Sunday, June 14, 2009

trans-apparent HIM

Below I'm demonstrating the much-taken "approach" - but just one approach taken - in order to translate gender.

Suzanne explains that this all-too-common "approach is to infer that grammatical gender reflects an underlying gender which is could be ontological, representative or metaphorical, but, which, in any case, ought to be translated." She illustrates how "using a gendered pronoun [in English translation] can alter the literal meaning of a [Greek] clause, as it appears to do in John 1:3 [where 'the word', the actual antecedent to the English pronoun, is not masculine in any way except by Greek grammatical gender].

'All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.'"

I've added the italics to make clear the correspondences. As we all know, to make "the word" masculine in English (as with the pronoun "him") is very strange. (For background, Suzanne's conveniently posted, The Intrusive Pronoun: An Index.)

But let's give most English Bible translators a break. They commonly require absolute "faithfulness" to the original text. (Never mind that they require a merely apparent faithfulness to the Greek. Never mind their faux faithfulness. Never mind their faithfulness to gender in grammar alone - masculine grammatical gender - that defies ontology, representation, and metaphor. Never mind that theirs is a faithfulness in translation that does not allow the writer, John, wordplay later in his text -- as in John 1 verse 14 here, in which the writer gives "the word" its "flesh," which is, of course, female flesh in John's Greek, grammar femaleness that is: σὰρξ, "the masculine word became feminine flesh; ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο." Never mind the wordplay.)

Below my illustration of this typical but absolutely "faithful" approach is a demonstration by the translation of Mark 4:13-20. This is one passage that Bible translators must get absolutely right. After all, it is the absolutely exact explanation of a wordplayful parable of the absolute Teacher. If our translation falls by the wayside, then we absolutely miss "him the word" indeed.

Please note that I'm also adding another absolute "faithfulness" in the common approach to translation of the Greek: transliteration of the words. Therefore: I give here not only (A) a very faithful "translation" of the masculine gender of the pronoun but I also provide (B) a very very faithful "translation" of the sounds of Greek using TRANSLITERATION OF GREEK SOUNDS IN CAPITAL ENGLISH LETTERS [with translator explanations in brackets]. The reader, then, gets (C) absolutely faithful "transparency" to the Greek language of Mark. The translation is a faithful (A) trans-lation of the Greek male pronoun; a fixed (B) trans-literation of the Greek male sounds; and the trans-apparent rigidly Greek language of JE-SUS.

(We'll just ignore the fact that Mark does not so faithfully "translate" or "transcribe" the grammatical gender of pronouns and the true sounds of the speaker's spoken Hebrew Aramaic. I boast here: "I am doing a better job in translation of Mark's Greek than Mark does in translation of the Jewish Joshua's Aramaic"! Please read the sarcasm here. Please know that I'm not disrespecting "THE WORD" but rather am poking fun at TECHNICAL BIBLE "TRANS-LATION" APPROACHES. Here goes.)


13And HE [implied pronoun] said TO HIM AND TO HIM [figuratively, "to them"],

Do YOU MEN have no IDEA [from "eido"] what the meaning is of this PARA-BOWLED story [technically = "parable" with one and only one main meaning]?

And how then will YOU MEN GYKNOW [from "knowledge"=gnosko] all PARA-BLEs?

14 The SPERMER [lit. "sower of seed"] SPERMS the LOGOS [lit. "word"].

15And in the first place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the PARA-ODOS [in contrast to "Exodos"; lit. "those alongside the way"], where the LOGOS is SPERMED;

but when THESE MEN have ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVED [lit. "hear"; fig. "get it in the ear"],

then SATAN [note: "we all know who HE is"] comes EU-THEOS [rhymes in Greek with 'good god'; lit. "immediately"],

and HE ERECTS [lit. "lifts up"] the LOGOS that was SPERMED in the KARDIA [fig. "hearts"] of HIM AND HIM.

16And in the second place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the EPI-PETER [lit. "on the rock"] SPERMED; who, when HE and HE have ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVED the LOGOS, receive HIM EU-THEOS with CHARA [lit. "joy"];

17And HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the possessed by a root in HIMSELF AND HIMSELF,

and HE AND HE [fig. "they"] so endures but for a PROS--> KAIROS [fig. "a time"]:

afterward, when affliction or persecution has that GENESIS of HIM AND HIM [fig. "them"] for the sake of the LOGOS,

then EU-THEOS immediately HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SKANDALIZED.

18And in the third place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SPERMED among thorns; such ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVE the LOGOS,

19And the cares of this AGE [αἰῶνος], and the deceitfulness of riches, and the EPI-THUMOS [lit. "desires on" fig "lusts"] of other things together enter in, choke the LOGOS, and have unfruitful GENESIS.

20And in the fourth place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SPERMED on good GYNESIS GYN GEN [fig. "ground" as in "geo" graphy and "geo" "LOGY"];

such as ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVE the LOGOS, and receive [implied Greek "HIM" grammatically - not "it"], and PARA-bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.


Hmmm. Maybe Μάρκος and יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎, (Mark and Joshua, aka Jesus) were taking an-Other approach to translating gendered pronouns and gendered sounds and interlated language transparencies.


Bob MacDonald said...

Love it! Sure makes a new mash out of it all (Hebrew pun alert)

J. K. Gayle said...

Ha! Bob - your Hebrew pun alert reminds me of what Robert Alter says:

"The Hebrew noun zera has the general meaning of 'seed,' which can be applied either in the agricultural sense or to human beings, as the term for semen. Modern translators, evidently unwilling to trust the ability of adult readers to understand that 'seed' — as regularly in the King James Version — may mean progeny, repeatedly render it as offspring, descendants, heirs, progeny, posterity. But I think there is convincing evidence in the texts themselves that the biblical writers never entirely forgot that their term for offspring also mean semen and had a precise equivalent in the vegetable world. To cite a distinctly physical example, when Onan 'knew that the seed would not be his,' that is, the progeny of his brother's widow should he impregnate her, 'he would waste his seed on the ground, so to give no seed to his brother' (Genesis 38:9). Modern translators, despite their discomfort with body terms, can scarcely avoid the wasted 'seed' here because without it the representation of spilling semen on the ground in coitus interruptus becomes unintelligible." (page xx of The Five Books of Moses)

Alter goes on to show some examples of the problems modern translators make for themselves. Makes me thankful that Mark was no modern translator of the Hebrew of the Rabbi Yeshua.