Monday, 28 November 2011

Giving the Jerusalem Bible a Belt

On Mondays I tend to start my week reading over the Gospel for next Sunday, moving on later days to commentaries. Next Sunday we will read the beginning of St Mark's Gospel, and, as usual this morning, I read it first in the Greek, and then used various translations to get the best sense. But I discovered a peculiarity. In 1:6, the strange clothing adopted by St John the Baptist is described:

καὶ ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσθων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.

The Vulgate has:
Et erat Joannes vestitus pilis cameli, et zona pellicea circa lumbos ejus, et locustas et mel silvestre edebat.

And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and he ate locusts and wild honey.

The English Standard Version (basically RSV) has:
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt round his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

All pretty straightforward (the translations, I mean, not St John's clothing). However, when we come to the Jerusalem Bible, we get:

John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. 

Strange. Where's the belt gone? A problem of the Lectionary, I thought; these things aren't unknown. I've even discovered a passage in a Gospel where the vital word 'not' is left out (though I can't remember where). But I went to my JB and checked. No belt. Okay; the plot thickens. What about the New Jerusalem Bible?

John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.

Just the same as old JB, in fact. 

Perhaps there is a variant text in the Greek; this Sunday's Gospel had one; either 'Watch' or 'Watch and pray'. But no, there seems to be no disagreements among the Greek versions; John did indeed have a leather belt.

Finally, I tracked it down in the Jerusalem Bible (original) French version:

Jean était vêtu d'une peau de chameau et mangeait des sauterelles et du miel sauvage.

But a footnote adds:

Var: Jean était vêtu de poils de chameau et se ceignait les reins d'un pagne de peau.

There we are. But nobody else seems to think that not wearing a belt is an option. It's just a JB oddity, and, no doubt, they have found a manuscript to back them up, but not one that anyone else seems to have found.

It raises a point, though: what are we supposed to hear at Mass? The biblical critics' version, or that which the Church asks of us in the Latin original Lectionary?

On another point in this verse, the commentary by Dom Paul Delatte, once Abbot of Solesmes is delightfully French: for him it isn't enough to know that John ate locusts (sauterelles; grasshoppers)—he wants to know what they tasted like!

Les sauterelles de Palestine sont longues et fortes, grosses à peu prés comme des crevettes, et, assaisonnées de certaine manière, elles en ont le goût, paraît-il.
Palestinian grasshoppers are long and strong, roughly as big as prawns, and seasoned in a certain way, it would appear that they taste like them.
I have a delightful image of French gourmets haring off to the Judean desert and demanding salade des sauterelles avec sauce Marie Rose, perhaps followed by Gâteau du Foret Noir. Or perhaps not.

—and (a later thought) it seems that Delatte considered that John the Baptist might well have enjoyed his sauterelles assaisonnées de certaine manière. Perhaps with a glass of light Chablis?


pelerin said...

Ah the delights of translations. 'The case of the missing belt' has a ring of Sherlock Holmes about it!

I was particularly interested in the French version and had not come across 'un pagne' before. Looking it up I see in the Larousse that it is a 'piece of cloth or woven vegetable matter draped around the waist and which covers the body from the hips to the knees.' Very descriptive and rather more than a belt such as men wear to hold their trousers up with today.

Also very surprised to discover that a 'pelerin' apart from the obvious is a name given to a type of locust and also a type of shark!

Salade de sauterelles or perhaps sauterelles and chips?! I don't know whether they are eaten today but I have seen an old postcard from 100 years ago which showed a Marchand de Sauterelles in a market - I forget which country it was in. I believe they contain much protein.

Mike Cliffson said...

"Il faut que la France survive "

You said it : who else would have investaigated grasshoppers cum locusts' palatabilty?

Ttony said...

It is sad/ironic that just as a new and faithful translation of the Missal appears, the CTS has produced a version which only contains the Latin version of the bit that everybody accepts has now finally been translated properly.

B flat said...

Pace the Vulgate rendering of the Greek, the Tradition in the Holy Land among the Orthodox is that the akridai which St John ate are the carob beans which grow there. I remember a bishop being scandalised at the suggestion that St John would have killed even insects for his food.

B flat said...

Pace the Vulgate rendering of the Greek, the Tradition in the Holy Land among the Orthodox is that the akridai which St John ate are the carob beans which grow there. I remember a bishop being scandalised at the suggestion that St John would have killed even insects for his food.

Borealus said...

Nice to know that other people besides myself get a bit irritated by translations. To my shame and regret I'm no Latinist, but it does annoy me to see Ps. 121 - at "et abundantia diligentibus te" translated as "and PLENTEOUSNESS be to them that love thee". Next verse: " and plenteousness in thy towers." Perhaps we should be grateful it isn't something like 'plentifulificationosity? Seriously, doesn't the Latin fairly scream the answer: abundance.
Neologisms too, as in Ps. 84: "Misericordia et Veritas obviaverunt sibi:" translated as "Mercy and truth (only small 't' now!) have met TOGETHER:". I'm probably missing something, but I can't believe that Latin, of all languages, would tolerate something as superfluous here as 'together'; after all, you can't meet apart, can you?
There we are, grumble over - for now!

Alan Harrison said...

Another comment on S. John's aupposedly unorthodox sartorial tastes: apparently they weren't all that unorthodox. Many years ago I was told that his garment was of camel HAIR, not camel SKIN, i.e. of fabric woven from camel hair, a first century woolly, worn as the equivalent of overalls. In other words, the Baptist dressed like an ordinary working bloke, rather than a posh geezer in Herod's court.

Mater mari said...

Would that all priests prepared so assiduously for their sermons - and wrote so amusingly. I miss very little about living in Sussex apart from some delightful friends and the proximity of Shoreham.

Michael said...

Father, many thanks for your interesting post which has caused me to write regarding a point which is causing me increasing concern and relates, as does your post, to omitted words in the Jerusalem Bible text.

Luke 1:28 - in the Douay-Rheims Bible, the Latin translation of Biblia Vulgata and even the King James Bible each reads to the effect: "And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women". Some Protestant translations and the Jerusalem Bible omit the end of that sentence and make no mention of St. Gabriel saying "blessed art though amongst women". All the translations have this statement again in Lk 1:42, but now spoken by St. Elizabeth.

I do not have access to Greek scriptures - and even if I had, I cannot read Greek. What is the translation of the original Greek Lk 1:28? Did Gabriel proclaim Our Blessed Lady to be blessed amongst women or not? If so, why do you believe the Jerusalem Bible has omitted this very important sentence and why are we using this seemingly Protestant translation for the Sacred Liturgy? Finally, what can be done about it?

Very many thanks.

Pastor in Monte said...

Michael; indeed the verse you cite is one of the most controversial, but not for the clause you mention, but for that little word κεχαριτωμένη, 'full of grace', gratia plena which the Protestant translations and the JB (and others) translate 'highly favoured' or something similar.
This, I understand, is because the Reformers could not accept that anyone could actually be 'full of grace' because in Adam all men have sinned. The translators of the JB followed, perhaps not the theology, but the understanding of how to translate κεχαριτωμένη, and that is now that.
The clause you mention, εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, blessed among women, is a genuine variant in the Greek text; some versions have it, some don't. However, I should have thought that where there is genuine disagreement, it was incumbent on the translators to use the version adopted by the Vulgate unless there were overwhelming reasons not to.

Pastor in Monte said...

I should have added that, of course, 'Blessed are you among women' is mentioned a few verses later in all versions when our Lady visits Elizabeth. Luke 1:42.

Eriugena said...

The Italian Bishops' Conference version of the JB says as follows: Giovanni era vestito di peli di cammello, con una cintura di pelle attorno ai fianchi, si cibava di locuste e miele selvatico, where the "cintura di pelle" is obviously the leathern belt. Ah, the wonders of Sangiovese while translating...

William said...

Father, I fear I must take issue with you over κεχαριτωμένη. The verb χαριτόω, of which this is the perfect passive participle, simply means "to bestow favour" on someone, or, in the old phrase, to "show grace" to them (as in "grace and favour"). Thus Our Lady is greeted as one who is divinely "graced" or "favoured" - as the Angel goes on to make clear in verse 30, in response to Mary's puzzlement: "you have found favour (χάριν - the root, of course, of the verb χαριτόω) with God". The participle carries no sense of "full of", if by that we mean "completely/without qualification" (and if it did, what would one make of its use in Siracides 18.17?), and the Angelic greeting does not in itself tell us anything about Our Lady's perpetual sinlessness.

Anonymous said...

The 'Western Text' (Codex Bezae and the preVulgate Old Latin translation) omit the phrase. There is (1) a popular maxim in Textual Critisism that scribes are much more likely to add a phrase to a text than to omit one. And another (2) maxim holds that 'harmonisation' means that the texts of S Mark and S luke are susceptible to being brought into lin with that of S Matthew, since the latter appears to have been very much more widely known than the other two. Hence the conviction which JB has about this phrase being an interpolation into S Mark from the parallel in S Matthew.
My own mentor in this Black Art was far from convinced that (1) is always to be assumed to be true. Professor G D Kilpatrick would always check for the possibility of what he called "hom" (short for both homoeoteleuton and homoeoarchon), where a scribe's eye has slipped from a run of letters or words in one line to the same run a little below ('parablepsis'). My betting is that this is what has happened in the verse of S Mark you were concerned with ... the eye slipped from one kai to another kai with the omission of .... the belt! But the reading favoured by the JB must be at least early second century. Interestingly, the more early papyrus evidence we get for the NT, the clearer it becomes that the texts were extremely fluid very early on (the same is true for Homer); I suspect that when the the idea of 'canonicity' was not fully formed, people felt freer to 'improve' what they transcribed. It is now clear that a lot of readings which early twentieth century scholars dismissed as late, both in the Byzantine Lectionary texts and in the Vulgate, are actually very old indeed. I think one could make a strong case for sticking with the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate and the Septuagint!

pelerin said...

One of my sons has just returned from Cambodia and showed me a photo he took of 'sauterelles' on sale there for eating. And yes he did try some - and lived to tell the tale!

capuchino27 said...

Paster in Valle gives an interesting breakdown of Mark(1-6)quoting a variety of languages.
I have recently become aware of the Question put by Jesus to Peter:"Do you love me?" In Turkish
this is :"Ben seviyor mussen?" Pronounced 'SEV VE OR'.But its as near to 'Saviour' as one can get.Turkish for love is 'seviyorum'