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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John 1:14

I have been thinking over a few of the translation issues in the first chapter of John. I don't have a clear theme in mind but I would like to ask about a few diverse points. One of the concerns that most often occurs to me in reading the Greek scriptures is whether the writers were using Greek vocabulary in the sense that it had taken on in the Septuagint. For example, here is John 1:14.

    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (TNIV)
Those who favour the notion that the vocabulary in John's gospel owes much to Judaism often quote John 1:14 in one of the following ways,
    And, the Word, became, flesh, and pitched his tent among us, and we gazed upon his glory, - a glory, as an Only-begotten from his Father. Full of favour and truth. (Rotherham)

    And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. (Wesley)

    The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh'khinah, the Sh'khinah of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. Complete Jewish Bible (Stern)
I find it somewhat surprising that there is no major translation which has,

    The word became human and tabernacled amongst us and we saw his Sh'khinah glory, the glory of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
I am not sure if this is significant or not. Evidently there is no major translation which chooses to depart from the traditional phrasing here.

    22 Comments:

    At Wed Mar 28, 05:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Suzanne, I think there is a very good reason why no translation into English follows your suggestion, and that is because it includes two words which are not English at all, "tabernacled" and "Sh'khinah". The latter may be acceptable for a Jewish audience like Stern's, but not for a general audience. As for "tabernacled", if this is what Wesley really wrote he should be ashamed of himself, because at least in British English it is not possible to use nouns as verbs in this way.

    But I do rather like how Rotherham put this, although it needs a little tidying up and I'm not sure what he meant by "full of favour".

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 07:39:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Yes, I agree that 'pitch your tent' is better English and I should not have used "amongst" either.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Suzanne, the ISV, in process, uses "tabernacled":

    The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We gazed on his glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father's unique Son, full of grace and truth.

    The footnote on "tabernacled" reads:

    Or pitched his tent

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 08:24:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

    Stern's "translation" is certainly not used by those who belong to mainstream Jewish denominations, rather it is a Christian translation meant for evangelizing Jews.

    "Shekhina" is a post-biblical word. "Shekhina" does appear in some of the Targums, and in the Talmud, but was a later noun coinage from the verb sh-k-n. Abstract nouns in Hebrew formed from verb forms with a final "ah" sound are feminine in gender -- the often cited significance of the gender (for example, I recently read an amazingly uninformed discourse on this by William Dever) is not a reflection on Israelite religion but is a later development -- primarily in the mystical (especially Hasidic) traditions. To use a Hebrew term such as this in a biblical translation is anachronistic.

    It is particularly inappropriate for an English translation of the Bible to include a term that has accumulated so much baggage as "Shekhina" -- it is eisegesis of the worst form.

    Now, I want to return for a moment to Stern's "translation." Stern's attempt to dress up the Christian Scripture using Yiddish and Hebrew terms obscures rather than clarifies the influence that Judaism had Christianity. This example is only one of many -- Stern routinely takes terminology that developed in Rabbinic Judaism (for which there is substantial evidence of independent development from that of early Christianity) and tries to make the Christian Scriptures sound "more Jewish" by using this terminology. I know of no audience for this other than enthusiasts of "Hebrew Christianity." Certainly most readers would find Stern's language unintelligible, and those who are familiar with Stern's terms would be misled rather than enlightened by his anachronistic misuse of terms. Stern adds a Jewish "flavoring" to the Christian Scriptures; as if they were recited by a speaker with an Ashkenazi accent.

    There are, of course, many serious studies of the influence of Judaism on Christianity (and there is the discussion in the Christian Scriptures themselves), so Stern's work is at best superfluous and at worst patronizing or deceptive.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    If "tabernacled" means "pitched his tent", why doesn't ISV say that? And if it means something different, what on earth does it mean?

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Anon,

    I was very careful to identify Stern's translation by his name rather than just put in "complete Jewish Bible" which is how it was listed on the site where I found it - I think they should have identified it there by his name. Certainly the title "Complete Jewish Bible" gives the wrong impression. It was obvious to me that it was not a "Jewish" bible. I realized that it would be controversial.

    In fact, all the translations I quoted were translations of individuals rather than organizations. So you point is well taken.

    I decided to put out as many variants as possible in this post and Sh'kinah was one of them. I am glad to have more background on that.

    Nonetheless, to use 'dwell' instead of 'pitch tent' or 'tabernacle', does obscure the Greek.

    I am trying to understand to what extent the Christian scriptures in translation have made either too little or too much out of connections with Hebrew antecdents.

    Peter, I think that 'tabernacled' is put in to indicate the connection to the Jewish tabernacle - to provide concordance with the Hebrew scriptures. 'Pitch his tent' is not going to do that.

    What I can't figure out is whether this concordance should happen or not.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 10:55:00 AM, Blogger John said...

    I concur with Peter that ‘tabernacled’ is best avoided, at least in a translation like ISV, but not because it is not a legitimate coinage (it is, and appears in Webster’s; I don’t have the OED on my bookshelf, but I doubt Wesley was the first to use it; I wonder whether the verb already occurs in ecclesiastical Latin).

    ISV, as I understand it, wants to be a vernacular, not a literary translation. In that sense ‘tabernacled’ is inappropriate.

    Excuse me if I make what seems to be an unrelated point. John 1:14 is an example of how important it is to be familiar with the Septuagint, and not only with the books of the Tanakh contained therein, but the books of the so-called Apocrypha as well. If one wishes to fully understand the New Testament, a familiarity with the Septuagint is essential.

    Here is a short list of passages that might have occurred to or exercised a subliminal influence on a reader of John 1:14 in the communities that recognized the gospel writer’s authority, whose leaders (including the ‘lady’ of 2 John) and well-versed members, no less than John, would have had a thorough knowledge of the authorized version of the Bible in Greek – in every case the verb in Greek meaning (literally) ‘pitch his/her tent’ is found: (3 Kingdoms [=1 Kgs] 6:13 [note context]; 1 Supplements [= 1 Chronicles] 23:25-26 [note context]; 2 Esdras [=Ezra] 6:12 [which goes back to Deut 12:11]; Ezekiel 43:7, 9; but especially Jesus ben Sirach 24:8 [be sure to read all of 24:1-22; the verb in question also occurs in verse 4]. The ben Sira passage is actually super-pertinent background to the Logos Christology of John 1.

    It’s important to remember that when the New Testament was written, the outer limits of what constituted Scripture varied from Jewish subtradition to subtradition, and by extension, among Christian communities founded by members of said backgrounds.

    A concordant translation of the Greek Bible might well translate ‘pitch his/her tent’ or ‘tabernacle’ in all of the above passages. A wonderful chain of inter-scriptural allusions is thereby put on display. The chain exists but doesn’t have the same ring in the Hebrew. The Hebrew verb the Greek translates, related to post-biblical Hebrew shekinah, means to ‘set oneself down, settle down’ in the Qal and ‘set down, establish’ in the Piel. No tent in the Hebrew!

    This reminds me of one of the reasons why Augustine argued against the hebraica veritas of Jerome. Imagine the frustration of someone steeped in the Septuagint upon discovering that the chain of cross-references alluded to above did not involve a verb referring to pitching a tent in the Hebrew. The Greek translation, it will be objected, is inspired in the above instances. By translating with ‘pitch his tent’ in passages which refer to the tent of meeting - > temple, the text coheres with itself in Greek more than it does in Hebrew!

    Historically speaking, in Latin-speaking Christianity, Augustine lost his argument with Jerome, but that doesn’t mean Augustine was totally off base. To be sure, the Septuagint as transmitted in the church was a terrible mishmash in some books (the ecclesiastical text of Job, for example). Jerome understood this, and returned to the Hebrew.

    But the price paid was high. Familiarity with the Septuagint (and Old Latin translations based on it) made it possible for the church to read the New Testament with greater understanding that it could based on the hebraica veritas reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. Without knowledge of the Septuagint, some of the scriptural references in the New Testament are incomprehensible.

    Jerome understood that, too, and in really important instances, he depended on the Septuagint and not the Hebrew for his translation. The parade example is Isa 7:14 where he translates ecco virgo with the Septuagint and against the Hebrew.

    Anyone who loves translation is familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of translating “concordantly.” I remember being fascinated by a “concordant translation” of the New Testament I picked up somewhere while an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. I’ve lost track of it. Perhaps it is still in print and includes the Old Testament as well.

    John Hobbins

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 11:30:00 AM, Blogger John said...

    Anonymous,

    you sound like a person I would enjoy passing the hours with over a strong cup of coffee. But I think your handling of Stern's translation is too harsh.

    You are right of course that Stern's work is more than a translation. However, that Jews who are also Christians should seek to contextualize their faith in Jesus within the larger Jewish tradition is perfectly understandable, and of potential interest to non-Jews.

    The writings of Jacob Jocz come to mind.

    John Hobbins

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 12:00:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Peter, I think that 'tabernacled' is put in to indicate the connection to the Jewish tabernacle - to provide concordance with the Hebrew scriptures. 'Pitch his tent' is not going to do that.

    Suzanne, that depends on how the Hebrew Scriptures (or for that matter the LXX) have been translated. Since in a general purpose translation of them I would avoid "tabernacle" as a noun as well as a verb and use "tent", then "pitch his tent" would provide concordance. I would avoid "tabernacle" because even as a noun this word has no meaning for most English speakers, except perhaps in the jocular phrase "tin tabernacle" referring to a small church building cheaply built of metal sheets. But of course the "tabernacle" in the Hebrew Scriptures was made not of metal but of skins and woven material, and so the best English translation is "tent".

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Gary Zimmerli said...

    Peter, as a life-long Methodist I was intrigued by your criticism of Wesley's supposed use of "tabernacled". I was unable to find Wesley's own translation at the moment, but I found his "Explanatory Notes".

    In his note on John 1:14 he says this: The whole verse might be paraphrased thus: And in order to raise us to this dignity and happiness, the eternal Word, by a most amazing condescension, was made flesh, united himself to our miserable nature, with all its innocent infirmities. And he did not make us a transient visit, but tabernacled among us on earth, displaying his glory in a more eminent manner, than even of old in the tabernacle of Moses...

    It appears he did use the term. :-)

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 07:31:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

    However, that Jews who are also Christians should seek to contextualize their faith in Jesus within the larger Jewish tradition is perfectly understandable, and of potential interest to non-Jews.

    I don't wish to debate the point, because I fear it will generate more heat than light. There is certainly a great deal of interesting scholarly work on the historical intersections between Christianity and Judaism (I've enjoyed reading David Flusser, Daniel Boyarin, Amy-Jill Levine, Hyam Maccoby, Geza Vermes, and others on this topic.) Nonetheless, I believe (along with the Israeli Supreme Court and every major rabbinical association, from the liberal Reform to the Ultra-Orthrodox Hasidic) that it is not possible to practice Judaism and Christianity at the same time. One can practice, perhaps, Christianity influenced by Judaism, but it is outside the realm of what is considered Judaism.

    There is a joke, perhaps in poor taste, that illustrates my point:

    Q: Why did God create Mormons?
    A: So Christians can understand how Jews feel.

    If a member the LDS Church brings Smith's version of the KJV and the Book of Mormon and calls it a "Complete Christian" bible, is it possible to be simultaneously a Southern Baptist and a Mormon? A Roman Catholic and a Mormon? An Episcopalian and a Mormon? I think not.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I will leave shekhinah and the Stern translation aside and try to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of 'pitch his tent' and 'tabernacle'.

    Personally, I don't see why tabernacle cannot be a verb as well as a noun (along with google) but it is also a Québeçois swear-word so it may sound a little odd here. It does, however, simply mean tent.

    But the Greek σκηνη translates two different Hebrew words, one meaning 'dwelling' and the other 'tent'. If pitch a tent were used then it would be concordant with the tent of meeting in Ex. 27:21.

    I am not sure if it is a high priority but I am interested in knowing why concordance is so important for some themes but not for others.

    Here is a concordant literal NT.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I also noticed that the ISV uses "fleshly impulse" in John 1:13 so I think that also might not be counted as vernacular. The ISV is trying to retain concordance with flesh, but also avoid saying the "will of the flesh" and therefore, turns flesh into an adjective, which is great in Old English, but sounds a little too much like fleshy.

    Retaining concordance is obviously at odds with a more vernacular style.

     
    At Wed Mar 28, 11:13:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I think there must be several different concordant versions, so I will try to put together a list some time.

    John,

    Thanks for reminding me of Jacob Jocz. I remember hearing him speak in Toronto several times.

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 01:22:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

    Peter opined: 'As for "tabernacled", if this is what Wesley really wrote he should be ashamed of himself, because at least in British English it is not possible to use nouns as verbs in this way.'

    Don't blame Wesley. Blame Collinges.

    OED:

    [quote]
    tabernacle, v.

    1. intr. To occupy a tabernacle, tent, or temporary dwelling, or one that can be shifted about; to dwell for a time, to sojourn: usually fig., in devotional or poetical language, said of the sojourning of Christ on earth or ‘in the flesh’, and of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ; also of men as spiritual beings dwelling in the ‘fleshly tabernacle’ of the body.

    1653 J. COLLINGES Caveat for Prof. xiv. 69 The Evangelist Saint John, Joh. i. 14 saith, He tabernacled amongst us. 1667 I. PENNINGTON Quest. to Prof. Chr. 20 Is it the flesh and blood of him, who took, tabernacled and appeared in the Body? 1677 GALE Crt. Gentiles II. IV. 91 That of Paul 2 Cor. xii. 9..that the power of Christ might tabernacle or dwel on me. 1847 C. ROSSETTI Face of Deep (1892) 454 Not with the sparrow building here a house; But with the swallow tabernacling so As still to poise alert to rise and go. 1872 LIDDON Elem. Relig. iii. 94 It is..as personal spirits, tabernacling in bodily forms, that we men are capable of religion. 1876 C. M. DAVIES Unorth. Lond. 188 Tabernacling first in a room in Burton Street. 1881 N.T. (R.V.) John i. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [marg. tabernacled: Gr. ἐσκήνωσεν] among us.

    2. trans. To place in a tabernacle; to enshrine.

    1822 MILMAN Mart. Antioch iii. 116 In thee the light, Creation's eldest born, was tabernacled. 1891 Tablet 21 Nov. 825 In any church in this land in which Jesus is tabernacled and has found a home. 1896 Cath. News 25 Apr. 6/6 The real presence of God..tabernacled in yon loving place.

    Hence {sm}tabernacling vbl. n., dwelling in a tabernacle or tent; sojourning; temporary abode.

    1685 J. SCOTT Chr. Life (1699) V. 246 It is no note of distinction between these two dwellings or tabernaclings of Christ. 1856 RUSKIN Mod. Paint. IV. V. vi. §9. 89 This tabernacling of the unendurable sun with men. 1866 J. G. MURPHY Comm. Exod. xxiii. 16 The feast of tabernacles, because the tabernacling of the people in the wilderness was then commemorated.
    [/quote]

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 01:54:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

    Here is a perceptive review of Jocz's major work. It appeared in The Journal of Religion, January 1951, p. 67-68.

    The Jewish People and Jesus Christ. By JACOB JOCZ. New York: Macmillan Co., 1950. 446
    pages. $4.50.

    Dr. Jocz has written a scholarly, carefully documented, and impassioned account of the trying encounter of Judaism and Christianity. The concern of his study is twofold: to indicate the theological and historical forces which abetted and solidified the estrangement of Judaism and Christianity and to analyze the persistence of Hebrew-Christian thinkers, whose function of mediation, he holds, has served to interpret Jewish religious life to Christianity and Jesus as Christ to Jews. Jocz's treatment of the former involves him in an elaborate analysis of those theological and ecclesiastical issues on which Judaism and Christianity divide. The latter objective is pursued through discrete yet related studies of the Nazarene community and the perpetuation of its spirit among Jewish converts to Christianity; the attitude of rabbinic and contemporary Judaism toward the historical and transcendent Jesus; and a well-documented treatment of Jewish Lebes-Jesu-Forschung. Whatever the breadth and understanding which Dr. Jocz achieves in the formulation of his study, it is nevertheless his underlying thesis that must draw response.

    The Jewish People and Jesus Christ argues a lucid and simple conviction: the history of post-Christian Judaism and the presence of the church are to be treated only by reference to the negation which the former and the affirmation which the latter assume to the person of Jesus-Christ. It is the author's contention that rabbinic literature and the subsequent theological development of Judaism can be interpreted properly only when interpreted by the theological criteria it confronts in the rejection of Jesus as Christ. From such an intrinsically dogmatic assertion
    arises his analysis of the influence of the Hebrew-Christian conventicle on rabbinic thought; the vindication and pressing of the
    missionary enterprise; the rationalization of antinomies consistently unfavorable to Judaism.

    However judicious his selection of complimentary Jewish sources (Kohler, Montefiore, Schoeps, Buber), the pivotal reality is never confronted. The passing sympathy which may be elicited from one Jewish scholar does not evoke the stand which catholic Judaism must take. The intrinsic life, piety, and aspiration of the Jewish faith neither originate nor draw substance from any encounter with Jesus Christ. The inner dialectic of Judaism, the tension of its
    multiple strains, can be interpreted and matured without recourse to the Christian experience. Though it has throughout its history and particularly in recent decades sought to meet the opposition or construct the rationale from which sectarian movements, heresies, or non-Jewish faiths might be viewed, it has not been in any essential way molded by the presence of the Christian faith. Christianity, as expressed by Jocz, insists that Judaism view and decide. The religious Jew fails to be moved by the presence of Jesus Christ, not because he is indifferent to the ends of salvation, the achievement of the malkhut shamayim, or the days of the Messiah, but because his doctrine and practice accord with the demands his faith and community with God proclaim. If this be negation of Jesus Christ, then the act of negation becomes so broad of meaning as to lose any peculiar content. The Jew does not negate Jesus Christ, because he has never encountered him. Likewise the Christian does not deny Judaism, for he knows nothing of its inwardness. The act of conversion occurs. Jews affirm Jesus Christ; likewise Christians have come to Sinai; yet individual Jews or Christians do not speak or manifest
    the fulness of their traditions.

    The weaknesses of Dr. Jocz's study, whether they be weaknesses of theoretical treatment or historical analysis, stem from ultimately the same source. He has endeavored to characterize a religious tradition by recourse to principles which are theological, not historical, in nature. One cannot expect to produce a thoroughly satisfying or convincing historical analysis when one's principles are essentially nonhistorical. The overemphases, the generalizations, and the pervasive unbalance which mar this study are ultimately to be traced to this methodological confusion. Notwithstanding my criticism, his analysis remains suggestive and creative. It fails however to realize its most genuine objective, the establishment of grounds on which Jews and Christians can fruitfully meet. It fails, for, if Jocz's position triumphs, the Jew can meet Christ only in the church.

    ARTHUR A. COHEN
    Hillel Foundation
    University of Chicago

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 04:29:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Gary quoted Wesley: "...And he did not make us a transient visit, but tabernacled among us on earth...

    At least this helps me to understand what "tabernacle" as a verb means: not "set up a tabernacle" or "became a tabernacle", but presumably "lived as if in a tabernacle".

    Now all we need to decide is what "tabernacle" means as a noun. If, as Suzanne says, it simply means "tent", should we take the point to be the same as in Hebrews 11:9 (en skenais katoikesas) and 2 Samuel 7:6 (LXX: ou katokeka en oiko ... en katalumati kai en skene, this use of kataluma may be alluded to in Luke 2:7!), that God dwelt only temporarily in a tent, not permanently in a house? But if so that seems to contradict Wesley's interpretation. And indeed so does the OED definition, thank you, David. I must conclude that Wesley did not understand the Greek verb as implying temporary residence, as it probably does, and misunderstood the verb "tabernacle", which he found perhaps in Collinges and elsewhere.

    So perhaps we should go for a rendering like "lived for a time", which I think I have seen in a published translation but I cannot now find.

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 06:55:00 AM, Blogger John Radcliffe said...

    So perhaps we should go for a rendering like "lived for a time", which I think I have seen in a published translation but I cannot now find.

    Peter, I think it was in the early (pre-1986 or whatever) edition of the NIV.

    Also compare Weymouth ("And the Word came in the flesh, and lived for a time in our midst") and the Basic English Bible ("And so the Word became flesh and took a place among us for a time").

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 07:17:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Tabernaculum originally meant tent but its derivative has come to mean much more, whereas tent still means tent. So they are not now equivalent but once were in Latin I suppose.

    Interesting review of Jocz. One of the differences betweeen being Jewish and being Christian is that being Jewish is also an ethnicity, something one is born into, whereas a Christian can become a non-Christian, at least in one's own eyes, by denying one's faith.

    So, if Stern and Jozc call themselves Jewish Christians, we must at least allow them this space.

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 07:59:00 AM, Blogger John Radcliffe said...

    Re: Stern's "Complete Jewish Bible"

    I picked up a copy a few years ago and really liked it, except for (1) his introduction of Hebrew / Yiddish terms and (2) his non-traditional transliteration of names. An edition without these features would, in my view, improve things a lot but, of course, I'm probably not in his "target market", and I suspect that wanting to include these features was one of the reasons he produced his version in the first place.

    I used it for my daily reading until I got as far as 1st Kings (which in my reading plan means about 60% through the entire Bible), when due to problem (2), I found that I just couldn't keep track of who was who, and gave up. I still use it as one of my "reference translations".

    From memory, I believe he translated the NT directly from the Greek but the OT was paraphrased from the Jewish Publication Society's (1917?) version with reference to the Hebrew.

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 10:19:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

    Peter said: 'So perhaps we should go for a rendering like "lived for a time", which I think I have seen in a published translation but I cannot now find.'

    Then John said: 'Peter, I think it was in the early (pre-1986 or whatever) edition of the NIV.'

    Well done the two of you! I pulled off my shelf a small, leather-bound NIV New Testament that my grandparents gave me for Christmas of 1977 (the (c) is 1973). John 1:14a reads:

    'The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.'

    So there you go!

     
    At Thu Mar 29, 07:10:00 PM, Blogger John said...

    Anonymous,

    Thanks for quoting Arthur Cohen’s review of Jocz’s work in full. Given the nature of the matters discussed, the review strikes me as extraordinarily positive.

    For various rabbinical associations, and the Israeli Supreme Court, the definition of a Jew is both a question of halakhah and a theological construct. I will simplify matters a bit, but suppose someone is born to a Jewish mother and becomes a Christian. That makes him an apostate Jew in the eyes of most other Jews, but still a Jew. He remains a Jew in one sense but not another.

    But I don’t see why someone like Jocz should accept the ruling of a court rather than that of his own conscience. I don’t think he should, any more than I think Luther should have submitted to the pope or Calvin to the king of France.

    The story of Jacob Jocz’s life in a nutshell is this (I summarize from memory). The romantic son of the rabbi of the lone Hebrew Christian synagogue of Warsaw Poland, he wandered Europe (not unlike Walter Benjamin) in search of self as darkness closed over the ever more numerous territories of the Third Reich. Hitler, as we all know, had his own definition of what it meant to be a Jew, and resolved to impose it wherever he could. Biological pedigree is all that mattered to him. The Shoah took the lives of every member of Jacob’s father’s congregation except one (whether their names are listed at Yad vaShem, I don’t know. It’s an interesting question). Prodigal Jacob alone survived. He returned thereafter to his father, the only one he had left, in the way he best knew how, the one his biological father and mother had taught him.

    What were we arguing about again? It all seems a bit trivial right now, if you ask me.

    John Hobbins

     

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