she saves Moses from Hashem through the intervention of the circumcision of the sons of Moses and touching the foreskins 'to his feet'. Without Moses where would we be? How do Torah (Law, Teaching) and Faith interact?  (No obvious answer required).
4 The elect - the womb-like love expressed uniquely in TNK in Psalm 18:1, the ambiguity of the identity of the elect - Jacob's life as Israel - who strives with God, must be learned - but how?
5 The temple - whose name do we bear and how?
6 The love - catch the foxes - my email tagline for so long.
7 Leviathan - Creation and redemption through the eyes of Job.

One could spend some time on this.

Thursday 25 August 2011

It's the posts from the period July and August 2010

A status report.

I have remained true to my New Year's resolution. I have, as I noted earlier this week, obeyed Rabbi Magonet and found all or at least a significant chunk of the recurring words in the Psalter.  My correction rate is down to a touch here and a touch there, perhaps 10 a week instead of 2 or 3 hundred. I have drafted and/or scheduled posts at the Poetry of Christ up until December 2011, exactly 10 posts per month. That will bring us to Psalm 113. (I am still analyzing from 96 to 113).  2012 will see 38 more posts, carrying on into the end of April. - Assuming I survive the UVIC Fellowship.

All notes by verse have been eliminated from future posts and find themselves part of the psalm text on this blog - July-August 2010 updated continuously for the past year. It is a different kind of blog here. I update these posts from my database.  As I write about a psalm - its apparent structure, content, theme, and a personal application, I review every letter, turn of phrase, ambiguity, certainty, voice, and gloss. As the earlier psalms publish themselves from PoC, I review each one again as it comes out and I always see something new or a tweak to be done here or there.

At some point perhaps, I will extend my process to other books, like Job, Ruth, The Song, Qohelet, and Lamentations. I think this might provide a considerable stress of my rules - a good test and extension of my appreciation of this language.

Below is the list of Psalm translations and the actual most recent re-publication date.  You can see that every psalm has been changed in the last 2 months. Every post has Hebrew and English, phrase by phrase, side by side, notes by verse - help me see where I need to write more notes -, a time-stamp, and one table (or more for a big psalm) of recurrence patterns in the psalm.  Also my glossary with my preferred glosses by stem showing every word in the Psalter with stem and consonantal form, and an interlinear are available in plain html files.  I have found this week a few changes - please let me know if you see mistakes and I will fix them.

1 2011.07.16
2 2011.07.26
5 2011.07.20
7 2011.08.18
8 2011.07.22
11 2011.07.22
12 2011.07.22
13 2011.07.22
14 2011.07.22
16  2011.07.22
19 2011.07.22
20 2011.07.23
21 2011.07.25
31 2011.07.25
32 2011.07.23
33 2011.07.25
38 2011.07.23
40 2011.07.23
41 2011.08.15
42 2011.07.23
44 2011.07.22
48 2011.07.23
49  2011.08.02
51 2011.07.23
52 2011.07.23
57 2011.07.23
58 2011.07.22
61 2011.07.22
63 2011.07.21
64 2011.08.16
66 2011.08.19
67 2011.08.03
69 2011.08.08
71 2011.07.24
75 2011.07.26
77 2011.07.25
79 2011.07.25
80 2011.07.25
81 2011.07.25
82 2011.07.25
83 2011.07.26
84 2011.07.26
89 2011.07.25
90 2011.08.24
94 2011.08.18
97 2011.08.24
98 2011.08.24
99 2011.08.24
100 2011.08.24
101 2011.08.24
102 2011.08.24
106 2011.08.19
107 2011.08.23
109 2011.07.22
110 2011.07.21
111 2011.07.20
112 2011.07.20
117 2011.07.20
120 2011.07.20
121 2011.07.21
123 2011.07.20
124 2011.08.23
125 2011.07.19
126 2011.07.19
128 2011.07.21
131 2011.07.19
141 2011.07.21

Why oh why would you do such a thing?
Why take on such a project?
Is my life for ever?
Do I not bleed like others, and suffer loss?
Pick your poison, subtle snake
Find your rage, Leviathan
Mercy loves justice more than you do
and will find her complete satisfaction

Eugene Nida dies

Well - I just put a face to the name, and the era is over. I don't know about dynamic equivalence in English - perhaps not my taste. But in other languages foreign to me, it might work, as long as the thought processes are not tamed in the receiving culture. Anyway - it's a good eulogy.  HT BBB

I am a foreigner to myself, a guest (gr) in a strange land, add a bet and the Valiant One is mine as well - gbriel. Bet begins the Scripture. Be dynamic but be equivalent also.

Chironomy - the demonstration of the signs

John Wheeler has transferred to YouTube a series of films made in 1966. He doesn't think the hand movements have much "bearing on the original meaning of the accent system." Nonetheless, this is an interesting piece of the history of a tradition. I have copied the first one below because I want to see the text in big print while listening from about minute 8 to minute 9. The signs are displayed with their names about minute 6:50.  The text itself is very melismatic compared with the music deciphered by Suzanne Haik Vantourna and illustrated with several of my translations.

This is hard to see without several repetitions - at least for me.The text is of Deuteronomy 16:11-12, 14, 16-17 (breaks are a bit arbitrary but may help see the correspondence between the film and the textual gestures)

ושמחת֞ לפנ֣י יהו֣ה אלה֗יך

 את֨ה ובנך֣ ובתך֮ ועבדך֣ ואמתך֒ והלוי֙
 אש֣ר בשער֔יך
 והג֛ר והית֥ום והאלמנ֖ה
 אש֣ר בקרב֑ך במק֗ום
 אש֤ר יבחר֙ יהו֣ה אלה֔יך לשכ֥ן שמ֖ו שם׃
וז֣כרת֔ כי־ע֥בד הי֖ית במצר֑ים

 ושמרת֣ ועש֔ית את־החק֖ים האלה׃ פ
ושמחת֖ בחג֑ך את֨ה ובנך֤ ובת֨ך֙

ועבדך֣ ואמת֔ך והלו֗י והג֛ר והית֥ום והאלמנ֖ה אש֥ר בשעריך׃
של֣וש פעמ֣ים בשנ֡ה

 ירא֨ה כל־זכורך֜ את־פנ֣י יהו֣ה אלה֗יך
 במקום֙ אש֣ר יבח֔ר בח֧ג המצ֛ות ובח֥ג השבע֖ות ובח֣ג הסכ֑ות
 ול֧א ירא֛ה את־פנ֥י יהו֖ה ריקם׃
א֖יש כמתנ֣ת יד֑ו כברכ֛ת יהו֥ה אלה֖יך אש֥ר נתן־לך׃ ס

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Syllable counting - Psalm 94 as an example.

I did a little experiment in syllable counting today - going back to considering O'Connor's discussion in Hebrew Verse Structure (e.g. p35++) and Fokkelman in his detailed counting (Fokkelman, J. P., Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible, Vol II Psalms and Job 4-14 (2000)).  So I picked Psalm 119 and found verse lengths from 10 to 22 syllables. One interesting result was that part 1 added up to exactly 119 syllables - but it may have been an accident of my algorithm.  The parts also varied in length from 119 to 148 syllables.

In this most regular of poems I did not find regularity.

Here's a shorter example. (Psalm 94)

My question is simple. I divided this by mostly pairs of verses. Terrien divides it by trios. I have noted the central verse (12) where Terrien finds a double centre. Terrien's strophe lengths are between 45 and 59 - so still pretty varied.  Is there any rule?

אֵל נְקָמוֹת יְהוָה
אֵל נְקָמוֹת הוֹפִיעַ
1God of vengeance יְהוָה
God of vengeance shine
הִנָּשֵׂא שֹׁפֵט הָאָרֶץ
הָשֵׁב גְּמוּל עַל גֵּאִים
2Lift up yourself judge of the earth
return reward to the proud

עַד מָתַי רְשָׁעִים יְהוָה
עַד מָתַי רְשָׁעִים יַעֲלֹזוּ
3how long for the wicked יְהוָה?
how long will the wicked exult?
יְדַבְּרוּ עָתָק
יִתְאַמְּרוּ כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
4they bubble up
they speak arrogance
they promise all the works of mischief

עַמְּךָ יְהוָה יְדַכְּאוּ
וְנַחֲלָתְךָ יְעַנּוּ
5your people יְהוָה they crush
and your inheritance they afflict
אַלְמָנָה וְגֵר יַהֲרֹגוּ
וִיתוֹמִים יְרַצֵּחוּ
6widow and guest they slay
and orphans they murder
לֹא יִרְאֶה יָּהּ
וְלֹא יָבִין אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב
7and they say
Yah will not see
and the God of Jacob will not discern it

בִּינוּ בֹּעֲרִים בָּעָם וּכְסִילִים
מָתַי תַּשְׂכִּילוּ
8Discern, consumers among the people and dullards
when will you have insight?
הֲנֹטַע אֹזֶן הֲלֹא יִשְׁמָע
אִם יֹצֵר עַיִן הֲלֹא יַבִּיט
9the one who planted the ear will he not hear?
if fashioning the eye will he not notice?

הֲיֹסֵר גּוֹיִם הֲלֹא יוֹכִיחַ
הַמְלַמֵּד אָדָם דָּעַת
10the one that chastens nations will he not be correct?
the one who teaches a human knowledge ...
יְהוָה יֹדֵעַ מַחְשְׁבוֹת אָדָם
כִּי הֵמָּה הָבֶל
11יְהוָה knows the devices of a human
that they are futility

אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּהּ
וּמִתּוֹרָתְךָ תְלַמְּדֶנּוּ
12Happy the valiant whom you chasten Yah
and from your instruction you teach them
לְהַשְׁקִיט לוֹ מִימֵי רָע
עַד יִכָּרֶה לָרָשָׁע שָׁחַת
13to give quiet to him from the days of evil
until destruction is dug for the wicked

כִּי לֹא יִטֹּשׁ יְהוָה עַמּוֹ
וְנַחֲלָתוֹ לֹא יַעֲזֹב
14for יְהוָה will not abandon his people
and his inheritance he will not forsake
כִּי עַד צֶדֶק יָשׁוּב מִשְׁפָּט
וְאַחֲרָיו כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב
15for to righteousness judgment will turn
and after it all the upright of heart

מִי יָקוּם לִי עִם מְרֵעִים
מִי יִתְיַצֵּב לִי עִם פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
16who will arise for me with the evildoers
who station themselves for me with the workers of mischief
לוּלֵי יְהוָה עֶזְרָתָה לִּי
כִּמְעַט שָׁכְנָה דוּמָה נַפְשִׁי
17unless יְהוָה was help to me
insignificant my being dwelt mute

אִם אָמַרְתִּי
מָטָה רַגְלִי
חַסְדְּךָ יְהוָה יִסְעָדֵנִי
18If I said
my foot slips
your mercy יְהוָה confirmed me
בְּרֹב שַׂרְעַפַּי בְּקִרְבִּי
תַּנְחוּמֶיךָ יְשַׁעַשְׁעוּ נַפְשִׁי
19In the many divisions within me
your consolations revel my being

הַיְחָבְרְךָ כִּסֵּא הַוּוֹת
יֹצֵר עָמָל עֲלֵי חֹק
20Is the throne of calamities in league with you
fashioning toil on a statute?
יָגוֹדּוּ עַל נֶפֶשׁ צַדִּיק
וְדָם נָקִי יַרְשִׁיעוּ
21they collaborate against the being of a righteous one
and the blood of an innocent condemn

וַיְהִי יְהוָה לִי לְמִשְׂגָּב
וֵאלֹהַי לְצוּר מַחְסִי
22but יְהוָה will be for me for a retreat
and my God a rock of refuge
וַיָּשֶׁב עֲלֵיהֶם אֶת אוֹנָם
וּבְרָעָתָם יַצְמִיתֵם
יַצְמִיתֵם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ
23and he will turn their mischief on them
and in their wickedness he will annihilate them
יְהוָה our God - he will annihilate them

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Translation theory - Venuti chapter 1

I read chapter 1 of the Translator's Invisibility by Lawrence Venuti last night - and today a few examples from Horace, and I skimmed his discussion of the history of translation into English of various texts from various languages.  It is serious detail in many tongues.  But I like the thesis that English translators have tended to domesticate the foreignness of translated texts by reducing them to 'natural' and 'fluent' English. I expect that other cultures could do similar things to English texts. E.g. this comment from page 12
British and American publishers have reaped the financial benefits of successfully imposing English-language cultural values on a vast foreign readership, while producing cultures in the UK and the US that are aggressively monolingual, unreceptive to foreign literatures, accustomed to fluent translations that invisibly inscribe foreign texts with British and American values and provide readers with the narcissistic experience of recognizing their own culture in a cultural other.
I listened yesterday as Exodus was read from the Revised English Bible and was following the Hebrew. The task was quite difficult because the story was so freely told in the REB. I don't know if I liked it or not. It certainly lacked the foreignness of Hebrew - but it read very well. I compared it with hearing the Coverdale psalm 124 which was a breeze to hear in English while reading the Hebrew - pretty much word for word.  Perhaps it's the difference between poetry and prose too. So the dynamic equivalent was unclear to me but the word for word was a breeze.

Neither of them seemed violent to the text - but I can see where they might be.

Venuti quotes Derrida in his determination of 'meaning' - "the effect of relations and differences among signifiers along a potentially endless chain (polysemous, intertextual, subject to infinite linkages) always differential and deferred, never present as an original unity". Whew! Sure - who could disagree? (But I don't feel I get much beyond 3 or 4 links let alone infinite) I have tried to eschew meaning and explanation and to lay out possibilities by juxtaposition and repetition. My manipulations are derived from this kind of thinking just because I live at this time - even if I had not read either of these authors. One picks it up from the ether. Actually it was Rabbi Jonathan Magonet who told me to look for repeated words. I obeyed him.

But there is an origin that seats our 'meaning' - even if it is in the strange and unfathomable boot-strapped core of each of us, even if it is relativistic, holographic, and slipping or skipping into unknown dimensions in every cell of our bodies. The origin is where we are known even in our own unknowing.

Venuti gives some space to Nida too. I did not know that Nida pioneered the term, 'dynamic equivalence'. O boy. How nice it was to read that he published in the 1950s, when the waves of Christendom breaking over the rocks of the 20th century were at the height of their frothiness. The '50s held the ignorance of all my teachers, and our failures to learn to love the classics (already laments about this were being heard in the 1880s) and to learn the ancient tongues. Yes I know, not all of them or all of us failed. But I knew their and my own failures.  I have little respect for the arguments for clarity, accuracy, naturalness, etc as I have sometimes noted. I find, on the other hand, the puzzles intriguing, the language games delightful, and my late in life learning assured if even of uncertain communicability.

Nida is quoted as disapproving of "the tendency to promote by means of Bible translating the cause of a particular theological viewpoint, whether deistic, rationalistic, immersionistic, millenarian, or charismatic" (p18). I think these concerns over theology often raise the wrong questions. Someone noted somewhere recently that the debate on whether God is or is not is a fruitless conversation. I love in the Psalter the indeterminate nature of election and anointing - is it Abraham, Moses, Solomon, David, Israel, Jacob, the poet(s), the tribes, Aaron, the monarch, the unclean bird, or the owl of the disabled prayer, (psalm 102), the mysterious unique righteous one, or any and all who are in that unspeakable joy called 'fear' with its untold familiarity? I do not wish for a moment to put aside the fullness of Anointing that is evident in Jesus, but even with my bias being what it is, the answer to every question is not necessarily that name alone.

There is little chance that my translations are deistic, rationalistic, immersionistic, or millenarian. Good grief.

Venuti at the end of chapter 1 (33 pages) states his "argument pursued chronologically" - not to jettison but to revise the prevailing fluency that results in "various kinds of cultural domination and exclusion", and to recover "excluded theories and practices". I will have to read more to see if I can glean a bit more of where he is going with his "argument".

Sunday 21 August 2011

Around the blogs

Rachel has posted a carnival here related to all sorts of things Jewish - I was particularly impressed by this post on Lamentations.

Doug wakes us up to the meaning of Liturgy.

Poetry of Christ now has notes up to the end of Book 2.  Book 3 is scheduled over the next 8 weeks or so.

Carefree Ker gives us some deep thoughts on Job.  I love his creative words but I also like the fact that the Accuser is thrown out of court. I think Mas'r Davey misses that when he rejects the frame for the story.  The frame is not a justification of Deuteronomy nor is it "a smarmy parable of goody-two-shoeness in which [Iyov] gets his deuteronomical reward for being a righteous dude".  Rachel's (Ruach El)  canrival has a post on Iyov also - whom I miss always.

My friend the Artsy Honker who plays the horn in London is looking for contributors to the Psalter Commons - let her know if you can help by writing a page....

Friday 19 August 2011

The preposition bet

I notice that hear is sometimes used with voice with no preposition and sometimes it is used with a preposition. I wonder what the idiom is.

Here are the verses I am considering - all of which have the preposition ב.  There are many others where hear or attend is used with voice without the preposition. What's the difference for?
Recently updated verses
467הָמוּ גוֹיִם
מָטוּ מַמְלָכוֹת
נָתַן בְּקוֹלוֹ
תָּמוּג אָרֶץ
nations murmur
kingdoms are moved
He gives with his voice
the earth softens
6619אָכֵן שָׁמַע אֱלֹהִים
הִקְשִׁיב בְּקוֹל תְּפִלָּתִי
Nevertheless God has heard
he pays attention with the voice of my prayer
6834לָרֹכֵב בִּשְׁמֵי שְׁמֵי קֶדֶם
הֵן יִתֵּן בְּקוֹלוֹ קוֹל עֹז
To the one riding in the heaven of heavens preceding
Lo he gives with his voice a voice of strength
866הַאֲזִינָה יְהוָה תְּפִלָּתִי
וְהַקְשִׁיבָה בְּקוֹל תַּחֲנוּנוֹתָי
Give ear יְהוָה to my prayer
and attend with the voice of my supplication
957כִּי הוּא אֱלֹהֵינוּ
וַאֲנַחְנוּ עַם מַרְעִיתוֹ
וְצֹאן יָדוֹ
אִם בְּקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ
for he is our God
and we the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand
if you hear with his voice

10320בָּרְכוּ יְהוָה מַלְאָכָיו
גִּבֹּרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ
לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרוֹ
Bless יְהוָה his angels
valiant of power doing his word
hearing with the voice of his word
10625וַיֵּרָגְנוּ בְאָהֳלֵיהֶם
לֹא שָׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹל יְהוָה
and they nattered in their tents
they did not hear with the voice of יְהוָה

1302אֲדֹנָי שִׁמְעָה בְקוֹלִי
תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁבוֹת
לְקוֹל תַּחֲנוּנָי
Lord hear - with my voice
so let it be that your ears pay attention
to the voice of my supplication


Do I dare post these theological snippets - little thoughts?  There's a risk of blather.

The Gospel in the Psalter is contained in one word - completeness. One becomes complete in the exercise of mercy, the same mercy which is exercised towards all through that promise of covenant by God.

Completeness is explicit in the sign of circumcision - walk before me and be perfect. (Genesis 17:1) Perfect has the wrong connotation for today's English - complete implies the finishing of the work of creation in each and all of us. The word is the same as that used in Psalm 19: the instruction of יהוה is complete תמימה and in verse 14, then I will be complete איתם

There is a kind of fractal nature belonging to the reality we are born into and called into. Each word, snippet, or story, fits into a pattern and the patterns repeat in recursive forms. So circumcision and exodus recur in Joshua at the crossing of the Jordan and prefigure the completion of the work of Jesus as formed in the poetry of John. Same patterns, same participation by individual and tribe and people, same birth into the fullness of covenant, same pain and writhing, same need to be caught by the Midwife.

The canon leaves open the possibility of extending and refining these patterns as they find their recursion in our lives. No cheap or explanatory answer is to be accepted. This does not undo the requirement for accurate research, but the patterns need to be lived, in depth, not just examined or described. We cannot escape our bondage any other way.

Great books born from great sin reveal these patterns also - e.g. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill - which I have just finished. (Not all books are great. One of our $.50 marvels I tossed in the garbage. A forgettable title.)

So how could those first earthlings be complete? Only when they were clothed by יהוה God. How could they become clothed? Only when they had exercised their mythical choice of disobedience. How could they disobey? Only when the subtlety of the sleek serpent deceived them. How could deceit enter the very good created order? To resolve the issue of being alone. Is one earthling who is alone in the image of the One who created it? This is, perhaps, where what is 'not good' arises.

The pattern of completeness can be seen in the 'one flesh' of the earthlings created in the image of the One who is 'chanted above the heavens' (Psalm 8, Deuteronomy 6:4). One might complain that this is a pre-lapsarian situation, but 'the fall' is overrated. Now, given that we are in the situation of the knowledge of good and evil, a covenant of blood (death of an animal, circumcision, Passover, death of Jesus = circumcision of the Gentiles) allows each and every individual to be known by יהוה God and therefore to participate in the completeness noted above in Psalm 19.

Experimental Theology: The Slavery of Death: Part 6, Ancestral Sin

Experimental Theology: The Slavery of Death: Part 6, Ancestral Sin: And was death a part of God's plan?
The short answer is yes. The narrative is ambiguous. The temptation is in the commandment - a challenge leading to birth. The whole world is birthed in this process. There is no devil or Satan in this narrative - only a subtle serpent. (For the birthing see the Psalms).

Death is from the beginning the means to life. Sin is a refusal to die in order to live. If one died then all died. The Gospel is that we live by participation in the death of the Anointed - not by killing ourselves or others. This changes the nature of death and undoes fear.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Considering an essay on translation

I have written all sorts of things about my experience learning and translating from Hebrew to English. (See e.g. the posts under the label translation) I was prepared in the most tortuous way for this work and I have approached it in the only way I could have - by barging right in and just doing it. I began August 2006, exactly 5 years ago. I had tried to read Lambdin and Brown, Driver, Briggs - perhaps I had them on my shelf for 6 months or so, I can't remember, but now I think I could read Lambdin fluently - for the most part.  My copy is quite dog-eared.  At first BDB was a magical mystery tour every time I picked it up. I could scarcely distinguish one letter from another. Now it's not a bad read - but the Arabic, Akkadian, and other languages in the lexicon text, I still cannot read - though I have a book that I may start some day.

Decisions - here are some of the ones I wasn't aware of at first

  1. Colour - like the highlights in a picture of dried grasses, music, rhythm
  2. Games - assonance, chaism, parallels, metaphor
  3. Concordance - glossing, Rules to follow and break, avoidance, discovering your prejudice
  4. Structure - recurrence, parallels, circles, micro and macro, word pairings, whole phrases and thoughts
  5. Hearing - unplugging ears and opening eyes to humour, idiom, irony, sarcasm, anger, fear, shame
  6. Grammar - juxtaposition, conjunctions, prepositions, gender, verbs, pronoun and point of view shifts (especially in poetry), detail of word order, teasing out the details to highlight or let be.
  7. Audience - If I am reading with an 8 year old, I have a different strategy from reading with teens or more senior citizens.  But for all groups, the potential rigidities of soul are the same and one needs to allow, trick, beguile the reader / listener to fill in the gaps. Then the lessons are not lost.
  8. Policy - theology, government, piety, religious practice, history. What influence is expected from a translation? Do you want to obscure resurrection or enforce the domination of one or other party?
  9. Elapsed time - did words evolve and morph over the period of composition?  This is a question particularly for a long book.
  10. Meaning and explanation and other heretical thoughts.
What other topics and questions should I consider in an essay on translation.  Does the above taxonomy collapse into a smaller number of prismatic surfaces?

Monday 15 August 2011

Santa Fe Sage

I took this picture on Saturday - the first on the ground at Santa Fe, NM. It's not Adobe style - it's just beautiful and the smell! Almost mint in its strength but it is sage. The plant is one of many on Museum Hill.

I am back on the internet for a few days - but thoroughly involved in holiday things like hiking (Tsankawi Mesa and Los Alamos today) and Opera (La Boheme tomorrow) and dining out.

But I have made 10 or so minor changes to translations. James McGrath kindly mentioned a very brief post of mine on 'transparency' in the first installment of the August Carnival - dangerously close to a post on the worst Hebrew translators ever (see links at the carnival - a really good one with lots of new people represented). I must admit - though I understand that words have many possible applications (that's the monster polysemous) that work against any rule based translation such as I have attempted, I understand why oversimplification happens to the fearful and why magical translations (and commentaries) are attempted.

O Bother, said Winnie the Pooh, I have started something that needs finishing.  But no time now...

I shall just pretend for a while to be a Santa Fe sage.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

On translating acrostics

A question came to me on email.
Examining your translations of the acrostic chapters of Lamentations, and comparing them with other Bible translations also preserving the acrostic structure, I noticed that your translation - like the Hebrew, but unlike some of the other acrostic translations - shows a reversal of the normal order of I (ayin) and P (peh) in the chapters 2, 3 and 4 into P-I, compared to chapter 1. I was just curious to know more about your choice to have this reversal be apparent in English.
Question 1 - what is the normal order of the letters in Hebrew?
Here it is from the banner of this blog: א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת

It is clear from comparing the Psalter's acrostics with Lamentations that the order of the letters in the 8 acrostics of the Psalter is the same as that given above and the same as  the order in chapter 1 of Lamentations. Then, as the question states: chapters 2, 3, and 4 reverse the order of the letters ע and פ.

I raise this question of sequence to put to rest the idea that there might have been a different letter sequence at some period in history. It's a possibility, but I would not support it with the evidence I have: 9 examples in the above sequence and 3 with 2 letters reversed.

Question 2 - why translate the acrostics with the letter order evident?
The acrostics are games. To translate a game, one must play the game. In every sequential move of this game, the poet writes to God.  The game is with God. Games have rules and also may have a winner. Or they are shared play. These are word games, and can be played by children and adults. Three weeks ago at Sunday school, an 8 year old and I read through Psalm 34. We began with his having to find each of the letters of the alef-bet in their poetic place.  He had learned his letters the previous week.  He eventually figured out the regular pattern in the poem (with its missing or premature positioning of vav).  The game is for teaching and learning.

Question 3 - why make the patterns clear in English?
The poems are foreign and strange to our ears. Making them read smoothly would betray their reality.

The questions then arise - why did the poet reverse the sequence of these letters?  Similarly, why are the first four acrostics in the Psalter (all in book 1) imperfect - missing one or more letters, and the last four (all in book 5) perfect, complete in their sequential representation of each letter where expected?  Similarly, why is chapter 3 of Lamentations a triple acrostic in the first person singular?

To be known is to be known in these questions. Beware the too easy answer. As Northrope Frye writes in The Great Code, (quoting roughly from memory)  the answer to a question consolidates learning at the level of the question and thus prevents the formation of fuller and better questions.  (I would omit the word 'better' - but by all means, let us have good questions, and let us not have our learning of answers become the rote that we measure by. Spirit and Life are more than rote.)

My Lamentations translations are here Chapters 1 2 3 4 5. I have not (yet) submitted them to the discipline I have been developing in the last year.

I am on holiday and will have limited access to the web over the next two weeks.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Podcast from St Thomas Aug 7

My daughter is conducting the music here - listen now - podcast is only good for a week or maybe a bit longer

Bairstow is lovely - and the service music by Jonathan Dove

Monday 8 August 2011

Transparent translation

I apologize for ever using this adjective. My translations though I may not be able to describe them are not transparent in the sense of allowing one to forget the foreignness of the poetry, but transparent in that one could translate back into the original tongue - if one knew my glossary. I.e. through the English, I want to see the underlying Hebrew verbal structures. Now that may be foolish, but that's what I've attempted. I did call them also personal - and so they are. I am not invisible.

My son-in-law says I should read Venuti - and John Hobbins says he spits in the eye of some traditional translation philosophy.

Guess I better find some stuff on Venuti.

Spent the day walking the High Line and the Hudson parkway to Ground Zero and St Paul's chapel - more pictures eventually.... very moving -walked many miles, family dinner tonight in Central Park at the boathouse

Sunday 7 August 2011

Summer reading

Suzanne's mention of Night Train to Lisbon got me started reading - and the train journeys have let me continue. Here are some great stories: I already mentioned the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - a true story. Now also I have read Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda and A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carré. Both very fine stories for different reasons. Gowda for her cultural story of America and India though her English is weak in my opinion, Le Carré for his massively intriguing story line with depth of moral and philosophical characterization summarizing post cold war and post 9/11 espionage - our recent history.  One might be tempted to ask in Dickensian Copperfield fashion - where is love?

I did read a few chapters of Night Train too - but had to leave it in Hudson. We had been at a library book sale - trade paperbacks at 50 cents each.