Extremely Late Week3 Notes

January 20, 2010

These are extremely late because these notes were taken the week that we learned my mother had cancer. She’s since had her kidney out and is stable and starting to get up and about again, but frankly it’s a damn miracle I made it to any classes at all in week 3. This is, in fact, the only class of Translation Theory I got to that week; Monday was a holiday and Friday was the earliest I could skive off to get home and see my family. Thus, this post is the entire round-up for that week.

***transl theory 1/20 week three wednesday***
my power has been out for thirty-six hours now. the power outages and surges fried WG’s disk so we’re going off the chalkboard today. He lives in the mountains too, has surge protectors on everything but the laptop. I need to remember to unplug my other laptop.

Begin section on the Bible; most translated book ever. Importance thereof in development of linguistics and transl theory. Missionaries wrote bunches of grammars, det’d transcriptions/alphabets.
Everything that is on the chalkboard:

This is a feature of the Christian Bible specifically. Unusual text in that it exists only in translation; there is no “original.” W/ Koran and Torah only the originals are allowed to be Holy; Bible, this is untrue, which is weird because Bible is partly taken from Torah. Gospels written some in Greek/Aramaic. Greek Orthodoxy had to transl Aramaic into Greek. Wut whut.

Claim made: divine/divinely-inspired text. Have to wonder about divine inspiration for translators. Problem: one should not delve too deeply from POV of believers into lives of translators; they’re all sinners and probably not holy enough to get the word from god properly. But god forgives and moves in mysterious ways so perhaps this was a form of penance… Several translators = martyrs; first ones transl into English burned at the stake. Wooo! One of them died, then a couple years later they dug up his bones and burned them. wtf wtf I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

Divine inspiration: underlies main ideology of biblical translation = literalism. Very important because this is the word of god as spoken to whatever, have to be preserved literally, not modified.

Inerrancy: doctrine to which fundamentalists subscribe– Bible does not have internal contradictions, and never errs, because it is of divine origin. Always. True. Interpretations must be completely literal. Problematic for poor woobular biblical scholars: no inconsistency-noticing allowed!

What do Biblical translations DO? Provide the faithful with a version of the text which is considered to be the “authorized” version. Lot of ~discussions~ about these transl’s therefore. [Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; give unto God what is God’s.]

How to make a Christian Bible. Early Christians were old religious Jews from different sects. Judaism since 400BCE agitated by Messianic movements and different readings; it was not unusual to have diff groups vying for own version of interpretation of texts. First followers of Jesus were trying to demarkate themselves from the rest of these sects. Started putting together texts and translated them to assert diffs.

Everyday language of Jesus’ time is Aramaic; no one speaks Hebrew, very few write it. Rabbis can read it. Writing many of the discussions in Aramaic and Syriac: both semitic langs, spoken across much of middle east. Very different from Hebrew, has its own literature; much of the Talmud is written in Aramaic. Very learned people probably knew Hellenistic Greek– language of the schools at that time. Hence Greek gospels. Hellenistic =/= Attic, but very servicable; Paul writes letters in it. Characteristic of the Christians: want to reach beyond Jews to convert Gentiles to their revelation thus adopt Greek as the language. Try to deJudize the new religion.

Ebionites=first Christians. Very aware of the fact that they were Jews, saw no contradiction. By end of 1st cent., when Gospel of John is being written (John = Jew trained in Greek) differentiating from Judaism. Putting together of Christian scriptures into Greek is animated to make Jewishness of Jesus and immediate followers disappear. “A kind of an ethnic cleansing.” Jews appear only as bad guys.

This is accomplished primarily with the names. Jesus / Iesous (in Greek and Iesus in Latin) = Greek for Joshua. Yah-hoshia = help to Yahweh. Christos in Greek = “annointed one” from Hebrew = mashiah messiah. Annointment consisted in applying animal fat or oil (lamb or olive) to mark someone to be spared when divine justice is dealt. Sign of election and salvation. Linked to religious practices more related to public health in Egypt and Babylonia; fat-based ungents protected from plagues. (Egyption kohl actually is tincture of silver and lead to keep flies out of eyes out. Huh.)

Mary > Maria > Mariam > Miriam
Jacob in Old Test., James in New Test. In both Greek has Iakobos. Emphasis on separation between Old=Jewish and New=Christian. Genealogies: in Greek, Iesous has Iesous in ancestry- transl didn’t allow that, edited to Jose/Jeso. More recent ones call him Joshua. Lol okay. Will never see contemporary transl that calls him Jesus; Rheims-Douai translation from 16th cent does, very latinate, pretty unreadable, were translating from the Vulgate.

Judas: there are several! One is son of Jacob, one is Iscariot, one is brother of Jesus, one is author of a letter in the New testament. Judas needs to be unique! Like Jesus! (I hope someone edits MY history like this so there’s just one of me.)
Son of Jacob = Judah
Brother of Jesus = Juda
Author of letter = Jude
All the same in the greek! Really! Done in the name of ~inerrancy and literalism and divine inspiration~ of course.

Translation creates a new original.

When people address Jesus in gospels 15 times address him as “rabbi,” 120 as “master,” 60 as “lord.” Gospels of Mark Matthew Luke: Matthew and Luke had access to Mark as well as other sources.
>Covering same event: conversing with Moses and Elijah, Peter asks what he talked about.
>>Mark = rabbi
>>Matthew = lord (Kyrie)
>>Luke = teacher (epistata)
(Kepha = Peter, lol okay. For Latin pun.)
Probably actually used “rabbi,” means teacher/priest in Hebrew but entered Greek without problem, but oft is translated to Master or Lord or whatever. Changing to Kyrie/Rabbi/despote/didaskale/epistata erases Jewishness of Jesus and his followers.

These are not errors, these are deliberate choices. Not literal. Gets better! Designation of the people: followers of Jesus, and everyone else. The People = followers of Jesus; everyone else = The Jews. Lollllll okay. In early Israel: Jews, and People. Lovely. Jews= unfriendly unreformed unrepentant generally shitty. People = friendly accepting followers etc. Man this is depressing. How do we refer to the people living there? The Hebrews; weird name, never used by anyone at that time, that is the name of a language. Can we try that with Esperanto. I can hear the other linguists cringing behind me. O we are a sorry folk. The “Ancient Hebrews,” what the hell are those? Never call them the “Ancient Jews,” Jews are Jews. But Hebrews can become “Ancient.” Deracination! What an excellent word. “The first Christians;” what does that make contemporaries, belated/second-hand/delayed Chrsitians? Weirdcakes abound. We never see the term “Jewish Christians” but why not.

Anecdote time:
When the Jesuit Aricci traveled to china (had learned Chinese, was translating gospels, transld Confucius into Latin), he got a letter from an ancient Jewish community in Kai Feng. (Jews in China okay.) They write to him in Hebrew and address him as Rabbi. They say: we understand that you have some new Jewish scriptures and would like you to come to our synagogue and teach them. We have seen one (Gospel of John) and would like to see the original and want you to be our Rabbi. They had no difficulty understanding him as another Jew. He writes back to Rome and says that makes sense. Rome says stay in China, Inquisition will kill you. Woooo. Separation from Jewish tradition became so important.

Term “testament” refers to the notion of witness. Idea of witnessing and recounting embedded in that translation. Mistranslation, deliberately so. The Old Alliance/Covenant and New. Weirdcakes!


Story of Tower of Babel. Humans building tower that will reach Heaven, God is annoyed and “confounds their languages.” Most interpretations of that passage: moment when diverse languages of humans are born. Not at all! Early writers comment: purpose not to create languages but to prevent humans from understanding their own intentions. Intralingual confusion not interlingual. Could no longer align thoughts/actions/intentions. Gap would thwart the tower.
>Ur=location; Ziggurat=tower they were building. Abraham comes from there. There was a great flood probably in Euphrates valley. Something about Gilgamesh. Many biblical stories have counterpart in mesopotamian material; many proverbs also exist in Egyptian. Bible itself =compilation/translation!

Genesis! Sounds very pretty in Hebrew btw. In the beginning – vb singular created – elochim plural for gods – ….oooookay. Monotheism? The name for God at beginning is plural but verb is in the singular. Why! Where is the mistake? Here is somebody who did not know how to conjugate a verb. That grammatical error becomes theological tradition. That plural returns over and over again; in Genesis there are many strands and these depend on what name for gods. El/Yahweh/Jay/Harold Bloom strands. What? Two narratives of creation one of which is female. Ooookay.
>Plural indicative of something else


Back to Alexandria! Ptolemy was asking that a sample of everything be collected. One of the most interesting stories: under his own impetus, translation of Hebrew into Greek. This is told in the letter of Aristeas.
>One of the ministers of Pt went to him and said, the Jews have important religious/legal texts. You should order a translation for the library. Pt says yes but let’s do it here. Minister says the Jews in Alexandria have all kinds of versions; we have to get the very best version. Minister says we should consult with rabbis in Jerusalem, consult for best translators. So they brought them, flattered them, etc., ultimately took seventy (LXX), shipped them off to the island of Pharos, locked them up individually and started translating. “And god smiled upon them.” They did the whole thing in 72 days. Each had separate room so as to compare versions and choose which was the best. Lord had smiled upon them so they had each produced identical versions. Wooo. No need for reconciliation. Realized that this was a Holy text, superior to the originals! Original had only been given to Moses and passed down; here seventy people got the same divine inspiration. Aristeas claims to have witnessed these, despite having lived about a hundred years after this.

The Vulgate, translated from St. Jerome. He was a student of Greek and some Latin. Worked as secretary to early Pope. He wrote all kinds of things including drinking songs; a bit of a madman. In a dream he gets whipped by the angel of the lord for wasting his time when he should be providing the churches with a latin text. He wakes up, there are whip-marks so clearly this was a proper vision. He starts translating and gets into controversies: Marcion was also translating this at the time and had very specific ideologies, transl to fit. Augustine was against Marcion, also didn’t like Jerome’s, so attacks him. Jerome decides he will learn Hebrew and go from there as well as Greek. He’s not good at Hebrew though; we have his letters, thinks Hebrew is awful, his teacher is awful, drops teacher, moves to Palestine and learn there. No one really spoke Hebrew, he actually goes to Syria, Jerusalem, Tiberius, Constantinople, so forth. Finally goes back with his whole library and finds a cave and sits in that cave and translates. Produces the Vulgate. Augustine says: why is this text written in archaic latin, not the latin that is spoken contemporaneously? Jerome wants to make it look older than it already is so it presents a slight degree of difficulty. Nieztsche’s untimely remarks refer to Jerome: so that it does not belong to any given time, so it belongs to all time. Uproots the text from his own time. Church eventually decided it HAD to be a divinely inspired translation. Councel of Trent after Reformation that identified Latin Vulgate of Jerome as official bible of Catholic Church. This is RIDONKULOUS just so’s everyone knows.


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