Sunday, October 19, 2008

20 Tishri 5769: Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth/Electricity Day/Evaluate Your Life Day

Greetings, everyone.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  Friday I wrapped up my yearly reading cycle for the Torah. I do a standard Jewish regimen for the yearly study the Torah: one parashah (weekly portion) every week, twice in the Hebrew Masoretic text (Aleppo Codex version), once in ’Onqelos’s Aramaic translation, and one commentary (this past year, that of Seforno). This past year I read through the Samaritan version of the Torah, too. I must note the Samaritan Torah is surprisingly like the Jewish version. The only substantive difference in meaning was in the Decalogue, where there was added a commandment that the Temple be on Mount Gerizim. There is also a little filling out of the Exodus story. Other than that, practically every other difference is typographical and more of a curiosity than anything else. This would mean the Torah has changed little if at all in substantive meaning since the unambiguous Jewish-Samaritan split at the time of ‘Ezra’, which (without looking the date up) would be around 400-500 BCE.

This time through the cycle (which I started on yesterday afternoon) I have chosen to study for commentary that of Rashbam. I have also begun to read the most historically important Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. I have been working on Ancient Greek for a while, and (thank YHWH) this proved enough for me last night to be able to grammatically analyze the first creation story in Genesis. I am expecting this coming year to be very painful linguistically, as Ancient Greek is a grammatically complex language which delights in irregularities. The points of this exercise are 1) to read the Septuagint, since it is so historically important and 2) to pick up enough Ancient Greek so as be able to read in the original language other important Ancient Greek literature relevant to the Divine Misconceptions project, e.g., the New Testament, Philo, Josephus, Plato, and Aristotle. The fact that I have a set portion to work on each day is a boon, since that makes it harder to get lazy about studying Ancient Greek, as well as providing regular reinforcement of vocabulary and grammar. If this exercise works as well as I hope, in a year or two I may be working my way through the Vulgate or an Arabic translation of the Torah.

Note 1: If anyone knows if Sa‘adhyah Ga’on’s Arabic translation of the Torah is still extant, please let me know.

Note 2: I suspect that knowing Ancient Greek will prove very useful for scaring Christian missionaries. So far, none I have encountered knew Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. For someone who cannot read his/her own scriptures in the original language, meeting a nonbeliever who can read half of them in the original has to be imposing. Meeting a nonbeliever who can read all of them has to be even worse.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird things are two Sarah Palin sketches from last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live.

And for the record, I think Palin is more of a “Barracuda Barbie” or a “Bushite Barbie” than a “Caribou Barbie”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


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