Monday, September 28, 2009

Saving Christianity as Dorothy Sayers would have men do it

Yesterday, I linked to an essay by Frank Schaeffer.  Today, I want to offer a bit of an essay by Dorothy Sayers.

Both Schaeffer and Sayers address their contemporaries on the same topic:  an ugly side of Christianity.  Both share the same background:  preacher's kids.  Thus, as children of Christian ministers, these two rhetors (i.e., speakers and writers) criticize and critique Christianity from the inside:  as insiders.

For me, this is very interesting stuff.  What Schaeffer and Sayers have to say, the personal angst and authority with which they say it, and exactly how they say it is particularly interesting to me for the following reason:  I share this same background with these two.  My father is also a Christian minister (a pastor, a preacher, a missionary).  Thus, I greatly appreciate the logos, the ethos, and the pathos of the son of Francis A. Schaeffer and of the daughter of Henry Sayers.

I would, nonetheless, like us all to notice a difference between these two preacher's kids grown up:  one  "had to" live her life in her body, in the Christian church, sexed female.  ("Fe-male" is our marked English word, and how marked it has been in the English-speaking Christian church.)

Therefore perhaps, this same one, Dorothy Sayers, has been called the author of the "first feminist mystery novel":  Gaudy Night.   But if you read some of those Uncommon Opinions of hers, then you know how she understood how many people would mean the word feminism.  And if you have read her book, Are Women Human?, then you know how "irritated" the label, "feminist," made Sayers.  She insisted "that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual" (page 24).  She actually didn't like labels, didn't like being put into a box by labels.  And she didn't like women being put into boxes, especially not by religion, Jewish or Christian.  So she wrote to complain about the opinion of men, of Judaism and of the Church:
      Women are not human.  They lie when they say they have human needs:  warm and decent clothing; comfort in the bus; interests directed immediately to God and His universe, not intermediately through any child of man.  They are far above man to inspire him, far beneath him to corrupt him; they have feminine minds and feminine natures, but their mind is not one with their nature like the minds of men; they have no human mind and no human nature.  "Blessed be God," says the Jew [a man of course], "that hath not made me a woman."
       God, of course, may have His own opinion, but the Church [of Christian men of course] is reluctant to endorse it.  I think I have never heard a sermon preached on the story of Martha and Mary that did not attempt, somehow, to explain away its text.  Mary's, of course, was the better part--the Lord said so, and we must not precisely contradict Him.  But we will be careful not to despise Martha.  No doubt, He approved of her too.  We could not get on without her, and indeed (have paid lip-service to God's opinion) we must admit that we greatly prefer her.  For Martha was doing a really feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or female; and that is a hard pill to swallow.
       Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross.  They had never known a man like this Man -- there never has been such another.   A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them as either "The women, God help us!" or "The ladies, God bless them!": who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.  There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.
       But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day [of course mainly men].  Women are not human:  nobody shall persuade that they are human; let them say what they like, we will not believe it, though One rose from the dead.
(pages 66-69, Are Women Human)
But this long quotation from Sayers is here in the post only because most of us readers know her best for her translation of Dante's incredible poetry.  It's one of the best translations ever, and Sayers's rendering of his verse may be why many of us know Dante.  Alinza Dale Stone, writing Maker and Craftsman, a wonderful biography of Sayers, notes that "She also was sure that when Hell did come out she would be attacked for treating Dante as a great storyteller instead of a superhuman 'sourpuss'" (page 141).  If you know Sayers's story among men, then you get that certainty of the attack, which did come against her.  So when Sayers critiques the church of her father(s), it goes something more like this (from "The Other Six Deadly Sins" in the concluding pages, 82-85, of Creed or Chaos):
        But the head and origin of all sin is the basic sin of Superbia or Pride.  In one way there is so much to say about Pride that one might speak of it for a week and not have done.  Yet in another way, all there is to be said about it can be said in a single sentence.  It is the sin of trying to be as God....
        The Greeks feared above all things the state of mind they called hubris--the inflated spirits that come with overmuch success.  Overweening in men called forth, they thought, the envy of the gods.  Their theology may seem to us a little unworthy, but with the phenomenon itself and its effects they were only too well acquainted.  Christianity, with a more rational theology, traces hubris back to the root-sin Pride, which places man instead of God at the centre of gravity and so throws the whole structure of things into the ruin called Judgment....
Human happiness is a by-product, thrown off in man's service of God.  And incidentally, let us be very careful how we preach that "Christianity is necessary for the building of a free and prosperous post-war world."  The proposition is strictly true, but to put it that way may be misleading, for it sounds as though we proposed to make God an instrument in the service of man.  But God is nobody's instrument....
         "Cursed be he that trusteth in man," says Reinhold Niebuhr "even if he be pious man or, perhaps, particularly if he be pious man."  For the besetting temptation of the pious man is to become the proud man:  "He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous."
         My Lord Bishop--Ladies and Gentlemen--it has been my privilege to suggest to you that in your work for the Moral Welfare of this nation you will be doing a great thing if you can persuade the people that the Church is actively and anxiously concerned not with one kind of sin alone, but with seven sins, all of which are deadly, and not least with those which Caesar sanctions and of which the world approves....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Right-Wing Christian Hatemongering Fueled [and Solved?] by Men

Frank Schaeffer asks something rhetorically in his essay, "Right-Wing Hatemongering Fueled by Christianity?"

He astutely asks "Can Christianity be saved from the Christians?"  And just as astutely, he answers that the answer to this question...
is not going to be found coming from [athiestic] people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris et al. Instead that answer may be found in the life and work of Christians such as former president Jimmy Carter, President Obama,  the late writer John Updike, and other public figures from Desmond Tutu to Nelson Mandela who's faith can be taken seriously because of the moral authority given them by their achievements outside the realm of theology.
Read the essay and ask who Schaeffer is leaving out altogether.  Yes, not a single mention of any woman whatsoever.  Do women play no role at all in the discussion?  I first heard Schaeffer on this subject recently as a guest on Rachel Maddow's show, but why no mention of women in politics, in atheism, or in Christianity who may damn or save the religion from without or within?  Who do you think of when thinking of an answer to the question, "Can Christianity be saved from the Christians?"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

the name Jesus from a mother

Here's a bit from Tamar Kadari that gives the etymology of the name Joshua (aka in Greek transliteration as Jesus):
Gen. 17 relates that God was revealed to Abraham, commanded him regarding circumcision, and also informed him of the change of his name, and of that of Sarai to Sarah. In the midrashic expansion, Abraham says to God: “I see that, in the stars, Abram does not bear children.” God replied: “What you say is so. Abram and Sarai do not bear children, but Abraham and Sarah do bear children” (Gen. Rabbah 44:10).
As regards the significance of this change, the Rabbis explain that initially she was a princess [sarai] over her people, while now she will be a princess over all the inhabitants of the world [sarah] (Tosefta Berakhot [ed. Lieberman] 1:13). In an additional exegetical explanation, because Sarai performed good deeds, God added a large letter to her name, and she would now be called “Sarah” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi IshmaelMasekhta de-AmalekYitro 1). The Rabbis determined that whoever now called Sarah by her former name transgressed a positive commandment (JT Berakhot 1:6, 4[a]). The midrash relates that the letter yud that was taken from Sarai’s name flew up before God. It complained: “Master of all the worlds! because I am the smallest of all the letters, You removed me from the righteous woman’s name?” God replied: “Before, you were in a woman’s name, and at the end of her name, now I put you in a man’s name, and at the beginning of the name [Num. 13:16]: ‘but Moses changed the name of Hosea [hoshe’a] son of Nun to Joshua [yehoshua]’” (Gen. Rabbah 47:1). According to another tradition, half of the letter yud [with the numerical value of ten] that God took from Sarai was given back to Sarah, and the other half was given to Abraham [each received the letter heh = 5 + 5] (JT Sanhedrin 2:6, 20[c]).

After God changed Sarai’s name, He further said (Gen. 17:16): “I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her.” The Rabbis understand that the first blessing was that she would give birth to a son, and the second, that she would have milk. According to another exegesis, God blessed Sarah by forming a womb for her. In a third view, the blessing did not focus solely on the issue of birth, but extended to her entire being, which became young again. A fourth opinion derives the nature of the blessing from the continuation of this verse: “I will bless her so that she shall give rise to nations.” The meaning of the blessing, which relates to Sarah’s standing in the eyes of the nations, is that Sarah will be respected by the Gentile peoples, who will no longer call her barren. The midrash adds that Sarah conceived that very same year (Gen. Rabbah 47:2). -- Jewish Women's Archive, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, "Sarah: Midrash and Aggadah"  
Of course, Moses was given his name by an Egyptian woman.  And his name actually sounds like wet stuff, like MaMa too .  This was long before Moses (aka "Mama Says Delivered from Mother Nile") took "the letter yud" from Sarai's name to put it into Hosea's to make it JosHua.  

Then, back in Egypt, the Hebrews some years later translated what Moses did into Hellene this way:
καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν Μωυσῆς τὸν Αυση υἱὸν Ναυη Ἰησοῦν
kai eponomasen Moyses ton Ayse huion Naye, Iesoun
"and he was named by Moses, this Hosea son of Nun was, was named Jesus"
Then some years later, Luke has Gabriel the angel telling mother Mary to name her baby this way:
καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν
kai kaleseis to onoma autou, Iesoun
"and call that name of his Joshua."

Friday, September 25, 2009

blood, sweat, tears, and the ewe-lamb of God

You can't put too fine a point on this.  Female word-images for both Jews and Greeks for centuries have included -

kitchen duty,
meal service,
body washing,

When you read about Jesus in Greek and in Aramaic and in Hebrew and even in Latin, the feminine imagery bleeds through.  This was true long before Anne Carson or any other contemporary feminist read Aristotle in Greek.  It was true before yesterday, when the Dalai Lama of Tibet called himself a feminist.

Reading and listening in English, you can miss much of that womanliness, depending on how phallogocentric your general culture.  We, for example, imagine that not many heard anything much but manly resolve from Winston Churchill in 1940 when he addressed the mainly-male Members of Parliament with his "nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."  In addition, we run through blogger Damian's "lack of feminine language in Jesus' names" this month and without a blink quickly concede that "-Lamb (Rev. 13:8) - Lamb of God (John 1:29) - Lamb Without Blemish (1 Pet. 1:19)" must mean "ram lamb" and not, of course, "ewe."

In the last two posts, I've tried to show how Greek writers about Jesus used feminine images of wetness (tears, toil, sweat, blood and food and touching and eating, passing over a Pesah) when talking about him.

In this post, I want to go back to the Lamb image, and to the Breast image, in allusion to Jesus.  Before I do, the quick aside is this:  no one is claiming that the Jesus of history was a woman, that he as a "virgin" (albeit a male) was some kind of spiritual "eunuch," or that the gospel writers were somehow confused about his sex.  Rather, what I'm hoping to show is that Greek language gives dimensions to gender that aren't as restricted as Aristotle would have them, or as many many many of us today would have them either.  To put a woman in a box is conveniently to demean her; Pandora is the sexist male's nightmare.  And Aristotle the logical realist knew this very well.  We might as well pause another moment to listen to Anne Carson, as she acknowledges:
Aristotle accords to the male in the act of procreation the role of active agent, contributing "motion" and "formation" while the female provides the "raw material," as when a bed (the child) is made by a carpenter (the father) out of wood (the mother).  We might note also that the so-called Pythagorean Table of Oppositions, cited by Aristotle, aligns "boundary" or "limit" on the same side as "masculine": over against "the unbounded" and "feminine" on the other side.
    The assumptions about women that underlie the views of Plato, Aristotle and the Pythagoreans can be traced to the earliest legends of the Greeks.  Myth is a logic too.  In myth, woman's boundaries are pliant, porous, mutable.  Her power to control them is inadequate, her concern for them unreliable.  Deformation attends her.  She swells, she shrinks, she leaks, she is penetrated, she suffers metamorphoses.  (Men in the Off Hours, page 133)
When witnesses and reporters and historians used Greek to portray women and Jesus, the feminine leaks out.


By default in English with Aristotle's logic, Jesus is a ram lamb.  Moreover, and after all, everyone knows that the translator John who writes the Apocalypse and the translator John who writes the Gospel and the Peter who writes the Epistle in Greek each use a grammatically masculine form:  1) τοῦ ἀρνίου τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου - 2) ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ and - 3) ἀμνοῦ ἀμώμου.  Now that should box things up, shouldn't it?

Well, unfortunately, things get lost and found in Greek translation.  Post-Passover, the Hebrew is still clear.  We might as well look at what Greek is used in three examples.

1) In Leviticus 14:10, Moses says and allegedly writes:
And on the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.
Then along come followers of Moses back in Egypt using Greek, and they make "ewe-lamb" [ כבשה (kibsah)] read this way:  ἄμωμον.  Notice anything about the gender here?

2) In Isaiah 53:7, the Prophet says this:
He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth.
Then along comes a follower of Jesus called Phillip helping an Ethiopian who's a eunuch, and Luke translates that into Greek (or just quotes the Greek of the Jews of Egypt) as a direct allusion to Jesus this way:
ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείροντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ
Notice anything about the gender here?  Sure you do.  In the English translation of the Hebrew, you see "her shearers," a direct allusion to "a sheep," certainly a "she" sheep!  In Hebrew, she's רחל (rachel).  In Greek, she's ἀμνὸς.  Notice anything about the gender here? 

3)  In 2 Samuel 12:2-3, the writer has Nathan beginning the famous parable to the adulterer-murderer-liar David this way:
There were two men in one city: the one rich, and the other poor.  The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared; and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
Then along come readers of this parable who are Jews using Greek, and they also make "ewe-lamb" [ כבשה (kibsah)] read this way:  ἢ ἀμνὰς.  Notice anything about the gender here?  That's right, the pure sacrificial lamb is a ewe.


Damian has already quoted Halden quoting Melissa quoting Augustine.  It's Latin translated into English, and Jesus is breast milk (in Confessions 7.18.24).  And there's more of that from the Homily 3 on the First Epistle of John:
Whoso knows that he is born, let him hear that he is an infant; let him eagerly cling to the breasts of his mother, and he grows apace. Now his mother is the Church; and her breasts are the two Testaments of the Divine Scriptures. Hence let him suck the milk of all the things that as signs of spiritual truths were done in time for our eternal salvation, that being nourished and strengthened, he may attain to the eating of solid meat, which is, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 Our milk is Christ in His humility; our meat, the selfsame Christ equal with the Father. With milk He nourishes you, that He may feed you with bread: for with the heart spiritually to touch Christ is to know that He is equal with the Father.
And then there's this equality with the Mother also, from Sermon 369:
Our savior, born of the Father apart from any day.... Go on being filled with wonder; the one who bore him is both mother and virgin; the one she bore is both speechless infant and Word.  Rightly did the heavens speak....  Give suck, mother, to our food; five suck to the bread that came down from heaven (Jn 6:58), and was placed in a manger....  Give your breast to the one who made you such that he might be made in you, who both gave you the gift of fertility when he was conceived, and did not deprive you of the honor of virginity when he was born; who before he was born chose for himself both the womb from which he would be born and the day on which he would be born.
And St. Anselm in his "Prayer to St. Paul" (as mother) says:
But you, too, good Jesus, are not you also a mother?  Is not he a mother who like a hen gathers his chicks beneath his wings?  Truly, Lord, you are a mother too....
And Julian of Norwich in English, our English, in Showings (page 298 of one recent edition) sees Jesus conceiving his offspring, and in labor giving birth, and nursing at his breast, feeding:
But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be.  So he carries us within him in love and travail, until the full time when he wanted to suffer the sharpest thorns and cruel pains that were or will be, and at the last he died.  And when he had finished, and had borne us so for bliss, still all this could not satisfy his wonderful love....
     The mother can give her child to suck of her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does, most courteously and most tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life....
     The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss.

Feminine language and womanly imagery (in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, and even English) can be found and are shown for Jesus.  Much of it comes even from within the pages of the canon called the Bible.  This is the language of real human beings, Jews and Greeks, males and females.

Jesus like a southern lady in the cotton patch

Last post, I probably shouldn't have used "AIDS patient" for Mark's and Matthew's "τοῦ λεπροῦ." Indeed, both leprosy and AIDS are equally horrible diseases causing society in general to want to quarantine and to shun the victims and not to touch them let alone to have a meal with them in their own homes. And to be fair to the global economy of today, I probably should have used "Euro" for Mark's and John's "δηναρίων." Nonetheless, I really wasn't trying to confuse the problems of then and there with those of here and now.  Why should anyone reading my quick and dirty translations?

There are, however, layers of translation in the gospels of the canon of the New Testament. Hebrew and Aramaic and Latin turned to Greek in Jerusalem among the empire of Rome built over the empire of Athens. With the protagonist of the story, healthy and male, turned to look like a lady. It's story telling and translation. Wordplay and both writer and reader wiggle room for interpretation. Or else Jesus shouldn't have told all those parables for him and for her who has ears to hear.

I live and listen here in the South, in the former nation of human slavery called the USA. So, with ears to hear here, let me start my post yesterday all over and include a better translation of Matthew, Luke, and John than mine. Please find below the wonderful Cotton Patch Gospel by Clarence Jordan. (Jordon unfortunately didn't get to Mark or beyond John 8.  But on the others, Jordon's Matthew and Luke, I've only added the pink lest anyone miss the references to the ladies.  Or lest they fail to get how much Jesus, lady like, liked the ladies in the southern cotton patch.)
When Jesus was at the home of Simon the wino in Jonesboro, a woman with a bottle of very high-priced perfume came and dabbed it on him while he was eating. When the students noticed it, they boiled over: "What’s going on? Why waste this when it could be sold for a neat sum and used for the poor?" Jesus got wind of it and said, "Why are you bitching at the lady? She has done something beautiful for me.  (--Matthew)

A certain church member invited him home for dinner. He accepted and went into the church member's house and sat down. Then a shady lady of the town, who had heard that Jesus was being entertained at the church member's home, bought a bottle of high-priced perfume. She sat at his feet sobbing, and her tears began to wet his feet. She dried them with her long hair and kissed his feet and dabbed on some of the perfume.
            When the church member who had invited him saw what was going on, he thought to himself, "If this fellow were a real man of God, he would recognize the kind of woman that's fondling him and know that she's a shady character."
            Then Jesus said to him, "Simon, I want to talk with you about something."
            He said, "Why sure, Doctor, go right ahead."
            "Two men were in debt to a certain banker. One owed five hundred dollars, the other fifty. When neither of them could pay up, the banker wrote off the debt of both. Which of the two would you think was the more grateful?"
            Simon scratched his head and said, "Why, I suppose it was the one who was relieved of the larger debt."
            Jesus said to him, "Right you are!" Then he turned to the lady and said to Simon, "Do you see this lady? When I came into your home, you didn't even give me water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn't even shake hands with me, but she, ever since she got here, has lovingly kissed my feet.  (--Luke)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

evidence of feminine language in description of Jesus

Suzanne wrote a post today called "More feminine language for God."  She points us to Damian's post today, "Even more evidence of feminine language in description of God."  He points us to a comment from James K. A. Smith who points us to "a further reference in Augustine to ’suckling on the Breast of Jesus’ in his sermons on John or 1 John." Damian says of that last bit "but I couldn’t find evidence of it."  Interesting.

Well I confess I haven't bothered to go looking for the Breast.  And I doubt as many care about Augustine as they do about the New Testament writers.  Therefore, below I do show evidence of how four gospel writers show women and Jesus together.  And eventually one of them shows Jesus behaving like those women, modeling and exemplifying for his apprentices ways of being and of doing (like women, feminine perhaps like God.)

After the gospel writers' Hellene comes my English, which some comes from Willis Barnstone's Hebrew.  It's about as transparent as possible, from Mark 14, Matthew 26, Luke 7, and John 12 & then 13.

Καὶ ὄντος αὐτοῦ ἐν Βηθανίᾳ, ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ Σίμωνος τοῦ λεπροῦ, κατακειμένου αὐτοῦ, ἦλθεν γυνὴ ἔχουσα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς· καὶ συντρίψασα τὴν ἀλάβαστρον, κατέχεεν αὐτοῦ κατὰ τῆς κεφαλῆς. Ἦσαν δέ τινες ἀγανακτοῦντες πρὸς ἑαυτούς, καὶ λέγοντες, Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη τοῦ μύρου γέγονεν; Ἠδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ μύρον πραθῆναι ἐπάνω τριακοσίων δηναρίων, καὶ δοθῆναι τοῖς πτωχοῖς. Καὶ ἐνεβριμῶντο αὐτῇ.  Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄφετε αὐτήν· τί αὐτῇ κόπους παρέχετε; Καλὸν ἔργον ἠργάσατο ἐν ἐμοί.

And while he was in Poverty's House [בית עניא / Beth Anya, bethany], in the house of Shimon [שמעון] the AIDS patient, he was reclining.  A woman came with an alabaster jar of myrrh perfume, that pure and extravagantly expensive spikenard ointment.  Breaking the alabastar jar she poured it on his head.  So, some stir up each of the others by saying, "Why would someone waste the myrrh?  It could've been sold for three hundred Silver Tenths [Denarii, denarion] and given to the poor!" And they provoked her.  So, Joshua [יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , ya'hoshua] said, "Let go of her!  Why would someone pour trouble on her?  It's a good, beautiful work she's worked in me."
--Mark's telling & translating, and my translating Mark
Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ γενομένου ἐν Βηθανίᾳ ἐν οἰκίᾳ Σίμωνος τοῦ λεπροῦ, προσῆλθεν αὐτῷ γυνὴ ἀλάβαστρον μύρου ἔχουσα βαρυτίμου, καὶ κατέχεεν ἐπὶτὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἀνακειμένου. Ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἠγανάκτησαν, λέγοντες, Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη; Ἐδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο μύρον πραθῆναι πολλοῦ, καὶ δοθῆναι πτωχοῖς. Γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί κόπους παρέχετε τῇ γυναικί; Ἔργον γὰρ καλὸν ἠργάσατο εἰς ἐμέ.

So, when Joshua [יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , ya'hoshua] was in Poverty's House [בית עניא / Beth Anya], in the house of Shimon [שמעון] the AIDS patient, a woman came with an alabaster jar of precious myrrh perfume, and she poured it on his head, as he's kicking back for dinner.  So, seeing that, his apprentices get stirred up by saying, "Why would someone waste that?  That myrrh could've made an extra excess, and it could've been given to the poor.  So, getting an earful, Joshua said, "Why would someone pour trouble on this woman?  It's a work of beautiful goodness she's worked into me." 
--Matthew's telling & translating, and my translating Matthew
Καὶ ἰδού, γυνὴ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ἥτις ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἁμαρτωλός, καὶ ἐπιγνοῦσα ὅτι ἀνάκειται ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ Φαρισαίου, κομίσασα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου, καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ κλαίουσα τοῖς δάκρυσιν, ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ τοῖς δάκρυσιν, καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν, καὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ. Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Φαρισαῖος ὁ καλέσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Οὗτος, εἰ ἦν προφήτης, ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν τίς καὶ ποταπὴ ἡ γυνὴ ἥτις ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν....   Καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; Εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας μου οὐκ ἔδωκας· αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας, καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν.  Φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας· αὕτη δέ, ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον, οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.  Ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας· αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψέν τοὺς πόδας μου. 

And look, a woman "in the city," she's certainly there in the city, a sinner.  And knowing that he's going to be kicking back for dinner in the house of the Separatist, she brought in an alabaster jar of myrrh perfume.  And standing behind his feet, she was crying, streaming tears, beginning to wet his feet with the tears.  And with the hair of her head she was moping them.  And she was kissing his feet.  And she was slathering the myrrh perfume.  So, look, the Separatist who'd invited him said to himself:  "This one, if he were a prophet, should know what sort of someone this woman is, someone who "touches" him, that she's a sinner....  And turning toward the woman, Joshua [יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , ya'hoshua] said to Shimon [שמעון] the Separatist, "Pay attention to this woman.  I come into your house.  Water on my feet?  There's none given!  So, her tears wet my feet.  And with the hair of her head she mops up.  Kisses for me?  There's none given.  So, she from the moment she comes in, there's not stopping her from kissing my feet.  Oil for my head?  There's none slathered on.  So, she slathers her myrrh perfume on my feet."
--Luke's telling & translating, and my translating Luke
Ὁ οὖν Ἰησοῦς πρὸ ἓξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ Πάσχα ἦλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν, ὅπου ἦν Λάζαρος, ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν  Ἰησοῦς.  Ἐποίησαν οὖν αὐτῷ δεῖπνον ἐκεῖ, καὶ ἡ Μάρθα διηκόνει· ὁ δὲ Λάζαρος εἷς ἦν ἐκ τῶν ἀνακειμένων σὺν αὐτῷ.  Ἡ οὖν Μαριὰμ  λαβοῦσα λίτραν μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου, ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, καὶ ἐξέμαξεν ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ· ἡ δὲ οἰκία ἐπληρώθη ἐκ τῆς ὀσμῆς τοῦ μύρου.  Λέγει οὖν εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, Ἰούδας Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτης, ὁ μέλλων αὐτὸν παραδιδόναι, Διὰ τί τοῦτο τὸ μύρον οὐκ ἐπράθη τριακοσίων δηναρίων, καὶ ἐδόθη πτωχοῖς; ....  Εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἄφες αὐτήν·   ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό.

Then, Joshua [יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , ya'hoshua] six days before Passover [פֶּסַח Pesach] went into in Poverty's House [בית עניא / Beth Anya], where Elazar [אֶלְעָזָר , lazaros] was, raised out of his corpse state by Joshua.  Then, they prepared supper for him there.  And Martha served.  So Elazar was one of the ones kicking back with him.  Then, Miriam  [מִרְיָם , mariam] took a pound of myrrh perfume, that pure and extravagantly expensive spikenard ointment.  She slathered it on the feet of Joshua.  And she moped with her hair his feet.  So, the house filled with the smell of the myrrh pouring out.  Then, there came this statement out of an apprentice of his -  Judah [יְהוּדָה , ioudas] of Keriot - the one about to give him up in betrayal:  "Huh? why wasn't this myrrh of someone's not sold for three hundred Silver Tenths [Denarii, denarion] and given to the poor?!"  Then, Joshua said, "Let go of her!  so that until the day when I'm put in the ground, she keeps it."

Πρὸ δὲ τῆς ἑορτῆς τοῦ Πάσχα, εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἐλήλυθεν αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα ἵνα μεταβῇ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, ἀγαπήσας τοὺς ἰδίους τοὺς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς.   Καὶ δείπνου γενομένου, τοῦ διαβόλου ἤδη βεβληκότος εἰς τὴν καρδίαν Ἰούδα Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτου ἵνα αὐτὸν παραδῷ, εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι πάντα δέδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ πατὴρ εἰς τὰς χεῖρας, καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὑπάγει, ἐγείρεται ἐκ τοῦ δείπνου, καὶ τίθησιν τὰ ἱμάτια, καὶ λαβὼν λέντιον διέζωσεν ἑαυτόν.  Εἶτα βάλλει ὕδωρ εἰς τὸν νιπτῆρα, καὶ ἤρξατο νίπτειν τοὺς πόδας τῶν μαθητῶν, καὶ ἐκμάσσειν τῷ λεντίῳ ᾧ ἦν διεζωσμένος.  Ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμωνα Πέτρον· καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ἐκεῖνος, Κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας;  Ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ, σὺ οὐκ οἶδας ἄρτι, γνώσῃ δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα.

So, before the feast of Passover [פֶּסַח Pesach], Joshua [יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , ya'hoshua] had the idea that his moment had arrived in order he was stepping out of this world to go to Daddy.  He had loved his own in the world; into "the end" he had loved them.  And as supper time came, the devil had already placed into the heart of Judah [יְהוּדָה , ioudas], son of Shimon [שמעון] of Keriot, that he should give him up in betrayal.  Joshua had the idea that everything had been given him by Daddy into his hand and that from God he had come and to that God he was going.  He raised himself out of his seat at supper, and dropped the robe, and took a towel of linen as his girdle.  Now, he tossed water into the wash pan and began to wash the feet of the apprentices and to mop up with the linen towel which was that girdle around.  Then, he went to Shimon [שמעון], Rock [petros].  And made this statement to him, "Master, you're washing my feet?"  Joshua retorted, and said to him, "What I'm creating, you can't understand yet.  So, you'll know about it after this."
--John's telling & translating, and my translating John

Because I am a Girl

Because I am a Girl

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recovering like Philip Yancey

"We in the church have as much to learn from people in the recovery movement..."
--Philip Yancey

When Yancey wrote those words, he was writing a "back page" essay for Christianity Today magazine, and it was about the alcoholics anonymous recovery movement.

But he might as well have been writing about recovery from the church.  He's written lots about his upbringing and early adult life in Christian fundamentalism, and his movement out of it.  He's also written about recovery of the histories of Jesus.  He says the gospel writers tend to write like Barbara Tuchman, who's histories read as if they're happening suspensefully for the first time (like watching the movie "Titanic" for the third or forth time, thinking perhaps all will survive and the ending will be happy ever after).  He writes a history of Jesus that way, humbly, as if he never knew certain things about him.  It's a history looking at the facts of the underbelly of the story, so he says.  He's often disappointed with God, he says.  He's disappointed with people who wear God like a bumpersticker, I say.  There's a physical realism to his thinking that reminds me some of some good feminisms.  Feminist recovery work.  This is how and why he some in significant ways influences how I read the Bible.

Once upon a time in a blog post, I quoted Yancey - a quotation about how women were witnesses to the resurrection in the gospels.  Today in a blog post, April DeConick quotes Origen quoting Celsus - a quotation about how women were witnesses to the resurrection in the gospels.  The trouble is, when reading the bible, that many men have used women for many things.  What if they are witnesses?

about biblioblogging...? Jacqueline Jones Royster's voices

I don't know why you read my blog. It's a strange mix of feminisms, translation stuff, rhetorics, and because of that sometimes often it's bibliobloggish. I know, doesn't make sense much to the pure or the purists of any sort.

So let me offer at least 2 reasons why you might read this particular post:  1 - you might have read something yesterday here about April DeConick sounding rather like Moses (moses, the male, I mean) when I was hoping she might just also speak with another voice of hers;  2- you might be holding me to my promise (sort of) that I'd say something more about why afrafeminist Jacqueline Jones Royster has very much influenced how I read the bible.

1- DeConick does not disappoint.  Look at the whole post What is it about biblioblogging...? But at least read two central paragraphs:
As for the historical-critical approach and feminism. There is nothing anti-feminist about the historical approach in and of itself. What is anti-feminist is its application which has been controlled by white (mainly European) males since only recently. So the kind of history that has been recovered and written has been the history of the dominant group, and it is the history that justifies and sustains that group. Here again we are talking about white males who are in power and who wish to remain so. When our histories, whether religious or social or political, have been written and put into text books and taught to our children, it is the history of the dominant group - their master commemorative narrative - that we are disseminating. Now this is not new news. It is ho-hum by now and I imagine you are yawning.
So what have we done about this now that we have recognized it because feminist scholarship and literary critical methods have brought this to our attention? We have gone back and added a paragraph about important women in our textbooks and we have minted coins with Anthony's face on it, coins that we never use! But we haven't rewritten our histories to reflect what we are learning about the hidden histories and the marginalized past nor have we commemorated it as a society (this is especially true of our religious histories - which is why I am writing Sex and the Serpent). Why not add a paper dollar to those we use already, and put Anthony on it? Why not make a government holiday commemorating the Suffrage movement? Why not rename important boulevards with the names of women we wish to commemorate? Etc.
Doesn't she sound wonderfully like Patricia Bizzell?  And if you're a (feminist) rhetorician you should know how she sounds.  For example, in her speech and in her writing (“Feminist Methods of Research in the History of Rhetoric: What Difference Do They Make?”), Bizzell asks,
Have [Jacqueline Jones] Royster, and other feminist scholars for whom she has now more completely articulated methodologies already in practice, departed radically from the rhetorical tradition?
So Bizzell answers:
Yes, and no. No, because their work relies upon many of the traditional tools of research in the history of rhetoric. No, because the rhetors they have added to our picture of the history of Western rhetoric seem to me to be working within this tradition and enriching it, rather than constituting utterly separate or parallel rhetorical traditions. But yes, because in order to get at activities of these new rhetors, researchers have had to adopt radically new methods as well, methods which violate some of the most cherished conventions of academic research, most particularly in bringing the person of the researcher, her body, her emotions, and dare one say, her soul, into the work.  From my [Bizzell's] perspective as editor of an anthology called The Rhetorical Tradition, contemplating the major changes in scholarship over the last ten years, these new methods have made all the difference.
2 - Now you've noticed my little segue into talking about Royster.  I don't think I can say more really than Bizzell has.  I do think Royster herself has lots to say.  The best place to start, if you're starting to read Royster, is her essay, "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own."  There, she talks about her many voices, and she does so using her "academic voice."  She's writing (also) as a woman, as an African American, as one often talked about by other experts on african american women, experts who themselves are neither women nor african americans.

Royster, you may also want to learn, is an "English" academic professionally, not a bible scholar.  But as such she is a historian, a feminist, a rhetorician, a literary scholar.  Royster has a fabulous book she's entitled, Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change among African American Women. If you haven't caught on, then you might want to understand that Royster finds herself in the historical stream of women she's researching and writing about. This is objective but subjective stuff.  Two of my favorite paragraphs are these (from pages 254-55):
     My role as researcher has been to look theoretically and philosophically at the data, to bring meaning to it.  The very first order of business by necessity has been to establish an interpretive viewpoint that clearly places African American women at the center of our own story.  The assumption is that viewpoint matters.  As Anna Julia Cooper stated in 1892 in A Voice from the South, "What is needed, perhaps, to reverse the picture of the lordly man slaying the lion, is for the lion to turn painter!"  (1988:222).  In scholarly research and analysis, the question to be addressed is more than whether African American women occupy a passive position of object or an active position of subject.  Rather, the question, at the level of interpretation, is how--as objects or subjects--we are placed on a landscape or within a material reality.
     In this analysis, I rejected images of African American women that would position us interpretively as a mirror or a reflection of others, or as a room accessed by other people's doors and windows, or even as a backdrop against which other stories are told, invigorated, or clarified.  Instead, this analysis positions African American women as the "lions" in a "lion's tale."  My intent has been to consider African American women as the embodiment of our own dreams and aspirations, our own created and re-created selves, in a world with others, certainly, but without the need at critical points in the analytical process (that is, in the initial stages) to be filtered through the experiences of others, no matter how resonant or dissonant those experiences might be.  In making such a commitment to creating a working space amid dualities, I believe I have acquired an understanding of both scholarly positioning and knowledge production in this arena from which advice to others might be abstracted.  In choosing an appropriate mechanism for sharing advice in a more direct manner, however, without suggesting the notion of easy prescriptions, I realize once again that theory, like history, also begins with a story.
Let me quote three paragraphs more, and then say something about the bible and about my reading (and some blogging about) it.  Here's from Royster's preface to Calling Cards: Theory and Practice in the Study of Race, Gender, and Culture (page x):
     Colleagues in mainstream and not so mainstream academic circles have learned to focus more acutely on what it actually means to carry out a research agenda that is defined and substantively directed by schemata (race, gender, culture) that have traditionally been marginalized and disregarded.  We have learned to adapt and invent research and teaching strategies, and we have struggled to negotiate the social and political dynamics of academic lives that are so clearly tied to traditionally devalued interests.  In the main, there have not been road maps by which to determine appropriate and worthy pathways, since these interests actually go against the grain of many traditional practices.  We hear tales of colleagues who have worked without advocates, mentors, or champions to run interference or to keep resources enabling structures in place.  Personally and professionally, many of us have felt on our own, isolated, and struggling against the odds.  These are the facts of many lives.
And here's from Royster's preface to Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 (page vii):
     As complements to each other, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and A Red Record clearly state Wells's position on lynching, revealing the insight and perception with which she was able to launch the most successful of the early anti-lynching campaigns.  Wells's courageous analysis helps us to understand the told and untold story of this sinister thread in the fabric of American life.  The third pamphlet, Mob Rule in New Orleans, is a case study that dramatically details an individual incident as it escalates in the absence of law, order, and the application of justice to become yet another striking example of "southern horror."
     I have also sought to establish an appropriate framework for understanding the personal achievements of Ida B. Wells.  Born into slavery, Wells went on to garner a place of respect as a nationally and internationally prominent journalist and as a leader in the black clubwomen's movement.  Wells was one among a relatively small but growing number of "public" women in an era when public arenas were not considered the place for women.  Going against this grain, Wells earned a reputation as an outspoken and steadfast crusader for justice, and the three pamphlets presented here are testimony to her achievement.
Now it doesn't take an entirely careful reader to see how Royster, historian, finds herself in the history.  Nor does it take a woman, or an African American, or an AfricanAmericanwoman to appreciate what she's doing, and the authority with which she does it.  The marginal voices of the "traditional" history speak.  They do not demand to be heard.  They deconstruct and reconstruct their histories before an expert not in the stream of history (not that history anyway) can construct them otherwise.

So, the bible.  It is history, re-presentations.  And most today doing scholarship on the Bible come at it as lion slayers in the painting, not letting the silenced lions paint, not listening to the voices, not standing themselves in their own margins where they belong.  Since I am not a Jew of old, not even one of those who spoke for or as Thomas or Mary, then I do better, I think, to listen to the stories not always told.  Royster reminds me of the horrors of the silenced in the south.  She reminds me that rigorous historical criticism (even in biblical scholarship) is too often necessarily done "without advocates, mentors, or champions to run interference or to keep resources enabling structures in place."  There are many (yet) unheard and overlooked.  The subjective perspective is most important when "being" objective.



Monday, September 21, 2009

Choosing your methodS

April DeConick has prompted another interesting discussion, defending one method of historiography over another, or so it seems.  The Bible and / or History are what're at stake for so many, or so it seems.  First, she gives (her) "perspective" (i.e., "Historical-critical scholarship is [to be] built on the presuppositions of the scientific search for knowledge."). Second, she coins as "confessional" those "scholars who are so invested theologically in a religious tradition and its maintenance [that they] are willing to suspend what we [historical-critical scientific types] know to be factual about our world in order to read their scriptures as fact." Then she comes in like Moses and lays down the "10 commandments" in scholarship with respect to the bible, and history, like a sacred cow or a golden calf. What I wish DeConick would've done (and she might still do it) is talk about Her Master's Tools?: Feminist And Postcolonial Engagements of Historical-Critical Discourse.

How I might respond is by putting up a post soon to get us listening to Jacqueline Jones Royster, which might help us listen to the bible. Royster, the expert in "textual studies (rhetoric, literacy, composition, literature, etc.)" and also the strong, factual "historian."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mother Mary, Anthropos

Luke's Greek gospel offers compelling evidence that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an anthropos

(John Radcliffe inspires me to look at Mary by pointing us to that saying of Mary's son, a saying about mothers and their anthropos offspring.  Take a look here, scrolling down to what Radcliffe calls "Off topic somewhat.")

Now we can look at Luke's introduction of Mary and then his conclusion where he continues to figure her prominently.  Below is Luke's chapter 1 and his chapter 24.  I've included the Greek (and Hebrew names) after the English translation.  (Since John Radcliffe notes how the NKJV "gets it right" in John's gospel, let's stay in the same translation and even show the NKJV mechanics, such as italics). 

What should be obvious are these facts: 

1) when Luke introduces Mary, there are several other males also introduced, but none of these individuals is described as anthropos

2) when Luke is towards the end of his story, Mary is there the anthropos.
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”  29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”   34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
Luke's first description of Mary includes his use of these words:

παρθένος [parthénos, aka "marriable girl," NKJV "virgin"];
Μαριάμ [Mariám, aka מִרְיָם, "Miriam," NKJV "Mary"];
ἐν γυναιξίν [ẻn gunaizín, aka "within (married) women," NKJV "among women"].

In the same context (vv 27, 34), Luke's words for "man" are ἀνδρί, ἄνδρα [andri, andra].  Her baby, incidentally, is to be named Ἰησοῦν [Iesoun, aka יְהוֹשֻׁעַ , "Joshua," NKJV "JESUS"]

When one fast-forwards to the end, Luke has another angel speaking to other women, some married, some mothers, some Marys.  The angel quotes the son of Mary.  But the NKJV here does not get things quite right this time.  Here's a bit:
6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”  8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.
Luke never says here andri or andra for the men.  Rather he writes, καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς λοιποῖς [kai pasin tois loipois] which NKJV renders "and to all the rest."

Likewise, Luke doesn't say gune for the (married) women.  Instead he offers καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ σὺν αὐταῖς [kai hai loipai sun autais] which NKJV makes "and the other women with them."

But Luke does have τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [ton huion tou anthropou].  And to this Joshua (aka Jesus) there must have been in his own nickname for himself a fondness for his mother.  Because - despite NKJV's "The Son of Man" - he is reminding the other Marys and other women to tell the eleven disciples and the other men that he is the son of the anthropos.  And she is the anthropos, according to Luke's account, who knew no "man" and yet conceived and gave birth to her own anthropos.  Mother Mary, Anthropos.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Sheep Don't Need Sex: More Wordplay in Matthew

Below is my translating of Matthew's storytelling and translating.  I've put in brackets the original Greek words that translate some of the original Hebrew words along with those even more original Hebrew words.  Of course, the spoken language Matthew translates mostly was probably Hebrew Aramaic; and yet not all of this story is spoken language, is it?  (Suzanne gets us listening to the words of Syriac Aramaic in a related post.)

The protagonist of Matthew's Greek story and translation is the protagonist who questions the readings of his antagonists.  There is text in this oral story, then.  The word for "reading" in Greek, of course, is a play on the word for "knowing"; it literally means to "know from above."  The protagonist knows some of the high holy Hebrew scriptures from God above, and he quotes a bit of it back to the antagonists.  They seem hung up on how he reads the Torah Law, and how it relates to the healing of a mortal human being.

With my translating, what I'm trying to show is Matthew's clever wordplay, his poetry perhaps, and his rhetoric really.  Observe the contrasts and interplay between the words for God, for mortal humans, and for sheep.  This wordplay starts in verse 3 perhaps and really in verse 8.

Observe:   we get from Matthew neither the sex of the sheep nor the gender of the mortal human whose hand is healed.

This post is following on a few others earlier, which I've linked here.  Unfortunately, most of the discussion around Matthew 12 so far has ignored the beginning of Matthew's story and the start of his wordplay there.

Here goes:


1  At that time, during Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ], Joshua [Ἰησοῦς / יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ] went through the grainfields.

Then, his apprentices were hungry and were beginning to pluck and to eat the stalks.  2 Then, the observing Separtists [Φαρισαῖοι /פרושים ] said to him:
Look at what your apprentices are doing.
This is not to be done during Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ].
3 Then, he said to them:
This is not known by your reading [ἀν-έγνωτε], is it?  What you’re saying is not known by your reading of what David [Δαυίδ / דָּוִיד] did when he was hungry, is it?  4  Or how he, and those with him too, went into the house of God [οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ /בֵּית אֱלֹהִים], and ate the showbread of the presence [ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως /לֶחֶם]?  This is not to be done by him?  Nor by those with him?  This is not to be done if not by the Priests [ἱερεῖς / הַכֹּהֲנִים] alone?
5 What you’re saying is not known by your reading [ἀν-έγνωτε] of Torah Law [Νόμος / תֹּורָה] either, is it?  During Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ] the Priests [ἱερεῖς / הַכֹּהֲנִים] in the Temple [ἱερος / הֵיכַל] defile Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ] and are innocent [ἀναίτιος /נָקִי], right?
Here, then, is a statement for you all:
6 “What’s greater than the Temple [ἱερος / הֵיכַל] is here.”
7 If you, then, had known [ἐγνώκειτε] what this is --
“It’s mercy I wish for and not sacrifice.”
[Ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν
/ כִּי חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי וְלֹא־זָבַח]
If you, then, had known [ἐγνώκειτε] what this is -- then there should not have you’re your judging condemnation [κατε-δικάσατε] of the innocent [ἀναίτιος /נָקִי].
8 The Master of Sabbath … is the offspring of a mortal human
[τοῦ Σαββάτου … ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
/ אֱנָש.ׁבַר … שַׁבָּתֹ]
9 Afterwards, he went from there into their Synagogue [συν·αγωγή / עֵדָֽה].

10 So observe:

There was a mortal human [ἄνθρωπος] who had a mangled hand.

They asked him about it - making this statement -
Is it to be done? 
to heal during Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ]?
They asked him this in order to accuse him.

11 Then he said to them:
Among all you mortal humans [ἄνθρωπος] there is someone who has just one sheep [πρόβατον ἕν / כִּבְשָׂה אַחַת קְטַנָּה].  Should it fall during Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ] into a pit, would that someone not grab it and lift it out?
12 How much more, then, would you carry a mortal human [ἄνθρωπος] than you would a sheep?
Thus, it is good [καλῶς / טֹוב] during Sabbath [Σάββατόν / שַׁבָּתֹ] to do this.
13 That’s when he made this statement to the mortal human [ἄνθρωπος]:
Put out you hand
 [Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου / שְׁלַח יָֽדְךָ]

And the hand was put out there, and it was restored, healthy as the other one.

14 So, the Separtists [Φαρισαῖοι /פרושים ] left and took council together to destroy him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Novel Daughter-"Man?" of the 1st Century

Thus begins the 1st-century A.D. novel by Chariton, right after my quick parenthetical note below:
(We all know that the novel as it begins is only fiction, but is the author really trying to make his readers believe that his female protagonist is mainly a "man"?  Can his masculine Greek grammar keep her out of the human race of men and women?  Has a god (a male) stopped her from looking like the equally-divine goddesses and gods?
Let's read the original, the transliteration of those Greek letters, an ESV-Bible-like translation, and an Ann-Nyland-like translation.  Then you decide.)
Ἑρμοκράτης ὁ Συρακοσίων στρατηγός, οὗτος ὁ νικήσας Ἀθηναίους, εἶχε θυγατέρα Καλλιρόην τοὔνομα, θαυμαστόν τι χρῆμα παρθένου καὶ ἄγαλμα τῆς ὅλης Σικελίας. ἦν γὰρ τὸ κάλλος οὐκ ἀνθρώπινον ἀλλὰ θεῖον, οὐδὲ Νηρηΐδος ἢ Νύμφης τῶν ὀρειῶν ἀλλ’ αὐτῆς Ἀφροδίτης Παρθένου.
----the "original"

Hermokrátēs ho Syrakosíōn stratēgós, hoṹtos ho nikēsas Ảthēnaíous, eĭche thugatéra Kalliróēn toửnoma, thaumastón ti chrễma parthénou kai ảgalma tēs hólēs Sikelías. ḕn gàr tò kállos oủk ảnthrōpinon ảllả theĭon, oủdè Nērēḯdos ḕ Númphēs tṍn ỏreiṍn ảll' aủtễs Ảphrodítēs Parthénou.
----a transliteration of the sounds of the original

Hermocrates, ruler of Syracuse, victor over the Athenians, had a daughter named Callirhoe, a marvelous virgin and the delight of the whole of Sicily. However, the beauty was not a man's but was a god's, not that of a Nereid or a Nymph on the mountain but of the Virgin Aphrodite herself.
----an ESV-like translation

Hermocrates, ruler of Syracuse, victor over the Athenians, had a daughter named Beauty, an amazingly eligible bachelorette and the delight of the whole of Sicily. Her beauty, in fact, was not merely human but was rather divine; not merely the beauty of a daughter of Nereus or even the beauty of a Nymph on the mountain but rather the beauty of Aphrodite, the Most Marriable Bachelorette Herself.
----an Ann Nyland-like translation

(This image reminds me somehow of the Genesis story of the very human Eve and Adam in the garden.  Of course, it's a painting of the divine Aphrodite and Eros.  I found the image at Nicos Stylianou's  He provides this information.

Name:"Aphrodite and Eros"
Museum:National Gallery, London, England
Artist and Year:Lucas Cranach Sr.,ca. 1430
Theme: Aphrodite talks with her son Eros, who has been stung by bees.)


Related posts:

Monday, September 14, 2009

of sheep and men: overlooking wordplay in translation

There's an interesting discussion on translation with respect to gender inclusiveness and the Bible.  First, the background on the problem.  Then a look at a couple of translator's brilliant wordplay in the text in question.



In his post "On Translation and Explanation," Joel M. Hoffman takes the TNIV and the Message bible translations to task for "explanation" but "not a translation."  Then Peter Kirk defends the TNIV and takes Joel to task for his explanation about the "original text."

The point of issue is whether Matthew the gospel writer means "a man" (which Joel says is the real "translation") or "a human being" or "people" (which Joel says is the seeming "explanation" of the TNIV and the Message respectively).

Peter suggests that Joel is seeing the original as meaning "only male human beings, not female ones"; Gary Zimmerli had also suggested the gender question in his comment here, saying "I think the [TNIV] translators don’t want to leave the door open to the idea that a woman may be less valuable."

The discussion is around Matthew 12, especially verses 10-12, especially in TNIV.



Below, you'll see how two brilliant translators work here.  The issues of whether the speakers, writers, translators, listeners, and readers get it should be clear.  What there is to get is how gods and humans are in contrast; and how humans and sheep are in contrast.  The larger context of the wordplay is something that both Joel and Peter have overlooked.  Matthew is emphasizing and is having Jesus emphasize who he is, as a human.

First, Ann Nyland translates [my italics added]:
10 There was a person who had a withered hand!...
11 This was Jesus' response.  
"Let's say one of you [persons] had a sheep.... "
12 "Isn't a person worth more than a sheep?...  "
13 Then he said to the person,...
In a footnote, Nyland also says [her italics below]:
...ἄνθρωπος, anthropos, is the word for human, humanity, person.  Grammatically, it is the common gender and not the masculine.
Both Nyland's translation and her explanation are just fine, don't you think?  [Note: she elides the word in v 11, as my bracket above notes].  Her translation doesn't have to explain, and Matthew's Greek doesn't either.

Second, then, I'm bringing up Matthew here because, very likely, he's also translating.  His Greek plays with words.

The fact is that we do not know what Jesus said in Hebrew Aramaic.  Matthew translates that to Greek.  Our best guess is that Jesus was referring to himself as בר אנש (bar 'anash).  So Matthew, in 12.8, makes that ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (which gets readers thinking perhaps of the aramaic of Daniel 7.13 or of its Greek translation in the Septuagint or both). 

Matthew wastes little ink before getting right into wordplay as he introduces a story about Jesus and as he translates a story-parable Jesus tells within the story.  You don't even have to read Greek to see the repetition of the word ἄνθρωπος, anthropos:
8 Κύριος γάρ ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. 
9 Καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν. 
10 Καὶ ἰδού, ἄνθρωπος ἦν τὴν χεῖρα ἔχων ξηράν· καὶ ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτόν, λέγοντες, 
Εἰ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν θεραπεύειν;
 ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ.
11Ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, 
Τίς ἔσται ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος, ὃς ἕξει πρόβατον ἕν, καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ τοῦτο τοῖς σάββασιν εἰς βόθυνον, οὐχὶ κρατήσει αὐτὸ καὶ ἐγερεῖ;
12 Πόσῳ οὖν διαφέρει ἄνθρωπος προβάτου. Ὥστε ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν καλῶς ποιεῖν.
13 Τότε λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, 
Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου. Καὶ ἐξέτεινεν, καὶ ἀποκατεστάθη ὑγιὴς ὡς ἡ ἄλλη.
At this point, we're curious to see how Nyland translated verse 8, aren't we?  Well, it's masterful!  She is translating Matthew translating Jesus, as follows:
8 "... The Human Being is the Master of the Sabbath!" 
Nyland also offers a wonderful explanations in a footnote.  Here they are:
ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ho huios tou anthropou, meaning a person associated with humanity, a translation of bar nasha, an Aramaic periphrasis for "person," would be read word for word as "one associated with humanity" (as non-gender specific language and "humanity" in the singular.  However, bar nasha means one associated with people", "a person", "the person", "humanity", "the representative person".
υἱὸς, huios, with a noun refers to a member of a class of people, and should not be translated as "son/child of".  The Benai Israel, translated in the KJV as "children/sons of Israel" should be translated as "members of the class of people called Israel" = "Israelites".  The expression is also Greek, and found as early as Homer.  Note also that ἄνθρωπος, anthropos, is the word for human, humanity, person.  Grammatically, it is the common gender and not the masculine.
 What are your thoughts about how Matthew translates Jesus and how Ann Nyland translates Matthew?

Tangled up in blue

We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.
--Bob Dylan

Blogger friends J.L. and Jay dropped by the last post here to make a couple of great comments.   J.L. says that from some of his friends he's "heard that feminism 'sissifies' men."  And he asks this fantastic question:  "So it is 'pink' to consider women equal?"  Jay adds this wonderful statement:  "Just because someone is bilingual (can speak both pink and blue interchangeably) does not mean they are confused."
(In the post, I was saying how a couple of friends here in Texas were using "blue" for the way men think and talk and "pink" for the way women think and talk - and "feminism" for the problem of men becoming "pink.")

What's funny to me is that we can talk together about "male" language and "female" language and never really examine whether our own conversation is "blue" or "pink."  Our talk is hypocritically immune from any critique while we're questioning - dare I say criticizing? - the talk of others.  Here's the rub:  am I speaking in manly terms (i.e., talking "blue") when talking about how "different" men and women are?
One of my friends says this:  "Men and women have different plumbing AND they have different wiring."  (I'll let you decide whether this friend is a man or a woman, whether the assertions are "blue" or "pink.")  This friend believes that genitalia AND brain functioning constitute a fundamental, inherent, natural set of differences between males and females.  Maybe this is "true" and is "true Truth" too.  (Aristotle certainly set out to prove this sort of Truth.)  The fascinating thing, to me, is how we talk about "difference" and "similarity."

We talk, we categorize.  "feel the same" / "different point of view" / "tangled up in blue" / "blue" / "pink" / "feminism" / "sissified [male]" / "equal [females]" / "man brain" / "woman brain" / "penis" / "vagina"

The conversations, the categories, get all tangled up.  I'm not talking "confused."  Rather, what I mean is that the very labels themselves order our realities as if Mother Nature or Father God were shouting out and yelling down at us.  These things - the very words made real - become threatening.
My eldest daughter, for example, declares she's not a feminist because she's feminine.  And, she quickly adds, "But am equal to any guy when it comes to making money or to intelligence.  In fact, not bragging or anything, but some men are just not as smart as most women." 

I retort that she's just not a first or second wave feminist.  But that she's a fine third-wave feminist!  (As if I have to defend "feminisms.")

We talk (she and I) about Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s daughter.  "So for the record," he announces, "I am a feminist. My daughter is too. She just doesn't know it yet."  But is he a "sissified" sissy, then? we wonder.  What we haven't done yet is read Pitts's debut novel.  The reviews say it's very good. 
And one reviewer says Pitt's first novel, Before I Forget, is actually very "blue" and not necessarily very "pink":
The message manhood: becoming a man; accepting and performing the responsibilities of a man, and teaching our sons what a man does and how a man behaves is refreshing and on point. Oh yeah, it’s that deep. The beauty of the novel is that each of the male characters in the book, not just the Johnson family, displays different levels and aspects, positive and negative, of manhood. I’m kinda stunned at how Pitts was able to accomplish this.
Now, is the reviewer a man or a woman?  Seriously.  Look at his or her language.  Is it more "pink" or "blue" - just judging by the language.  What language!:  "becoming" "accepting" "performing" "refreshing" "deep" "beauty" "displays" "different" "levels" "aspects" "stunned"  One might argue that the words tend to be "pink" more than "blue" even though the novel is about "men" and "males" and "manhood."  (In fact, the reviewer is a man.  Maybe he's just one of those sissyfied sissies.  But I don't think so.)

Black men (now I'm talking about African American males) tend, it seems, to have a particular issue with how they're talked about.  When you add "pink" and "blue" with "black" and "white," the labels get really colorful, don't they?  My wife and I just watched the wonderful Steve Harvey on BET this weekend.  He doesn't hold back with his vulgar hilarious humor, insider jokes in Ebonics!   And he's got so much to say, to his own daughters about his own kind.  There's much wisdom in his book Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitments.  And he's got a few things to say to young men too, about being "blue."  (One of my blogger-,  Facebook-, reallife friends cracked:  "Isn't he kinda like an Oprah for guyz?")  And yet he actually mentors the boy "in blue" himself.  Here's a video news report on his blog.  Now, I do know people who find Harvey's humor to be racist and his language about men and women to be sexist and stereotypical.  Oprah Winfrey (who is "kinda like an Oprah for girlz?") is, nonetheless, not one who is offended by this (black) man.

Somehow now, I'm brought back to Jay's wonderful comment:  "Just because someone is bilingual (can speak both pink and blue interchangeably) does not mean they are confused."  I like that alot.  Jay's statement is getting at something very personal:  our languageS, our voiceS, and our listening to one another with clarity.  When we're talking about other people, and if we can talk about ourselves too, the gendered labels can actually help.  Help, that is, if we don't get tangled up in blue.

(Now, a quick parenthetical thing:  When Bob Dylan sings Tangled Up in Blue, he's not meaning "blue" is "equal" to "male."  He's not even meaning "blue" is equal to "xanh."  He means "blue" is an emotion, a feeling, a profound "sadness" in this case in a relationship.  And none of us English speakers hearing his song "confuses" these categories.  It is fun to listen to the song, knowing Dylan's a "man" singing about a "woman."  It'd be crazy for us Vietnamese speakers to get tangled up in grue/ bleen "xanh".)