Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Never blindly trust a translation II


Jewish date:  5 Shevaṭ 5770 (Parashath Bo’).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Days of Fabian and Sebastian (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Take Action: General Mills Palm Oil Causes Rainforest Destruction”.

Topic 1:  Recently I complained about the inherent flaws of translations.  I gave two examples then showing that a bad translation can give impressions which are wrong.  And now I give another one.  In my reading of the New Testament in Koinē Greek, I am working on the first chapter of Luke, and it so happens that in Luke 1:26 describes Mary as enmnēsteumenēn.  The parallel passage in Mark, verse 1:18, describes her as mnēsteutheisēs.  These words—the same word, expressed a bit differently—is conventionally translated in English as “betrothed”—and this translation is wrong.  From the way the same word is used in the Septuagint versions of Exodus 22:15, Deuteronomy 20:7, Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:25, Deuteronomy 22:27-28, and Hosea 2:21-22, it clearly means something significantly different.  Judaism recognizes two stages to marriage, ’erusin and nissu’in.  ’Erusin, which is usually contracted by by the groom giving the bride a ring, is not betrothal.  (There is not even a real concept of betrothal in Judaism.)  After ’erusin, the bride is considered a married woman, and if she sleeps with any man other than her husband, she commits adultery.  It is with nissu’in, however, that the husband brings his wife into his domain (symbolically), and the marriage can be consummated.  (It should go without saying that Judaism forbids premarital sex.)  Mary, at the time discussed by these verses, is a me’oreseth and thus already Joseph’s wife, but without the marriage being consummated.  It is for this reason that Joseph in Matthew 1:19 plans to divorce Mary:  she has presumably committed adultery, for which Jewish law requires divorce.  If they had not been actually, then she would not have been forbidden to him, even what she had presumably done is prohibited.  Thus by mistranslation of a single term, the whole incident is given an incorrect interpretation.

Topic 2:  More reports of current anti-Semitism:  “Global National Issues On-Air Clarification After HRC Complaint (January 19, 2010)” and “BBC: Denying Jewish Jerusalem”.  For a twist, “Israel: Bringing Hope Amidst Haiti's Rubble” reports on positive reporting about Israel for a change.

Topic 3:  For today’s religious humor:  “LOLcat bible book uv Fluffeh, ch 7 v 10 by wonphatcat”:
LOLcat bible book uv Fluffeh, ch 7 v 10
(Hint:  Matthew 4:18 and Mark 1:17.)


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