Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What have I plagiarized?

It has occurred to me that I should acknowledge where I get my words, if indeed that is possible. Someone said to me, why translate the Bible? Hasn't it already been done? And yes it has. But I didn't do it and I wondered what the decisions were by those who did do it. And I don't make the same decisions some of the time.

I was raised on the King James version, and I still read it because it is conveniently decomposed by the Blue Letter Bible site. But I highly dislike the standard glossaries because for me they are too free with synonyms and they fail to imitate recurring sounds. I am not sure where I got this idea from. I am also not sure if language really works concordantly but it is concordance that I seek (though I have labeled it as impossible). I seek it not for its own sake, but for the repeating sounds that define something related to intent.

The BLB site uses the Strong's glossary. I have several others: Gesenius, Brown Driver Briggs, (BDB) and a Latin one. The Latin one often suggests glosses that are different from the traditional, but I am not actually that free, since concordance demands that I not allow an English gloss to map onto multiple Hebrew roots. It is the roots that I have sought. The traditional glossaries are a starting point. When I have finished, I will have a complete set of roots and other building blocks of the language. (Anyone who knows any Hebrew will realize that some words don't really have a root so what do I do?)

So I get my glosses first from tradition, then I correct the failures in concordance that I see. I use the glossaries, the stated derivations to some extent, and two tools Scripture4all.org and Google synonyms, besides my own inventions. I refer to other translations sometimes: Jerusalem Bible, Revised English Bible, RSV, NRSV, and I have a few others lying around whose initials I forget.

I am not a member of any translation committee. I read and write for myself. I have, I believe, known something of that indefinable loving kindness that is a rendering (one of many) for the Hebrew chesed (חסד). I write so that maybe some might read and escape from rote learning and dogmatic certainty. I don't have any theological ax to grind. To some extent as a child who grew up in an Anglican school post-holocaust, I write and read to resolve the false barriers between Christianity and Judaism. Because there is no doubt to me that they are false. I make no attempt though to define them or their contradictions. That would simply lead to more distracting arguments.

My assumptions are at least: that language can be used in a limited fashion to point to love, and as Deuteronomy does, to command it, that music is a key ingredient, and that humans are quite good at making a mess of things and insisting on their own way to the detriment of others. My knowledge is limited. I hope I welcome correction. I will argue if I think it is worth it.

I think there is a land that is good and that I inhabit great cities that I have not built. In that sense I am dependent on many millions of builders and many generations of scholars and translators. I have little to add but I must do it. I could stop and one day I will have to, but for now I continue.

It's not a simple process. That I can tell you. And for those of you who are sure, maybe you better become unsure, for some kinds of being sure are injurious. Remember what Qohelet said about going to church. I didn't plagiarize that verse but I am dependent on Dr Seuss for my smiles.

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