Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

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Douglas Nast
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Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Douglas Nast » March 31st, 2017, 1:27 pm

I did my translation of the subject verse and ran the video to check my answer. I was shocked when I heard the on-line professor say regarding the moon's light "well this is 'her light', but that wouldn't make sense in English so we translate as 'its light' ".

This struck me as absurd, since the imaginative association between the moon and femininity is a virtually universal cultural reference point, and a literal translation could not be misunderstood by any English reader.

I rushed to the references and found that all the English translations rendered this as "its light". I starting frothing at them mouth to everyone I could find, then I checked the King James and found it rendered this as "her light".

I won't give all the obvious reasons supporting the literal translation here, since on the face of it this is a no brainer. What I want to know from someone with real experience is, what is the argument from the other side? There have to be good reasons for this seeming inexplicable assault on the language, presumably having to do with having a consistent methodology.

Wes Wood
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Wes Wood » March 31st, 2017, 8:37 pm

Douglas Nast wrote:I did my translation of the subject verse and ran the video to check my answer. I was shocked when I heard the on-line professor say regarding the moon's light "well this is 'her light', but that wouldn't make sense in English so we translate as 'its light' ".

This struck me as absurd, since the imaginative association between the moon and femininity is a virtually universal cultural reference point, and a literal translation could not be misunderstood by any English reader.
The "offense" doesn't seem to me to warrant such an emphatic response.
Douglas Nast wrote:then I checked the King James and found it rendered this as "her light".

I won't give all the obvious reasons supporting the literal translation here, since on the face of it this is a no brainer.
It's not at all obvious to me, but I have my suspicions. Dare I ask what you mean?
Douglas Nast wrote:What I want to know from someone with real experience is, what is the argument from the other side? There have to be good reasons for this seeming inexplicable assault on the language, presumably having to do with having a consistent methodology.
I don't claim to have "real experience" with translations if sitting on a translation committee is what you are meaning, so feel free to disregard my response if you wish.

Do you really think this issue is an "inexplicable assault on the language?" English speakers don't usually personify inanimate objects without a specific reason, poetry and descriptive language being primary examples. If a translator glossed the Greek with "her light," it might cause the reader to think that the Greek behind the translation was somehow emphatic or unusual. To me the obvious answer to this conundrum is that the translators are following English language norms.
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Stephen Hughes » April 1st, 2017, 5:52 am

Douglas Nast wrote:
March 31st, 2017, 1:27 pm
I did my translation of the subject verse and ran the video to check my answer. I was shocked when I heard the on-line professor say regarding the moon's light "well this is 'her light', but that wouldn't make sense in English so we translate as 'its light' ".

...

I rushed to the references and found that all the English translations rendered this as "its light". I starting frothing at them mouth to everyone I could find, then I checked the King James and found it rendered this as "her light".
I think that the pronoun is part of the Greek idiom and that it doesn't necessarily personify the moon even as an inanimate personification. If you are asking for a reality check about the English, here are a few thoughts.

If you were to say, "The tree gave me its shade", or "The wall gave me its protection", then that sort of personifies those objects. Saying simply, "The tree offered / gave me some shade", does not evoke poetic images of aboreal benevolence. Also, saying, "The wide-spreading canopy was like an umbrella from the otherwise unobstructed light of the sun. We enjoyed its shade as we ate our lunch then took a nap." In a negative construction, we might say, "The moon stopped shining." or "The moon stopped giving (us) any light." All of those are of course unscientific and a socially or linguistically conventional misrepresentation (pre-scientific representation) of the way that the solar system works.

I think the Greek clarifies or explicates the origin of the light, but a "literal" translation (if by that you mean keeping the pronoun) gives moon some animate features. If "literal" means keeping the pronoun and keeping it feminine, then the territory of the imagination suddenly becomes more wide-ranging.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Jonathan Robie » April 1st, 2017, 3:06 pm

Mark Twain's That Awful German Language is required reading on gender in languages. Here is a copy courtesy of the American embassy in Germany. Skip past the German introduction, the essay starts on page 9.


Mark_Twain-Broschuere.pdf
(1.26 MiB) Downloaded 18 times
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Douglas Nast
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Douglas Nast » April 1st, 2017, 9:50 pm

What I meant by no brainer is that this is God's inspired word, it says "her light" and since there is no basis in either our language or culture to think it would be confusing to any person literate in English it must not be changed.

What I am prepared to hear is that this change is necessary since following my suggested strategy would lead to many problems elsewhere. For this reason the translators thought it best to neutralize gender even when it does no harm; i.e. for consistency with those places where it would.

I am not a KJ enthusiast. When I saw that my ESV and all its cousins had "its light" I assumed that something like Granville Sharp was at work and I quickly started asking around. When I heard no explanation I thought to check the KJ and was surpised and delighted to see they rendered it faithfully.

As far as being enthusiastic about the verbal inspiration of scripture, I must plead guilty.

Wes Wood
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Wes Wood » April 2nd, 2017, 12:37 am

Douglas Nast wrote:As far as being enthusiastic about the verbal inspiration of scripture, I must plead guilty.
It's not a doctrine I can take seriously. Even the authors of scripture don't quote other passages accurately, at least as we have them.
Is. 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
vs.
Rom. 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
What do you make of the switch in pronoun number here? Is gender the only part of pronoun reference that verbal inspiration is supposed to cover?

Regardless, I don't see any meaningful difference between the moon giving off "its light" or "her light" in Mark 13:24. I also agree with the majority of the modern translators that "its light" is the best rendering of the passage, but I would never say that the translators weren't being faithful to the text if they chose the other option.
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Douglas Nast
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Joined: February 14th, 2017, 5:50 pm

Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Douglas Nast » April 2nd, 2017, 1:41 am

[quote="Stephen Hughes" post_id=26960 .
"I think that the pronoun is part of the Greek idiom and that it doesn't necessarily personify the moon even as an inanimate personification. If you are asking for a reality check about the English, here are a few thoughts."

That is interesting. But when I read "her light" in English, like the Greek idiom as you style it, I don't personify the moon either...I recognize it as a universal and enduring expression of human culture which to some at some times and places probably meant literal personification, to some is suggestive of a mystical connection between femininity and "the lunar" broadly put, and to others just resonates with and conjures up much of their extra-Biblical literary experience. The bottom line for me would be that it is written as "her" and it should be rendered as her, letting the chips fall where they may. This, unless as I suggest above, this approach would not work in any consistent way across the text. I wonder, though, if that is likely, given that the KJ folks wrote "her light" without stumbling all over themselves with gender everywhere else..

But, I think you are also saying that the original audience would be affected by the phrase "her light" quite differently than an English reader would in the 20th century. If I understand, you think it is good to equalize the experience if possible, and that saying "its light" would be more likely to accomplish this equalization. That is an interesting point, but it is highly-speculative, and I wonder if we wouldn't be on firmer ground to simply let the contemporary reader do the equalization in his own mind, if he is so inclined.

[quote="Stephen Hughes" post_id=26960 .
"If you were to say, "The tree gave me its shade", or "The wall gave me its protection", then that sort of personifies those objects. Saying simply, "The tree offered / gave me some shade", does not evoke poetic images of aboreal benevolence. Also, saying, "The wide-spreading canopy was like an umbrella from the otherwise unobstructed light of the sun. We enjoyed its shade as we ate our lunch then took a nap." In a negative construction, we might say, "The moon stopped shining." or "The moon stopped giving (us) any light." All of those are of course unscientific and a socially or linguistically conventional misrepresentation (pre-scientific representation) of the way that the solar system works. "

I am sorry if I did not fully understand your points here. But in general, I want to hear the text...and this applies beyond the Bible. I do not want swift-footed Achilleus to become speedy Achilleus, or his even his spear far-shadowing to become something like "far-thrown" out of fear I might somehow otherwise miss the point. As noted above, I am sure that "he cast his spear far-shadowing" invokes a very different thought pattern in me than it did a reader 2 millenia ago...and since no one can be certain how to avoid this, perhaps its best to simply hew closely to the words as we have them in Greek and let the reader do some thinking. Of course in the case of the Bible the Christian reader is never cast adrift, as he or she has the internal guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us put some confidence there, surely.

[quote="Stephen Hughes" post_id=26960 .
"I think the Greek clarifies or explicates the origin of the light, but a "literal" translation (if by that you mean keeping the pronoun) gives moon some animate features. If "literal" means keeping the pronoun and keeping it feminine, then the territory of the imagination suddenly becomes more wide-ranging."

If I were a translator I would push back on the principle of avoiding invoking the imagination in a hypothetical reader.

Douglas Nast
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Joined: February 14th, 2017, 5:50 pm

Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Douglas Nast » April 2nd, 2017, 2:23 am

[quote="Wes Wood" post_id=26982 time=1491107869 them.
Is. 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
vs.
Rom. 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
wes goes on to say:
"What do you make of the switch in pronoun number here? Is gender the only part of pronoun reference that verbal inspiration is supposed to cover? "

The answer seems quite straightforward. Stipulating the accuracy of your translations, the Holy Spirit inspired "feet of him" in one place and "feet of those" in another. From this we can conclude that the Holy Spirit sees His expression in Romans as a fair equivalence to that in Isaiah. This says nothing about verbal inspiration as near as I can tell.

Alas, no one wants to be bound by someone else's text, as we have seen in our Constitutional jurisprudence over the course of our history. Even granted the right to amend it if needed, we prefer to ignore the words and use concepts which we imagine are emanating out of penumbras swirling about the text.

If the Bible were not inspired I would have no interest in it. If it were inspired at some conceptual level only it would be as malleable as our Constitution, and we could make any faith of it that we might wish. And that explains, I think, why your viewpoint has won the day and will carry the future.

RandallButh
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by RandallButh » April 2nd, 2017, 2:58 am

Douglas wrote:If I understand, you think it is good to equalize the experience if possible, and that saying "its light" would be more likely to accomplish this equalization. That is an interesting point, but it is highly-speculative, and I wonder if we wouldn't be on firmer ground to simply let the contemporary reader do the equalization in his own mind, if he is so inclined.
I disagree and do not think that this is speculative.
You are learning Greek to understand Greek, but a translation must help an English reader who does not know Greek.
The English reader does not have the background to interpret "her light" as a simple noun concord. They are forced to personify the moon to some degree in reading "her light", while the Greek reader did not need to personify the moon one wit.

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Rendering Gender - Mark 13:24 in particular

Post by Stephen Hughes » April 2nd, 2017, 6:04 am

Hi Douglas.

Look at this for your quoting.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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