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J. K. Gayle

Wunderbare Einblicke!

What do DE translators do when there are no indigenous apples in Alexandria, Egypt? But look! Even the LXX translators get in on the word play (Deuteronomy, then Zachariah):

κόραν ὀφθαλμοῦ
τῆς κόρης τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ αὐτοῦ

JohnFH

Very interesting, Kurk. The metaphor for metaphor translation has an ancient pedigree. [But see J. K.'s further comment below.]

Lingamish

So that's the origin of that alien idiom! Luther was a wiz. So Tyndale and the rest just ripped off Luther because their Hebrew was weak. The truth is out.

Thanks for The Spectator, Augapfel and no end of Stilton cheese.

Peter Kirk

So, John, what metaphor would you use for modern English-speaking children on the street? They certainly don't understand "the apple of my eye", as they are not 16th century German children. If you can't do better than the Children's Bible you quote, you hardly have a right to criticise it.

tim bulkeley

Yes, Luther's translation was brilliant, BUT:
Denn so spricht der HERR Zebaoth:
Er hat mich gesandt nach Ehre
zu den Heiden, die euch beraubt haben;
denn wer euch antastet,
der tastet seinen Augapfel an.

Weighs in at 28 words, your English rendering of that at 27, against the CEV's parsimonious 20!

It may be a bad spot in a good translation, BUT it is still more terse than what you and Luther give us!

JohnFH

Peter,

what makes you so sure that children today are unable to understand the expression "apple of my eye"? It's used in children's ditties and in pop music.

Tim, you are comparing apples and oranges. The Hebrew of the entire verse contains 18 words; Luther's translation, 28; CEV, 38, as follows:

Then the glorious LORD All-Powerful ordered me to say to the nations that had raided and robbed Zion:

Zion is as precious to the LORD as are his eyes. Whatever you do to Zion, you do to him.

tim bulkeley

Aagh, I thought I'd caught that mistake before it uploaded! PLEASE ignore the above I was writing as I thought and clicked "post" by mistake

JohnFH

There is a problem with Luther's translation of the Zechariah passage. He doesn't compensate for the fact that the Hebrew should read "My eye," not "his eye." Jewish tradition recognizes that "his eye" is a pious scribal correction of "My eye."

NRSV, NAB, NJB, etc. adjust accordingly. REB, TNIV, CEV, etc. do not.

J. K. Gayle

κόραν ὀφθαλμοῦ
τῆς κόρης τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ αὐτοῦ

Just to be clear (and since one of you has emailed me offline on this): the Greek phrases above don't mean "apple of the eye" literally. This IS the way Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton and Melvin K. H. Peters (NETS Deut.) translate the phrases. But for the Englishing of the Greeking of the Hebrew in Zach., NETS translator George E. Howard puts that second Greek phrase, above, this way:

"the pupil of his eye" making the touching of the eye the odd painful thing, and taking the imagery all the way back to v1 of ch2, where the LXX Greek translators write: τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς.

Clever, Mr. Howard. But he has modern Greek precedence for this. The modern Greeks take κόρας not from the ancient Greek "apple" but from the poets' girls. Sappho, for ex., uses the word in fragments 59, 62, 112 to mean maidens or to refer to named virginal daughters of the goddesses. (Illiad has the term frequently too, for daughters, and girls). So the moderns follow this too, as in "Η Κόρη του Δράκουλα" (for "Dracula's Daughter," the translated title of the 1936 sequel to the film Dracula). But the moderns use κόρας as much or more now (metaphorically) as daughter or girl of the eye, for the anatomical term in English for that thing inside the white part of the ball around the black part. So Mr. Howard skips over apple, and girl, and sticks the translation right in the eye, as "pupil."

Now, "pupil" is no fun for kids playing in the street on a Saturday (or reading the Bible any day). But it sure catches our eye, doesn't it?

Lingamish

Thanks, Kurk for this explanation. Fascinating history of this image. "Pupil" in English seems to have a long interesting history as well.

Peter Kirk

John, I think we need to do some field testing of the expression "the apple of my/his eye" among children, off the street, not only those with church background. They may have heard the expression, but what do they think it means. I don't have any children around to ask, but perhaps you and Lingamish at least can start by asking your own children. And don't assume that because a phrase is used in songs its meaning is known, or known at all accurately.

JohnFH

That's an idea, Peter. I asked Anna, she didn't know. But she's four.

Betta's 13. First, she mistook it for "the twinkle in your eye," and started talking about babies before they are born. Then she said, oh, I know, "someone you love," and cited a YouTube song with the phrase in it, that she hasn't seen, but that some of her friends go on about.

Giovanni, 16, didn't bat an eye, and said, "something that's precious."

Paola was incensed that anyone might not know what the phrase means. "I'm Italian, and even I know what it means," she said in an impeccable Italian accent.

Betta and Giovanni asked, but what does it mean, as in, why the "apple" of the eye. I said I didn't know. Giovanni said, maybe a part of the eye.

Peter Kirk

Thanks. Well, I suppose Betta's "someone you love" is a reasonable explanation. But are we to rely on YouTube for our understanding of the Bible? What if some other popular song completely misuses the idiom? Examples of biblical idioms completely misused in popular culture include "the skin of one's teeth" and "carry your the cross". Wouldn't it be better to have the explanation right there in the Bible text?

J. K. Gayle

Amelia (11 years old) says "somebody who you really care about"

Hallie (15) says "a person who you, like, love to the very core"

Schaeffer (18, just back from his first semester of college) says "that girl who I'll marry" (and he still hasn't met her)

Julie (who's closer to my age) just starting singing Stevie Wonder's 1972 hit "You are the sunshine of my life . . . you are the apple of my eye, oooh"

answers.com gives the Old English and Modern English origins and says the phrase "rests on the ancients' idea that the eye's pupil is apple-shaped and that eyes are particularly precious."

All of the sudden, I'm feeling particularly nerdy. Think I'll look for an apple now.

JohnFH

I have nothing against annotated Bibles, Peter. Annotate away, or produce a paraphrase, with annotations built in to the translation. There's room for all kinds of translations - including FE ones.

There's hardly an idiom or concept in the Bible that has not been profoundly misused at one time or another. That's just the way it is.

It's a sign, if you think about it, of the centrality of the Bible's words, not just thoughts, in a global culture that is not limited to its Christian and Jewish subsets.

JohnFH

"Sunshine of my life" and "apple of my eye" make a nice A B pair.

Peter Kirk

Thanks, Kurk as well as John, for your field testing. Maybe this particular phrase is better known than I thought. But the principle remains, that we must check whether biblical idioms are properly understood when translated literally, and not simply assume this or say that those who don't understand them should have had a better education.

John, I said nothing about annotations. I was thinking in terms of explaining the idiom in the text.

Kurk, I agree that apples are precious. I took your last suggestion and so as I write I am literally munching one, a wonderfully tasty English Cox.

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