Monday, December 24, 2012

see-thru dresses

In the LXX for Isaiah 3:22, τὰ διαφανῆ Λακωνικά is an extremely important addition! (Brenton has "the Spartan transparent dresses," and Silva "the transparent Laconian fabrics.") The Greek male lore outside of Laconia about the Sparta females is rather pronounced. In "Dissoi Logoi," a treatise of cultural relativisms, there is the singular consensus that Spartan women went into the gymnasium and there went nude: "In Sparta it is seemly for girls to exercise naked, in Sparta it is shameful for girls to exercise naked" (trans. T. M. Robinson, p. 51). In his "Laws," Plato's Athenian does "commend [the male] Laconian lawgivers" for "letting the female sex indulge in luxury and expense and disorderly ways of life, while supervising the male sex." In his "Rhetoric," Aristotle suggests that in Laconia the women are φαῦλα (i.e., cheap, easy, or at the very least paltry). AND, a good bit later, the Spartans and the Jews identify themselves as brethren: 1 Macc 12:2,5,6,20,21; 14:20,23; 15:23; 2 Macc 5:9. In Macc 12:21, the Spartan King to the Jewish High Priest declares: εὑρέθη ἐν γραφῇ περί τε τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν καὶ Ιουδαίων ὅτι εἰσὶν ἀδελφοὶ καὶ ὅτι εἰσὶν ἐκ γένους Αβρααμ. "It has been found in Scripture concerning the Spartans and the Jews that they are brethren and are of the family of Abraham." Could Greek Isaiah 3:22 be one way the Laconians and the Jews are linked, if in this bit there they're perhaps both somewhat disparaged?!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sexed language of Isaiah 3:17 - Is it sexist? What's it mean?

In 3:17, there seems to be something explicitly sexual: τὸ σχῆμα αὐτῶν in reference to θυγατέρας Σιών. At first glance, it might appear that the Hebrew is more suggestive (if ambiguous), having HaShem "lay bare / discover their secret parts" (JPS / KJV - that is, פת of בנות ציון). But the Greek translator has κύριος ἀποκαλύψει τὸ σχῆμα αὐτῶν. And in Aristotle's writings (Hist. of Animals, 579b 20), the biologist is comparing visible male and female parts and discusses τῷ σχήματι τῷ τοῦ θήλεος (or as D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson renders it "the female organ"). What is Isaiah in Hebrew and in Greek saying here? How must we interpret the sexed language?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wordplay Translation in Greek Isaiah 3:1?

It's striking how the translator in 3:1 seems to have tried to preserve the wordplay. For example the alliteration in this מ-initial phrasing:


is matched by this ι-initial phrasing:

ἰσχὺν ἄρτου
ἰσχὺν ὕδατος
ἰδοὺ δὴ ὁ δεσπότης κύριος σαβαωθ ἀφελεῖ ἀπὸ τῆς Ιουδαίας καὶ ἀπὸ Ιερουσαλημ ἰσχύοντα καὶ ἰσχύουσαν ἰσχὺν ἄρτου καὶ ἰσχὺν ὕδατος 
for this:
כי הנה האדון יהוה צבאות מסיר מירושלם ומיהודה משען ומשענה כל משען־לחם וכל משען־מים
UPDATE: And on facebook, this:  

Bob MacDonald - While I like the pointing out of such things and the play of language, it seems to me this is more of an accident than design in this case - what might be said though about the words with ἰσχ in them - several in a row. Are these related to support (mainstay, staff) or to shame in Greek - or is this also an accident? Also is there a difference between LXX and NT Greek over the 300 years(?) between them?  

Me - Bob, there are so many such "accidents' in the LXX that we begin to suspect them on purpose. The proliferation of the initial Pi in chapter 1 verses 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 21, for instance, makes the paraphrasing sound perhaps plenty like the opener to the Odyssey on accident or or purpose. Who can, this far out, know the author's or translator's intentions?  

Bob MacDonald - The use of mem in audible lip-smacking form is I think in Psalm 73:10. וּמֵי מָלֵא יִמָּצוּ לָֽמֹו; Greek (72:10) seems to have no lip-smacking in its imitation καὶ ἡμέραι πλήρεις εὑρεθήσονται αὐτοῖς. I read this as a sneer from the rich who delight in exploiting the poor - fully milking them to get the lip-smacking intent in it. I'd like to hear this beyond an initial iota - so K [that's me] - allowing this as deliberate - can you comment on the 2nd half of my question -or even the third half :)  

Me -

Bob - you ask "Are these [ words with ἰσχ in them - several in a row] related to support (mainstay, staff) or to shame in Greek - or is this also an accident?"

Funny you should ask. There's a humorous (maybe vulgar) answer perhaps.

There's a humorous (maybe vulgar) answer perhaps.

How much might the Greek translator in Alexandria have known of the plays of Aristophanes? Is he with Greek Isaiah 3:1 somehow invoking one of the playful lines of the play The Acharnians (around line 590)?

 In Greek, that line reads like this (but I warn the readers here of the vulgarity in the humor) with a reference to circumcision (which is of interest to all readers of Torah) -

οὐ γὰρ κατ’ ἰσχύν ἐστιν· εἰ δ’ ἰσχυρὸς εἶ,
τί μ’ οὐκ ἀπεψώλησας; Εὔοπλος γὰρ εἶ. 

Here are three different English translations of that Greek (again, a warning to the reader here) -

"Violence is out of place here! But as you are so strong, why did you not circumcise me? You have all the tools you want for the operation there."
[from Perseus online - "Aristophanes. Acharnians. The Eleven Comedies. Anonymous. New York. Liveright. 192?"] 

"That’s not your forte! Your forte is to decapitate pricks. (He brandishes his phallus) Here! Come on, do mine… if you’re so strong! You’ve got all the tools you need! Sword, spear, shield, feathers…"
[trans. by George Theodoridis] 

"I don't doubt that you're strong. Though if you are, why don't you skin my cock? You're well equipped."
[trans by Jeffrey Henderson;

Henderson offers this note - "An insulting double-meaning. In one sense 'skin my cock' refers to circumcision, regarded by the Greeks as a barbaric mutilation, which Dicaeopolis invites Lamachus to perform with his sword. In the other it refers to retraction of the foreskin by stimulating an erection, and 'well equipped' refers to Lamachus' stage-phallos, which Dicaeopolis (in double-meaning) professes to find arousing."] 

For Aristophanes and his audiences, there is wordplay here with the ἰσχύν and ἰσχυρὸς (and no doubt this some connotes "shame" as with αἰσχύνη and καταισχύνῃ).

But who can say whether the Jewish translator and Jewish readers of LXX Isaiah were reading into "the words with ἰσχ in them - several in a row" some strong allusion "to circumcision, regarded by the Greeks as a barbaric mutilation"?  

Bob MacDonald - Thanks K [that's me again] - I will bear this in mind when translating  

Me - lol, Bob.

Me again -

Bob, In most languages the bilabial sounds /m/ and /p/ are the first made sense of by babies. Ma ma and Pa pa are the calls for those nearest, probably the former having some vocalized association with nursing. The /isk/ sound (as in the Greek phrases for "strength" and "shame") is much more complex and much less intimate and familial or familiar, I would guess. So the Hellene translator of Isaiah is using wordplay, even phonologically, in a much different (non "lip-smaking") way here. I don't know that we can make too much out of this. But it's certainly wordplay with sounds. And by "play" in English I think we can mean what a playwright writes that actors perform that audiences laugh or cry at; what children do on the playground; and even semantic play, as in hermeneutic wiggleroom.


and earlier in the day on fb, I'd wondered about this:
In 3:3, there's a huge translational turn, a rhetorical one: for נבון לחש ("the skilful enchanter" JPS; "the eloquent orator" KJV), there's συνετὸν ἀκροατήν ("the intelligent hearer" Lancelot Brenton, "intelligent listener" Moisés Silva).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Greeky "Greek Isaiah"

Suzanne asks "What do we make of the translation of dabar as logos, and torah as nomos?"

Similarly Bob MacDonald asks: "Re Isaiah 2:1, LXX seems pregnant ὁ λόγος ὁ γενόμενος, what would that second word be translating? Is ὁ γενόμενος for rhythm, or maybe acting as a relative pronoun?"

Ken M. Penner likewise asks:  "It seems to me that most of the discussion so far has been regarding translation issues, i.e., the text as produced: Why this Greek, given that Hebrew? These are interesting questions to be sure. But I'd also like to see some (more) discussion of the text as received: what in the Greek text would give a Greek-speaking reader pause?"

To be sure, there is some considerably Greeky flavor added to the Septuagint's Isaiah.  In particular, the two Greek phrases we transliterate as logos and as nomos are rather marked and remarkable.

Rod and Dagesh Forte and I, for example, stopped again this morning when reading together 1:9 and 1:10 again.  We were trying to get to this week's group reading, but stopped again on these two verses from last week.

They read as follows (with my translation following):

If we don't Hear the Greekiness here, then I do hope we'll at least See it.  We've already stated this fact:

In the Hebrew, there's no good idea that the word sperma ought to be here.  The Hebrew is שריד.  This means something like a left-behind remnant.  In Isaiah 55:10, there is זרע, which is for σπέρμα sperma.  

What I hope we'll see in the two-verse context above is how generative and Greeky-birthy this has become.  A few other facts.  In Greek, the sounds of sperma, and sodoma, and gomorra, are similar, with the same case endings.  This may just be the linguistics, one might sigh.  There's nothing new here.  The Hebrew has its parallelisms.  The Hellene has its grammatical declensions.  So what?!

Well, the So What is that this sort of Greek construct sounds Sophistic.  It's word play with Greek syntax, with Greek phonology, and with the translator's Greek lexis.

The logos of Kyrios and the nomos of Theos are, in this short context, connected to the sperma of Kyrios Sabaoth.  If we didn't know better, we might liken it to Mark 4, the parable of parables of Jesus -- in which the logos is seeded, and the success, the fruitfulness, the offspring of this process depends on the Hearing!  "Hear the word of the Lord ye rulers of Sodoma; attend to the law of God thou people of Gomorrha."  This is how Brenton's English translates the Greek Isaiah's Greeky Greek.  Sodom and Gomorrha are, we all know, dead by this time.  And yet the new Sodom and the new Gomorrha are being called to Hear the logos of Kyrios, to Hold the nomos of Theos, to get the sperma of Kyrios Sabaoth.

By the time readers read 2:1, there's a clear understanding of the generative effect of logos:  


παρὰ κυρίου 
πρὸς Ησαιαν υἱὸν Αμως 
περὶ τῆς Ιουδαίας 
καὶ περὶ Ιερουσαλημ.

By the time hearers hear 2:3b, there's a receptivity toward how things are supposed to sound:

ἐκ γὰρ Σιων 

νόμος καὶ λόγος κυρίου 

ἐξ Ιερουσαλημ.

The two overdetermined Greeky Greek words go together in a very rhetorical and a very political way.  And readers and hearers recall 1:26b (which Suzanne blogged here):

καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα κληθήσῃ 
Πόλις δικαιοσύνης, 
Πιστὴ Σιων.

So how is this sophistic?  How rhetorical?  How political?  How so very ethical?  Well, there seemed to be a culture war of sorts going on in Greece, and this well may have influenced what was going on in Alexandria, the namesake Polis of Alexander the Great, disciple of Aristotle, disciple of Plato, disciple of Socrates -- opponents of Sophists such as Gorgias, Isocrates, and Protagoras.  Four scholars, perhaps a fifth, get at this language/culture war.  I'm thinking of Eric Havelock (and his Preface to Plato: History of the Greek Mind), Richard Leo Enos (and his Greek Rhetoric Before Aristotle), Susan C. Jarratt (and her Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured), Jeffrey Walker (and his Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity), and Edward Schiappa (and his Protagoras and Logos: A Study in Greek Philosophy and Rhetoric).  Then there's Sylvie Honigman (and her The Septuagint and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria: A Study in the Narrative of the 'Letter of Aristeas').

That's a lot to read, especially a lot that may seem tangential to the Greeky words of Greek Isaiah.

So let's just read one more little Greek line from Aristotle.  This is from his Nichomachean Ethics.  (And we might have read similar sorts of things in his Metaphysics, his Poetics, and his Rhetoric, as against the Greeky Sophists.)

γενόμενος συλλογισμὸς 
ἀπορία γίνεται·
This is line 24 on Bekker page 1146a.  Of course, I've broken the line in two and have bolded and underlined and italicized the font that seems salient to our Greeky discussion here.  Aristotle (who invented Logic as a way of straightening out Sophistry and Sophistic Rhetorics and even Plato's Socrates's Dialectics) is here railing against Sophists.  Aristotle is king of the Syllogism, of the logic of the statement or argument or logos put together as if necessary links in the chain of reasoning.  A little more context, as put into English by Henry Rackham, goes like this:

Again (a, c) there is the difficulty raised by the argument [λόγος] of the sophists. The sophists wish to show their cleverness by entrapping their adversary into a paradox, and when they are successful, the resultant chain of reasoning ends in a deadlock: the mind is fettered, being unwilling to stand still because it cannot approve the conclusion reached, yet unable to go forward because it cannot untie the knot of the argument. 
Rackham's translation of that little line above is what's bold fonted in the middle of this paragraph.  We might read Aristotle's Greek concerning the logos of the sophists as follows:
"The syllogism they generate
gives birth to being perplexed."

So, for the translator of Greek Isaiah to write, ὁ λόγος ὁ γενόμενος, makes Isaiah sound nearly Sophistic.  It's not the sort of emperial Greek that Alexander the Great or any philosopher king would have advocated.  It's not the sort of rhetoric or poetics or ethical-syllogistic logic that Aristotle would have taught.  
Into the ears of the hearers goes the sperma of Kyrios Sabaoth.  Out of mother Polis Zion comes nomos and logos of Theos Kyrios. 

And readers of and listeners to this Hellene Isaiah may get its Greeky generative effects. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Torah as Nomos in Greek Isaiah: And What's That Mean?

Some time ago, I wrote a post on this blog asking, "How to translate the word torah?"  I showed how "nomos" in Homer's Iliad was translated by a couple of different excellent English translators. Then I advised:
Now, go back and read read Numbers 5 in the Greekish Jewish Old Testament called the Septuagint.  Notice how the word torah [תּוֹרָה] has been rendered nómos [νόμος].  Notice it's associated with women differently than it's associated with men.  
The conventional wisdom is that the real difference is not in some application of "nomos" to women. But the critical general difference comes in the application of "nomos" to Christians, by Christians, for Christians. The New Testament is to take the Greek word "nomos" for Christians as the "Law."  Christ, then, is offered in contrast to the Law.

And so, for Jewish scholars reading and/ or translating the New Testament, the issue needs addressing.  Here's some of that.

First, from Lawrence Kushner's Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians:

Second, from The Jewish Annotated New Testament:

Third, from Jewish convert to Christianity, David Stern's Complete Jewish Bible, his translation of the Greek letter from Paul to Romans:
14 For whenever Gentiles, who have no Torah, do naturally what the Torah requires, then these, even though they don’t have Torah, for themselves are Torah! 15 For their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is written in their hearts. Their consciences also bear witness to this, for their conflicting thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them
Fourth, from Willis Barnstone's Restored New Testament, his translation of the same bit of the Greek letter from Paul to Romans:
When gentiles who do not possess the Torah
Practice it naturally, these without Torah
Are themselves Torah. They show that the work
Of Torah is, as Yirmaiyahu writes:
..Written in their hearts.
And their own conscience also bears it witness.
For each Greek "nomos" νόμος, there's "Torah."

So now there's the Greek word in Greek Isaiah.  And what's that doing there?  Is it for men or women, for the Jewish ideal of Torah or the Christian of post-Judaic Law?

1:10 - ἀκούσατε λόγον κυρίου ἄρχοντες Σοδομων προσέχετε νόμον θεοῦ λαὸς Γομορρας

2:3 - καὶ πορεύσονται ἔθνη πολλὰ καὶ ἐροῦσιν δεῦτε καὶ ἀναβῶμεν εἰς τὸ ὄρος κυρίου καὶ εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ Ιακωβ καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ πορευσόμεθα ἐν αὐτῇ ἐκ γὰρ Σιων ἐξελεύσεται νόμος καὶ λόγος κυρίου ἐξ Ιερουσαλημ

What's that mean?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

plethora and plenty, the pronounced primary Pi

This post continues my reading this week of the Greek Isaiah per Abram K-J's collaborative effort.

Throughout 1:1-25, there are these initial letters Pi.

In particular, 21 is a standout:

πῶς ἐγένετο 
πιστὴ Σιων
πλήρης κρίσεως, ἐν ᾗ δικαιοσύνη ἐκοιμήθη ἐν αὐτῇ, νῦν δὲ φονευταί.

But this all starts with the Greek poetic alliterations of the Pi in 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8:

οὐαὶ ἔθνος ἁμαρτωλόν, λαὸς  
πλήρης ἁμαρτιῶν, σπέρμα  
πονηρόν, υἱοὶ ἄνομοι· ἐγκατελίπατε τὸν κύριον καὶ  
παρωργίσατε τὸν ἅγιον τοῦ Ισραηλ.

τί ἔτι  
προστιθέντες ἀνομίαν;  
πᾶσα κεφαλὴ εἰς  
πόνον καὶ  
πᾶσα καρδία εἰς λύπην.

ποδῶν ἕως κεφαλῆς οὔτε τραῦμα οὔτε μώλωψ οὔτε  
πληγὴ φλεγμαίνουσα, οὐκ ἔστιν μάλαγμα ἐπιθεῖναι οὔτε ἔλαιον οὔτε καταδέσμους.

ἡ γῆ ὑμῶν ἔρημος, αἱ  
πόλεις ὑμῶν 
πυρίκαυστοι· τὴν χώραν ὑμῶν ἐνώπιον ὑμῶν ἀλλότριοι κατεσθίουσιν αὐτήν, καὶ ἠρήμωται κατεστραμμένη ὑπὸ λαῶν ἀλλοτρίων.

ἐγκαταλειφθήσεται ἡ θυγάτηρ Σιων ὡς σκηνὴ ἐν ἀμπελῶνι καὶ ὡς ὀπωροφυλάκιον ἐν σικυηράτῳ, ὡς

There are other Pi-initial phrases in this short context, but the ones I've marked above seem marked indeed.  What's with the daughter of Zion being part of this Pi poetry?

And lest anyone doubt the Greekiness of this poetic peppering of Pi, here's the opener to Homer's Odyssey.  It's a Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers sort of poetry:

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα,
πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν
πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν:
πολλῶν δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,
πολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἐν
πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν, ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ὣς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ:αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιοἤσθιον: αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ. τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν.

And notice that daughter posed prominently in this place of the plethora and plenty primary Pis.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

language of generation in 1:1-25 of Ἠσαῒας for ישעיה

Abram K-J, blogger, is reading "Greek Isaiah in a Year" and is with others in a facebook group collaborating in this effort.  Bloggers

ἄκουε οὐρανέ καὶ ἐνωτίζου γῆ ὅτι κύριος ἐλάλησεν υἱοὺς ἐγέννησα καὶ ὕψωσα αὐτοὶ δέ με ἠθέτησαν

Next, in 1:8 and 1:9, I'm interested in the daughter and the seed:

ἐγκαταλειφθήσεται ἡ θυγάτηρ Σιων ὡς σκηνὴ ἐν ἀμπελῶνι καὶ ὡς ὀπωροφυλάκιον ἐν σικυηράτῳ ὡς πόλις πολιορκουμένη

καὶ εἰ μὴ κύριος σαβαωθ ἐγκατέλιπεν ἡμῖν σπέρμα ὡς Σοδομα ἂν ἐγενήθημεν καὶ ὡς Γομορρα ἂν ὡμοιώθημεν

In the Hebrew, there's no good idea that the word sperma ought to be here.  The Hebrew is שריד.  This means something like a left-behind remnant.  In Isaiah 55:10, there is זרע, which is for σπέρμα sperma.  So the Greek is adding something generative here, in the context of the explicit mention of the daughter.  There's this idea of the soil seeded and the woman's womb seeded.  This is stronger in the Greek, this ambiguity, than it is in the Hebrew.  So what's up with that?