Vancouver: Day 1

My parents are in town, so that means extreme exploring around the Bellingham, Vancouver, Mt. Baker area. The first day was Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley park. Here are some pictures of our adventure at the aquarium:



After the aquarium closed, we took a stroll around the seawall and went to Stanley Park. Here is a shot of the city from the seawall.



IMG_4445Apparently, it wasn’t necessary to go to the aquarium to see sea otters. We met a group of pups on the seawall enjoying their latest catch.


Elijah was getting rather frustrated being in the car driving and in his stroller rolling all day, so here he is running free in the park.


Day two was the Capilano Suspension Bridge, so stay tuned for the next installation of the Cerone family vacation.


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Wordplay in Genesis 11:9

image from wikipediaMany are familiar with the story of Babel. After the flood, a group of prideful city folks try to build a city and a tower that reaches the heavens. Because all men shared the same language at the time, it was a massive collaborative effort.

But, God comes down and thwarts their efforts presumably on account of their pride—they think they can reach him—and because he has commanded them to disperse, multiple, and fill the earth.

The means by which God accomplishes his task of dispersing the people and putting an end to their project was to confuse their language (i.e. make them speak different ones). As you may know, the Hebrew word for “to confound” is בבל, which is transliterated babel. Hence, the name given to the city “Babel.”

This is a nice little wordplay the Hebrew author uses, which functions to associate the place with the event: God confused them making their project—the tower and city—a place of confusion (Babel).

Many times, however, wordplay is lost in translation. As a matter of fact, the ESV translates the verse, “Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth” (Gen 11:9). There is a footnote for the word “confused” with the content “Babel sounds like the Hebrew word for confused.”

Ancient translators, however, had to make the decision: transliterate place names like “Babel” or translate them. In this instance, the LXX translator provides the following rendering:

διὰ τοῦτο ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Σύγχυσις, ὅτι ἐκεῖ  συνέχεεν κύριος τὰ χείλη πάσης τῆς γῆς

Therefore, its name was called Suncusis (Confusion), because there the Lord suneceen (confused) the language of all the earth.

By translating Babel with Σύγχυσις (Confusion), the translator maintains the wordplay at the expense of the city’s “proper name.”

For those of the curious bent, the Vulgate does not follow the same path. Instead, it transliterates the place name:

et idcirco vocatum est nomen eius Babel quia ibi confusum est labium universae terrae

And for this reason, its name is called Babel, because there the language of all the earth was confused.

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LXX Translation Difficulties in Genesis 5:2

This morning I was reading through Genesis 4–5 in the LXX and noticed something small that I thought I might point out. Here is the quotation with the relevant portions bolded:

Αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ἀνθρώπων· ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν Ἀδάμ, κατʼ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς. καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῶν Ἀδάμ

זֶ֣ה סֵ֔פֶר תּוֹלְדֹ֖ת אָדָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם בְּרֹ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אָדָ֔ם בִּדְמ֥וּת אֱלֹהִ֖ים עָשָׂ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ׃

 זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בְּרָאָ֑ם וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָ֗ם וַיִּקְרָ֤א אֶת־שְׁמָם֙ אָדָ֔ם

This is the book of the generation of humankind, in which day God made Adam according to the image of God he made him: male and female he made them. And he blessed them. And he named their name adam.

This is the book of the generations of Adam/adam, in the day God created Adam/adam, in the image of God he made him: male and female he created them. And he blessed them. And he called their name adam.

Wordplays like this open up a number of interpretive possibilities. Often, modern translations offer footnotes to make the reader aware of the options. For instance, the ESV reads “And he called their name man (fn: Adam).”

The LXX translator, however, chooses among the options available and translates accordingly. In the first use of אדם (Adam, man, humankind), the translator uses ἀνθρώπων (humankind, men). In so doing, he transforms MT Genesis from (potentially) Adam’s genealogy, to the genealogy of all mankind. Susan Brayford writes in her commentary on the LXX Genesis:

LXX-G also departs from MT by using the plural ‘humans’ (ἀνθρώπων􏰙􏰞􏰹􏰚􏰻􏰟􏰣􏰞), rather than the singular and unarticulated Adam (אדם). As such, LXX-G intends to present the origin of humans, rather than the descendants of Adam (257).

In the second use of אדם, the translator simply transliterates the word, presumably as a representation of Adam’s name. The similar use of language in Genesis 5 to that of Genesis 1 suggests the translator recalls God’s specific creation of Adam (Brayford, 257).

The third and finally use of אדם in this selection is also transliterated. It is unlikely that the transliteration represents the proper name Adam. Instead, it most likely refers to the meaning of אדם as “man” or “humankind.” Whereas the translator felt it necessary to clarify that the genealogy was of all humankind, he does not feel the need to clarify that אדם refers to ἄνθρωπος (man, humankind) here. It would seem that the translator relied upon his reader’s familiarity with the meaning of Ἀδάμ.

The choices a translator must make when communicating the source language into the target language fascinates me. Often, many of these changes are subconscious; Sometimes they are intentionally. In either case, connections in the original text are altered. In these cases, though the meaning of the passage is affected minimally, the texture and nuances of the original are lost.

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Dr. Black’s Advice to New Seminarians

Dr. Black posted a list of seven pieces of advice for new seminarians here (8-26-14 at 7:28PM). Item number five naturally caught my attention. He writes:

Take the languages first. Yes, I recognize that Greek and Hebrew are not usually prerequisites for theology courses or even for NT and OT Introduction. But if your professor is anything like me, you will be hearing lots of Greek and Hebrew in even the most basic general ed classes, and the more of the discussion you can follow, the better.

I couldn’t agree more. Writing a hermeneutics paper, theology paper, or sermon becomes cumbersome without an intimate familiarity with the biblical languages. Most of the best resources available interact with—at least to some degree—the biblical languages.

The only caveat I might add—and this is true of every course you take—ask around the campus to find out which biblical language professor inspires a profound love of that language in their students. Few things are worse than learning a foreign language from someone who isn’t excited about the material he is teaching and isn’t dedicated to instilling that excitement and passion in his or her students.

If the professor you want isn’t available for Greek, take Hebrew first. If the professor  you want for Hebrew isn’t available, take Greek first. In any case, take the biblical languages early, learn them, and keep them. They will forever shape you in your future studies and ministries.

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Translation Tuesday: Catenae Graecorum

I thought I might reinstitute Translation Tuesday. The posts will be excepts from the Catenae Graecorum on 1 Thessalonians. The Catenae was compiled by John Anthony Cramer and, for the book of 1 Thessalonians, primarily consists of comments from Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. The quotations include focus primarily on interpretive issues within the text of 1 Thessalonians, excising the more homiletical elements in Chrysostom’s homilies.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope that the diglot text allows you to work through the text yourself:

των εις την προς Θεσσαλονικεις Α. επιστολην

Παυλου του αποστολου εξηγητικων

Ταυτην ἐπιστέλλει ἀπὸ Ἀθηνῶν, ἑωρακὼς πρότερον αὐτοὺς, καὶ διατρίψας παρ᾽αὐτοῖς. ἡ δὲ πρόφασις τῆς ἐπιστολῆς αὕτη. ὁ Ἀπόστολος πολλὰς θλίψεις παθὼν ἐν Βεροίᾳ καὶ ἐν Φιλίπποις τῆς Μακεδονίας, καὶ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, γινώσκων τε ὅσα πέπονθε καὶ ἐν Θεσσαλονίκῃ, φοβούμενος μὴ ἀκούσαντες Θεσσαλονικεῖς ἃ πέπονθεν ἐν ταῖς προειρημέναις πόλεσι, πειρασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τοῦ πειράζοντος καὶ σκανδαλισθῶσι, μαθὼν δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀποθνήσκουσι κατώδυνοι ἐγίνοντο, ἀποστέλλει Τιμόθεον πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετὰ τῆς Ἐπιστολῆς ταύτης. Καὶ πρῶτον μὲν ἐπιστηρίζει αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ πίστει, ὥστε μὴ σαλεύεσθαι διὰ τὰς θλίψεις, καὶ μηδὲν ξένον αὐτοὺς πεπονθέναι ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, τῶν καὶ τὸν Κύριον ἀποκτεινάντων. Χριστιανῶν γὰρ ἴδιον τὸ θλίβεσθαι ἐν τῷ βίῳ τούτῳ ἔλεγε. Πολλὰ δὲ παραινέσας αὐτοῖς, οὕτως ὡς παρέλαβον ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, γράφει καὶ περὶ τῶν τελευτώντων, παραµυθούµενος αὐτοὺς καὶ διδάσκων µὴ βαρέως φέρειν. Οὐ γὰρ εἶναι τὸν θάνατον ἀπώλειαν, ἀλλ’ ὁδὸν ἀναστάσεως. Ἔπειτα καὶ περὶ τῶν χρόνων αὐτοὺς διδάσκει, ἵνα ἄδηλον τὴν ἡµέραν γινώσκοντες, ἀεὶ ἕτοιµοι γίνωνται, καὶ µηδενὶ προσέχωσιν ἐπαγγελλοµένῳ περὶ αὐτῆς. Ἔσεσθαι γάρ φησι τὴν παρουσίαν οὕτως, ὥστε τοὺς περιλειποµένους, καὶ εὑρισκοµένους ἐν τῇ ἡµέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ µὴ φθάνειν τοὺς ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγειροµένους. Ἅµα γὰρ γίνεσθαι τὴν πάντων ἀλλαγὴν. Διδάσκει πρὸς τούτοις, προτρέπων αὐτοὺς βελτιοῦσθαι ἐν τοῖς ἤθεσι, καὶ χαίρειν τῇ ἐλπίδι, καὶ προσεύχεσθαι, καὶ εὐχαριστεῖν ἀεὶ τῷ Κυρίῳ, ἐνορκίζων αὐτοὺς ἀναγνῶναι τὴν Ἐπιστολὴν ταύτην πᾶσι τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς, καὶ οὕτως τελειοῖ τὴν Ἐπιστολήν.

The Things Narrated in the First Letter to the Thessalonians

From the Apostle Paul

Paul wrote this epistle from Athens, having seen the Thessalonians first, and having stayed with them. And this is the motive of the epistle: The apostle, having suffered many afflictions in Berea and in Philippi of Macedonia, and in Corinth, knowing how much he also suffered in Thessalonica, fearing that the Thessalonians might have been tempted by the tempter and might have been caused to sin because they had not heard that he had suffered in the aforesaid cities, and having learned that they were also distraught on account of those who had died, he sent Timothy to them with this epistle. And first, he causes them to rest in faith, so that they might not be shaken by their afflictions and not think it a strange thing to suffer by the Jews, who also killed the Lord. For he was saying that each Christian would suffer affliction in this life. And recommending many things to them to conduct themselves in that manner, as they received from him, he also writes concerning those who have died, comforting them and teaching them not to grieve. For death is not destruction, but it is the way to resurrection. Then he also teaches them about the times, so they might understand that though they may not know the day, it is necessary to always be prepared, and they might not pay any attention to those making promises concerning it. For the coming will be, he says, thus, so that those who remain and are found in that day will not come before those who are raised from the dead.” For the transformation of all believers will happen simultaneously. He teaches these things, urging them forward to improve in their moral character, and to rejoice in hope, and to pray, and to give thanks always to the Lord, enjoining them to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters, and thus he ends the letter.


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Jonah 1:13a: Some LXX Alterations

Jonah 1:13a

וַיַּחְתְּר֣וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֗ים לְהָשִׁ֛יב אֶל־ הַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה
καὶ παρεβιάζοντο οἱ ἄνδρες τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι πρὸς τὴν γῆν
And the men dug in order to return to dry land
And the men were pressing on in order to return to the land

The first word of 1:13a in the LXX—παρεβιάζοντο (they were pressing)—represents two significant divergences from the MT. First, the translator diverges from the normal rendering of חתר (to dig) with διορύσσω (to dig)[1] in favor of παραβιάζω (to press). A number of potential interpretive connections are lost in this rendering. Youngblood comments on these connections writing:

In Amos 9:2 [חתר] even refers to digging one’s way to Sheol. It is this last occurrence of the term that bears significantly on the author’s choice of this verb in Jonah 1:13a. The verb “to dig” suggests a double entendre. Though the mariners are attempting to “row” their way back to dry ground, in reality they are only digging a hole to Sheol into which they will eventually have to cast Jonah.[2]

Though Sasson points readers to the connection with Amos 9:2, he stops short of claiming the author’s intentionality to foreshadow Jonah’s descend into Sheol.[3] While it is possible that the author intends to make such a connection, it is a claim that stands on shaky ground. The word חתר (to dig) is not, in and of itself, semantically connected to Sheol. It would only seem a happy coincidence that Amos 9:2 and Jonah possess similar language. Nevertheless, Youngblood’s observation that the author intends to connect the sailors’ desperate attempts to return to dry land by “digging”—a term semantically tied to digging or burrowing (in the ground or the wall of a house)[4] and most likely used here metaphorically[5]—reminds the reader that the sailors and Jonah are locked in a cosmic conflict with the God of the sea and the dry land. Their efforts to resist God’s will are futile. The translator, however, does not follow author’s metaphorical use of חתר, but instead highlights the desperate efforts of the sailors: παρεβιάζοντο (they were pressing).

Second, the translator breaks from his stereotypical rendering of the wayyiqtol verb form of the MT with a καί + aorist construction. Instead of using the aorist, the translator chooses to use the imperfect tense. Though the shift may seem harmless enough, the effect on the discourse is significant. Imperfect verb forms within narrative often function to background the information contained within the verb with respect to the foregrounded events within the narrative.[6] Ben Johnson, in his paper “Narrative Sensitivity and the Variation of Verb Tense in 1 Reigns 17:34–37,” argues that often the translator, fully aware of the contours of the story he translates, will use the imperfect form of the verb to translate the wayyiqtol in order to background the information, thus foreshadowing some subsequent event.[7] Johnson’s assessment of LXX translational tendencies in 1 Reigns 17:34–37 also explains nicely the translator’s shift to the imperfect in 1:13a. Whereas the MT places the sailors attempt to return to shore in the foreground, the LXX translator places it, along with the rest of their actions in verse 13 in the background. It is not until the beginning of verse 14 where they cry out, speak to God, plead for mercy for what they are about to do that the foregrounded καί + aorist construction reappears. Backgrounding this action hints at the translator’s knowledge of his text and reflects his anticipation of the climax.

[1] Cf., Job 24:16; Ezek 12:5, 7, 12.

[2] Kevin J. Youngblood, Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy, 82.

[3] Jack Sasson, Jonah, 130.

[4] Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 369.

[5] Uriel Simon, Jonah, 14; Jack Sasson, Jonah, 130; Kevin J. Youngblood, Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy, 82.

[6] Stephen Levinsohn, Discourse Features of the Greek New Testament, 169–180.

[7] Ben Johnson, “Narrative Sensitivity and the Variation of Verb Tense in 1 Reigns 17:34–37” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the SBL, Baltimore, MD., 11/23/2013).

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Feeling a Bit Malnourished

In a conversation I had with a pastor in the Bellingham area this past week, I had a bit of an unsettling realization. We were talking about books that we are reading and have read recently. I couldn’t come up with anything.

I have never been the type of person doesn’t have an active book they are reading—or three. But that’s where I’m at right now.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly reading. I have stacks of articles on linguistics and discourse analysis. I read my GNT everyday. I am engrossed in dozens of commentaries and monographs.

But all that reading applies to one thing: my thesis. I don’t think that I haven’t read something that isn’t biblical language related in at least a year. No systematic theology, no historical theology—except for translating passages from various individuals like Chrysostom—no pastoral theology, no fiction, no biographies … nothing really.

The sad fact, though, is that I can do nothing to remedy the situation. I have not the time or the energy to invest in anything but thesis writing … and of course procrastinating (i.e., blogging).

Once December comes, though, and I’ve finished learning German and finished researching PhD programs, and finished applying for said programs, I’ll sit down and read some fiction, or a biography, or really anything else.

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