Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sunday Knox: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24A

Knox Bible:
"What is the scene, now, of your approach to God? It is no longer a mountain that can be discerned by touch; no longer burning fire, and whirlwind, and darkness, and storm. No trumpet sounds; no utterance comes from that voice, which made those who listened to it pray that they might hear no more. The scene of your approach now is mount Sion, is the heavenly Jerusalem, city of the living God; here are gathered thousands upon thousands of angels, here is the assembly of those first-born sons whose names are written in heaven, here is God sitting in judgement on all men, here are the spirits of just men, now made perfect; here is Jesus, the spokesman of the new covenant, and the sprinkling of his blood, which has better things to say than Abel’s had."

NAB Lectionary:
"You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel."


CarlHernz said...

I love how Knox grasps nuances lost by some approaches used in translation. I find it an interesting coincidence (or was it providential) that La Bible de Jérusalem, a product of the same era, also produced a similar dynamic rendition.

This comparison of the Hebrew texts just reminded me of something. What often escapes the minds of those who do not or cannot read the texts in the original tongues is that there are very few parts of the Bible that read like the beautiful prose we find in Knox or The Jerusalem Bible.

The Letter to the Hebrews is one of those exceptions. When read in the original Koine Greek it comes off like a polished piece of work with an eloquence unmatched in all the New Testament.

And this is where dynamic equivalence can often fail us. While Knox's rendition is quite a match for the supreme composition style one finds in the original Greek text of Hebrews, it does little to give the reader a feel and taste of what it is like to read the original texts in the other books and letters.

While this text is often attributed to St. Paul, Hebrews is definitely not like Paul's other epistles in the original Koine. While sophisticated in his presentation in Greek, Paul lacks a command of vocabulary, something which he admits to in many places, for example at 2 Corinthians 11:6. When you read the text in Greek you see how this transfers over to his written works, even though the logic is impeccable. But with a translation such as Knox you would never know this.

Despite what many have against the NAB(RE), one place it does not fail in is accurately transferring the word order, syntax, and flavor of the original languages as far as the American English idiom allows. This is why some of its renderings seem clumsy, awkward, harsh on the English ear, etc., because the original is just as clumsy, awkward, etc., if not more so. Except for Hebrews, it is quite clear in the original that most of the New Testament writings are not the work of especially learned men. But this might be lost when all one reads is a dynamic equivalence without this insight.

In the end, a word-for-word approach doesn't cut it either because English is not a very accommodating target language for the Scriptures. It can't deal with Hebrew's terse complexities nor is it forgiving enough of the elementary Koine to allow it to be beautiful and primitive at the same time. So we often need comparisons like this.

Thus your work is very much appreciated. Thank you, Timothy.

Timothy said...

My favorite part is the last verse or two:
here is Jesus, the spokesman of the new covenant, and the sprinkling of his blood, which has better things to say than Abel’s had.

CarlHernz said...

I am particularly fond that Knox draws the comparison of two "scenes"--namely the "scene" of the nation of Israel at the foot of Sinai, and how members of the Church should now see themselves in the "scene" at the foot of heavenly mount Sion. Knox captures well that the author of Hebrews is describing this most important scene to us, almost as someone would describe a painting to a blind person.