[b-hebrew] That piece of halibut was good enough for YHWH

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Jan 26 15:49:36 EST 2008

On Jan 26, 2008 3:24 AM, Jane Peters wrote:

>   Ø  Uri Hurwitz:
> Ø  tov hayah b'eynei elohim
> Jane:
>   Some of the humour of the saying in 'The Life of Brian' is in the image of YHWH eating
> fish (for which the person gets stoned). I think b'eynei elohim loses some of that direct
> meaning.

But the "in the eyes of God" is also an idiomatic expression, and if
one were to say "this
fish will be good enough for the eyes of Yahweh" I don't think one
loses anything at all.
The emphasis on the joke is not on the fact that poor Matthias views
Yahweh as human,
but rather that a quite harmless comment meant to compliment the
cooking of his wife
is an offense punishable by stoning by overly eager women.  This is
also the reason why
in the first mention of Yahweh, Yahweh ought to be at the end of the
sentence.  The
listener is held in suspense before he hears the word that is so wrong to say.

>   On: the language:

> Ø  Yitzhak Sapir:
> Ø  why Biblical Hebrew?  During the time of Jesus, a form of Mishnaic Hebrew as
> well as Aramaic and Greek were spoken.

> Jane:
> It was just for the fun of turning it into Biblical Hebrew. I was going to say something
> about this, and I guess I should have.

The point is that it is quite anachronistic.  For example, how would
the Emancipation
Proclamation sound in Chaucer's English?  We can try to reconstruct
it, but it doesn't
really provide us with anything that anyone ever said.  Also, you seem
to want to
concentrate on spelling rather than pronunciation, even though in this
case -- the
sentence in question is one that probably wouldn't have been written
down anyway.
My purpose was to reconstruct the Hebrew equivalent of the sentence as
it would have
been spoken in the time in question.

> On: Mishnaic Hebrew translations:

> Ø  Yitzhak Sapir:
> Ø  In any case, I think the following would have passed for Mishnaic Hebrew, but I'm not
> sure: rak ?amarti $e?oto dag dayyo haya liyahweh. I only said that that fish was enough
> for Yahweh.

? stands for aleph.  rak should be "raq".

I will not criticize other translations provided on here.  However,
your chosen translation
where the aleph is transliterated by ) and ', is not only clumsy, it
is wrong.  +WB is an
adjective that should match the object (PW+YT) in gender and number.
you are already here getting very close to Mishnaic Hebrew because in
earlier Hebrew,
instead of an adjectival construction, you'd have had a verbal construction:
... yy+b hdg hzh l?klh gm lyhwh

As for the translation of "pw+yt," in Modern Hebrew most speakers
prefer a direct
transliteration "hlybwt."  The fish is apparently not native to the
Sea, and other water sources near Israel, so some places I looked at recommended
in replacing it with other fish in recipes.  I really don't think that
this is part of the
joke.  Again, the point is a harmless sentence about a fish course at
dinner, and
while for British viewers halibut may have sounded perfectly normal,
it is not that big
a deal that we must keep it.

Yitzhak Sapir

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