Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraphs 12-13

Γανδάλφος δὲ εἶπεν· Ἀστεῖος σφόδρα! ἀλλά οὐ δύναμαι χρονίζειν ἐκφύσων κύκλους καπνοῦ τούτο τὸ πρωΐ. ζητῶ τινα κοινωνεῖν ἐν τολμήματι ὅ παρασκευάζω καὶ χαλεπόν λίαν ἐστιν εὑρίσκειν τινα.

[Very pretty! said Gandalf. But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.]

Ἀπεκρίθη Βάγινος ἄνθρωπος ἡμῶν· Ναὶ, δοκεῖ μοι οὕτως ἐν ταυταῖς ταῖς χωραῖς! ἔθνος εὐήθες καὶ ἥσυχος ἐσμεν καὶ οὐ τιμῶμεν τολμήματα. ταλαίπωρα γὰρ ἐστιν καὶ ταρακτικά καὶ δυσχερά! ποιεῖ ἐσχατίζειν εἰς δεῖπνον! οὐ δύναμαι εἰδέναι τί φιλεῖν τινα αὐτά. ὑποτιθέμενος δὲ ἀντίχειρα μίαν ὑπὸ τὴν ζώνην αὐτοῦ ἐξεφύσησεν ἄλλον κύκλον μεγατέρον καπνοῦ. ἐκβαλών οὖν τὰς ἐπίστολας αὐτοῦ τὰς καθ᾽ ἡμέραν καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀναγινώσκειν ὑπεκρίθη μηκέτι ὁρᾶν τὸν πρεσβύτην. ἐκεκρίκει γὰρ ὅτι οὗτος ἀλλοῖος τις ἐστιν, ἠθέλησεν δὲ ὑπαγαγεῖν αὐτόν. ἀλλά οὐκ ἐκινήθη ὁ πρεσβύτης. εἱστήκει ἐπιστηρίζων τῇ ῥάβδῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀτενίζων τῷ ὅββιτῳ μὴ λέγων μηδέν, μέχρι Βίλβος δυσχερός σφόδρα ἐγένετο καὶ ὀλίγον ἠγανάκτησεν.

[I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them, said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then he took out his morning letters, and begin to read, pretending to take no more notice of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and wanted him to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.]

Translation notes:
  • our Mister Baggins could be κύριος Βάγινος ἡμῶν, but "our Lord Baggins" just won't do. I am trying Βάγινος ἄνθρωπος ἡμῶν, since ἄνθρωπος seems to sometimes have a similar function as Mister.
  • Thumb (ἀντιχείρ) is very rare in Greek. The LXX uses τὸ ἄκρον τῆς χειρὸς, but that phrase is rare also.
  • There is not a good ancient Greek equivalent for braces (= suspenders), so I went with belt (ζώνη).
  • Morning letters I decided to render with τὰς ἐπίστολας τὰς καθ᾽ ἡμέραν, daily letters.
  • Not his sort is idiomatic English, so a little hard to translate. I came across a similar Greek idiom in LSJ, ἀλλοῖον τι, "of another sort" which implies "of the wrong sort."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraphs 10-11

Καὶ εἶπεν Βίλβος· Καλόν πρωΐ! καὶ ἐλάλησεν ἐν εἰλικρινείᾳ. ἔλαμπεν ὁ ἥλιος καὶ χλωρός ὁ χόρτος. Γανδάλφος δὲ ἠτενίσεν εἰς αὐτὸν κάτωθεν ὀφρύων δάσεῖων ὧν ἐξετείναν πέραν χεῖλου τῆς θολίας αὐτοῦ τῆς σκιεράς. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· τὶ σημαίνεις; θέλεις με ἔχειν καλόν πρωΐ , ἤ σημαίνεις ὅτι καλὸν ἔστιν τὸ πρωΐ εἴτε θέλω εἴτε οὐ θέλω, ἤ ὅτι ἔχεις καλῶς τοῦτο τὸ πρωΐ, ἤ ὅτι ἔστιν πρωΐ  ἐν ᾧ εἶναι καλός;
["Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. "What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good on?"]
Βίλβος δὲ εἶπεν· Πάντα τούτων ἅμα. σφόδρα δὲ καὶ καλόν πρωΐ ἐν ᾧ καπνίζειν ἔξω αὐλόν αὐλοφύλλων. ἐάν ἔχῃς αὐλόν ἐν τοῖς κτήμασίν σου κάθισας γεμίσαι ἐκ τῶν ἐμῶν! οὐ δεῖ σπούδαζειν ὅτι ἔχομεν πᾶσαν τὴν ἡμέραν διατρίβειν. Βίλβος οὖν ἕκηλος κάθισας ἐπὶ καθέδρας τῆς πρὸς τῇ θύρᾳ ἐξεφύσησεν κύκλον ὡραῖον φαίον καπνοῦ πλήσαντα ἄνω μετεώρως μὴ ἐκλείποντα ἀποφερόμενα δὲ ὑπὲρ Τὸ Ὄρος.

["All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There's no hurry, we have all the day before us!" Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.]

Translation notes:
  • αὐλοφύλλος = pipeweed, tobacco (αὐλός = pipe; φύλλος = herb, leaf)
  • Καλόν πρωΐ = Good morning. I have never seen a phrase that means "good morning" in ancient Greek (it is καλημέρα in modern Greek). 
  • I have kept using καλός throughout the passage even when ἀγαθός might be slightly better, in order to preserve the wordplay.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New claims regarding the "Family of Jesus" tomb

“Geologist claims Jesus was married… and had a SON: Expert says he has proof son of God was buried in 'family tomb' along with wife Mary and his brother” screams the headline. The sensational headline, along with the release date on Easter weekend, should be our first warning to take the announcement with a grain of salt.

To understand what these claims are, we need to go back to a (widely discredited) documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” released by documentarist Simcha Jacobovichi in 2007.

“The Lost Tomb” in question, now called the Talpiot Tomb, was discovered in 1980. It contained ten ossuaries – a type of small coffin for holding bones – dating to the first century or perhaps a little earlier. Some of the ossuaries had names: Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus son of Joseph), Maria (Mary), Yose (Joseph/ Jose), Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus), Mariamene e Mara (Miriam [and] Martha), and Matya (Matthew). One blank ossuary was measured and then stored with other blank ossuaries. None of this was very surprising, since tombs and ossuaries are common archeological finds in and around Jerusalem.

But Jacobovici asserted that this was Jesus’ family tomb: “Jesus son of Joseph” is the Jesus of the New Testament; “Mariamene e Mara” is a single person, Mary Magdalene, who was married to Jesus; and Judah is their son. Others in the tomb include Mary the mother of Jesus, Jose the brother of Jesus (Mk 6:3) and an otherwise unknown Matthew. In addition, Jacobovici claimed that the famous James ossuary, inscribed with “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” originally came from the Talpiot Tomb (rather than being from the Silwan area east of the Temple, which is what experts have previously claimed). That rounded out Jesus’ family by including another of Jesus’ brothers, James (Mk 6:3, Gal 1:19).

Before we tackle the new claims this year, let me briefly explain the problems with Jacobovici’s original documentary. At the time of the documentary, many experts in archeology (some Christian, some Jewish, some with no particular beliefs) examined the claims that the Talpiot Tomb contained Jesus and his family, and they roundly rejected it. Their main reasons:
  • All of the names found in the tomb are very common in ancient Israel. Some estimate that during the three-to-four generation period that the tomb was in use, there were about 1000 men with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” living in Jerusalem, and many more outside Jerusalem. Archeologists have catalogued three other ossuaries with the name “Jesus son of Joseph.” Mary / Miriam, along with spelling variants, was the name of 21% of Jewish women! A papyrus find from the early second century gave evidence for another family with the names Jesus, Simon, Mary, Jacob and Judah, so this combination of names is not strange.
  • Jacobovici made much of the DNA evidence showing that some of the males in the tomb are related, but Mariamene is not related to Jesus. He claimed that this was proof that the two were married. It doesn’t take much to see the silliness of this claim. Mariamene could have been the wife, daughter, half-sister, or cousin of any of the males in the tomb; the DNA test only proved that the two did not share a mother.
  • Ossuaries were often reused. Amos Kloner, the archeologist who oversaw the initial find, estimated that the ten boxes contained the remains of 17 people, and that the surrounding tomb contained another 30 sets of remains. In particular, the ossuary labeled “Mariamene e Mara” may have contained the bones of two women who died at different times (it may also have been a name and a nickname). So there is no way to tell if any of the bones tested correspond to the names on the boxes. In addition, since the ossuaries and remains were handled by several people after the discovery, it is even possible that the DNA tested came from a modern archeologist.
  • Jacobovici heavily relied on statistical work: what were the odds that this clustering of names was just coincidental, rather than being connected to Jesus’ family? A statistician quoted in the documentary, Andrey Feuerverger, estimated that the odds were 1 in 600 that the collection of names was mere coincidence. But Feuerverger based this on multiple faulty assumptions that were given to him by Jacobovici. Among the faulty assumptions: Jesus’ family had a tomb in Jerusalem (begging the question!); Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene; the name Mariamene is highly likely to refer to Mary Magdalene; a son of Jesus named Judah is historically plausible; and others. Since all of these assumptions are highly suspect, the resulting odds are not worth much.
So what is new this year? In an attempt to bolster the claim that the James ossuary comes from the Talpiot tomb, Jacobovici asked a geologist to examine the patina on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb and the James ossuary. Patina is a layer that builds up on ancient artifacts from centuries of exposure to dust in the environment. The geologist, Aryeh Shimron, says that there is a close geological match between the patina on the James ossuary and the ossuaries in the Talpiot Tomb, thus (says Jacobovici) providing proof that the James ossuary was taken from Talpiot.
Do the claims of the geologist bolster Jacobovici’s “Tomb of Jesus” idea? Not really. Here are some problems with the new claims.
  • The James Ossuary was photographed in 1976. The Talpiot Tomb was discovered and  excavated in 1980, so it is very unlikely that the James Ossuary is from the Talpiot Tomb
  • The so-called “tenth ossuary” from the Talpiot Tomb was measured and described as having no inscription. The James Ossuary has different measurements and an inscription. So the “tenth ossuary” from Talpiot is not the James Ossuary.
  • The idea being floated that this is an "eleventh ossuary" that was somehow removed much earlier than 1980, while the rest of the tomb was left intact, seems like mere supposition, with no real evidence.
  • This method of evaluating patina for location is interesting, but untested. No one has demonstrated that the composition of the patina could be used to identify the specific place of origin for an artifact. It has not yet been tested in enough locations. It is quite possible that the James ossuary was in another tomb that was filled in with the same kind of soil.
  • So far, patina analysis has primarily been used to prove that the false patina on forged artifacts does not match the patina expected for a genuine artifact. In fact, patina analysis is uncertain enough that archeologists have sometimes been unable to agree on whether the patina on other artifacts (such as the Jehoash inscription) is genuine.
  • The geologist who did this work has never done any previous research on patina.
  • The James Ossuary itself is on shaky ground. Because it was bought on the antiquities market rather than uncovered by an archeological team, its inscription may be forged. Experts remain divided on its authenticity.
Conclusion? Yet another sensational claim about Jesus. News agencies report them because they are sensational, not because they are based on solid scholarship.

The picture: the James Ossuary, inscribed with "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraph 9

Οὐδέν ὑποπτεύων Βίλβος εἶδεν οὐδενα τούτο τὸ πρωΐ  ἀλλά πρεσβύτην ῥάβδον ἔχων. ἦν δὲ ἐνδεδυμένος  θολίας εὐμήκης ὑακίνθης καὶ στολὴς φαίης μάκρας καὶ ταινίας ἀργυρόχροης ἐπὶ ἧν πώγων λευκός κατεκρέμασεν εἰς  τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ κρηπῖδων κολοσσικών μέλανων. 

[All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.]

Translation notes: 
  • Ancient Greek (along with most ancient languages) had few words for colors, so I have to approximate sometimes. 
  • ὑακίνθος = blue; means "hyacinth" in ancient Greek, but was used to translate the Hebrew word for blue/violet in the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (2nd cent. BC).
  • φαίος = gray
  • ἀργυρόχροος  = silver-colored; just using ἀργύρος or ἀργύριον didn't sound right, since that would imply a scarf actually made of silver. 

The picture of Gandalf by John Howe is one of my favorites.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraphs 7-8

Κατὰ ἄτοπην συγκυρίαν πάλαι ἡσύχασης τῆς γῆς ὄντος ἧσσου θόρυβου καὶ οὔσης πλείοντος χλωράς καὶ ὄντων τῶν ὅββιτων πολλῶν τὲ εὔοδοντων, Βίλβου δὲ Βάγινου ἑστῶτος ἐπὶ τήν θύραν αὐτοῦ πρωΐ  ἀριστήσαντος καπνίζοντος μέγιστον αὐλόν ξύλινον ἐκτείναντα σχεδὸν εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ (ἐρεάς  κατάκτενους κόσμιως) Γανδάλφος αὐτός παρῆλθεν. Γανδάλφος! 

[By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed) - Gandalf came by. Gandalf!]

Εἶ ἀκηκόεις μόνον τὸ τετάρτον ὥν ἀκηκόα περὶ τούτου (καὶ ἀκηκόα μόνον τὸ μικρότερον πάντων τῶν δυναμένων ἀκούεσθαι) εἶ ἄν ἕτοιμος εἰς πᾶν θαυμαστον μύθευμα. μύθευματα τε καί τολμήματα ἀνεφύσατο θαυμαστῶς ὅπου ἄν πορευθῇ. χρόνον πολὺν σφόδρα οὐκ εἰσελήλυθεν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ ὑπὸ Τοῦ Ὄρους, ἀφ᾽ οὗ ἀπέθανεν ὁ φίλος αὐτοῦ ὁ Τούκ Πρεσβύτης. οἱ ὅββιτοι δὲ σχεδν ἐπελάθοντο τὸ εἶδος αὐτοῦ. ἀπῄεσεν ὑπὲρ Τὸ Ὄρος καὶ πέραν Τοῦ Ὕδατος τὰ ἴδια πράγματα ἐπιμελόμενος ἀφ᾽ οὗ ἤσαν πάντες μίκροι ὁββίτοπαιδες καί ὁββίτοκορασια.

[If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort I of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion. He had not been down that way under The Hill for ages and ages, not since his friend the Old Took died, in fact, and the hobbits had almost forgotten what he looked like. He had been away over The Hill and across The
Water on business of his own since they were all small hobbit-boys and hobbit-girls.]

Translation notes:
  • αὐλός = pipe (a water-pipe in Classical Greek, but used for tobacco-pipe here)
  • ὁββίτοπαις = hobbit-boy
  • ὁββίτοκορασιον = hobbit-girl
  • Γανδάλφος = Gandalf 
  • You can see all of the paragraphs translated so far here.
The book cover shown is a translation of the Hobbit into modern Greek (which is significantly different from Ancient Greek.)