I have fond memories of a lectionary reading circle I was a part of in grad school at the UW-Madison. Sometimes we met on the thirteenth floor of Van Hise in an office of the Hebrew and Semitic Studies Department. (Van Hise is known as the Tower of Babel. It houses a dozen departments of language and literature.) On other occasions we met in the Catacombs, a coffeehouse in the basement of Pres House on State St. “Van Hise” and the “Cat” will evoke worlds of odors and humanity for those who know these haunts. Any great university has similar haunts.
The circle was charmed because of the languages those who came knew, or pretended to know. We read the lections in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. If time permitted, we might look at the Latin or Syriac. English versions might be on hand, a German or Italian translation. Everything tucked away in our memories, after a strong cup of coffee, we would access quite randomly. The circle included a professor of classics, a professor of comparative Semitics, grad students and pastors with a love of languages. We compared the original with translations, and translations with other translations. We related our findings to whatever else we knew about the text and its subject matter.
It is now possible as never before, via online and dead-tree resources, to compare an example of ancient Hebrew literature with translations made over the centuries. Compare and understand: a fine method of study for anyone who wants to pore over the biblical text.
I offer a discussion of Isa 1:2-3 as an example of what can be done. An excursus on Luke 2:7 and a bibliography are included.
Go to: Isa_1:2-3_A_commentary.pdf