Friday, April 10, 2009

Branding G-d in English

This morning, the Melbourne Age blessed us with some insight into translating the name of the Almighty:

"WHAT'S in a name?" the Bard once asked. Well, quite a lot if you're the Son of God! Many good Christian people would be surprised to know that Jesus Christ was never known as "Jesus" or "Christ" to His Mum or His Mates or by anyone else, for that matter, during His Lifetime.

Oh, I see. My respect for the level of ignorance of these "many good Christian people" has plummeted already. But then media in Australia are aimed at 8-year olds who think milk comes out of supermarket fridges, and my neighbour who is still fully convinced the Jews crucified his Messiah, and Russians should have been annihilated in Berlin by the allies in 1945.

"In fact Jesus' real name was closer to Joshua than Jesus. Oddly, He, we, and dare I say His Omnipotent Heavenly Father, have for the past two-and-a-bit millennia been victims of the Hebrew, Greek, Latin and eventually English translators."

Well, they weren't NAATI accredited, were they? Did they have ISO certification? Or an AUSIT code of ethics? I don't recollect St. Jerome having a webpage on!

Have we been led into a valley of conspiracy and deceit of biblical proportions? Well, probably not deliberately - what we have here is just a small glitch in communication that occurred during His Name's journey from its Aramaic original to its present English form. The name Jesus proves to be an Anglicisation of the Latin "Jesus" (Yeezus), which is a version of the Greek "Iesous", itself a Hellenisation of the Hebrew "Yehoshua", which in turn is taken from the Aramaic "Yeshua", which means "Yahweh is salvation". The English "Christ" comes from the Greek word "Christos", which means the "Anointed One", which in Hebrew is "Messiah".

They probably used some inbuilt translating function on their Rosetta Stone V5.0, or Parchment 03. Or was it the famous Widget?

So there you go. But I still feel a bit ripped-off. The original "Yeshua" sounds so cool and has meaning, where the name we find ourselves left with is an impostor, a creation of lesser men, which has usurped the original and taken on a meaning of its own. This, however, leaves us with an even greater problem. Firstly, that a group of pre-scientific biblical translators could usurp the Almighty and secondly, that if the translators could get a simple name wrong, albeit an important one, then where does that leave the rest of the good book?

You really don't want to know. Not before Easter.

But maybe there isn't a problem with the translation issue at all. To quote a former governor of Texas, who during a debate concerning the introduction of Spanish biblical studies in Texan state schools, held up his St James and informatively stated to the state legislature that, "if the English language was good enough for Jesus Christ then it was good enough for (him)". Problem solved, God willing.

Only in the USA!

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