Friday, February 27, 2009

Down memory lane (Mark 11)

Today's reading brought to mind one of the highlights of my undergraduate education. 31 years ago, as a final exam in Koine Greek, we were assigned this chapter and told to translate it into English. At that time, I'd already been reading the New Testament in French for nearly a year, and had that experience to draw upon. When reading something in a new language, if you try to translate every word, word by word, you soon get bogged down, frustrated, and desperate. The trick is to pick out the key words, then decode those around them, until the complete sentence pops into focus. Fortunately for junior linguists everywhere, Pareto's 80/20 rule holds here as well. In English, 20% of the words in everyday use are used 80% of the time -- and almost all of these derive from the Anglo-Saxon side of our language.[1]

Master a relative handful of key words, structural words, skeletal words, and translation becomes possible. The words you know provide a base of operation, so that you can make forays into the surrounding territory, and guess at the meaning of the unknown words.

Meanwhile, thanks to that amazing software I downloaded from, I can copy and paste larger chunks of source material into my ruminations here!
Mar 11:15 Oradan Yeruşalim'e geldiler. İsa tapınağın avlusuna girerek oradaki alıcı ve satıcıları dışarı kovdu. Para bozanların masalarını, güvercin satanların sehpalarını devirdi.
Mar 11:16 Yük taşıyan hiç kimsenin tapınağın avlusundan geçmesine izin vermedi.
Mar 11:17 Halka öğretirken şunları söyledi: "'Evime, bütün ulusların dua evi denecek' diye yazılmamış mı? Ama siz onu haydut inine çevirdiniz."
Mar 11:18 Başkâhinler ve din bilginleri bunu duyunca İsa'yı yok etmek için bir yol aramaya başladılar. O'ndan korkuyorlardı. Çünkü bütün halk O'nun öğretisine hayrandı.
Mar 11:19 Akşam olunca İsa'yla öğrencileri kentten ayrıldı.
Mar 11:20 Sabah erkenden incir ağacının yanından geçerlerken, ağacın kökten kurumuş olduğunu gördüler.
Mar 11:21 Olayı hatırlayan Petrus, "Rabbî, bak! Lanetlediğin incir ağacı kurumuş!" dedi.
Mar 11:22 İsa onlara şöyle karşılık verdi: "Tanrı'ya iman edin.
Mar 11:23 Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim, kim şu dağa, 'Kalk, denize atıl!' der ve yüreğinde kuşku duymadan dediğinin olacağına inanırsa, dileği yerine gelecektir.
A Jewish professor once suggested that this episode represented an assault on capitalism. Actually, the key issue was worship. People came from all around the known world to honor and worship the God of Israel. They had an area called "The court of the Gentiles" where they were permitted to stand, with a low "wall of partition" to keep them from the areas where only Jews could tred. Not content with this demeaning gesture, the Jews had turned the place where Gentiles came to worship into a shopping mall.

Israel, frequently described by the prophets as "God's fig tree," had become barren. The Jewish temple / religion / nation was doomed, about to be blighted from the roots up, and cast into the sea.[3]

Happy reading, fellow philologists!


[1] For new readers -- English is a "shotgun wedding" of two contrasting language families -- Romance, from Norman[2] French, and Germanic.

[2] (parenthetically, the Normans were descendents of the men from the North, Scandinavian vikings who settled down and assimilated, adopting the language of their new country.)

[3] Around 150 AD, Roman soldiers needed building material to construct a causeway out to a rebellious island. That is where the masonry of this temple ended up, in the sea.

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