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Friday, April 18, 2008

Against thee, thee only

I want to drop a note about the importance of emotional engagement with the text. I am not going to claim that a Christian will make a more faithful translation, but only remark that the affective domain contributes to one's performance of a task.

Do we love the words we are translating? Do we love whoever wrote these words? Do we love those we are translating for? And those we are translating with? Is there a bond of affection and a fellowship of mutual regard?

One of the things that some of us love about the King James Bible is the use of terms like "loving-kindness" and Carl has echoed this in his translation of 1 Cor. 13.

I received an email today asking about the Pagnini Bible so it has inspired me to remark on the affective domain in Pagnini's translation, and how it has influenced the KJV and contributed to certain emotionally charged passages.

Here is Jerome's translation from the Hebrew and Pagnini's for Ps. 22:1a,
    Deus, Deas meus qaure dereliquisti me, Jerome

    O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? D-R.

    Deus mi, Deus mi, utquid dereliquisti me, Pagnini

    My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? KJV
And Psalm 51:4,
    tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci Jerome

    To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: D-R.

    tibi tibi soli peccavi et malum in oculis tuis feci Pagnini

    Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: KJV
I don't want to squabble about which is more literal, closer to the Hebrew. I think Pagnini's is somewhat closer, but that is beside the point. The details that he has added to the text change the emotional loading of these passages. I am not able to say whether these subtle changes can be attributed to an earlier commentator or not. However, they have influenced our English textual tradition ever since.

Look at Luther's translation of Psalm 51:4,
    An dir allein habe ich gesündigt

    Against you alone have I sinned
And Alter's,
    You alone have I offended
Well maybe these guys thought that Pagnini's repetition was an unnecessary affectation. We really don't know. But we do know that translators as individuals leave their mark on the text. We translate out of our love of words and language and expression and God. We can never, as translators, completely prevent our own personality from affecting how we translate. If we are emotionally engaged with the text then that will come across in ways that are peculiar to us.

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8 Comments:

At Sat Apr 19, 05:29:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

We can never, as translators, completely prevent our own personality from affecting how we translate. If we are emotionally engaged with the text then that will come across in ways that are peculiar to us.

Wow. Let's see if we can disprove this.

No. We can't. Acclaimed novelist and scientist Alan Lightman confessed to me that he understands that translators of his works must be both artists and scientists, engaging with his text (and theirs) as emotionally as they do intellectually.

Suzanne, thanks for another great post, and the astute helpful observations. (Pretending objectivity in translation has its dangers, I think.)

 
At Sat Apr 19, 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

One of the things that some of us love about the King James Bible is the use of terms like "loving-kindness"

It is also one of the things that some of us hate about the King James Bible: words that sound nice but don't mean anything in the 21st century.

As for the influence of Pagnini on KJV, I am not at all convinced. It is far more likely that they are similar because they are both faithful translations of the Hebrew, unlike your "Jerome" version which I think must be the one taken from the rather inaccurate LXX Psalter. The "subtle changes" which you mention are down to errors made by the LXX translator, or in the non-Hebrew textual tradition.

To confirm this, here is the first part of Psalm 22:1 (English numbering) in Hebrew, and in Greek:

אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου πρόσχες μοι ἵνα τί ἐγκατέλιπές με

And Psalm 51:4:
לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ חָטָאתִי וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי
σοὶ μόνῳ ἥμαρτον καὶ τὸ πονηρὸν ἐνώπιόν σου ἐποίησα

Note how in both cases LXX has lost the repetition in the Hebrew. Pagnini has added nothing, the LXX translator has taken away. If Luther and Alter thought this was "an unnecessary affectation", they were going against not Pagnini but David.

 
At Sat Apr 19, 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

No, Peter, I quoted from Jerome's Hebraica. Weber page 793 and 831. There is little difference between his LXX and Hebraica translations for these verses.

I did make clear that Pagnini may not be the originator of these changes, but certainly they happened since Jerome.

I do agree that Pagnini is closer to the Hebrew, that is the main point of his translation, to be closer to the Hebrew than Jerome.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

 
At Sat Apr 19, 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

certainly they happened since Jerome.

Suzanne, the opposite is certainly true. There is clear evidence in LXX of the form without the repetition in both verses, in the probably 4th century MSS Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which predate Jerome. And there is clear evidence for the form with the repetition in the Masoretic Text, which is admittedly not attested pre-Jerome but the MT of Psalm 22:1 is attested in transliteration and Greek translation in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 in the same two pre-Jerome MSS.

To be clear: in the same pre-Jerome MSS we have ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου in the psalm and ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου in a quotation of the psalm in Mark, also Θεέ μου θεέ μου in Matthew. So both variants are clearly attested before Jerome. Sorry.

 
At Sat Apr 19, 03:01:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

Let's take this one step at a time.

1. I agree that the repetition is present in the Hebrew.

2. It is not found in the critical text of the LXX in the Psalms.

3. It is not found in either Jerome's Vulgate Iuxta LXX or Iuxta Hebraica.

4. So my point is that part of the lineage from Hebrew to English appears to travel through Pagnini.

So both variants are clearly attested before Jerome. Sorry.

I don't think you need to feel that you are contradicting me in any way. I am talking about when the repetition appeared in Latin and in English, not that it was not there in the original.

Naturally Pagnini may have been influenced by the gospels. I wonder why Jerome was not.

Thanks for filling is some more details. I don't think we disagree on this.

 
At Sat Apr 19, 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I think I must have misunderstood but isn't Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani from the Aramaic. The Hebrew text in the Psalm is Eli Eli Lama Azavtany.

Of course, the repetition is still there but I am confused when you write,

the MT of Psalm 22:1 is attested in transliteration and Greek translation in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 in the same two pre-Jerome MSS.

Oh well. It is of interest but not terribly important.

 
At Sun Apr 20, 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

OK, maybe not transliteration but Aramaic as well as Greek translation, although I understand Matthew's Eli eli to be Hebrew rather than Aramaic.

There are in fact very probably a lot of languages into which the first translation with the doubling of "my God" appeared in the 16th century. That is because the great majority of translations done before that time were done from LXX or Vulgate. In the 16th century translation from Hebrew became common. And of course every good translation from Hebrew included the doubling. That is not evidence that any one of these translations is directly dependent on any other one.

English translations may be dependent on Pagnini's Latin, but if you want to prove that you need to look elsewhere, for features common to Pagnini and English versions which are not found in the originals or in any pre-Pagnini translation.

 
At Sun Apr 20, 04:08:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I totally agree, but it happens that Coverdale cited Pagnini as one of his sources and he did NOT cite the Hebrew. However, I don't know to what extent the Geneva Bible, Bishop's or KJ was dependent on Pagnini. Very little is written on this. Some think that the translation "desire" in Gen. 3:16 is from Pagnini. There are other phrases as well. Others left a few references on posts here in the past on this so I will have to review them if I can.

But you are quite right. Well this gives me something to do.

 

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