Thursday, January 05, 2012

Lost in Translation

Originally posted 12/19/07

By THE BRAY OF FUNDIE

Today, Tevet 10, Jews the world over fast to mourn sundry tragedies that befell our people. Among these is the Septuagint. In the fast days Selikhos we mention this event: "The King of Greece forced me to write the religion/law (דת) in Greek ." (Historians out there, I'd be delighted to know if it was commissioned or completed on Tevet 10).

Why do you suppose this would be something to mourn? Hint: It has more to do with this than with this.

At the risk of leading the witness I blogged about this on Chanukah and this may be enlightening as well. Hope everyone has an easy fast and that our days of fasting become days of feasting speedily and in our days

[DB: The fact of the matter is that the Septuaginit. was in many ways like the Targum Unkelos, in that it was a translation of the Torah into a vernacular. The Targum Unkelos served Aramaic speaking Jews; the  Septuaginit , or as I prefer to call it, the Targum Shivim, served Greek speakers. A better question for the historians, then, is this: How did the Targum Shivim come to be regarded in the popular OJ imagination as something bad, and how did the Targum Unkelos escape this designation?]

This is where the original post finished. As they day went by, Bray and I added to it.
Update [By DB]: There were always those Rabbis who objected to the LXX on the grounds that Torah could not be translated, however the fact remains that the book was the Artscroll of its time. It was the standard text in Alexandria and elsewhere, and scholarship believes that the famous Philo could not read Hebrew, meaning his only Bible was the LXX. Lots and lots of Jews lived in the Greek-speaking world, and the LXX was their book. It can also be argued that the famous legend of the 72 Rabbis who wrote the translation was a way of legitimizing the book. After all, 72 Rabbis had a hand in creating it! So what happened? Well, there was little thing called the Roman War Against the Jews (that culminated at Betar) which made it hard for Jews to continue living happily and comfortably in the Greek-speaking Roman world. Many of them fled into the Aramaic-speaking Persian Empire and the LXX gradually fell into disuse among Jews.

My hunch, is that the prayer Bray mentions above reflects a Jewish distaste for the LXX that developed after it became primarily a Christian book. I suspect it was written by Jews like Yus (see comments) who forgot, or perhaps never knew, that the LXX was first a Jewish book.

Additional Update [By DB]: I see from Megillat Taanit that LXX was completed (per the legend) on 8 Tevet.


Ipso Facto Update by the BRAY OF FUNDIE
Look what they've done to my song, Ma,

Look what they've done to my song,

Well it's the only thing I could do half right And it's turning out all wrong, Ma

Look what they've done to my song

What have they done to my song, Ma?

Look what they've done to my song,

Well they tied it up in a plastic bag And turned it upside down,

Look what they've done to my song!

Bear has mangled my post and is funneling the three days of darkness that descended to the world with the advent of the LXX. The slippery slope of sameness that allows academics and wannabe-academics (you know who you are) to put Torah under an anthropological lens, to deride divrei Khaza"l as "legend" עפרא לפומיה began with the Targum shel Shivim. It was then that the Qedusha wall separating Torah

AND THE WAY IN WHICH IT IS TO BE STUDIED from other disciplines began it's slow erosion culminating in idiot savants like the Ba'al HaBlog. By giving Goyisher Kep (Greeks) and Goyified kep (hebrew illiterate Misyavnim)equal access to the Torah we surrendered to sameness and sacrificed havdalah.

In the dark everything "looks" the same.

Hey Brad R. still think that I've gone squishy?



Hey... I tried to be succinct but Bear compelled me to intervene and reclaim what was mine.

DB HITS BACK: All Bray has done with his most recent update is ignore the facts and muddy the waters. He needs to do two things. First, he needs to explain why the Greek Targum is inferior to the Aramaic Targum. So far, all he's managed to show is that at some later date the author of the slichot judged the LXX inferior, but as I argue above this judgement was made after the LXX was adapted by Christians, and the slichot author might not have known that the LXX was first a Jewish book. Second, like his coeval Yus, Bray seems unwilling to accept and recognize that a Hellenistic Jew is not the same as a Hellenized Jew. Perhaps because his only knowledge of the period comes from the Chanuka story, both Bray and Yus are laboring under the mistake that there were only two groups (a) Jews who were Charedim with swords (to borrow Misnagid's imperishable phrase); and (b) Greeks of Jewish origin. They seem intellectually unable to accept that there was a third group, the Hellenistic Jews, who went to shul, kept commandments and needed a bible in the vernacular. The LXX was written for them, just as the Targum Unkelos was written for Aramaic speakers, and the Living Torah was written for us.


Counterpunching Update

I leave the concrete or Jello-like quality of my reasoning (as well as that of the Ba'al HaBlog's) for the readers to decide. As for historical evidence; is there some rule etched in concrete err stone that says that Philo and Josephus are credible sources wheras Talmud and Midrash are not?

First, paradoxically Greek may actually be a superior medium for Torah than Aramaic, certainly more than other languages (see below). Why? Becuase wheras both LXX and Onkelos are referred to as Targumim = translations, as per Khazal Greek Torah may potentailly be more than a translation but rather a co-equal version /edition of the Torah.

To paraphrase Khaza"l the LXX was comissioned by Talmai HaMelekh and produced by the 70-72 zekainim. Those who participated did so as a fullfillment of the ye-ood of יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם as follows יפיפותו של יפת באהלי שם = "The beauty of Yefes in the tents of Shem" It is an expression of the Greek aesthetic IN the very tents/Temples of Shem. i.e. the heter to "translate" Torah into Greek is expressed שאין התורה נכתב אלא יונית . = "That the Torah cannot be written in other languages save Greek". "Written " as opposed to merely translated. (IMO it was this potential for Torah enlightement abused by Talmai that was transformed into the 3 days of darkness commencing on 8 Teveth and culminating on Asara B'Teveth. )

Second, again as per Khaza"l, the Targum Onkelos was transmitted along with the Torah at Sinai (see Orakh Kahyim 285:2 Mishna Berurah and Biur halakha ibid s'if katan 6), lost in the mists of time and rediscovered/ through Divine inspiration by Onkelos HaGer. Obviously, as a translation that was part and parcel of the gracious gift of TMS it is qualitatively superior to all subsequent translations.

Finally (WARNING, if they haven;'t already the eyes of the Qedusha/Havdalah challenged will now begin to bleed) as per a great 20th century Jewish Thinker, Aramiac is the linguistic equivalent of Ever Hayarden and/or being מוסיף משבת לחול. IOW, while one cannot infuse Mongolia with Qedushas Ha'Aretz nor Wednesday with Qedushas HaShabbos, Ever HaYarden was an expansion of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael and one can elongate Shabbos by bringing it in earlier on Friday and procrastinating it's end on Saturday night. So too, unique among the worlds languages Aramaic has the potential to be infused with Qedusha. Shakespeare's Sonnets do not. [Applied to Qedushas Ha'Adam this is the basic concept of Gerus.It's no coincidence that the conduit for the rediscovery of this holiness infused Targum was a Ger Tzedek. ]

As great as admirer as I am of The Living Torah and the Hirsch Khumash DovBear is being ahistorical and, I suspect, disingenuous to equate these, or their contemporary Russian, French or Farsi counterparts with the LXX. All of these were written to reclaim a forgotten Torah and allow Lashon Qodesh illiterate Jews an opportunity to reclaim their heritage. OTOH the LXX, through the prism of Khazal, was the vehicle for allowing that heritage to be lost by blurring the ( הבדלה בין חכמת ישראל (תורה) לחכמת העמים (חיצוניות thus further eroding the הבדלה בין ישראל לעמים.

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