The House of David

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Torah, full of blessings

Ostler mentions Psalm 130 as an example of the Bible translation-debates in Europe (p. 247). I'm here to riff on this topic too, in this case to fill out that missing-chapter on Jewish translators into Greek.

For the Bible as a whole, the Anglophone Jews now own a literal translation that punts on every word that might be technical. Its Verse 4 reads, But there is forgiveness (ha-səlîkha) with Thee; therefore, Thou art feared (thiwarê). As a supplication-prayer, this makes some sense: the last verse mentions a sinner's knowledge of his sin, and Verse 3 hopes that the Lord is not taking notes. Note that the Jewish translator didn't see anything technical about thiwarê. He certainly did with səlîkha. On topic of fear his Muslim colleague, to give one other contrast, would have had lots to say about taqwâ.

In the Greek Bible, matters are much different for "Psalm 129" - here probably translated in Seleucid Palestine. Its translator(s) went with eneken tou nomou, and that's how it has ended up in Latin as well. Someone confused tôra(h) and thiwarê. Which you can do yourself, if you don't point the vowels, and you get an ignorant reader to dictate your fumble to a slavish scribe.

In the psalm as I read it, "Law" as such is too mechanical. Israel is not guilty of transgression, but of general sin against God - this is a Deuteronomical sin of para-idolatry, not a Levitical sin of breaking ordinances. Also I find difficult to see a Jew, especially, shifting "Torah" - were it there - to "fear". Gentiles, I think, wouldn't directly care.

Instead I could see the reverse, among the Jews of pre-Maccabean Palestine. I think the Vorlage of the Greek Psalm did read "torah" here. I wouldn't be surprised if the mistake lingered well into Roman days and got into Vetus Latina directly. It is a credit to the Pharisees, ancestors of Jews today, that they have arrested this mistake and preserved the correct reading to the days of Erasmus and beyond.

posted by Zimri on 12:15 | link | 0 comments

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