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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Last Earthling

In reading "My Name is Red" Peter has a distinct advantage over me. He knows the city, Istanbul, the literature and the history, as well as some of the language. So, how much did I miss. Evidently I did miss some. However, I had read a little history previous to reading the novel so that helped and I just let the city speak for itself. I was not familiar with the literature referred to, but that did not stop me from following the plot. It is an intriguing novel no matter how much background knowledge you have.

Peter brings up a lot of translation issues but I can only respond to one. About transliteration, Peter writes,
    But I am also aware of many things which I must be missing because I am reading a translation. There are surely a number of word plays in the book. One which I could recognise, but only with the help of obscure dictionaries, is when the dog in chapter 3 calls the preacher character not “Nusret”, meaning “help”, but “Husret”, apparently meaning “damage”. Actually probably most Turks would not catch that one.But I suspect that the Turkish text of the book is full of word plays which cannot be brought out in translation and so which I have missed completely.

    Then a note on the translation of personal names. I was a little surprised to find that the name of the central character of the book, Black, is obviously a translation. So are the nicknames Elegant, Olive, Butterfly and Stork, presumably because these have a clear meaning in the text. Maybe Black will turn out similarly to have a meaning of significance to the plot, at least as a word play, but not so far.
This really got me thinking about how Paul was bilingual himself and included a certain amount of word play in 1 Cor. 15:35-49. I wonder how this passage would sound if it was translated without transliterating Adam's name and keeping other words concordant. Of course, one would have to go back and retranslate the first few chapters of Genesis as well. However, Adam does mean "of the earth - Earthling" so I thought I would try it.

All translations have "human" in verse 39 so I thought I would keep that consistent along with soul, seed and a few other words. Does this change our view of the passage, or do we simply appreciate the language better, but the meaning is the same? What do you think?
    But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you seed, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.

    40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

    42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is seeded is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is seeded in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is seeded in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is seeded a soulful body, it is raised a spiritual body.

    If there is a soulful body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first human Earthling became a living soul" [f]; the last Earthling, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the soulful, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first human was of the dust of the earth; the second human is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly human, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly human, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly human, so shall we [g] bear the image of the heavenly human.

This would match up better with Gen. 2:7 if it was translated,

    And the LORD God formed Earthling of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Earthling became a living soul.

Is it purely tradition that we don't have a translation like this and is that a good thing? Do we consider tradition to be part of God's providential role over the centuries in how this is translated, or can we start afresh? Does this sound like a feminist deconstruction of the text or an ultraliteral and transparent rendering? After all, the stars and the sun and moon, the fish and birds and animals all have their given names, shouldn't humanity bear its name?

Doesn't this lead us with more comprehension into the next section in 1 Cor. 15 where humans do not go down into the dust but will be raised unto life? I am not sure if this all fits together, how does it sound to your ears?

Update: John has responded in his update with a link to pull you into the conversation. He opines that in pulling a rabbit out of the hat, I may yet be grounded enough to be flushing the rabbit from a genuine rabbit hole. Huh? Maybe he means that it is a real rabbit.


At Wed Aug 15, 03:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Indeed it's an intriguing book however little of the background you understand. So is the Bible. My point is not that anyone should not read either of them, but rather that for full appreciation added background knowledge is necessary.

At Wed Aug 15, 02:52:00 PM, Blogger John said...

What I'm trying to get at with the "rabbit out of a hat / rabbit flushed out of a rabbit hole" analogy is a variation on the traditional distinction between eisegesis and exegesis.

Eisegesis works like magic, and can be very impressive; exegesis is more like hard work; the results are sometimes not so immediately compelling.

Eisegesis finds something in a specific text that is not really there, but often is found in another text. Exegesis digs out something that is actually implied in the specific text under consideration.

I'll post on the distinction again, with examples.

At Wed Aug 15, 04:30:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks John,

Of course, I recognize that Adam's name is not translated into Greek as earthling so I wouldn't actually expect it to be translated into English that way. I overstated the case to try something out. However, it seems very evident to me that Paul was aware of, and expected his readers to be aware of, the meaning of the name Adam.

If we go back to Gen. 5:2 and retranslate that with "Adam", as is done in the KJV, then we at least give a nod to Paul's explanation for why humans have "earthy bodies.

I think the discussion about "My Name is Red" and the suggestion that translated books, or any books at all, as Iyov mentions, should really come with notes of what the bilingual writers or readers would have known, is a good idea.

It is a good counter balance to the Colorado Springs Guidelines which say

"3. "Man" should ordinarily be used to designate the human race, for example in Genesis 1:26-27; 5:2; Ezekiel 29:11; and John 2:25."

I find it endlessly wrong, that so many people, including Dr. Packer, signed the statement of concern against the TNIV because it didn't follow guidelines like the one above.

This is one more example of where the KJV does not meet the Colorado Springs Guildelines either.

At Wed Aug 15, 04:34:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

"eisegesis (plural eisegeses)

An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that reflects the personal ideas or viewpoint of the interpreter; reading something into a text that isn't there."

How does this equate with "but often is found in another text."?

Aha, maybe it is an "eisegesis" addition to the definition of eisegesis?


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