And the Winner of Strauss’ Commentary on Mark is…

51VT+emqhVL._SX393_BO1,204,203,200_Many thanks to everyone who participated in the drawing for Mark Strauss’ Mark Commentary in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. I enjoyed reading your comments. Several of them made me want to simply pick a winner instead of drawing at random. But in the interest of fairness, I’ve drawn a name out of a metaphorical hat (random number generator). And the winner of this hefty, substantial, and all around good commentary is…Rod Santiago.

Rod, please email me with you name and address at jacobncerone[at]gmail[dot]com. I’ll get it in the mail as soon as possible. If I don’t hear from you by Jan 1, I’ll pick a new winner.

Thanks again for entering.

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Duolingo and German

imgresRecently, I’ve been working hard on learning German. One of the many aspects of my language learning regiment has included the use of Duolingo.

Now, there are a number of things to not like about it. First, while we’re told that immersive language is the best and easiest way to learn a language (and for good reason) its execution in software tools leaves a bit to be desired. Though Duolingo tries to overcome it through dividing lessons by grammatical concepts and providing notes with each lesson, there is a deemphasis on grammar. The expectation is that you will assimilate it. To remedy this shortcoming, I continue to reference my German grammar textbooks.

Another shortcoming, and this is a real problem, is the computer generated voice. For computer generated audio, I have to say I’m truly impressed. Nevertheless, not only am I left without a real world experience of how other humans sound speaking the language but the further you go the more difficult it is to make out what word is being said. Intonation and accentuation are necessary components for meaning making and understanding. And the program falls short here.

But, laying all this aside, I want to come to the purpose of this post: I love Duolingo. Sure, part of it has to do with the vocabulary building and the spaced repetition, but all of those things play second fiddle to the immersion section of their web app. Here, users upload German (or French, Spanish, etc) documents.

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Once on the site, the Duolingo community engages with the readings they find interesting and go to work translating, reviewing, revising, and up voting the final translation. You even get helps automatically generated by Duolingo. Just hover over a word to find lexical glosses for you to chose from.

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Once a translation is supplied, you can click on a sentence to see the answer revealed:

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If you disagree with the translation, you can edit it to supply your own. Or you can click on the “Looks Good” button to up vote it and provide validation to the work of others.

What does this all mean? It means that you have an ever growing repository of free German to English texts that will aid you in your acquisition of the language.

You can even enter into the proofreading viewing option to have a diglot:

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And the best part is that it’s all free. No more searching for German texts to translate. No more searching for diglots to check your work. Duolingo has it for you on their site for free. And, as you can tell, I’ve gotten into the Christmas spirit by translating through some of A Christmas Carol.

So, stop with your excuses and get to translating!


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Book Giveaway: The Letters of Ignatius- Apostolic Fathers Greek Reader

51y77v4go2l-_sx322_bo1204203200_As a second giveaway,* I’m offering a volume I helped contribute to, The Letters of Ignatius: Apostolic Fathers Greek Reader.

To enter, simply comment below. Tell me why you want it or simply say “I want it.” I’ll give you additional entries if you share this post on Facebook or Twitter. (Make sure you let me know that you’ve shared it in the comments below or in an email to jacobncerone[at]gmail[dot]com.) The giveaway ends on December 26, 2015 at midnight Pacific Time. I’ll announce the winner in the comments section of this post (in case you’re following it via email) and in a separate post the following day.

*Giveaway limited to continental US residents

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Book Giveaway: Mark Strauss’ Commentary on Mark

51VT+emqhVL._SX393_BO1,204,203,200_For the Christmas season, I’d like to thank my readers (and those of you that just happened to stumble upon this post) by giving away a copy of Mark Strauss’ new commentary on the Gospel of Mark. In the interest of full disclosure, this is the review copy I received from the Journal of Baptist Theology and Ministry. Nevertheless, it’s still in like new condition, is free, and you don’t even have to pay postage.*

In case you’re wondering what makes this commentary unique and a great addition to your shelf, check out my review here.

To enter, simply comment below. Tell me why you want it or simply say “I want it.” The giveaway ends on December 25, 2015 at midnight Pacific Time. I’ll announce the winner in the comments section of this post (in case you’re following it via email) and in a separate post the following day.

*Giveaway limited to continental US residents


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In the Mail: Language for God in Patrsitic Tradition 

I’m looking forward to digging into Language for God in Patristic Tradition. Thanks to IVP for sending it over for review!

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Thoughts on Muraoka’s “With the Publication of NETS”

12308714_802466275629_359666352402940125_nAs I’ve continued to make my way through Biblical Greek in Context: Essays in Honour of John A. Lee, I encountered Muraoka’s essay on the New English Translation of the Septuagint, better known as NETS. NETS has long been recognized as the best English translation of the Septuagint on the market, despite what you might think of Description Translation Studies, the foundational methodology by which the translators operated. In any case, Muraoka’s task within the essay is to evaluate the translation by analyzing four texts: Genesis 1, Esaias 34, Psalm 1, and 2 Makkabees 13.
In each section, he provides the underlying Greek text, the NETS translation, and his comments on the English translator’s successes and failures in rendering Greek into English. For instance, in Genesis 1:2, Muraoka writes:

πνεῦμα θεοῦ “a divine wind.” Rösel’s rendering is der Geist Gottes. Even accepting his argument that here it has to do with an independent, divine power, and even ignoring the traditional Christian theology, der Geist Gottes seems to denote an eminently personal entity, and no physical force. Besides, the use of the definite article is hardly justifiable. Thus NETS is to be followed here (146).

The following comment, however, takes issue with the NETS translator’s choice to render ἐπεφέρετο as passive:

ἐπεφέρετο “was being carried along.” Is it absolutely necessary to understand the verb as passive, and not middle or intransitive “was moving along”? Who would then be the agent? Besides, NRSV reads “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” and the MT has מרחפת a Piel, thus active, participle (146).

Muraoka continues this process of selecting a translation with which he agrees or disagrees time and time again, for 18 pages. For some, the rather monotonous cadence of agree, disagree, disagree, agree might quickly become tiresome. I, however, found it to be an insightful read. It is one thing, after all, to say that translating a translation is a difficult task. It is another, however, to see those difficulties played out before your eyes when another scholar takes issue—and for good reason—with what seems to be a reasonable translation.

After his meticulous analysis, and I will quote a bit at length, Muraoka provides a few concluding remarks about NETS:

In summing up we would like to add a couple of general observations on this modern, new English Septuagint. Those who are reasonably comfortable with Greek (and Hebrew/Aramaic) would read the Septuagint in Greek. Many who are not in that position, but would like to know all the same how a particular place in the Hebrew/Aramaic Bible has been interpreted prior to the turn of the era would find NETS a convenient resource. Those people are unlikely to be served by a plethora of Septuagintalisms in English guise such as “between the day and between the night.” NETS is, of course, beneficial for non-Hellenists when it comes to the apocryphal books for which no Semitic original has been preserved in their entirety or which were originally written in Greek.

Translation presupposes interpretation. In a comprehensive syntax of Septuagint Greek which is currently in making frequent references are made to translation of the Septuagint, both ancient and modern, including NETS. One could only expect that the interpretation represented and incorporated in NETS can be debatable at times as has been amply illustrated above, which means our ancient translators may have meant something different from what one reads in NETS. Even so we are grateful for the immense efforts that went into its production.

Now, laying aside Muraoka’s snark,* I want to take issue with the bolded statement.** Would the readers who would like to now how the “Hebrew/Aramaic Bible has been interpreted prior to turn of the era” truly find that “a plethora of Septuagintalisms in English guise” are a disservice to their interests? If what one seeks is a translation composed in contemporary, readable English style, then I suppose Muraoka is correct. But if what one truly seeks is a representation of how the translators and readers of the Septuagint interpreted the Hebrew/Aramaic Bible, is it not better to represent, in English guise, the same infelicities the translator chose to keep and the reader might have stumbled over?

Too many times translations smooth over the style of the ancient biblical authors, making it seem as if the author of Genesis sounded the same as that of Isaiah and even Matthew. Standardizing vocabulary, syntax, spelling, and more makes the reader think each book of the biblical corpus was written by the same author. Secondly, a translation that is founded on a methodology that seeks not how later communities have received the translation (qua text) but how the translator has received and understood the Hebrew/Aramaic original, shouldn’t the resultant translation preserve these blemishes so other analysts might better identify them?

These are only a few questions I have regarding Muraoka’s comments. They are not, however, set in stone. And, more importantly, they do not necessarily reflect my own commitment to DTS and the child of its application to the LXX, NETS. It is to say, however, that the committee has faithfully maintained their commitment to DTS in this regard—though Muraoka points out inconsistencies on this front as well—and should not be detracted from preserving each translator’s unique style and technique.

* First, It goes without saying that the preference would be to read the Septuagint, Hebrew, and Aramaic in the original language. One must, however, assume that the translators’ endeavored to meet the needs of a different audience. Second, of course NETS translation will be debatable at times. The first sentence of the paragraph recognizes that all translation—the LXX of its Vorlage and the NETS of its LXX text—presupposes interpretation. This interpretation can be right or wrong (or neutral). I think a more appropriate way to conclude the essay would be saying something to the effect of, “with these needed emendations in mind—and with others that can be identified throughout the rest of the corpus—it is necessary to begin work on a new edition, one I would be thrilled to help produce.”

** I realize that (1) this is a matter of methodology, an issue Muraoka clearly takes issue with, and (2) Muraoka has been at this much longer than me, so take what I’m about to say with a wary eye.

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Balaam’s Donkey and a Play on Words in LXX Numbers 22:27–29

55836This morning I started reading a bit in Evans’ chapter on Numbers in  T & T Clark’s Companion to the Septuagint where he comments upon the “liveliness of language and style and independence from the underlying Hebrew” (62). One specific feature he touched upon was the manner in which the translator rendered the Hebrew verbs in this passage. For instance:

וַתֵּ֤רֶא הָֽאָתוֹן֙ אֶת־מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהוָ֔ה וַתִּרְבַּ֖ץ תַּ֣חַת בִּלְעָ֑ם
And the donkey saw the angle of the Lord and laid down under Balaam


καὶ ἰδοῦσα ἡ ὄνος τὸν ἄγγελον τοῦ θεοῦ συνεκάθισεν ὑποκάτω Βαλααμ
And when the donkey saw the angel of God, it laid down under Balaam.

The change might seem subtle, but the translator rises above the level of the clause by subordinating the wayyiqtol (“and saw”) to the subsequent wayyiqtol (“laid down”).

As I read the accompanying text of Numbers 22:27–29 in the LXX, I noticed a subtle play on words that might help contribute another piece to Evans’ argument about the stylized nature of this section.

NETS 22:27–33 reads:

27 And when the donkey saw the angel of God, it settled down under Balaam, and Balaam was angered and kept beating the donkey with the rod.  28 And God opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have struck me this third time?”  29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have mocked me! And if I had a dagger in my hand, I would already have stabbed you!”  30 And the donkey says to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you would ride from your youth to this very day? Disregarding with disregard—I have not done so to you, have I?” And he said, “No!”

31   Now God uncovered the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of God standing opposed in the road and the dagger drawn in his hand, and he bowed down and did obeisance to his face.  32 And the angel of God said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey this third time? And behold, I came out to oppose you, because your way was not pretty before me.  33 And when the donkey saw me, it turned away from me this third time. And if it had not turned away, now surely I would have killed you but kept it alive.”

In this passage, we find God’s sense of humor. I won’t do a full exegesis—or really anything close to it. It just want to point out a few details before showing you a little gem from the LXX.

  • Balaam, a self-proclaimed seer does not see.
  • Balaam’s donkey receives a word from God; Balaam has no such word.
  • Balaam threatens that if he had a sword in his hands, he would kill the donkey for making a fool of him; the angel of the Lord possesses the very sword Balaam seeks.
  • Balaam is on a mission to make a fool of/curse God and his people; Balaam is made a fool of by his donkey.
  • Balaam’s threat to kill his donkey for making a fool of him is matched by God’s threat to kill him for attempting to make a fool of him (see v. 33).

The LXX translator ties Balaam’s act of hitting his donkey to his claim that the donkey has mocked him by using παίω and ἐμπαίζω in vv. 27–29.

In verse 27, we are told that Balaam becomes angry and “kept beating the donkey with the rod.” The Greek verb used here is ἔτυπτεν (MT וַיַּ֥ךְ ).  But instead of using the same lemma (τύπτω) to translate הִכִּיתַ֔נִי in verse 28, the translator varies vocabulary in favor of πέπαικάς (“What have I done to you that you have struck me this third time?”). In so doing, the translator sets up a phonetic parallel with Balaam’s response in verse 29: Ὅτι ἐμπέπαιχάς μοι (“Because you have mocked me!”).

Once again, the translator rises above the clause being translated to create a more stylistic reading. And in this case, a translation that helps draw together the ironic elements within the Balaam story.

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