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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Anastasis: to rise again

I will have to take some time to wend my way through Desire of the Everlasting Hills. In the last post I showed how Cahill mixes the use of "thou" into an overall modern and idiomatic translation. In every chapter he makes original and informed translation choices. Here is another.

Cahill cites Job 19:25-26 as an example of "the evolving Jewish idea that there must be life beyond this life." Here is the NRSV for this passage. All translations in the KJV tradition translate it in a similar way.
    For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
    and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in my flesh I shall see God, NRSV
However, Cahill provides the Jerusalem Bible version of this verse.
    This I know: that my Avenger lives,
    and that he, the Last, will take a stand on earth.
    After my awakening, he will set me close to him,
    and in my flesh will I see God.
This translation owes something to the Greek version.
    οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι ἀέναός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλύειν με μέλλων ἐπὶ γῆς
    ἀναστήσαι τὸ δέρμα μου τὸ ἀνατλῶν ταῦτα παρὰ γὰρ κυρίου ταῦτά μοι συνετελέσθη
The second line here starts, "rise up my skin which endures these things." However, the word for "rise up" is the same word in Greek as "resurrect." The Jerusalem Bible translates this as "my awakening." Cahill has deliberately chosen a translation which will reflect the growing belief in immortality, in a resurrection. He remarks,
    The translation I use was chosen not to make inferences unjustified by the original but to see this passage from Job as it was already being interpreted by Jews of the intertestamental period.
Cahill clarifies that the author of Job had no notion of a resurrection from the dead but the idea was being read into the text long before Christianity, as we can see from the Septuagint.

What I like about this book is that Cahill uses a translation which reflects a specific underlying Hebrew, Greek or Latin original, whichever was the text used in the period he is talking about. It would be blantantly ridiculous if he were to translate from one version throughout.

This point about "resurrection" or αναστασις, anastasis from ανιστημι, is important to understanding how the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew. Unfortunately the New English Translation of the Septuagint does not make clear that this word for "rise up" was also used for "rise again." Here is another example from Ps. 1 which may demonstrate how significant this feature of the Septuagint is.
    οὐχ οὕτως οἱ ἀσεβεῖς οὐχ οὕτως
    ἀλλ ἢ ὡς ὁ χνοῦς ὃν ἐκριπτεῖ ὁ ἄνεμος
    ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς
    διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἀναστήσονται ἀσεβεῖς ἐν κρίσει
    οὐδὲ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἐν βουλῇ δικαίων
    The impious or not so, not so,
    but are like dust that the wind flings
    from the face of the land.
    Therefore the impious will not rise up in judgement,
    nor sinners in the council of the righteous. NETS.
Here is the NRSV translation of the Hebrew.
    The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
    5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
I would suggest that the Greek text can also have a slightly different interpretation.
    The impious or not so, not so,
    but are like dust that the wind flings
    from the face of the earth.
    Therefore the impious will not
    be resurrected in the [day of] judgment,
    nor sinners in the council of the righteous.
We need to see that the Greek adds somewhat to the Hebrew in the preceding line, the wicked are "like dust that the wind flings from the face of the earth" and then these wicked people will not rise again. Whether the translator meant to communicate the meaning of "resurrect" is not something we can be sure of. Possibly not. But we do know that there was a growing belief in a resurrection at this time and anastasis was the word used to communicate this. So, later readers would see "resurrection" both in this text and Job 19:25.

Few translations make this clear. I am glad that Cahill chose a translation to clarify this point.


At Sun Jun 15, 01:26:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

Well, it is quite odd, because Cahill is using the Jerusalem Bible (translated from the French) rather than the New Jerusalem Bible (translated from ancient texts) which has a different spin on it (and long textual notes defending its position).

In particular, גאל appears only once in this book, and there is a a significant dispute as to whether this is a messianic, divine, or other reference. Things get even worse in verse 26, which is so confusing that the NEB and REB mark it as "Hebrew unintelligible."

Cahill clarifies that the author of Job had no notion of a resurrection from the dead but the idea was being read into the text long before Christianity, as we can see from the Septuagint.

This is quite an amazing statement. How does Cahill know what the author of Job believed about resurrection from the dead?

And a quick glance at Acts 23:6-10 indicates that the doctrine of resurrection was by no means clear at the time of Paul.

At Sun Jun 15, 06:29:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Sun Jun 15, 06:35:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ δευτέρᾳ
ἀνέστη Ἰησοῦς τὸ πρωί καὶ ἦραν οἱ ἱερεῖς τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης κυρίου

And early in the morning
Jesus resurrected,
and the priests took up the ark of the Lord,

kai tE hEmera tE deutera
anestE IEsous to prOi kai hEran hoi Hiereis tEn kibOton tHs diathEkEs kuriou

I've always wondered about how Jews who loved and believed in Jesus as the Messiah wrote and read those early Greek texts of the New Testament. Much of their vocabulary the get from the translations of the(ir) scriptures into Greek much much earlier.

Surely, our English translations have done violence to the Jewish notions of "Jesus" and "resurrection" by choosing these very specialized technical words (i.e., "Jesus" and "resurrection").

The above is not from a Psalm or from Job but is from the 6th book of the Jewish canon, entitled "Jesus." Just kidding--it's from the book of "Joshua," of course. This above is Joshua 6:12. And the entire history, as translated into Greek, has anastasis (ἀναστὰς) more than a dozen times, and the name IEsous (Ἰησοῦς) many more.

What if we today avoided the biblish "Jesus" and "resurrection," words really needed no place else but in christian English translations of the Bible?

At Sun Jun 15, 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Cahill writes,

Christians to begin with, did not so much invent these adumbrations as borrow them from strains of then current Jewish interpretation. In other words, though the body/soul dualism of the Greeks is completely absent from the rest of Job, the author had in his time, no notion of the resurrection from the dead.

Clearly, Cahill is saying that the Hebrew for this passage does not talk about immortality but the Greek translation does.

The Jerusalem Bible notes refer specifically to the Greek and Latin for this verse. The NJB must hve gone in a different direction. Cahill's point is that the Greek Bible was the Bible known at the time that Christ came.

But the further point that both of you make about resurrection in the NT is also valid.

The impression one gets is that the NT is filled with vocabulary unknown to the OT writers, words like resurrection. When in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

At Sun Jun 15, 11:57:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Sun Jun 15, 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


That's a funny quote from Joshua. You're right, anistemi is used both for "rise up" or "get up" and for when the "dead rise up." All we know for sure is that there is the continuous use of anastasis both in the LXX and NT, but this is hard to see in English.


As to whether the Hebrew text indicates a belief in a resurrection or not, I would be completely ignorant of that. Any comments are welcome.

I wanted to be sure that I was quoting Cahill correctly but I wouldn't know what the Hebrew says at this point myself.

N. T. Wright has an extended discussion of this in his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God. page 148.


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