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Sunday, March 23, 2008

spirit of your holiness

I will be blogging for the next little while on issues arising in the translation of Psalm 51. I hesitate to announce this as a series since I may be working through the psalm in a fairly random order. I have already found many more questions related to ruach kadeshka in verse 11 than I could have thought possible.

I find that there are two different ways to attribute the possessive pronoun "thy/your." In the Darby translation I find,
    the spirit of thy holiness
The Buber Rosenzweig translation also has
    den Geist deiner Heiligung
However, in the NLT it is,
    your spirit of holiness
Can anyone explain which turn of phrase is more accurate - "spirit of your holiness" or "your spirit of holiness?"



At Mon Mar 24, 01:00:00 AM, OpenID seminarian said...

Those are some very good questions you are asking, and I appreciated reading the previous post as well. I agree that there are some questionable references to the Holy Spirit, where it may instead simply be spirit of holiness. Here are my thoughts:

Ps 51:11 refers to "Your Holy Spirit. " Literally, it is "the spirit, your holy one" (actually, to be completely literal, "the spirit, the holy one of yours"). To my knowledge there is one primary way to attribute the possessive pronoun. And not that it matters much, but spirit is made definite because it is in construct with holy which has a personal pronoun. As a parallel, what would literally be "the horse, my red one" we would simply say "my red horse." Now, it is based on context to go with "Your holy spirit" or "Your Holy Spirit."

As for your previous post, "holiness of spirit" isn't really an option as I read it. It would more likely be "spirit of holiness" and as this blog has commented at times, using "of" is often not the smoothest read, so as the "the car of mine" is valid as "my car" so here too the "spirit of holiness" is better as "the holy spirit."

I just looked at it quickly but I'll look it over again and check a few sources before stating with conviction, but that was my understanding. Regardless of whether or not translators take this to be the Third Person of the Trinity, hopefully they do not shy away from the better (in my opinion) reading which is placing "holy" before "spirit".

At Mon Mar 24, 09:43:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

As for your previous post, "holiness of spirit" isn't really an option as I read it.

I wasn't clear - "holiness of spirit" was not an option for Psalm 51:11. However, there seems to be a reflection of the same thought. Is "holiness of spirit" all that different from "spirit of holiness?"

On another note, here is the Daniel Mace version (1729) for 2 Cor. 6:6

"I approve myself, by chastity, by knowledge, by meekness, by kindness, by sanctity of mind, by undisguised benevolence,"

At Tue Mar 25, 11:53:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Seminarian, I'm afraid the accuracy of your name shows up in your understanding of Hebrew. You wrote:

Ps 51:11 refers to "Your Holy Spirit. " Literally, it is "the spirit, your holy one" (actually, to be completely literal, "the spirit, the holy one of yours").

No, this is not correct. First, we have here (despite Suzanne's poor transliteration - it should be ruach qodshekha) the noun qodesh "holiness", not the adjective qadosh "holy", or as a noun "holy one" as in Isaiah 41:14 etc. And then what we have here is a construct chain, that is, a series of nouns in a possessive relationship, ending in a personal pronoun. Thus a literal rendering would be "the spirit of the holiness of you". The whole chain is definite (so I included "the") because of the personal pronoun ending.

But there are two ambiguities here. Firstly, a personal pronoun at the end of a construct chain is ambiguous between referring to the last element or to the whole chain, so this could be either "the spirit of your holiness" or "your spirit of holiness" - at least ambiguous to the limited extent that there is a real difference of meaning here.

And then it is quite common for an abstract noun in a construct chain to be used in place of an adjective. Thus the phrase can equally mean "the holy spirit of you". Indeed ruach haqqodesh, the same phrase without the personal pronoun, is used to this day by Hebrew speaking Christians and in Hebrew translations of the New Testament for the divine "Holy Spirit". See also Isaiah 63:10 where ruach qodsho, the phrase with a 3rd person suffix, surely means "his [YHWH's] Holy Spirit". That of course does not prove that the phrase always refers to the divine Holy Spirit. But it does imply that "your Holy Spirit" is a possible rendering in Psalm 51.

At Tue Mar 25, 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you, Peter, for picking up on my misplaced vowel. I wanted to indicate that it was qodesh, and not qadosh, but I certainly misunderstood the pronunciation.

But you do seem to confirm that it could be either "your spirit of holiness" or "the spirit of your holiness."

My sense is that these references to the holy spirit are ambiguous and not that certain translations are in error. I did not mean that, but simply that they have assumed something to be clear when it is ambiguous.

At Tue Mar 25, 01:42:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Now I am puzzled. I checked my handy dandy Hebrew transliterator and this is what I got,

ruach kadeshecha

so that is what I was going on.

Another source gives me

rûḥa qāḏəšəḵā

Next time I shall take the extra two minutes and post the Hebrew.

וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ

I guess my question is how you can tell which of the two schwas is to be pronounced. This is not at all clear to me.

At Tue Mar 25, 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Suzanne, there are some clear rules (well, I think I have got them right) which apply here:

1) Whenever there are two shevas under successive consonants, the first one is silent and the second is voiced.

2) Qamats in an unstressed closed syllable, including one ended by a consonant with silent sheva, is short and pronounced "o" rather than "a".

The transliteration rules are rather complex, and not entirely predictable from the form, but your two transliteration programs really should have done better than that. To do a good job they need to take account of stress.

A few years ago I wrote my own transliteration program, producing (pseudo-)IPA, and it came up with wə̆ˈruːaħ qɔðʃə̆ˈxɑː.

At Tue Mar 25, 04:10:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

All I can say is "cute", Peter, that is really cute.

Since we Canadians don't have ɔ I guess we'll just have to imagine something between a and o. However, I appreciate the schwa rule.


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