Zechariah 9, a cocktail of stories.

On this 14th Sunday in ordinary time, we do not read but verses 9 and 10 of Zechariah 9. But there is much more in the chapter: severe judgements by God, promises for “prisoners of hope”, difficult Hebrew expresions to translate everywhere (copysts and editors along centuries must have contributed with their failures and well intentioned purposes to add complexity) and finally, thank goodness, a happy end.  My translation from the Hebrew text (Stuttgartensia edition) is devoted to this very last verse of chapter 9 of Zechariah, plenty of eucharistic remembrances for a Christian reader:

How good and nice it is! The selected grain and a new wine make flourish the young women.

Who are these young women? If you eat the best bread and wine in the world , you also, dear reader, may be one of this “young women”, no matter if you are a gentleman and/or more than x years old.

 

 

An old hymn to Christ

Theologians have struggled too much and the most important thing is charity and love among brothers and sisters, represented in the epistle of today by the CROSS. Here it is, like a personal humble tribute to victims of wars and terrorism, my translation from Syriac into English of Philippians 2, 6-11:

He (Jesus) was of the God’s clan (the corresponding Syriac word is a derivative from the Semitic root “dm” which has connotations related to “blood”; this term is also present in Gn 1,26).  It was no abuse to have considered this: becoming equal to God.

On the contrary, he renounced to himself by taking the condition (here again the term that remits to “blood”) of a serf. He was of human nature (again that term) and he looked like a man in his appearance.

And now, if the hymn has a structure of chiasmus, then this is the central and most important verse:

He made himself humble and obedient until his death: his death in the CROSS.

That is why God multiplied his attributes of greatness and gave Him a fame (literally a “NAME”) which is over all of the honors (of any of those attributes).

In this previous verse, employing the term “NAME” is rather impressive for traditional ears because “NAME” is a respectful way of citing YHWH (the forbidden name of God) in Old Testament and Targumim writings.

Then, in the name of Jesus, every knee (or benediction, as there may be a polysemy game at this point) is bowing (or will bow; the imperfect aspect in Semitic languages may mean both present and future tenses), let it be in the heaven as also on and under the earth. (This enumeration of three cosmic dimensions is a reminder of the common cosmology for the Ancient Near East).

Every tongue confesses (or will confess) that the Lord is Jesus, the Messiah, by the splendor of His Father.

This confession means a firm nexus between YHWH and Jesus Christ.  In New Testament context “the Lord” implies God Himself.

May we have a peaceful Holy Week and lets us pray for our sisters and brothers who are suffering in today`s Near East!

Cloud that can shine and cast a shadow.

The interactions between the gospel of today and the traditions of the Exodus afford us to find suggestions in order to get the key about some enigmatic metaphors. For exemple, in verse Mt 17:5 a bright cloud overshadowed them … What kind of brightness can cast a shadow? The key is perhaps in Sinai. There too were strange “clouds”.

So, in Ex 19:16 the translations usually swallow an interesting description that is still kept by the masoretic text:  ענן כבד. I do really think that a rather poor translation is to say  just “thick cloud”, specially knowing about the emotions related to כבד, KaBoD, that theologically almost”technical” term which is related to the perceptible dimensions of the inmanent power of God. Remember Isaiah 6:3, please. Very few would have translated:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his weight (or fat).”

The metaphorical connection between “glory of God” (kabod) and “cloud” is still clearer at the end of Exodus, in verse 4o:34.

Consequently in Mt 17 (Transfiguration text),the cloud of light is also “weighty”, it is to say, this cloud is the Kabod! …Or a symbol of it. So this cloud is able of everything, even of turning the light into shadow, building a protective umbrella over Jesus… later, taking him out of the “house of death” (the tomb).

As a matter of fact, reading the Syriac version of Mt 17:4, Peter wants to build three “roofs”, ܡܛܠܝܢ, word derived from the semantic root  ܛܠ (shadow). But at the end of the day, without human hands, it is the “cloud” that ܐܛܠܬ  (verbal form derived also from ܛܠ), expression that could be translated like “cast a shadow”… Possibly more effectively than Peter!

Combat of biblical experts.

In the gospel of this 1st Sunday in Lent could we look at a sort of combat between two biblical experts? Jesus mentions 3 texts (from Torah)-his challenger 1 (from psalm 91). And this only point is not clear because the suggested exegese is null.

And, however, the psalm 91 is nice indeed:

The one who lives in Elyon’s refuge, takes advantage of Shaddai’s shadow.

The masoretic Hebrew text keeps with love these two alternative names of YHWH, corresponding to respective traditions that outcrop here and there all along the Scripture. Beautiful words are those ones of the Bible but that some ones manipulate to persuade us in order to become members of sects. They ask for strange behaviours: “Throw yourself down”.

Watch out! The Bible in hands of self designated close students of the Word, supposed “experts”, may harm.

 

St. Valentine: let us speak about love

I remember an old song by Raphael. If you want to refresh your Spanish:

But there are different ways of loving. For example, the first reading for this 6th Sunday in ordinary time (cycle A) makes reference to a rather special love: The love towards the Torah, the five first books of the Bible. I will translate the old Hebrew version of Ecclesiasticus 15:15, somehow freely but faithful to the inner meaning:

If you really feel the desire,

you will be a jealous keeper 

of the Law and of its meaning

in order to be acquainted 

about His intention. If you trust Him…

¡He is coming and you will live!

And who can be a so a fervent follower of the Law? To find a suggestion for the quiz, please, read the first verse of this Sunday’s gospel, Mt 5:17.

If you want know more about the Hebrew version book of Ecclesiasticus, my recommendation is http://www.bensira.org/

 

Beatitudes in freshness

Throughout centuries and centuries, strong messages have become forgotten and, if too strong, at the end they arrived but only decaffeinated: Too many walls and the sound becomes weaker and weaker. Work by translators is not innocent. Sticked to original ancient texts –Curetonian gospels, for example, like in http://www.dukhrana.com/peshitta/index.php -we can however unearth old messages that do renew if we find the right words.

Let us break the walls and recover meanings:

A blessing that the poor ones have in their spirits is that they become landlords of the heavens’ kingdom.

A blessing of the sad ones is that they get comfort.

A blessing of the humble ones is that they inherit the land.

A blessing that the hungry and thirsty ones of justice (root Sdq , look at “Category Archives: Sdq” and, for example, the entry https://bibliababel2.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/fear-of-my-name/) have is that they are satisfied.

A blessing of the compassionate ones is that there is compassion for them (“compassion”more or less equivalent to “mercy”, look at the corresponding entries of this category).

A blessing of those ones who have their hearts purified is that they see God.

A blessing of the servants of the peace is that they are called “sons of God”.

A blessing of the persecuted ones because they follow the justice (again, root Sdq) is that they are masters of the kingdom of heavens.

Your blessing is when the people are persecuting, criticizing and defaming  you in every way, due to my NAME ( this Semitic expression may mean YHWH, a respectful way of designating God; see https://bibliababel2.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/fear-of-my-name/).

Rejoice and  be happy on that day! Then, your reward increases in the heaven. In the same way your ancestors were persecuting those prophets who were before you.

That was Matthew 5:3-12. Without cosmetics!

 

 

A large, holy family

That is the family whose description we can find in Galatians 4:4-7. Let me offer you, as a New Year’s gift, the text directly from the Syriac version, with the whole freshness that the reading of a Semitic language can show:

At the arriving of the plenitude of the time, God sent his Son.

He became to be by means of a woman and he was subject to the Law.

He was the one who bought those ones who were under the Law.

He offered them the right to become sons.

As you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son to your hearts.

This Spirit invokes the Father with the invocation “OUR Father”.

So, you are not employees but sons.

If sons, then heirs of God by means of Jesus the Messiah.

The original version may be found in

http://www.dukhrana.com/peshitta/index.php

I would call your attention to the fact that the Syriac version – unlike the versions in other languages- does not need an explanation for the term “abba” because this is just a Syriac (or Aramaic) word with the clear meaning of “father”. The unanimous respect that every written witness of this text shows towards the Semitic expression “abba” may be an indication that we are very next to the same speech of the apostle. The focus of all those other versions is then the reverence to Paul’s preaching. So, the focus of the Syriac version is centered in the preaching itself , i.e., we all are a very large family with a rich, loving Father.

Please, enjoy 2017!

New educational content

The Advent 2016 starts and with it we have the opportunity to read, to taste and to reflect on the book of Isaiah, a fountain of poetry that has inspired to so many artists: for example, the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah”.

As my gift to you in this 1st Sunday in Advent, as a modest alternative to most of versions that are usually translated from Hebrew, Latin or Greek, here you have this one from Syriac Peshitta, just as  I have found it  in http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/get_a_chapter.php?file=62012&sub=02&cset=U and with the inappreciable  help of its related dictionnaries.

Statement about what Isaiah, son of Amos, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the last days it will happen that the mountain of the house of the Lord will stay on the mountain that leads the mountains (literally, the “president of the mountains”), the highest one of them. All the peoples will look for it.

Many peoples will go and say: “Come. We will go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. We will learn (a verb with the same root ylp for the Syriac vocative “malpana”, i.e. “teacher”, devoted to Jesús in the Peshitta Gospels) His ways. We will walk on His paths because the Law comes out of Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

 The ensemble (literally “the house”) of the peoples will judge. (The Lord) will admonish the numerous peoples from distant (countries) that will break their swords to (change them  into) blades of plows and their spears into sickles. No human group will harm another one with the sword. They will not learn (root ylp, again) the fighting anymore.

To the people of Jacob: “Come! We will go with the light of God.”

So, one original nuance that we can remark in this Syriac version may be that we shoud learn other contents: no force and more light. This emphasis on new things to learn is still more developed in the corresponding Aramaic targum. If you can read Spanish, please, check it in this page https://bibliababel.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/reforma-educativa/

Human diversity

It is enormous indeed, although our common craddle is Africa, according to paleoanthropologists (please, if you  understand French, don’t miss this lecture: http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/jean-jacques-hublin/course-2016-10-04-17h00.htm), and we all have the same mother from the genetics point of view. Perhaps from an inner point of view, the landscape is more boring.

That is the perspective of our Luke gospel text for this 34th Sunday in ordinary time (the last one of the cycle C: The following Sunday reopens cycle A in Advent time). So, for the most critical moment of life,  Luke 23: 39 and 40  distinguishes allegorically two kinds of persons, no more. They are side by side next to God. The language from Peshitta is very expressive. I will try to translate the Syriac version of Luke 23:39 as skilfull as possible to me:

One of the criminals (literally, “one from those ones of the house of iniquity”) who were crucified with Him (the capital letter is mine) was insulting Him by saying: “If you are the Messiah, then free yourself! Free us, also!”

Obviously, this kind of person wouldn’t be afraid by the apocalypse that we were reading in Malachi 3 on last Sunday. As a matter of fact, personally, I also think  that in 20th and 21st centuries there are pieces of information that are more efficient in the generation of fear tan biblical apocalypses: TV news, for example, and horrible images from Vietnam (when child), African Great Lakes (when my children were still children) or Syria (now) terrify me much more than medieval iconographical descriptions of hell. But, thank goodness, there are more ways to come to Jesus. Solidarity, compassion … are presumably stronger than fear. What about going on with Luke 23:40?

His comrade scolded him by telling:”You will not have fear of God, not even when you are side by side to Him in the scaffold!”

We will never know if the scolded one reacted but his comrade made the right effort. After all, perhaps the “bad” one was not so completely bad: His last cry was a sort of prier. Free us!

Fear of my name

My suggestion of exercise of poetical translation for this 33th Sunday on ordinary time goes to a single verse -the second one- of the first reading: a terrifying apocalypse by Malachi (a name which, very appropiately, contains the same semantical Hebrew root of the noun “angel”).

The verse of my choice is Malachi 3:20 (although, please, pay attention to the exact numbering in your own bibles as I have detected different editions that have a fourth chapter) because it contains a “balsamic” effect in the middle of a burning apocalypse, whose therapeutic effect -perhaps- the most of translations do not fully capture.
My personal version -directly from the Masoretic Hebrew text- tries to emphasize the contrast between two poles. In the first half of the verse, we find “Large fear”, litterally “fears” whose plural I have understood like a kind of intensification. That is the first focus. The second one, in the second half of the same verse, could be “medicine”, under the form of a participle with the root “rph’” which is related to the semantical field of “therapy” (the name “Raphael“, for example, means “God healed” and also contains this root).
So, the suspense of the plot is served: On one side, psychological sickness (fear) but on the another one, the remedy, Sdq,  word with a Semitic root that only very approximately can be translated as “justice”. By the way, this very same root is still quite alive in modern Arabic, for exemple in the word صديق , to be read /sadyyq/ and which means”friend“.
As a matter of fact, the second half of the verse is a metaphoric explanation of the expression “My name”, ie YHWH, the most respectful wording for God whose pronunciation was lost for ever because, among other reasons, ancient Semitic inscriptions and writings had not any vowel at all.
So, here it is Malachi under a new/old perspective, only for your eyes:

It will uprise to you a great fear of my name,
a sun of justice bringing medicine on its wings.

The sun with wings is an ubiquous iconographic theme to be find in the whole Ancient Middle East. So, please, pay no attention to mysterical-hysterical interpretations about prophecies to come and so on, because the question is rather about a common cultural background of those remote times and far beyond.

Then,  أصدقاء  /ásdiqaaa/ (friends)  -word, as I have mentioned,  with a root Sdq or, if you prefer in Hebrew,  צדק-  I say you: until next Sunday إن شاء الله

 /in sha Alla / (if God wills so…).