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A New Tack on Translating RWME

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  • Michael Grondin
    Well, I took the bull by the horns today and wrote to Marvin Meyer at Chapman U. I summarized the comparative analysis as presented here, and asked if he could
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 30, 2008
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      Well, I took the bull by the horns today and wrote to Marvin Meyer
      at Chapman U. I summarized the comparative analysis as presented
      here, and asked if he could shed any light on why the third group of
      translations went as far as they did in eliminating the word 'man'.
      His response was friendly, but short. Unfortunately, I can't quote it
      because he didn't respond to my request to do so, but I think I can
      report the gist of it, as there's nothing confidential in it. He said that
      he translated RWME as 'person' because it corresponds to ANTHROPOS,
      and that he sees this not as a matter of compensating, but of accuracy
      of translation. Using L114 as an example, he further pointed out that
      Coptic has different words for 'male' and 'female', implying, I suppose,
      that that's enough.

      To me, this is an explanation that only provokes further questions.
      I'll have to think it over for awhile, and maybe someone else can put
      in their two cents worth, but these are some of my initial thoughts:

      1. There's something wrong with the fact that the word 'man' disappears
      entirely in Meyer's translations. The reason 'woman' doesn't disappear
      is that he translates the same Coptic word (C2IME) sometimes as
      'female' and sometimes as 'woman'. But why such consistency with
      RWME, but not with C2IME? Or again, if 2OOYT ('male') is considered
      on a par with C2IME as sometimes meaning 'male' and sometimes
      meaning 'man', why does he never translate it as 'man'? One place he
      might have done so is this (in L114):

      "... so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males."

      Wouldn't it be more natural to say "... resembling you men ..."?
      But if 2OOYT is not treated as on a par with C2IME, then there's no
      way in Coptic to use the word 'man' in a gendered way. That's absurd.

      2. Meyer's position that ANTHROPOS is never to be translated as 'man'
      seems to be more extreme than that of his fellow translators at the JSem
      who did the NT translations. Consider L78.2, which Meyer translates as:

      "And to see a _person_ dressed in soft clothes ...?"

      But the parallels (Mt 11:8 and Lk 7:25) are both translated as "... a
      _man_ dressed in fancy clothes ..." in the same book (_The Five
      Gospels_). And the word in question is ANTHROPOS. So evidently
      it wasn't the policy of JSem translators to _never_ translate ANTHROPOS
      as 'man', but it was Meyer's policy to never translate RWME - which he
      regards as the corresponding Coptic word - as 'man'.

      3. I can't find anywhere in Meyer's _The Gospel of Thomas_ where he
      mentions his translational principle, but he does say this:

      "Ordinarily I use inclusive language in the English translation: The
      general spirit of the document recommends it, and the character of
      the Coptic language, which employs the masculine to refer to what
      is indefinite or neutral (there is no neuter gender in Coptic), allows
      such translational choices. I have not used inclusive language,
      however, when it might compromise the accuracy of the translation.
      I have also allowed a certain amount of gender bias to remain in the
      translation as a reflection of the specific contents of the text and
      the nature of the Coptic language." (TGT, pp. 18-19)

      It may be that the gender bias that he mentions allowing to remain
      is in part the masculine pronouns that he allows to remain in sayings
      where he has changed the subject from 'man' to 'person'. But this
      introduces an element of discordance that isn't present in the Coptic.
      Particularly egregious is L72, where Meyer has Jesus addressing a
      "person" as 'Mister'. Why not identify the person as a man to begin
      with? Surely that's what was intended in the Coptic text? But wait -
      Meyer presumably uses 'Mister' because the Coptic contains the word
      RWME. But on his principles, shouldn't he translate the salutation
      as something like 'Hi you' or 'O human', leaving the gender of the
      person uncertain? Seems to me that if the Copts thought like that,
      they'd've been very confused by their own language.

      4. There are really two senses of 'man' in question. The one is man
      as male gendered, the other is Man as in humankind. ANTHROPOS
      is apparently the latter, but it appears to me that RWME is often used
      in Thomas in the former sense. But how can that be if the two are
      synonymous? (Maybe the Coptic CD can help out here.)

      Such are my scattered thoughts this evening. Hopefully this will
      spur others to help clarify the situation. (Something from someone
      with Greek expertise would be nice :-)

      Cheers,
      Mike Grondin
    • Michael Grondin
      Eureka! I ve found two counter-examples to Meyer s principle, and no doubt more to come! I was looking on the Coptic CD for the Sahidic translation of the
      Message 2 of 11 , Apr 30, 2008
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        Eureka! I've found two counter-examples to Meyer's principle,
        and no doubt more to come! I was looking on the Coptic CD for
        the Sahidic translation of the Greek ANHR, which, unlike ANTHROPOS,
        was used exclusively for males. The first two instances of ANHR that
        I looked at were at Lk 5:8 and 5:12. I was afraid that the translation
        would be 2OOYT, and that Meyer would be right, but in both cases,
        the Sahidic translation was RWME. So Meyer's principle is false:
        RWME doesn't always correspond to ANTHROPOS. Yay! Now I
        can rest easy tonight and write to Meyer in the morning. (:-)

        Cheers,
        Mike
      • ariadne
        I have been following your post on Meyer s translations and agree for the most part. It seems to me that he has taken other liberities that stray from the
        Message 3 of 11 , May 1, 2008
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          I have been following your post on Meyer's translations and agree for the
          most part. It seems to me that he has taken other liberities that stray
          from the literal translations. For instance, logion 66. Jesus said, "Show
          me the stone that the builders rejected: that is the keystone." I thought
          the translation is "cornerstone" not "keystone" and it has been a while
          since I read Patterson and Meyers explaination as to why they used
          keystone and couldn't find it again. Do you know what their explaination
          for their translation? It alters the entire meaning.
          Ariadne

          > Eureka! I've found two counter-examples to Meyer's principle,
          > and no doubt more to come! I was looking on the Coptic CD for
          > the Sahidic translation of the Greek ANHR, which, unlike ANTHROPOS,
          > was used exclusively for males. The first two instances of ANHR that
          > I looked at were at Lk 5:8 and 5:12. I was afraid that the translation
          > would be 2OOYT, and that Meyer would be right, but in both cases,
          > the Sahidic translation was RWME. So Meyer's principle is false:
          > RWME doesn't always correspond to ANTHROPOS. Yay! Now I
          > can rest easy tonight and write to Meyer in the morning. (:-)
          >
          > Cheers,
          > Mike
          >
          >
        • Michael Grondin
          ... Well, at first glance it doesn t seem to alter the meaning that much. A cornerstone is the foundation of a building, while a keystone is the top stone of
          Message 4 of 11 , May 1, 2008
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            Ariadne wrote:
            >I have been following your post on Meyer's translations and agree for the
            > most part. It seems to me that he has taken other liberities that stray
            > from the literal translations. For instance, logion 66. Jesus said, "Show
            > me the stone that the builders rejected: that is the keystone." I thought
            > the translation is "cornerstone" not "keystone" and it has been a while
            > since I read Patterson and Meyers explaination as to why they used
            > keystone and couldn't find it again. Do you know what their explaination
            > for their translation? It alters the entire meaning.

            Well, at first glance it doesn't seem to alter the meaning that much.
            A cornerstone is the foundation of a building, while a keystone is the
            top stone of an arch, holding the two sides of the arch in place. Both
            suggest a stone which is indispensable and must be of the right size.
            A corner-stone would be laid first, however, and there seems to be no
            reason why the builders would set it aside. A keystone, on the other
            hand, would be chosen from among stones set aside as being the
            wrong size while the arch was being built, only to be used at the end
            to fit exactly into the remaining opening. That's the reasoning, anyway,
            as I recall. Analogically, I suppose that a keystone would represent
            Matthew's position that Christ was the completion of the Law, while
            a cornerstone would seem to suggest an entirely new building
            (Christianity) made out of the scraps left over from another building
            (Judaism). Maybe that's what you mean by altering the entire meaning.

            Mike G.
          • ariadne
            Hi, Jesus may have been restating Psalm 118 verse 22, or he could have been referring to the building of the sacred temple, the temple of Solomon. The temple
            Message 5 of 11 , May 1, 2008
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              Hi,
              Jesus may have been restating Psalm 118 verse 22, or he could have been
              referring to the building of the sacred temple, the temple of Solomon.
              The temple represented a structure of concise measurement used for
              initiation rites aimed at attaining consciousness of the Godhead. Ancient
              masons carefully constructed the temple according to a sacred form of
              mystical architecture consisting of exact measurements and cubical
              proportion. The structure was both an art and a science arising from
              mystical secrets. The temple represented the structure of God. Each stone
              supporting the structure was specifically chosen, and many would naturally
              be rejected and judged as not supporting its design. "The stone which the
              builders rejected" refers to the legend concerning the building of King
              Solomon's temple, where the rejected stone became the cornerstone of the
              temple, the Temple of God and indwelling place of His Holy Shekinah.

              The stone that was rejected was a metaphor for some aspect of God that had
              been rejected again and again, something perhaps within us all that has
              been ignored. Humanity itself was therefore suffering from its own
              ignorance, having discarded a significant piece of understanding of the
              nature of God. Jesus comments on this ignorance when he says, “Show me
              the stone the builders rejected, it is the cornerstone.” He would not
              have been referring to himself as most theologians interpret the same
              passage in Matthew.

              If the Shekinah, the cornerstone would be the feminine aspect of God, the
              divine manifest at the foundation of life.

              The keystone is the last wedge-shaped piece of an arch regarded as binding
              the whole and would not have had as much significance.
              Your thoughts?
              Ariadne
            • mottrogere3
              Hi Adriadne, (my thoughts on the subject) I have always questioned the translation of H6438 (pinnah) as corner . The context in the OT really means a high
              Message 6 of 11 , May 2, 2008
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                Hi Adriadne, (my thoughts on the subject)

                I have always questioned the translation of H6438 (pinnah)
                as "corner". The context in the OT really means a high place;
                perhaps the peak of a pyramid or the 4 high corner stones on a
                building or tower that are likely to fall. Builders are likely to
                reject a "lithos/stone" that is "rounded" for placement at the top of
                a structure.

                The Septuagint translates H6438 to Greek "gonia" (G1137). I also
                understand that "gonia" has sharp edges or points like a "penta-gon"
                or an "octa-gon". The KJV NT folks translated "kephale gonia"
                as "head of the corner" (Mar 12:10) rather than keystone. Keystone
                implies a completion which shuts and locks the door or bridge such
                that it will not collapse.

                I agree that there is a different meaning for "keystone" then what Ps
                118:22 or the NT implies when using "gonia".

                Hmmmm--- "the rejected masculine lithos" becomes the head of what was
                the feminine "gonia". #114 restated? Actually, I do not take much
                credence in Greek gender as Greek words were invented long before the
                NT authors used them and Jesus did say he made all things new. And
                as I understand, the Coptics borrowed from the Greek

                Roger Mott
                Loveland, Co.
              • Judy Redman
                ... It is not possible to build much of a case about what gender Greeks considered something to be based on the gender of Greek words, unless they are proper
                Message 7 of 11 , May 4, 2008
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                  Roger says:
                  >
                  > Hmmmm--- "the rejected masculine lithos" becomes the head of
                  > what was the feminine "gonia". #114 restated? Actually, I
                  > do not take much credence in Greek gender as Greek words were
                  > invented long before the NT authors used them and Jesus did
                  > say he made all things new. And as I understand, the Coptics
                  > borrowed from the Greek

                  It is not possible to build much of a case about what gender Greeks
                  considered something to be based on the gender of Greek words, unless they
                  are proper names. English is the only language with which I am familiar
                  that bases the gender of nouns on the gender of the objects they represent.
                  Greek nouns that name inaninmate objects can be masculine, feminine or
                  neuter - that doesn't mean that Greeks thought of tables, chairs, books etc
                  as being male, female or genderless.

                  Coptics borrowed many words from Greek, mainly to express concepts that
                  didn't exist in Egyptian thought, but not always. They didn't always carry
                  the gender of the word across from the Greek though.

                  Judy

                  --
                  "Politics is the work we do to keep the world safe for our spirituality" -
                  Judith Plaskow, Phoenix Rising, 2000

                  Rev Judy Redman
                  PhD candidate, Postgraduate member of Council & Uniting Church Chaplain
                  University of New England Armidale 2351
                  ph: +61 2 6773 3739
                  fax: +61 2 6773 3749
                  web: http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~jredman2 and
                  http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
                  email: jredman2@...
                • CJED5@aol.com
                  [Mike,] thank you for posting this! It s answered the questions I had about Meyer s translation, although my personal jury is still out on his rationale.
                  Message 8 of 11 , May 5, 2008
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                    [Mike,] thank you for posting this! It's answered the questions I had about
                    Meyer's translation, although my personal jury is still out on his rationale.

                    I'm not an expert in Greek by any means, but have been looking into how to
                    translate 'anthropos' recently. 'Anthropos' when used of an individual
                    always refers to a male individual, alhough it is also used to refer to a group of individuals of either sex. It reminds me of the Old English use of the
                    word 'man, originally 'human', while wapman was a male human (weapons-man) and
                    wombman a female human. In the same way, 'man' referring to an individual is
                    used solely to apply to a male human.

                    I recall that Michael Marlowe discussed the translation of anthropos ... ah,
                    here it is!
                    (http://www.bible-researcher.com/anthropos.html)

                    [J.S. Chandler]
                  • Michael Grondin
                    ... Thanks for your note, J.S. (and please sign your notes - that s the protocol, and I don t know if the name I put on it agrees with you.) The Marlowe piece
                    Message 9 of 11 , May 5, 2008
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                      > [Mike,] thank you for posting this! It's answered the questions I had
                      > about
                      > Meyer's translation, although my personal jury is still out on his
                      > rationale.

                      Thanks for your note, J.S. (and please sign your notes - that's the
                      protocol, and I don't know if the name I put on it agrees with you.)
                      The Marlowe piece is great. It covers the area I had intended to
                      cover in the second part of this note, when thinking about it last night,
                      and with much more expertise than I have at my disposal. Marlowe
                      answers the questions I would have posed, without knowing the answers.

                      This weekend, I came to realize that my analysis in this series of notes
                      was still incomplete. It occurred to me to ask two questions about
                      Meyer's Anthropos Principle (i.e., that RWME corresponds to, or is
                      synonymous with, ANTHROPOS). The first was, "Even if it's false, what's
                      the translational impact?" The second was, "Even if it were true, what
                      would the translational impact be?" Both of these questions need to
                      be answered in order to come to a proper judgement about Meyer's
                      translations (and others that appear to depend on the Anthropos Principle.)
                      I'll look at these two questions, and describe how I approached them.

                      "Even if the AP is false, what's the translational impact?" The reason
                      this question arises is that it's possible that a translation derived by
                      applying the AP might be _no different_ from a translation which was
                      derived from a case-by-case examination of the 35 occurrences of
                      RWME in Coptic Thomas. Even though the application of the AP
                      would certainly yield inaccurate results if used on a broad range of
                      Coptic writings, the particular usages of RWME in Thomas might be
                      such that the application of AP against _them_ might yield accurate
                      results accidentally. (This is an application of the "Blind Pig Principle",
                      namely that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. Or is that
                      the Blind Squirrel Principle?)

                      While it's true that I _felt_ that certain RWME-contexts in Thomas
                      were male-gendered rather than gender-neutral, feelings aren't
                      tools of cognition, so the thing to do seemed to be to look at the
                      Greek NT parallels of Thomas' RWME-sayings. Frankly, I was
                      disappointed at the results; in every case in which there was a
                      word in the Greek that corresponded to RWME (other than cases
                      like 'someone' or 'no one'), it was ANTHROPOS, not ANHR.
                      Especially pertinent was L72 (the Divider saying) where Jesus
                      addresses someone in a salutation that even Meyer renders in
                      male terms as 'mister'. In the Greek, however (Lk 12:13), the
                      salutation employs ANTHROPOS, while the person addressed
                      is referred to only as 'someone in the crowd'. Could it be that
                      what such a salutation really meant (but contra Meyer's translation
                      of it) was 'Oh human!' rather than 'Oh man!'? If so, then it would
                      seem at least plausible that a case-by-case examination of
                      RWME-usages would yield the same results as applying AP,
                      unsound though AP is.

                      At this point, I thought to ask the second question, "Even if AP
                      were true, what would the translational results be?" In other words,
                      even if RWME corresponded to ANTHROPOS, was it true, as Meyer
                      implied, that ANTHROPOS should always be translated in a gender-
                      neutral way? Here, the Marlowe piece that J.S. Chandler provided a
                      link to gives a negative answer from a general viewpoint. Not having
                      that kind of expertise myself, the best way I could think of to answer
                      the question was to see whether the Greek translators on the Jesus
                      Seminar translation panel agreed with Meyer and Patterson in their
                      translational elimination of 'man'. I was pleased to find that they didn't.

                      Although there was an overall attempt by the Jesus Seminar to go
                      to what is called 'inclusive language', the translation of Thomas
                      sayings involving RWME differed in three cases from the translation
                      of parallel Greek passages involving ANTHROPOS. I previously
                      mentioned L78.2, where Meyer and Patterson have 'person'
                      dressed in fine clothes, but the JSem Greek translators have 'man
                      dressed in fine clothes. Add to that 86.2, where the Meyer-Patterson
                      translation changes singular to plural to yield 'human beings' [have no
                      place to lay their heads and rest'], but where the JSem Greek translators
                      have 'son of Adam'. And 63.1, where the JSem Greek translators have
                      'rich man', but Meyer-Patterson has 'rich person'. (At least, that's the way
                      it is in _The Five Gospels_. In _The Complete Gospels_, however,
                      which I thought was the same, 'rich person' has unaccountably been
                      changed to 'rich man' in the Thomas translation. Not the doing of
                      Meyer and Patterson, I assume.)

                      What this shows, I think, is that the Greek translators on the JSem
                      translational panel didn't agree with Meyer and Patterson on a
                      radical program of translating every occurrence of ANTHROPOS
                      in gender-neutral terms, _even though_ those other translators
                      were interested in eliminating gender-bias. This in turn agrees
                      with what Marlowe has to say, so I think it's fair to conclude that
                      what Meyer takes as an implication of the Anthropos Principle
                      is in fact - and independently of the Principle - unsound as well.

                      Mike Grondin
                      Mt. Clemens, MI
                    • John Moon
                      I have an observation, Could the lack of male dominance in the translation be a subtle or not so subtle left over from assuming that Gospel of Thomas must be
                      Message 10 of 11 , May 6, 2008
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                        I have an observation,

                        Could the lack of male dominance in the translation be a subtle or not
                        so subtle left over from assuming that Gospel of Thomas must be in
                        fact a gnostic text?

                        That is, because the gnostics might have used certain forms ( Later)
                        removing the male oriented original intent. (Due to their beliefs
                        systems)

                        The translators would be inclined to translate and remove the male
                        orientation, which likely was the case in the original Greek copy( Or
                        Aramaic).

                        Either way I ask this?


                        How it is translated today( say by removing the male dominance Of
                        ANTHROPOS, and other words within the text).


                        WOuld that be how it was written or originally intended.

                        That is we may( and others may want to make it culturally acceptable,
                        and bring certain bias to the text which might never have occurred
                        when it was originally written.

                        I would say "How " it is translated should be focused in on the
                        timeline.

                        If it would not have been said or written in that day and time? It
                        should not be translated in a way that differs from that text and
                        it's Sitz im leben.

                        Therefore, in the society and time in which it occurred. Which is the
                        most likely translation?

                        I would suggest that it would be male,but I ask openly.


                        Regards,

                        John Moon
                        Springfield,Tenn.
                        John Moon



                        On May 5, 2008, at 10:06 AM, Michael Grondin wrote:

                        > What this shows, I think, is that the Greek translators on the JSem
                        > translational panel didn't agree with Meyer and Patterson on a
                        > radical program of translating every occurrence of ANTHROPOS
                        > in gender-neutral terms, _even though_ those other translators
                        > were interested in eliminating gender-bias. This in turn agrees
                        > with what Marlowe has to say, so I think it's fair to conclude that
                        > what Meyer takes as an implication of the Anthropos Principle
                        > is in fact - and independently of the Principle - unsound as well.



                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Michael Grondin
                        ... Absolutely not. Neither Meyer nor Patterson think it s a gnostic text. Their translation(s) derive from two (unsound) principles: 1. That RWME corresponds
                        Message 11 of 11 , May 6, 2008
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                          John Moon asks:
                          > Could the lack of male dominance in the translation be a subtle or not
                          > so subtle left over from assuming that Gospel of Thomas must be in
                          > fact a gnostic text?

                          Absolutely not. Neither Meyer nor Patterson think it's a gnostic text.
                          Their translation(s) derive from two (unsound) principles:

                          1. That RWME corresponds to ANTHRWPOS, and that
                          2. ANTHRWPOS should always be translated as gender-neutral.

                          On the other side of the issue, Doresse thought (late 50's) that Thomas
                          was gnostic, yet he retained 'man' in his translation (_The Secret Books
                          of the Egyptian Gnostics_). Grant and Freedman (_The Secret Sayings
                          of Jesus_, 1960) also took Thomas to be gnostic, yet they used the
                          Schoedel translation, which retains 'man'.

                          Though I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at with your other
                          questions, I think we can rule out that any version of Thomas ever had
                          a special vocabulary. Of course we can only speculate about an
                          Aramaic or Syrian version, but the Coptic RWME and the Greek
                          ANTHRWPOS have an ambiguity to them which is also present in
                          the English word 'man'. Sometimes it's a generic or species-related
                          meaning, as in 'Anthropology is the study of Man' or (from Thomas)
                          'Man is like a wise fisherman'. Sometimes it's used to refer to individuals
                          who happen to be male. As to how one _should_ translate Coptic Thomas,
                          that question would lead to an interminable debate which would, I think,
                          come down in the end to one's point of view.

                          Mike Grondin
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