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|Date: Sat, 5 Jul 97 13:10:46 EDT
From: "Anthony J. Kotlar"
Subject: Re: translation
In the latest issue of the magazine *Touchstone*, a faculty member of
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology writes a letter defending
their translation of the Divine Liturgy, and the translators, from the
criticisms voiced in a previous article. Unfortunately, I did not have a
chance to look up the article (although I was in a library), but if I
remember correctly, it was by one of the magazine's editors, Fr. Reardon.
Also, I had myself been mulling over the Holy Cross translation,
especially since the posts by Daniel Joseph and Stephen (above).
What is the consequence of "dropping" or "altering" a word in
translation? Is it good if it is done to be "gender neutral" or "politically
correct"? Does it correct a gender bias in our language, or does it
"correct" an invented bias that was never there to begin with? Does it,
only too often, produce poor theology in bad prose?
Generally, I don't like to see words just go away. The Greek of the Creed
could have said *for us*, but it says, literally, *on account of us (the)
men=human beings*; that is, *di' humas tous anthropous*.
*anthropous*, masculine accusative plural, has gender like *men*, but
the Greek has the sense of *human beings* who are either just male or
male and female collectively. This was also the customary understanding
of the English *for us men*, meaning, *for us human beings*.
The reason I don't like to see words dropped is that, for me, they break
links to other references, spawned by these words, in scripture and the
liturgy. One of my occasional pastimes is following a word "link". I
don't claim this is done in any rigorous way either linguistically,
theologically, or exegetically; it's done more in the sense of casual
browsing and meditating. A very common and general word, like
*anthropos*=man, would, for example, have a great many profound and
also mundane "links".
In the case of the creed itself, it seems that a certain closure is lost when
the word *men* is dropped and a link is broken. That is, the phrase
reads: "Who for us MEN (anthropous) and for our salvation came down
out of the heavens and was enfleshed out of the Holy Spirit and Mary the
Virgin and BECAME MAN (enanthropesanta). Thus we profess in the
creed that Jesus, who consistently referred to Himself as the *Son of
MAN*, "for us MEN...BECAME MAN."
Of course, the "link" is still there in the original Greek even if not
explicitly in the English translation. But, even prior to Daniel Joseph's
post, I had been disappointed by another rendering in the Holy Cross
translation (which, by the way, in other aspects I think is very good). It
involves a word/phrase that I consider one of the most beautiful in the
liturgy (in the Ruthenian translation) and which seems to have been
virtually obliterated, or so absorbed into other words in the Holy Cross
translation, that it is almost unrecognizable. For me, it is a one word
prayer and, coincidentally, it is "linked" to the missing *anthropous* of
the creed. That word, which is often present in prayers addressed to
Jesus in the liturgy, is *philanthropos* -- Christ our God, the one true and
great "philanthropist," so beautifully proclaimed (but not in the Holy
Cross translation) as the *lover of MANKIND*.