Friday, September 30, 2011

blame the Jews (not the Korinthians or the Romans)?: Paul and that slogan, again

Dennis J. Preato has listed three options for reading what Paul wrote to an Assembly in Korinth, Greece.  Preato states (with my emphases):
First Corinthians 14:34-35 presents the reader with three interpretive options.
First, are verses 34-35 a declarative statement written from the pen of the apostle Paul with the intention of forbidding women to speak in church?....
Second, are these verses an interpolation, meaning a later addition or alteration to Scripture not written by the apostle Paul but by an uninspired writer?....
Third, are verses 34-35 a Corinthian slogan or rabbinic saying that Paul repeats for the purpose of rebuking?....
Now, we might note a couple of additional options:
A Fourth option is a variation of the First.  Is Paul quoting Torah with the intention of forbidding women to speak in Synagogues and in Greek-convert Assemblies of followers of Yeshua?

A Fifth option is a variation of the Third.  Are verses 34-35 a Roman slogan that Paul repeats for the purpose of rebuking?
Let's evaluate the options.

The Second option is entirely possible, but even if it's the case that Paul didn't write what's written, then whoever did add the verses really did want to sound like Paul.  Supposing this doesn't at all solve the problem of whether the "Pauline" statement is ultimately (1) to silence women or (2) whether it's to rebuke men who are silencing women.  The interpolater was either pretending to be Paul forbidding women from speaking.  Or he was pretending to be Paul rebuking men who were forbidding women from speaking.  So we still have our decision to make:  (1) Are the readers to take what's written as regulating and restricting the behavior of women?  (2) Or can the readers take this epistle to mean that women are as free to speak as men?

So we turn to the First (and Fourth) option(s).  Is Paul (or is Torah) forbidding women? 

This set of options -- that would make Paul (or Torah) forbid women in Korinth from speaking -- makes for some strange bedfellows.  The strange group, for example, includes these:
  • The people, a group that works to "harness the Internet for God" with their New English Translation (NET) Bible; 
  • Wayne Grudem, a Protestant Evangelical Complementarian Christian and member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV); 
  • Willis Barnstone, a Jewish translator and restorer of the Christian-translation abuses of the New Testament.
What do these commentators say?

The people have this footnote on the verses:
For they are not permitted to speak. In light of 11:2-16, which gives permission for women to pray or prophesy in the church meetings, the silence commanded here seems not to involve the absolute prohibition of a woman addressing the assembly. Therefore (1) some take be silent to mean not taking an authoritative teaching role as 1 Tim 2 indicates, but (2) the better suggestion is to relate it to the preceding regulations about evaluating the prophets (v. 29). Here Paul would be indicating that the women should not speak up during such an evaluation, since such questioning would be in violation of the submission to male leadership that the OT calls for (the law, e.g., Gen 2:18).
Grudem, in his book, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? (pages 161-62), has this note on the verses:
Finally, and perhaps most important, we should note the reason that Paul does give for instruction on this matter.  Paul does not give "noisy women" as a reason for his instruction, but rather he cites the Old Testament law.  He says, "For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says (1 Cor. 14:34).  "Law" here most likely refers to the teaching of the Old Testament in general on men and women, because Paul does not quote any specific Old Testament passage.  He frequently uses "law" (Greek nomos) to refer to the Old Testament, and especially with this formula, "as the Law . . . says" (see the other two instances in Rom. 3:19 and 1 Cor. 9:8).  It is unlikely that "law" refers to Roman law or to Jewish oral traditions, for Paul does not elsewhere use nomos in those ways.
Barnstone, in his, The Restored New Testament: A New Translation with Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Thomas, Mary, and Judas (page 751), has this footnote:
Paul evokes the law, meaning Torah law of the Hebrew Bible rather than Roman law.  It is not clear whether he has a specific verse in mind or whether there is one for his purpose.  Normally, when Paul wants to alter a habitual practice or interpretation of law, such as the laws on circumcision, Sabbath, marriage, and divorce, he refers to Deuteronomy or Exodus in Torah.  Here he does not do so.  Most commonly, without reference to Torah, he proposes his own moral code for the emerging Jesus movement with respect to marriage, homosexuality, and deportment in the temple.
Interestingly, the people and Grudem are motivated by anti-feminist views.  The former reproduce on their website a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) essay, "'Silent in the Churches': On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36" by D. A. Carson; and the latter has been President of the CBMW and still plays an active role in this organization that views biblical womanhood as meaning that Christian women cannot preach or teach men in church.

In contrast, Barnstone is very much a feminist ally, writing a pro-woman essay "The Role of Silent Women" within his commentary on Paul (see pages 628-30 of his Restored New Testament); Barnstone makes clear, likewise, that Paul was pro-woman, if he did contradict himself sometimes by looking to "earlier [religious] . . . hierarchies":
Paul, like Walt Whitman, loved to contradict himself....  Paul speaks frequently of many women as his founding companions in the churches, his most trusted collaborators; he appoints women to keep new missions in order; and in Romans he notes that he has asked Phoebe (Rom. 16.1) a deacon (an ordained minister) in the church located in Cenchrea, an eastern port of Corinth, to carry his letter to the Romans to Rome.  Deacon Priscilla (Rom. 16.3) is associated with the same [Corinthian, Cenchrean] church, and he promotes one of his colleagues to his own missionary status, saying about Junia, later Saint Junia, that she and her companion Andronikos are "outstanding among the messengers [apostles]":
Greet Andronikos and Iounias,
Who were in prison with me, Oustanding
Among the messengers, even before me
They were working furiously for the Mashiah.
--ROM 16.7
From Paul's time, and in large part because of Paul, women were ordained to preach and hold high administrative offices.  Those were his [pro-woman Jewish] actions nearly two thousand years before anything like them was beginning to be permitted in Protestant churches, and more frequently in Jewish synagogues.  But insofar as Paul contributed to silencing and separating women, he was following the practice of not only earlier Jewish temple customs but also Hindu, Buddhist, and later Muslim hierarchies.
To summarize, the people suggest that Paul is referencing Genesis 2:18, but Grudem and Barnstone suggest that he is referring to the "Old Testament law" or to "Torah" more generally.  They all agree that it is Paul who is referring to the Hebrew Bible to build his case that the Korinthian men may silence their women.  The people and Grudem are anti-feminist; Barnstone is pro-woman and sees Paul as progressively pro-woman too even if Paul would contradict himself with the older religious hierarchies.

So we turn to the Third (and Fifth) option(s).  Is Paul rebuking sexist men by quoting back to them their rabbinic slogan, or Korinthian slogan, or Roman slogan?

Maybe it is an oral rabbinic slogan.  If so, this gets at least Barnstone thinking that Paul sounds like he's quoting "earlier Jewish temple customs" and is thereby contradicting himself.  But Paul is only contradicting himself if he agrees with such a slogan or endorses following such sexist customs.  And, as Barnstone shows, Paul's own customs were very pro-woman.  Why not consider that Paul might be actually quoting back to Korinthian men some slogan they were repeating to him?

Translator Ann Nyland does consider this.  She notes how S. Aalen has claimed there's "A Rabbinic Formula in 1 Cor. 14,34" (see, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 87 [1964] 513-25).  And Ann Nyland cites a later version of Aalen's paper to suggest, "The language in the quotation resembles known Jewish oral law" (page 330, The Source New Testament With Extensive Notes On Greek Word Meaning).

Maybe it is a Korinthian slogan, and not really a Jewish one.  This, to me, seems much more plausible.  When Paul writes the Philippoi (the men and women) in Philippi, Greece, he is very clear and explicit when he contradicts "old Jewish customs" (Philippians 3:5).  He's more likely rebuking the men in Korinth concerning a slogan that is NOT Jewish.  If I were a Bible commentator, or the writer of the footnote on I Corinthians 14:34-35, then I'd probably read the Greek there and blame it on Aristotle. Paul seems to be considerably influenced by Aristotle. Whether it's considering women differently from and as naturally ordered under men; whether it's their unique use of "logic"; whether it's their ideals for the marriage ages of husbands and their women or the ideals of whether to marry at all or their understanding of the naturalness of male baldness and of female hair length -- Paul appears to agree with Aristotle.

Well, you could probably convince me, instead, to blame it on some other Greek man. You could probably tell me Paul was quoting a sexist Greek slogan to the men in Korinth. You might even convince me that Paul was even quoting this woman disparaging slogan right back at them, to rebuke them. After all, men in Greece have this gyne-phobic and misogynistic legacy. As Peter Hammond of the Africa Christian Action network has observed:
Throughout a woman’s entire life [in much of Greek history,] she was not permitted to speak in public.
As Sophocles wrote: “Silence is an adornment to women”; Euripides asserted: “Silence and discression are most beautiful in women and remaining quiet within the house”. Aristotle declared: “Silence gives grace to women”. Homer wrote: “Speech shall be for men”. Euripides wrote: “Women, specious curse to man”. Aeschylus wrote: “Evil of mind are they, and guileful of purpose, with impure hearts”. Aristophanes wrote: “For women are a shameless set, the vilest of creatures going”. Homer wrote: “One cannot trust women!”
Doesn't that sound like this?
34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
- 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, English Standard Version (ESV)
What Paul writes there to the Korinthian men sounds so much like many other Greek men, that Dennis J. Preato is led to ask, "[A]re verses 34-35 a Corinthian slogan"?

Well, that's all fine.

But there is that other variation on this Fifth option.  Couldn't this be a Roman slogan?  Barnstone and Grudem have ruled this out - but only because they attribute the words to Paul quoting Torah (or "the Old Testament law") vaguely.

Grudem goes on and on in a footnote, asking for proof for the Roman slogan -- even more proof than he himself can provide for his own claim - an unwarranted claim itself without "one shred of proof" - that "'Law' here most likely refers to the teaching of the Old Testament in general on men and women, because Paul does not quote any specific Old Testament passage."  Grudem's footnote on page 162 is here:
Linda Belleville say, "law" here refers to Roman law ("Women in Ministry," 119).  As evidence, she says, "Official religion of the Roman variety was closely supervised," but the only proof she gives is a reference to her book, Women Leader and the Church: Three Crucial Questions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2000), 36-38.  On those pages, we look in vain for any reference to Roman law regulating Christian conduct or any other religious activity within a worship service.  Belleville asks us to believe, without proof, the rather remarkable position that Roman laws prohibited women from asking disruptive questions within a worship service such as found in a Christian church.  And she gives not one shred of proof.

Paul never uses "law" (Greek nomos) to refer to Roman law, but often uses it, as here, to refer to the teachings of the Old Testament taken as a whole.

Walter Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988) claims that "the law" here means Rabbinic teaching, but he provides no supporting evidence, and, again, Paul does not use the word "law" in that way.
Grudem, as mentioned, is being anti-feminist here and is working to attribute not only to Paul but also vaguely and generally to "to the teachings of the Old Testament taken as a whole" the woman-silencing teachings.  He discounts what Belleville claims by positing that "Paul never uses 'law' (Greek nomos) to refer to Roman law."  Grudem does not consider the possibility that Paul is actually rebuking the men of Korinth for their own use of "'law' (Greek nomos) to refer to Roman law."  

Is Grudem going to blame the Jews (and not the Romans)?  Why not blame, instead, the men of Korinth and their use of a slogan of the Roman law to silence women in their Assembly?

I know, I know.  This blog post has gone on long enough.  I've risked boring readers and losing you all.  Maybe this is burying the evidence, the real punchline, of what I'm hoping you'll see.  Would you get out your old copies of the Roman Twelve Tables?  Would you review, as I'm guessing the Korinthian men did, the Roman law of patria potestas and the man's exclusive rights in pateras familias?  Or will you at least look at your old edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and General Literature, Volume XXIV, to find the entry on "Women, Laws concerning" and then the long paragraph on Roman law?  Don't have it anymore.  Well, let me read it here then:
In Roman law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband; if unmarried she was (unless a vestal virgin) under the perpetual tutelage of her father during his life, and after his death of her agnates, that is, those of her kinsmen by blood or adoption who would have been under the power of the common ancestor had he lived. Failing agnates, the tutelage probably passed to the gens. The wife was the purchased property of her husband, and, like a slave, acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office. In the words of Ulpian, "feminae ab omnibus officiis civilibus vel publicis remotae sunt." A woman could not continue a family, for she was "caput et finis familiae suae," could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make a will or contract. She could not succeed ab intestato as an agnate, if further removed than a sister. A daughter might be disinherited by a general clause, a son only by name. On the other hand, a woman was privileged in some matters, but rather from a feeling of pity for her bodily weakness and presumed mental incapacity than for any more worthy reason. Thus she could plead ignorance of law as a ground for dissolving an obligation, which a man could not as a rule do; she could accuse only in cases of treason and witchcraft; and she was in certain cases exempt from torture. In succession ab intestato to immovable property Roman law did not, as does English, recognize any privilege of males over females.Legal disabilities were gradually mitigated by the influence of fictions, the praetorian equity and legislation. An example of the first was the mode by which a woman freed herself from the authority of her tutor by fictitious cession into the authority of a tutor nominated by herself, or by sale of herself into the power of a nominal husband on the understanding that he was at once to emancipate her to another person, who then manumitted her. The action of equity is illustrated by the recognition by the praetor of cognatic or natural as distinguished from agnatic or artificial relationship, and of a widow's claim to succeed on the death of her husband intestate and without relations. Legislation, beginning as early as the Twelve Tables, which forbade excessive mourning for the dead by female mourners, did not progress uniformly towards enfranchisement of women. For instance, the Lex Voconia (about 169 B.C.), called by St Augustine the most unjust of all laws, provided that a woman could not be instituted heir to a man who was registered as owner of a fortune of 100,000 asses. A constitution of Valentinian I. forbade bequests by women to ecclesiastics. But the tendency of legislation was undoubtedly in the direction indicated. Adoption of women was allowed by Diocletian and Maximian in 291. The tutelage of women of full age was removed by Claudius, and, though afterwards in part revived, has disappeared by the time of Justinian. This implied full testamentary and contractual liberty. In regard to the separate property of the married woman, the period of dos had by the time of Justinian long superseded the period of menus. The result was that, in spite of a few remaining disabilities, such as the general incapacity to be surety or witness to a will or contract, of a wife to make a gift to her husband, of a widow to marry within a year of her husband's death, the position of women had become, in the words of Sir H. Maine, " one of great personal and proprietary independence." For this improvement in their position they were largely indebted to the legislation of the Christian emperors, especially of Justinian, who prided himself on being a protector of women.
What's very interesting is how the writer, the historian in brief, concludes. It was late and progressive Roman emperors, Christians, who did what Wayne Grudem does not want the Old Testament Law or Paul to do.  They changed the law.  But the Korinthian men didn't want that, it seems.  And I think Paul was trying to show, in practice and by his letter, that anti-woman Roman slogans just don't reflect the Jewish scriptural liberties given to those created in the image of God, male and female.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

sexist Roman slogan (and what Paul may do with it)

Kay Bonikowsky has a post up in which she suggests that "Paul was quoting a slogan" when writing in Greek to men and women in Korinth, Greece.  Translator Ann Nyland, likewise, says the following, right in the middle of her translation of what we call Chapter 14 of Paul's letter; Nyland says: "Paul now quotes from the letter sent to him by the Corinthian assembly."

The Corinthian men had quoted the Law of the Roman empire at Paul.  So how did that go?  Well, in a bit, I'll show you.  First, I want to let Cheryl Glenn remind us about that Roman law:
A particular point of Roman male pride seems to have been the deliberate exclusion of women from civil and public duties; and in the first centuries of its history, Roman law reflected rigid legal inequalities between males and females.  Cicero reportedly contemplated with utter dismay a society which "included women in assemblies" and which allowed women "soldiery and magistracies and commands."  "How great will be the misfortune of that city, in which women will assume the public duties of men" (Lactantius, Epitomes 33.[38.]1-5, ascribed to De re publica 4-5, qtd. in Hallett, Fathers 8)....  Over centuries, Roman law constructed and guaranteed the sexual distinction -- and division -- between males and females.  The differential between the legal status of women and that of men was justified by the natural inferiority of women:  their congenital weakness, limited intellectual faculties, and ignorance of law....  Roman women were perpetually restrained by law. [ Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance, pages 61-62, emphases mine: the red font the Roman exclusions, the blue the more liberal inclusions elsewhere.]
Glenn goes on from her research to discuss at great length the effects of the Law.  The legal constraints applied to women more severely under Roman rule even more than they had under the old laws and customs of the Greek empire.  The oppressive Law worked to silence women in Rome, in Athens, in Jerusalem and in Korinth:
Like the Greek matron, then, the Roman woman was oppressively busy managing her household and family [i.e., the Roman Domum as the counterpart of the Greek οἰκοδομή -- the OIKO-DOMĒ -- the domain of the home].... Because the Romans clung to the ideal of the domina, of the strong privatized woman, they [i.e., the Roman men] often reacted with perplexity or disgust at the women who pursued intellectual or political aspirations. Unlike the very few Greek women who found acceptance and admiration in the public domain, no Roman woman seems to have succeeded in establishing herself as a public figure in her own right....  The Greeks and Romans [i.e., the men] regarded most women as ciphers, whose worth varied according to the property and family connections accompanying them.  Women were to be traded among men.  And historians -- from the first -- have had little more to say about these women, who were always, particularly in their exceptions, defined by the private, feminine sphere.  The women in my study who passed into the public sphere, even if only temporarily, found themselves vulnerable to assaults on their families, their honor, their sexuality, their "feminine" influence.  These women endured the closest of inspections and critiques by males and females alike, usually being disarmed of their influence and respect in the process.  [ Rhetoric Retold, pages 63, 72-73, emphases mine: the red font the Roman exclusions, the blue the more liberal inclusions elsewhere.]
Okay, so what was the slogan, the Roman law, that the men of Korinth wrote to Paul?  And how did he reply?  Let's look, first at their Greek, then at our English.  (What my translation attempts is to show Paul's play with "feminine" words, with HOME-DOMAIN and with SILENCE and with ALL-inclusion in the ASSEMBLY and with the creative, maternal words of BIRTH.)  Here, hear:

Τί οὖν ἐστίν, ἀδελφοί;
Ὅταν συνέρχησθε ἕκαστος
ψαλμὸν ἔχει,
διδαχὴν ἔχει,
ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει,
γλῶσσαν ἔχει,
ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει.
Πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω.

Εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ,
κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς,
καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος,
καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω·
ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής,
σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ·
ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ.

Προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν,
καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν.
Ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ,
ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω.

Δύνασθε γὰρ καθ’ 
ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν,
ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν,
καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται·
καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν
προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται.
Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεός,
ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης,
ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων.
Αἱ γυναῖκες ὑμῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν·
οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν,
ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν,
καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει.
Εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν,
ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν·
αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ.

ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν;

εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν;

Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός,
ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν,
ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν ἐντολή
Εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται.
Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν,
καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις·
πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως
καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

In English, that goes something like this:

What is it, then, brothers?
When you meet together, each one may
have a Psalm,
have an Instruction,
have a Revelation,
have a Tongue,
have a Translation.
All gives birth to the Domain of the Home:

Whether it's a Tongue that is uttered,
by two or at the most three,
both a Top Part,
and through to a Translation.

Should there, however, not be the Translation, then: 
Silence in the Assembly!
To oneself, nonetheless, is an Utterance, and to God.

Prophesy, nonetheless, by two or three Utterances,
And the others through to a Judgement. 

Should there come, in fact, some Revelation to another seated, then:
For the first one, Silence!

You all, in fact, are quite able:
One and all may Prophesy
So that all may be Apprenticed
And all may be Called to Encouragement.
And may the Spirit of a Prophecy
Be given Order Under Prophets.
There's not, in fact, a God of Disruption,
but rather of Peace,
which is in all, in the Assembly, of the Holy ones. 
Your women, in the Assembly, are to be Silent! 
Give, in fact, to them no Turn to Utter anything there,
but rather give them their Order Under. 
just as the Law also states
If, however, some wish to be Apprenticed,
Then it's in the Home where their own men are that these may Question.
It is shameful, in fact, for women to Utter anything in the Assembly.
Is that from you all, The Statement of God springing out like your baby?
Is this your special delivery?

If someone opines that they have so Prophesied, or are so Spiritual,
then let him understand what I have written to you all:
our Master is giving Commandments.
If, nonetheless, someone is without understanding, then he lacks understanding. 
Therefore, my brothers, yearn to Prophesy,
and to Utter (don't forbid it) a Tongue.
All, nonetheless, with Blessed Form
and according to Arrangement be birthed! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mary the Parthenon as equal to Joseph the Heitheon

Let me propose translations of LXX Isaiah 7:14 and of Matthew 1:23 and of Luke 1:26, 27, 34 that do not emphasize virginity. It's not because I'm a "liberal" (therefore not a "conservative") translator trying to diminish or downplay the biblical and accurate stories of pregnancies of virgins. Not sure I fit in either of those boxes ("liberal" or "conservative") very well. I'm not wanting to try a different translating because the Greek word parthenos (παρθενος) never refers to female virgins. We all know of examples where that's the case, where the Parthenon has to be female only and in which the emphasis is on her purity on her being yet untouched by a male.

What I'm hoping to do with English translation is to get at the part of the range of meanings of the Greek word parthenos (παρθενος) that gets beyond the female as the virgin .

Sometimes Often, female virginity is all that counts. For the radical extremist terrorists of September 11, 2001, (as the horrible folklore goes) female virginity was of supreme importance as their reward for their suicide mission. And for US culture in general, male virginity can actually be something of a joke.

The quick point I'm trying to make is one that Hanne Blank shows with her history of the concept of female virginity: there's a huge disparity between how cultures have regarded virginity in girls and women compared with boys and men.

Now, interestingly, Euripedes made use of another Greek word for virgins, untouched.  In his play Hippolytus, the playwright has the character Theseus ask the protagonist:

"Are you the chaste one, untouched by evil?"  David Kovacs is translating.  The words are σὺ σώφρων καὶ κακῶν ἀκήρατος; Notice how a-kēratos (ἀ-κήρατος) is the word for "un-touched" and sṓphrōn (σώφρων) the word for "chaste." The question is whether these sorts of words apply equally to males and to females. For Aristotle, of course, females are botched males, naturally, and therefore, it is important to divide them. The same word, such as sōphrosȳnē (σωφροσύνη) or "temperance," actually divides women and men, for Aristotle, just as for Hitler, Blutes or "blood," actually divided der Jude or "the Jew" and the untainted Arier or "the Aryan."

Homer's Greek did not always so divide people by blood, by temperance, by how and whether they were untouched and untainted and virgin.  The epics of Homer actually made good use of a pair of words that marked difference in sex but that gave import to both girls and boys as equals more or less. The pair included parthenos (παρθενος) as the feminine and hēitheos (ἠιθεος) as the masculine. Both, as a pair, together, refer to unmarried young people, to eligible bachelorettes and eligible bachelors.

You can see this pair in the following excerpt from a fragment of papyri recording a bit from Homer's Iliad, Book 22. It's probably from sometime in the 3rd century B.C.E. and is now in the collection of papyri at the University of Heidelberg.

Alex C. Purves in 1891 translated that bit in the following way:

IL.22.128 παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ' ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιϊν.

IL.22.128 maid and bachelor in amorous prate;

The longer context goes like this, where you can see it as a repetition of the pair:

IL.22.123 μή μιν ἐγὼ μὲν ἵκωμαι ἰών, ὃ δέ μ' οὐκ ἐλεήσει
IL.22.123 Surely, if I solicit him, he will have no pity

IL.22.124 οὐδέ τί μ' αἰδέσεται, κτενέει δέ με γυμνὸν ἐόντα
IL.22.124 nor courtesy, but will slay me like a helpless

IL.22.125 αὔτως ὥς τε γυναῖκα, ἐπεί κ' ἀπὸ τεύχεα δύω.
IL.22.125 woman, a naked man, who have put off mine arms;

IL.22.126 οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ' ἀπὸ πέτρης
IL.22.126 I may not talk with him from tree or stone,

IL.22.127 τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι, ἅ τε παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε
IL.22.127 like a man and a maid, like

IL.22.128 παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ' ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιϊν.
IL.22.128 maid and bachelor in amorous prate;

IL.22.129 βέλτερον αὖτ' ἔριδι ξυνελαυνέμεν ὅττι τάχιστα:
IL.22.129 better to close with him in speedy anger;

IL.22.130 εἴδομεν ὁπποτέρῳ κεν Ὀλύμπιος εὖχος ὀρέξῃ.
IL.22.130 so shall we know to whom the Olympian gives the glory.

And in Book 18 of the Illiad, the pair of words is used a couple of other times.

The pair of words also can be heard in Homer's Odyssey. With Samuel Butler's English translation of 1900, that with some context went like this:

OD.11.35 ἐλλισάμην, τὰ δὲ μῆλα λαβὼν ἀπεδειροτόμησα
OD.11.35 I cut the throats of the two sheep

OD.11.36 ἐς βόθρον, ῥέε δ' αἷμα κελαινεφές: αἱ δ' ἀγέροντο
OD.11.36 and let the blood run into the trench, whereon the ghosts came

OD.11.37 ψυχαὶ ὑπὲξ Ἐρέβευς νεκύων κατατεθνηώτων.
OD.11.37 trooping up from Erebus -

OD.11.38 νύμφαι τ' ἠΐθεοί τε πολύτλητοί τε γέροντες
OD.11.38 brides, young bachelors, old men worn out with toil,

OD.11.39 παρθενικαί τ' ἀταλαὶ νεοπενθέα θυμὸν ἔχουσαι,
OD.11.39 maids who had been crossed in love,

OD.11.40 πολλοὶ δ' οὐτάμενοι χαλκήρεσιν ἐγχείῃσιν,
OD.11.40 and brave

OD.11.41 ἄνδρες ἀρηΐφατοι βεβροτωμένα τεύχε' ἔχοντες:
OD.11.41 men who had been killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood;

So now we come to the Bible. Even though the male counterpart is lost after Homer's epic works, there's still reason to believe that readers could have heard "unmarried young person" as what was meant.

Here's Isaiah:

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον
Thus, this is what he will give -- Master himself will give something to you all -- a sign.

ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει
Look, the eligible bachelorette -- in her innermost belly -- will have it

καὶ τέξεται υἱόν
And, she will deliver and have a child, a son

καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ
And, she will call its name EmmanouĒl

Here's Matthew:

Ἰδού, ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει
Look, the eligible bachelorette -- in her innermost belly -- will have it

καὶ τέξεται υἱόν
And, she will deliver and have a child, a son

καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ
And, she will call its name EmmanouḖl

ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον
which is rendered literally

Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός
"with us - God"

Here's Luke:

Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ
And yet in the sixth month

ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ (or possibly ὑπὸ) τοῦ θεοῦ
there was the Messenger GabriḔl from God sent

εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ (or possiblyΝαζαρέτ)
into the City-State of Galilaias named Nazareth

πρὸς παρθένον
to an eligible bachelorette,

μεμνηστευμένην (or possibly ἐμνηστευμένην) ἀνδρί,
to be engaged to a man,

ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωσήφ, ἐξ οἴκου Δαυίδ·
named Joseph, of the household of David.

καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.
and she, this bachelorette, was named Mariam,

Εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον,
Mariam, nonetheless, said to the Messenger,

Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο,
How is this going to be,

ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω;
seeing how I have not yet known a husband?

Now you tell me, does this translation disrupt the Greek?  Does it rob the narrative of female virginity that would be so very important to men and to males and to the Christian Bible?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shame, Philomela, you unbiblical liberal bird

"When we say 'built on common ground,' we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God's overall work in the world."
-- Paul Franklyn, PhD, associate publisher for the Common English Bible
"All these are unpersuasive for the reasons given.  Yet Gorgias' exclamation to the swallow when she flew down and let go her droppings on him is in the best tragic manner:  he said, 'Shame on you, Philomela'; for if a bird did it there was no shame, but [it would have been] shameful for a maiden.  He thus rebuked the bird well by calling it what it once had been rather than what it now was."
-- Aristotle
If you know the story of Philomela in Greek mythology, then you know how she was raped and how her rapist cut her tongue out because she yelled out exclamations of protest and how tragically in the end the gods translated her into a swallow.  If you know the Greek language of Aristotle here in his Rhetoric (Bekker page 1406b line 18), then you know how he's calling Philomela a παρθενον /parthenon/ but how he's praising Gorgias for calling her a bird, or rather for calling this swallow a shameful Philomela, because she's pooped on him.  That's right. Aristotle himself is saying that Philomela is still a "parthenon" who [read between the lines here] pooped on the man who desired her ['Shame on you, Philomela, because you did this to a man before you were a bird and while you were still a virgin, conservatively speaking, before he transformed you into something else, you maiden.  How inappropriate of you.  How shameful of you'].  Yes, this can be subtle stuff.  And in our status quo world, so conservative and so man first, we should not read too much into these things.  And if you do, then shame on you for your protests.

If you know how male English translators care about this word, parthenon, especially when it's sacred, then you know that "conservatives" translate it "virgin" while their opposites, the "liberals," translate it "maiden."  If you pay attention to how the man Paul Franklyn divides the world, then you see his polar opposite binaries as follows:
"scholars" / "average readers"
"conservatives" / "liberals"
"teens" / "retirees"
"men" / "women"
"denominations" / "ethnicities"
Opposites, in this way of thinking, are distinct even if there can be something in common between them, some common ground below them.
"a bird pooping" / "a maiden dropping protests of No! No! No! No!"
In these binaries, very subtly, not all is equal between the opposites.  Notice, if you will, how the men ordering the opposites put the better one on the left of / the lesser one. 
"men" / "women"
"denominations" / "ethnicities"
"virgin as translation of παρθενος" / "maiden or young lady or young woman or (unmarried) girl as translation of παρθενος"
Now listen to the language, the ordering of pairs, from BBB blogger Wayne Leman in his recent post on the question of whether Franklyn's Common English Bible translation is "liberal" or not.  Leman is attempting to deconstruct the "conservative" / "liberal" binary.  Ironically, however, he re-constructs his own binary, with "liberal" as the still-botched category:
"Some conservatives consider translation of Hebrew almah in this verse [i.e., Isaiah 7:14] as 'young woman' instead of 'virgin' to be liberal. But is it, or does it actually reflect accurate biblical scholarship?"

"What you think might be a liberal translation of some verse may be shown to be an accurate translation, especially when you find other verses in the translation which continue to support whatever is your own theological viewpoint."
Did you see it?  Here it is:
"accurate biblical scholarship" / "liberal"
"an accurate translation" / "a liberal translation"
Of course, Leman is arguing that "young woman" (as the best English for "almah" in Isaiah 7:14) is an actual reflection of biblical scholarship that is accurate.  In opposition to that, for Leman, is the very same translation that is motivated by what would be liberal.

Commenter Joel Hoffman says something similar, quoting and with some nuance correcting Leman:
"I think everyone agrees that changing 'virgin' to 'young woman' for alma in Isaiah 7:14 is 'accurate biblical scholarship,' but the decision to prefer that scholarship over tradition is liberal."
Here, as a variation, Hoffman's binary pits what is good against what is (not "liberal" exactly but what is, rather, instead) botched "tradition":
"accurate biblical scholarship" / "tradition"
The point for both Leman and Hoffman is that which opposes "accurate biblical scholarship" is botched, is lesser, is "in-accurate" and "un-biblical" and "not scholarly."

The binary (i.e., that "either / or" division) is what allows men who know things to know them op-positionally.  And what comes first (i.e., on the left side of the pair in a left-to-right listing) is determined, actually pre-determined by them, to be naturally what's best.


So let's now look at how this works out in Bible translation.   Franklyn lists these binaries as opposites that must find common ground for his Common English Bible translation:
"men" / "women"
"denominations" / "ethnicities" 
When you look at the CEB team of translators (i.e., individuals on either side of his oppositions), what's interesting is how somebody like Adele Berlin on the team can neither be one of the men nor is actually able to be person of a Christian denomination.  Must Berlin, a woman, be the opposite of the men?  Is she, as not a member of a denomination, a person of some specific marked ethnicity?  Which one?  Is this a Christian / Jewish binary?

It's no secret that the problem in Bible translation with the words almah (עלמה) and pathenos (παρθενος) is the problem over whether the girl Mary (the mother of Jesus) was a virgin, or not, when these words are used.

How this seems to mirror Gorgias' and Aristotle's own tragic problem of whether Philomela is an ὄρνιθι /ornithi/ or a παρθένος /parthenos/.  One is appropriate and not shameful; the other is inappropriate, and shameful.

The Hebrew alma is in Isaiah 7:14.  So is the Greek pathenos in the earliest translation of Isaiah 7:14.  Whoever the maiden is that this scripture and that these words refer to might have been a virgin.  And the "young woman," as the common denominator CEB translation team has translated the Hebrew, might she be the prophesied Mary, the mother of Immanuel as Jesus, or not? 

The binary way of knowing the answer will not tolerate ambiguity.  Either she is, or not.  Either this is accurate, or not.  Either it is respectable, or it's shameful.

When we get to the New Testament, then we leave the Hebrew and have only the Greek.  Moreover, both in the gospel of Matthew and in the gospel of Luke, we have the story of the pregnant Mary not being "known" or "impregnated" by her man, her fiancé, her husband, Joseph.  In both stories, she is a virgin with child by the Holy Spirit.  So now, in these contexts, is the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) any less ambiguous than the Hebrew almah (עלמה) and its Greek translation the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) in Isaiah 7:14?  Do the stories of the virgin Mary require the Greek word to be translated unambiguously in Matthew 1:23 and in Luke 1:27?

Is one translation accurate, biblical, scholarly, respectable, and the other not?

I'll let you answer.  And to help, it may be interesting to see how various translators have translated the words:

the Hebrew almah (עלמה) as "young woman" in Isaiah 7:14 - JPS, JPCT, RSV, NET, NEB, NABRE 2011, NAB 2011, The Inclusive Bible

the Hebrew almah (עלמה) as "the young woman is with child" and "a young woman who is pregnant" and "A girl who is presently a virgin" and "a young woman is now with child" and "young woman is pregnant" in Isaiah 7:14 - NRSV and Good News Translation and The Message and The Bible in Basic English and the Common English Bible

the Hebrew almah (עלמה) as "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 - pretty much all the other translations

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "virgin" in LXX Isaiah 7:14 - Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, NETS by Moisés Silva

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "maiden" in Matthew 1:23 - Weymouth, Richmond Lattimore

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "the unmarried girl" in Matthew 1:23 - Ann Nyland

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "young woman" in Matthew 1:23 - Willis Barnstone

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "virgin" in Matthew 1:23 - pretty much all the other translations

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "young woman" in Luke 1:27 - The Inclusive Bible

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "the unmarried girl" in Luke 1:27 - Ann Nyland

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "virgin" in Luke 1:27 - pretty much all the other translations

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "girl" in Aristotle's Rhetoric - W. Rhys Roberts

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "young lady" in Aristotle's Rhetoric - J. H. Freese

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "maiden" in Aristotle's Rhetoric - George A. Kennedy

the Greek pathenos (παρθενος) as "virgin" in Aristotle's Rhetoric - anon, 1683

Is one translation accurate, biblical, scholarly, respectable, and the other not?

Monday, September 12, 2011

who learned to ask questions? what's the benefit of the doubt?

This weekend, I finished reading Rachel Held Evans's book Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions, and I must say that it is an impressive memoir in which the author gets at how she has had several, incredibly thoughtful human conversions as an adult.  To me, that's what learning is.  That's awfully important.  When we stop learning, stop changing or "evolving," then we die.  Viewpoints change.  When it comes to religion, to views about sex and gender, to the Bible and what it offers us on religion, on God, on sex and gender, then we can hope our methods for learning, for knowing, for understanding, for believing can adapt some to circumstances over time.  Otherwise we insist on the sort of objectivity that stuck Aristotle in a science that makes females naturally lesser than males.  Otherwise we insist on the sort of arrogant absolutism with "apparently plain meanings of biblical texts" that makes females naturally lesser than males so that the former can only learn from the latter, and not the reverse.

(See how Rachel blogs today, wonderfully and powerfully on the rigid weaknesses of "the complementarian manifesto, the Danvers Statement," endorsed by men like Wayne Grudem and John Piper of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.)

Last week, I posted a few paragraphs excerpted from Rachel's book.  Kristen made a typically astute comment with a question, an important question:

"Rachael saw her father like the Father God; but her mother was so like Christ, and yet she doesn't mention that; only that her mother pointed her to Christ. Why is that?"

So today, I'd like to look at how else Rachel writes about her mother in relation to God.  Is God only a father?  Or is the image and imagination of God as Father as inclusive of Rachel's female parent as it is of her male parent?  Here are a few more paragraphs, a few more pages into Rachel's book, a few more years into her life and her learning, her evolving.  What do you think?  And do you see the image of God, male and female, in either of your own parents?

Did you notice how Rachel says her mother influenced her?  What is it her mother teaches her about?  And for whom is she to look out?  What does she encourage her and her sister, as equals, to do?  How does she speak about others and who does she herself stand up to?  And why?  Did you notice how people around Rachel's mother feel when they are around her?  What did Rachel, and Amanda, inherit from their mother?  Why, nonetheless, do some "a lot of good Christian people" try to convince her that her mother's characteristic -- lived and taught and passed on like genetic material -- is "a sort of spiritual liability"?  Whose ways are more like "God's ways"?  Whose are "higher"?  And who is this other woman, also a mother, whom Rachel mentions in the context of speaking about Justice and equality and egalitarianism and the deserved chance to be loved and her own mother?  Who is this one whose life and death rocks Rachel's world?  She is Zarmina; so, who's she?  

(So I'm asking you now to buy Rachel's book and to read it for yourself.  To see whether you and your world might evolve a little too.  To see what and how you might learn something.  Yes, I know Rachel is a woman.  John Piper says it's okay for all of you men to learn from her, a little only.  Just don't let her become your spiritual head.  After you read Rachel's book, then come back over here; and pardon me for linking to a world-rocking video of this other mother, the one that changes Rachel's perspectives in profound ways.  Maybe click this link first and read again a bit more.  Just only then and after that click this link from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan when you are ready and not before, please.  We may never be ready. But what can we learn? Can we evolve?)

Friday, September 9, 2011

who and God had a lot of things in common

If Frank Schaeffer and Pearl S. Buck are my MK cousins (that is, are evangelical Christian missionaries' kids, like me), then Rachel Held Evans is similarly kin to my spouse (whose parents are in full-time Christian education and churchwork).  She recently finished Held Evans's book Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions, saying how it really resonated with her, and so now I'm reading it.  Just a few pages in, I'm struck by how the author describes her parents, and how differently.  Through daughter and little girl eyes, she somehow finds God like father but mother otherwise.  Take a read and see for yourself.  A telling contrast comes in the final sentence of the four paragraphs excerpted below.  I don't have much time really to say more here at the blog but have been thinking about this all day, about imagination and where it ends up sometimes before it can evolve elsewhere.  Your thoughts?
The daughter of a genuine, certified theologian, I'd memorized the "Four Spiritual Laws" before I'd memorized my own address. My father earned a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, a school famous for producing megachurch pastors like Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, and Andy Stanley. Instead of pursuing full-time ministry, however, my father committed his life to Christian education, which I suppose explains the plastic cups. A college professor, he often invited his brightest students over for coffee and long talks about hermeneutics and eschatology and epistemology. I loved falling asleep to the sound of their voices undulating from the living room. I felt secure in knowing that while I slept, my father was awake having important conversations about God.

I always looked up to my father with a sense of reverent awe. It wasn't that I thought he possessed supernatural powers or anything; I just imagined that he and God had a lot of things in common, that they subscribed to the same magazines and wore similar shoes. Looking back, I realize how important it was that my father loved me so openly and listened so carefully. My first impressions of my heavenly Father were that he too was gentle, playful, and kind.

Despite knowing about dispensationalism long before I probably should have, I never felt trapped in a world of endless churchgoing. My mother had been raised Independent Baptist and as a girl was forbidden to dance and go to movies. Determined to avoid legalism, she let Amanda and me wait until we were good and ready before we got baptized, took communion, or asked Jesus into our hearts. Her private disdain for potlucks and church business meetings kept us from being at church every time the doors were opened, and I noticed that she got a little fidgety whenever the pastor discussed wives submitting to their husbands. I loved this about her, the same way I loved the scent of her cherry-almond lotion when she tucked me into bed at night.

A substitute teacher at my elementary school, my mother earned a reputation for doting on the needy kids. Those with absent parents, stained shirts, runny noses, and learning disabilities always left her classroom beaming with self-confidence. I think I must have gotten my bleeding heart from her, which, combined with my father's cautious idealism, accidentally made me into a liberal. If my father gave Christianity a head, my mother gave it a heart and hands, and it was her tender telling of the story of the cross, mingled with cherry almond, that first moved me to ask Jesus into my heart.

to hear Arcangela Tarabotti

Arcangela Tarabotti was a feminist ahead of her time. Though forced into a convent in 17th century Venice, she wrote blistering attacks on patriarchal repressiveness in the family, the state and even the Church....

Tarabotti's story, and in large measure her daring, may have been exceptional in European Christendom (until the 14th century, generally only nuns were taught reading and writing ). However, the Renaissance era was marked by additional female - and also male - voices that rebelled against the conventions and sought to prove that women were not, as described in the Italian translation of Aristotle, "defective males." The female writers were from the upper-middle class - aristocrats, nuns and courtesans. They wrote fiction, poetry, philosophy and satire, and availed themselves of every literary style of the time. In Venice, too, Tarabotti was not the only defiant - and successful - female writer. Already in 1600, four years before she was born, two books were published there which are still considered milestones among women's works on gender issues. They are "The Worth of Women," by Moderata Fonte, who died eight years earlier in childbirth; and "The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men," by Lucrezia Marinella, a contemporary of Tarabotti's who was a prolific and very popular writer.

[Tarabotti's] family was of Jewish origin, and had resided around Modena before coming to Venice as "conversos." (Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition).
--- Michal Levertov, "Get thee to a nunnery,"
Today, Levertov announces a new edition:
The new annotated English version of "Convent Life as Inferno" is the work of two Italian-born scholars who teach in England: Dr. Francesca Medioli (introduction and notes ) and Dr. Letizia Panizza (translation ). Medioli, director of the Center for Italian Women's Studies at the University of Reading, rescued Tarabotti's manuscript in 1990 and brought about its publication in Italy. Panizza lectures in the Department of Italian at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Her annotated translation of Tarabotti's "Paternal Tyranny" was published in 2004 in a University of Chicago Press series about women's writing in the Renaissance called "The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe." The series now appears under the imprint of the University of Toronto Press, which will publish "Convent Life as Inferno" in 2012.
From it, you'll be able to read Panizza's translation and to hear Tarabotti's insight.  Listen to her a bit now, from her Paternal Tyranny:
After the Lord had created the universe and all the animals - as I have just said - it is written, "And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good" (Gn 1:31). He then set about shaping the proudest animal of all; but when He had finished, He did not deem His work perfect and so did not recognize it as good. For this reason, Genesis does not add the same words as before; but foreseeing that without woman man would be the compendium of all imperfections, God said after some thought, "It is not good for man to be alone, let us make him a help like unto himself" (Gn 2:18). Thus He willed to bring forth a companion for man, who would enrich him with merits and be the universal glory of the human race (46).

As soon as His Majesty said the word "help," He immediately added, "like unto himself," implying that woman is of just as much value as man (50).

If he alone had the grace of free will and was superior to Eve, she would not have sinned at all, despite the serpent's promptings and insinuations, for the simple reason that she could not have made choices without her husband's consent (51).

Eve is deceived by the serpent's cunning, and you place all the blame on her. Adam falls for a charming request, and you excuse him. He knew he was offending God; he was not deceived by cunning, but beseeched by an innocent and sincere creature. Have you ever heard of greater wickedness than shielding yourself against your own faults with another's innocence (52)?

Our ancient mother set us a true example: as soon as she was created, she used her free will given by God; her first act was to gaze upon the tree that would bear the fruit of knowledge. Desire pursued her eye; overcome, she aroused the same desire in Adam. It was his excessive gullibility that deprived the whole human race of the happy state of innocence (109).

Adam alone, not Eve, was commanded not to eat the forbidden fruit - which means that his sin, not hers, brought ruin to the world. [...] and for that reason the apostle Paul says, "Through one man sin entered the world [...] (122)."
 [sources: ]

Sunday, September 4, 2011

BLT: a new blog on the Bible, Literature, and Translation

- Racism in Translation

- an announcement of The Jewish Annotated New Testament coming soon from Oxford University Press
That's just a foretaste of what you're to find at, a new blog on the Bible, Literature, and Translation.

The most informed and informative literary blogger, Theophrastus, is the one starting the blog.  (He's also the best biblioblogger with a pseudonym, although the Biblioblogger Library has yet to include him or his blog.  Likewise, he has more insight on translation theory and translation practice with respect to the Bible and other literature than many of us.)  He announces the formation of the blog, here and also here, where you are welcomed
Welcome to the blog named BLT. It is not just a sandwich.  It stands for a set of topics that we hope to discuss:  Bible, Literature, and Translation.  We’ll talk about the Bible as literature and the literature of translation and the translation of Bibles and the translation of literature and literature of translation and Bible as a translation and literary translations of Bibles and so on.  And we are certain to throw in the arts, the sciences, philosophy, mysticism, religion, and pretty much everything else.

The initial crew of bloggers represents a diverse set of viewpoints but one that is unified in our openness to new ideas and a fundamental belief in the dignity of all humans.  This blog is open to all: Jews, Catholics, Mainliners, Evangelicals, Eastern Christians, Atheists, Theists outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, etc.  For me a strong underlying theme of this blog is that  everyone has a voice — especially people that have been traditionally marginalized.

I’ll let my co-bloggers (currently J. K. Gayle, Suzanne McCarthy, and Craig Smith) introduce themselves, but I’ll simply mention that I am a professor at a US university with strong interests in applied issues in linguistics.

There won’t be any bacon or other treif meat in my posts, but there will be lots of substance.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Notice that Suzanne McCarthy, whom Theophrastus mentions, is the most current top and #1 Biblioblogger in the Top 10 Biblioblogs by the most recent vote among all bibliobloggers in the world, the most democratic measure of the Top.  Her blog, Suzanne's Bookshelf, is also #37, in the most current top 40 of the Top 50.

Notice that Craig Smith, whom Theophrastus mentions, blogs at Notes from the Dreamtime and is the only biblioblogger to have produced an entire translation of all the Hebrew and the Greek of the whole Bible, actually The First Egalitarian Translation ever, although he also is yet to be included in the Biblioblogger Library.

And Theophrastus mentions me.  But you already know me.  More importantly, you are invited to BLT!  Feel free to get the word out.

Part 4, Dynamic UnEquivalence: Nida v. Jin (and Gayle)

Somebody at the Better Bibles Blog called Eugene Nida a “translation statesman.” It was Wayne Leman.
(And I thought to myself, “Cicero, the statesman of translation.”)
Wayne later just as publicly accused me of caricaturing Nida. Wayne made what he claimed was a “safe” assumption that I had not read Nida or Nida disciples very widely or deeply. His evidence for his rather flimsy claim was the fact that I had quoted early Nida (because nobody else had quoted Nida in his very own words); I used direct quotations and had applied these statements by this "statesman" to actual examples of Bible translation that others in the comment thread were bringing in. And Wayne went even further, to say, to me, not to you, rather pointedly, directly, and even repeatedly: “I would, again, refer you to the actual writings of the Bible societies people, people trained by Nida, to find out that they are concerned with the very things you are concerned about, but which you claim DE people are not.” And so Wayne directed me, not you, to some books, as if this would help me get them and read them faster, presuming, by his claim, that I have not already read very deeply or widely the disciples of Nida who have moved on from their teacher; Wayne linked to the first-published jointly-authored book by Lynell Zogbo and Ernst Wendland and two other books by Wendland.
(And I thought to myself, “I wonder why didn’t Wayne mention and link to Zogbo’s and Wendland’s more recent book, Prophetic Rhetoric: Case Studies in Text Analysis and Translation.”)
[Please do note, dear reader, the comments below here, the on-going exchange between Wayne Leman and me.  He's wanting you not to see my comments here about him, in this post here above the comments, to be the first ones you read.  And, agreeing with him, I'd actually advise you to go back to the BBB comment thread to read it for yourself if you are interested in how different it might be from how I've framed here in my post what he wrote at the BBB.  In fairness to Wayne, he's continued to appeal to me, saying, "Again, I would encourage you to revise your first comments about me in your post, especially since they are the first things people read in your post. And you know how important the first and last things are for readers in terms of memory retention of the contexts of something they have read."  This is Wayne's caution to you, my dear reader.  Please read as you will, critically if you can.]

The conversation at BBB is winding down. Wendland has contributed frequently, constantly pressing everybody to move on beyond Nida. More than that, Wenland has made two recent comments in which he even “steers” BBB readers away from his “own stuff” – his publications, even the two with Zogbo, that move on from Nida – and Wendland goes on to “recommend just five older, (I would say) classic works, for starters.” He recommends three books by Robert Alter, including his Literary Guide to the Bible with Frank Kermode, and two books by Leland Ryken, including his Complete Literary Guide to the Bible with Tremper Longman III. Then Wenland agrees with Wayne on one final point, finally saying the following: “[M]uch more interdisciplinary work is necessary in the field of Bible translation. Intra-disciplinary as well, I would say—that is, interacting with the field of secular translation studies.” He urges BBB readers to go to the SIL center in Dallas next month for “Bible Translation 2011” after he’s made this final, parting comment: “Secular translators need to keep up with what’s going on in the theory and practice of Bible translation—and not remain with their eyes fixed, for good or ill, on Nida and his works.”
(And I thought to myself, “Eugene Nida only died 10 days ago.”)
This is now my fourth post in a series of four on Nida. Wendland’s final comment, dividing “secular” translators from “Bible” translators got me wondering how he’d classify Eunice Pike and Naomi Seidman and Lynell Zogbo and Willis Barnstone.
(And I thought to myself, the following:

I wonder how Jin Di would find himself classified by Ernst Wendland. Have the two ever met? What they have in common – regardless of some strict middle-exclusionary divisive “secular” v. “Bible” translation categorization made by Wendland in a parting comment at BBB – is that both Jin and Wendland have met Nida and want to move on. Wenland wants to move on with Bible translation, now with a more literary focus.  Jin wants to move on with secular translation and with Bible translation but with a notable difference from Nida.

Jin, of course, is perhaps best known in the USA for his translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses into Chinese. But I think he wants me, and you too, to know that he’s moved on from Nida.

In 1984, Jin and Nida co-wrote the book, On Translation: with Special Reference to Chinese and English. And then in 2006, Jin annotated and republished their entire book as Part 1. In the same 2006 volume, he added his own Part 2, several of his own essays, to explain just how far from Nida he then was.

Jin describes the difficult parting between himself and Nida. He’d disagreed with Nida over his famous and repeated appraisal of the J.B. Phillips’s translation as exemplary DE translation, a sort of watershed in the progress of Bible translation, as evidenced by Nida’s most-oft quoted example, the line: “give one another a hearty handshake all around” as opposed to the more literal “greet one another with a holy kiss.” Jin began to appeal to what works better for “a literary piece as a work of art” and began to question Nida’s linguistics as serving purposes for merely “religious translation” [see page 211 of the 2006 edition.]

In the Appendix for On Translation: An Expanded Edition, Jin publishes and comments on an interview he’d granted to John Kearnes. One section of the interview transcript is entitled, “Translation Theory and Eugene Nida.” There, Kearnes asks Jin if he would comment particularly on his work with Nida, particularly on their book, On Translation: with Special Reference to Chinese and English. Jin replies:
Sure, that was a really important link in my work on translation theory. You must have noticed that my relationship with Dr. Nida, mainly in regard to my theoretical approach to translation, was a main theme for the talk, “Literature and Exoticism” that I gave at the ceremony two days ago. . . Because of my three decades of experience in translating, I had been asked to serve at my university as a translation consultant for a group translation project and to work as a translation teacher at its new graduate school. . . . and toward the end of those 1970s I was writing first drafts of what eventually evolved into On Translation. I was giving lectures based on those drafts, and an American professor by the name of Tom Scovel found, when he attended one of my lectures, that my views were very close to Dr. Nida’s. Professor Scovel was not translator or translation theorist and did not know Dr. Nida personally but, being a warm-hearted Christian, he got in touch with Nida’s American Bible Society and helped make arrangements which enabled me to meet Dr. Nida in the U.S. in 1982. . . [D]uring the year, and for each chapter of the book I traveled to Greenwich, Connecticut where, in Dr. and Mrs. Nida’s very hospitable house, he and I discussed my draft and brought it into shape.

The discussions were very thoroughgoing. . . . I was and am still extremely grateful to him for the time and energy he generously put into this close collaboration, and in particular for the theoretical orientation based on the concept of equivalent effect that he had treated in his books . . . .

I believe On Translation, published in 1984, was and remains a sound exposition of the principles of translation and has been particularly useful for translation practitioners and students with the examples it provides. In the mid-1908s I began to deviate from Nida’s teachings in one particular aspect of the concept of dynamic equivalence, as I explained in my talk “Literature and Exoticism.” I don’t think we have time to go into that in this interview, but . . . in 1987 I sent Dr. Nida a copy of my typescript of the very first article I wrote which indicated that deviation. Obviously he did not like it, for he never replied to my letter . . . . [pages 304 – 305].
That Nida never replied to Jin was most difficult. Neither man was trying to reconcile the difference in their [Bible] translation theory. Jin’s theory departed from Nida’s. But, more importantly, Nida left Jin in silence.)
Nida has left all of us and is now silent. Like Cicero, the translation statesman, he’s left us with a theory perhaps dynamically equivalent to that of the Roman rhetorician. As we all know, Nida loved to quote, and even at times misquoted, Cicero. We have their words.
(And I thought to myself, I’m not so sure we all need to rush to leave Nida behind. I’m not talking about embracing his theory now that he’sgone.

But I’m not talking about going with his project full force either. It’s the missionary ethnocentricism that is embedded in Western logic, yes even Aristotle’s and Cicero’s who were not Christians but were missionaries for their own causes, that those who would abandon Nida now still embrace. What I’m talking about is the arrogance of presuming one’s own cultural and tradition is normative for everybody else.

Let me just say again what I’m finding about translation. I’m saying this again as an evangelical Christian missionary’s kid still growing up as a third-cultural kid. I’m saying this as somebody who continues to talk with SIL/ Wycliffe Bible translators after having done lots of reading and having completed a Master’s oF arts degree in Linguistics, which involved many lectures and articles and books by Bible translators, some secular translators too, including Nida. I’m saying this as someone who will try to make it over to Dallas to SIL for their Bible translation conference next month, because a BBB contributor, David Frank, is giving a paper there and as invited me to hear his talk. I’m saying this as somebody who applies his linguistics training to higher education work every single work day of the year. I’m saying this as someone who has a ph.d. in language, in rhetorics and in Aristotle’s Rhetoric of Athens and now of the West and in its reception and its translation.

What I’m finding is that Nida’s dynamic translation theory is too reductive. It’s complicit in what Nancy Mairs sees as the “fundamental structure of the patriarchy”: the binary. Good translations do many different things. They engage, alternatively, in what Robert E. Quinn has called, in a far different academic context, the “telling strategy,” the “forcing strategy,” the “negotiating strategy,” and the “self transforming strategy.” Statesman Nida, I believe, engaged in the “forcing strategy.” That is, he forces receptors of Bible translations to stay in their own cultures and prevents them from engaging in the Other. This post is already going way too long to explicate this any further. [Elsewhere, there's another 4-part series on something like this that went on something like that:  part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.]

I do want to acknowledge, nonetheless, that although Wayne has accused me of being ignorant of Nida and of his later disciples and of failing to read, he’s also apologized at BBB to me in a sense. I have no hard feelings. And I do want you to know that I believe that Wayne, despite his entrenched views on missionary Bible translation, is one who engages nonetheless in “self transformative strategies.”  And that is, in fact, a very very good thing.

Wayne, in comments at another BBB post, made these precious statements. In email, he has given me permission to repost them here:
"Similarly, I believe that Jesus set new patterns for treatment of women. He treated them with greater respect and honor than they were typically accorded in his day. We did not see abolition of slavery within Bible times nor specific calls from any biblical authors for slaves to be emancipated. Yet I believe that God has been pleased whenever emancipation has occurred, especially if it was done in a way that accorded dignity to freed slaves and helped them become financially independent.

Similarly, I don’t believe that God has been pleased when men have owned their wives. But God has tolerated inferior social systems rather than calling for changing everything within them all at once. I personally believe that a marriage model that focuses more on a woman’s submission to her husband than a husband’s duty to sacrificially love his wife is inferior and, yes, even unbiblical. I grew up in such a household. My mother had to submit to my father or else he would beat her. He beat her anyway when she did something that displeased him such as accidentally scorching potatoes when she was cooking them."
The only exception I take to Wayne's precious statement above is that I do not think that "Jesus set new patterns for treatment of women."  I strongly believe that Jewish women and men long before Jesus, who was a Jew and was not a Christian, were the ones who actually set the patterns for good treatment of women by men and by women.  Jesus, in fact, did recover them.  And that also is, in fact, a very very good thing.  Eugene Nida's DE theory and practice, I'm afraid, may have contributed to burying the good and the Jewish cultural patterns of good treatment of women.
Wayne did want me to let you know who he is by name. He said to quote him by name when I reproduced the quotations. And he added this:
“BTW, Kurk, since my father has died I now feel free to have my Al Johnson poems under my own name.
I’d told him I wanted to link to an older post where, also with Wayne’s permission, I reproduced one of his poems. Here it is:

I’m telling you all of this because I have a missionary evangelical Christian patriarch, my own father, who is in the final stages of what his doctors have told him is inoperable and incurable cancer.  He was, in some unfortunate respects, like Wayne's father.  In some fortunate turns for my father and for my mother and for all of us in my family, my father has rethought things and has made amends and has given much and has received much requested forgiveness.  There is restoration and reconcilation.  The translations are coming. The transformations and self transformations are already happening.)
I hope I’ll remember Eugene Nida and his dynamic equivalence theory for the rest of my life. Not because I believe in his missionary project. I do not. But because he’s contributed to our thinking and practices of translation, secular and Bible, theory and work that we who are still alive may and do need to continue to study. When we stop changing, when we quit remembering, when we cease from learning, we die.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

pt 3, Dynamic unEquivalence: Nida v. Barnstone

This is part 3 of a series. In part 1, we considered how Eugene Nida’s reductive theory of dynamic equivalence opposed Eunice Pike’s much more robust theory and practice of translating. In part 2, we looked at how Nida’s simplistic focus on language as mere communication excludes culture and Jewishness in the Bible and how it takes people like Naomi Seidman and Lynell Zogbo to point out his ethnocentrism and to recover and to give us some recovery from it. In part 3, let’s review Nida’s binary and then let Willis Barnstone propose how to bust that up.

To be sure, Barnstone’s theory of language is as robust as Pike’s. Moreover, his work in translation is informed by his theory and is incredibly prolific. And, certainly, Barnstone’s knowledge of Bible translation is equal to Seidman’s and to Zogbo’s. He’s a well-researched scholar, a poet, a historian, a theoretician, and a practitioner of translation in general and of Bible translation in particular. I think he knows the anti-Semitic tendencies of much Christian Bible translation, and just a read of his essay, “How through False Translation into and from the Bible Jesus Ceased To Be a Jew,” gives evidence. All that to say, I don’t want us to pigeonhole Pike or Seidman or Zogbo or Barnstone as specialists with tunnel vision whose particular and individual and singular respective view only offers just one of several needed vantages from which to take down Nida’s dynamic equivalence theory.

Nor do I want to box in Nida. Nor do I desire for anyone to do that. I do want to notice the problems his reductive theory has caused. I do want you to see he’s caused issues for others and how they must deal with these. So here’s Barnstone.

Barnstone’s issues with Nida include two that I’d like to highlight here. The first is that Nida’s linguistics operates on the binary principle of a sort of reductive “linguistics v. literature,” and especially literature that is part and parcel of cultural patterns and the arts. The second issue is that Nida’s “form v. message” message is an unnecessarily simplistic binary.

First, Barnstone seems to be very generous to Nida. Here’s an excerpt from Barnstone’s book, The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice (page 224):
Returning to mainstream linguistics and literature, the joining of what might be considered science and art has not been “a happy alliance,” to use the words of Henry G. Schogt in his recent book Linguisitics, Literary Analysis, and Literary Translation. I do not wish to denigrate the work of older pioneers in translation theory: Quine’s indeterminacy of translation, Catford’s translation shifts and his application of Firth-Halliday linguistics to translation, Mounin’s linguistic techniques, which represent “un art fondé sur une science” (Problèmes théoriques 17), and the comparative discourse links expressed by the team of Jean-Paul Vinay and the late Jean Darbelnet (the latter my esteemed teacher) are all purely linguistic without reference to literature. Even Nida’s primary purpose has been to spread the Christian faith through denotative translations favoring “content over connotative and associative elements . . . content over form, and . . . decoder-oriented” (Schogt, Linguistics 104). Because their intentions and practice belong to linguistic theory, not literary analysis, they should not be reproached for what is neither their domain nor their intent.
Don’t reproach Nida, Barnstone suggests. But then he goes on to talk about the problems of Nida’s separation of his would-be communication-science linguistics from literature. Barnstone writes:
Disturbing, however, is the frequent expectation that linguistics provides a model for literary translation analysis and theory. We can easily identify the source of the temptation – translation, after all, ordinarily involves a linguistic activity between languages. So why not turn to linguistics for the theoretical frame of literary translation? Because to make linguistics the major instrument for the analysis or theory of literary translation is no more nor less reasonable than to make linguistics the major instrument for the analysis or theory of literature. Linguistics has essentially forsworn literary, and specifically literary translation, theory. That is its privilege and apparently for the moment its fate. Although linguistics and philosophy have largely ignored literary translation, their own work, forbidding to the nonlinguist, unnecessarily casts a shadow over the serious value of nonlinguistic approaches. Were linguistics to be serious about literary translation . . . it would be welcome.
Okay. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a blog post. I’d urge you to read Barnstone’s books, to see the various things he develops along these lines with respect to Nida and his reductive non-literary theory of translation. (For that matter, I would encourage you to read more of Nida for yourself. I’ll say more in comments if anybody is interested in what I’d recommend.)

Barnstone gets to another problem with Dynamic Equivalence, when he translates the New Testament and writes commentary on it. In his commentary, Barnstone identifies three different registers for translation. Notice three in contrast to simply an EITHER / OR two. Nida posits the simple binary:
"[T]here are fundamentally two different types of equivalence [in translation]: one which may be called formal and another which is primarily dynamic."
Nida writes of "Two [and only two] Basic Orientations in Translating," in his book, Toward a Science of Translating with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures involved in Bible Translating, on pages 120-21:
EITHER [1] translation has an orientation towards “formal equivalence . . . concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, concept to concept," which “might be called 'a gloss translation,' in which the translator attempts to reproduce as literally and meaningfully as possible the form and content of the original.”

OR [2] there is, “[i]n contrast, a translation which attempts to produce a dynamic rather than a formal equivalence [which] is based upon 'the principle of equivalent effect' (Rieu and Phillips, 1954) . . . and aims at complete naturalness of expression, . . . tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture[, and] . . . does not insist that he understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message.”
Barnstone rejects this binary. He says there may well be:
[1] a gloss for the reader who wants help with the source text [i.e., an interlinear] and [2] imitation for the ['translating'] writer who wants to collaborate with, adapt, or rewrite a precursor's [originally-authored] work....

There is also [nevertheless] [3] a middle ground between [1] gloss and [2] imitation, whose purpose is to hear the source author more clearly than the translator author (page 1290 of The Restored New Testament, Barnstone’s translation).
With respect to the Bible, an example Barnstone gives of [1] “a gloss” is “[t]he Jesus Seminar translation of the gospels... heavy in explanation and conceptualization of image and metaphor, [that] uses key words to clarify rather than to express.” This is Nida’s so-called “formal or literal equivalence.”

An illustration of [2] “imitation,” according to Barnstone, is “John Dominic Crossan's adroit transformations of Yeshua's sayings into minimalist poems.” For Nida, this would be closer to his ideal of “dynamic or functional equivalence.”

Finally, Barnstone’s alternative to these two is the more exemplary [3] “middle ground” translation approach, the approach that he says “is Tyndale's... autonomous restatement” and is also what Robert Alter is doing “in making the literal literary” with his translating of the Hebrew Bible.

As Barnstone himself attempts making the literal literary in translation of the New Testament, he says, “This is the difficult middle way.” He calls his work [3] “an autonomous text to be read in English as scripture. . . .” (pages 1289-91).

Barnstone gets his idea for [3] “the literal literary” not first from Bible translators such as Tyndale and Alter but from a translator of Homer's Odyssey: from Robert Fitzgerald. When Fitzgerald began to translate Homer, he first asked Ezra Pound, “How?” Pound replied, “Let Homer say everything he wanted to say.” This was the middle way between [1] glossing Homer's Greek and [2] imitating it.

There is not doubt that this advice was unusual for Pound. The translator was one who's “normal practice” was never [1] to gloss but was normally [2] to take “tremendous freedoms” as he “imitated, and intimately collaborated with or overcame the author in his best translations from Anglo-Saxon and Chinese.” Barnstone adds: “and they may be his own best poems” not necessarily giving any credit whatsoever to the original authors. Nonetheless, Pound advises Fitzgerald [3] to take the middle way between [1] literal glossing and [2] dynamic or functional equivalence license.

Barnstone explains this [3] “middle ground” approach as “both literal and literary.” We might use Nida’s terms and call it “both formal and functional” and “both literal and dynamic.” Barnstone says:
    The translator in service of the source author becomes more invisible as the art intensifies, permitting the reader [3] to see Homer or Dante or the Bible and, as Pound suggested, [3] to hear them have their say. By contrast, in the inevitable collaboration between author and translator, as we move from [1] re-creation to [2] imitation, the earlier author tends to disappear, overcome by the voice of the translating author. (page 1292).
Nida, to be clear, advocates [2] the dynamic or functional imitation of the text's effect on receptors. Thus, I'd like to end the post now with a contrastive illustration of Nida's approach and Barnstone's.

In his entry "Bible translation," for the first edition of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Nida gives an example of a translation of his from the New Testament. He writes:
Since the relevance of a message is not in the formal features of a text but in its semantic content, some measure of freedom is required if the target audience is to understand the biblical text. The heavy weight of tradition, however, often stifles a translator's creativity and obstructs a reader's comprehension. For example, most English-speakers have no idea what Hallowed be thy name (the first petition of the Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:9) really means. The Greek text can be translated literally [1] as 'Sanctified be thy name', in which 'name' is a Semitic way of avoiding a direct reference to God, and 'sanctified' must refer not to the character of God, but to the manner in which He is recognized by peole as being truly God. Accordingly, it is more relevantly rendered [2] as May all people realize that you are God or Help us to honour you as God or even as Help us to honour your name. (page 26)
Barnstone, in contrast, avoids either [1] literally translating or [2] telling readers what must really be meant by the Hebraic Hellene ultimately rendered "relevantly" in a non-Jewish but English "reader-comprehensible" sense.

By the way, the Jewish Matthew translates and writes the spoken Jewish words of the Jewish Jesus to his Jewish audience by this Jewish Greek:
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομα σου·
Barnstone works, likewise, to Let Matthew let Jesus say everything that he wanted to say. They give voice to Yeshua ben Yosef. "Yet hear that voice and hear a poet." Barnstone lets Matthew, who is Mattityahu, say everything that he wanted to say. He gives voice to Mattityahu:
hallowed be your name.
A literary literal rendering of a Jewish prayer. So who's stifled whom and who's obstructed what?