Wednesday, June 28, 2017


This has been written over several days while working on moving an office and Exodus 29 (to come soon) and getting a rats nest and dead babies and shredded mother out of my car. (Ugh). It may be a bit rambling.

To add or infer prepositions, that is one question among many. Is something in apposition, or is a preposition implied by the verb when the preposition is lacking in the text? Every jot and tittle in the translation is an interpretation according to the biases of the method and the executioner of the text.

(Ha, ha, ha - that was a joke, for surely, like the young bull, the text is also butchered by the translator.)

It is clear in verse Exodus 29:11 for instance that there is no preposition in the text of the second colon, and there is no preposition implied by the verb that would carry over past the caesura to the second colon. Is then the bull = the door? Why not? Then another sacrifice can have the I am the door attributed to him by inference.

וְשָׁחַטְתָּ֥ אֶת־הַפָּ֖ר לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה
פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד

And you will butcher the young bull in the presence of Yahweh,
the door of the tent of engagement.

So what are my assumptions? Personally, I have been a part of Anglican Christian tradition in Canada as a choral musician since I was 8 years old. This began in 1953-54 in a brutal school modeled on all the worst implications of the King James translation. I did learn some music. But translations have been used to justify all sorts of egregious wrong and hurtful behaviour.

Incidentally, hurt, רע, is derived from evil, רעע, so wherever the Hebrew is רע I have for some random reason, not necessarily made its root רעע. So where I have evil, you could substitute harm, hurt without compromise.  Harm and hurt are evil, and evil is done when harm or hurt are done.

The word רעה is ambiguous and may resolve to a number of different roots and glosses. Here are the instances so far. Even friend and shepherd can be confused.
רע harm(1), hurt(4), hurting(1), thought(1)
רעה grazes(1), shepherd(11), tend(1), tending(1), tends(1)
רעע evil(69)

Note how often evil occurs in this form. רעה. The word for evil never occurs in its root form. There is too much data to see easily, but I was wondering how often I have resolved the word to a form of evil or injury rather than harm or hurt. Note the ambiguity of the Hebrew word by itself. Also I see that I have resolved רע to רעע more often than not. Why even call something a tri-literal root when it never occurs? It's a geminate. And it has to do with a linguistic lengthening of sound. Since it rarely (if ever) occurs with a double ayin I will let it stand but remove the distinction between these two, because my decisions are arbitrary.

Root Word Form (may be with prefix) My Glosses with prepositions and pronouns stripped
רעע רע bad(1), evil(89), injury(2)
רע רע dejected(2), dejection(2), harm(1), hurtful(1), thought(2)
רעע מּרע evil(14)
רעע בּרע evil(3)
רעע לרע evil(3)
רעה כּרע friend(1)
רעה בּרע friend(1)
רעה רע friend(1)
רע בּרע grimace(1), harm(1)
רע לרע hurt(2)
רע מּרע hurtful(4)

What though do I know about language that I should undertake such a project as this? I don't know the answer to this question, but I assume that language has some power in it, and I wish to examine it with a degree of shrewdness (aka wisdom). I expect to be surprised. And its easy to become discouraged. But, hey, you learn as you go and you correct what you can.

I assume the earliest writers made creative use of language, metaphor, play, coinage, and so on. Story informs more than regulation. But I read with rather fixed rules that are mediated by algorithms. So I am regulating the language I use in an odd way. I avoid using the same English gloss for two different Hebrew roots. I have just over 220 exceptions, but I know what they are if they haven't escaped the software net that I have written. I do not know if language and story work this way but so far I have not been stymied, but I have often been discouraged.

I am reducing the number of different roots in the standard Hebrew glossaries. I may find based on word forms and usage that I can tease out the distinctions again when the reduced glossary is complete. I also hope to see word families emerge.

What about religious assumptions? Do I have to be some type of Christian, hold some class of views on atonement or penal substitution or whatever? Emphatically not. While I know the work of Jesus and I take incarnation seriously, I am appalled by the history of Christendom and its prejudice against its own roots. It is steeped in the evil we call abuse of power. Having been weighed in the balance and been found wanting, it has lost its authority. I still hear sermons, but most of them are pretty hard to take.

What about marriage of divorced persons? Or female-male equality? Or gay-straight relations? Funny how all these contemporary problems are related to sex.  And I thought the 19th century was prudish. Does sex and gender inform my translation? Yes. The screen writer of a relatively recent mystery (Grantchester season 2) joked that God was not interested in what goes on in the bedroom (in much less polite language). I concur with Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who quipped that 'the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation', but such cannot be so quipped of God. One must be careful of some words in a sentence. Whatever one's tradition, it is clear that the body is in the presence of a holy mystery, not a comedic one (though context is everything). While the state has no business in some ways, violence, exploitation, and hurt are its business and they frequently accompany this issue.

My short conclusion is that most religious traditions are ambiguous, confused, and often wrong. So where are our deep questions that go beyond regulation, necessary though that may be? So if you must have a name for my opinions, I am egalitarian with respect to my humanity. I am opposed to what hurts another. Faithfulness finds a binding that heals rather than separates. This leaves me with plenty of difficulty. If you have read my e-novel, Seen from the Street, you will find my biases plain. (I have little financial interest to speak of with this e-book. I gave it to an unemployed Brahman priest in India. He pays me if he sees fit. Whether it is well written or not, I have written what I thought was my truth in it.)

Having with anguish and pain put Christendom to one side, (but I have not put aside Jesus or his work, and how he and his work relate to the Old Testament), what other religious assumptions are there? Why is this work of literature in the Biblical canon so important for three religious traditions? What other book do we read this way? Even if I read critically, I am still faced with the enormous love exhibited by the copyists. Why would anyone treat a text with such diligence and tenderness over such an extended time-period? But equally, if we really want to be right, we have to do more than defer to a text.

What about political assumptions? I have no bias toward the divine right of monarchs. We are all sovereign, but what will we do with such a responsibility? Where will we get the power to live as we ought? And what does such an ethical word do to us? It's not a matter of morality but of justice, and of care, as I have noted before. How can we govern ourselves with care for others and with justice? The Psalms promise that Yahweh will judge us accordingly and it is supposed to be and is good news. Seeking such equity is a serious hope. It is not achieved by exploitation, enforced conformity, or violence. God help us.