Fox's first two days

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Tue Oct 27 22:59:40 EST 1998

Thanks for the welcome, Bryan. I've been lurking for quite a while and will
hopefully soon return. (I have only minimal knowledge of Hebrew.)

>Are you new to b-hebrew?  a hearty welcome.  hope you enjoy the list and
>find it useful!  thanks for your response!

>> >> 2  when the earth was wild and waste,
>> Though poetic, doesn't the "waste" take away from the meaning here?
>first, about the phrase's meaning:  compare Isa 34:11 where it is predicted
>that the judgment in Zion, symbolized by the plumbline and its bob will be
>turned to _tohu vabohu_ when the holy mount becomes the habitation of
>unclean creatures.   apparently _bohu_ does not necessitate literal
>emptiness as much as absence of order or rule.  How about this for _tohu
>vabohu_: "purposeless and patternless"?  _tohu vabohu_ seems to be an
>expression of utter, hopeless confusion.  After all, the greater the
>confusion in Gen 1:2, the greater the glory of the Lord in overcoming it by
>His omni-creativity.

My understanding of the creation here is that there are two series of three

   Forming                  Filling

1  Day & night           4  Sun, moon & stars

2  Sky & sea             5  Birds & fish

3  Land & vegetation     6  Animals & man

The first series deals with the tohu reducing the chaos to order, the other,
filling the corresponding void. It would seem that the expression tohu
vabohu was explicitly used to point to the structure imposed on the creation.

>second, about the translation:  I can't exactly blame Fox for going the
>route of euphony when translating _tohu vabohu_ since a precise meaning for
>the phrase is somewhat elusive.  i.e., his guess is as good as anyone's.   
>he is clearly trying to imitate the euphony of the Hebrew.  and yeah, we
>may like the substitution of alliteration: "wild and waste" for rhyme:
>_tohu vabohu_,  but we have to wonder if the impulse to be euphonic(as the
>Hebrew writers most certainly are) or, in other places, concrete in
>diction(as the Hebrew writers most certainly are) sometimes leads Fox from
>semantic accuracy.  When I first began reading the Fox, knowing that it is
>an attempt to capture a sound, cadence, and concreteness of figure which
>imitate the Hebrew, I suspected that semantic accuracy might be
>compromised.  The prospect was dangerous to me because, as most of us I
>think would agree, semantics is the top priority.  when a translator can
>capture the 'feel' of an original language as well as its notion, the
>'feel' part is icing on the cake.  So I think Fox simply was not willing to
>settle for cake without icing.   And I have to say that I think his
>translation usually does a remarkable job juggling all the concerns.

This is always the trouble a translator has, when dealing with poetic works.
In the end I fear that for serious use of a translation it has to aim more
for faithfulness in significance and put the stylistic concerns in the
footnotes -- but truly included in the footnotes.


(Heading back to obscurity)

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