Sunday, July 05, 2009

Wisdom of Solomon 7:10-11

According to Lester Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 2004,
    It is probable that the Wisdom of Solomon had several aims. One of the main ones is likely to have been encouragement of the Jewish community, expecially the young men, in the face of dangers from the larger Greco-Roman society, including the attractions of the mystery and other religious cults.

    Another would have been to teach members of the community the importance of seeking and gaining wisdom. The moral aim of the book is also clear. It cannot be ruled out that the author also wanted to reach a Greco-Roamna readership, but this would have been a secondary aim at best.
The Wisdom of Solomon is considered to have been written in Greek, anywhere from the second century BCE to the first century CE, and most likely in Alexandria, although this cannot be confirmed.

Here are some examples of how the language reflects original Hellenistic Greek rather than a translation of Hebrew, while still borrowing from Hebrew style. The following couplet is an example of a chiastic structure, AB, BA, with the added feature of a matching root occurring in A.
    προέκρινα αὐτὴν σκήπτρων καὶ θρόνων
    καὶ πλοῦτον οὐδὲν ἡγησάμην ἐν συγκρίσει αὐτῆς·
The same root - κριν - occurs at the beginning of the first line, in προέκρινα αὐτὴν, and at the end of the second line, in ἐν συγκρίσει αὐτῆς. This feature of repeating the root is also found in Romans 16:1-2, Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην ... παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ... αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν. So, even though the overall pattern is Hebraic, in its detail it depends on features of the Greek words.

Another stylistic device that is typical of Greek is the hyperbaton, separating two elements that belong together, usually in order to emphasize the first word. An example is in verse 1 -
καὶ γηγενοῦς ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου· Another example in verse 10 below is ὅτι ἀκοίμητον τὸ ἐκ ταύτης φέγγος, where ἀκοίμητον "sleepless" and φέγγος "daylight" are separated.

Some phrases from Wisdom of Solomon are alluded to in the New Testament. Kevin keeps a webpage of allusions to the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha on his blog to help locate these. In Acts 14:15, this line, "we are humans of like nature with you" - καὶ ἡμεῖς ὁμοιοπαθεῖς ἐσμεν ὑμῖν ἄνθρωποι - uses vocabulary found in Wisdom of Solomon verses 1 and 3. Another allusion is found in Eph. 1:17, πνεῦμα σοφίας, spirit of wisdom.

Here are the next two verses,
    10 ὑπὲρ ὑγίειαν καὶ εὐμορφίαν ἠγάπησα αὐτὴν
    καὶ προειλόμην αὐτὴν ἀντὶ φωτὸς ἔχειν,
    ὅτι ἀκοίμητον τὸ ἐκ ταύτης φέγγος.

    I loved her more than health and beauty
    and chose to have her before light
    because her radiance is sleepless

    11 ἦλθε δέ μοι τὰ ἀγαθὰ ὁμοῦ πάντα μετ᾿ αὐτῆς
    καὶ ἀναρίθμητος πλοῦτος ἐν χερσὶν αὐτῆς.

    But all good things together came to me with her
    and uncounted wealth in her hands.


J. L. Watts said...

Suzanne, Wisdom, I believe, is essential in understanding certain segments of Christology.

There was a Rabbi in the 11th century, I believe, who said that he had seen the Aramaic original, but that the Jews didn't us Wisdom anymore because of the use of it by the Christians.

Well, since this is my favorite Deuterocanonical book, I will continue to enjoy this series.

J. K. Gayle said...

the language reflects original Hellenistic Greek rather than a translation of Hebrew, while still borrowing from Hebrew style.

Sue, That the translator would find wordplay in Greek doesn't meant she or he is composing originally in Hellene and is not rendering from Hebrew (or Aramaic, as Joel suggests) - does it?

In looking at the Greek translation of Amos 11, for example, Jennifer Dines shows how one segment of the LXX translation "does have an alternation, not found in the MT," and in another section "there is a striking stylistic difference between the LXX and the MT ... [where] the LXX has two pairs of matching verbs (first and third, and second and fourth), whereas the MT has only one (first and third) ... [and] all four verbs in the LXX begin with [a Greek word without equivalence in the MT]" (page 56 of The Septuagint: Understanding the Bible and Its World). Likewise, Eugene Ekblad in Isaiah's Servant Poems According to the Septuagint (p 60) shows the Greek chiastic structure in translation of Hebrew in the LXX Isaiah 42:5-8. Similarly, T. J. Meadowcroft has a fascinating study Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel: A Literary Comparison which gets at the different roles played by the LXX and the MT "narrators."

These kinds of speculations about the roles of the LXX scholar are important, I think, to an understanding of viable and vibrant translating. At their blog Hebrew and Greek Reader, for instance, Daniel and Tonya give their own English version of Luke's narrating in Acts; they bring across in their rendering the chiasmus in the "original" Greek. But we could wonder whether Peter, whom Luke is (indirectly) quoting, actually had such chaismus in his spoken language. Is Peter speaking Hebrew-Aramaic, Latin, or Greek? And did Luke reconstruct the original speech as translated Greek (with Peter's help?)? How much agency may the translator be given? While calling J.B. Phillips's wordplay English rendering of Paul's Greek a "paraphrase," C.S. Lewis wrote to the translator: "Dear Mr. Phillips - Thank you a hundred times. I thought I knew Colossians pretty well but your paraphrase made it far more significant - it was like seeing a familiar picture after it's been cleaned" (pg 585 of vol2 of Lewis's letter collection). In other words, Lewis (the Greek scholar) calls the original (Hellene text) meaningful when seen in interlation with a translation in which the translator takes some playful (English) liberties.