Preacher, Performer, Professor, Translator

The pulpit is a different platform than the professor’s lectern. I’m there to proclaim Christ not show off my exegetical jukes. — David Ker

the burning coals business. It’s an enigma…. “Can you take the phrase out without changing the meaning of the passage?” What I mean is, If as I understand it the passage can mean any of three contradictory things how crucial is the phrase to interpretation of the passage as a whole? — David Ker

It’s propositional logic not mystic mumbo-jumbo. — David Ker

Translate the meaning as best you can and fess up if you’re fudging. He could have said, “I’ve got happy feet!” or “More cowbell!” But instead he quoted one of the bedrock texts of their culture. There’s no red wheelbarrow and there’s no white chickens. This is just a metaphor. Trouble is we don’t know what it means. He did. They did. We don’t. Paul is serving something easy as apple pie — David Ker

At BBB, there’s a great discussion on what Paul did.  And, as you can see from the epigraphic quotations above, there’s discussion about what a preacher must do.  A proclaimer of Christ may be different from a performer, is definitely not a logic professor, is probably an as-best-you-can translator of meaning who has to “feel an obligation to make sense.”

Well, please don’t let me take these quotations out of context. Please note here the struggle to make sense. What I’m interested in most now is making sense of the personal. Is the personal a proclamation? Is the personal Christ in propositions? Can the problem phrase be punted without a problem to the interpretation of the principle principle of the passage?

We’re talking about Paul and what Paul talked about when writing to Rome. It’s chapter 12, where he uses Aristotle’s word “logic.” It’s where he uses Solomon’s “wise” proverb.

Well, it sure seems Paul was a translator, or a rendering paraphraser at the very least. Whatever hat you must wear, isn’t it clear he’s not being so clear? Isn’t it clear he’s making changes, is rendering, not necessarily to make clear?

As writer Michael Cunningham says in his essay, “Found in Translation” (HT Theophrastus):

The sentences should have rhythm and cadence, they should engage and delight the inner ear. Ideally, a sentence read aloud, in a foreign language, should still sound like something, even if the listener has no idea what it is he or she is being told.

Listen. What are you being told?  Must Paul, or the Alexandria translators, or Solomon be saying something to you, especially if you’re now a Christian?

Here’s the MT, the LXX, then Paul (for the first part of the proverb, and not the difficult burning part):

אם־רעב שנאך
האכלהו לחם
ואם־צמא
השקהו מים׃

ἐὰν πεινᾷ ὁ ἐχθρός σου
τρέφε αὐτόν
ἐὰν διψᾷ
πότιζε αὐτόν

ἐὰν πεινᾷ ὁ ἐχθρός σου
ψώμιζε αὐτόν
ἐὰν διψᾷ
πότιζε αὐτόν

My questions are these. Was Paul a Bible translator who felt an obligation to make sense? Was he writing with authority to proclaim in propositions, with logic and with a proverb, to interpret for a Sunday morning crowd? Was he after information, performance, reformation, or self-learning community-based transformation? What’s his purpose and Solomon’s for a proverb? Proposition, imposition, transposition, or a(p)position? Was Paul a proclaiming preacher, a playful performer, a problematic professor, or a proverb translator?

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6 responses to “Preacher, Performer, Professor, Translator

  1. My notes on Romans from years ago have this: Listen to the sound of the string of participles – (Barrett suggests a Semitic source – Dunn a hurried summary) like an outline of things he had said before (to the Corinthians).

    Paul is very serious here – if this is rhetoric it is for the purposes of memorization and may well have come from his own consideration of the appropriate responses to the love demonstrated in the self-giving of Jesus for the life of the world. It seems to me that the God who is a consuming fire, even if he intends to heal through the painful process, is one whose fire of love is first perceived as correction. It is vital not to translate a metaphor. Frequently there are multiple meanings in a word. Two interesting examples here including the idea of a Janus parallel. In a sermon, one could easily spin out the metaphor of the one fire. Pair it with the coal from the altar that purified Isaiah’s lips.

    • if this is rhetoric it is for the purposes of memorization

      I’ll have to remember that, Bob. And, seriously, thank you for remembering your notes, and for your offering your observations on metaphor translation and on the “pun that allows simultaneous parallelism through multiple meanings with prior and following cola.”

      The trouble I see is in our determining whose Paul is, and whose his text belongs to. It’s so Christianized now that Christians seem to appropriate it as emic insiders. How if Christians were Koran translators? How would they be able to translate Surat Yā-Sīn 36:47 [سورة يس] (a sort of be-kind-to-enemies Proverb that makes outsiders out of non-Arabic, or at least non-believing readers)?

      http://www.islamawakened.com/Quran/36/..%5C36%5C47%5Cdefault.htm

      http://quran.com/36/47

  2. Interesting! An aspiring poet? ψώμιζε… πότιζε

  3. There are, of course, Bible translators who have even more confusing collections of titles — I refer of course to Brigadier General Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin, Ph.D., J.D. who translated Onkelos on Torah (see, for example, ISBNs 9652293423, 9652293415, 965229425X, 9652294616, 965229473X).

    • What? all that Law, that theology, that education with Soul, that philosophy and mystery, all those books in Hebrew, books in Aramaic, the translations, the translations, those renderings, and no Greek?

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