And she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of Yahweh.”
Cain’s shoulders rose and fell. The deed done, his fight for air was not over. Eve had watched him come to her from the field. He ran at first. He walked the last length before stopping with his face before hers.
The moment was no different than any other for Eve. As long as she could remember she had known precisely how she felt and what she wanted to say, but often, and again on this day, she did not have the words.
Cain slowly regained his breath while he watched Eve walk from tent stake to tent stake. Her course never wavered. She simply would look at Cain then bend down and pull the stake out of the ground. In response, the animal skin previously held taut would slacken. Cain stood still as he watched his mother. When she pulled from the ground the fourth stake, the tent no longer held its shape. But when she grasped the fifth stake, the earth did not release it so easily. She calmly tried again. The land still held tight. Standing up, she looked once more at Cain. Then she pushed her sleeves back and reached down again.
“Stay!” she cried out as Cain began to move towards her.
He obeyed as the wood sliced through her palms, her own blood now adding to the difficulty. Unable to be still any longer he walked towards her. The noise she made was so loud it stopped him. She seemed to break her voice with it. But what he did not expect was the speed and force with which she pushed him back. He looked down and saw two dark hand-prints on his skin. He watched his right thumb raise and slowly smear through her blood. Her rapid, wild strikes against his shoulders then his chest awoke him from contemplation. He did not resist. Only when she wildly began to beat his head did he cover her fists with his own and restrain her.
Then he caught his mother as she collapsed before him in exhaustion. Watery tears fell from her eyes and guttural moans escaped from her mouth. Then she lifted her head towards his. She grasped onto his hair and pulled his ear to her mouth.
“You are Cain. My son.”
The Biblical Text: First Spoken, then, Right to Left, then, Left to Right.
“Sure it is. Of course it is. That was a loaded question. Speaking is certainly distinct from writing,” the professor announced. “I mean, unless you believe the writer of Genesis meant that the LORD wrote, ‘Let there be light.’ Anyone believe that?” he asked with a pause long enough to cause the students discomfort. “I didn’t think so,” he resumed. “Instead, I say–well, I repeat–what others before me have said, that we throw the word text into our vocabulary anytime we’re not talking about the spoken Word of God. Fair? After all, the Word of God is…what? ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword.’ Right? But the text? The text is surely observable, measurable, debatable, and able to be analyzed with great criticism and scrutiny, no?”
At this, the same lone-hand as always lifted into the air and did not wait to be called upon. “So you’re saying that everything we’re going to do from now on, despite what it might seem, is not criticizing our faith in Christ, nor even the spoken Word of God, but only the written text?”
“Close. I am saying that we have gathered in this classroom because we’re interested and able to study what you just called the written text, but I’m suggesting that you join us in calling the text. Again, this endeavor does not require belief in Christ. That said, the point, which I believe is now abundantly clear, is that the text is different from the Word. Here is Tov’s definition of our task: ‘Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible analyzes the biblical text and describes its history on general lines.’ Tov clarifies, ‘As a rule, textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible aims neither at the compositions written by the biblical authors, nor at previous oral stages, if such existed, but only at that stage (those stages) of the composition(s) that is (are) attested in the textual evidence (3).’
“Let me say this. It is probably best if you begin to seek at least two distinctions within every initial thought you have or term you use as we go about our task. For example, the data (singular) with which we’re working actually is two things. The texts plus the conjecture about the texts. As text critics, we’re going to do our best to stick with the texts and postpone debate about conjecture. But even this “sticking with the texts” has two steps. We need to first, collect the texts, then we evaluate them. As scholars answer the question of what the early text (singular) looked like, they are involved in one of two established text conventions and it is helpful to self-identify (both to clarify to yourself and to your audience which you are using). First, we have the Masoretic Text or MT, and second, textual traditions other than the MT. Unfruitful complication occurs if this last distinction is not held.
“Furthermore, here, our concern is focused on the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible. The two are forever interrelated, though, and it harms no one to spend some time on either text, even as we acknowledge that those texts are certainly not synonymous. For one thing, the Septuagint is irrevocably at a level once removed. Any difficulties encountered in text-criticism of the Hebrew Bible are unavoidably multiplied when we move our eye to the texts of the LXX. Firstly, we must acknowledge the Septuagint consists of many texts or translation units—never as a full translation of the thirty-nine book canon. (We do a disservice to the enterprise if this step is skipped). Secondly, we must acknowledge whether we are inclined to believe the differences in the LXX texts stem from the writer(s) using different Hebrew Vorlages or just applying a different guiding translation principle to the same Vorlage.
“A final note is necessary as we welcome text-criticism of the Septuagint into our lives. We are going to discuss, at length, the nature of translating these sacred texts and do so often with the boundaries free and literal. While doing so, we must not forget that we are dealing with personal—not official—translations. There was great subjectivity in the endeavor—there had to be. At best, forgetting this fact is a time-consuming distraction; at worst, an avoidable and harmful error. So let’s not make it. Instead, let’s join Tov in humbly seeking consistencies within the texts.”
This is my summary of pp. 1-39 of Tov, Emanuel, 2015, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. 3rd edition. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1575063287.
Class Is In Session
I am currently enrolled in the most fascinating class of my seminary experience. It is a class on the Septuagint. The Septuagint, often abbreviated LXX, is the name for the first translation(s) of the so-called Old Testament. I have written some summaries of the required readings in a way that I hope prove enjoyable and informative. Here’s the first.
“Anyone?” he asked the abnormally silent classroom. After a moment the professor continued, his voice feigning disbelief, “Not one of you has an answer to this question? You’re usually all so talkative.”
Finally one student spoke up. “Maybe you could ask the question again. The silence has caused me to forget how you worded the question—which seems like it may be your point here.”
“Fair enough,” the professor conceded. He then raised up high over his head, for the second time, the black, hard-bound book which had the words “Holy Bible” inscribed in gold lettering on the front cover and asked, “Am I holding the English translation of the Holy Bible?”
The same outspoken student, after a quick look around the room resulting in renewed confidence to speak for the group, cautiously answered, “I think I could say that you’re holding one English translation of the Holy Bible and not break my integrity.”
“Ah, and why do you say, one and not the?”
Several students were heard chuckling at the ridiculously easy nature of the question.
“Well, professor, as you well know, we probably have at least four English translations amongst ourselves in just this classroom, not including digital versions stored on–or accessible by–our phones and laptops.”
“Exactly the point!” At this the just-animated professor paused. “Okay then. With that, we’re now ready to talk about the so-called Septuagint.
“The first question we need to answer is, ‘When? When are we talking about? When did this occur?’
“As with all antiquity, a range is more honest than an exact date, or if an exact date is mentioned, keep in mind that a range is implied. That said, the request and its fulfillment to translate some of what we call the Old Testament into Koine Greek (the Lingua Franca of its day–thanks to Alexander the Great) was around 250 BC. It should surprise no one that the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was treated first, and only over time does it appear that the rest of the OT (and more) was completed. Moreover, no different than the reason behind our many contemporary English translations, soon after the first so-called Septuagint there was disagreement and desire to do it better or perhaps more accurately. The big (versus only) three recensions/translators (the new ‘r’ word will be defined in a moment) that the historical record attests to are Aquila (ca. 140 AD), Theodotion (ca. 190 AD), and Symmachus (ca. 200 AD).
“Naturally, simply acknowledging these things often causes us to forget we’re in the forest. There is no denying that we find ourselves past the trees, through the roses’ scent, beyond the grass, and into the weeds. The weeds, of course, being the things that will not go away. Either we pull one up and another appears or we kill one only to discover it comes right back. Regarding Septuagint studies, this means that people are both still discovering how all the extant and attested to Septuagints were viewed in history as well as arguing over just how to categorize the many, many seeming distinctives involved in the criticism of ancient texts.
“Yet, decisions must be made and I’ve made them. You’re free to disagree with mine—after the semester. For now, here are some words that I’m going to use. Recensions must include revisions, but revisions do not necessarily produce recensions.
“In other words, there are times when we notice that some writer revised the Septuagint, without entirely revising it.
“But to say it that way is confusing. So in order to prevent the confusion I just introduced, we call the entire revision thing a recension.
“Speaking of recensions, we’ve already mentioned three notable recensions. But there are three more names that you’ll continuously come across. Those being, Hesychian, Hexapala (which is the six-column and no-longer-extant work of a man named Origen), and Lucianic. No doubt, more will be said about these as we go.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is one more word that this introduction must include: Vorlage (pronounced “4-log-eyh”). Vorlage is the name for the so-called parent-text to the LXX that history has not preserved, but which scholars believe the above personalities (and more) used to create the first LXX.
“Murky, indeed, are the waters when trying to reproduce the Vorlage.”
This is my summary of pp. 1-62 from Jobes, Karen H., and Moisés Silva’s 2015, Invitation to the Septuagint. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker. ISBN 978-080103649-1.
It was always there. It was palpable. The feeling in the room added pounds to the air–especially the energy coming from Emily. She was smart, meaning she could read and write fine, but I guess she just didn’t want the attention. I loved the attention, especially her attention, and I think I also liked that I was protecting her a bit. So when the Sunday school teacher asked for volunteers to read the bible verse, my hand shot up quickest and highest.
And I was good at reading out loud, too. It was easy for me to tell because it was such an inspect-able task. Either the words came out right, or they didn’t. Plus, my teacher said I read well. Add to that the fact that everyone knew that Dan Rather—national news man—had no accent and grew up in Kansas where my life was unfolding, and it seemed like fate.
Clearly I had a gift.
This gift was mostly centered around reading out loud and participating in the churches youth activities when everyone else just wanted to chill out in the peanut gallery. Everyone else was only there because their parents were doing whatever the adults did at church.
So how does my able body affect my writing, you ask? Originating from a body with no physical limitations, my writing is at once full of hubris, and yet it’s been called endearing and humble.
For all I’ve achieved in life, and I’ve done great things, I can never escape the simple truth my life reveals with each passing day. As much as I love, as much as I grow, and as much as I laugh, I hurt people, I am unkind, I am inconsiderate, I am mean, and I lie. And I want to do these things.
(Okay, “as much” might be a bit strong.)
A Letter to the Victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting
To the Victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting:
“If I had my way they’d take metal altogether out of this world. Every blade, every gun,” says Natalie Portman’s character in the classic film “Cold Mountain.” Maybe I’m just a sucker for movies, but when I watch that one–and that scene in particular–an “Amen!” or “Preach it!” escapes my lips before I know it. I can only imagine that you feel the same way.
I’m writing this letter to you today because I want you to know that I do not believe a letter like this is what is needed at the moment. But, at the moment, I have to write a letter for a class and I wanted to write to you. I’ve been taking undergraduate courses in writing recently, and a large part of writing is rhetoric. Rhetoric is the term used to describe the tools writers use to affect their audience. I’m told a writer uses rhetoric—these tools–to persuade people to agree with him. Sometimes the use of rhetoric isn’t deliberate, sometimes it is very deliberate. Like I said, though, I don’t believe words, especially not the words on this page, can help me persuade you to believe anything at the moment. “So why the letter?” you may ask.
As you know, Colorado, in large part because of the tragic events of July 20, 2012, is currently in the spotlight of a larger movement across the nation. I’m talking, of course, about the state legislature’s recent revisit to its gun policy. There’s no denying that without guns July 20th—more importantly, your lives–would never have been tainted by this unbearable act. Just the same, I can’t help but wonder if changes are being made too quickly.
Here’s what I’m proposing: For the last year I’ve been hosting a dinner series of sorts at my home. I’d like to invite you over to the one scheduled for July 20, 2014. If you can believe it, July 20th is my birthday. As July 20, 2012 approached I’d been excitedly anticipating the movie for a year, knowing it was coming out on my birthday. My brother can confirm that I bawled on the phone that morning as I heard the news. I had called him to discuss whether we should still see the movie that night. He was on I-70, driving to Denver from Kansas City so we could see the movie together as a birthday present. This July 20–July 20, 2014–I’m inviting you to a dinner at my home. The dinner will be a place where we will share ourselves. You don’t know me yet, but rest assured that disrespect has no place at my home. I want to know what you think, and I would like to share some thoughts with you as well.
So, what do you say? I have a little saying that I stole from the Oracle of another blockbuster trilogy: “The only way to get there is together.” I believe my time in the Air Force allows me to own this phrase as it’s essentially the positive way of saying, “You don’t crash in compartments.” I feel like you and I are separated by more than space, and I don’t think that’s necessary or valuable. Please contact me if you agree and would like to join me for an event that your presence will enhance substantively.