The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Location: Minnesota, United States

Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My dangerous idea about Genesis 11 LXX; hiatal comment festival

That time of year has come upon me again, when I need to curtail extra activities and concentrate on my schoolwork. I'm aiming to finish my essays for the "Medieval Judaism" course by the end of June, so I have the task upon me of proving that I've learned something about Medieval Jewish Philosophy (which I found mostly tedious, though with a few interesting highlights - Christian Scholastic thought owes more to it than most people realize); Mysticism (my take on Kabbalah is "Madonna can have it"); Biblical commentary (I much prefer Ibn Ezra over Rashi); Legal & Ethical literature (overall the most interesting part for me, to my total surprise); and liturgy (haven't gotten to that part yet).

So, I wouldn't rule out an occasional post between now and June 30. But I wouldn't count on it, either.

Before I hang it up, I've decided to skip ahead in the Septuagint to a dangerous idea that's been brewing in my mind for over 20 years, ever since I found out about the "Second Cainan". Here's the deal: Here's the typical reading of Genesis 11:11-12, as exemplified by the NIV translation:

And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.

But here's the way verses 11-13a read in the Septuagint (Brenton's side margin translation given for convenience):

And Sem lived, after he had begotten Arphaxad, five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan. And Arphaxad lived after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala.

So how did that extra guy get in there? Evidently many have simply viewed it as a mistake, as apparently did Irenaeus and Eusebius, but I have a hard time dismissing it because of Luke 3:35-36, ... the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem ... So Luke included the "extra guy" in the geneology of Christ. As a Christian I've long believed the New Testament to be an authoritative guide to the Old Testament, and it seems to me therefore that Luke's Gospel is an authoritative guide to Genesis 11. My "dangerous idea" is that, according to Luke 3:36, the Septuagint preserves a more accurate rendering of Genesis 11:11-12 than the Masoretic text does. Any thoughts?

While we're at it, during my blogging hiatus this month I'll invite one and all to the First Annual Hiatal Comment Festival. Besides being the first known use of the adjective "hiatal" in some other connection besides a hernia, it is an invitation to post a thoughtful, hilarious, or even moderately outrageous comment on anything that somehow relates to this blog. Your goal is to somehow provoke me to come out from under my rock and respond to your comment. Have at it, and "see" you soon!

Great Aunt Judith 1908-2006

Her funeral is today - it would have been Kenneth & Judith's 68th wedding anniversary (he died in 1994). A delightful Christian lady who continued to be an active learner well into retirement (which was a long time, since she died at 97). She took up painting in her 70s, and I wish I had a scan of one of her landscapes so I could post it. She also is reputed to have been a formidable Scrabble player. I hadn't realized until a few years ago that she was a "West River" girl (in South Dakota, "East River" and "West River" refer to which side of the Missouri you're on - the two halves of the state are quite distinct) who had come to this area as a teacher. She was spotted by a young farmer named Kenneth (my grandfather's younger brother), and the rest is history. She remarked once that she thought there were too many trees in this part of SD, and that she liked things more wide open, like in the West! Being a Minnesota boy myself, born in the deep woods, I think the trees already look a bit sparse in these parts, and seeing it through her eyes takes a bit of effort. She will be missed, but our loss is Heaven's gain.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

Jaroslav Pelikan

I just discovered that church historian and consummate scholar Jaroslav Pelikan passed away five days ago. May his memory be eternal.

Genesis 4 LXX

Verse 7 is really, really different. In the NIV it reads: (the LORD speaking to Cain) "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." In Brenton's side-margin translation of the LXX, it reads: "Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it [the sacrifice] rightly, but not rightly divided it? be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him." Hmm.

Unlike in our familiar versions, Cain seems genuinely repentant in verse 13, Kai eipe Kain pros Kyrion ton Theon, meizOn hE aitia mou tou aphethEnai me, "And Cain said to the Lord God, My crime is too great for me to be forgiven." Compare NIV: "My punishment is more than I can bear."

Lamech also seems remarkably remorseful in comparison to our familiar versions. Verse 23: hoti andra apekteina eis trauma emoi, kai neaniskon eis mOlOpa emoi, "I have slain a man to my sorrow and a youth to my grief." Compare NIV: "I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me."

The standard rendering of the Divine Name YHVH seems to be Kyrios ho Theos, hyperliterally "Lord the God", more customarily rendered "The Lord God."

Has Iran declared war on the United States?

Consider the evidence: Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

This saddens me.

And with his landmark 64th birthday coming up, too.

Paul McCartney, Wife Blame Media for Split

Genesis 3 LXX

Two highlights of this chapter in the Septuagint:

Verse 16 (which is Gen. 3:15 in our English versions), the "protogospel". Instead of "bruise", the word tEreO, "watch for, guard" is used; "he shall watch for your head, and you shall watch for his heel."

Verse 21 (20 English), very interesting to note here that Adam named his wife ZOE, "Life". Adam and Zoe. But in 4:1 she is familiarly called Eua, Eve.

In other news, I forgot to mention in my recent travelogue that I had acquired a new Bible on the trip. While stopping by the CTS Bookstore, I found a copy of the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, Pocket Edition. A blocky little volume, 6" high, 4" wide, 2" thick, it requires a large pocket. But I like it. The Hebrew type is remarkably clear considering how small it is, but a magnifying glass is helpful. Yes, I'm finding new homes for 5 or 6 of my other Bibles.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Genesis 2 LXX - Curing a theological pleurisy

Verse 8: Kai ephyteusen ho Theos paradeison en Edem, "And God planted a garden (or "paradise") east of Eden." Just noting the use of the word "paradise."

Verses 21 & 22 use the word pleura for the word translated "rib" in virtually every English translation. I had been hoping that the Septuagint would answer a question about this text raised by Dr. Sherwin in the "Medieval Judaism" lecture videos. He asserted that "rib" was a mistranslation dating back to St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate, and that it really meant "side", in the sense that the original human was a hermaphroditic being, who was then divided into male and female. The subject evidently is discussed in Rabbinic and Mystical Jewish literature. I get a mental picture of a creature like one of those Hindu idols, only with an extra head as well as extra limbs. Extra other things too.

Thinking the hermaphroditic thing to be a bit odd, and not yet being well-versed in Hebrew, I was eager to see what the Septuagint says, since it predates the Vulgate by a few centuries, and also predates Christianity. The Greek lexicons I have indicate "side" and "rib" as fair translations of pleura. In modern English the word refers to the membrane inside the rib cage which envelopes the lungs, and is the root of the word "pleurisy", an inflammation of the aforementioned membrane. Pleura also occurs five times in the Greek New Testament. In John 19:34 as well as 20:20, 25, and 27, it refers to the side of Jesus pierced by the spear. In Acts 12:7 an angel strikes Peter on the side in order to wake him up.

On the one hand, it seems like it may not have necessarily been a rib that was removed. Maybe it was a whole side of his thorax, or something else that we can't quite picture. On the other hand, the "hermaphrodite theory" wasn't exactly proven either, and I remain skeptical that the writer of Genesis 2 really had such a thing in mind.

It should be clear by now that my slow march through the Septuagint is going to include lots of amateur-level analysis of minutiae. But I'm in search of nuggets of wisdom, and you never know when or where the next stunning, paradigm-shifting revelation is going to turn up. And every word of Scripture is more than worth a careful read.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Free Alaa


As you may have heard by now, Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah has been arrested alongside 10 others while demonstrating in support of the independence of the Judiciary in Egypt and the release of previous demonstrators who were detained 2 weeks earlier. The Police entrapped them, cordoning off their peaceful protest and then proceeded to handpick the demonstrators that they wanted to detain, beat them, and then arrested them.

Alaa and those arrested with him are now arrested for 15 days "pending investigation", which could be renewed indefinitely if the state so wishes. He and the men were sent to the infamous Torah Prison and the girls to the Qanatir prison for the duration. This makes them hardly safe, because stuff that goes on in Egyptian prisons on the hands of the jailors: beatings, sexual assaults, torture of all kinds.

Currently there are about 48 detained, 6 of them are bloggers, and 3 of them are women. The best known is Alaa, which makes him the posterboy of this campaign - but getting them out is equally as important. Egypt has fewer than 830 bloggers all in all, 60 of whom are political and less than 30 are politically active. Now 6 of those are in jail - 20% of all politically active Egyptian bloggers - and amongst them one of Egypt's most highly profiled one


Alaa was arrested while protesting to support Egypt’s Judges fight for independence. 2 weeks earlier he had organized a “National Unity” protest to show solidarity with Egypt’s Christians who suffered a sectarian attack on 3 churches on Good Friday. Before that he was one of the few voices that urged calm and peaceful dialogue while the cartoon crisis was hitting its peak. He is a desperately needed voice of moderation and democracy in Egypt, and one of the few flickers of hope in a country whose future seems mire between the crushing rule of the regime and the fanaticism of the Islamist opposition.



Genesis 1 LXX

Verse 6: Kai eipen ho Theos, genEthEtO stereOma en mesO tou ydatos, "And God said, let there be a firmament in midst of the waters." stereOma definitely means a firmament, something strong and solid (e.g. "stereo", "steroids", etc.). The NIV has "expanse", catering to our modern sensibilities of outer space. I suppose some will say that the "firmament" thing shows that this text is hopelessly imbedded in antiquated cosmology. On the other hand, how do we really know that the cosmos isn't somehow bounded by some strong firmament?

Verse 9: Kai eipen o Theos, synachthEto to ydOr to ypokatO tou ouranou eis synagOgEn mian, kai ophthEtO hE xEra, "And God said, let the water beneath the heaven be gathered together into one gathering place, and let the dry land appear." Interesting to picture the waters being gathered into "synagogues."

Verse 27: arsen kai thElu epoiEsen autous, "male and female He created them." This is quoted verbatim from the LXX in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6.

Does anyone out there know the html symbol codes for E, e, O, and o with macrons over them? I'd like to use them for the letters eta and omega.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Invitation to the Septuagint

So why does a guy like me decide to read an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament all the way through over the course of a few years, and broadcast his observations to the world? Here's my Top Ten List of reasons:

1. Hey, man, it's the Bible that I'm reading!

2. It's often (but not always) quoted verbatim in the original Greek New Testament.

3. It was the version of the Old Testament Scriptures in most common use among early Greek-speaking Christians.

4. It's one of our best pieces of evidence as to how Greek-speaking Jews in the 3rd-1st centuries before Christ understood the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures).

5. It's the perfect way to keep my Greek sharp while also delving deeper into the Hebrew Scriptures and the Second Temple period.

6. Though it's a translation from the original Hebrew, it's possible that parts of it are translated from an older form of the Hebrew text than the manuscripts we have in Hebrew. Thus it's a key piece of evidence in reconstructing the original text.

7. It appeared at a time when the Jews were for the first time interacting on a major scale with the culture and thought forms of the Classical Greek world.

8. It continues to have an important role in some Christian circles today, such as in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

9. I'm itching to do something related to my Second Temple Era studies, even though I have a few more of the preliminaries to finish yet in my program.

10. It's just plain cool! (and it's a better version than The Message ...)

By the way, I lifted the title of this post from this book of the same title which I've not read yet, but this excellent essay by C.S. Lewis points out how reading the originals is superior to reading books about them anyway. So did I plagiarize this post title? I thought of calling it "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed By the Greek Old Testament and Got a Big Fat Greek Life", but I doubt the chick lit industry would have taken much notice.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

2,561.9 miles, a few goats, many blessings, zero pounds!

In the last couple of weeks we went on a journey to my wife's home state of Indiana (sorry I didn't say "hi", Michael H, maybe on the next trip ...) & saw most of her family & a few friends. Here's the obligatory travelogue, prefaced by Holy Week a few days earlier.

April 13: Maundy Thursday, led the second annual Passover Seder, this year at the Town Church. Our seder followed the Haggadah found at Shalom Scripture Studies, a Hebrew-Christian ministry. At almost the last minute I found a few legs of lamb (the Sephardic tradition includes it, the Ashkenazim exclude it) at HyVee. I had earlier asked a lady whose husband raises sheep if they had any lamb on hand, and she said they didn't, but she made this well-intentioned offer: "We have some pork roast in the freezer. We could cook it and just pretend it's lamb." I said "no, thanks" & decided that on some other occasion I might give a tactful, gentle clarification of just how uniquely inappropriate it would be to have pork roast at a seder. It's worse than those ham & cheese bagels, for crying out loud. But the same lady made this wonderful charoseth (recipe from the same website:)

(makes 4 cups)

1 pound chopped apples
1 pound dried raisins
8 ounces pitted dates
2 cups water (or as needed)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Place the apples, raisins, and dates in a bowl with
enough water to cover. Let stand for 1 hour.

Add the sugar and whirl the mixture in a blender, a
few spoonfuls at a time. Or divide the mixture in
thirds and place in a food processor.

Transfer the chopped fruits to a heavy saucepan and
let simmer over low
heat until the fruits are cooked and the liquid
absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and place in a jar. When cool,
sprinkle with chopped nuts.

YIELD: 16 Servings

There are many recipe variations. Often some wine is used, & one could use honey or another natural sweetener. The seder was a blessing.

April 14: a very simple Good Friday Tenebrae service at the Country Church.

April 16: Celebrating the Resurrection.

Monday, April 17: A few hectic last-minute preparations finally gave way to the beginning of our vacation. We loaded up "Strider" our Ford Ranger (get it?), headed on out and stayed in a camping cabin in Western Iowa.

Tuesday, April 18: Made the happy discovery of the Museum of Religious Arts, which includes a display of prints by child prodigy artist Akiane, who credits her gift to God. I'm collecting bits of evidence here & there that God exists, & I'm adding her gifts to the list. Made our way to another campground in Eastern Iowa.

Wednesday, April 19: An extremely friendly half-grown kitten hanging out at the campground tried to include herself in our luggage. Crossed Illinois & arrived at yet another campground in West Central Indiana.

Thursday, April 20: While leisurely doing laundry at about 9:00 AM, we discovered it was really 10:00 AM! After years of non-conformity, Central Indiana has adopted Daylight Savings Time, just in time to put us to an unexpected rush, because we needed to check out by noon & head out to my wife's parents' home in Fishers, IN. Had a nice time, & stayed at their house that night.

Friday, April 21: Visited with the in-laws, including lunch at Moe's Southwest Grill, where the crew shouts "Welcome to Moe's" every time someone comes in. Then we headed back to the campground, where we stayed the next few nights.

Saturday, April 22: Picked up my wife's sister in South Indianapolis, then the three of of headed to SW Indiana to visit another sister & her two kids. Thought we were running an hour late, but we ended up being exactly on time, because we didn't realize their county's time was an hour earlier! Toured the house, went on a walk and visited a few neighborhood goats.

Sunday, April 23: Blessed through a fine time of worship at a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod church 1/4 mile from my wife's parents' house, then saw one of my wife's brothers & his wife & their two kids, who came down from Fort Wayne. I took a leave for part of the afternoon & went to a relatively short "Agape Vespers" service at an Orthodox Church where my wife was once a member (the 23rd was Pascha or Easter on their calendar), & where friends Michael & Rebecca are very active. This service features the reading of the Gospel lesson in many languages, & I was there to read it in Hebrew (I'll blog later on my humbling first attempt to be a Hebrew lector).

Monday, April 24: Dined with friend Mina, had supper with Michael & Rebecca & their daughter. Last night at campground in Indiana. My wife's family & friends are very nice people, all of them. MEMO TO ALL YOU SINGLES OUT THERE: If you must marry, be sure to marry someone whose friends are truly good people. But if you remain single, you've committed no sin ... regardless of how certain people in your church might make you feel about it ...

Tuesday, April 25: The only day it rained, was sunny by the time we arrived at a hotel in Eastern Iowa.

Wednesday, April 26: Cruised across Iowa. While taking a break at Stuart, Iowa, we saw an intriguing sign that said there was a "Byzantine Style Church." Investigated, & found to our dismay that the building stands in severe disrepair due to a 1995 "hate crime." Read more about it at Returned to the same campground as on the first night of the trip. Fish were literally jumping out of the water (& flopping back in) all evening.

Thursday, April 27: Journeyed home.

Friday, April 28: Retreived Pluto aka "The Dogster" from the doggie hotel (kennel), where he had become a sort of mascot. He was truly overjoyed to see us, & the feeling was mutual. Life is getting back to normal again. I think we had an above-average vacation. Very pleased to step on the scale & find I had gained zero pounds! If I may crow for a moment, I've worked nearly 40 pounds off in the last year & a half, & I'm within 16-17 pounds of my target weight (I had let myself get pretty big). Trips have always been a challenge to the diet, & I didn't want to lose any hard-won ground. But praise the LORD it worked out pretty well this time.

Next post: "Invitation to the Septuagint."