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Translation, translation ! (Lamentations 5:13)

Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 9:58 pm
by Skylax
The author laments about humiliated Jerusalem, listing various facts. In 5:13, the New American Standard Bible reads :

"Young men worked at the grinding mill, And youths stumbled under loads of wood."

The meaning is perfectly clear, the sentence referring to some kind of hard labour.

Yet the Latin Vulgate says something completely different (at least in the first part of the verse) :

Adolescentibus impudice abusi sunt, et pueri in ligno corruerunt. "They shamelessly 'took advantage' of young men, and youths stumbled in wood."

The Septuagint has yet another version :

ἐκλεκτοὶ κλαυθμὸν ἀνέλαβον καὶ νεανίσκοι ἐν ξύλῳ ἠσθένησαν "Chosen ones lifted up laments and youths got sick in wood."

Can Young's Literal Translation help us ? It reads : "Young men to grind they have taken, And youths with wood have stumbled."

All translators had before their eyes the same Hebrew text : b-ch-w-r-y-m ("young men", lit. "chosen") t-ch-w-n ("mill") n-s-)-w ("lifted/carried"), w-n-(-r-y-m ("and-youths") b-(-ts ("in/by wood") k-sh-l-w (stumbled)

First, Young's Literal Translation appears not to be so literal, because there is nothing denoting "to" ("to grind"), so the obvious literal meaning should be "Young men carried the grind mill";

New American Standard Bible seems to have "adjusted" the sentence to offer a natural meaning. Working at the grinding mill was really hard work, but the text says young men "carried" the mill, not "drove".

3° The Latin Vulgate seems to offer a "dynamic interpretation". Hieronymus and the Romans knew well that working at the mill was hard work, often a punishment for slaves, but he alludes rather to sexual abuse. He knew maybe, or at least believed, that the Hebraic phrase could have such a meaning ? Hieronymus translated by "in" ("in wood") the Hebraic preposition "b" that can also mean "due to"

4° The Septuagint seems to have "weakened" a meaning that would be too harsh. They preferred also "in" rather than "by"

So we can conclude : "Ah ! translation !"

Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:34 am
by Kopio
Hello Skylax,

Thanks for livening up the Koine board with your observations. It is interesting that you bring up the issue of Septuagint Translation. Right now I am in the process of writing a paper on recentional differences between the Septuagint and Masoretic Texts of Ezekiel. I looking into Ezekiel, I have stumbled across a bunch of material about Jeremiah. I haven't seen anything about Lamentations yet, but the LXX of Jeremiah is a full one fifth to one sixth shorter than the Masoretic Text!! So first of all.....we can't assume that they all had the same text in front of them. It appears as if there might have been early shorter versions of the text in circulation before the Masoretes compiled the text. Another point of interest is that the LXX translation predates the text the Masoretes used by several hundred (if not more) years.

There is a papyri in the Chester Beatty Collection called p976. This is one of the most puzzling papyri to look at for the text of Ezekiel. It appears as if the translator(s) were vrey strict in their translation, but then you come across a spot where several verses are missing. Far too many verses to be a simple error of homoteleuton or haplography. We could only assume that the used a different manuscript. Then Qumran happened. We now have a copy of a Hebrew text that appears to have to same verses missing!

That being doesn't appear (after I had to get out my critical editions and follow this rabbit trail!) that there is a problems with the text in either the MT or LXX. I would add that I would translate the LXX a little different than you listed it. I would translate the first part the same, but I would say for the second clause, "And young men were made weak by (carrying? splitting?) wood. The LEH Lexicon has an reference in might take a bit to track down the references, buut it might be worth it. Here it is:
Cf. Albrektson 1963, 203(Lam 5:13); Ziegler 1958, 36-37(Lam 5:13)

The Albrektson article is called "Studies in the Text and Theology of the Book of Lamentations" (Stud. Theol. Lundensia, 21)

The Zeigler article is called: "Beiträge zur Jeremias - Septuaginta" (MSU, 6) Göttingen.

It's something to go on if you want to examine things further.

Oh.....and by the I look closer into the differences between the MT and LXX texts of Ezekiel, it is becoming more and more clear that there were more than likely at least some theological motivations for the way the Masoretes put the text together. After I am done with my paper perhaps I will share it with the forum if there is any interest. (Fairly doubtful, as it is highly nerdy stuff that for some reason I find fascinating!)

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:52 pm
by Skylax
Hello Kopio !

Thanks a lot for the information ! I will try to have a look at your references, if it is not out of my reach :(

I came over this passage because I was recently asked to check if, in a CD booklet, various renderings of this text, namely from the Latin Vulgate and from a German translation based on Luther's, were really consistent. In the event, I found the discrepancies which I reported above. It was striking to see that there are no notes about it in popular editions of the Bible, as the "Bible de Jerusalem" which often does point out variations between different versions.

So, do you think that these discrepancies are reflecting various states of the Hebrew text ?

Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:03 pm
by Kopio
Skylax wrote:So, do you think that these discrepancies are reflecting various states of the Hebrew text ?
The short answer would be yes. I beleive there was a "proto-Ezekiel" floating around that was the Vorlage of the LXX text. The long answer would be....well, just that....long, but basically amounting to the same thing. It's funny, sometimes Christians get nervous when you start talking about "versions" and "textual difficulties", manytimes they feel it a threat to Divine inspiration. I feel no such threat :wink: