BBBubblin’: I Read It My Way

Jesus’ love is bubbling over

I’ve traveled each and every highway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

whether she broke her neck in the fall;
or ran into the wood and was lost there;
or found her way out of the wood,
and was taken up by the constable
and sent to the House of Correction
for a vagrant she was,
I [the very original author] cannot tell.

Όφις ει μη φύγοι όφιν, δράκων ου γενήσεται.

Over at Better Bibles Blog, the conversation is bubbling over. It’s boiling. Like water for chocolate. Like each and every highway for Frank Sinatra. Like adults reading “The Three Bears” for children. Like Erasumus’ Latin for the Greek proverb above. At issue is what Saint Paul accurately wrote and originally intended for “Rom 4:1.”

You can see by the epigraphs above that there’s more to consider than “Rom 4:1.” So, we’ll get to that, in a bit. First, “Rom 4:1.” The first problem is that some are arguing that two different texts are the same thing; others are arguing the two different texts are, well, different. The second problem is that some are arguing even the one (of the two texts) is odd Greek and / or is ambiguous Greek; the others are arguing, as my kids did when younger, “Uh uh, not so!” So there, that’s it in a nutshell. Whew, that pretty much wraps up the problem with “Rom 4:1” as the arguments bubble over at BBB.

But there’s actually a third problem with the “Rom 4:1” arguments at BBB. It’s this: that the two problems are really not two different disagreements but are actually the very same problem. Huh? Yes, and this third problem I’m outlining in this very paragraph (a separate paragraph all by itself) is the very same problem as the first problem and the second problem. Do you want me to say that again? No? Okay, let’s move on to the epigraphs then, because they all are the same problem. So now, before we actually get to the epigraphs, let’s get to the thesis statement. (Hint: it’s the very next paragraph).

The problem is that we all read sameness differently. Another way of putting that (slightly different but exactly the same nonetheless) is this: We individually read difference sometimes as sameness.

Now come the examples to support the thesis. Let’s just take them in order as I put them above.

The first is a Christian Sunday School ditty. Bububububalin’ is how I learned it. It’s not, if you’re a kid, so much stuttering and stammering as it is trying to mimic water bubbling with your lips. And bubbling over has nothing to do with anger but everything to do with love. It may be different then from “boiling” as one critic reads that as in his “like ‘at the boiling point’ for her ‘como agua para chocolate‘.” How much difference in equivalence will be heard, will be tolerated? And who, exactly, gets to say to a child, “No, when your mommy said your daddy was bubbling over with anger, she didn’t mean he was being like Jesus then”?

I’m just going to skip Frank Sinatra, and call it all the same.

Now, then, comes the second (or is it the third?) example for the thesis in this post. Some time back, we all went back to the “Original” author’s original “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” If any one of us is still struggling with Paul and “τὸν πατέρα and Abraham,” then we might go back to re-read the following post to see that Goldilocks actually shows up in the text(s) even though she’s not there. And if you’re going to tell your children differently, then please let me know. Here’s that post:

Goldilocks: A Literary Translation

Finally, there’s Erasmus, always going back to the Greek, to the original. But he’s facing two different texts. Is the original the one? Or the other?

Όφις ην μη φάγη όφιν, δράκων ου γενήσεται


Όφις ει μη φύγοι όφιν, δράκων ου γενήσεται

And won’t anybody remember that this text (in its singular plurality) comes, originally, from Euripides? Except his dragon is Ares’ murderous dragon in the Chorus of Phoenissae (maybe a “motherless goddess” to be exactly accurate), and elsewhere the snake is sacrificed for another snake. Listeners, and dramatic audience members, and readers understand. Did Erasmus care, or did Epistolius or Francis Bacon or John Dryden? Didn’t they all translate this proverb just the same? Right, differently, very very differently. A serpent, unless it devours a serpent, will not become a dragon. A serpent ne’er becomes a flying dragon, / Till he has eat a serpent. So read that your way, or my way.

You tell me if this is still not a question of whose difference, whose sameness, whose text exactly, whose ability to see ambiguity and whose choice to avoid it, and whose accuracy? And is that five or six different questions or the same one for you?

update: pictures (secundum parvulos)

note: these are (not) all the same

tune (if you can carry one): “Jesus’ Love Is A Bubblin’ Over”

the accurate hermeneutic: your way

words bubblin’ over (“Paul’s”)

words bubblin’ over (“Paul’s” by Willis Barnstone)

words bubblin’ over (Iver Larsen’s “Rom 4:1” post)

words bubblin’ over (comments bbbubblin over Iver Larsen’s “Rom 4:1” post)


9 responses to “BBBubblin’: I Read It My Way

  1. Brilliant!

  2. toor dee farce.
    and may it be with us.
    now at the hour.
    of our deaf.

  3. Regarding the newspaper and its date:

    23 Tishrei 3819 wasn’t a Sunday. It was Saturday. And I am sure Paul learned from Rabbi Gamliel’s feet that he wasn’t supposed to write on Shabbos.

    And it wouldn’t be called Sunday anyway — because worshiping the planets (Dies Solis) was probably just a little too pagan for Paul. It would be called Yom Rishon.

    • Amazing eye for detail! One might argue for a copyist’s error or two. But you’ve already pointed out it’s a newspaper. The editor clearly was avoiding any appearance of neglecting the Sabbath or of ignoring the Roman alphabeta; so he only published The [Latinized] Sunday Times (with a full-colour section of comics, one strip by R. Crumb and another for Where’s Waldo). The original Hebrew dates were later redacted and emeded by Luther’s fledgling disciples. Oh, these were the “original” typos.

      • Well, I guess R. Gamaliel’s feet have even more to teach us all.

        What I find remarkable about the last Wordle is that Wright’s name is big and bad and large — seemingly even bigger than Abraham’s — while Hays’ name is nowhere to be found. Ah, the injustice of it all. Hays wrote the article on which Wright based his exegesis of this verse, but who do they all want to talk about? Which all goes to show you — the value of the headlamp is not in the brilliant electrical element (e.g., Yancy’s comment) but in being the shiny, shiny parabolic reflector.

        Which is, come to think of it, the reason why we talk about Paul at all. In fact, as they might say at the revival meeting: When we add “u” to “parabolic reflector” and take the anagram, we get “Cerebral Paul: Foci Rot”. Coincidence? “U” decide!

      • Yes, much much to learn if we listen. Thanks for reflecting further. Oh the metaphors, the wordplay, the insight into our language here. How do U do that anagram so effortlessly, so very cleverly?

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