Sunday, June 14, 2020

Terminology counts:
Wayne Coppins on rendering
“Urchristentum” as “primitive Christianity” and
“Frühchristentum” as “early Christianity” /

Η ορολογία μετράει:
Ο Wayne Coppins για την απόδοση
του “Urchristentum” ως «αρχέγονος χριστιανισμός» και
του “Frühchristentum” ως «πρώιμος χριστιανισμός»

In the first post of this blog, I discussed my reasons for translating Wissenschaft/wissenschaftlich as “science/scientific” in my 2013 translation of From Jesus to the New Testament and as “scholarship/scholarly” in my forthcoming translation (with Brian Pounds) of Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee—Savior of the World, both by Jens Schröter. While it is possible that I will continue to vary my translation of this term on a case by case basis, I think that I will most likely make a general shift in the direction of “scholarship/scholarly” in future translations, i.e., toward a translation that gives greater priority to the conventional language pattern of the target language. In this post, by contrast, I will discuss a case in which my thinking has moved in the opposite direction.
From the very first time that I read German works in translation it had annoyed me to read the words “primitive Christianity”. In short, the negative connotations of “primitive” always struck me as problematic and unnecessary. Accordingly, I never seriously considered employing these words as a translation for “Urchristentum” in my translation of From Jesus to the New Testament. Instead, my initial plan was to translate this phrase as “earliest Christianity”, which would allow me to maintain a distinction between “Urchristentum” and “Frühchristentum”. Upon further consideration, however, I settled on “early Christianity” for both terms, regarding the desire to maintain a distinction between them as less important than the priority of readability. While this approach seemed quite sensible at the time, I have subsequently changed my mind for two reasons. In fact, against my earlier inclinations I have decided to translate Urchristentum as “primitive Christianity”. What changed my mind?
First, I came across John Bowden’s translator’s note at the beginning of his translation of Gerd Theissen’s work Die Religion der ersten Christen: Eine Theorie der urchristlichen Religion (2000/2009), which was published by SCM as A Theory of Primitive Christian Religion (1999) and by Fortress Press as The Religion of the Earliest Churches: Creating a Symbolic World (1999). Bowden’s note convinced me that the meaning of “Urchristentum” was not adequately conveyed with translations such as “early Christianity”, “earliest Christianity”, or “nascent Christianity”. This note reads as follows:
“One aspect of this translation calls for comment, namely the way in which I have chosen to render the words Urchristentum and urchristlich which occur so often in this book. I recognize that many New Testament scholars regard ‘primitive’ as a ‘taboo’ adjective to apply to Christianity. However, I have discussed the question at length with friends who are expert in this field, both in Britain and in Germany, and they have confirmed me in the conviction that there is no other possible translation. ‘Ur-‘ does not mean ‘early’ or ‘earliest’ or ‘nascent’ or ‘in the making’, even if such terms are commonly used. It is a far richer term. ‘Primitive may not be the ideal rendering, but I hope that readers will agree that it does the job effectively.”
(For my own memories of John Bowden’s advice for translators, see here)
Secondly, a passage from my current BMSEC translation project, namely Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire) strengthened my conviction that it was necessary for the translator to maintain a clear distinction between “Urchristentum/primitive Christianity” and “Frühchristentum/early Christianity”. In short, through Markschies’ work I became aware of the fact that there has been extensive discussion within German scholarship about the connotations and appropriateness of the term Urchristentum, with some scholars arguing that this term should be  replaced by alternatives such as or “Frühchristentum/early Christianity” (S. Alkier) or “frühe Christentümer/early Christianities” (F. Vouga). Markschies himself contributes especially to the question of whether it is preferable to speak of “Christianity” or “Christianities” in relation to the findings of the second and third centuries (see p. 6 and pp. 337-383).
In relation to the term “Urchristentum”, Markschies (p. 5) observes that Francois Vouga (Geschichte des frühen Christentums, p. 13) has raised two objections against the use of this term: 1) it is said to imply “the equation of beginning and nature and the falling apart of truth and history” and 2) it is also said to contain “the idea of a degeneration of an original unity into groupings and heresies that are independent of one another”, which is viewed as untenable after Walter Bauer’s work. Moreover, Markschies notes that Stefan Alkier has both carefully traced the ideological implications of this term in his 1993 book Urchristentum. Zur Geschichte und Theologie einer exegetischen Disziplin (pp. 5-254!), and argued that the term “Urchristentum/primitive Christianity” should be abandoned in favor of the alternative term “Frühchristentum/early Christianity” (261-266). On the other hand, Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer have explicitly challenged the validity of Alkier’s line of argumentation (Jesus und Judentum, p. 5n. 8).
Against the background of this extensive discussion around the connotations and appropriateness of the term “Urchristentum” within the German language sphere, it now seems essential to me that translators not only translate “Urchristentum” in such a manner that it is clearly distinguished from “Frühchristentum”, but also that we render it in such a way that it reflects something of the nuance of meaning that has given rise to such debates about its appropriateness. And with this in mind, it seems to me that “primitive Christianity”, despite its shortcomings, comes closest to achieving these goals. This does not necessarily mean that Vouga’s analysis of the implications of the term is correct or normative. And it certainly does not mean that a given German author is necessarily using the word “Urchristentum” to imply what Vouga suggests the term implies, since some German authors may simply alternate between “Frühchristentum” and “Urchristentum” for reasons of style. But it does mean that unless the German author clarifies that “early Christianity” is the force that is intended throughout, the translation should reflect the word choice of the German version, so that the possibility of a difference in meaning and connotation may be considered by the English reader. This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that it was a bad decision for Fortress Press to revise Bowden’s initial translation of the title of Theissen’s work, for one of the most important aims of a publisher is to sell books, and it makes sense to conform the wording of a book’s title to the speech conventions of the target audience if this is likely to improve sales, even if this should not always be done with the work itself.
Appendix: for the relevance of this question for translation, consider the following sentence from Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen/Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (p. 76/p. ?): “Über ur- und frühchristlicher Lehrer und die Unterschiede zwischen beiden Gruppen sind ausführliche Monographien und detaillierte Aufsätze geschrieben worden”/”Comprehensive monographs and detailed articles have been written about primitive and early Christian teachers and the differences between the two groups”.
* Wayne Coppins,
Urchristentum, Primitive Christianity, and Early Christianity,”
German for Neutestamentler, 27 January 2014.

Jan Joosten's reference about the original rendering
of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in the LXX /

Ο Γιάν Γιούστεν για την αρχική απόδοση
του εβραϊκού Τετραγράμματου στην Εβδομήκοντα

click image to enlarge

The Milieu of the Septuagint
The canon is the most conspicuous peculiarity of the Septuagint when it is compared to the Hebrew Bible as we know it. But there are many other differences. The source text reflected in the Greek translation diverges often from the Masoretic text, aligning with the Samaritan Pentateuch or certain Qumran texts, or going its own way. The meaning expressed in Greek also often differs from the most straightforward reading of the Hebrew, whether because of diverging interpretive traditions or because of various types of misreading or misunderstanding. Finally there is the fact of translation itself. The Septuagint reflects a decision to read the Jewish scriptures in translation, without reference to the original Hebrew. This was never the practice in Judea, even though Aramaic translations existed. All these differences can be understood once we realize that the Septuagint came into being in a distinct milieu, far removed from the Jewish circles that curated and transmitted the Hebrew text in the form that became traditional in later Judaism: the western diaspora.
By the time the Pentateuch was translated into Greek, Jews had been in Egypt for centuries, as is established by the Elephantine archives and a series of documents from other sites. In Egypt, the Jewish community developed its own practices and traditions. The Hellenistic period saw new waves of migration from Judea to Egypt, as well as many other changes, but there was no clean break. Newly arrived Jews linked up with existing communities and adopted some of their views and traditions. Of course the western diaspora in all likelihood showed inner diversity. And of course there always were contacts with the Metropolis. But these circumstances do not preclude that the western diaspora may have differed globally from Judaism in the homeland and the eastern diaspora. Admittedly, we know very little about Egyptian Judaism, and much of what we do know has to be gleaned from the Septuagint itself.
For exhaustive lists of distinctive features in the Septuagint, commentaries such as the La Bible d’Alexandrie series must be referred to. But a few striking instances will serve as illustrations. Specialists estimate that the original rendering of the Hebrew tetragrammaton in the Septuagint was not κύριος kurios “Lord,” as most manuscripts have it, but Ιαω Iaô as attested in 4QLXXLevb. This “trigrammaton” appears to link up with the divine name Yaho used in the Elephantine documents. In Lev 19:27, the prohibition to shear off the hair on the side of one’s head is transformed into: “You shall not make a hair roll (σισόη sisoē) out of the hair on your head”; the word for “hair  roll” is a loanword from Egyptian and designates specifically the hairdo of Horus depicted as a child, and of his followers (Septuaginta Deutsch. Erläuterungen, 395). In several passages, the Septuagint mentions beings from Greek mythology, such as titans (2 Sam 5:18) and the griffin (Lev 11:13). And passages addressing the motif of “seeing God” are occasionally modified in light of ideas circulating in Hellenistic Egypt. These examples, which could easily be multiplied, do not suggest that the group that produced the Septuagint was syncretistic or strayed from its Jewish heritage. But they do show that the western diaspora acculturated to its context in a particular way.
* Jan Joosten,
Encyclopedia of Jewish-Christian Relations Online, 2020.
[English, PDF]
Ειδικοί εκτιμούν ότι η αρχική απόδοση του εβραϊκού τετραγράμματου στην Εβδομήκοντα δεν ήταν κύριος, όπως εμφανίζεται στα περισσότερα χειρόγραφα, αλλά Ιαω όπως μαρτυρείται στο 4QLXXLevb. Αυτό το «τριγράμματο» φαίνεται ότι συνδέεται με τη θεωνυμία Γιαχο που χρησιμοποιείται στα έγγραφα της Ελεφαντίνης.


Friday, May 22, 2020

The Book of Isaiah in Codex Vaticanus:
When “Lord” “Lord” is not adequate /

Το Βιβλίο του Ησαΐα στον Βατικανό Κώδικα:
Όταν το «Κύριος» «Κύριος» δεν είναι επαρκές

Isaiah / Ησαΐας 3:1-4:

ms fol. 1005r

1᾿Ιδοὺ δὴ ὁ δεσπότης κ̅ϲ̅ σαβαώθ ἀφελεῖ ἀπὸ τῆς Ιουδαίας καὶ ἀπὸ Ιερουσαλημ ἰσχύοντα καὶ ἰσχύουσαν, ἰσχὺν ἄρτου καὶ ἰσχὺν ὕδατος,
2γίγαντα καὶ ἰσχύοντα καὶ ἄνθρωπον πολεμιστὴν καὶ δικαστὴν καὶ προφήτην καὶ στοχαστὴν καὶ πρεσβύτερον
3καὶ πεντηκόνταρχον καὶ θαυμαστὸν σύμβουλον καὶ σοφὸν ἀρχιτέκτονα καὶ συνετὸν ἀκροατήν·
4καὶ ἐπιστήσω νεανίσκους ἄρχοντας αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐμπαῖκται κυριεύσουσιν αὐτῶν.
1Διότι ο αληθινός Κύριος, ο Ιεχωβά των στρατευμάτων, αφαιρεί από την Ιερουσαλήμ και τον Ιούδα κάθε είδους στήριξη και προμήθεια, όλη τη στήριξη που δίνει το ψωμί και το νερό,
2κραταιό άντρα και πολεμιστή, κριτή και προφήτη, μάντη και πρεσβύτερο,
3πεντηκόνταρχο, αξιωματούχο και σύμβουλο, τον επιδέξιο μάγο και τον έμπειρο γητευτή.
4Θα βάλω παιδιά για άρχοντές τους, και θα τους κυβερνούν αλλοπρόσαλλοι.
1Ο Κύριος, ο Κύριος του σύμπαντος, θα πάρει από την Ιερουσαλήμ κι απ’ τον Ιούδα κάθε πράγμα που πάνω του στηρίζονται οι κάτοικοί τους: Θα πάρει το ψωμί και το νερό,
2τους ήρωες και τους πολεμιστές, τους κριτές, τους προφήτες, τους μάγους και τους πρεσβυτέρους,
3τους πεντηκόνταρχους και τους αξιωματούχους, τους συμβούλους, τους σοφούς τεχνίτες και τους επιδέξιους εξορκιστές.
4Ο Κύριος θα βάλει άρχοντές τους ανώριμα παιδιά και θα τους κυβερνούν νήπια αστόχαστα.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ποιός ήταν ο Ισαάκ Λάουντς (Λάουνδς); /

Who was Isaac Lowndes?

* Βασίλης Βασιλειάδης,
στην επανέκδοση του Λεξικού του Λάουντς,
εκδ. Το Ανώγειο, Αθήνα 2010, σσ. 3-6. [PDF]

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Exodus 3:14:
The God who promises and fulfills /

Έξοδος 3:14:
Ο Θεός που υπόσχεται και εκπληρώνει

EXODUS—NOTE ON 3:14 I am who I am. In response to Moses’ question (“What is [your] name?” v. 13), God reveals his name to be “Yahweh” (corresponding to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH). The three occurrences of “I AM” in v. 14 all represent forms of the Hebrew verb that means “to be” (Hb. hayah), and in each case are related to the divine name Yahweh (i.e., “the LORD”; see note on v. 15). The divine name Yahweh has suggested to scholars a range of likely nuances of meaning: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for his own existence; (2) that God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in his being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what he is (e.g., “the same yesterday and today and forever,” Heb. 13:8); and (4) that God is eternal in his existence. While each of these points is true of God, the main focus in this passage is on the Lord’s promise to be with Moses and his people. The word translated “I am” (Hb. ’ehyeh) can also be understood and translated as “I will be” (cf. esv footnote). Given the context of Ex. 3:12 (“I will be with you”), the name of Yahweh (“the Lord”) is also a clear reminder of God’s promises to his people and of his help for them to fulfill their calling. In each of these cases, the personal name of God as revealed to Moses expresses something essential about the attributes and character of God.

* ESV Study Bible, Exodus 3:14.