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Sunday, October 28, 2007

adam, all women

I want to confess that I know that sometimes I make mistakes on this blog. Sometime they are pointed out immediately and other times no one notices. Often I become aware of a small error a few days later. Usually I don't remark on them and I don't have a list of them anywhere. But if you have noticed, believe me, I know.

Here is an example, and it is one I am very glad to find because it helps out my general thesis. I have a bias, I admit. If you are aware of any other errors I make, please, don't hesitate to write.

Last year there was a great roustabout concerning whether anthropos means "man" male and represents women also in a mixed group, or whether it actually means "human beings". I couldn't think of a place where a group of adam/anthropos were mentioned that was all female. I thought maybe there wasn't one. I was wrong.

Thanks to Ochuk, I now have an example. I was reading a post by Tim Challies with the predictable statement that God named the human race 'man.' Now it's true that in 1952, there was a Bible translation in which the human race was named "Man." That is a fact. However, the question is, does Adam really mean "human" or "man (male)" in English.

Ochuk responded to Tim Challies, not on this post, but on the same post the previous time the post was posted. Ochuk comments,
    It is not at all clear that the Hebrew ‘adam has any “male-oriented aspect” in this context. Certainly, it is used as a name of the first man, but it is being used as a generic which implies no male-orientation. To make such an inference fails to understand the nature of generics. In Numbers 31 we read of the spoils of war brought back by the Israelites were 32,000 women. These women are referred to by the Hebrew generic noun ‘adam no less than six times (28, 30, 34, 40, 46, 47). Therefore, no “male-oriented aspect” should be inferred when ‘adam is used as a generic as it is in Genesis 1.
Therefore, in Numbers 31, there is a case where all the men are killed and then all the male children, and finally any woman that has known a man. Then those who remain the adam/anthropoi, all women and thirty two thousand of them, become the spoils of war. And so we have a group of all females which are clearly named as adam or anthropoi. There are several other words in this chapter for referring to men or the males.

Surely we can agree that to translate adam or anthropos as "human" is not removing male meaning. (Interesting - Ochuk has something invested in this - his name is Adam.)

11 Comments:

At Mon Oct 29, 04:42:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Excellent examples from Numbers 31. Thanks to you and Ochuk for sharing these. Here are 2 more examples (from the Illiad and from the New Testament):

1) In Homer, the contrast is always between θεοῖσι καὶ ἀνθρώποισιν (gods and humans), as in Illiad 2.669. And Homer conflates women and men within humans, as in Illiad 9.134. The emphasis here at this point in chapter 9 is on the question of sexual relations between the man "King Agamemnon" and "the daughter of Briseus." The King denies the intercourse, adding:

ἣ θέμις ἀνθρώπων πέλει ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ γυναικῶν ("as is natural for human people, between men and women")

2) Willis Barnstone gives an important example in the NT where anthropos (ἀνθρωπος, "human being") intends and is best translated "woman."

First, in his "principles" preface to his translation of the NT (i.e., The New Covenant, Barnstone clarifies the general uses:

"4. With respect to certain offensive gender-biased language, solutions are at best tentative. In the same way that anti-Semitism cannot be glossed over by euphemism or alteration of the text, so, too, the intentional male language, reflecting habits of bigotry toward women, cannot also be eliminated without falsifying these unfriendly intentions in the text. I have diminished the preponderance of male-gender speech where the Greek does not demand a male interpretation. An example of misleading male-biased translation is to confuse anthropos (ἀνθρωπος), "human being" or "person," with aner, andros (ἀνἠρ, ἀνδρος), the normal word for "man." Anthropos means human being in Greek without reference to gender (though in Greek, too, some people assume that all human beings are men). Yet anthropos is normally translated into English as "mankind." Gender-free "people" or "person" is preferred to the more abstract or sociological "humanity" or the hybrid "humankind." Yet Robert Alter in his Genesis (1996) uses "human" and "humankind" naturally and with easy authority -- which has helped to establish them in some moments as the right and apparently only right words. In the past, men and women alike accepted "man" synecdochically to mean "man and woman," but that meaning of man and woman never fully worked. [page 14]"

Second, on the next page, Barnstone asks the following of a particular OT phrase applied to Jesus:

"What do we do with the phrase Son of Man?"

In a good bit of careful discussion, Barnstone answers:

"If one insists on one gender, "son of woman" would be a more logical translation in order to indicate, as apparently intended, that Yeshua [i.e., Jesus] is a human being born of a mother as opposed to a god or God."

 
At Mon Oct 29, 07:08:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

I don't see Num 31 LXX as very clear on this point. E.g. v35: PSUXAI ANTHRWPWN APO TWN GUNAIKWN is a fairly heavily gender-qualified use of ANTHRWPOI.

 
At Mon Oct 29, 07:15:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

PEter,

Could you explain more what your thinking is on this? J.K. represents the classical background I am familiar with, that anthropos is contrasted to either gods, or beasts. The Numbers reference contrasts the anthropoi to beasts - these women are the human spoil. There are other words to indicate the male.

But, I am not sure what you mean by "fairly heavily gender-qualified."

 
At Mon Oct 29, 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS I am really sorry I won't be in Toronto for the conference.

 
At Mon Oct 29, 01:30:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

J.K.

Thanks for the quote from Barnstone. Here are a few thoughts.

I have difficulty with "brothers" since the difference in Greek is at the level of grammatical ending, which is not usually translated. If "brothers and sisters" sounds less male-oriented than the Greek, then "brothers" (and not sisters) sounds more male-oriented than the Greek.

The same with "sons of". Since this is the expression for "people of" in Hebrew, and is translated even by the most literal of translators as either "people of" or "children of" - it sounds more male-oriented in English to say "sons of", tha it sounds in Hebrew, which did not have the choice of a gender neutral word.

My sense is that we simply cannot find an exact equivalent in English for these tersms, given that we have the gender neutral term "children" in English. If we don't use it, we are expressing one thing and if we do use it, something else.

We can never match the original languages exactly. That is impossible. So do we make the text sound more male-oriented or less so, if we have to choose between only these two?

If we make it more male-oriented, then the women who read the original languages will be offended, because the contrast will stand out. The question becomes - what is the motivation, to distance women from the text? If less male-oriented then what? - to veil the maleness of certain terms? But the maleness exists only within a structure. We do not replicate the linguistic matrix of the terms when they are translated, but only their ephemeral and isolated occurence, and we mask the nature of the original language from the reader no matter what.

Women who read the original languages to the obliteration of the English will not care. Women who do not read the original may misunderstand. But women who carry them side by side will always wonder if men wish to carve them out of the discourse and sideline them. Or is the intent to hold the Bible up as more patriarchal to raise rebellion against the text? What a host of questions?

I find that the KJV and Luther struck a very balanced note. I do think we must settle for the less male-oriented, as usable text for worship. Certainly, Alter is leading in that direction. I haven't seen enough of what Barnstone has done.

 
At Mon Oct 29, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Suzanne,
What great questions!

Women who read the original languages to the obliteration of the English will not care. Women who do not read the original may misunderstand. But women who carry them side by side will always wonder if men wish to carve them out of the discourse and sideline them. Or is the intent to hold the Bible up as more patriarchal to raise rebellion against the text? What a host of questions?

and you add:

I do think we must settle for the less male-oriented, as usable text for worship.

For worship, what man intended for evil God uses for good. I don't mean to play dodge ball here, or get too parabolic, but I do think translation (as what Joseph says God is doing in Genesis 50:20) has its advantages. A good bit of all this is the slipperiness of human language. Why do we have to think of it as purely static, ideally original, singularly in intention? Translation (and God's redemption of man's evil intentions) just highlights the glory of the Word. I'm not talking about language as ineffable!

Rather, someone like C.S. Lewis will talk about "second meanings," even with respect to scripture: there can be more clarity, perhaps more room to worship, when the one singular original author intent is not the only thing. And Kenneth Pike used to tell a story: One scholar once told him that the world would be a lot better if people would just use one meaning for each single word. Pike's wonderful retort was: "But, sir, how then would we learn language?"

Barnstone is worth a look, I think. His history, theory, practice book called The Poetics of Translation and his beginnings of the NT translation both work at and work from the assumption that translators, in the name of literalism, work in racist and sexist ways. If he's less interested in misogyny by translation, Barnstone is a Jew (not a Christian Jew) who thinks Bible translator practices have been anti-Semitic. He himself is a solid translator of ancient Greek, modern Greek, French, German, and Chinese. Harold Bloom says, "The Barnstone is the most innovative and refreshing new translation I have seen of the Gospels." And Robert Alter says of Barnstone work on the NT: he's doing "literary archaeology in our translations" and "Mr. Barnstone's translation is the first to reflect the growing understanding among New Testament scholars of the link between early Christian and rabbinic literature." And Barnstone says he models his work after Alter's. (This is from Peter Monaghan's "Telling the Tale of Yeshua of Natzeret" in the May 10, 2002 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education)

So I think non-Christian Jews and literary scholars will like Barnstone's NT. Not sure what women think about it. Or Christian worshipers of God, whether women or men.

Pardon me for going on here. I give Barnstone's NT translation and his Poetics of Translation mixed reviews. Mind you, it's must-read, IMO. But I don't think Barnstone very well answers your very good, very important questions. And I ask your questions too. (Barnstone by giving the NT Greek back its Jew-ish-ness robs the NT of its Greek-y-ness. Yes, lost in translation. But, I think, the gospel writers especially found much in Greek translation of Jesus's, aka Yeshua's, words for us. I think God finds good in the intentions of evil brothers.)

My own answer is always to have the translation open side by side to the Greek (for the NT). The English is, of course, my heart language. I've mentioned before in our conversation that the idea of interlation (Mikhail Epstein's notion) is my preference to "translation." And (as Lydia He Liu puts it) the metaphor of translation as translingual practice, or a guest language welcoming a host language with all the requisite rules of interactive politeness (vs. source and target languages) is helpful. I think William Webb's "redemptive hermeneutic" (vs. a "static hermeneutic") is very useful when thinking about where the text has been (when it was written) and where is has to be now (appropriated in my language and culture, even as I worship).

The silly thing of the man-to-man holy kiss that Lingamish posts on today may give insight. The φιλήματα (in "black and white" as he says it) may more be about friendly greetings and less about lips touching face. But I want it staying in the Greek text even if I must choose side by side not to read it "kiss" in English.

Maybe I'll post on this. Barnstone rightly notes that the Greeks had no translation theory. Aristotle, the Greek racist and sexist, did not need translation theory. He taught his student Alexander all he needed to dominate the other. But (as said just above, I think) the gospel translator-writers did have a translation theory, a "feminist" theory they learned from their master, their friend.

You also asked:

So do we make the text sound more male-oriented or less so, if we have to choose between only these two?

What might a good language theory and a good translation theory answer? Is there only the choice of the two?

 
At Mon Oct 29, 03:43:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

What might a good language theory and a good translation theory answer? Is there only the choice of the two?

Luther seemed to choose a cnetral position. Both Mensch and Mann, Kinder and not Soehne, Gebruder and not Brueder. How can we duplicate that in English. I just don't see it.

I was raised Gebruder, but not ein Bruder. I am Mensch but not Mann and Kind but not Sohn.

I really don't think you can make a white woman a brother.

 
At Mon Oct 29, 07:53:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

I really don't think you can make a white woman a brother.

I'm sure I wouldn't want to, Suzanne.

Luther is absolutely amazing. The revolutionary reformer. It's his working in and from central positions, isn't it? He's a monk and he's a family man. He's a translator taking many a "risk, relinquishing the words and rendering the sense," and mandating the (borderline anti-Semitic & fully anti-clergy) freedom that "Whoever would speak German must not use Hebrew style." He's a scholar of Aristotle and an anti-Aristotelian. He's (infamously) a chider of women and gloriously his "century's leading critic of Aristotle's depiction of women."

Could we make this "brother" ("Gebruder Und Brueder") a woman? Again, why? But isn't it the "central" positions of Luther, of Tynedale, and before them of Jerome, of King James's group what make them so powerful, so feminist? Don't they stand "balanced" (as you put it) in between, and don't they interlate? and practice translingualism? and translate out of male-dominant discourse into mother tongues?

In a completely different effort, in the history of rhetoric, feminist scholars have not changed male history into female. Rather, over the past thirty years, they have radically recovered women in the silences. Cheryl Glenn, for instance, starts by noting:

"For the past twenty-five hundred years in Western culture, the ideal woman has been disciplined by cultural codes that require a closed mouth (silence), a closed body (chastity), and an enclosed life (domestic confinement). . .
Rhetoric always inscribes the relation of language and power at a particular moment (including who may speak, who may listen or who will agree to listen, and what can be said); therefore, canonical rhetorical history has represented the experience of males, powerful males, with no provision or allowance for females. . . .
Except for rhetoric, no intellectual endeavor—not even the male bastion of philosophy—has so consciously rendered women invisible and silent." Rhetoric always inscribes the relation of language and power at a particular moment (including who may speak, who may listen or who will agree to listen, and what can be said); therefore, canonical rhetorical history has represented the experience of males, powerful males, with no provision or allowance for females. . . .
Except for rhetoric, no intellectual endeavor—not even the male bastion of philosophy—has so consciously rendered women invisible and silent.
">Rhetoric Retold
, pages 1-2.

But Glenn and others have found in archaeology and in other history writing methods (such as those used by male historians to recover Plato's Socrates) women rhetors and rhetoricians. The landscape of the historical map of rhetoric is much much different now. Graduate students today are beginning to take for granted that Aspasia likely established the Socratic method (once attributed only, of course, to the man Socrates).

In Bible translation, I wonder if similar kind of work could yield new results. What did a Deborah or a Phoebe think about and do with the masculinist scriptures? (Doesn't N. T. Wright, rightly opposing the silly "Jesus" seminar conclusions, doesn't Wright offer the kind of history of Jesus that demands more inclusive contexts? Wright takes the method of historian Barbara Tuchman, who writes history backwards, if you will. Tuchman doesn't let the reader assume the outcome at the outset. Wright does that to show the radical shock of the disciples of Jesus upon his death.)

This hardly is a simple answer for a question about "adam, all women" and various kinds of "brother." And yet, won't a feminist, standing in the center of the silences (as you really do Suzanne) be in the best position to translate out of the masculine dominant discourse into our mother tongue?

 
At Mon Oct 29, 09:09:00 PM, Blogger Psalmist said...

J.K., that was a wonderful comment. I quite agree that the church needs more people with both Suzanne's level of learning and her sense of basic human justice to shake us up and encourage us to look more closely at what the Bible really says.

The question, as through the ages, is, is the church going to listen to such prophetic voices? I really do believe that radically honest translators are one of God's most powerful voices to us. The church has often been quite deaf to prophets, however. But with the rise in religiously popular anti-feminism, I believe there is a fresh urgency to such prophets' message that history and tradition are not enough. Now as always, we must put the accurate and full words of God before such lesser considerations.

 
At Mon Oct 29, 09:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't think Luther was so amazing. I just think that German had a certain equivalences with Greek that English does not have. The women thing was not the issue of the day. The Catholic church was.

So Luther just let it flow and did not contrive in either direction. (He taunted woman with their excessive weight in the hips which formed them for sitting, but called Katie "lord".)

But in English we simply don't have a word for brother that matches the Greek. It does not exist and no amount of complaining about it will make it exist.

 
At Tue Oct 30, 04:39:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

>psalmist,
Thanks for the good reminders that now there's "a fresh urgency to such prophets' message that history and tradition are not enough. Now as always, we must put the accurate and full words of God before such lesser considerations." Thank you for saying encouraging words to Suzanne and others in this conversation!

>Suzanne,
Luther, the sinner the sexist, was not amazing. But the translator Luther was ultimately revolutionary. He saw that in German there was nothing of the Hebrew style. He didn't hold on to the original Hebrew style as the only "accurate" and the singularly "inspired" sola scriptura. He didn't re-write the Jewish passages. But Luther did insist on relevance to the German people in their mother tongue. Barnstone talks some disparagingly about a Babel-curse reversal attempt by Bible translators. But Luther, as inspired by the Spirit as any Jew and non-Jew on the day of Pentecost, could move back and forth into both languages. He would not tolerate those marginalized by the church not reading the Bible.

So women and feminists, not as sinners not as compromisers of the ostensible originals, might be as inspired and as revolutionary as Luther? Is the question really one of English and Greek difference around their words for "brother"?

(How about Walter Benjamin's famous statement about the congruous incongruity between "Brot" and "pain"? To the German, "Brot" means one thing; to the French "pain" means something altogether different. German bread and French bread are NOT the same. Neither are French and German. And yet, crossing one anothers' borders the French and Germans can appreciate both. Translation, good translation, should maintain the difference and appreciate the similarity in "intentions." Similarly, Luther and German laity intend a much different -- a German not Jewish -- style. Difference and similarity, no? By analogy, a woman reading the Scripture or Aristotle's daughter reading a treatise of his -- a text taught only to boys such as Alexander with reference mainly to men -- must bring in her intentions.)

 

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