Translating Ecclesiastes

This is the first of what we hope will be many guest posts by Tom Bolin

This past weekend, Sententiae Antiquae posted a passage from the Septuagint (LXX) and Vulgate of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (3:9-15). The passage occurs immediately after the well-known poem (and popular folk song) of 3:1-8.

Ecclesiastes has long been known as the biblical book most liked by people who don’t like the Bible. Its direct questioning of divine justice and human purpose has challenged readers practically from the time it was composed (most likely in the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE). Some of those readers have responded to these challenges by creative interpretations which read obvious statements from the book in a symbolic or otherwise non-literal fashion. For example, the Midrash Rabbah, commenting on Eccl 2:24 states simply that:

כָּל אֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּמְּגִלָּה הַזֹּאת, בְּתוֹרָה וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים הַכָּתוּב מְדַבֵּר 

kāl ʾăkîlâ ûšǝtiyyâ šenneʾĕmar bammǝgillâ hazzōʾt, bǝtôrâ ûbǝmaʿăśîm ṭôbîm hakkātûb mǝdabbēr.

“Everything that is said in this scroll about eating and drinking is intended to refer to Torah and good works” 

But both the LXX and Vulgate do such expurgation in their translations. For example:

Eccl 1:18a

כִּי בְּרֹב חָכְמָה רָב־כָּעַס וְיוֹסִיף דַּעַת יוֹסִיף מַכְאוֹב

kî bǝrōb ḥākǝmâ rāb-kāʿas wǝyôsîp daʿat yôsîp makʾôb 

For in much wisdom is much anger, and the one who increases knowledge increases suffering.

ὅτι ἐν πλήθει σοφίας πλῆθος γνώσεως, καὶ ὁ προστιθεὶς γνῶσιν προσθήσει ἄλγημα. 

For in much wisdom is much knowledge, and the one increasing knowledge increases suffering. 

Eccl 2:20

 וְסַבּוֹתִי אֲנִי לְיַאֵשׁ אֶת־לִבִּי עַל כָּל־הֶעָמָל שֶׁעָמַלְתִּי תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ

wǝsabbôtî ʾănî lǝyaʾēš ʾet-libbî ʿal kāl-heʿāmāl šeʿāmaltî taḥat haššāmeš

I turned and my heart despaired over all of the toil at which I had toiled under the sun.

καὶ ἐπέστρεψα ἐγὼ τοῦ ἀποτάξασθαι τῇ καρδίᾳ μου ἐπὶ παντὶ τῷ μόχθῳ, ᾧ ἐμόχθησα ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον

And I turned and renounced in my heart all the toil that I had toiled under the sun. 

In his translation and commentary on the biblical book, Jerome follows the LXX here: 

Et conversus sum ego ut renuntiarem cordi meo in omni labore meo quo laboravi sub sole.

Eccl 10:1b

‏זְבוּבֵי מָוֶת יַבְאִישׁ יַבִּיעַ  שֶׁמֶן רוֹקֵחַ יָקָר מֵחָכְמָה מִכָּבוֹד‏ סִכְלוּת מְעָט

zǝbûbê māwet yabʾîš yabbîaʿ‏ šemen rôqēaḥ yāqār mēḥākǝmâ mikkābôd‎‏ siklût mǝʿāṭ

Dead flies make the ointment give off a stench. Wisdom and honor are outweighed by a little folly. 

 

Μυῖαι θανατοῦσαι σαπριοῦσιν σκευασίαν ἐλαίου ἡδύσματος· τίμιον ὀλίγον σοφίας ὑπὲρ δόξαν ἀφροσύνης μεγάλης. 

Dead flies rot the aromatic oil. A little wisdom is more honorable than the glory of great folly. 

The historical importance of the Septuagint, first as a complex engagement of Hebrew texts with Greek language, and later as the appropriated canon of the “Old Testament” for Christians, is worth the attention of anyone interested in Hellenistic and Roman era Greek texts. Anyone interested can find the LXX text online. A clear, concise, and engaging place to start learning about the LXX is Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek.

Book of Ecclesiastes

 

How Joseph Met Mary In the [Apocryphal] Gospel of James

In the apocryphal Gospel of James [also sometimes called the “Infancy” Gospel” or the Protoevangelium of James], Mary’s mother Anna is barren and her father Ioachim retreats to the wilderness. When Anna is blessed with a child, she pledges her to the temple. So, Mary grows up in with the priests in the temple until she is on the cusp of adolescence.

Gospel of James, 8.2-9

7.2 “When [Mary] was twelve years old, the priests held a council where they were saying: “Look, Mary is twelve years old in the Temple of the Lord. What shall we do about her, since we don’t want her to defile the Temple of the Lord when women’s matters come to her.” And they said to the chief-priest: “you, you preside over the sacred place of the god—go there and pray about her and let us do whatever the Lord God reveals to you.

So the priest entered, once he took the twelve-belled cloak, the clothing of a priest, into the Most Holy of Holy Places and he prayed about her. And, look, an angel of the lord appeared, saying to him: “Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and hold an assembly of the people’s widowers and have every man carry a staff. To whomever the lord shows a sign, she will be his wife.” So, the heralds went throughout the land of Judea and the Lord’s trumpet sounded, and every one ran there.

Joseph dropped his sickle and hurried to the assembly too. And when they were all gathered, they approached the priest. The priest took all of their staves, went into the temple and prayed. Once he finished the prayer, he came out and gave each man his staff back. There was no sign upon any of them. But when Joseph received his staff last, look!, a dove came out if it and alighted upon Joseph’s head.

Then the priest said, “It is your fate to take the Lord’s virgin. Take her and keep her as your own.” Joseph responded, “I have two sons and I am an old man; she is a young girl. Should I become a joke among the sons of Israel?” Then the priest said to him, “Joseph, fear the Lord God and the things he did to Datham and Koreh and Abêrôm—how the earth opened in two and they were all drowned inside because of their refusals.You should fear too, now, Joseph, that these things will happen in your house too.” So, because he was afraid, Joseph took her into his own care. And he said to her, “Mary, look, I took you from the Temple of the Lord, My God, and now I will leave you in my home. I am leaving to build some of my buildings. And I will come back to you in turn. May the Lord keep you safe.”

[to be continued…]

2 γενομένης δὲ αὐτῆς δωδεκαετοῦς συμβούλιον ἐγένετο τῶν ἱερέων λεγόντων: ἰδοὺ Μαριὰμ γέγονε δωδεκαέτης ἐν τῷ ναῷ κυρίου: τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν αὐτήν, μήπως (ἐπέλθῃ αὐτῇ τὰ γυναικῶν καὶ) μιάνῃ τὸ ἁγίασμα κυρίου. καὶ εἶπον τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ: σὺ ἕστηκας ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον θεοῦ: εἴσελθε καὶ πρόσευξαι περὶ αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅ ἄν φανερώσῃ σοι κύριος ὁ θεός, τοῦτο ποιήσωμεν. 3 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν ὁ ἱερεὺς λαβὼν τὸν δωδεκακόδωνα (ἱεροπρεπὲς ἱμάτιον) εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ηὔξατο περὶ αὐτῆς. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτῷ λέγων: Ζαχαρία, Ζαχαρία, ἔξελθε καὶ ἐκκλησίασον τοὺς χηρεύοντας τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ ἐνεγκάτωσαν ἀνὰ ῥάβδον, καὶ εἰς ὅν ἐὰν δείξῃ κύριος ὁ θεὸς σημεῖον, τούτου ἔσται γυνή. καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ κήρυκες καθ’ ὅλης τῆς περιχώρου τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ ἤχησεν ἡ σάλπιγξ κυρίου, καὶ ἔδραμον πάντες.

9.1 Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ῥίψας τὸ σκέπαρνον ἔδραμε καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, καὶ συναχθέντες ὁμοῦ ἀπῆλθαν πρὸς τὸν ἱερέα. ἔλαβε δὲ πάντων τὰς ῥάβδους ὁ ἱερεὺς καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ηὔξατο. τελέσας δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξῆλθε καὶ ἐπέδωκεν ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ῥάβδον, καὶ σημεῖον οὐκ ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. τὴν δὲ ἐσχάτην ῥάβδον ἔλαβεν ὁ Ἰωσήφ, καὶ ἰδοὺ περιστερὰ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τῆς ῥάβδου καὶ ἐπετάσθη ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωσήφ. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: σὺ κεκλήρωσαι τὴν παρθένον κυρίου παραλαβεῖν. παράλαβε αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν σεαυτῷ. 2 ἀντεῖπε δὲ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων: υἱοὺς ἔχω καὶ πρεσβύτης εἰμί, αὕτη δὲ νεωτέρα. μήπως κατάγελως γένωμαι τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ; εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: Ἰωσήφ, φοβήθητι κύριον τὸν θεὸν καὶ ὅσα ἐποίησε Δαθὰμ καὶ Κορὲ καὶ Ἀβηρών, πῶς ἐδιχάσθη ἡ γῆ καὶ κατεποντίσθησαν ἅπαντες διὰ τὴν ἀντιλογίαν αὐτῶν. καὶ νῦν φοβήθητι, Ἰωσήφ, μήπως ἔσται ταῦτα ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου. 3 καὶ φοβηθεὶς Ἰωσὴφ παρέλαβεν αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ: Μαρία, ἰδοὺ παρέλαβόν σε ἐκ ναοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ νῦν καταλιμπάνω σε ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου, ἀπέρχομαι γὰρ οἰκοδομῆσαι τὰς οἰκοδομάς μου, καὶ ἐν τάχει ἥξω πρὸς σέ. κύριος ὁ θεὸς διαφυλάξει σε.

Image result for mary and joseph marrying

How Joseph Met Mary In the [Apocryphal] Gospel of James

In the apocryphal Gospel of James [also sometimes called the “Infancy” Gospel” or the Protoevangelium of James], Mary’s mother Anna is barren and her father Ioachim retreats to the wilderness. When Anna is blessed with a child, she pledges her to the temple. So, Mary grows up in with the priests in the temple until she is on the cusp of adolescence.

Gospel of James, 8.2-9

7.2 “When [Mary] was twelve years old, the priests held a council where they were saying: “Look, Mary is twelve years old in the Temple of the Lord. What shall we do about her, since we don’t want her to defile the Temple of the Lord when women’s matters come to her.” And they said to the chief-priest: “you, you preside over the sacred place of the god—go there and pray about her and let us do whatever the Lord God reveals to you.

So the priest entered, once he took the twelve-belled cloak, the clothing of a priest, into the Most Holy of Holy Places and he prayed about her. And, look, an angel of the lord appeared, saying to him: “Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and hold an assembly of the people’s widowers and have every man carry a staff. To whomever the lord shows a sign, she will be his husband.” So, the heralds went throughout the land of Judea and the Lord’s trumpet sounded, and every one ran there.

Joseph dropped his sickle and hurried to the assembly too. And when they were all gathered, they approached the priest. The priest took all of their staves, went into the temple and prayed. Once he finished the prayer, he came out and gave each man his staff back. There was no sign upon any of them. But when Joseph received his staff last, look!, a dove came out if it and alighted upon Joseph’s head.

Then the priest said, “It is your fate to take the Lord’s virgin. Take her and keep her as your own.” Joseph responded, “I have two sons and I am an old man; she is a young girl. Should I become a joke among the sons of Israel?” Then the priest said to him, “Joseph, fear the Lord God and the things he did to Datham and Koreh and Abêrôm—how the earth opened in two and they were all drowned inside because of their refusals.You should fear too, now, Joseph, that these things will happen in your house too.” So, because he was afraid, Joseph took her into his own care. And he said to her, “Mary, look, I took you from the Temple of the Lord, My God, and now I will leave you in my home. I am leaving to build some of my buildings. And I will come back to you in turn. May the Lord keep you safe.”

[to be continued…]

2 γενομένης δὲ αὐτῆς δωδεκαετοῦς συμβούλιον ἐγένετο τῶν ἱερέων λεγόντων: ἰδοὺ Μαριὰμ γέγονε δωδεκαέτης ἐν τῷ ναῷ κυρίου: τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν αὐτήν, μήπως (ἐπέλθῃ αὐτῇ τὰ γυναικῶν καὶ) μιάνῃ τὸ ἁγίασμα κυρίου. καὶ εἶπον τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ: σὺ ἕστηκας ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον θεοῦ: εἴσελθε καὶ πρόσευξαι περὶ αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅ ἄν φανερώσῃ σοι κύριος ὁ θεός, τοῦτο ποιήσωμεν. 3 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν ὁ ἱερεὺς λαβὼν τὸν δωδεκακόδωνα (ἱεροπρεπὲς ἱμάτιον) εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ηὔξατο περὶ αὐτῆς. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτῷ λέγων: Ζαχαρία, Ζαχαρία, ἔξελθε καὶ ἐκκλησίασον τοὺς χηρεύοντας τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ ἐνεγκάτωσαν ἀνὰ ῥάβδον, καὶ εἰς ὅν ἐὰν δείξῃ κύριος ὁ θεὸς σημεῖον, τούτου ἔσται γυνή. καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ κήρυκες καθ’ ὅλης τῆς περιχώρου τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ ἤχησεν ἡ σάλπιγξ κυρίου, καὶ ἔδραμον πάντες.

9.1 Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ῥίψας τὸ σκέπαρνον ἔδραμε καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, καὶ συναχθέντες ὁμοῦ ἀπῆλθαν πρὸς τὸν ἱερέα. ἔλαβε δὲ πάντων τὰς ῥάβδους ὁ ἱερεὺς καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ηὔξατο. τελέσας δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξῆλθε καὶ ἐπέδωκεν ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ῥάβδον, καὶ σημεῖον οὐκ ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. τὴν δὲ ἐσχάτην ῥάβδον ἔλαβεν ὁ Ἰωσήφ, καὶ ἰδοὺ περιστερὰ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τῆς ῥάβδου καὶ ἐπετάσθη ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωσήφ. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: σὺ κεκλήρωσαι τὴν παρθένον κυρίου παραλαβεῖν. παράλαβε αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν σεαυτῷ. 2 ἀντεῖπε δὲ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων: υἱοὺς ἔχω καὶ πρεσβύτης εἰμί, αὕτη δὲ νεωτέρα. μήπως κατάγελως γένωμαι τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ; εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: Ἰωσήφ, φοβήθητι κύριον τὸν θεὸν καὶ ὅσα ἐποίησε Δαθὰμ καὶ Κορὲ καὶ Ἀβηρών, πῶς ἐδιχάσθη ἡ γῆ καὶ κατεποντίσθησαν ἅπαντες διὰ τὴν ἀντιλογίαν αὐτῶν. καὶ νῦν φοβήθητι, Ἰωσήφ, μήπως ἔσται ταῦτα ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου. 3 καὶ φοβηθεὶς Ἰωσὴφ παρέλαβεν αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ: Μαρία, ἰδοὺ παρέλαβόν σε ἐκ ναοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ νῦν καταλιμπάνω σε ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου, ἀπέρχομαι γὰρ οἰκοδομῆσαι τὰς οἰκοδομάς μου, καὶ ἐν τάχει ἥξω πρὸς σέ. κύριος ὁ θεὸς διαφυλάξει σε.

Image result for mary and joseph marrying

How Joseph Met Mary In the [Apocryphal] Gospel of James

In the apocryphal Gospel of James [also sometimes called the “Infancy” Gospel” or the Protoevangelium of James], Mary’s mother Anna is barren and her father Ioachim retreats to the wilderness. When Anna is blessed with a child, she pledges her to the temple. So, Mary grows up in with the priests in the temple until she is on the cusp of adolescence.

Gospel of James, 8.2-9

7.2 “When [Mary] was twelve years old, the priests held a council where they were saying: “Look, Mary is twelve years old in the Temple of the Lord. What shall we do about her, since we don’t want her to defile the Temple of the Lord when women’s matters come to her.” And they said to the chief-priest: “you, you preside over the sacred place of the god—go there and pray about her and let us do whatever the Lord God reveals to you.

So the priest entered, once he took the twelve-belled cloak, the clothing of a priest, into the Most Holy of Holy Places and he prayed about her. And, look, an angel of the lord appeared, saying to him: “Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and hold an assembly of the people’s widowers and have every man carry a staff. To whomever the lord shows a sign, she will be his husband.” So, the heralds went throughout the land of Judea and the Lord’s trumpet sounded, and every one ran there.

Joseph dropped his sickle and hurried to the assembly too. And when they were all gathered, they approached the priest. The priest took all of their staves, went into the temple and prayed. Once he finished the prayer, he came out and gave each man his staff back. There was no sign upon any of them. But when Joseph received his staff last, look!, a dove came out if it and alighted upon Joseph’s head.

Then the priest said, “It is your fate to take the Lord’s virgin. Take her and keep her as your own.” Joseph responded, “I have two sons and I am an old man; she is a young girl. Should I become a joke among the sons of Israel?” Then the priest said to him, “Joseph, fear the Lord God and the things he did to Datham and Koreh and Abêrôm—how the earth opened in two and they were all drowned inside because of their refusals.You should fear too, now, Joseph, that these things will happen in your house too.” So, because he was afraid, Joseph took her into his own care. And he said to her, “Mary, look, I took you from the Temple of the Lord, My God, and now I will leave you in my home. I am leaving to build some of my buildings. And I will come back to you in turn. May the Lord keep you safe.”

[to be continued…]

2 γενομένης δὲ αὐτῆς δωδεκαετοῦς συμβούλιον ἐγένετο τῶν ἱερέων λεγόντων: ἰδοὺ Μαριὰμ γέγονε δωδεκαέτης ἐν τῷ ναῷ κυρίου: τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν αὐτήν, μήπως (ἐπέλθῃ αὐτῇ τὰ γυναικῶν καὶ) μιάνῃ τὸ ἁγίασμα κυρίου. καὶ εἶπον τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ: σὺ ἕστηκας ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον θεοῦ: εἴσελθε καὶ πρόσευξαι περὶ αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅ ἄν φανερώσῃ σοι κύριος ὁ θεός, τοῦτο ποιήσωμεν. 3 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν ὁ ἱερεὺς λαβὼν τὸν δωδεκακόδωνα (ἱεροπρεπὲς ἱμάτιον) εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ηὔξατο περὶ αὐτῆς. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτῷ λέγων: Ζαχαρία, Ζαχαρία, ἔξελθε καὶ ἐκκλησίασον τοὺς χηρεύοντας τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ ἐνεγκάτωσαν ἀνὰ ῥάβδον, καὶ εἰς ὅν ἐὰν δείξῃ κύριος ὁ θεὸς σημεῖον, τούτου ἔσται γυνή. καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ κήρυκες καθ’ ὅλης τῆς περιχώρου τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ ἤχησεν ἡ σάλπιγξ κυρίου, καὶ ἔδραμον πάντες.

9.1 Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ῥίψας τὸ σκέπαρνον ἔδραμε καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, καὶ συναχθέντες ὁμοῦ ἀπῆλθαν πρὸς τὸν ἱερέα. ἔλαβε δὲ πάντων τὰς ῥάβδους ὁ ἱερεὺς καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ηὔξατο. τελέσας δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξῆλθε καὶ ἐπέδωκεν ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ῥάβδον, καὶ σημεῖον οὐκ ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. τὴν δὲ ἐσχάτην ῥάβδον ἔλαβεν ὁ Ἰωσήφ, καὶ ἰδοὺ περιστερὰ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τῆς ῥάβδου καὶ ἐπετάσθη ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωσήφ. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: σὺ κεκλήρωσαι τὴν παρθένον κυρίου παραλαβεῖν. παράλαβε αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν σεαυτῷ. 2 ἀντεῖπε δὲ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων: υἱοὺς ἔχω καὶ πρεσβύτης εἰμί, αὕτη δὲ νεωτέρα. μήπως κατάγελως γένωμαι τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ; εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ ἱερεύς: Ἰωσήφ, φοβήθητι κύριον τὸν θεὸν καὶ ὅσα ἐποίησε Δαθὰμ καὶ Κορὲ καὶ Ἀβηρών, πῶς ἐδιχάσθη ἡ γῆ καὶ κατεποντίσθησαν ἅπαντες διὰ τὴν ἀντιλογίαν αὐτῶν. καὶ νῦν φοβήθητι, Ἰωσήφ, μήπως ἔσται ταῦτα ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου. 3 καὶ φοβηθεὶς Ἰωσὴφ παρέλαβεν αὐτὴν εἰς τήρησιν. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ: Μαρία, ἰδοὺ παρέλαβόν σε ἐκ ναοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ νῦν καταλιμπάνω σε ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου, ἀπέρχομαι γὰρ οἰκοδομῆσαι τὰς οἰκοδομάς μου, καὶ ἐν τάχει ἥξω πρὸς σέ. κύριος ὁ θεὸς διαφυλάξει σε.

Image result for mary and joseph marrying