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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thy fellow human being

It is a day of rest so I thought that I would translate an interesting paragraph from German instead of Greek. As they say, a change is as good as a rest!

This is from Hoffnung für Alle, Galatians 5:13-15.

    Durch Christus wurde euch die Freiheit geschenkt, liebe Brüder und Schwestern! Das bedeutet aber nicht, dass ihr jetzt tun und lassen könnt, was ihr wollt. Dient vielmehr einander in Liebe. 14 Denn wer dieses eine Gebot befolgt: »Liebe deinen Mitmenschen wie dich selbst!«, der hat das ganze Gesetz erfüllt. 15 Wenn ihr aber wie die Wölfe übereinander herfallt, dann passt nur auf, dass ihr euch dabei nicht gegenseitig fresst! HFA
      Through Christ freedom has been given to you, dear brothers and sisters. That doesn't mean that you can now do, and not do, whatever you want. Rather serve each other in love. Then whoever follows this one command "Love thy fellow human being as thyself!" they have the whole law fulfilled. But when you pounce on each other like wolves, then watch out that you are not thereby devoured in return. (free tr. from the German)
          13My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don't use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. 14All that the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. 15But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves. CEV
            ὑμεῖς γὰρ ἐπ' ἐλευθερίᾳ ἐκλήθητε ἀδελφοί μόνον μὴ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἰς ἀφορμὴν τῇ σαρκί ἀλλὰ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης δουλεύετε ἀλλήλοις 14 ὁ γὰρ πᾶς νόμος ἐν ἑνὶ λόγῳ πεπλήρωται ἐν τῷ ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν 15 εἰ δὲ ἀλλήλους δάκνετε καὶ κατεσθίετε βλέπετε μὴ ὑπ' ἀλλήλων ἀναλωθῆτε
          The German phrase Mitmensch, which I have translated as 'fellow human being' best reflects what is taught in Gal. 3:28.

            3:28 Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. CEV
          'Neighbour' leaves open the interpretation that this command applies to the relationship between one citizen and another, that is, a person should love someone else belonging to the same category as oneself, a freeman so behaves towards another freeman, and a woman to another woman, and so on.

          But the radical expression 'fellow human being' calls for an end to slavery, an end to racism, and an end to declaring that men and women have different fulfillments in this life.

          I have actually heard people talking about how those of a different race may not have the same need for freedom as we do. 'Others', supposedly, can tolerate oppressive conditions because they do not 'feel it' as we do. Imputing such notions to others, differentiating between the peoples of the east and west, or between the rich and the poor, between husbands and wives, all denies the equal and radical call to freedom that is the theme of the epistle to the Galatians.

          24 Comments:

          At Mon Oct 09, 12:20:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          Imputing such notions to others, differentiating between the peoples of the east and west, or between the rich and the poor, between husbands and wives, all denies the equal and radical call to freedom that is the theme of the epistle to the Galatians.

          I would say that this statement more or less disregards political and cultural context (as well as some level of reality). Definitions of freedom differ by social context. It seems to me that Paul's definition of freedom is IN DESPITE of the cultural and historical reality that the Christian may find themself in ("in despite" usage following that of W. Irving). Also, I don't think the definition of "Free" or "Freedom" differs by "race" (as you claim you have heard some say), but I will be the first to admit that definitions of freedom differ by historical situation and current social context.

          But the radical expression 'fellow human being' calls for an end to slavery, an end to racism, and an end to declaring that men and women have different fulfillments in this life.

          I'm not convinced that Paul's expression demands secular change (as they fairly reject most Christian notions, do they not?). Secular change would be nice, but could just be a "pipe-dream" as secular reality cannot bear the weight of Christian reality. I agree that slavery and racism need to be abolished, but the fact is that a secular world will struggle quite deeply with these notions (especially since some modern scientific research can be seen to encourage thoughts of racism). Your last statement about different "fulfillments" for men and women in this life is peculiar. I'm not sure what your definition of "fulfillments" is, so I cannot accurately comment. If you mean that men and women may have different peculiarities or unique attributes, you are surely wrong to posit that their "fulfillements" are identical. But if you are talking about stripping away factors of "sex" and looking strictly at the "inner person", then things are different.

          Kinda makes you wonder why God didn't just create Androgenous beings capable of self replication. It would certainly have reduced this ongoing and self persistent war over "sex" and "what's right for a man and whats right for a woman" that I find increasingly tiresome (due to the fact that the issue was really resolved quite some time ago for myself). I think you need to be careful and alert us to how abstract you are in your considerations. You almost make it sound like acknowledging differences between men and women is wrong. But, I did identify a few different definitions for your vague "fulfillments", and my comments ride on what you decide this means specifically.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 12:23:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

          Interesting........

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to imply *universal* love.
          In fact, in french, 'πλησίον' is translated as 'Prochain', which mean 'next', in other word, *whoever* comes next.

          However, both in Hebrew(H7453), Greek (πλησίον-G4139) and Latin (proximum), these words imply proximity and nearness, and is almost always accompanied by a *possesive* 'my', 'your' etc. indicating someone being *close* to the addressee (hence neighbor).

          Saying that, I like the idea of loving my 'prochain' as much as - as the concordant version gives it - my associate. I guess I could call them my come-uponners (a bit of a torturous word I know) or my approxi-mates :)

          Thanks God that Jesus was asked to define πλησίον in Luke 10:29 !

          Your post has a nice thought though. Thank you.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Sylvanus,

          I did a thorough study the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and French as an underpinning to this post and then I just thought it was too detailed. However, since you bring it up, yes, it is 'the one who is next to us' in Greek, Latin, German and French.

          But let's start with the Hebrew, comrade, and then look at Leviticus 19, and how this ethic is extended to the stranger. In the Jewish perspective there are two interpretations, the ones who are 'of us', and the 'strangers' also.

          As you note it is the 'next one' in Greek, French, German and Latin. But think of the typical German translation, not nachbar (neighbour) but nachste (the next one).

          So in English the fossilized term neighbour does no justice to the Greek, πλησιον. English has the worst way of translating this of any of these languages.

          My first thought is to admit the inadequacy of the English translation for this word, 'neighbour', and then let us be challenged by the German thinking on this subject.

          So Sylvanus, I write to provoke thought on the inadequacy of English and like you I find 'the one that I come upon', as the Samaritan did, is a good thought.

          Thanks for your thoughtful response.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 02:05:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Matthew

          due to the fact that the issue was really resolved quite some time ago for myself

          What are your opinions in this regard? You have a very strong reaction to my post, but I am not sure why, so I would rather not head off in the wrong directon on this. Coudl you articulate your own thoughts on these matters?

          My own opinions have been shaped by years of working with different cultural and social groups, and should be primarily understood in that respect.

          However, on gender it is probably only safe to give the personal anecdote that my brother and his daughters and myself, all have similar academic and career interests. What we share genetically in our intellect far surpasses our identities as male and female. But you must not take that as any derogation of our condition as male and female. We are multidimensional creatures.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Dana said...

          Totally off-topic and irrelevant, but how come Paul gets a pass when it comes to (mis?)quoting Scripture? I Cor. 2:9 supposedly quotes Is. 64:4, but in my text there's a big difference between what Isaiah said and what Paul said.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 07:03:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          You have a very strong reaction to my post...

          I wasn't aware that it was so strong... I thought I was being moderately conversational, if not a little critical! :D

          My own opinions have been shaped by years of working with different cultural and social groups, and should be primarily understood in that respect.

          Mine as well, although I have done some research on the implications of historical situation upon collective thought. I assume that your working with other cultures is more extensive than my own, though.

          What we share genetically in our intellect far surpasses our identities as male and female.

          Genetically in your intellect, eh? No leading of ye olde Holy Spirit involved at all? I think this comment steps into the realm of "what girls like to do" and "what boys like to do". It seems to me, that, as a human being WITH sex attached, it is therefore part of my identity. Now, this does not mean that I am gonna go pump iron and attempt to lift the back end of a 1980's Volkswagen Rabbit, but it does mean that when I abstract myself from my sex, I still have to maintain that my sex has something to do with my true identity. I have a strange stance on the whole "sexes" thing. I believe in total equality, but that we respect the differences. What does this mean? It means I would have no problem with a stay at home dad and a full time "bring home the bacon" mom. But, I find it strange when people actually want to get rid of the differences, as if man and woman don't exist but there is only one... human. I am of the persuasion that God created the sexes, not just as a convenient way to reproduce, but as an integral part of the makeup of human beings and their "true" identities (to borrow the title of a study Bible). So, on the one hand, while I enjoy extracting intellect, etc., far away from sexual identity as much as the next theologian, I must face the reality that, although the extraction exists, sexual identity exists as well. A person with a sexual identification crisis has an identity crisis. This is why we commonly see a persons identity being determined by their sexual preference (among other things). Sex, and our intellectual reaction to our sexual situation, have a heavy bearing on identity. I think we should respect this, and understand that sexual identity may even affect what we consider to be an abstraction or removal from sexual recognition.

          We are "multdimensional creatures" because God had a very unique idea when he created us. "Multidimensionality" is part of our integral makeup.

          So, I guess to comment on your sentence before last. What you share geneticaly in your intellect can only "far" surpass your identities as male and female assuming that intellect can be extracted from your present condition. Or, to say it otherwise, if present sexual condition (or identity) helps shape intellect, the whole abstraction falls apart (though it is still possible, but only theoretically. But, when I think about it, much of what we propose to do as theologians needs be theoretic by nature of our partial knowledge).

          Enough for now. I really gotta systematize my thoughts on this complicated and "oh so frequently" brought up subject. I'm always open for new ideas, thankfully.

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 07:14:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          Dana, it doesn't come from the LXX or from any Hebrew that I am aware of. But, it is undeniable that the general sense of the verse is in tact.

          You know, this is one of those deals where people will argue over the implications that this verse has for Bible translation and the inspiration of scripture.

          Personally, it seems to me that Paul's quote is loose and being used to prove a point somewhat different than that being shown by the original author of Isaiah 64:4. For me, this fits into my own understanding of "Inspiration", and it also gives me hope that there is some leniency, creativity, and reason in Bible translation. Making Better Bibles possible.

          Don't get me wrong, I don't think flagrantly produced translations are safe because they are "creative", but I do think the fact that most of the NT authors quote rather loosely (to the horror of many conservatives and evangelicals! They do get extremely apologetic about it some times, not to over generalize!) to be a sign that many of our modern "dynamic" or "functional" translations are much better off than some would have us believe.

          TOO creative is dangerous, just like TOO literal can be detrimental to comprehension. A wide range of translations is necessary for "in depth" understanding. On the other hand, there are many solid Bible translations that can be used quite generally, in a multi purpose fashion, while the other translations need only be consulted when seeking in depth understanding.

          Enough from me!!!

          :D

           
          At Mon Oct 09, 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Matthew,

          I don't want to carry this into the realm of psychology as I am not trained in that area. So please don't take my comments as anything more than a guide for how to 'treat' people. I don't want to wander any further into the realm of identity and abstraction.

          I am not promoting any sort of androgyny, or the erasing of cultural and ethnic identity.

           
          At Tue Oct 10, 04:25:00 AM, Blogger Dana said...

          Matthew -

          I guess... maybe. But it's not just that Paul uses the verse to support a diferent idea. What concerns me is that the quoted version means something different than the verse from Isaiah. Yes, he mostly used the same words and phrases, but to be honest, I'd feel less awkward about it if he'd rephrased it and kept the meaning the same.

          Thank you for your help! :)

           
          At Tue Oct 10, 02:29:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          Suzanne,

          I don't want to carry this into the realm of psychology as I am not trained in that area.

          Not even any "amateur dabbling?" I won't press the issue (obviously), but I find the comment interesting. Reminds me of the whole "officially trained" vs. "trained officially" argument I had with myself the other day. Academic training, and its use as an "in", is a part time research passion of mine.

          So please don't take my comments as anything more than a guide for how to 'treat' people.

          Assuming your comments reflect sound apostolic teaching (and they do, from what I can see).

          I am not promoting any sort of androgyny, or the erasing of cultural and ethnic identity.

          As regards this: The hairs that remain are already quite thin, eh? Not suitable for splitting, I assume. Even the erasing of a cultur or some type of ethnic identity is actually just a replacement of that culture with the conditioned "anti-culture". It is ironic that those who promote such an anti-culture (I am not referring to you Suzanne) are actually just emphasizing a replacement, and a poor one at that in my opinion (mostly due to the artificial nature of said replacements).

          Dana,

          Yes, he mostly used the same words and phrases, but to be honest, I'd feel less awkward about it if he'd rephrased it and kept the meaning the same.

          I can see where you are coming from, and this is what I meant when I mentioned inspiration above. Depending on your understanding of what constitutes for an Inspired Writing, or in this case, an Inspired Quote, the opinions will vary. I personally argue that due to the fact that the Apostle Paul was most likely under inspiration when he wrote (or spoke) this the text is to be regarded as valid and I must be comfortable with the way the Holy Spirit chose to do it. Of course, everything rides on an individuals understanding of "inspiration".

           
          At Tue Oct 10, 02:37:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Matthew,

          I find your discussion quite interesting but beyond the scope of this blog.

           
          At Tue Oct 10, 11:58:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          Suzanne,

          I would say that your final paragraph may not bear the wait of your assertion (beyond the scope). It virtually invites commenting upon (as I have done) or discussing this issue.

          If it is beyond the scope of the blog, one wonders why it needed to even be mentioned in the first place.

          We aren't pushing opinions and then denying discussion upon said opinions are we?

          Your post mostly doesn't, but that last paragraph is rather inviting.

          But, as I said in above, I am done as well.

          :P

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

          Since you seem both done on the matters of the above debate (Posting guidelines: Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues, not personalities), and since I had quite some time to think about it (and very unsuccessfully I must say), I was just wondering, for the sake of making Bibles Better, how would m.j.mansini translate the word commonly (but uncorrectly) rendered as neighbour, πλησίον?

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...

          Sylvanus,

          Thank you, that is much more to the point!

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Sylvanus,

          My sense is that German has a good resolution with Mitmensch, 'fellow human', but French is much more problematic, with 'prochain', 'semblable', 'concitoyen', 'camarade'. At least in English we can say 'fellow human', maybe that is the best sense for πλησιον.

          Have you looked at Leviticus 19?

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 06:20:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

          Thank you for reminding me of Lev 19 (I'd forgotten). so I read the whole chapter, but wasn't quite sure where, as you previously mentioned, the ethic was extended to the stranger as related to your original main post, since verse 34 makes that one a neighbour, one living next door (despite the separateness of the Israelites). Maybe I misunderstood you.

          In that chapter, there were two word of interest to me (both translated as 'neighbour' in the KJV):H5997 and H7453. However, the second seems to be by definition a more personal noun than the first. Sometimes it comes second in the verse (vs16&18), sometimes it comes first (v13)- Just a thought (Proverbs like Lev19 does that a lot)

          I now only a couple of words in German, and probably not worth boasting about, but French, I know well. Problematique you say? Let me help maybe: In the French colloquial, I think concitoyen is too charged ever since the late 1700's, while camarade is more for children or communists. As for semblable it may be too related to the same kind. Prochain, however, is possibly more like the German nachste (though I can only assume that). It is invariably used to describe anyone from the human kind that happens to come across your way. There is no other definition, and is nationally known to come from the Scriptures.

          I like fellow human, I truly do, but I ask myself: Why would a man of such knowledge ask Jesus to define who is his fellow human (Luke 10:29)?

          After a wave crossed my brain, I came up with some words to challenge the inadequacies of the English tongue: What do you think of these?
          A concomitant. An accompany A collaterate. They don't sound very friendly but there you go......'others' is much simpler perhaps.

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 08:04:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          Sylvanus,

          I mentioned 'concitoyen' only to show τhe parallel construction with Mitmensch. So συνεργος is 'coworker' or 'fellow worker' in the epistles, 'mitarbeiter' in German and 'compagnon d'oeuvre' in French. I am really trying, like you, to look at all the possible variations.

          Now I have to confess that I am not familiar with how you are indexing your Hebrew words. Is there somewhere I can look up your numbers? Thanks.

          Back to 'prochain' and 'nächste', they seem to be somewhat transparent. But the German has two words nachbar (English - neighbour) and nachste. SO neighbour in English is just not transparent enough to be equivalent to the Greek πλησιον. IMO

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 08:06:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

           
          At Wed Oct 11, 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          As you say 'others' does keep things simple and not too weighty philosophically! I certainly can't find fault with that.

           
          At Thu Oct 12, 08:12:00 AM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

          Suzanne

          I am indexing according to Strong's numerical System. I am sure you've got it somewhere on your harddrive, otherwise:
          http://www.blueletterbible.org/search.html#strongs
          or
          http://www.biblestudytools.net/Lexicons/

          There are versions using 'others' or 'one another' etc. Sometimes the KJv does. and although its not that accurate (I'm a bit fussy) I think it's a good compromise, and 'fellow human' could be used in other passages.

          thank you for your post

           
          At Thu Oct 12, 11:42:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          Sylvanus,

          According to the guideline you posted (Posting guidelines: Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues, not personalities), tell me how understanding a translators theological goals on race and sex does not influence Bible translation.

          Do theological presuppositions in a translator not become a "translation issue"? Many translations are colored red because of someones opinion that the translation itself reflects these theological issues (this blog has posted on these "apparent" theological views of the translators many times in regards to translation of sex).

          It seems to me that theological bias is an inherent issue with any translation of Biblical texts. To disregard that easily overlooked fact is to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that a problem with direct "force" on the translation of Biblical texts does not exist.

          I'm as pro "lets just talk about the text" as anyone, but like Suzanne succinctly said, humans are "multidimensional creatures". The text is never the only factor, despite how much we wish it could be.

           
          At Thu Oct 12, 03:37:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

          You said:
          Do theological presuppositions in a translator not become a "translatioin issue"?
          It seems to me that theological bias is an inherent issue with any translation of Biblical texts.
          The text is never the only factor, despite how much we wish it could be

          I agree. And I think it is a shame (and more). And to impose one's presumed thoelogical bias to change the sacred text is in my opinion wrong (and more). To express it elswhere is quite another thing. Those changes are what prompted me to translate the NT without bias and with full transparently on my site, and highlight mistranslations on my blog (see my profile).

          As for the guidelines, these are those of this blog, and I do not presume to enforce them. Suzanne however, a contributor to this blog, and the author of the post, has undirectly implied them (more than once).

          I do not know much about philosophy or else (I am no schoolard), and my words are simple, I am a simple man, so discussing multidimentional issues are way past me, I rather do this with someone face to face and heart to heart, not on the net (it doesn't usually comes to much).

          Thanks anyway

           
          At Thu Oct 12, 04:23:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

          As for the guidelines, these are those of this blog, and I do not presume to enforce them.

          Yes, and apparently, since we have observed several applications of those guidelines, they are up for debate.

          Suzanne however, a contributor to this blog, and the author of the post, has undirectly implied them (more than once).

          The problem with Suzanne's post is that the post INVITES discussion on the issue of the application of those great words found in Galatians. Also, her comments espouse a particular viewpoint. It would be unfair to make a post generated from a particular understanding of the text and a unique worldview, and then expect the comments to be striclty limited to the text alone and for the commentators to disregard the obvious issues confronted in the post.

          Your welcome, anyway...

           
          At Thu Oct 12, 07:46:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

          My intent was to highlight how a certain German translation had resolved the problem of translating πλησιον. The most unbiased way, it seems to me, would be, "Love the one who is next to you as yourself." Not too out of the way.

          Matthew,

          Have you any suggestions as to how to tanslate πλησιον?

           

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