Thursday, September 14, 2017

So Which Is It? (2 Maccabees 15:39/40)

Water and Wine, oil on canvas—Richard Baker, 1959
I was reading the last verse of 2 Maccabees 15 yesterday (verse 39 in the Greek-based texts, 40 in the Latin ones) and noticed that there is an interesting difference between the translations, depending on whether they use the Greek or Latin.  It may only be a slight difference, but one which changes the meaning of this last verse of the book.


Here are a few different translations that utilize the Greek:

"For as it is hurtful to drink wine or water alone; and as wine mingled with water is pleasant, and delighteth the taste: even so speech finely framed delighteth the ears of them that read the story. And here shall be an end." -Brenton LXX

"For as it is hurtful to drink wine or water alone; and as wine mingled with water is pleasant, and delighteth the taste: even so speech finely framed delighteth the ears of them that read the story. And here shall be an end." -KJV

"Just as it is unpleasant to drink wine by itself or just water, whereas wine mixed with water makes a delightful and pleasing drink, so a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end." -NABRE

"For just as it is harmful to drink wine alone, or, again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment, so also the style of the story delights the ears of those who read the work. And here will be the end." -NRSV


Here are two that utilize the Latin:

"For as it is hurtful to drink always wine, or always water, but pleasant to use sometimes the one, and sometimes the other: so if the speech be always nicely framed, it will not be grateful to the readers. But here it shall be ended." -Douay-Rheims (Challoner)

"Nothing but wine to take, nothing but water, thy health forbids; vary thy drinking, and thou shalt find content. So it is with reading; if the book be too nicely polished at every point, it grows wearisome. So here we will have done with it." -Knox


Did you notice the difference?  As you can see, the Greek-based texts conclude by praising a story that is skillfully written, while the Latin-based ones ends exalting books that aren't "too nicely polished."  (The NRSV is a bit more ambigious compared to the KJV and NABRE.)  In this instance, it seems to me that the Latin-based texts make more sense, particularly since earlier in the verse the author remarks that it is better to drink wine and water that are mixed together, hence not purely wine or water only.

The 1859 Haydock commentary of the Douay noted the difference as well:

Ver. 40. Always. Greek, "only." (Haydock) --- Readers delight in variety. A middle style is adopted. (Calmet) --- But.Greek, "But as wine mixed with water is pleasant, and affords delight, so the preparation (or style) of a discourse pleases the ears of those who read what is collected. But here shall be an end." (Haydock)

Fascinating.

10 comments:

Eric Barczak said...

Even more profound to me... where else do we see water mixed with wine being drunk? The Eucharist! And, how pleasing is it to drink them mixed, at that moment we do?

Timothy said...

Look at you applying the spiritual sense of scripture!

Eric Barczak said...

Must be the Dominican in me. šŸ˜

Evergreen Dissident said...

You mean the Vulgate got it right? There's a reason to look at the Latin tradition of biblical translation when trying to discern the correct form of the ancient text?

Evergreen Dissident said...

Here's the rendition of 2 Macc. 15:39, in the Catholic edition of the The Message, dynamically translated from the Nova Vulgata:

"A final comparison. One can drink wine as it is and swallow hard or one can drink it mixed with water and enjoy it; hence, a book is good when it's written, but it's better when it's read. And so it is with mine."

Evergreen Dissident said...

For comparison, here is the last verse of chapter 2 Macc. 15 in the Nova Vulgata (from the Vatican website edition). In the NV the last verse is numbered 39:

39 Sicut enim vinum solummodo bibere, similiter autem rursus et aquam, contrarium est, quemadmodum autem vinum aquae contemperatum iam et delectabilem gratiam perficit, huiusmodi etiam structura sermonis delectat aures eorum, quibus contingat compositionem legere. Hic autem erit finis.

This is the text that the The Message's rendition of the verse is based on.

Matthew Doe said...

The Nova Vulgate / The Message reading seems to be a third version, significantly distinct from the other two mentioned in the main post (Vulgate Latin and Greek, respectively)? Just how did that come about?!

Evergreen Dissident said...

Well, first, The Message is translating dynamically, so the translator's own view of the meaning of the passage is driving the translation. Second, the NV is a fresh Latin translation from the Greek and Hebrew, with an eye towards the "vetus Vulgata" ("old Vulgate") tradition. So, the NV does come out differently than the older Vulgate tradition in many points of translation (including verse numbering -- note that the NV numbers the last verse of 2 Macc. 15 as verse 39, like the Greek text does).

As the preface to the Catholic edition of The Message points out, St. John Paul II stated that the NV can be used as a base text for vernacular translations -- so it is interesting to see how the NV takes shape, so to speak, in a vernacular translation like The Message. For those of us with little Latin (and I am in this camp), I would very much like to a see a complete translation of the NV on the market (the Catholic edition of The Message only uses the NV for the deuterocanonical books, the rest of the Bible having already been previously translated from the Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic).

Matthew Doe said...

Evergreen Dissident, I know in general terms what the NV tries to do. I wanted to know concerning this specific case why they ended up doing what they did. Best I can tell with my rusty Latin, The Message gets the gist of it, while indeed not being a close translation. But this leaves a two-level discussion (writing is good, reading is better) in the NV, whereas the Greek seems to not have that (see main post). So where did the NV get this from?

Evergreen Dissident said...

Not a clue. I guess we'd have to ask the translators who produced the NV!