Thursday, April 17, 2008



[still whispering here:

no this is not David Ker the feminist—he’s only become a Better Bible Blogger on blogspot, so there’s still hope for more profound conversion.

yes, it’s J. K. Gayle (back for just a moment from translating that sexist racist logicist Aristotle to show his unwitting feminist discourse in his rhetoric).

A bunch of Bible blogger men are in the translation / commentary ring battling over words and metaphors and life and death. I myself have jumped in with comments to try to show some of what other men--and men only mind you--have done with these words in living color across centuries.

The Rev. Ker himself has just said that’s “a lot of helpful evidence.”

And the Rev. John Hobbins has made two specific requests of me;

to provide

(1) citation and translation of the Aristophanes occurrences, which I think prove that the metaphor is not always fully loaded (David Ker goes too far, however, if he thinks that it is therefore dead)

(2) your own translation of the relevant passages in Luke and 1 Cor.”]



First quick commentary on Aristophanes: He’s one of the most misogynistic of all the men to use πώπια (hypOpia). For all who don’t believe me, I encourage wider reading of the two works I excerpt from here and of his other plays. Thankfully, the excepts don’t show his ugliness toward women. The first is from the “The Wasps” with Philocleon talking (lines 1381 to 1386). The second is from “Peace” (lines 538 to 544); Hermes speaks with Trygeas in reply in the last two lines given. My English follows Aristophanes’s Greek, and I also provide translation by two other men per excerpt.

κουσόν νυν μο. (1381)
νίκ’ θεώρουν γώ,
μαχέσατ’ σκώνδ καλς
δη γέρων
ν· ετα τ πυγμ θενν
πρεσβύτερος κατέβαλε τ
ν νεώτερον.
ς τατα τηρο μ λάβς πώπια.

Now listen to me.
When I went to view the Olympics,
Ephudion fought Ascondas well
Though the former was already an old man. Then with a hit of his fist,
The elder man knocked out the younger.
Guard yourself this way then, so you don’t get a black eye.

Now listen you! You want to talk about old men? Listen! When I was on an embassy to Olympia, there was Ephudion, an old man, and he put up quite a show, fighting Ascondas, a young man. Ephudion smashed his fist on Ascondas and knocked him down, so you be careful you don’t end up with a couple of black “shiners,” my boy!
George Theodoridis)

Oh, indeed? Well, let me tell you something. Once when I was on a State mission to the Olympic Games, I saw Ephudion fight Ascondas, and the old man fought very well, let me tell you. I shall never forget the way he drew back his arm, like this—and then, with a smashing blow, he knocked the young man down.
And the moral is: watch out, or you’ll get a black eye.
(David Barrett)

θι νυν, θρει (538)
ον πρς λλήλας λαλοσιν α πόλεις
σαι κα γελσιν σμεναι—
τατα δαιμονίως πωπιασμέναι
παξάπασαι κα
κυάθους προσκείμεναι.

Κα τνδε τοίνυν τν θεωμένων σκόπει
πρόσωφ’, να γνς τς τέχνας.

Now look here
At the citizens chitchating with one another
How pleasant and how they laugh—
And how indeed the deities give them a black eye
How wounded and how they lay their hand on to cup it.
And let’s view what can be seen
In their faces, so as to know their skills.
(JK Gayle)

Hermes: (Points at the audience) Hahaha! Look at that down there, will you? See with what delight all the citizens of Greece are chatting with each other? See how happily they laugh and chuckle together? Even though they’re adorned with cupping cups attached to their dreadful, black eyes! Look! Hahahaha! A black eye, every single one of them, has a black eye and a cupping cup on it!

Trygeas: Hahaha! Let’s see if we can work out what these people do for a living, just by examining their faces.
(George Theodoridis)

Then look how the reconciled towns chat pleasantly together, how
they laugh; and yet they are all cruelly mishandled; their wounds
are bleeding still.

But let us also scan the mien of the spectators; we shall thus
find out the trade of each.
(Translator uncredited at



passages in Luke and 1 Cor.

δι γε τ παρχειν μοι κπον τν χραν τατην
κδικσω ατν
να μ ες τλος ρχομνη πωπιζ με

because of my bearing such labor by this widow
I’ll give out justice to her
So she won’t in the final round give me a black eye.

λλ πωπιζω
μου τ σμα κα δουλαγωγ
μ πως λλοις κηρξας ατς
δκιμος γνωμαι

in other words I get a black eye
my body, even, gets enslaved
so that I won’t myself preach to others in a way
that’s born out of no [proven] reputation


[now hopefully no one will notice I’ve been back nibbling on cheese and sipping something more aged. The blogging binge ends, for now again.]


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for making it clear that Aristophanes uses the word literally, and that even Luke may do. But surely not Paul? Anyway the active ὑπωπιάζω surely cannot mean "get a black eye", more "give a black eye". If "my body" is not the object, then other people must be; that is to say, Paul is not punching the air but dishing out black eyes. But I think your rendering suffers from the problem of every one that I have seen except "bust a butt/gut" that it can and probably by some people will be taken literally.

Nathan Stitt said...

It was fun while it lasted. :\

Nathan Stitt said...

Sorry, I just noticed Peter's comment. It is easy to see how translation of these verses can be taken out of context, especially by someone who is a cutter or otherwise self-abuses.

It is a legitimate concern and I'm not sure how much the text must be padded in translation to avoid misinterpretation. I think people will misunderstand and take verses out of context no matter what we do, however it is troubling to think that someone would take this literally and harm themselves.

David Ker said...

I'm picking out a thermos for yooooooou! No ordinary thermos it's truuuuuuue. Bwahahaha!

J. K. Gayle said...

You see that I was trying to avoid the whole problem of "my body" as the object of Paul's "black eye." And you make the good point that we readers wouldn't want to misunderstand that Paul is necessarily a boxer--but what if his Greek (and not our English translation) makes readers wonder?

I agree: "I think people will misunderstand and take verses out of context no matter what we do, however it is troubling to think that someone would take this literally and harm themselves."

Can't wait. What shall I put in it then?

Oh, and John finally comments (over at his blog where he asked me to do this):

"I really don't know for sure what kind of metaphorical transfer we are to presume in the case of the Greek verb in question. I suspect it varied from context to context, whereas you try to translate in a concordant fashion."

My only response is that "concordance" for me only matters when the bodily language helps us understand or misunderstand. In other words, as clear or unclear as the Greek is with respect to literal or metaphorical body parts, that's how the English should leave it. I think readers will have agency whether we translators try to lock down one meaning.