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. 

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