Monday, February 28, 2011

Level 2

A patient teacher would've gone back to the guy quoted in my last post and kept trying to reason with him. (As opposed to mocking him online or something like that.) Told him that translating the Bible into Languages A, B, C and and so forth was not like a game of Elephant, because in each case, if reputable people were at work, the translator would be working from the original Hebrew and Greek texts; that, if anything, the existence of more translations could help to improve one particular translation. For example, the translator translating the Bible into Language A might also happen to be fluent in Language B -- good translators tend to be multilingual -- and if he were stuck trying to find a good translation for a particular word or passage, the approach taken on the word or passage in the translation into Language B might give him an idea. Other translations are in no way a substitute for working with the source text, but they can now and then be a supplemental resource. For a competent translator, they certainly don't hurt a thing.

Sure, for all I know there might be many very sloppy Bible translations out there. For all I know there may be some translations in Language C made from other modern translations in Language B which were made from still other modern translations in Language A, ("Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey donkey!") because the publishers were unscrupulous and the missionaries footing the bill didn't know any better. But the existence of those "monkey-strong" bad translations into Language C in no way prevent people from making good translations into Language C using the same resources used for any good translation, consulting the best ancient Hebrew and Greek texts and disregarding both the bad old manuscripts and the bad new translations.

I could've tried to explain those sorts of things to this guy who as of yesterday was convinced that there was no explaining gravity. But I am not a teacher, and as far as I know, I am not noted for my patience. I know that doing those sorts of educational tasks is very important, but I feel no vocation for it, no passion. What I want are discussion partners who are already up here on Level 2 with me. Commandos, not cannon fodder.

And anyway the whole subject of the textual transmission of the Bible is just a secondary interest of mine, one of the branches off of my more primary interest in ancient history and languages generally. It's just that problems of the text of the Bible come up in conversation much, much more often in conversation than problems of the text of Homer or Sallust. The latter are much more interesting to me personally, but whaddyagonnado. My autistic-spectrum condition led to an autodidactic education, and we autodidacts wander the non-specialized wilderness to some extent. And so I get caught up in these conversations about the Bible with theologians on the one hand, who tend to have a fairly good grasp of the history of the transmission of the Bible, but who often speak with fork-ed tongues, and clueless atheists and hateful sectarians on the other who say things like that the text of the Bible has gone through several thousand steps of re-translation before being given its final and thoroughly corrupt form at the Council of Nicea by Constantine the Great. In AD 400.

Because I am out here in the wilderness, although I have managed to gather, for example, that archaeology has all but ruled out any sort of large-scale Exodus of Israelites from Egypt into Canaan in the 13th century BC and largely contradicts the Biblical account of Joshua's battles, I do not know what experts might currently think of Freud's theorythat Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten -- or Ikhnaten in Freud's and others' transliterations from a few decades ago -- and began more and more to emphasize the worship of Aten, the disc of the sun, at the expense of other deities, and whose memory was partly effaced after his death in reaction to this religious unorthodoxy, may have been both the first monotheist and the basis of the legend of Moses. It seems possible to me that a small group of Akhenaten's followers could have moved from Egypt to Canaan, joined the larger group which were or would become the Israelites, and profoundly influenced their religion.

I mean -- monotheism had to come from somewhere. This is one possible route.

Then again, I am not nearly as prepared to declare Akhenaten a monotheist, the first one or not, as is my sensationalistic bete noir with no damn editorial standards, the History Channel. This is all highly speculative on my part.

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