Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Robbery: Stripping Women of the King's Bible for 400 Years

Lady Holland visited Lord Macaulay one day in May 1831, and they had a genteel discussion about words in English that she found distasteful, such as influential, gentlemanly, and talented.  Macaulay picked her up on talented.  Didn't Lady Holland know that it came from the parable of talents in the Bible?  'She seeemed surprised by this theory,' he later remarked in a letter to Hannah More, 'never having, so far as I could judge, heard of the parable of the talents.'  And he adds:  'I did not tell her, though I might have done so, that a person who professes to be a critic in the delicacies of the English langauge ought to have the Bible at his fingers' ends.'
    --David Crystal, "Prologue 1," Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language, 2010
AS a farther confirmation of what has been advanced on the different bent of the understanding in the sexes, it may be observed, that we have heard of many female wits, but never of one female logician—of many admirable writers of memoirs, but never of one chronologer.—In the boundless and aërial regions of romance, and in that fashionable species of composition which succeeded it, and which carries a nearer approximation to the manners of the world, the women cannot be excelled: this imaginary soil they have a peculiar talent for cultivating.... 
but were the [female] sex to be totally silent when any topic of literature happens to be discussed in their presence, conversation would lose much of its vivacity, and society would be robbed of one of its most interesting charms.
    --Hannah More, "Introduction" and "Thoughts on Conversation," Essays on Various Subjects, Principally Designed for Young Ladies, 1777
The virtues of the King James Bible -- produced 400 years ago in 1611 -- are being celebrated.  Wayne Leman is encouraging a "happy birthday" celebration because ostensibly the KJV affirmatively answers the "controversial question [that] had been dividing nations:   should the common man [and woman-W.L.] be able to read God’s Word?"  And Theophrastus is expressing happiness because the "editors working on" a two-volume Norton Critical Edition of the KJV "are top-notch," and in 2011 will likely produce what should become the "standard secular teaching text on the King James Bible," very probably including an "explanation of archaic terms and phrases [that] may prove useful for ordinary readers."  If the historical moment four centuries ago really was for openness and for democracy with respect to common literacy, then let's celebrate.  If the future brings more accessibility and explanation for more people, then let's celebrate even more.  But, while we're planning the Royal parties, we readers may want to be fully aware:

The King James Bible has a sexist and elitist history.  And we might not see it getting too much better any time soon.

First, there's the King who commissioned the translation to consider.  James, at age 23, married a 14-year-old, Anne of Denmark.  Well, of course, it was a marriage to strengthen political power, as was so common for the royalty.  So she was a convenient means for furthering the goals of empire building.  And the rumor among historians who sift through his correspondence and that of other good looking young men he so much hung around with is that she was not even his type.  At age 1, he was King of Scots, and at age 37, he was finally King of England and King of Ireland also, so that he began calling himself "King of Great Britain."  As a 38-year-old, the King of Great Britain also called himself the "King of France."  And that's when, as he worked for power in the churches of the various countries he was king of, he started the plans for a new Bible translation to replace the ones different peoples were reading.  He selected the men to translate his Bible very carefully, making sure that none of his religious enemies had any influence there.  Before he was 45, the Authorized Version rolled off the presses of Robert Barker, the King's Printer.

Second, there's the translators.  As the project Wayne links to shows, there were "47 scholars":

[update: oops! while trying to show some of the images better, I inadvertently deleted half of this post. Below is an attempt to reconstruct that to the best of my ability, remembering what and how I wrote as best as I'm able.]

The forty-seven scholars who finally produced the King James Bible were not Jews.  None was Catholic.  None was from France.  None was from any place that the British crown might venture into or later colonize or evangelize:  Africa, the Americas, vast Asia, Australia.  And none of the 47 was a woman.  In fact, that "sex [would] be totally silent when any topic of literature" related to this King's Bible translation project.

Third, there are those who could actually get their "fingers' ends" on that Bible.

Again, going to Wayne's source, we find that there is a difficulty of access for women in particular. 

On May 2nd, 1611, who in Great Britain could afford even a 10 Shilling loose leaf copy as it came off the presses of Robert Barker, the King's Printer?

Well, if you were a military captain, then you might earn 10-12 shillings in one day.  You, a man of such a position, might not eat for a day, might want to forgo any expenses, might want to dip into your savings equal to a day's work.  And, then, on May 3rd, you could buy any copy of the King's Bible available.

And if you were a mere laborer, a different kind of man (but not a woman), then some merchant might let you purchase a Bible.  He'd part with it provided you paid him the equivalent of two week's of your work.   Hence, you could have your Authorized Bible on around May 16th.

However, if you were a "female," a servant of a military man or perhaps even a man of the laboring class, then you could earn enough shillings to buy a Bible.  Would a man sell one to you?  If he were mercenary and entrepreneurial, then he might be selling bibles to women.  And if so, then, after half a year, provided you didn't spend your earnings on food or clothing or your husband or your children, provided you really owned shillings all your own, then you might be able to buy your Bible.  You might if you spent no money that you worked for for six long months.  Then you could negotiate to buy a Bible on around November 2nd, 1611.

So that's some of the who, the how, and the how much of the King James Bible on May 2, 1611.  It was a Royal, a political, an elite, a highfalutin, an expensive affair, that kept at bay the influences of the enemies of a religious king and of his Church and that kept this literature with a certain slant, the printed book itself, out of the hands of commoners and women, who were uneducated. 

Now as we fast forward to 2011, some 400 years ago this month, we notice how commoners today in England aren't all taken with the Bible of King James.  In particular, we see how another James, at the Royal Wedding of his commoner sister to a Prince, read not from the KJV but from a more inclusive English translation of the Bible, not an Authorized Version but an American one, which addressed not just the brethren but brothers and sisters in an appeal to diversity and unity and humility and democracy and perhaps republicanism more than elite monarchism.

This commoner, standing in the Church of England, did not read:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, your reasonable service....
Rather, in the only scripture reading of the ceremony, he let the Bible say:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
And you can hear him too [here, after a 30 second ABC commercial].  And the Royalty watchers listened.

So that's this past week, as we look back some 400 years of England's and the world's having the King James Bible.

Now we look forward.  There's the announcement Theophrastus has brought.  It's the announcement of the "Norton Critical Edition of The English Bible, King James Version, appearing on the four hundredth anniversary of the great translation."  We read promotional statements from Harold Bloom and Robert Alter.  We anticipate the wonderful and competent and capable editorial voices of Herbert Marks and Gerald Hammond and Austin Busch.

But where's Margaret Reynolds, Ania Loomba, Elizabeth Ammons?  Where's Marie Borroff, Laura L. Howes, Grace Ioppolo?  Why the silence from Susanna Rowson, Jennifer Panek, Susan McReynolds Oddo?  Do the Norton publishing editors and acquisition editors not want Leah S. Marcus?  Why the silence from the likes of Alice Levine?  Is she unqualified to work on the King's Bible, as literature, in a critical edition, to come out later in 2011?

So we think again only of that "imaginary soil they have a peculiar talent for cultivating" when the unmarked they is always and only the "brethren" and not also the "brothers and sisters." We hear again the silence. We wonder why now women still must be "totally silent" on this celebrated "topic of literature."  Without a woman's voice how much of our conversation will lose its vivacity?  How much of society has been "robbed of one of its most interesting charms."

And so now there's more than ever that "appeal, to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God ...."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

About This Topic, well honestly

It is less dangerous to draw a cartoon of Allah French-kissing Uncle Sam — which, let me make it very clear, I have not done — than it is to speak honestly about this topic.
-- authoress, comedienne, Tina Fey, "Confessions of a Juggler"
I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this.
-- speaker, President, Barack Obama, The White House
Tina is speaking honestly about the dicey topic of mothers in the workplace; Barack about the public certification of his birthplace.  I'd like to speak about something else too.  (But feel free to skip down to the last couple of paragraphs, more on Tina and Barack and silly topics.)

One thing that first motivated me to do human-subject, sociolinguistic research on prejudices of certain individuals toward others was encountering the profound and hurtful ugliness that my colleague Tan Ai Lin (Ailene) experienced.   Would you believe that the prejudice was unfair?  Not only had Ailene grown up in a nation that saw her Chinese roots as a threat to the "indigenous" race of people who ran their country politically and culturally but she also had grown up there, in that place, a girl (and not a boy). When I met her, she was in the U.S.  She was multi-lingual (her mother mainly speaking Hakka, her father Cantonese, her maternal grandmother Hokkien, and her playmates and school teachers also Malay and English), she was a graduate student in linguistics at the university where we both worked as instructors, and she was more than qualified to teach first-year writing and English as an additional language.   In fact, the faculty members in the Department of Linguistics were so impressed with her pedagogy that they assigned her to mentor other graduate students who were just learning how to teach.  I was one of her mentorees and acquired from Ailene numerous tricks of the trade which, some twenty-three-years later now, I still use and try to pass along to those I mentor.  However, the natural fact is Ailene had darker skin, a "non-native," "non-standard" English speaker's accent and lexicon and syntax, and a body sexed female.  And the silly thing is that her U.S. "freshman" composition students and her international ESL students believed that she was inadequate.  The tragic thing is that Ailene herself came to believe some of the prejudicial things that some of her students said about her.  It wasn't so much that she was convinced that they were right when they said she was "not a good teacher"; rather it was more that she was hurt when the student evaluations came in and there were racist and sexist, anonymous, comments made about her, comments which the departmental chairman had the audacity to call her in to question her about.

That's what first prompted me to start doing sociolinguistic research using W. E. Lambert's matched-guise technique.  I wanted to investigate the prejudices.  Prejudices is actually one of the words in the title of my M.A. thesis and it figures again in other research I've done in different places, some published.  What are the profound beliefs one person has about another?  Why?  How do they become public or stay private?  When do they form into hurtful silliness?  How come they don't change easily?  How do institutions and textual authorities and cultures perpetuate the beliefs?  How long?  How long?

My first project was to interview 100 Chinese students at the university.  Some, like Ailene (whom I did not interview for this study), were from Malaysia.  In fact, 50 were from Malaysia or some other former or current British colony such as Singapore, Brunei, and Hong Kong.  (The other 50 were from the mainland or Taiwan.)  So I asked them about their own languages, about their English, about others' English, about who they believe speaks the best English.  "The British speak the best," was the general answer from those who grew up in Hong Kong or in the former colonies.  ("It's the Americans," was the general answer to the same question from those who were here in the USA for higher education after having had the rest of their education in Chinese, not British-system, schools.  So far, no surprise.)  However, what is surprising was the contradiction.  Most of the 50 Chinese students who grew up in the British-influenced school systems and who professed publicly their belief that "The English speak the best English" ended up contradicting themselves.  They believed, they said, that the best English is spoken by the English not the Americans.  But they believed that actual speakers of British English did not speak as well as actual speakers of American English.  That is, when they listened to tapes of people speaking British English and American English, they overwhelmingly rated the language of the British speakers much lower than they rated the speech of the Americans (at least overwhelming in terms of statistical significance).  They rated the American English speakers as having better English, as better models of English for learners, and as better teachers of English.  And then it got really personal.  The Chinese who'd publicly said that "The best English is spoken in England by the English" rated the American speakers of English, in general, more intelligent, better looking, friendlier, more trustworthy, kinder, and wealthier than the British speakers of English.  (Now, to be sure, the American speakers and the British speakers were talking about the very same topic in the very same -- weather in Texas and how it changes constantly.  So it wasn't the topic that prejudiced Chinese students on their private ratings of the speakers.  And, the American speakers and the British speakers were actually the very same people.  Yes, that's right.  I'd hired actors who could speak both varieties of English, and other varieties too.  Linguistics faculty members and graduate students -- all from America -- listened and were fooled into thinking the actors speaking British English were not the same individuals who were speaking American English.  Likewise, all of the members of the British club in Dallas at the time listened and believed that each actor was different people, a Brit and an American and so forth.  So it wasn't the voice quality that prejudiced Chinese students on their private ratings of the speakers.  It was something else.  In public, British England was the standard, the model, the gauge by which a Chinese English speaker's English is to be measured.  But in private, the Chinese speaker was willing to believe, to really believe, something else.)

Well, I've bored you long enough with science, with research.  I might as well have bored you with stories of my childhood, of my father, who believed he was the God-appointed head of his household, that his children were to obey him but that his wife really was too.  His employer, a Christian foreign mission board, believed that he should hold the position of "field evangelist" while his wife should be assigned differently and in a complementary way, as his "helpmeet," to "church and home."  His bible and his reading of that Bible reinforced those beliefs.  And my mother, his wife, had no say.  Literally, she had no say in church when it came to teaching men or to preaching in public or to asking questions in the public assembly; at home is where she was to ask her questions, in private, not to question her husband ever but to get all answers from him.  At home, likewise, she had no say when he ruled on any matter or any topic.  Eve sinned first, and she was blessed to have children but cursed then to have them in pain, while he toiled in this work of his naturally outside of the home to save the world from hell.  That last word, I know, is a little harsh.  But it goes to those beliefs which many now have divided over before reading a book about love.

So I want to come back then to Tina Fey.  After reading some of her essays in old issues of The New Yorker in a Dr.'s office waiting room this week, I want to read her book Bossypants.  There readers find that, when she wants "to speak honestly about this topic," this topic for her is the topic of being a woman, a woman who is both an employee and a parent.  The profound beliefs of many are that this should not be so.  That is is not natural.  Yes, I'm not just talking about beliefs of Aristotle, who thought that it was the mother's fault when she gave birth to a girl and not a boy (because girls are, he believed, beings with botched bodies and souls) and who was married to a woman (who bore him only a daughter) and who shacked up with another woman (who finally produced a son for him) and who thought that women really shouldn't work outside the home or the brothel and who backed up his beliefs with Greek culture and with Greek Politics and with Greek Poetics and with Greek Rhetoric and especially with good Greek language and Logic.  Yes, I mentioned this to my wife this week; and she laughed knowingly at Tina's jokes and said with all sincerity, conviction, belief, and experience:  "you have no idea just how 'dangerous' it is to be a working mom."

So I also want to come back then to Barack Obama.  After hearing his press conference yesterday, I too want us Americans to start spending time on "better stuff."  Worse stuff to spend time on is the evidence-defying belief that we've elected a president unconstitutionally.  Yes, the Constitution of the United States of America, like the Organon of Aristotle, like the Bible of my father, can be the rein-force-r of our beliefs, of our silliness.  We may even feel forced to say something in public while we contradict ourselves in private.  The depths of our raced and sexed bodies feel these beliefs.  The beliefs may come before full evidence as something to be valued, which is what Frank Schaeffer said before the birth certificate long form was made public:
How is it possible that a significant portion of the American population believes, or says it believes, that President Obama was not born in America, that Donald Trump would make a great president, that Sarah Palin is fit to lead our country, that Michele Bachmann is telling the truth, that health care for all means "Death Panels" etc., etc., ad nauseam?

Put it this way: being ignorant in America is now considered a virtue.
Or the beliefs may come after the evidence, which is what Aaron Rathbun said after (HT Mike Aubrey via Facebook):
With Donald Trump parading around as a possible Republican presidential candidate (God help us), he has been reviving the “birther” issue: whether or not Obama was in fact born in the U.S.

I think this is a fascinating case study in the radical “believing” nature of human beings, as noted in Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith’s book, Moral, Believing Animals (2003).  There, he suggests humans are not the autonomous, rational cognizers that so much of our political-economic theory makes us out to be, but rather humans are fundamentally believing creatures (“homo credens”), situated in a moral order.
And either way, the questions in front of the beliefs may remain (again HT Mike via fb):

I guess what I'm trying to say and to convey in this post and its final paragraph is that talking honestly about deeply held perpetual beliefs of anybody who would believe that they should somehow put other people down or hold them back is sometimes mostly dangerous.  And that's why I first started using the matched-guise technique to - in some way if possible - get at, and - maybe - to allow someone some day to change, the prejudices.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Possible Openers to Possible Posts

If I were to write another post here on the matched-guise technique, and my own work with it, and how what you see with "heart language" is not always what you get, then I might start with the following quotation as an epigraph:
It is less dangerous to draw a cartoon of Allah French-kissing Uncle Sam — which, let me make it very clear, I have not done — than it is to speak honestly about this topic.
And if you see another post here on translation, on how Naomi Seidman discusses the Talmud discussing the Septuagint translators (even God as translator), then I'd open with the following for the head quotation:
My mom was conceived in the U.S., born in Greece, and brought back here as an infant. Because of this, she never gets called for jury duty. / She grew up speaking both English and Greek, and when I was in elementary school she volunteered to be a classroom aide, because of the lot of the Greeks in our neighborhood were “right off the boat,” as she would say, and needed a translator. Sometimes the teachers would ask her to translate bad news: “Please tell Mrs. Fondulas that her son is very disruptive.” And my mom would nod and say in Greek, “George is a lovely boy.” Because she knew that if she translated what the teacher really said the kid would get a beating and the mother would hate her forever out of embarrassment.
Or if I ever get around to writing something else on how Homer's and Hesiod's "pistis" is much more like the Jewish LXX translators' "pistis" (from which the Jewish writers of the "New" testament develop their "pistis") than it is Aristote's "pistis," then the opening epigraphs would be these:
Thucydides, Gibbon, Tuchman, McCullough -- to the names of the world's great historians must now be added the name Dave Barry, who has taken a long, hard look at our new millennium (so far) and, when he stopped hyperventilating, written it all down, because nobody would believe it otherwise.

This is the time to take one last, lingering look back at the millennium that is drawing to a close.  For as the ancient Greek historian Thucydides often said, when he was alive, “History is bunch of things that happened in the past.”  His point was the human civilization is a journey, and only by retracing the steps of that journey can we truly come to know, as a species, where we lost our keys.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”  [new paragraph]  Or possibly it was Thomas Edison who said that.  I'm pretty sure somebody said it, because you often hear journalists quote it in an effort to explain how come they get everything wrong.

Okay.  I suppose you need me to document my sources.  I was in a the waiting room of a doctor yesterday, waiting on a family member to finish visiting with her.  And on the table in the waiting room were some old issues of The New Yorker (with great essays by Tina Fey) and Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far).  I wanted to post some of these things above via my little iPhone to Facebook right then and there.  But then some of my friends on FB are young and others are serious, so I thought you all here instead might like the excerpts.  (And what if I do post more here some day?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God Speaks English Very Well

God speaks English very well.  And so do bibliobloggers.  Some of them last week used English well and called me names.  Deane Galbraith called me a pseud (and Stephanie Louise Fisher did too) in comments at his blog.  Jim West said "gayle is an emergent" in a comment under Joel Watts's facebook post.  Mike Sangrey sent me an almost-private email (copying all of the men who author posts at BBB) and said I was an incessant questioner with "Post-modern assumptions" that they collectively, he said, constantly feel the need constantly to "have to uproot." 

Notice the fact that none of these speaks, or at least prefers to speak, King James English.  None speaks 1960s Saigonese or 1970s South Vietnamese.  None speaks Indonesian.  No.  They all speak clear English.  Therefore, theirs is more of a contemporary English version of English of the 1990s.  It's presumably my heart language.  And it's my heart language that God, of course, speaks well.  "Heart language is what babies hear from their parents and older siblings. It is language which best moves people emotionally and spiritually."  This is what Wayne Leman speaks too.  The quotation of mine here in this paragraph is well-written English of his (this in a comment over at BBB today, to which Mike Sangrey, in well-spoken heart-language replies:  "I’m glad Wayne responded as he did. Because I realize it might be rather easy to misunderstand what I said in my comment a little before.")  Thus, when I hear this language, I am moved.  When they call me names, I am moved.  When God speaks this way, he moves me best.

Except I have other langauges.  God does too.

So does Sylvie Lambert.  She's Wally Lambert's daughter.  They're bilingual Canadians.  Unfortunately, they're also linguists who've begun to expose how one's heart language can take things different ways.  Wallace E. Lambert and Sylvie when she was younger developed what's been called the Matched-Guise Technique.  They get actors speaking French into a microphone.  Then they get the same actors speaking English, clear English, well-spoken English, into the same microphone saying exactly the same things as they first said in French.  Then they get people listening to the actors' voices and what they said so clearly.  Except they don't tell the people listening that the actors speaking French are actually the same actors speaking English.  And the people listening assume the ones speaking French are actually different people from the ones speaking English.  That's why Wally and Sylvie called this a "guise" technique.  They actually called it a "matched guise technique" because they match the reponses of people listening to French to the different responses of the same people listening to English.  What comes out is that some of the people listening have preferences for French speakers and prejudices against English speakers.  Others of the people listening have preferences for English speakers and prejudices against French speakers.  The listening people will judge.  They will rate differently the English speakers and the French speakers, even though the people speaking (the actors) are exactly the same people speaking exactly the same thing. 

When God speaks French, the listeners may presume, he sounds different from when God speaks English very well.  When God speaks 400-year-old-English, he soundeth different from when God speaks English in your heart language and mine.  When God speaks Arabic, different.  When God speaks Matthew's or Paul's or Aristotle's Greek or Homer's or Hesiod's or Sappho's, still different.  When God speaks Hebrew, he sounds like Isaiah or the psalmist:  different.  And we wonder if they spoke Hebrew well.  Or did they speak it typicallyAnd, as importantly, how can any of us know definitively that the Psalmist and Isaiah meant to use Hebrew that was “typical”?  (This is what Mike Sangrey called "The never ending question..." the incessant one rooted somehow in post-modern assumptions.)

I think about, as I listen to Deane Galbraith and to Jim West and to Mike Sangrey, what they must mean definitely and clearly and definitively.  They are using somebody's heart language.  And it is clear.  They sound like the Lord's Prayer in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.  It's memorable stuff, moving language.  If they were bilingual speaking to me, about me, calling me names in Vietnamese, then I'm sure they'd sound different.  Then my real prejudices and my heart-felt preferences might show.  For now, I guess I'm glad they just speak one language.  From them.  To me.  Just like God does so well.



Sometimes white men will write about african american women in English.  Sometimes those women read that.  I think I'll go read Jacqueline Jones Royster's essay now:  "When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ἰησοῦν ἀνάστηθι (Jesus Resurrect / Joshua Get Thee Up)

When a Christian reader reads the Greek above, the typical first-glance interpretation is that it's probably something from Saint Paul, writing something very important about the fundamental tenents of faith, for heaven (not eternal hell) in the hereafter, or something being preached by the first Christian martyrs in the Book of Acts as the pre-converted Paul looks on, or something in one of the four canonical God-inspired gospels. Well, in fact, these words Ἰησοῦν ἀνάστηθι [Iēsoun anastēthi] are very special words for Bible beleiving Christians, especially on Easter when one hears about Jesus's resurrection from the dead. But, however, nevertheless.

The entire verse of the Bible where the above Greek phrase is read really goes like this:

καὶ εἶπεν κύριος
πρὸς Ἰησοῦν
ἵνα τί τοῦτο σὺ πέπτωκας ἐπὶ πρόσωπόν σου

And this means something like:

And the LORD said
unto Joshua:
'Get thee up;
wherefore, now, art thou fallen upon thy face?

And both this English translation and the Greek above mirror this:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל
לָךְ; לָמָּה זֶּה, אַתָּה נֹפֵל עַל-פָּנֶיךָ

The Hebrew here is according to the Masoretic Text from the book called יְהוֹשֻׁעַ; the Greek according to a variant set of texts called Ἰησοῦς Β; and the English according to the Jewish Publication Society (JPS). The simple name for this verse (or for these translations of this verse) of the Bible is Joshua chapter 7 verse 10. As long ago as 1917, the JPS translators were inclined to say something, in their general Preface, before they presented their translation of this book of the Bible, the first after the five books of Moses, and this chapter of the book of Joshua, and this verse; they began and wrote this first paragraph:
The sacred task of translating the Word of God, as revealed to Israel through lawgiver, prophet, psalmist, and sage, began at an early date. According to an ancient rabbinic interpretation, Joshua had the Torah engraved upon the stones of the altar (Joshua 8:32) not in the original Hebrew alone, but in all the languages of mankind, which were held to be seventy, in order that all men might become acquainted with the words of the Scriptures. This statement, with its universalistic tendency, is, of course, a reflex of later times, when the Hebrew Scriptures had become a subject of curiosity and perhaps also of anxiety to the pagan or semi-pagan world.
And, only two paragraphs later, the JPS translators began "to point to the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Scriptures, the product of Israel's contact with the Hellenistic civilization dominating the world at that time." After mentioning the "the Arabic translation by the Gaon Saadya, when the great majority of the Jewish people came under the sceptre of Mohammedan rulers" and "the German translation by Mendelssohn and his school, at the dawn of a new epoch, which brought the Jews in Europe, most of whom spoke a German dialect, into closer contact with their neighbours," the translators, in 1917, wrote more about the problems of the Septuagint as they chose to translate the Masoretic text. The German neighbor Adolf Hitler was only 28 years old at the time, and he didn't know how to read English, so he probably was more inclined to read what Mendelssohn or more likely what Luther had translated of the Bible. I'm mentioning Hitler when I really might have mentioned an Egyptian ruler or a Greek imperial conquerer, who may have had the greatest influence on the post-Torah book being rendered into non-Hebrew, into Greek, in Alexandria, Egypt, some two-and-a-half centuries before there were any stories about "Jesus" and his "resurrection." (I'm now referring to one of the Egyptian kings named Ptolemy II Philadelphus -- notice the Greek in his name -- and to Alexander the Great, the disciple of Aristotle, the disciple of Plato.) The choices the JPS translators had to make had a history. And they moved forward into a history of divisions over the Bible, over the stories and the protagonists of them. Most of us forget, or remember selectively.

Today, I'm interested in the different readings as if the Greek is separate from the Hebrew and the English must decide which way to go. The Greek? or The Jew? The Christian (whether Catholic or Greek Orthodox or Southern Baptist or emergent church) or the Jewish (whether more observant or less religious).

Growing up the child of evangelical Christian missionaries in a "pagan" land, in a family where the Bible governed separations of "father" and "mother"; "man" and "wife"; "preacher" and "congregation"; "head of the family" and "family"; "parent" and "kid"; "believer" and "unbeliever"; "saved" and "lost"; "heaven" and "hell"; "Christian" and "non-Christian"; "Prostestant" and "Catholic"; "Baptist" and "non-Baptist"; "Southern Baptist" and "non-Southern-Baptist"' "the Bible" and "fallible books"; "Christian Bible" and "apocrypha"; "New Testamnt" and "Old testament"; "the red letters" and "the black"; "Americans" and "the Vietnamese"; "Americans" and "the Communists"; "Republicans" and "Democrats"; "whites" and "blacks"; "American society" and "hippies"; "us" and "them" - today, I'm interested in the different readings. I'm interested in the separations and the histories of separations and, if possible, in the future end to unnecessarily separations. Does this interest of mine suggest no divisions, some universalism, a blind ecumenicalism? I don't know. I'm more interested in racisms and sexisms and religionisms that are subtle and not so subtle forms of spiritual and emotional and physical abuses. Those of you who have taken time to read what I've taken time to write know that I consider myself in recovery. Many of us, I think, are.

I worship my Creator today, our Creator, on this day by listening to an unspeakable name say to one Joshua/ Jesus: "Get thee up." I have no problem with that. In fact, after Moses, as one of the goyim reading the Holy Hebrew Scriptures, I see in many ways that this is part of the recovery, part of what mostly Christians would call resurrection even as most still would read this word in exclusion, for the "us" vs. "them" separations. But now we're getting way too personal. But if you read my blog, my outsider blogs, my posts on prostitutes and wordplays in the Bible, then this is personal, right? And you'll pardon me (I hope) for reading the Bible and for believing what I find myself on this day unable to help myself from believing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

from Friday to Saturday

from yesterday --
I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.
So for a day, let’s stop arguing about metaphors and together acknowledge that, while all of them fit, none of them fit. While we are all right, none of us are right.

The cross is a mystery we can grasp but not tame.

What happened on the cross was never meant to fit into words

-- the former lines are the middle stanza of a poem, "From a Normandy crucifix of 1632," by Charles Causley, which Jane Stranz posted in its entirely, for meditation, here.

--the latter words and sentences are the end of Rachel Held Evans's post, "We argue over metaphors..."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Barnstone's Jesus for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas

Last Sabbath, well before Pesach, Rod posted his "Quip of the Day: On Being A Pharisee."  So I sent him Willis Barnstone's sonnet (from page 310 of The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets) that suggests Jesus is a Pharisee.  On this Maundy Thursday before Good Friday and Easter, I though you might like it too.

Unholy and Hallowed Whore Words: Part II

You may have seen my post entitled, "Unholy and Hallowed Whore Words: Part I" and wondered -- with all the Greek and English horse words and whore words and slave and Master allusions but no religious references -- what Unholiness and Hallowedness may have had to do with it.  

In Part II, here, let's get to that.  But let's go back to the Greek.  Then we'll get to the unHoly and Hallowed.


I learned something reading a comment by Theophrastus at BBB.  He said:
“hallowed” [the English word for the Greek] (ἁγιάζω) does not mean “honored.” It means “separated.” 
Well, that's not exactly what I learned from Theophrastus.  What I learned is this:
(The Hebrew word, קדשׁת is the same root as קדשׁה — which means prostitute — see Genesis 38:21 — the point being that cult prostitute is “separated”, not that she is “honored”).
(So let me make a couple of parenthetical comments of my own here.  First, I've studied an awful lot of Greek but far too little Hebrew.  So I'm quite familiar with the connections between and associations around “hallowed” (ἁγιάζω), as “separated.”  And, in fact, in my own comments at that thread where Theophrastus made his comment, I was suggesting these are words with Jewish and religious connotations, but Hebraic words for translation, Hellene and English translations of something Jesus said in a poetic prayer.  However, I've only taken one graduate level course in Hebrew and have since mainly been reading Hebrew as Greek and as English mirror the language.  So somehow, I missed what Theophrastus was pointing out:  the root of קדשׁת as קדשׁה.  I missed this even though I've read through the translations of Genesis from Hebrew -- sometimes Greek -- into English.  By the way, two of the best translators of Genesis ever are Everett Fox and Robert AlterSecond, the way most of us learn, I think, is by connections and associations.  Translation, when done well, mirrors this process.  And it works, when done well, as appositives work in our English language.  You know.  If we want to say what something is [metaphorically or even syllogistically] or what something's kind of like [with a simile], then we can't shortcut these more direct processes but just smashing one noun right up to another [without even using an adjective].  It's one thing, for example, for me to say precisely, "Bdelycleon is an elite Aristocrat in Athens."  And it's quite another thing to leave things rather undefined when saying, "Xanthias, a slave."  When jammed together, the phrases "Xanthias" and "a slave" change with respect to one another, because they're now associated and cross-fertilizing meanings, but they also are still what they were before the jamming together.  When we move now to Hebrew, I'm going to suggest this sort of appositive stuff might be important.)

When playwright Aristophanes used the Greek word πόρνη [pórnē] in his plays, the word for him and his audiences always referred to "whore."  And we all know that it's a word with the same root as the word we use to refer to pornography, or porn for short.  But for the play audiences of Aristophanes, we might want to know, the word was rare, was un-common.  Yes, it's true.  The word's only used twice in The Wasps and just once in The Acharnians.  And the related form πόρνα is only used eight times in six different plays.  And, for all of the un-lost plays of his, that's it.  And none of his contemporaries used the word much either.  Lysias, the logographer, the speechwriter, used it but one time in his many many speeches.  The point is, the word πορνη wasn't in anybody's dictionaries.  Today, some Greek etymologist speculate it could be related to the more common Greek word for "selling" (πέρνημι) since these women were sold by men to other men for sex.  But we just don't know for sure.  It was just something uncommon jammed up against other more common words.  For example, in The Wasps, the Aristocrat Bdelycleon promises to take care of his father Philocleon, and he says:  "I will feed him, I will give him everything that is suitable for an old man; oatmeal gruel, a cloak, soft furs, and a wench (πόρνη [pórnē]) to rub his tool and his loins."  Here, Eugene O'Neill is translating the word "wench."  πόρνη [pórnē], wench, whore.  The word just caught on.   It was a rare word, but men didn't have to be educated to learn it.  


An equally rare word is the one Theophrastus pointed out.  "The Hebrew word, קדשׁת is the same root as קדשׁה — which means prostitute — see Genesis 38:21 — the point being that cult prostitute is 'separated'...."

Now, this word is so un-common, so rare, that in the whole of Genesis, it's only mentioned in 38:21 and 38:22.  In the whole of the Torah, it's only mentioned again once, in Deuteronomy 23:17.  And elsewhere, it's only used again in Hosea 4:14.  So, if there were no dictionaries, how did the original readers of ancient days, read and understand?  And how do the current etymologists and scholars and lexicographers and rabbis and preachers know?  Is it kind of like Matthew's readers knowing what ἁγιασθήτω meant when no one ever before had used such a special and specialized form of this Greek word before (and without even pronouncing the name of G-d)?  Is it sort of like readers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows getting what Hallows means?  Well, yes.  And, yes.

So how did I miss this?

Well, maybe it's the fault of translators who feel like they need me to have my own Bible in my own language and not in such a foreign and strange tongue as, well, as rare Hebrew.  The Greek Septuagint uses Aristophanes's once-rare Greek word, πόρνη [pórnē].  The "Bible in Basic English" gives the word to me as "the loose woman."  Young's "literal" Bible gives it to me as "the separated one."  Other translations make it "the harlot."  Most have "the prostitute," and many of those have some adjective like, "temple" or "shrine" or "cult" prostitute.

Fortunately, in contrast to all of the above, two of the best translators, ever, see fit to hyphenate the word.  They bring it across in English as one-word, as punctuated-apposition.  (Maybe I should have read their footnotes and their translations more carefully.)  Everett Fox has the Hebrew word as "that holy-prostitute." Robert Alter has it as "the cult-harlot."  The ambiguity is so very important.  The word can go one way, or the other, and in this case both ways at once.

So let's hear a bit more from the good translators, in some of their footnotes on this word.  Fox has:
prostitute:  Heb.  kedesha, which in cognate languages may indicate a "holy" official, here seems to describe a woman who is similarly outside the usual constraints of family.
 Alter, at Deuteronomy 23:18 has:
cult-harlot . . . cult-catamite.  The precise meaning of these two terms, qedeshah and qadesh, is diputed.  There is no clear-cut evidence that ritual prostitution was practiced in the ancient Near East, though it remains an undeniable possibility....  Exceptionally, the female qedeshah is presented here before the male qadesh suggesting she was the more familiar type.  The story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 makes it clear that qedeshah was some sort of more refined or dignified designation for a prostitute:  Judah takes Tamar for a "whore" (zonah); Hirah his emissary then refers to her more decorously as a qedeshah.  Since the root means "sacred," it is a reasonable inference that the qedeshah was either a woman who prostituted herself as part of the cult (in this case, a fertility cult) or a prostitute working near the site of a santuary who devoted part of her professional income to the sanctuary.  Since the pilgrim obligation to participate in the temple service was laid upon the males, the qadesh would in all likelihood have been a homosexual prostitute, as the translation "cult-catamite" is meant to indicate.
So, knowing what we don't know and the little bit we do know, then how would we like to read a Bible that tells us we're reading about Tamar, as "the loose woman" or as "the separated one" or as "the shrine prostitute"?

A better question is how would we like a translator like Everett Fox and Robert Alter to translate Hosea 4:14?  They haven't yet.  So why don't we in the mean time?  Here's the MT and then a Fox-and-Alter-like modifying of the Jewish Publication Society's translation:
א־אפקוד על־בנותיכם כי תזנינה ועל־כלותיכם כי תנאפנה כי־הם עם־הזנות יפרדו ועם־הקדשות יזבחו ועם לא־יבין ילבט׃ 
I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery; for they themselves consort in un-holiness with lewd women, and they sacrifice with the hallowed-harlots; and the people that is without understanding is distraught.
As we look at the various ways men have used women, and have used language to use women, it's somewhat curious how the language, as if it were un-holy, is sometimes so hallowed.

Unholy and Hallowed Whore Words: Part I

κἀμέ γ᾽ ἡ πόρνη χθὲς εἰσελθόντα τῆς μεσημβρίας,
ὅτι κελητίσαι 'κέλευον, ὀξυθυμηθεῖσά μοι
ἤρετ᾽ εἰ τὴν Ἱππίου καθίσταμαι τυραννίδα.

Me at least, to my Whore yesterdy, were comin at noon.
She at me, Sir Steed of Speed, were eruptin in outrage
At Bronco Buckin. Like she were sittin on her Horse, like a tyrant!

  --Xanthias, a slave
   (in the play "The Wasps," line 500, by Aristophanes,
   in Greece, in 422 BCE,
   translated here by J. K. Gayle)

What's meant to be funny about the line above is that it's out of the mouth of a mere slave, who's been using a mere whore, to answer the elegant Bdelycleon.  Bdelycleon is an elite Aristocrat in Athens.  He not only owns many horses but he also owns several slaves, including Xanthias.  He had so many slaves, in fact, that they were like swarming wasps, after which the play is named.  Bdelycleon (as Eugene O'Neill, Jr. translates him in the play) has just complained aloud, with sophisticated rhetoric, about how others are accusing him of being a tyrant when he feels he's been more than fair and just:
Everything is now tyranny with us, no matter what is concerned, whether it be large or small. Tyranny! I have not heard the word mentioned once in fifty years, and now it is more common than salt-fish, the word is even current on the market. If you are buying gurnards and don't want anchovies, the huckster next door, who is selling the latter, at once exclaims, "That is a man whose kitchen savours of tyranny!" If you ask for onions to season your fish, the green-stuff woman winks one eye and asks, "Ha, you ask for onions! are you seeking to tyrannize, or do you think that Athens must pay you your seasonings as a tribute?"
This is what the slave replies to.  In a post yesterday, we saw O'Neill's rendering:
Yesterday I went to see a whore about noon and told her to get on top; she flew into a rage, pretending I wanted to restore the tyranny of Hippias.
But I wanted to show the playwright's play on the language.  And the connections between a mere whore and a ridden horse are clearer in the Greek.  What's supposed to be funny here (as the men laugh in the audience of the play performed in Athens) is that the mere slave of the sophistocated Aristocrat who owns him inadvertently compares his Master to a mere whore.  And he's put himself in the mere position of the horse.  Yes, the men are also laughing because of the sex play, the sexual role reversals, the woman on top.  And if we had more time, then we could investigate the playwright, and his choice of words, and realize how πόρνη [pórnē] was just coming into currency in Athens as a phrase for prostitutes.  If men in slavery had no rights, and if tyrants ruled like dictators, then at least all men had rights to these women.  And the reinforcement of the sexualized hierarchy -- all men over possessed women -- came in their laughs and language.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sons: Men Misrepresenting Women As If Needing to Be Dominated Sexually and So Forth

Yesterday I went to see a whore about noon and told her to get on top; she flew into a rage, pretending I wanted to restore the tyranny of Hippias.
  --Xanthias, a slave
   (in the play "The Wasps," line 500, by Aristophanes,
   in Greece, in 422 BCE,
   translated here by Eugene O'Neill)

"Aristotle and Phyllis," woodcut, 1510 CE, by Hans Baldung Grien

It shows the much venerated ancient philosopher, Aristotle, having succumbed to his lust for the beautiful Phyllis, usually said to be Alexander the Great's wife or mistress. According to a common version of the legend, Aristotle had earlier warned Alexander, his pupil, that the young man was paying too much attention to this woman. When the philosopher approached Phyllis with his own desires, she insisted, before she agreed to gratify them, that Aristotle put on a bridle and let her ride on his back around the garden. This he did, and Alexander and a companion is shown looking on. The basic moral of the story is quite clear: even so rational and learned a man as Aristotle can allow his desire for a woman to overcome his reason; he is thus reduced to behaving as beasts do.

(from H. Diane Russell, Eva/Ave: Women in Renaissance and Baroque Prints [Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1990], page 149)
"Though a woman's preference for physical sexual submission appears to be controlled by the unconscious, inaccessible subcortical part of her brain, this unconscious physical preference is complemented by an independent psychological preference for dominant men. [See footnote 1.]

Footnote 1: It's important to distinguish between sexual dominance and submission and social dominance and submission. In mammals, sexual dominance and submission refer to very specific physical actions (such as lordosis and intromission) controlled by circuits in the subcortex. In contrast, social dominance and submission refers to an individual's status in the social hierarchy. Social dominance is managed by a testosterone-mediated neurohormonal brain system that drives status-seeking behaviors in male mammals, including kangaroos, elk, coyotes, and stockbrokers. There are clear sexual benefits from being dominant: ...."
  --Mr. Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., 2011 CE
   who couldn't win at the gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionare
   with the help of his buddy Mr. Sai Gaddam;
   so he and Sai write a book together, called A Billion Wicked Thoughts;
   and he pretends, when getting some online space on the Psychology Today blog
   to promote his thoughts, that he's moved on to other fetishes:
   "He no longer watches any steamy porn,
   instead preferring the steamy vegetables on the Food Network."

While blatantly hocking his new book, Dr. Ogi Ogas (ah, yes, also famed game show contestant and Homeland Security consultant), offers a highly original and nuanced argument: feminism is ruining our love lives. We’ve never heard that before.

In any case, Ogi (I have to use his first name because it’s just too much fun), is arguing that women and men are both turned on by inequality based on the internet search data he has mined for insights into human sexuality, plus some neuroscience that–surprise, surprise–he interprets as directly correlating with his pre-cooked theory about how people get turned on.
  --Courtni Martin, "Feminism, once again, blamed for, well, everything,"
   (A review of Mr. Ogi Ogas's stale old gas
   "Why Feminism Is the Anti-Viagra:
   The neural circuitry of dominance and submission")

Monday, April 18, 2011

What the American Congress SHOULD look like

Miriam Perez writes:
Gender parity is one of the most egregious of the disparities–we [in the USA] should have 127 more female reps in Congress than we currently do (that’s a two fold increase from current numbers).

We fail pretty big on race as well, where 72 of the current 457 seats occupied by white representatives should go to communities of color based on population numbers.

In terms of religion, Mormons are overrepresented in Congress as well as Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Underrepresented are Hindus and those who are unaffiliated.
And she shows this chart:

Go here to see a larger version.  Miriam gets the larger image from "Cord Jefferson at GOOD Magazine [who] posted this impressive infographic."  Read all about it from Miriam here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I was trained to strive for exactness and to believe that rigorous knowledge of the world without any residue is possible for us.
--Anne Carson, poet, translator, woman

The men of the Better Bibles Blog are in a long conversation with John Hobbins, and now Joel Hoffman has entered.  This is going on in comments of the BBB post by David Ker on his blog-book on how to read the Bible:  “Christianly,” he says.  And so, these men are arguing over which Christian-male-committee-produced translations is better than the others.  The fellas have agreed on using the binary:  "First Covenant first" vs. "Old Testament plus Christianity"; "Exegetical" vs. "Communicative"; "literal" vs. "functional"; and so forth and so on.  They've even made up categorical boxes in which to classify the Bible translations and by which to draw their best conclusions.  In some cases, they are linking to other posts with other categorical boxes.  In many cases, they're linking and now cross-posting some a few blogposts from their own blogs.  So they're of the same culture.  They are agreeing on the sort of language and logic to use.  But however and nevertheless, they are in divided disagreements about their conclusions of exactness.  Sharply.  And this is important.  Anyway, it's a long discussion, as I mentioned. 

And we might note that there's residue.  In the talk of these men, there's some residual silence.  In their strife for exactness, for knowledge of the world of the English Bible, there's rigor but there's silence, residue.  How silent?  What residue?

Well, John has invoked Wayne Leman, who does eventually show up and speak up with some precision.  But so far nobody's invited the "late" BBB contributor Suzanne McCarthy.  No woman yet at all has either been invited to the table nor has seen fit herself to join (although John uses marked language to try to startle David, as if his only readers for his book, his collection of blogposts for his book, are women:  "What I like best about this collection is the fluster and bluster of your style; it moves the reader and forces her to take sides").  And it's pretty public knowledge now that Suzanne has left BBB for her own reasons and that she's perpetually monitored and censored over at John's blog.  So there's the silence of women in this long, binarying BBB discussion about David's blog-book, a sharp discussion about the Bible, an exacting arguing conversation of men. 

But there's methodological silence and methodological residue too. 

The little quotation of Anne Carson, the epigraph to start this post of mine, gets to this.  We could've, instead of Anne, quoted Suzanne.  My favorite BBB post by Suzanne was the one in which she said: 
"The psalms are uniquely suited for the study of commentary through the centuries, for seeing how diversely and personally the Hebrew has been translated by one generation after another, for simply surrendering the rational mind to an acceptance of ambiguity in the original text....  I regret that there is no recent Bible version which reflects this pattern of multiple meaning in the way the KJV does. Leland Ryken makes a good point with respect to ambiguity and literary quality. However, I am slowly coming to the realization that the Christian scriptures are not represented in any modern translation in a manner which does justice to the literary style, the ambiguities and multiple meanings of the original. Have we 'lost our humility' vis-á-vis the text?"   
And instead of Anne and Suzanne, we might have quoted Catherine Z. Elgin, who provides alternatives in philosophy, in epistemology -- alternatives to the long male-dominant tradition; alternatives such as put forward in her book, Between the Absolute and the Arbitrary, as if there's only either the absolute vs. the arbitrary.  And, instead of Anne and and Suzanne and Catherine, we could have quoted Nancy Mairs.  Nancy would quote Julia Kristeva, discussing how her language was not merely binary but was talk, "Possessing an 'irreducible identity, without equal in the opposite sex and, as such, exploded, plural, fluid,' [by which] a woman [talking or writing] may be driven 'to break the [binary] code, to shatter [male pre-dominant] language, to find a specific discourse closer to the body and the emotions, to the unnamable repressed by the social contract.'" 

Perhaps I'm just being arbitrary today.  I just chose Anne.  So can we listen to her a little more, a little more closely?  Here's from her talk on "The Question of Translation", her conclusion:
One of Francis Bacon's favorite paintings is a self-portrait by Rembrandt. He mentions it in several interviews. What he says he likes about this portrait is that when you go close to it you notice the eyes have no sockets. Let us place this explanation alongside a sentence of Hölderlin's that haunts me and I can't say quite why. On the right-hand margin of a page on which he had already drafted a poem, Hölderlin at a later date began to write an essay. It contains this strange remark:

Öfters hab'ich die Sprache, öfters hab'ich Gesang versucht, aber sie hörten dich nicht.

Often enough I tried language, often enough I tried song, but they didn't hear you.
Something about the way the pronouns in this sentence come face to face with themselves reminds me of Rembrandt's eyes. Those socketless eyes are certainly not blind. They are engaged in a forceful looking, but it is not a look organized in the normal way. Seeing is going on but (is it possible that) seeing is entering Rembrandt's eyes from the back. What his look sends forward, in our direction, is deep silence. Perhaps rather like the silence that followed Joan of Arc's response to her judges when they asked her, "In what language do your voices speak to you?" and she answered: "Better language than yours."

I was trained to strive for exactness and to believe that rigorous knowledge of the world without any residue is possible for us.

This residue, which does not exist—just to think of it refreshes me. To think of its position, how it shares its position with drenched layers of nothing, to think of its motion, how it can never stop moving because I am in motion with it, to think of its tone of voice, which is casual (in fact it forgets my existence almost immediately) but every so often betrays a sort of raw pity I don't understand, to think of its shadow, which is cast by nothing and so has no death in it (or very little)—to think of these things is like a crack of light showing under the door of a room where I've been locked for years.
Notice how Anne Carson here quotes men, but particularly the man Francis Bacon.  Now, I know there are at least two Francis Bacons, and Anne is talking about the painter, about someone who cares about representation.  And from there, as we see, she makes analogies to something she cares about:  translation.  It's silence in translation, silence in the language being translated from and being translated to that is what Anne cares about here. 

And this makes us think of Kenneth Pike, Evelyn Pike, and Eunice Pike, and their forgotten care about the n-Dimensionality of language (pre translation and post translation and in translation).  I'm nearly out of time, but let me say these things quickly.
  • Kenneth Pike was once a leading theorist in Bible translation among the organization that most of the BBB boys are somehow a part of.
  • Ken was one of my professors as I was getting a degree in linguistics, the linguist who influenced my work in another degree of mine in rhetoric.
  • Ken, for Suzanne too, is one who has "had the most immediate and lasting influence on how [she] read[s] the Bible."
  • Ken is no longer an influence in the aforementioned organization.
  • Ken's view of language, as n-dimensional, is very like Anne's, Joan's, Suzanne's, Catherine's, Nancy's and Julia's.
Kenneth Pike in “Why Poetry?” in his book Stir-Change-Create says something similar to what they've said:
“Simultaneity, not sheer linearity, may be the goal. By all these devices [i.e., "crucial words with multiple meanings, lexical devices, grammatical balance"] multiple experience is elicited, to be relived by the reader. Since life itself is n-dimensional, some [language]–for some people–seems astonishingly closer to life than [other language] can be. Just as the child is not the scholar, but surpasses him in learning to speak the multiple dimensions of a new language, so [some language] can mirror the n-dimensions of experience in a compact packet…. Except we become as little children, we can neither learn a new language without a bad accent, nor become charter citizens of heaven–nor experience that multiple fullness of the n-dimensional experience, which poetry tries to help us capture. Poetry compacts life in language–as an oak forces all its eternal blueprints into one nutshell.” (page 108).
That's language.  But, with respect to translation, by and large, the work that Ken developed and was so a part of has now sadly been abandoned his teachings.  Even in translation, Ken recognized the N-Dimensionality of language. Where N = Infinity.  Ken, when discussing “substantial ambiguity (or range of meaning)” in language, notes that “[m]ultiple alternative translations are possible from one language to another, with different emphases.” Accuracy, he seems to suggest, “is not dependent upon the exact degree of precision obtained if the generalizations are acceptable (Pike 1961:3f) [... i.e., general] coherence with background pattern expressed, implicit or intended….” (Talk, Thought, and Thing pages 11-13).

This borders, as binary linguists fear, on absolute relativism and sounds an awful lot like postmodernism with its deconstructivism.  However, as much as Ken had his own struggles with deconstructivists, he wasn’t worried and never reduced his theory of language (aka, Tagmemics - i.e., language in relation to a unified theory of human behavior) to the binary.

Ken 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 Ken 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.” Ken 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.” Notice how Catherine Elgin, like Ken Pike, learned so very much from Nelson!  (To be sure, however, some of Ken’s most serious followers would focus all too often on those rigid restraints. They would chart everything into tagmemic boxes.  The would employ the either/ or binary.  Looks like that's still going on.  Alas.)

To those who don't know Ken's work, probably the place to start for some good Pike in good context is his Linguistic Concepts: An Introduction to Tagmemics. An initial one-sentence paragraph starts much: “In this volume person (and relation between persons) is given theoretical priority above formalism, above pure mathematics, above idealized abstractions” (page xi). One reason language is viewed as N-dimensional is because of the personal. Ken, just a few lines later, gives one of his nods to Heisenberg saying, “A particular language, of a particular culture, in relation to a particular person with [her or] his particular history constitutes an implicit theory for that person . . . . [T]he observer [whether a cultural insider or an outsider] universally affects the data and becomes part of the data.” Ken goes on to discuss the various (traditional) linguistic vectors of language that humans do and can choose to observe from any number of perspectives.

One of Ken Pike’s first published uses of “n-dimensional” in reference to language is Stir, Change, Create, a 1967 book for missionary linguists, for himself perhaps, with rather wordplayful writings and musings. We've already read a quote from it above.  Does knowing it was for fellow missionaries make you like that quote more, or less?  Ken in this book baldly confesses what he much later was very quiet about (in research, publication, and teaching anyways):
“The greatest proportion of my time is devoted to scholarship. I am a Christian. I am devoted to Christ, risen from the dead, my Lord. Is it strange to hybridize these two roles of mine?”
If you know the historical context, then you know he was the first in his organization to achieve the Ph.D. and was an avid promoter of academics as a means to enrich theoretical-practical linguistics.  Like Anne, he loved poetry, saying:  “poetic writing can be called anti-redundant because of its n-dimensionality.”

Ken's audience for such statements was the not-yet-academic (remember, he was the first to get the Ph.D. among his fellow Bible translators); and yet, academic linguist Deborah Tannen quotes from Ken's book for laymen in her wonderfully edited volume, Linguistics in Context : Connecting Observation and Understanding : Lectures from the 1985 LSA/TESOL and NEH Institutes. One of Pike’s later works to include discussions of the n-dimensionality of language is his 1993 Talk, Thought, and Thing: the Emic Road Toward Conscious Knowledge; but he published an essay that year which explicitly references the notion: “Matrix formatives in N-dimensional linguistics” which built on earlier co-researched, co-written 1980 article, “Constraints on complexity seen via fused vectors of an n-dimensional semantic space (Sarangani Manobo, Philippines)”.  I'm bringing all of this up because, once upon a time, men were more willing to consider talking outside the box when it came to language, to translation, to Bible translation, and even to Christian Bible translation.

It's the residue and the silence that Anne is willing to speak of that I'm interested in. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tackling Crumb's Genesis, Bell's Love, or Ker's Bible?

You might help me with which to "tackle."  Should I do a book review here at this blog?  Which book?

Here's an option for you to consider:

Some time ago, David Ker noticed R. Crumb's Genesis and then a whole bunch of other bibliobloggers did too.  (And then Time Magazine's Belinda Luscome did her story, in which she was objective enough to call Crumb a "weird, obsessive, oversexed artist" while she reported how his illustrated version of a translation of the book of Genesis had made it to "no. 1 on the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list and on's Christian books list.")  So I blogged on the Bibliobloggers' obsessive blogging about the book without a mention of Crumb the person, who as Time reports is a "weird, obsessive, oversexed artist."  My posts included: 
And one of my favorite bloggers (the pseudonymous Theophrastus) said to me in a comment:

Nonetheless, I keep hoping to see you
tackle Crumb's Genesis proper,
rather than just
tell us what a jerk he is.

So, I figure it may be time.  Time for tackling, that is.

But wait.  There's another option you might consider for me, if I do a book review at this blog:

Bibliobloggers are now, still, fascinated with Rob Bell's Love Wins.  (And Time Magazine puts the Bell hell book on its cover, and reporter Jon Meacham asks "Is Hell Dead?", and that makes Biblioblogger Brian LePort confess he's fatigued.)  So maybe I could tackle that book.  Like Crumb's Genesis (which I've only looked at mostly -- well, it is a picture book), Bell's Love Wins is a book I haven't read.  So fresh eyes and all, if you like.

But wait. There's another option you might consider for me, if I do a book review at this blog:

There are biblioblogger reports of another book out.  Ten are mentioned, with a Thank You here.  And just out this morning, at the Better Bibles Blog itself, is the review-ish pre-view or something:  "The Better Bible Was Written To You."  And, in time, Time Magazine really could get to David Ker's new book The Bible Wasn't Written For You.  Why Time this time?  Well, the book is as controversial as Crumb's and as Bell's.  That's not to say that Ker is a jerk like Crumb or a polarizer like Bell.  But maybe his book is as worthy of "takling."

So what do you think?  Want a book review here?  If so, which?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Living Liturgy: Part II

You may have already read how I started Part I of this two-part series called, "Living Liturgy":
This week, some of my favorite bloggers [and I now] are using the word, liturgy, as they get on with their lives.  [I'm getting on now with living too.]  In Part II of this short series, I'll link to them.
Without further ado:

I do not usually admit this right off the bat – it is definitely a conversation stopper – but here it is: I am a liturgist. “Liturgy” is a common enough word among Christians, but it does not flow trippingly off Jewish tongues, and I am not only Jewish but a rabbi to boot. The word comes from the Greek, leitourgia, “public service,” which is how Greek civilization thought of service to the gods. The Jewish equivalent is the Temple cult of antiquity – in Hebrew, avodah, which meant the same thing, the work of serving God. That eventually morphed into what people do in church and synagogue. Christians call it liturgy; Jews call it “services.”
--Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.,
"What’s this blog all about anyway?"

Will you grow up in love with liturgy, as I did? I have no idea. You will become whoever you become. I do hope that you will come to cherish this holiday, this season when we retell the story of how our people came to be a people, how we were lifted out of slavery and constriction by God's mighty hand and outstretched arm. How it is possible that even though this is a once-upon-a-time story, it happened to each of us -- it happens to each of us even now. I hope you'll thrill to the songs and the flavors as each year's new spring unfolds. I hope you'll ponder the question of what it means to be free. 
A Passover letter to my son

The author of three dozen books, Rabbi Hoffman — “Dad,” to me — is a preeminent Jewish liturgist (it’s a niche market, I know, but he’s got it cornered) and leading modern Jewish philosopher.
--Joel M. Hoffman, Ph.D.,
"Life and a Little Liturgy:
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, 
has a blog!"

I’ve listened politely to preachers who decry the “humanist position” and heard historians complaining about the effects of the Enlightenment. But, I have to admit I’ve secretly taken these comments with a grain of salt as, I am, after all, human and think there must be various advantages to taking this key fact into account. I’m also a Christian (just stating that upfront before I continue), and I believe humans have common needs – I’m happy to call these “rights”. I even believe that human behaviour should be governed by conventions lest another Holocaust is to occur.  Interestingly, the most negative reactions from other Christians against humanism (that I’ve seen) have been in response in response to psychology....  [T]he discipline well entrenched now, my mother is a well qualified one, so there’s little use protesting!!!  I figured I should learn some more…. Humanism seems as I thought, very pro-human, but also seems to be the cool cousins of Atheism… ( Some comments I thought I could resoundingly yell “Amen!” after;
Our vision is … a world in which human rights are respected and everyone is able to live a life of dignity....
God wasn’t here auto-writing through people, but something far beyond the scope of understanding of the authors took place at the time – Paul has an incredibly high view of Scripture both old and new, e.g. Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope“. I believe that unique, divine inspiration is contained in these books and I esteem them as texts around which the Church has gathered in liturgy, in practical application, and in seeking the meaning of human life.
--Tonya Riches,
"'The Mission of God' 
– and humanism…"  

Charlie Peer sums up with accompanying critique (rather kindly really) a great many people’s view of the prayer released by “the Church of England” for the royal wedding. (Then again, this is probably in part the result of a new part-time appointment of someone also relatively new to the Church of England to replace a full-time experienced Church of England priest to resource liturgy and worship.)
(Clayboy is really called Doug Chaplin.)
"Sunday best:
from trans clergy
to that royal wedding prayer"

Meanwhile we had some surprise visitors on Saturday afternoon who brought us flowers from the mountain top. It was an act of spontaneous pleasure and joy at having found such a perfect meadow on their part and we were the first people they knew on their way home. It was a lovely moment to see them standing there at the door, holding out the pretty posy pictured here, and to know with a smile on my face and a slightly sinking heart, that I had 10 minutes earlier decided to put off tidying the house for a little while longer ... aie! However, many who have experienced the untidy houses I have lived in may think that my levels of embarassment have perhaps not quite reached the required level for ensuring a tidy place!

The flowers from the mountain top will have faded and wilted by the end of the week but their meaning for me, the memory of their fragility and the smiles with which they were offered will remain. "Say it with flowers" the adverts used to say ... yet there was much that was unspoken in this small bunch of colour we received and which I placed in our favourite jug. So the yellow daffodils and the purple vetch speak for all that cannot be, for those things which cannot be said, for the deisre for joy even when this seems far off, for the promise that fear will truly be overcome.
For such small fragile yet powerful signs I give profound thanks.
--Jane Stranz,
"Of tears, laughter and flowers ..."  

In reading the the Gospel of John, I find that several interactions between Christ and the other people in the story can easily be seen as liturgical – a sort of call and response.... [F]or now, consider this example:....
--Joel Watts,
"Liturgy in John's Gospel"

Dan took one look at the wilting potted palm I brought home from BiLo and said, “I think they needed to be at least 21 inches long.”....

I guess in the back of my mind I’d hoped that all the liturgy and symbolism and tradition would magically restore my hope in Christianity and miraculously cure me of my doubts about God.  Isn’t that why young evangelicals have rushed out and purchased The Book of Common Prayer? Isn’t that why troubled, poetic folks like Anne Lamott and Sara Miles are Anglican? 
--Rachel Held Evans,
"Embracing The Not-So-Holy Holy Week"

For example, if I say I don’t take Genesis 1 literally, just what do I mean? For me, Genesis is not narrative history. Having said that, there are many things it could be, and it happens that I take Genesis 1:1-2:4a to be liturgy. There are figurative elements in liturgy, but it is a more specific label....  [I]n the Orthodox Study Bible [is a note] regarding the Greek word leitourgia ... : “Service is literally ‘liturgy.’ …” ....  But “service” is not literally “liturgy” nor is leitougia literally “liturgy.”
--Henry Neufeld,
"A Misuse of the Word LITERAL" 

Everything hangs on that even though. I have to find a way to feel grateful for the innumerable blessings in my life even though other things are tough. I have to find a way to understand (again) that I'm always already liberated, that the freedom we celebrate at Pesach is always real. That's what redemption means. We speak in our liturgy about God Who redeems us from slavery -- that's always ongoing.
Now running and playing with the real rabbis!

In the six quotations below, can you [and I] see how the word [liturgy] has had origins that are fairly restrictive? 
--J. K. Gayle,
"Living Liturgy: Part I"