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

Jane Peters janepeters13041939 at yahoo.co.nz
Sat Jan 26 17:11:55 EST 2008

> >  Uri Hurwitz:
> >  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.
  > Yitzhak Sapir:
  > 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.  
  It's interesting the various issues for translation this short sentence raises. Nothing is very straightforward when it comes to translation.
  The way I hear the expression "good enough for Jehovah" in 'Life of Brian' is that it means "good enough for Jehovah [to eat]". The 'blasphemer' has just "had a lovely supper", so the clear implication is that the supper was good enough for Jehovah *to eat*. As I understand it, b'eynei elohim is idiomatic for divine favour. But I don't want to convey that the fish is considered good by Yhwh, but that the halibut is good enough for *his eating*. I think b'eynei elohim is too general to convey that emphasis.
  > Yitzhak Sapir:
  > 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.
Good point. You've convinced me. The secret of good comedy is in the ... timing. ;-)
>   On: the language:

> >  Yitzhak Sapir:
> >  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.
  >   Yitzhak Sapir:
> 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.
I agree, what I'm doing is anachronistic. Although, unlike Mel Gibson, I'm being anachronistic on purpose. I think it's funny.

> Yitzhak Sapir:
> I will not criticize other translations provided on here.  
I was actually hoping you would, though.
  > Yitzhak Sapir:
  > 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
.... 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
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.
  Oops - 'good' did not agree in gender. I quite like the fact that the transliteration HLYBWT is more commonly used than PW+YT, so would personally still favour this over the generic DG.  And adding gam makes it sound better. So, taking on your points, the adjectival construction would be this(?):
  And the verbal construction would be:
  I wonder if it is possible to make 'KL infinitive: L'KL ? My concern is that L'KLH may be too wooden.

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