I am looking mainly at the differences between Jerome's Latin and Pagnini's Latin. Pagnini's translation from the Hebrew, in the early 1500's, became one of the four or five reference texts for Coverdale and subsequent Bible translation into English.
I pass now from the disconcerting opening, here and here, from the finding that the people were of one lip - and no tongue - to the third verse.
Here we read that "they spoke" or is it "he spoke" one to another. This raises many questions for each lexical item. Here are the contrasting texts,
- Dixitque alter ad proximum suum Jerome
Dixeruntque alter ad alterum Pagnini
καὶ εἶπεν ἄνθρωπος τῷ πλησίον
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ
There we have it - some sort of singular "they or rather a plural "one." The verb in Hebrew "to speak" is plural and the subject ish (man or person) is singular. Of course,
(but I get ahead of myself and slide into the alliterative future of the ba ba ba the babble of Babel before its time.)
I stop and ask myself, for the sake of this verb, if women also make bricks. Can wayyomaru ish mean that men and women spoke to each other and said "Let us make bricks."
We don't know who spoke in this line, but we do know that women made bricks. Brickmaking was the task of slaves and the lowest people in the group. But here it seems that they all took it on, they made the bricks voluntarily because it says, "Let us ..." and they spoke to their neighbours, their peers, let us make bricks.
Now here is a story of a woman and her bricks - and her baby.
- "Come, let us build us a city and a tower." Many, many years were spent building the tower. It reached so great a height that it took a year to mount to the top. A brick was, therefore, more precious in the sight of the builders than a human being. If a man fell down and met his death, none took notice of it; but if a brick dropped, they wept, because it would take a year to replace it. So intent were they upon accomplishing their purpose that they would not permit a woman to interrupt her work of brickmaking when the hour of travail came upon her. Moulding bricks, she gave birth to her child, and tying it round her body in a sheet, she went on moulding bricks.
-- Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews
So wayyomaru ish, which one could argue is literally "the man spoke," seems more suitably translated in a gender neutral way - perhaps "and they said to one another" would do just as well. It turns out that even the most conservative and literal of Bible translations, check yours out, the translations of great transparency, do not translate this word ish with man, but translate it as "they said to one another."
Looking back to the Septuagint, it supplied anthropos for ish, the gender neutral human being for ish, which some say is "man" only. But "man" disappears in the Latin and we read alter, or "other." So, "other said to other" or "they spoke other to other." Let's stop this post now and each of us find our other.
I invite you, if you want to understand that ish may be anyone, man or woman, who puts a hand to a brick, to read the articles on this page by David Stein.