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Hebrew names

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Eltu Lefngap Makto:
There is a version of the Torah that has really grabbed by attention lately.  It's by a non-believing Jewish scholar named Everett Fox.  I don't have it with me, but I will try to duplicated the effect here.

Genesis 32
28 Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be said as Supplanter, but Stives-with-God, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Supplanter asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Supplanter called the name of the place Face-of-God, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered." The sun rose upon him as he passed Face-of-God, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Stives-with-God do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Supplanter's hip on the sinew of the thigh.

Jacob=Supplanter, Israel=Stives-with-God, Face-of-God=Penuel

A New Testament example might be

Matthew 1:21
She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name HE-Saves, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins."


The point for us here is that the Na'vi have no history with the names Jacob, Israel, Penuel or Jesus.  Rather than transliterate the names from Greek and Hebrew, why not make names that impact in Na'vi the way they did in Hebrew or Greek?

Good idea, two thoughts:

1. Bible translations worked wel so far without translating the names. My grandma never knew what Jesus meant translated, never knrew the meaning of Pnuel and so forth. So it would probably give the reader more info, but it seems it is not necesary to do so in a bible translation. Plus: Some names are not clear how they would translate from Hebrew to modern languages.
2. The names are from a cultural background and they make sense within that. So the bible translation would have to give insight into the culture the names make sense in. What use would it be to write "the anointed" instead of Christ/Messiah, when anointment of kings isn't practised among the Na'vi? I wonder if there are other names that would need clarification. Another point on that: There are some names, especially when it comes to David's private army, that contain names of other gods. This could well be used to propagate tolerance of other religions, but we'd also need to be clear that those gods are false gods nonetheless. One example would be Baal-Hanan in 1. Chr 27, 28. In 1. Chr 14,7 a son of David's is named Baal-Yadah (Baal has recognized?). Also Solomon, the latter King of Israel and Judah, is named after the city god of Jerusalem.

So I think this could add some very deep insights into the bible, if we recognize all this throughout our translation. But it would as well mean a lot of work to do, translating all the names, and I guess even more work discussing what to do with names that refer to other gods.

`Eylan Ayfalulukanä:
Its an interesting idea, especially with the kind of translation you are doing. It certainly does not change or obscure the meaning of the name. However, it could be a technical problem in that how do you know a name is really a name? Context will bear this out much of the time, but not always. And as Tìmuiäyä'itan points out, the name meaning may not make sense apart from the culture. Additionally, you would have to research the hundreds of names, especially in the OT, to find out what they mean. (1 Chronicles 1-10 should be a riot!) Nevertheless, this research might be very much worth your while, considering the way you are approaching the interpretation of Scripture.

As far as names of Deity go, they should be left as is. They are the major players in the Bible and they are properly addressed by their proper names.

And again as Tìmuiäyä'itan implicates, and I pointed out in a post I just posted in the Matthew 1:18 thread, the meanings of words in the two testaments don't always 'fit well'. The meaning of Greek words, for instance, should be interpreted in a Greek manner, not a Hebrew manner, unless context clearly dictates that this is the case (and there are a few places in the NT where I think this happens).

I suspect the translators of the LXX had the same kinds of problems we are having here, so some of the words they chose (like 'charis' in your Matthew 1:18 discussion) are not really good fits. This is why I would consider the LXX to be a secondary source for translation.

I was going to try some translation on Saturday, but we have major technical problems at work (3 hour power outage!), and I ended up being tied up with that.

Eltu Lefngap Makto:
Thank you both for your excellent replies.  You are restoring my faith in this sub-forum!  :D

I certainly agree that people are saved without knowing Greek or Hebrew, even the meaning of names.  Scripture is always secondary to witness, as the history of the Church has shown.  Abraham was saved in Genesis 17 when there was no Scripture.  Acts 2 was written down after the events it describes, so indeed most people who were saved in the first century A.D. were saved apart from the Bible.  But like Hezekiah's rediscovery of Deuteronomy or the Reformation's republication of the original texts of Scripture, there are great benefits to be had from careful study and smart translation that go beyond initial salvation.
The second book of the New Testament, Mark, is named after a man who was named after the Roman god Mars.  Having a bad name is ignominious, but not hidden in the Bible.  As for anointing, there are many OT figures who were anointed but not king.  Given the whole talk of "second birth" associated with the ritual in the film, I would think we should be OK with "Painted Jesus" and "little painted ones" for us 'Christians'.

'Eylan Ayfalulukanä
I think the benefit of Capitalization and modern orthography are greatly to our advantage!  But you point out a real problem and one that the ancient Hebrews had to wrestle with!  Most of the time when you read "man" in the OT, the Hebrew underneath is "Adam", both a name of one man and the name for humanity in general!  Ba'al, scourge of the OT, was a god but also the word for "husband".  Both "Adam" and "Ba'al" are used as puns by Hosea.

Gentleman, I obviously have too much time on my hands and you all are very patient with me.  I hope we can produce -- someday -- an entire Bible in Na'vi which is both evangelical and devotional.  May we all be corrected by the Book which needs no correction!

I learned Ba'al would mean lord, but in a different way than adon... but anyways...

Ma Eltu, you misunderstood my point. I wasn't saying that we are saved withot knowing the meaning of the names (though I strongly agree with you ;D), my point was to bring into attention the whole lot of extra work this would mean for the translational process. Nothing ore, nothing less. I think if we could really get our translation so far, that it takes care of name meanings (and some do indeed bear meaning, like the sons of Noemi), this would be a wonderful thing. I just wonder if we would be able to do so, and if we decide to try, how to approach all this. There would be discussions on name meanings, as some are not secure (cf. Ba'al lord vs husband).

One other question if you speak of "painted Jesus": Would you say Jesus had a second birth?


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