Thursday, December 31, 2009

Χρόνια Πολλά / Happy New Year!

Have a happy new year! (and here are good "translations" of "Happy New Year" from -->

  • Kull 'ām wa 'antum bikhair كل عام وأنتم بخير - Arabic for "May every year find you (plural) in good health"
  • Честита нова година (Chestita nova godina, Happy New Year) in Bulgarian
  • Prettige Kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar - Dutch
  • Jour de l'An- French for Happy New Year used in French Canada
  • Boas Festas - Galician for Happy Holidays
  • Καλές Γιορτές Greek for Happy Holidays or Χρόνια Πολλά Greek literaly "Many Years"
  • Gmar Chatimah Tovah גמר חתימה טובה ("May you be sealed for good") or Tzom Kal צום קל ("Have an easy fast") - solemn greetings for Yom Kippur.
  • Mo-ād-īm L'sim-chā מועדים לשמחה - Hebrew language for "Happy Holidays" is the proper greeting for the Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot). The response is "Chāg-īm Uz'mān-īm L'sā-son חגים וזמנים לששון". These phrases also appear liturgically.
  • Alternatively one may wish someone a Shanah tovah u'metukah שנה טובה ומתוקה "A good and sweet year".
  • Nav varsh ki Shubhkamnaye: New Year greeting in Hindi
  • Selamat Tahun Baru: "Happy New Year" Indonesian
  • Buone Feste - Italian for Happy Holidays
  • 明けましておめでとうございます。(Akemashite Omedetō-gozaimasu.), in Japanese, literally: "Opening congratulations." but is used as "Happy New Year."
  • 새해 복 많이 받으세요 Saehae Bok Mani baduseyo - Korean "Happy New Year"
  • Schéi Feierdeeg - Luxembourgish for Happy Holidays
  • maaf zahir dan batin - Malaysian Lit. "Forgive my physical and emotional (wrongdoings)"
  • gōng xǐ fā cái - Chinese (Mandarin), "Congratulations and Prosperity"
  • "Шинэ жилийн мэнд хүргэе" Shini jiliin mend hurgie, -Mongolian,- Happy New Year
  • Shin Jileen Mend Khurgey - Mongolian for Happy New Year
  • Wesołych Świąt - Polish greeting used before Christmas (literally 'Happy Holidays').
  • Boas Festas - Portuguese for Happy Holidays
  • С Новым Годом (S Novim Godom) - Russian, - Happy New Year Lit. "With a New Year" (on the 1st of January and later); С Наступающим! (S Nastupajuschim) Lit. "With the Coming (Year/Holiday)" (before the New Year has actually begun)
  • Felices Fiestas - Spanish for Happy Holidays
  • Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun - Turkish - "Happy New Year"
  • "З Новим Роком!" - Ukrainian for "Happy New Year!", literally meaning "With a New Year!"
  • Phát tài phát lộc Tấn tài tấn lộc - Vietnamese language, "Luck and Prosperity"
  • Chúc mừng năm mới - Vietnamese language, "Celebrate the New Year"
  • Gut Yontiff - גוט יום-טוב, Yiddish for "good holiday" used on full-fledged festival days.
  • Vạn sự như ý - Vietnamese language, "All things are as expected"

the Prostitute...

the Prostitute, Post-Pentateuch Persuasion, and Play in Bible Translation
Joshua is an important book for many reasons....  But what makes the book of Joshua overwhelmingly important is that it stands as a bridge, a link between the Pentateuch (the writings of Moses [i.e., "the Law," Torah]) and the rest of Scripture.
--Francis A. Schaeffer

We assume that the Homeric poet had a number of stories about Odysseus to draw on, but that he judiciously selected those stories that went together to transform what might have been merely an elaborate travel tale into an epic that explores the dimensions and facets of a larger-than-life heroic character....  A literary text, ...with stories and tales intricately linked into a single unitary document, seeks to explain, to bring meaning and order to paradoxical events of human experience.  In this sense, Joshua... approach[es] the Odyssey.
--Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis and Willard van Antwerpen, Jr.

Shortly after the translation was achieved, the Greek text of the Law would have been read and studied in Jewish synagogues in Alexandria....  With time, familiarity with the text grew.  Alexandrian and Egyptian Jews would slowly come to hold the LXX as sacred -- at least as sacred as the Hebrew original....  [T]he collective translators are part of the Homeric paradigm.
--Sylvie Honigman
You see what I'm doing, don't you?  I'm starting a post entitled "The Prostitute, Post-Pentateuch Persuasion, and Play in Bible Translation" with three epigraphs.  The epigraphs are to help us get to what I call "feminist rhetorical translating" of the Bible. They're to help us to uncover, to recover perhaps, some early and likely resistances to Aristotle.  The first epigraph is to emphasize that "the book of Joshua" comes after Torah, just as post-modernism comes after modernism but just as much as midrashim come after the oral-then-written tradition of Moses.  The second epigraph is to emphasize that "Joshua" is literary history.  The third epigraph is to emphasize that the little bit of Joshua in Greek that I'm going to post on (below) is midrashic, Homeric, Aristotle-defying stuff.  It's not the way we typically think of translation today, and that's the point of most translators who follow after Aristotle, isn't it?  But why not remember what the first translators of the Bible did?  Maybe we'll learn something.

This post has three main chapters.  They are:  I. Hebrew Wordplay, II. Aristotle's Word, and III. Opening Pandora's Pentateuch.

Chapter I --
Hebrew Wordplay

In the Hebrew version of Joshua, there's plenty of wordplay before translation.  By "wordplay," I mean both playfulness with words and wiggleroom in their interpretation.  For example, the name Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ) is playful and is ambiguous.  According to bəmidbar Sinai (aka Numbers 13:16), Moses nicknamed or renamed his assistant who had been named Hosea; and the former renamed the later the name Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ), and he did so by mixing the younger person's name (הוֺשֵׁעַ) with a contraction of the unspeakable Name (יהוה).  But the observed wordplay does not stop there.  According to a later Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ), perhaps, this littlest letter י -- in the name and in the Name -- is declared to be significant when he says (through the Greek translator Matthew):  "ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου" (i.e., Mt 5:18, "neither the littlest letter י nor some serif stroke will go away from Torah").  But the observed wordplay does not stop there.  According to midrash after Torah, there comes more interpretation of the name Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ); it is a name born of G-d from the name of the woman Sarai (שָׂרַי) who, as a mother, gives up her letter (י) which becomes his "letter yud."   But the observed wordplay does not stop there.  According to the freshest of rabbinic teachings of 2009, we should be able to see something:  can't we see it, whether Moses writing Torah intended it or not, that "one's two eyes are the two yuds"?  There is Hebrew wordplay in the name Joshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ), the name of certain people and the name of the first post-Pentateuch parchment.

In Hebrew, likewise, the name of the prostitute is playful and is full of illustrative possibilities.  Rahab (רָחָב) is a playful name with lots of interpretive play (or hermeneutic wiggle room in it).  She's a maid and she's a monster.  "Broad" might be a fair English language translation, since she's a woman and is wide like land where women can be gotten.  You really have to see the Hebrew of Genesis 34:21 to get this:
הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה שְֽׁלֵמִים הֵם אִתָּנוּ וְיֵשְׁבוּ בָאָרֶץ וְיִסְחֲרוּ אֹתָהּ וְהָאָרֶץ הִנֵּה רַֽחֲבַת־יָדַיִם לִפְנֵיהֶם אֶת־בְּנֹתָם נִקַּֽח־לָנוּ לְנָשִׁים וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֵינוּ נִתֵּן לָהֶֽם׃

These men [are] peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, [it is] Broad (רַֽחֲבַ) enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
Beyond the wordplay in names, then, there's play in the narrative, in "book" of Joshua itself.  The book of Joshua follows the closed books of Moses and thereby opens up a new library of books in Jewish history after Moses.  God has spoken to Moses, who has nicknamed Joshua and has written down everything God said, and put what's written in a box to be re-read.  Looking into that Torah box of Moses, says Hebraist Rachel Barenblat, "it can seem that the point the writer is trying to make is deliberately obscured beneath layers and levels of allusion and allegory."  Looking beyond that Torah box of Moses, says Christian linguist David Ker, one sees "more about humans than God...  that revelation comes in the context of a long trajectory of God’s dealings with humanity... a metanarrative... a long train wreck of the nation of Israel through apostasy and rejection of God’s covenant....  Ethnic hatred. Religious conflict. Revenge culture."  The first hero, right out of the box, is not even from the nation of Israel, and is not even a male, and is not even a clean female.  Rather, the very first hero is a foreigner, a woman hero, a prostitute for men, a dirty goyish heroine.  And, in Hebrew, there's a point in the story where the heroine, the prostitute, is left behind.  The story starts with her but, in order to get on with purifying the promised land, the story continues without her.  There's more than enough wordplay stuff in the Hebrew story (after Moses) to do a Ph.D. dissertation on and to blog and to teach and to publish on for years.

Aristotle despised such wordplay (as barbaric) and decided to shut it down (at least in Greek).  This is what makes the Jewish translation of Hebrew into Greek so fascinating.  As we'll get to in Chapter III, the translating Jews seem to want to open up meanings, rather blatantly playing with Aristotle's own words.

Chapter II --
Aristotle's Word

The Jewish-Greek translation of the book of Joshua is just as full of wordplay as the Hebrew original.  The wordplay of the translators, however, seems intentionally to spite Aristotle.  To get a good look at that in the next chapter, it's useful in this chapter to review Aristotle's project with the word.

Aristotle developed "logic" (λογ-ική) to box up the overdetermined, ambiguous slippery and playful Greek concept of "logos" (λόγος).  (Never mind that Aristotle himself is engaged in wordplay here.)  He railed against ambiguity, against parable, against hyperbole, against sophism.  He called "rhetoric" (ῥητορ-ική) a counterpart to "dialectic" (διάλεκτ-ική) -- both lesser than logic the way a female is lesser than a male.

Rhetoric, of course, is what Gorgias the sophist did.  And dialectic is what Socrates and Plato did.  The question is whether they could get to absolute reality, to pure knowledge, to certain truth.  Aristotle did sympathize with his teacher Plato, and his teacher Socrates.  They understood how Parmenides had separated "aletheia" (ἀλήθεια) or true truth from "doxa" (δόξα) or mere opinion.  They similarly understood how Gorgias, the mere rhetorician, had mixed "aletheia" and "doxa" in his "praise" of the prostituting Helen.  But Aristotle, when he wrote of rhetoric, used logic and got to true scientific knowledge (or ἐπιστήμη aka episteme) with the central concept of the "enthymeme" (ἐνθυμημα) or the "rhetorical syllogism" as the "body of 'pisteis' (πιστεις)" -- which has become known by rhetoric scholars today as the body of proofs or the body of persuasion.  (If you click on the previous link, then do notice how Aristotle boxes up "doxa" as the safer "endoxa.").  Aristotle taught his logic to elite Greek boys like Alexander the Great.  And Aristotle's project of a pure male logical elite Greek empire was nearly achieved by Alexander.

When we look at the Greek translation bit from the book of Joshua in the next chapter, the words to pay attention to are episteme, doxa, aletheia, enthymeme, and pistis.  Aristotle had a clear and pure and unambiguous and intentional meaning for each of these important words of logic (to avoid womanish rhetoric).  And yet the Jewish translators seem to have other things in mind.

Chapter III --
Opening Pandora's Pentateuch

My title for chapter III is playful, an attempt to drop Pandora's name so as to get us remembering what happened when her box was opened.  Pandora, of course, is the first woman for the Greeks which makes her some like Eve, the first woman of Torah and like Rahab, the first woman after Torah.  When wordplay translation opens up stuff after the Pentateuch, well, then, you can figure what happens.

My thesis is that the 72 translators of the legend of the Septuagint worked against Alexander's and Aristotle's project.  Here they are, Jews back in Egypt, again under the rule of a kingdom not their own.  Sylvie Honigman suggests that, though in this potentially subservient position, they've rather subversively turned Alexandria Egypt into a new Jerusalem, that they've resisted the imperial impositions of Aristotle's logic.  That's not to say they are pre-logical or post-logical or a-logical or illogical.  It is to say that they see what Aristotle has done by boxing up Greek.  They get what he intends by using the little "-icky" suffix on words, by changing "logos" to "logic."  They avoid the suffix like an Egyptian plague.

Now we can look at what the Jewish translators do by rendering the Hebrew of Joshua into Hellene.  We come again to that "point in the story where the heroine, the prostitute, is left behind."  We come to a turn, to the first villain.  This guy's trouble and troubling, and so his name is Achan (עָכָן).  We've come to the point in the story where the heroine is no longer necessary, to Joshua 7:1.

The contrasts are stark.  Whereas the hero is a woman, the villain is a man.  She's a foreigner; he's a son of Israel, from the very Jewish tribe of Judah.  They both hide something, but her lying and her knowledge of God save her; his eventual truth-telling and his opinion of God destroy him.

So now we get to the Greek.  For Aristotle, females were scientifically objectively lesser than males.  Males were the ones with the science, with certainty about Nature and Reality and Truth.  Remember the words (a) episteme, (b) doxa, (c) aletheia, (d) enthymeme, and (f) pistis?  Roughly, they mean (respectively) the following for Aristotle:  (a) "sure knowledge," (b) "mere opinion," (c) "Truth with a capital T," (d) "persuasion's logical body [which is less rigorous than a pure logical syllogism]," and (f) "proof or persuasiveness."

But this same Greek for the Jewish translators in Alexandria was more open.  They seem to take a tight set of Aristotle's strictly boxed up words and open them up.   Remember the words (a) episteme, (b) doxa, (c) aletheia, (d) enthymeme, and (f) pistis?  Now, not only do they mean the very boxed up meanings Aristotle meant them to mean but they also have Jewish-barbaric meanings as well.  Respectively and roughly, these Greek words for the Jewish translators also mean the following:  (a) "a whorish woman's confession," (b) "glory to God," (c) "the truth of a man named Trouble," (d) "outlawed coveteousness," and (f) "working faith or belief in God."

Here's the text.  I'm giving both the LXX translator's Greek and Brenton's English translation (mostly).

In Joshua 2:5, Rahab the prostitute persuades.  First, she lies, saying to the men of her nation about the Jewish spies:  "I know not [οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι episteme] whither they are gone."  Then (in verse 9), the foreign prostitute says to the Jewish spies:  "I know [ἐπίσταμαι episteme] that the Lord has given you the land."  The barbarian goyish woman denies having certain scientific knowledge and then claims she has it.  The LXX translators are using Aristotle's word as dirty, womanly opinion, as mere doxa.  By her rhetoric (through the Hebrew-to-Hellene translation), this prostitute saves and is saved.

So we leave the heroine and come to the villain.  His rhetoric is poorer, is less persuasive.  But the Hellene translation by the Hebrew readers is just as playful.

In 7:19, Joshua (the story's protagonist) says to the villainous trouble-making troubler named Achan:   "Give due opinion, that is, give glory (δόξαν doxa) this day to the Lord God of Israel, and give a confession; and tell me what thou hast done, and hide it not from me."  The translators use a word Aristotle associates with lying (i.e., doxa) as something inherently owed to God.  The wordplay is ironic, is funny, is suggestive of meanings now flying out of the box.

Then Achan replies (in verses 20 & 21):   "In truth [Ἀληθῶς aletheia] I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel: thus and thus have I done:  I saw in the spoil an embroidered mantle, and two hundred didrachms of silver, and one golden wedge of fifty didrachms, and I like a Torah outlaw coveted [ἐνθυμηθεὶς enthymeme] them and took them; and, behold, they are hid in my tent, and the silver is hid under them."  The translators have Achan confessing not with mere doxa but with Aristotle's absolute Truth.  But he confesses that he broke the 10th commandment of the Ten Commandments, and the translators have him "coveting" when they have him using Aristotle's "rhetorical syllogism," which is Aristotle's "body of proof or persuasion."  It seems the Jewish translators of their own playful Hebrew into playful Greek were playing with Aristotle and his student Alexander.

IV --
an afterword

Now, I understand that many rhetoricians and many bible scholars are going to argue with me here.  They might say:
"Sometimes words are homophones -- that is, they have different meanings though they sound (and sometimes even look) the same.  'Enthymeme' in Aristotle's Rhetoric is not the same word as 'enthymeme' here in Joshua 7.  You don't understand the nature of language and linguistics, basic stuff."
But I'm going to appeal to the rhetoricians and the bible scholars to talk to one another.   I'm going to ask us to compare our histories, to see how we fit in with Aristotle's paradigm.  (There's another word, the Greek word pisteis, that rhetoric scholars and bible scholars use differently too.  The New Testament writers, like Aristotle, are very keen on getting this right, and around Rahab - a woman, a prostitute, a foreigner - it seems most important -- See Hebrews 11:31 and James 2, especially 2:25)  So I would say this, in reply:
"The LXX translators tend to open up meanings of Greek words that Aristotle shut down.  The words and the meanings were once used by Homer, by Sappho, by the playwrights, and the other poets of old.  And the Septuagint translators have the vantage, the advantage, of seeing how both Aristotle and his predecessors used language differently.  The first Bible translators, the Jewish translators of their sacred Hebrew scriptures into their sacred Hellene scriptures, were much more open to wordplay than we tend to be.  We tend to follow Aristotle in shutting down meanings of words.  But the original linguists translating the Bible originally knew and behaved better, more playfully.  I think we could call it Torah and even post-Pentateuch persuasion.  If Willis Barnstone is willing to call Eve 'the mother of translation', then why can't we imagine Pandora as another Eve?   Why can't we be more willing to open the box?"
The real tragedy is the silencing of women (whether by rhetoric studies - more muting and erasing of women than "the male bastion of philosophy" - or whether by bible translation scholarship).  This silencing happens, I'm convinced, in large measure because of Aristotle and what feminists rightly call his boxed method of phallogocentrism.  Whether you're a man or a rhetoric scholar or a bible translator, what you risk missing by following Aristotle's separationist method is hearing women.  For example, you may miss hearing "Rahab and her sisters" as noted by Suzanne McCarthy in this BBB post; and you may miss hearing what Rahab has said (as noted in another post here at this blog) which notes how, in Joshua 2:14, "The Jews [translating their own Bible] have 'καὶ αὐτὴ εἶπεν' (for which [English translator] Brenton has 'and she said') for the original, ambiguous [and wordplay] Hebrew phrase 'אמֶר'.”  I'm hoping that we can at least listen to wordplay in bible translation, that we can remember what Greek was like before (and after) Aristotle, and in the best of all worlds that we can listen to so-called "womanly" discourse that acknowledges "all men and women" as "created equal."  We may have to recover feminisms, rhetorics, and translating that Aristotle once boxed up and put away.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top ten posts of 2009

Rachel Barenblat (The Velveteen Rabbi) has a practice of posting her favorite ten posts at the end of a year.  I'm glad she did (here) because she got me rereading my favorite post of her favorites (and got me thinking about posting the top ten posts of Aristotle's Feminist Subject in 2009).  "Unwrapping the body of Torah" is Barenblat's post (my favorite of her favorites) on how she reads (how we all to some degree must read) the bible.  Here's a bit that may get you wanting to read more:
As I translated a line which compares the Torah to a thigh, hidden from view, it hit me that the eros in Reb Nachman's metaphor is not coincidental. For these scholars and writers, the Torah is a beloved, adored and cherished. Her truths are veiled in metaphors, just as a woman's body is veiled in clothing. For a commentator, there's joy in cloaking a pearl of Torah wisdom with metaphor, precisely because there's also joy in opening up the metaphor to reveal what's concealed inside. The thicket of allusions isn't an accident. It's there because it gives the writer, and the reader, the opportunity to savor both the beauty and intricacy of the garment...and the uncovering of the beauty which lies beneath.
Now, a couple of times in the past, I've listed (here and here) what you read at this blog.  Here's what the majority of you read when coming over here in 2009.  These are in top rank order by most read.  Numbers 1, 7, and 8 were posted in 2008; number 3 in 2007; and all the others listed below were posted this year.  I'm always fascinated by what you find interesting, useful, startling, or otherwise worth reading (and number 10 of your most read, below, may just be one of my favorites):

1. Aristotle's Sexism: the Two Best Contemporary Resources
2. Aristotle on Love
3. Sexism: A Multiple Choice (Quiz)
4. All Men Are Created Equal (with no regard to gender and race)
5. Getting Luke 2:14 as Glorious Wordplay
6. A Novel Daughter-"Man?" of the 1st Century
7. Women Count in Bible Translation
8. Aristotle's logic vs. Alice Walker's womanism: What does this mean for your writing?
9. bibliobloggers on Robert Crumb: few mentions of his sexism and racism
10. like God: women speak

Monday, December 28, 2009

Blogging Next Year

Not sure if I'll blog in 2010.  I started 2009 with the idea to blog through the Hellene translation of the Hebrew bible, as a kind of outsider commentary, at a new blog.  My last post is here, and the tough thing about blogging, for me, is all the misunderstanding of what I'm doing and the ugly comments made by others.  As I spend the day with my son and my daughters, I think about the world they're inheriting and what they'll make of it.  Right now, it sucks more (they say) to be a female than to be a male.  Hasn't changed much since I started blogging.  What makes for change (in me, in them, in the societies around us)?

If I post again, I may want to look at how "doxa" and "aletheia" and "enthymeme" are used -- not in Greek rhetoric but rather -- in the Jewish translation of Sefer Y'hoshua aka Ἰησοῦς Nαυῆ ספר יהושע, aka "The Book of Joshua, the Son of Nun."  I get this idea in my head that our conversations around how people think (how we tend to think) might just get us thinking some differently.  And behaving better towards each other.  Maybe blogging's not the best place to effect change (in myself, and around others too).  So, we'll see. 

I am excited that Will Fitzgerald has started a blog called The Shewings.  He's announced that (and its purpose) here and hereOthers this past year have quoted from Julian of Norwich, and now we may get her works in one place in an updated version as well.   This is the reason I didn't entitle this post here "Blogging Next Year?" (i.e., as a question).  If I'm not writing a blog, at least I'm looking forward to reading.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Δόξα: Mary the mother, Helen the beauty

There's been much blogging this Christmastime around the angels' singing, as Luke translates it to Greek (i.e. Luke 2:14):

ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ
καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς
ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐ-

And there has been a lot of translating of that Hellene into our Englishes.  I'm interested in the translating (Luke's and my blogger friends' renderings too).  Can our eavesdropping on and overhearing of the singing of angels help us listen in to and work out the meaningfulness of their song?  Or does translation box up and box in the song to what the original author surely originally intended?  As if the original author was no translator.  And as if a translator (somewhat pretentiously) has no intentions of his or her own.

I start this post with Luke's word δόξα (transliterated dóksa or doxa).  The translator places the word at the end and the beginning of the song of the angels.  What do they mean?  But what meanings might the translators' word have?  Why this word in relation to a woman (i.e., Mary) at this time?

Few English Bible translators, with respect to δόξα, look at the agonistic wordplay of Greek men.  However, likewise, few rhetoricians and scholars of ancient philosophy consider the entry of the word into bible translation.  And none really has looked carefully at how men dance around δόξα as they tiptoe around the supposedly questionable place of women in the order of things.

So let's look.

Here's a really strange paragraph that someone has entered into wikipedia.  It's strange because of the unsubstantiated and very compelling claim that bible translation, once upon a time, changed everything.   So let's listen:
The word doxa picked up a new meaning between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC when the "Seventy" (evdomikonta) Hebrew scholars in Alexandria translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. In this translation of the Scriptures, called the Septuagint, the scholars rendered the Hebrew word for "glory" (כבוד, kavod) as doxa. This translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was used by the early church and is quoted frequently by the New Testament authors. The effects of this new meaning of doxa as "glory" is evidenced by the ubiquitous use of the word throughout the New Testament and in the worship services of the Greek Orthodox Church which reflects behavior or practice more so than personal opinion.
If we go back to the beginning of the entry, we read about the old meaning of the Greek word.  "Doxa (δόξα) is a Greek word meaning common belief or popular opinion,..."

But really there are old meanings.  And these meanings have formed the ways that we in the Western world tend to think.  We tend to box in meanings.  We tend to follow our father Aristotle in pretending to view fixed nature objectively and working out our logic from there in premises that follow tightly constructed rules to a necessary conclusion (what he called syllogisms.  We, in effect, map nature (i.e., the nature of things) by separating each thing (like the certain and necessary meaning of "doxa") from what it is not.  You can read the wikipedia entry to begin to get a little idea of what Aristotle thought of "doxa," of how it scared him a bit (like women and weird rhetoric and wild translation scared him a good bit). What the wikipedeists don't yet show in the entry on "doxa" is how a goddess (yes, "female") gave to a man named Parmenides a poem (which he translated from goddess-speak to man-talk, of course).  In the poem now by Parmenides, "doxa" or mere opinion is separated from "aletheia" or (we might say) absolute truth.  So lots of Greek men (like Isocrates and Gorgias) run with the whole idea.

Isocrates and Gorgias give their own opinion of what the truth is by writing about Helen, praising her.  Yes, the woman Helen.  Greek historian Bettany Hughes (who wrote Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore) takes us back when she recalls to us:
When, in Ancient Greece, the rhetorician Gorgias stood up and delivered his 'Encomium of Helen' (a defence of Helen of Troy's indefensible character) - this was a great joke. How can you laud the most sluttish femme fatale of all time? But the rhetoric also got people thinking - maybe, just maybe the skilled speaker had a point.
If we read what Isocrates wrote and listen to what Gorgias said, then we see how they play with the ideas of "doxa" and "aletheia" (or opinion AND truth), mixing the two as if mixing them up.  So along comes Plato (who forms his whole philosophy of Idealism around this very Parmenidian separation).  And Aristotle, the master of separating out and boxing up, puts on the finishing touches.  Helen, the woman, has no part of truth (i.e., "aletheia"); she is, in contrast, a perpetuater and product of slick and slippery sophist opinions.

So we fast-forward to the story of the first Bible translators.  They're in the city of Aristotle's most famous student, Alexander the Great.  They're in Alexandria, Egypt, where the new project is to force the world to read in Greek.  So they agree to translate.  But these barbarians (i.e., the Jews) don't use Aristotle's method of logic.  They start sounding like those Greek poets and women-appreciating sophists.  They actually mix up the meanings of things, actually leave open the possibility that the God of the Jews would have opinions.  That he would have "doxa," as brilliant and as shiny as he is.  And the implication of such opinion (of the translators) is that this has rubbed off on their parents and grandparents so long ago.  Here, for example, is a bit from their "psalms" in their Hellene translation from their old Hebrew:

πλὴν ἐγγὺς τῶν φοβουμένων αὐτὸν τὸ σωτήριον αὐτοῦ τοῦ κατασκηνῶσαι δόξαν ἐν τῇ γῇ ἡμῶν

It's a rendering of Psalm 85:9 (renumbered 84:10 in the Greek version) that roughly gets at getting "glory or brilliance or good reputation and opinion in our land, our ground down here."

So we fast forward a bit more to this ground, this land, over which angels are singing.  Then Luke chooses Greek for translation of that song.  His Greek isn't Aristotle's and Plato's and Parmenides's (that keeps separate "aletheia" form "doxa" and the gods from the humans and men from women).  No, Luke's Greek is playful.  Luke's translation opens up and doesn't shut down.  Luke's translating is like the first Bible translating.  We overhear angels giving "doxa" to God at the highest peak and, on the ground, to humans "blessed doxa."  And why are they singing?  Because of a woman, a mother.  They're praising God and they're praising a woman as the Greek sophists praised a woman and gave her glory.

(I wish I could just stop the post there.  "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."  But Aristotle has dramatically influenced our world.  Here's what he says in his Metaphysics (with Hugh Tredennick translating):
A tradition has been handed down by the ancient thinkers of very early times, and bequeathed to posterity in the form of a myth, to the effect that these heavenly bodies are gods, and that the Divine pervades the whole of nature. The rest of their tradition has been added later in a mythological form to influence the vulgar and as a constitutional and utilitarian expedient; they say that these gods are human in shape or are like certain other animals, and make other statements consequent upon and similar to those which we have mentioned. Now if we separate these statements and accept only the first, that they supposed the primary substances to be gods, we must regard it as an inspired saying and reflect that whereas every art and philosophy has probably been repeatedly developed to the utmost and has perished again, these beliefs of theirs have been preserved as a relic of former knowledge. To this extent only, then, are the views [mere δόξα] of our forefathers and of the earliest thinkers intelligible to us.
And (with H. Rackham translating), Aristotle says in his Politics:
temperance and courage are different in a man and in a woman (for a man would be thought a coward if he were only as brave as a brave woman, and a woman a chatterer if she were only as modest as a good man; since even the household functions of a man and of a woman are different--his business is to get and hers to keep).
And somehow Paul, following Aristotle's pure separations, says later to Greeks (and Jews) in Corinth Greece the following (as "I Corinthians 11" rendered tightly by the ESV team of men translating his pure intention):
7For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory [δόξα] of God, but woman is the glory [δόξα] of man. 8For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.
So is all right?  Doesn't it somehow depend on the glory, the δόξα of women like Helen and Mary?)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alternative Approaches to Translation (of Luke 2:14)

This post follows another that considered the labels "sexist" (or not) and "exclusivist" (or not) for Bible translations.  Here I'm wanting to focus a bit on how (i.e., by which approach) some translations end up deserving the labels.

Willis Barnstone's concept of register for approaches to translation is a useful lens by which to view and evaluate Bible translation theory and practice -- even when it comes to Luke 2:14.  I'd like to review and then go a bit beyond Barnstone's registers.

To review, Barnstone identifies three registers for translation.  The 3 are:
[1] a gloss for the reader who wants help with the source text [i.e., an interlinear] and [2] imitation for the ['translating'] writer who wants to collaborate with, adapt, or rewrite a precursor's [originally-authored] work....  There is also [3] a middle ground between [1] gloss and [2] imitation, whose purpose is to hear the source author more clearly than the translator author" (page 1290 of The Restored New Testament).
With respect to the Bible, an example Barnstone gives of [1] "a gloss" is "[t]he Jesus Seminar translation of the gospels... heavy in explanation and conceptualization of image and metaphor, [that] uses key words to clarify rather than to express." An illustration of [2] "imitation," according to Barnstone, is "John Dominic Crossan's adroit transformations of Yeshua's sayings into minimalist poems."  Finally, the exemplary [3] "middle ground" translation approach "is Tyndale's... autonomous restatement" and it is also what Robert Alter has done "in making the literal literary."  As he himself attempts it in translation of the New Testament, Barnstone says, "This is the difficult middle way."  He calls the final product of [3] "an autonomous text to be read in English as scripture...." " (pages 1289-91).

Barnstone gets his idea for [3] "the literal literary" not first from Bible translators such as Tyndale and Alter but from a translator of Homer's Odyssey:  Robert Fitzgerald.  When Fitzgerald began to translate Homer, he first asked Ezra Pound, "How?"  Pound replied, "Let Homer say everything he wanted to say."  This was the middle way between [1] glossing Homer's Greek and [2] imitating it.  (To be sure, this advice was unusual for Pound.  The translator was one who's "normal practice" was never [1] to gloss but was normally [2] to take "tremendous freedoms" as he "imitated, and intimately collaborated with or overcame the author in his best translations from Anglo-Saxon and Chinese."  Barnstone adds:  "and they may be his own best poems" not necessarily giving any credit whatsoever to the original authors.  Nonetheless, Pound advises Fitzgerald [3] to take the middle way between [1] literal glossing and [2] literary license.   To repeat, he advised: "Let Homer say everything he wanted to say."  Funny thing is, when I read Fitzgerald's translation of Homer, I find the translator all over the place, from [1] to [2] to [3].  Ask me in comments if you want examples.  We hope Barnstone himself is truer to his principles.)

Barnstone explains this [3] "middle ground" approach as "both literal and literary."  He says:
    The translator in service of the source author becomes more invisible as the art intensifies, permitting the reader [3] to see Homer or Dante or the Bible and, as Pound suggested, [3] to hear them have their say.  By contrast, in the inevitable collaboration between author and translator, as we move from [2] re-creation to [1] imitation, the earlier author tends to disappear, overcome by the voice of the translating author.  (page 1292).
So how does Barnstone himself let us see Luke?  Barnstone certainly does not intend simply [1] to gloss or to explain the Greek with his own English; nor does he want just [2] to flaunt his own English in imitation of Luke's text.  Rather, Barnstone is after a "literal litarary" [3] "middle ground" that let's Luke "say everything he wanted to say."

Here's Luke (2:14) the way Barnstone might take up Dr. Jim West's translation challenge:
Glory to God in the highest sky
And on earth peace among people of good will.
So West's question is for us, Does Barnstone get the Greek right? In other words, does he "render it so as to make it sensible and yet retain its meaning?" This sounds a little like the middle way, the literary literal. And West's translation is pretty close to Barnstone's; West translates: "Glory to the highest God; and on earth, peace to men of good will." Barnstone clearly, however, [3] lets Luke locate God (i.e., "in the highest sky") and [3] sees that Luke does not see gender here (i.e., not even the unmarked gender "men").

Barnstone does feel the need to explain some of the Greek and his English for it. And he does so with a footnote:
From the Greek εὐδοκία (eudokia), "of goodwill" or "good pleasure," or variously translated as "whom he favors."
From how Barnstone has explained his approach, he needs the footnote so as not to use his translation for a [1] gloss.  Likewise, he needs the footnote so that he can leave open other literary possibilities that might be [2] imitations of Luke's Greek.

What I like about his footnote is how Barnstone leaves open the possibility that Luke intends more possibly than "goodwill."  Nonetheless, I want to suggest that Barnstone does not afford himself another approach in translating.

The other approach is very close to the difficult [3] middle ground between [1] mere gloss and [2] mostly literary license.  The fourth [4] approach actually does let Luke have his say as much as possible.

Nonetheless, the fourth [4] approach also goes after what C.S. Lewis calls "second meanings."  These are meanings that the author may have intended unconsciously.  Language is so rich, and is so dimensioned, and the psyche is so powerful that an author might say something intentionally and not even realize it.  Or a speaker or a writer may say something, and others hear or read it, and it's taken differently in a way so that the original author protests -- but the listeners and readers intend and realize the meaning anyway.  Lewis says, for example, that Plato prophesies the "passion of Christ" in writing about the death of the ideally "righteous person."  (Of course, Plato is talking about Socrates, but he would definitely agree with Christians much later on - if they could talk about it later - they would all agree that Plato is also ideally talking about Jesus.)  Lewis, similarly, says that Virgil prophesies the Virgin birth of Jesus.  (Virgil would say he didn't intend this at all; but some Christians since the writer wrote what he have taken it to be such a foretelling).  Lewis writes about Second Meanings in a couple of chapters in his book Reflections on the Psalms.  It's a book on how an inexpert (i.e., non-Hebraist) literary scholar who's an atheist turned Christian reflects (as an outsider) on the many (also Christian and also literary) meanings of the Jewish psalms.

I don't have time to consider the rhetorical listening of Krista Ratcliffe or the N-dimensionality of language for Kenneth Pike or why Phyllis Bird says, with some ironic certainty, "I am not certain, that the translator is even obliged to make the modern reader understand what is overheard."  We don't have time to talk about why this is not absolute relativism, not "anything goes."

What I do want to take time to say is that when we let Luke have his say, then we need to recognize something else.  Luke himself is translating.  He's letting angels have their say (to Mary in 2:10 and to God and all mortals in 2:!4).  There are lots of intentions and many different voices.  And Luke - the translator - is not entirely invisible.  No, he's a human like Mary listening.  Yes, he's a mortal like you and me.  And if you translate his Greek translating angel language, well then:  you also are listening rhetorically, attending to second meanings, some blatantly intended and others that take some more careful listening.

So to close:  Barnstone advocates three approaches.  And I'm saying there's another as well.  Here they are:

1) "the right way"; ("to inform") [the gloss]

or 2) "any which way";  ("to perform") [the imitation license]

or 3) "why that way?";  ("to reform") [why?  because what the author intends is so very important]

or 4) the "significant way." ("to transform") [so that meaning is made when the author intends one thing and also has other meanings that the readers and listeners discern]

I think I've tried to say things like this before.  If it's too complicated at the moment, then I'm going to take a break for now.

If you've stayed with the post this far and still have any mental energy left, I'd love to hear which "register" or "approach" you think you've taken in translating Luke 2:14.  Or what do you think about others' translations with respect to Barnstone's 3 and this 4th approach mentioned?

Alternatives to Sexist, Exclusivist Translations of Luke 2:14

John Hobbins has a post that labels various blogger's translations of Luke 2:14 (i.e. plus or minus "sexist wording" and plus or minus "Calvinist construal"). The labeling is focused on how the translators render the Greek phrase ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.  Hobbins calls the alternatives to sexist translations "non-sexist." And somewhat surprisingly, he calls Suzanne McCarthy's translation "sexist" for her use of the English phrase, "to mankind whom God favours." He labels the word mankind as "male generic language... that politically correct translations like NRSV and TNIV studiously avoid." But, of course, McCarthy and plenty of others (including myself) disagree that the phrase "mankind" is necessarily unkind to or  exclusive of women. 

McCarthy is just as focused (as Hobbins and I are too) on how some translations are unnecessarily exclusivist (which is my term for what Hobbins calls "Calvinist").  His alternative is universalist. McCarthy runs with the term in a post "Universalism in Luke 2:14," where she links to a few conversations on the topic.  And in comments at BBB, she suggests study the translations may be of as much value as the "attempt to seek some definitive translation"; one revision McCarthy's offered to her first translation is this phrase: "to beloved humanity."  I like that! 

(Hobbins and McCarthy have both said kind things about my attempt at translation.  My phrase is a borrowing from David Kovacs translating of Greek:  "in blessed honor to mortals."  John has labeled that non-sexist and universalist.  I'm laughing because John calls what's happened a "a very merry Christmas" since we're agreeing on something this year.  And I chuckle in agreement with Suzanne that "'Mortals' sounds too somber for Christmas."  Then again, still smiling I think maybe it's because we're all mortals -- both men and women -- maybe it's because we are that the tidings of Christmas can be merry - yes, comfort and joy.)

What I want to do in the next post is to call for thinking about other labels.  I'm thinking not only about labels that mark whether a translation (as a product) is sexist or not or exclusivist or not.  But I'm wanting to consider theories and practices for translation (as processes).  These other labels may help us start to get at why there's exclusivism and sexism by translators when there doesn't have to be.  The subsequent post will look again at Willis Barnstone's labels for translation (and will go a bit beyond them). 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Academic Writing

My spouse is an award-winning writer, a professional one. She read some of my dissertation, and laughed. That wasn't the effect I'd intended my writing to have on her. And it was my writing (not necessarily what I was writing about) that caused the involuntary smirk on her face. Mind you, she's not that sort of person who would think lesser of somebody else's effort. It's just she saw how much effort I put into the thing, with that effect.

Academic prose is hilarious that way. It pretends to be serious about serious things. It follows certain commandments. Thou shalt not meander. Thou shalt not have more than one main thesis. Thou shalt not forget the interesting introduction and the clear conclusion. Etc.

When you read Aristotle, you get a good model for straightforward academic prose. Only you do it then in English.

When you read somebody like Nancy Mairs, then you have to rethink everything. She's an academic (in rhetoric and composition) who teaches writing like one of those Greek sophists -- only she calls what she does "voice lessons," and she does it in English. Playfully serious wordplay, I guess. Here are a couple of my favorite quotations from Mairs's book, Voice Lessons:

Publication of any sort is an intrinsically social act, "I" having no reason to speak aloud unless I posit "you" there listening; but your presence is especially vital if I am seeking not to disclose the economic benefits of fish farming in Zäire, or to recount the imaginary tribulations of an adulterous doctor's wife in nineteenth-century France, but to reconnect myself—now so utterly transformed by events unlike any I've experienced before as to seem a stranger even to myself—to the human community....lending materiality to my readerly ideal, transform monologue into intercourse.

In a single sentence [the reviewer] reimposed the very dichotomies I had constructed the book in order to call into question, putting electrified fences around the categories “academy” “criticism,” and “writing” to keep the various critters from intermingling, maybe interbreeding to create some nameless monster very like the one I aspire to be.

And in case you're wondering, my wife doesn't write like either Aristotle or Mairs. She doesn't have to. She doesn't work or live in the AkaDemy in the West.

The Seriousness of Wordplay

My most serious mentor in linguistics was one of the most playful people I know.  This post is to express a few thoughts about wordplay, linguistics, rhetoric, feminisms, and about two people who've taught me playfully, seriously -- Kenneth Pike and Cheryl Glenn.  This post will meander and use technical (academic) jargon, which for some is a paradox and for many others is just a reason to stop reading now.  I'm writing because of the personal stuff, for me.

Many of you who studied with Kenneth Pike laughed involuntarily when hearing him read a poem, or whistling a sentence, or making a mistake - a tongue-in-cheek-mistake - while performing one of his "monolingual demonstrations."  And one of my blogger friends, Wayne Leman, confesses yesterday:  "I prefer the richer approach to language that Pike advocated."  To be clear, Pike perceived language in multiple dimensions.  An element of language (such as a word), Pike would say, can be viewed as a particle (with sharp boundaries), and as a wave (with fuzzy and indeterminate and dynamic qualities), and as a field (as the backdrop for something else or as something relative to something else).  It all gets rather complex, the multiplicity.  One of my other linguistics professors confessed in Pike's heyday :  "Just when I think Pike's theory sounds clear and simple, it gets complicated."  Pike approached language the way Einstein approached physics:  particle and/or wave and/or field.  More than that, he approached translation the way Heisenburg approached physics:  "person above logic" and "the observer not only changes the observed data but is also change by the observing."  I remember Pike telling the story of when he was a student; he heard his teacher saying, "Language ideally has one and only one meaning per word."  The young pupil replied, "But, sir, how would we learn language."  Pike understood that the multiple perspectives on language (or "talked about reality") led to learning and to change.  His most famous rhetoric and composition textbook was entitled,  Rhetoric: Discovery and Change. Pike would love to quote Nelson Goodman, saying "What we need is 'Radical relativism within rigid restraints."

To be sure, Pike's most serious followers would focus all too often on those rigid restraints.  They would chart everything into tagmemic boxes; and Pike himself got hung up on what he himself intended by his own coined words for things.  Words like tagmemics and emics and etics.  Pike got into a big public debate with an anthropologist over meanings and uses for the latter two terms.  Maybe it's this complexity masked by abstraction that has caused the biggest bible translation organization in the world to abandon Pike's theory.  Maybe it's the same peculiar nature of a word like "tagmemics" that has led to the academic disciplines of rhetoric and composition to abandon tagmemics as a theory.  And yet, toward the end of his life, Pike would show increasing concern over what he saw as postmodernism, deconstructionism, and the death of the rights of an author and his or her intentions.  He wrote, and published twice, a poem called "Inkblot Poetry-A Query."  I think it's funny, and rhetorical, that Pike chose poetry to protest an author's rights.  Pike would recite his own poetry after lecturing on a monolingual demonstration -- and I always thought he was emphasizing just how limited a lecture can be in getting all the meanings, the dimensions, in listening to another in her or his own language while assigning it etic then emic categories. 

My friend Wayne not only invoked Pike's name yesterday, he appealed to Pike's "richer approach to language."  I thought that was rather ironic given points Wayne went on to make.  I'd presented to him a sentence I thought was playful and was asking if it was unnatural and contrived.  Here's Wayne's response:
I think it depends on the intentions of the author. If the intention is to be humorous, playing off the parallelism of the “have” verbs, then, yes, it is contrived. Language play is contrived. But most of language (to my chagrin) is not language play, nor is most of the biblical language texts. There *is* language play, especially in the Hebrew Bible, but most of what the authors wrote was not intended to be ambiguous nor linguistically playful. Too high an amount of playfulness with language tends to decrease how seriously people take us. I know, as someone who sometimes overdoes it with my spontaneous punning.
I am struck by how Wayne is concerned over people taking him seriously.  We all want that, and yet he betrays an assumption that wordplay is not serious.  That it's contrived only.  That it's always (and perhaps only) intended by the author.  That what "most of what the authors [of the biblical language texts authored] was not intended to be ambiguous nor linguistically playful." 

And I hear Kenneth Pike protesting, "but, sir, how would anyone learn?"  The professors I've studied under more recently have been rhetoric and composition experts, per se.  As if linguistics and rhetorics and composition studies do not mix (even though Pike published in all these areas, and so have many including Kenneth Burke and Cheryl Glenn).  So I want to talk some about Cheryl Glenn.  I first met her work teaching in the university, when I was trying (as a linguist) to adapt one of her brilliant composition handbooks for use by college-level ESL writers.  A couple of decades later, I began formal study of composition and rhetoric, and her history of rhetoric was one of the first textbooks assigned.  Only this year, did I learn that Glenn was not only a compositionist and a rhetorician but that she is also a linguist by formal training.  What she writes in her feminist retelling of the history of rhetoric, now, has new meanings to me:
Even though gender is merely a concept borrowed from grammar, it, nevertheless, continues to have far-reaching effects on cultural notions of the relation between the sexed body and its behavior.
Now, whatever author rights Glenn has, let me assure you she did not intend for me to read the above sentence one way in one year as a linguist entering rhetoric studies and then another way this year as someone grappling with how words can silence the disadvantaged and can imprison women and can mark the unreligious and can disparage people whose race is marked as darker or whose sexual orientation is different.

gender.  When "grammar" is "natural" and "serious" and "rigidly restrained," then analogously so is our "talked about reality."  Gender beyond language, somehow, some think likewise, must be as natural and as serious.  Aristotle, for example, observed nature, saw "females" and concluded therefore that they were born with fewer teeth and lesser form than "males."

How can we be surprised, any of us who take the time to read history written naturally, - how can we be surprised that Glenn, a linguist, will appeal to language but to serious wordplay?  The sentence above is at the end of her book,  Rhetoric Retold.  But at the beginning she talks about the "various" and "multiple" silenced methods she has to use to regender the male-only history of rhetoric.  Gender studies is just one of a few methods she recovers.  Is anyone taking her seriously?

When we come to the Bible and serious study of the bible, it's mostly men.  Bloggers (many calling themselves bibliobloggers) are finding gender to be a touchy thing as "natural" male dominance is threatened.  The point of issue is usually language.  "God didn't say that," or "that language isn't natural," or "Paul said," or "the Bible must function as light, mirror, and compass" are some of the issues.  Strikingly, the rhetorical moves of bloggers with serious language are conservative, if at times untraditional.  The push is to close down and not to open up.  When we listen to Glenn (the linguist, rhetorician, historian, feminist, and yes woman) speak about rhetoric, it sounds as if she's talking also about scholarship with respect to the bible:
Men have appropriated many public social practices, particularly prestigious practices like rhetoric [and Bible scholarship and Bible translation], as universally masculine; the feminine experience (that of bodies sexed female) has come to represent exceptions, or the particular.
Let me wander now back into the whole issue of "author's rights."  

The objection is always about what the original author intends and whether a feminist is going to rewrite the bible even if her (or his) good aim is more to include women in a male domain.  But I say those who listen always and only to the author's intent aren't listening to all the author says.  An author always says more than he means.  Are we surprised that Aristotle neglected "listening" as a method of rhetoric?  Krista Ratcliffe has studied this very carefully and has recovered a practice she calls "rhetorical listening."  An author, such as Aristotle or Moses or Paul, may not intend wordplay.  But we can listen.  We can overhear.  We can eavesdrop. We can consider, with intent, all that the words authored by males might mean.  Seriously.

author's rights
translator writes
who's right?

Have you stayed with me so far?  I confess these are ramblings some.  I sometimes do intend to play with language.  And sometimes that does cost me my communication with you.  Let me say, many people don't always get everything a teach like Pike or Glenn or Ratcliffe or Junias or Jesus is saying.  Even if they use linear and Western and Aristotelian conventions of writing from time to time.  But even if they do, they always say more than they intend.  Our words are playful.  And that's serious business.  It's the means by which we can learn and change.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Art of Gentleness toward Ourselves

There's no need for any one of us to participate in, much less to perpetuate, the myth that the suicide rate increases during the holidays. (I've had three close friends take their own lives, and none was during a holiday). But we all have stresses during the vacation times with friends and family and at churches, synagogues, mosques, or even at the shopping mall. And I'm reading some Brennan Manning (Abba's Child, pages 44-45) to help:
... The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others--and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.

.... Self-hatred always results in some form of self-destructive behavior.

Accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self. Judas could not face his shadow; Peter could. The latter befriended the impostor within; the former raged against him. "Suicide does not happen on a sudden impulse. It is an act that has been rehearsed during years of unconscious punitive behavior patterns."

Years ago, Carl Jung wrote:
The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of the whole outlook on life.... But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself--that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness--that I myself am the enemy who must be loved--what then?

Labelling Feminists, Changing Us

Yesterday, Jessica Valenti, an Editor of the blog writes how college education "literally changed my life." She speaks on university campuses, trying to contribute to such life changes, and in return many people on campus endorse her on the blog. And yet she remains critical of the academy, arguing "it's not as accessible as it should be, and that it makes feminism something that only folks who are fortunate enough to go to college can take part in." In many ways, Valenti's life story of change because of higher education is a story I appreciate, especially with her caution about the limitations of the academy. My own story (and my own thinking) is running parallel hers in some ways.

Without getting into my story, I do want to say a couple of related things. One - to me, the academy and feminisms within the academy and elsewhere really are about people and changes for the good. That's why you won't hear me praising "feminism" as an end in itself or championing an institution or "higher education" as a destination. Two - its the personal stories told by real people often silenced that make all the difference to me, that help me change. I don't do enough of that. And I'm glad Jessica Valenti does, yesterday, go on to say this:
While I think those criticisms [of feminists in the academy being inaccessible] do hold water, I also think we often don't give enough love to the amazing teachers and students in these departments [of women and gender studies] - the way the[y] organize, the way they teach and the way they change people's lives. So, much love to all of the teachers I've had and to all of the departments out there making a difference every day - you are all amazing.
Now, what I want to do if you're willing is to let you in on a few pages of the end of the first textbook assigned to me in my first course of the PhD program I completed last year.  (Dr. Charlotte Hogg, the prof in that course ended up chairing my dissertation committee).  Without your really knowing me, imagine how that course and these words on the page might have begun to change my life.  Imagine what difference it might make in your thinking, in your working, in your changing, in your relating.

Here's from Cheryl Glenn and her Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance (pages 173-74):
     I am gratified to be concluding this project, but I must resist closure.  A regendered, retold rhetorical tradition opens up--not closes down--investigation into rhetorical practices.  Even though gender is merely a concept borrowed from grammar, it, nevertheless, continues to have far-reaching effects on cultural notions of the relation between the sexed body and its behavior.  Gendered experiences continue to be difficult, if not impossible, to separate from human ones.  And for that reason alone, the masculine gender, just like male experience or display, has come to represent the universal.  Men have appropriated many public social practices, particularly prestigious practices like rhetoric, as universally masculine; the feminine experience (that of bodies sexed female) has come to represent exceptions, or the particular.

     In regendering the tradition [of the history of rhetoric], I have not gone so far as to "destroy gender" or even to "abolish the category of gender" (Wittig 67).  Instead, I have analyzed distributions of power along the axis of gender that have for too long been easily accepted as nature's empirical design for masculine superiority, for patriarchal representations of the universal.  This discourse of regendering has allowed me to examine gender(ed) performances within and across cultural constructions of the body, human identity, and power.

     To this end, the project of regendering rhetorical history is a feminist performative act, a commitment to the future of women, a promise that rhetorical histories and theories will eventually (and naturally) include women.  Of course, gender as a category of analysis contributes to this feminist project, but it is regendering that unsettles stable gender categories and enacts a promise that rhetorical history will be a continuous process of investigating the works of women and men rather than a final product that can be finally or universally represented.  As soon as it is written, any historical interpretation--including this regendered rhetorical tradition from antiquity through the Renaissance--becomes an anachronism, for it immediately codes its own investigative site as needing/deserving more attention....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Good Samaritan Woman

Jay Seidler has a quick post today, linking to a psychology blog which drudges up that old 1973 study showing that, "Religious personality variables" do not predict whether a person will show kindness or care to another human being in need. ABC Primetime did a 2008 repeat of that study that focused, not on religious personality, but, in part, on whether race and gender had much to do with being "a good Samaritan." And I remember at Suzanne's Bookshelf a post in which she considers how "There is no male way to care for others, and no female way to care for others." (The whole notion of whether personality and gender are bound together is something Suzanne had already talked about some in another post.)  The studies show that people (whether female or male or black or white or religious in personality or otherwise) tend to show kindness when they are not rushed and are not overly busy.

But I do want to look at what's racist and sexist in this story of Jesus.  If you hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, then you do get the idea that there's something racist going on. Definitely, the first and intended audience for the story was religious racists. And the story teller (a pure Jew and a male) had apparently learned a little already from a good Samaritan (a half-breed Jew?, a female). So I want to post here about that. And I want to make available Peggy Weaver's essay "The Good Samaritan Woman," which gets at the religious, racist, sexist crux of the parable.

First, there's the hilarious dramatized version of Jesus telling the parable of the good Samaritan with all the PC backlash we might expect today (posted by Deeky at Shakesville).

Second, there's Jesus learning from the Samaritan whose body was sexed female and mixed-breed too. (Here's how Carolyn Custis James recalls it in her book, When Life and Beliefs Collide, page 40:
When Jesus taught the multitudes, he employed metaphors from a woman's experience to draw their interest. He visited places where women commonly gathered. Beside a well, he engaged the Samaritan woman in serious theological conversation about living water. And here, in the house at Bethany, he spoke at length with Mary, despite her unfinished domestic duties and pressure from her sister.
And here's how James hears it from a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching gender equality as what Jesus learned and taught but gender inequality as "horrible superstition" believed and practiced by men of religion.)

Third, then, is Weaver's essay (from page 25 of The Wisdom of Daughters: Two Decades of the Voice of Christian Feminism by Reta Halteman Finger).  I read the essay this morning after reading Bill Heroman's post discussing "Paul's inherent misogyny" that ostensibly "had begun to abate." And then I thought of the horrors of this holiday season, for so many.

Unfortunately, labeling of the one spouse as "submissive" and the other as "loving" has led to the crumbling of marriages of friends and families close to me. For the first holiday season in a quarter of a century, some good friends of ours will not be together -- divorce in progress. The wife, a submissive woman because she believes that's her role, has given no time to herself but all to her "loving" husband and all to their children and grandchild. Two families in my extended families are torn apart another holiday season, because of the inequalities. Submissive wives (like slaves of Aristotle and of the first century) are kept busy by roles of service to others first. Gender, especially bodies sexed female, (and race, typically bodies born blacker or mixed) mark the inequality, the "nature" of the roles. Listen, then, to what blocks your care of another human being this holiday season. Listen, and remember yourself:

The Good Samaritan Woman
by Peggy Weaver

     Yesterday I heard a sermon which angered me.  Everyone else seemed touched by it.  Even the priest cried as he spoke of two men who had been mentors in his life.  It was not the individual stories that bothered me.  It was the concept being presented:  give everything of yourself.  Give it until the very end, until you have nothing left.  And then your reward will come.

     How readily women hear that message!  How easily we believe these words.  Give all.  Don't question.  Don't be angry.  Don't doubt that your reward will be on some distant horizon.

     Perhaps the lesson the priest spoke of is needed by those who are not familiar with commitment, with toughing it out until the end.  But there is another lesson to learn, and we women especially need to hear a new message.  Most of us do not need more instruction in holding on until the end.  We need instruction and mentors to teach us how to let go.

     The parable of the Good Samaritan came to my mind, but with a new lesson, one particularly for women.
     ...a Samaritan, as she journeyed, came to where he was, and when she saw him, she had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and win, then she set him on her own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And the next day she took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay when I come back." (adapted from Luke 10:33-35 KJV)
      She left.  She left!  The woman tended to his wounds, brought him to a safe place, took care of him, and paid his way.  And then she left.
      It sounds almost sinful when we replace the "he" with "she."  You mean she didn't stay long enough to be sure that he had a job or a home?  What kind of woman would leave so quickly?  Yet the parable tells us that the woman had compassion when she saw the man.  The lesson is that she also had compassion for herself.  She knew her limits.  She did what she could at the time, and then she went on her way.  The Samaritan woman did not leave the man totally alone; she arranged to return when she came back through town, to pay any extra costs.  She trusted that the man would know when he was healed and would leave of his own accord.  She knew how much she could give; she knew how much to trust others to provide.
      Jesus said, "Go and do likewise."

Our Personalities, Our Labels

So I post on personality types. And this is dangerous because we use labels too often to reduce other people to that label. We don't easily let them grow beyond that. My son, for example, was labeled a bad student all through elementary, middle, and high school. Indeed, he's been labeled adhd, depressed, a trouble maker, a skaterboy, and a pothead. Fortunately, an art prof at a particular college far away noticed some talent in that personality and gave him a scholarship. Fortunately, my son's been able to rewrite those labels. He came home last night with more award winning studio art, and some decent essays, and grades that got him on the Dean's list for a second semester in a row. His younger sister, with interests in being a psychologist some day, is most sensitive to who he has been and is becoming. "He's an Artisan," she confirms. But not wanting to box him in, she adds, "I think he's a genius."

My spouse and I once attended a series of lectures by a psychologist who encouraged us in the audience to label people who are hard to love with terms such as "simple" and "fool" and "evil." The psychologist specializes in coping with and recovery from sexual abuse. "But," he insisted, "always use a pencil when putting anyone in any such category." Our imagination of the profound nature of a person can keep that person in a prison -- unless our imagination is able to grow as the person might.

So I post on personality, and how it tends to function in "knowing" language, and our lover, and even the Bible. The hope is we won't get stuck in the labels but can use tendencies in our personality to learn and to mature.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Personality: to Know Language, Your Lover, and the Bible

My claim in this post is that our epistemology (i.e., the way we "know" what we know when we think we know it) has much to do with our personality (i.e., the ways we and who we are in our souls).  Human psyche tends toward four types that seem to correlate with four ways of knowing.  Maybe we should call these four personal ways of being:

1) "the right way";
or 2) "any which way";
or 3) "why that way?";
or 4) the "significant way."

We may "know" a language, or a lover, or a text like the Bible. And as we get to "know" them, we do so significantly because of our own person -- because of who we have been, who we're becoming, and who we are. So check it out:

When you or I learn a language as an adult, we tend to approach the learning by our personality preferences. Likewise, when you or I fall in love, our personality and the personality of our lover tend to be huge factors. Similarly, when you or I read the Bible, we tend to read it through the lens of our own personality. And whether learning a language, falling in love with another person, or reading the Bible -- we are prone to do so by one of four personality types.


Adult learners of a language will usually have one of four learning focuses based on and profoundly rooted in one of four personality preferences. These are respectively a focus on:

1) "the right way";
or 2) "any which way";
or 3) "why that way?";
or 4) the "significant way."

When the focus is on "the right way," the learner feels guilty when "getting it wrong." And the person appreciates language "learning environments that include repetition and drills, memorization, workbook exercises and step-by-step presentations." The "right way" learner will "flourish in classroom settings that are friendly and foster cooperation, consistency and hard work."  A student or instructor who is a Guardian type will have "the right way" focus.

When the focus is on "any which way," the learner feels bewilderment when "getting locked into just one way." And the person appreciates language instruction "that include instructional games, role playing, media presentations, dramatic plays and challenging lessons." The "any which way" person is "inspired by hands-on and active learning situations – opportunities to construct, operate and manipulate objects."  A student or instructor who is a Artisan type will have an "any which way" focus.

When the focus is on questioning "Why that way?" then the learner feels fear not "seeing the deeper or hidden aspects of the language." And the person appreciates language teaching that will "include logical and well-researched lectures, independent projects, experimentation, invention, complex problem solving and discovery through intellectual exploration." The Why learner will "want to explore the 'whys' of everything – to be competent at knowing, understanding, explaining, predicting and controlling reality." A student or instructor who is a Rational type will have an "why-this-way" focus. 

When the focus is on the "significant way," the learner feels the shame of "irrelevance" if the language or the learning is not meaningful to her or him. And the person appreciates language teaching that can "include include group discussions, role playing, dramatics and small-group projects in a friendly and personal atmosphere." The "significance" learner needs "cooperative, harmonious, personal relationships with peers and teachers in order to optimize learning potential."  A student or instructor who is an Idealist type will have a "significance" focus.

Many of the above observations come from my work with adult language learners and teachers. Whether the students and professors are sophisticated or simple in their approach to acquiring a language as an adult, they share this in common: each tends to have one of four personality "learning styles." In the university where I run the programs for English as a second language (ESL) learning, learners and instructors alike identify their personality using a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) questionnaire. Then they look at how the personality Type tends to have them focus on one of four Keirsey temperaments that demonstrate a Learning Style. (Here's a web site that gives a fair overview of MBTI and Keirsey; and here's a site I've written for ESL learners and instructors to use; and here's a comparison of categories of fours I put together some time ago but might revise some today, for what it's worth).


We tend to think of falling in love as something not very scientific at all.  But what if much of our coming to find and appreciate and "to know" our soul mate has much to do with our own personal way of being?

Earlier this year, Dr. Helen Fisher published a book to say as much.  Fisher, a "Biological Anthropologist, is a Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site,, a division of" And her website bio statement goes on to add: "She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love."

I'm particularly fascinated that Fisher is finding things that others in human history have observed. She says this in her book, Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type:
Hippocrates, Aristotle, [Carl] Jung and [Isabel] Myers
....  Indeed, psychologist David Keirsey reports that these four basic personality types have been noted in Western history since the time of the ancient Greeks....
Aristotle (384-322BC) believed that humankind sought happiness in one of four ways: through sensual pleasure, what he called hedone; by acquiring assets, the propraietare; in logical investigation, or dialogike; or in expressing moral virtue, or ethikos. Aristotle perfectly described the core traits of the Explorer, Builder, Director and Negotiator.... (page 35)
Now, Fisher hasn't quite given us the source texts for Aristotle's writings on human motivations (they're his writings on ethics) nor has she noted his priorities (i.e., fine-tuning "logic" for "theoretical" knowing or absolute "epistemology" or science). But at least Fisher understands how Aristotle, in his epistemological mapping by logic, is trying to "get right" the tendencies of humans. Fisher has matched her four categories to what she sees as Aristotle's. And now she's beginning to match them to others' views of four personality ways of being. Fisher adds:
Why is the Myers-Briggs test so popular?
Because it works, thanks to biology. Although Isabel Myers was unaware of it, most of her types fit the same four basic biological profiles that I've identified. Then in the 1990s, a brilliant psychologist, David Keirsey, a protégé of Isabel Myers, simplified her schema to four basic personality types: the Artisan, Guardian, Rational and Idealist.
I was unaware of Keirsey's types when I outlined my own set of four personality styles while sitting at my desk that New Year's Day in 2005. Only later did I become aware of the striking similarities.
The four personality types are also represented in non-Western traditions. For example, several North American Indian tribes historically living on the Great Plains of today's Midwest believed in a sacred medicine wheel representing the circle of life. To the east soared the eagle, the symbol of vision and illumination. To the west was the bear, a steady, cautious creature that hunkered in caves and didn't roam. North was represented by the buffalo, the epitome of reason and wisdom. To the south was the mouse, symbolizing innocence and trust. Each of these creatures represents basic traits of either the Explorer, Builder, Director or Negotiator.
In short, animal behaviorists, physicians, philosophers and psychologists have been describing central aspects of these four personality types for over two thousand years. But I have had the advantage of twenty-first-century science, enabling me to link these four temperament constellations with their biological underpinnings.  (page 36)
If you're not a biologist or anthropologist like Aristotle or Helen Fisher, then you may still appreciate the personality types that they observe.  But then again, whether and how you appreciate these categories of ways of being might just depend on yours.  And I think, more or less, your tendency will be to go for one of these ways:

1) "the right way";
or 2) "any which way";
or 3) "why that way?";
or 4) the "significant way."


Some time back, Wayne Leman at the Better Bibles Blog posted on "Bible translation and personality types."  I think Leman is on to something.  He was trying to see whether personality type might correlate with preferences for particular English bible translations and versions.  At the time, I began to tabulate responses to his blog posts, and looked at Keirsey's four personality temperaments to come up with this correlation (noted in a comment at the post linked above here):
So far:
1 “so-what-can-I-do” Artisan has expressed a preference for NLT and TNIV.
7 “so-be-it” Guardians have most expressed preferences for ESV and NRSV.
9 “here’s the So-What” Idealists have most expressed preferences for NLT and NRSV.
10 “why, so why” Rationalists have most expressed preferences for NLT and TNIV.
The solution-prone Guardians do NOT seem to mention or to like NLT or TNIV.
The theorizing Rationals do NOT seem to mention or to like ESV.
Some meaningful Idealists will go for KJV (but not many of the solution-prone Guardians or the theorizing Rationals). But some of the solution-prone Guardians and some of the theory-prone Rationals will go for the NKJV (but none of the meaning-prone Idealists and not even that solo activity-prone Artisan will even mention that old KJV).
If there were more of us talking, then the patterns would likely be clearer. There do seem to be several patterns of four among us.
Wayne and I tried to keep up with this in email for just a bit.  But we got busy and lost interest.

Reading Willis Barnstone's three [3] possibilities for or tendencies in translation has inspired me to think about this a bit more. He says, on the one hand, there are "two extremes that can be satisfied happily: [1] a gloss for the reader who wants help with the source text [i.e., an interlinear], and [2] imitation for the ['translating'] writer who wants to collaborate with, adapt, or rewrite a precursor's [originally-authored] work." On the other hand, "[t]here is also [3] a middle ground between [1] gloss and [2] imitation, whose purpose is to hear the source author more clearly than the translator author"

I actually believe there's a fourth tendency in translation (especially Bible translation) that Barnstone doesn't get to. I may get to blogging about that some day. In the mean time, I've been noticing how some people like Dr. Jim West are ever concerned about "getting it right" (even with his Bible translation). And if you read the post I'm linking to where I mention West and his "getting it right," you'll see my personality tends to want a much different approach to translation (especially of the Bible).

What do you think my personality type is? And what's yours? And does it have nothing to do with how you "know" when knowing is a language or a lover or the Bible (in translation)?