Thursday, January 01, 2009

The WOMBman's Bible

I have almost almost given up writing about translation because there has been little to stimulate new thoughts and approaches. Mostly rehashing the same old thing.

But here is a new blog called The WOMBman's Bible. In this post, there are several very striking observations about worldplay in the Greek translation of the first few chapters of Genesis.


Even more interesting to me are the perhaps unintended Hebrew-now-Hellene interplays between A) Γένεσις and B) τὴν γῆν and C) τῷ ποταμῷ τῷ δευτέρῳ Γηων and D) γινώσκειν καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν and E) γυναῖκα / γυνή. Here, in Greek (not Hebrew) there are rhymes --puns made between A) the title of the book "Birthings" and B) the "birthing ground" which the god made and C) the second River transliterated (in contrast to the first river transliterated to sound like the Greek word for snake) and D) the "birthing knowledge of good form and evil (see Aristotle's notes above).....and E) the womb-man for birthing. (Homer and the lovers of his epics played with words in this way--which is something Plato and Aristotle even more despised and disparaged).

It's also fascinating that Adam is transliterated while "Eve" is translated, at first: καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Αδαμ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς γυναικὸς αὐτοῦ Ζωή, ὅτι αὕτη μήτηρ πάντων τῶν ζώντων (Genesis 3:20). It's not until some point later in the text that Adam's wombman, his woman, his wife is called by the Hebrew sounding name meaning "life" or "Ζωή": Αδαμ δὲ ἔγνω Ευαν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ (Genesis 4:1) -- which might be understood in Greek as "and Adam committed birthing knowledge on Eve, his birthing woman" -- but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself into the traditional chapter 4.

To sum up, the Jewish translators made Greek choices, knowing the various traditions of the Hellenes. They seem defiant and rebellious in working against Aristotelianism and perhaps Platonism. The prefer the wordplays, the puns, the creativity, the novelties in sound tradition, the pluralities within which to re-cast their mono-theism. These are the things of Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, even of Sappho, and especially of mother Helen (μήτηρ πάντων τῶν ζώντων of pan-Hellenism).


There is more new stuff in this than I have learned in a long time. Really great. Enjoy.


J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks so much for the links, and for your kind words!

Jane said...

IT's fabulous isn't it!