Monday, June 8, 2009

Jewish rhetorics of the translated text

At this blog today, we come to a text that has men arguing over the proper reading of pure texts of the bible. The text we come to is a fragmented text. It is a text of Jewish translation from Hebrew-Aramaic into Greek. I've translated it below into English - unrefined translating. (It's called John 8; at least some of it is). Before the translating, here's a bit of commentary.

In the text (John 8), the point of issue for the arguing men is an unnamed woman and the force of the "hallowed" whole text of scripture (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, "book of Torah"), the undisputed, unfragmented canonical text of Moses. The unidentified text in question may also even be a piece of the whole (perhaps a translated piece, called Numbers 5). That whole "hallowed" text (or the parts) posed questions back then ( - especially when the parts were translated from holy Hebrew to homeric Hellene). But that undisputed text of males also poses questions now. If a woman today "as a Jew" asks "Is the text sexist?" and if she answers "Of course it's sexist!" - then is she disrespecting what a man, whether goyim or Jew, sees, in opposition, as his own "non-feminist alterity"? (I'm quoting my blogger friends Rachel Barenblat and John Hobbins). So do women get a say? Or mustn't the text get the last word, according to men? Mustn't women bow to this text of men as their (1) light, (2) compass, and (3) mirror?

The text we're coming to at this blog today is that different one (John 8). That fragmented one. It is what John "as a Jew" translates after his prologue. The text continues the story, carries the themes introduced, and builds the suspense. Ostensibly, the text is also (1) light, (2) compass, and (3) mirror - for men. But is it only these? Or does it more regard the position of the woman and of the man, in contrast? And how? Doesn't the translating do more than (1) just enlighten, more than (2) simply pass one along to the right point, and more than (3) merely flip one's natural image back and around?

Is this fragmented text (1) only proposition, (2) only imposition, and (3) only transposition?

Might it also be a(p)positions as well? In other words, as if playing with words, isn't this fragmented text both an a-positioning and an appositioning? Doesn't this text of this Jew take our positions and take them away? Aren't we un-positioned as outsiders to the text and by the text? And yet, and yet, doesn't it also as well throw its positions alongside its readers' positions, alongside our positions? An appositive, a re-placing of one noun next to another noun so that they change each other? Doesn't an appositive in language give the reader agency to interpret it as one noun both against and towards the other so that each changes, not only the two nouns in the reading but the reader also?

(1) Proposition is Aristotle's method, the "light" of logic.
(2) Imposition is the method of Alexander the Great, world domination to all points of the "compass."
(3) Transposition is Plato's method and Socrates' - finding the ideal by dialectic, by that "mirror" within the apparently real.

But what of the Hebrew methods of persons above the text? Isn't the text fragmented after all? And what if the person is Joshua? See the men of that first Joshua, right after Moses, listening to a woman, a prostitute, a foreigner named Rahab. Now listen to the translator of that later Joshua, that translator named John, listening to a woman, an adulteress, a female without a name as she is brought up on charges against the text of light, the compass, the mirror, the Book of Moses. These stories are thrown violently alongside your own, aren't they? Stories of the mothers of Moses, stories of Eve the mother of translation. And aren't the methods really those of a woman, your contemporary and mine, who "as a Jew" must be brought up against the text as if "obligated to find something within it which speaks to me [to her] on a spiritual level"? If the text is "patriarchal bullshit of the highest order" - then isn't something owed "to the text to be able to move beyond that knee-jerk reaction and to find something in it which speaks to me [to her]"? A(p)positioning. In other words, rendering, interlating, translating, parallelism, parable, analogy, indirection, subjectivity, profound and profoundly self-transformative hermeneutics.

Aren't these the methods of Aspasia, the prostitute, the foreigner in Athens, the rhetorician, the one paid so much differently than the (male) sophists, the translator of texts who silently writes ephemeral words in the dirt, in the dirtiness? And so we come again to the Greek rendered by the Jew, methods rendering other methods. The Jewish methods inclusive of other methods as rendering, translating, interlating, a(p)positioning. Listen to John "as a Jew" using rhetorics "as a Greek woman." Note how this translator has his Joshua speaking words as parallels to his prologue.

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