Monthly Archives: November 2016

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/

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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…).

Drilling deep

Some experts think that there is a sort of “stratabound I” in Luke’s Gospel and Acts: a kind of more or less distorted fossil voice of the very same Jesus (and/or the first apostles). Most of these experts expect that from the Greek text.
But how about if we try to drill a small but deep borehole through a very ancient Syriac version? Let me remind you that Syriac is a brother language of Aramaic, the most probable mother tongue of Jesus, his mother, his family …
I have employed the kind help of DUKHRANA tool.
Only for your eyes, readers of this blog, here you have my English version from the Syriac Sinaitic Palimpsest of Luke 20, verses 37 and 38:
About the dead ones who rise up, Moses had already taught, concerning the talk of God with him in the (burning, it must be supposed) bush that the Lord had said:

God is of Abraham, God is of Isaac, God is of Jacob.

Then, God is not of the dead ones but of the living ones! As all of them are living by means of Him.
And, please, do not let aside the following verse, the 39, that is remarkable although not included in the reading for this 32th Sunday on ordinary time:
The men of the Scriptures (safr, ethymological Semitic root, via Arabic first and then Latin, for the word “cypher”) said tho him: “Teacher! How beautifully (shapir, the root originating the name for a gemstone) you have spoken!”
The exclamation marks are from mine: There are never neither exclamation nor interrogative marks in ancient Syriac manuscripts. And the most of the times there are not even vowels!
But have you caught the game of sounds safr/shapir? That is completely lost in the Greek, Latin and the rest of versions. Perhaps it is even more captivating the meanings game:
Scriptures/beauty
And that is my personal view, that many biblical texts are wildly beautiful from a starting point; that is why they are able to catch minds and harts by its intrinsic “splendor”. After then, philosophy, reflection and so on come. Unfortunately, too many times, manipulation and illusion too.