Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ancient (Divine & Gendered) Radical Translating

Too much is going on not to blog (and I have some time today, and today only perhaps).

There was this radical suggestion made at this blog, once upon a time, that the name "Moses" is not an original Hebrew name, even as Moses himself might have written it. Rather, a woman (unnamed herself) who is Egyptian gave him the name that makes us all think of our own Mamas.

Today, as we're trying not to bother with gender and other radical stuff in texts, I'm making a similar suggestion. That an Egyptian woman actually plays with the words that name the Hebrew God. It's my English translating (unless noted otherwise):

וְשָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם לֹא יָלְדָה לֹו

. . . . וְלָהּ שִׁפְחָה מִצְרִית וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר׃

וַתִּקְרָא שֵׁם־יְהוָה הַדֹּבֵר אֵלֶיהָ אַתָּה אֵל רֳאִי

כִּי אָמְרָה הֲגַם הֲלֹם רָאִיתִי אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי׃

And Princess, the wOmbman of Father Exalted, bore no babe.

And she had a slave-girl, an Egyptian, named Fly-Away. . . .

And she called the name of Yes-He-Was-Here (who spoke to her) “God sees.”

because she said “'I see him here following him seeing me.”


"Genesis" 16.1 And Sarai, Abram's wife, brought not forth to him; and to her a maid servant, an Egyptian, and her name Нagar. . . . 16.13 And she will call the name of Jehovah, having spoken to her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Here also I looked after him seeing me.

(Julia E. Smith's translating).


Σαρα δ γυν Αβραμ οκ τικτεν ατ.

ν δ ατ παιδίσκη Αγυπτία, νομα Αγαρ. . . .

κα κάλεσεν Αγαρ τ νομα κυρίου το λαλοντος πρς ατήν Σ θες πιδών με·

τι επεν Κα γρ νώπιον εδον φθέντα μοι.

(The Greek by Jews translating back in Egypt, where Egyptian women are all around. Imagine.)

Sara, however, the bride of Abram did not deliver for him.

There was, however, her girl-servant, with the name Hagar. . . .

And Hagar called called the name of Master (who is speaking to her) “You’re the God who Says things to me”

because she said, “And, in fact, in front of my eyes I have seen.”


And Sara the wife of Abram bore him no children; and she had an Egyptian maid, whose name was Agar. . . . And she called the name of the Lord God who spoke to her, Thou art God who seest me; for she said, For I have openly seen him that appeared to me.

(Lancelot Brenton translating the Greek into English)

JUST FOR GRINS, EARLIER IN "GENESIS," GOD GETS IN ON THE TRANSLATING HIMSELF (and isn't that just like a woman from Egypt?) Here's some of that:

וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאֹור יֹום

וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה



יֹום אֶחָד׃ ף

And the God-Divinities called the light Day

And the darkness he called Night.

And let there be evening,

And let there be morning,

One day.


1.5 And God will call to the light day, and to the darkness he called night: and the evening shall be, and the morning shall be one day.

(Julia E. Smith's translating)


κα κάλεσεν θες τ φς μέραν
τ σκότος κάλεσεν νύκτα.
γένετο σπέρα

κα γένετο πρωί,
μέρα μία.

(The Greek by Jews translating back in Egypt, where Egyptian women are all around. Imagine.)

And the god called the light “day”.

And the darkness he called “night,”

and an evening was born,

and an early dawn was born.

One day.


And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night, and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

(Lancelot Brenton translating the Greek into English)