Question: Off topic?

Trevor Peterson 06PETERSON at cua.edu
Thu Mar 14 11:37:28 EST 2002


>===== Original Message From Ian Goldsmith <iangoldsmith1969 at yahoo.co.uk> 
=====
>Dear Members.
>
>I've a question that I would apprectiate your thoughts
>on. Whilst not strictly on the Hebrew scriptures it is
>connected.
>
>Q: What good reasons are there for studying the Old
>Testament Scriptures in Hebrew?

My quick answer (and therefore only half-serious) is: So you can be confused 
in more than one language. Now let me unpack that quip into what I mean by it. 
While I don't think it can be said or should ever be suggested (and the notion 
probably ought to be intentionally repressed) that learning Hebrew (or Greek, 
or any other source language) makes things easier to understand or answers 
more questions than it raises, I do think there is value to it. Can a person 
read the Bible in vernacular translation (assuming a language that has the 
Bible) and enjoy a productive reading experience? By all means. Could a person 
ever exhaust the reading potential of such a translation in a lifetime or 
several lifetimes? Doubtful. Then why trouble oneself with learning another 
language? Simply put--decreased mediation. This is not to entertain any false 
hope of ever being able to approach the Bible independently of any outside 
help. But the translation act requires analysis and repackaging of meaning. 
This act will always stand between the vernacular reader and the text to be 
read. In other words, this reader cannot read the source text as such but will 
always read the product of someone else's reading. Now, I realize that our 
readings are influenced by countless factors, including the readings of 
others. But if a person values the Hebrew text for its own sake as an entity 
distinct from the translated product, there is no substitute for encountering 
that text directly.

Needless to say, my answer depends upon a certain view of translation and 
meaning. But that is nonetheless how I would answer.

Trevor Peterson
CUA/Semitics




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