“Interlinearity in 2 Esdras: A Test Case”

I have two important words for you today: isomorphism and anacoluthon.

Isomorphism “equal/same form,” as it applies to our subject of interest (you’re right, my subject of interest), is the method of translation that seeks to render form for form.  That is to say, if there is an article in the Hebrew there will be an article in the Greek.  If there is a preposition in Hebrew, there will be one in the Greek, and on it goes.  As it happens, Wooden adopts Pietersma’s interlinear/isomorphic model as his approach to the text of 2 Esdras.

The concept of isomorphism naturally leads to our second word, anacoluthon.  Anacoluthon literally means, “does not follow” and when applied to the analysis of texts it has special reference to an “error” in syntax.  Here’s an example, “The boy hit the ball to I.”  Instead of using the accusative form “me,” the author of this sentence has incorrectly used the nominative form “I.”

R. Glenn Wooden begins his article by supporting his claim that the text of 2 Esdras is best understood by an appeal to Pietersma’s interlinear model.  He argues that the presence of transliterations in instances where the Hebrew meaning eludes the translator, an almost flawless adherence to word order (1 alteration out of 65 verses analyzed ), and the imprecise rendering of conjunctions (waw translated with καί 154/166 times) support the notion that this text was meant to be read in reference to the Hebrew original.

This conclusion assists in his interpretation of 2 Ezd 9:1, which reads, “The people…were not separated from the peoples of the lands…in reference to the Chanani. The Heththi, the Pherezi, the Iebousi, the Ammoni, the Moab, the Mosri, and the Amori.”  This literalistic rendering of the LXX displays the anacoluthon present in the Greek.  Chanani is a dative of reference “in reference to the Chanani.”  This is an accurate rendering of the Hebrew’s lamad preposition.  Yet, the rest of the nations are in the nominative case (the case that is most often used for the subject or predicate).  The translator could have rendered all of the nations in the list as datives and avoided the whole issue, a perfectly “literal” option since the lamad preposition spans the list in the Hebrew original.  Wooden argues that the translator avoids this option because it would not be in tune with his isomorphic tendencies (i.e. one dative for one preposition).  Wooden further supports this observation with three other examples of anacoluthon within the book of 2 Esdras.

The translator’s slavish adherence to the Hebrew Text, even to the point of departure from viable Greek syntax, leads Wooden to conclude that the English translator has legitimate recourse to the Hebrew Text.  After all, the translator of 2 Esdras intended his translation to be read beside the Hebrew original.

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