Friday, February 19, 2010

Mistranslations of materials used for the Tabernacle

Greetings.

Jewish date:  5 ’Adhar 5770 (Parashath Terumah).

Today’s holidays:  Friday after Ash Wednesday (Roman Catholicism), Chaoflux (Discordianism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Dick Cheney confessed to a war crime. Prosecute him.

Topic 1:  Yet another round of pointing out what can go wrong with translation.  Thus says the King James Version (KJV) of Exodus 25:1-9:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
I have already discussed mistranslation of Divine names.  Today I am going to talk about the materials donated and used for the Tabernacle.  “Blue”, “purple”, and “scarlet” are not colors; rather they are specific dyes:  tekheleth, ’argaman, and tola‘ath shani.  The former two are produced by snails, the latter (I think) from an insect larva.  While the colors of the dyes are correct, calling them by their colors gives the false impression that the colors alone are important.  Furthermore, the “badger” referred to is actually the taḥash, a creature which no one really knows what it is and may or may not really be the badger.  The tendency to pretend one knows what words mean also recurs in the description of the ḥoshen (breastplate) in Exodus 28:17:20 in the listings of gemstones embedded in it.  At least some other terms without English equivalents, such as shiṭṭim and ’efodh, are merely transliterated without anyone pretending they are something else.

Topic 2:  For today’s religious humor:  “Even kittehs must face”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
I am really not clear on when people began to talk about things wrong with their psyches as “demons”.  Possibly this is an offshoot of the notion of demonic possession which is dealt with frequently in the Gospels.

Peace and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron
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