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Monday, March 28, 2011

cognitive frames & myth in Sophocles’ Electra

Paedagogus in the opening lines of Sophocles’ Electra activates a macro level cognitive frame[1], the story/myth of Orestes the son of Agamemnon the supreme commander of the greeks in the Trojan war.

ὦ τοῦ στρατηγήσαντος ἐν Τροίᾳ ποτὲ

Ἀγαμέμνονος παῖ, νῦν ἐκεῖν᾽ ἔξεστί σοι

παρόντι λεύσσειν, ὧν πρόθυμος ἦσθ᾽ ἀεί.
Son of Agamemnon, who was once commander [of our armies] at Troy …

The mention of Orestes’ father Agamemnon was sufficient for Sophocles’ target audience to know in general terms what this story was about. The audience was expected to be familiar with the whole story, the unfolding of the curse on the house of Atreus, the Trojan War and all the subplots. The function of the play was not to inform the audience concerning these basic elements of the story. For a twenty first century reader[2] who is not familiar with all the details of the subplots,  Sophocles’ Electra can be difficult reading since the whole story is not a part of our culture. Sophocles’ reliance on the ability of his audience to draw on shared cultural knowledge can serve as a model of a macro level cognitive frame.

Ambiguity begins with Sophocles’ opening reference to Orestes which is not by name but using the gender ambiguous παῖ [child] and then on line six we see reference to Orestes by name for the first time. While this isn’t standard protocol for introducing a new character to a discourse, five lines is not a long wait. To avoid confusion the English translations typically provide “Son” as the equivalent for παῖ since both Electra and Orestes qualify as a referent of παῖ and the modern reader is easily frustrated by ambiguous reference. Even then the translator assumes that “Son of Agamemnon” has unique referential identity for the reader. For audiences today that would not be a realistic assumption. 

The epithet of Agamemnon τοῦ στρατηγήσαντος ἐν Τροίᾳ ποτὲ “once commander at Troy” assumes that Agamemnon’s role in that conflict is common knowledge. Again, the translator might find it necessary to make some inferential aspects of Agamemnon’s story explicit in the translation, e.g., “commander [of our armies] at Troy”. 
[1] on scenarios and cognitive frames see: Richard A. Hoyle, Scenarios, discourse and translation.  SIL 2008

[2] The contemporary reader should not jump to the conclusion that Sophocles’ Electra was opaque or obscure to the original audience. Were not dealing with something like “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Peter’s question: Matt. 19:27

Peter’s question τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν Matt. 19:27

Matt. 19:27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι· τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν;

Matthew attaches a question τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; to Peter’s statement not found in Mark or Luke. This could be understood as making an implied question explicit. Peter’s statement as reported in Mark and Luke, taken in isolation, might be understood as simply bragging. However, Jesus responds as if there were an implied question. Matthew account makes the implication explicit. 

Relevance Theory (RT) draws attention to the part cultural assumptions play in understanding speech acts. What is said, the speech act or surface structure, is considered a stimulus not a code. Jesus didn’t decode Peter’s statement, he understood it as an inquiry about the disciples future status relative to τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. In early Chomsky this would have been called “skewing”,  the disconnect between what is said and what is intended. In RT this illustrates what normally takes place in verbal communication. The contents of the speech act indicates the speakers intention to mean something but the content of that meaning is supplied from the cognitive framework shared by the speaker and hearer. Without the shared cognitive framework it would be either difficult or impossible to determine the speaker’s intention from an  analysis of the speech act. “Skewing” is the wrong concept since all verbal communication functions this way. A shared cognitive framework is required to understand the most simple statements. The shorter the speech the more it relies on implications from supplied from outside the speech act.

John 19:30 ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβεν τὸ ὄξος [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· τετέλεσται, καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα.      

The verbal expression τετέλεσται provides minimal information but the implications if they were written down would fill a library.  

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mark 6:51-52 the disciples unbelief

The disciples had just witnessed the feeding of the five thousand but when Jesus came walking over wind tossed waters to them in the dark of night and the wind died down when he joined them in the boat, Mark tells us that they still didn’t understand. Mark adds a narrator’s comment on their spiritual condition not found in the other gospels. The text:

Mark 6:51 NA27 καὶ ἀνέβη πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ πλοῖον καὶ ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, καὶ λίαν [ἐκ περισσοῦ] ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἐξίσταντο·  52 οὐ γὰρ συνῆκαν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις, ἀλλ᾿ ἦν αὐτῶν ἡ καρδία πεπωρωμένη.

There are some textual variants for Mark 6:51-52. The following is the SBLGNT with apparatus edited by Michael Holmes.

Mark 6:51 SBLGNT  και ανεβη προς αυτους εις το πλοιον, και εκοπασεν ο ανεμος. και λιαν ⸂εκ περισσου⸃ εν εαυτοις ⸀εξισταντο, 52  ου γαρ συνηκαν επι τοις αρτοις, ⸂αλλ ην⸃ αυτων η καρδια πεπωρωμενη.

Mark 6:51:

    •    εκ περισσου Treg NIV RP ] – WH
    •    εξισταντο WH Treg NIV ] + και εθαυμαζον RP

Mark 6:52:

    •    αλλ ην WH Treg NIV ] ην γαρ RP

key to apparatus:  WH: Westcott & Hort, RP: Robinson-Pierpont, Treg: Tregelles

The majority text (RP) adds και εθαυμαζον which provides some rhetorical underlining in regard to the disciples mental state but it really doesn’t add much since ἐξίσταντο is a strong word and combined with λίαν [ἐκ περισσοῦ] leaves no question that disciples were overwhelmed by their experience in the boat. Mark’s comment οὐ γὰρ συνῆκαν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις ties this pericope to the miracle of the bread and the fish. In all three accounts, Matthew, Mark and John, the feeding of the multitude comes immediately before the walking on the water but only Mark joins the two episodes explicitly by finding fault with the disciples for not drawing an obvious inference concerning Jesus after observing his multiplication of the loaves and fish. The language in Mark 6:52 is strong and harsh οὐ … συνῆκαν … ἡ καρδία πεπωρωμένη,   similar to language leveled at Jesus’ opponents. Later on in Mark 8:15-21 Jesus will upbraid the disciples for being preoccupied with concerns about food, reminding them of the food they collected after the feeding miracles.

Monday, March 07, 2011

a dialogue of death

Sophocles Trag., Electra  1477-78
Orestes to Aegisthus
 Οὐ γὰρ αἰσθάνῃ πάλαι
ζῶν τοῖς θανοῦσιν οὕνεκ' ἀνταυδᾷς ἴσα;

Orestes is speaking to Aegisthus who is just now discovering that Orestes is not only alive but present and speaking with him. We see γὰρ introducing a question where the preceding context supplies the grounds for an inference implied in the question[1]. This takes the form of a question but it is really a statement. The adverb πάλαι indicates time just past “for some time now” (J.H. Kells). The verb αἰσθάνῃ takes an object clause introduced by οὕνεκα with the verb ἀνταυδᾷς[2]. Sophocles stacks the arguments for ἀνταυδᾷς not only in front of the verb but in front of the conjunction οὕνεκα. Some scholars amended the mss reading ζῶν τοῖς to ζῶντας by conjecture which leaves us with two participles ζῶντας an accusative plural and θανοῦσιν a dative plural. Kells reads ζῶντας rendering “Why do you not perceive that you have for some time now been addressing living men as though they were dead?”  If the mss reading ζῶν τοῖς is retained then the participle ζῶν applies to Aegisthus “you the living are speaking [face to face] with the dead” where τοῖς θανοῦσιν refers to those who are residents of the nether world, an ironic reference to Orestes, a double irony since Orestes who was considered dead is now alive and Aegisthus who was alive and exulting over Orestes’ death is now as good as dead. 

[1] Guy Cooper compares this use of γὰρ to ἄρα, Greek Syntax vol. 4, 2:69:14:6:H.
[2] Guy Cooper, Greek Syntax vol. 3, 2:55:7:12:A, p. 2570.

I bear witness to you today ... a Hebrew idiom?

The OT expression "I proclaim/announce/bear witness to you today [that]"‏ has been identified by some as a Hebrew idiom. It is often cited as evidence for joining σήμερον with λέγω in Luke 23:43. In this post we will take a look at the Hebrew evidence and the LXX rendering. The idiom takes various forms:

Deut. 30:18  הגדתי לכם היום כי
LXX ἀναγγέλλω σοι σήμερον ὅτι

Deut.  4:26  ‏העידתי בכם היום
LXX διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον
Deut. 8:19  ‏העדתי בכם היום כי
LXX διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον

Deut. 32:46  ‏אנכי מעיד בכם היום
LXX ἐγὼ διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον

Jer. 42:19-20 ‏ידע תדעו כי־העידתי בכם היום כי‎‏ 
‎‏ LXX γνόντες γνώσεσθε ὅτι
Stretching things a bit some have cited  1Sam 12:5; 1Kgs 1:51 as evidence:

1Sam 12:5 ‏‏עד יהוה בכם ועד משיחו היום
LXX μάρτυς κύριος ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ μάρτυς χριστὸς αὐτοῦ σήμερον

1Kgs 1:51 ‏ישבע־לי כיום המלך שלמה
LXX ὀμοσάτω μοι σήμερον ὁ βασιλεὺς Σαλωμων

The idiom represented in the OT evidence has no formal similarity to the NT idiom found in Luke 23:43[1]: [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν/σοι [ὅτι]. The NT idiom uses the verb λέγω which is a translation equivalent for the Hebrew verb ‏,אמר a word that is never used in the Hebrew idiom. The Hebrew idiom uses the verbs: עוד: to testify, bear witness, c. sf. against one; in favour of LXX διαμαρτύρομαι and ‏‏נגד: to publish, declare, proclaim; LXX ἀναγγέλλω.

Then prefixed [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν is an essential component in the NT idiom [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν/σοι [ὅτι]. [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν or an equivalent is never used in the Hebrew idiom we examined in this post. Iver found about 75 samples of the [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν ... idiom in the NT. This idiom is not found in the OT or LXX.

[1]  In Luke 23:43 the pronoun is fronted ἀμήν σοι λέγω which Iver Larsen explains.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

clause inital σήμερον in Luke 23:43

I have seen arguments which claim that Luke prefers a post verbal position for σήμερον with an unstated implication that we can make exegetical judgments based on a microscopic sample of textual evidence. If Luke has a hand full of post verbal examples of σήμερον that might suggest reading the clause initial σήμερον as marked in some way. For example:

Luke 19:5 καὶ ὡς ἦλθεν ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον, ἀναβλέψας ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν· Ζακχαῖε, σπεύσας κατάβηθι, σήμερον γὰρ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου δεῖ με μεῖναι.

Luke 23:43 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμήν σοι λέγω, σήμερον μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἔσῃ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ.

In both cases we could argue that σήμερον was moved forward to mark salience. σήμερον is a movable constituent and clause initial movable constituents are often marked for salience. The sample is so tiny, it is best to avoid any sort of strong claims based on Luke's word order.     

A while back Iver Larsen demonstrated that the solemn saying introduction formula:  [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀμήν σοι λέγω,  never takes and an adverb, not any sort of adverb. I searched TLG-E for λέγω σήμερον from Homer to 1st Cent. AD and found one example, Luke 23:43.

The Hebrew idiom represented in the LXX with διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον or ἀναγγέλλω σοι σήμερον, doesn't really apply to the [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω σοι formula. These are different idioms.

Deut. 4:26 διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον τόν τε οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν ὅτι ἀπωλείᾳ ἀπολεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑμεῖς διαβαίνετε τὸν Ιορδάνην ἐκεῖ κληρονομῆσαι αὐτήν οὐχὶ πολυχρονιεῖτε ἡμέρας ἐπ᾿ αὐτῆς ἀλλ᾿ ἢ ἐκτριβῇ ἐκτριβήσεσθε

Deut. 8:19 καὶ ἔσται ἐὰν λήθῃ ἐπιλάθῃ κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ σου καὶ πορευθῇς ὀπίσω θεῶν ἑτέρων καὶ λατρεύσῃς αὐτοῖς καὶ προσκυνήσῃς αὐτοῖς διαμαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν σήμερον τόν τε οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν ὅτι ἀπωλείᾳ ἀπολεῖσθε

Deut. 30:18 ἀναγγέλλω σοι σήμερον ὅτι ἀπωλείᾳ ἀπολεῖσθε καὶ οὐ μὴ πολυήμεροι γένησθε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἧς κύριος ὁ θεός σου δίδωσίν σοι εἰς ἣν ὑμεῖς διαβαίνετε τὸν Ιορδάνην ἐκεῖ κληρονομῆσαι αὐτήν

Nor does the Acts 20:26 μαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ ὅτι have any bearing on [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω σοι formula. Once again these are completely different idioms.

Acts 20:26 διότι μαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ ὅτι καθαρός εἰμι ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος πάντων·  

I would conclude from reviewing the main arguments about σήμερον in Luke 23:43 that Iver Larsen's observation about the lack of an adverb with the [ἀμὴν] ἀμὴν λέγω σοι formula is decisive. 

Luke 23:43 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμήν σοι λέγω, σήμερον μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἔσῃ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ.

... let me take a look at the phrase AMHN (AMHN) LEGW hUMIN/SOI ...

In all the 75 occurrences a qualifying adverb is never added, SHMERON or any other. This, to me, is very compelling evidence. To add SHMERON to "I say to YOU" is not only redundant, but unprecedented. On the other hand it makes good sense to have it included with MET' EMOU ESHi EN TWi PARADEISWi. Not only will Jesus remember the criminal some day in the distant future when he comes in his kingdom as the criminal had asked for, but already SHMERON he will in spirit join the spirit of Jesus after death in PARADEISOS.
Joining σήμερον with λέγω in Luke 23:43 fails on the basis of relevance. Attaching σήμερον to λέγω increases the processing effort without offering any useful additional information.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

waking up the wind John 6:18

John 6:16 Ὡς δὲ ὀψία ἐγένετο κατέβησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν  17 καὶ ἐμβάντες εἰς πλοῖον ἤρχοντο πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἰς Καφαρναούμ. καὶ σκοτία ἤδη ἐγεγόνει καὶ οὔπω ἐληλύθει πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς,  18 ἥ τε θάλασσα ἀνέμου μεγάλου πνέοντος διεγείρετο.

John 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,  17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.  18 The sea was awakened for a strong wind was blowing.

It looks like we might have an extended metaphor in John 6:18 where  awakened translates the passive verb διεγείρετο.

Louw & Nida 14.20 διεγείρομαι: (a figurative extension of meaning of διεγείρομαι ‘to become awake from sleep,’ 23.74) to become rough, in reference to a surface of water — ‘to become rough, to become stormy.’ ἥ τε θάλασσα ἀνέμου μεγάλου πνέοντος διεγείρετο ‘by now a strong wind was blowing and the sea was getting rough’ Jn 6:18.

The ancient background behind the metaphor is probably the notion of the sea as a monster which is sleeping during good weather but can be awakened.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

the container metaphor

I am wondering if the container metaphor  (Lakoff and Johnson 1980) is really all that important to exegesis and translation. My recent reading in K. A. McElhanon [1] has left me somewhat skeptical about the significance of what some analysts might consider a language universal. If it is really universal then the semantic significance recedes into the background. If we all use the metaphors then the metaphors don't really carry any information, they are frozen speech habits passed down from the prehistory of language.

Now that I am aware of the life as journey and other travel metaphors, I find them everywhere in my own writing. If you unpack the metaphor in translation you end up with a flat dry lifeless proposition. This was my initial objection to E.A. Nida theory put into practice, it killed the literary quality of the work. While the Nida disciples were bent on telling us what bad translations were had been reading all our lives, I would compare their renderings to any of the older English versions and say: This is literary art and that is not. Perhaps unpacking the metaphors had something to do with this but I think there is more going here than a collection of idioms built on body language. When I read all way through one of McElhanon's papers, at first I am agreeing with him but by the end I think he has gone off the rails[2]. I think that taking Lakoff and Johnson too seriously is just as dangerous as being a Nida disciple.

I prefer to skim these works, pick up a few useful ideas and move on. Getting too serious about any particular linguistic framework is counter productive. I've seen it turn good language students into shrill dogmatic promoters of some framework which is already on its way out.      

[1] Kenneth A. McElhanon, From Word to Scenario: The Influence of Linguistic Theories Upon Models of Translation
Journal of Translation, Volume 1, Number 3 (2005)

Kenneth A. McElhanon, From Simple Metaphors to Conceptual Blending: The Mapping of Analogical Concepts and the Praxis of Translation
Journal of Translation, Volume 2, Number 1 (2006)

[2] note the travel metaphor.

Jesus' way of seeing ... Mark 6:48a

48 καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτοὺς βασανιζομένους ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν, ἦν γὰρ ὁ ἄνεμος ἐναντίος αὐτοῖς, περὶ τετάρτην φυλακὴν τῆς νυκτὸς ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτοὺς περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ἤθελεν παρελθεῖν αὐτούς.

And seeing that they were being battered by contrary winds and making no progress ...

Mark makes swift transitions between the natural and supernatural without any indication that in his worldview there was any sharp distinction. Reading the gospels from within the modern framework these juxtapositions of the natural and supernatural are somewhat jarring. The hand full of modern commentaries I looked at spanning the last 150 years all attempted to find a natural explanation for Jesus' ability to see the disciples struggling in the boat against the contrary winds and the waves. This is a distortion of the story imposed by the modern worldview. Jesus my have had perfect natural vision but that would not explain his ability to see the disciples struggling in the boat. This had to be the same sort of seeing Jesus employed seeing Nathanael under the fig tree.

John 1:48 λέγει αὐτῷ Ναθαναήλ· πόθεν με γινώσκεις; ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· πρὸ τοῦ σε Φίλιππον φωνῆσαι ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν εἶδόν σε.

Nathanael said to him,  “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him,  “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

I have lived by large bodies of water all of my life. I've experience strong winds and storms viewed from every conceivable vantage point. Visibility at night in a strong wind even from a high point even with a full Moon would be limited to very large or lighted vessels. I suspect that the boat in this story was not lighted. Mark does not tell us how Jesus walked on the water and he does not tell us how Jesus saw the disciples struggling in the boat. From Marks cultural framework, these questions were not important.