Summer is here. I want to spray someone from the hose, feel the cold shiver across my back, hear my girls giggle as they douse their Dad. But they’re in Italy right now, on the Riviera near Savona, so I’ll have to settle for a squirt-gun fight across cyberspace.
David Ker and I have been going at it here, here, and especially here (be sure to check the comments). You decide who has been hit by more cream pies and water balloons. Jim West, that nincompoop, put in his two cents, but was careful not to link to the ongoing discussion, for fear of getting beat up in hand-to-hand combat. Didn’t work. Once in a long while, Jim, I read your blog. You got unlucky. Time to smack you up a bit.
David Ker stands at one end of the continuum. He doesn’t want to read a Bible that has words in it like “buckler” or “teat,” because he doesn’t know what “buckler” means, and is too lazy to look the word up in a dictionary. As for “teat,” he likes that word, I wonder why, but he won’t find it in any of the Bibles he reads. He prefers pious Bibles, sad Bibles, like almost all Bibles in translation are. As for Jim West, what a cur. He stands at the other end of the continuum. He recommends people read the Bible in the ASV. But that translation is completely outdated and unreliable. It’s as if new finds and the work of scholars in the last one hundred years are meaningless to Jim West. We’ve learned a few things about the lexicon of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, even that of Hellenistic Greek, since those days. Wake up, Rip van Winkle!
A case in point: Isaiah 66:11. Its sense is crystal-clear to anyone who has studied ancient Hebrew in the context of the study of the languages and literature of the broader ancient Near East. Not David’s case, but I bet he could decipher a dictionary entry, like this one from HALOT, in a pinch:
II זִיז cf. דַּד and שַׁד; Ug. ḏd, zd, ṯd (UTGl. 722, 818, 2653, §5:3; Aistleitner 880); Akk. zīzu teat of a cow giving milk (Holma 48); Arb. zīzat, BedArb. dēd udder, τιθός: nipple; metaph. זִ׳ כָּבוֹד in 11QPsa; DJD 4 p. 86:5) full breast (|| שֹׁד תַּנְחֻמִים) Is 6611. †
Here’s Isaiah 66:11 in Hebrew:
לְמַעַן תִּינְקוּ וּשְׂבַעְתֶּם מִשֹּׁד תַּנְחֻמֶיהָ
לְמַעַן תָּמֹצּוּ וְהִתְעַנַּגְתֶּם מִזִּיז כְּבוֹדָהּ
Here is NJB’s translation, the only brave English translation of this verse on the market:
So that you may be suckled and satisfied from her
so that you may drink deep with delight from her generous nipple.
It’s fun to compare the available alternatives. The sweet Southern B’s responsible for HCSB knew that zīz means ‘teat, nipple,’ which is why they translated:
so that you may nurse and be
satisfied from her comforting breast
and drink deeply and delight yourselves from her glorious breasts.
But you know, southern B’s don’t say the word ‘nipple’ or ‘teat’ in church, so they had to fudge it, and repeat the same word, ‘breast,’ twice. Peinlich. The politically correct liberals responsible for NRSV and NJPSV fudged even more. Schade. Here is NRSV:
that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.
'Drink from her glorious bosom': gotta love it. It has a nice ring to it, but boy does it miss the point. At least NJPSV adds a footnote: [‘bosom’:] Cf. Akkadian zīzu, Arabic zīzat, “udder.”
The preachers of DE (dynamic equivalence) are big on field-testing. So am I. But it’s necessary to make a distinction between Gestalt understanding of a passage, and understanding the exact meaning of every element of the whole. Gestalt understanding is essential. If that is missing, the communication has failed. But it is profoundly misguided to take a patch of English prose or poetry and weed out words and syntactic figures which, based on field-testing, are not understood by your average 5th grader, 8th grader, or what have you. No one actually speaks or writes that way. Be honest for a change.
Instead, we are used to comprehending what someone says without understanding every single word or phrase. The Bible was written in exactly the same way. Ah, but we can’t let the Bible be itself. If it were up to the DE language police, I’m sure they would have us read Shakespeare and Milton in simplified English as well.
I am thankful, however, that David Ker does not police his own language. It makes him a joy to read. This post was set off by a very good English expression he used: “suckle at the teat of ancient languages.” That’s beautiful English. I might add that he might learn a few things if he took the time to suck there, rather than his own thumb.
However, a self-consistent DE man should not use the word “teat” when speaking out loud. The average 8th grader doesn’t know what it means. Not to mention ESLers. Out with it, therefore, along with “atone,” “justify,” and “sanctify,” as Peter Kirk suggests. It would be a shame if, in reading the Bible, you had to learn new words and concepts along the way.
I remember the day I learned what “teat” means. I still get red thinking about it. I was in a Comp Lit class at the University of Wisconsin, 16 years old (I went to a lab high school, which allowed us to take college courses). Prof. Cohen had us reading Shakespeare and stuff, and there were plenty of words I didn’t know. It was a nuisance, too, because there were notes on the bottom of each page with explanations of the words and phrases I already knew, but not the ones I didn’t. Plus, I was half-asleep in class because I had studied Hebrew and Greek through the night, which I cared about more. My bleary eyes looked at this on the page:
An honour! were not I thine only nurse, I would say thou hadst suck'd wisdom from thy teat (Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act I, Scene 3)
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. I'm sorry, but not really, if I offended anyone by explicit language and puns and stuff. If you go back and read Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 3, you will note that I have been tame in comparison.
UPDATE: Eric Sowell says it all: John Hobbins Is Winning. [Curtsy.] Thank you, Eric. I didn’t even know you had a blog. An excellent one it is.
UPDATE: Duane Smith goes tit for tat.