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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Give ear: Revisited

I regret my post of last Sunday. It was the wrong way and the wrong place to take on the topic of women in the church. Fortunately, this week someone asked me how much shorthand Arrian could be expected to have known. Drifting through a book written in German on Roman shorthand calmed the spirit.

Then I realized that what I was reading in shorthand was part of the beautiful poem in Deuteronomy 32 in Latin. Here is how it opens.

    audite caeli quae loquor audiat terra verba oris mei Vulgate
My curiosity was peaked. Where was that famous phrase "Give ear." Did Paula and Jerome flatten out the Hebrew idiom? Clearly they dropped the parataxis. There was only one thing to do - line up the history and see how and when the phrase 'give ear' entered the English Bible. Wayne has written about this before.

Deut. 32:1
    הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה; וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי

    πρόσεχε οὐρανέ καὶ λαλήσω καὶ ἀκουέτω γῆ ῥήματα ἐκ στόματός μου

    Ye heuenes, here what thingis Y schal speke; the erthe here the wordis of my mouth. Wycliffe

    Merkt auf, ihr Himmel, ich will reden, und die Erde höre die Rede meines Mundes Luther

    Herken (O ye heauens) I wyll speake: and let the earth heare the wordes of my mouth. Coverdale

    Heare O ye heauens, and I shal speake, and let the earth heare the wordes of my mouth. Bishops

    Hearken, ye heauens, and I will speake: and let the earth heare the words of my mouth. Geneva

    Giue eare, O yee heauens, and I will speake; And heare, O earth, the words of my mouth. KJV

    Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth NIV

    Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. TNIV

    Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. ESV

    Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth NRSV
Of course, 'give ear' is an English idiom that was used outside the Bible. Here is a little rundown of it use. So I have no complaints about the use of 'give ear'. But it should not be taken as a more literal or historic translation of the Hebrew. It is simply one option among many. It is a case of deciding on English style, not Hebrew idiom. The Hebrew word for 'give ear', is related to the word 'ear', but is simply a word for 'listen', or 'pay attention'. I think.


At Sun Oct 22, 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I hear you, Suzanne. Nice post.

Should I lend you my ear?


At Mon Oct 23, 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I haven't posted Hebrew very much and now I see this doesn't display properly in Firefox. What source should I use? This displayed properly in IE6, which is now outdated, of course.

At Wed Oct 25, 08:55:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The Hebrew is fine in my Firefox - or have you edited it?

Where did KJV (1611) get "Give ear" from? Could it have been taken from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597 ??) or King Lear (1606 ??)? More probably this was a common English idiom at the time, and if so it was an excellent translation decision. But Suzanne's collection of uses suggests that this idiom is no longer in common use, and so it has rightly been replaced in many modern translations - and retained only by those which deliberately preserve the flavour of KJV.

At Wed Oct 25, 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have not edited the Hebrew. I looked at my blog in Firefox in an internet cafe a few days ago and the Hebrew font was broken. Of course, I can't go back now and reconstruct the display issues. But if you say it looks okay in Firefox and it looks okay to me in IE then I won't worry about it. It is something I can't trace now - my own computer is being fixed at the moment.

At Fri Oct 27, 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The problem at the Internet cafe was very likely that system level Hebrew support had not been installed properly. You could complain to the management, but it's probably not worth it!


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