Re: Difficult Texts

From: Jim West (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 18:07:21 EST

At 02:38 PM 1/23/00 -0800, you wrote:
>In my on going study of Mesopotamian cosmic combat motifs in OT poetry I
>have run into some difficult texts. I am currently working in the LXX
>and MT on the poem in Habakkuk chapter 3. The LXX and MT are not
>identical in this text. Neither is particularly lucid either in terms of
>syntax or lexicography.
>What I am discovering in this process is that my methods which work for
>study of the Greek NT are not quite adequate for a project like this.
>After completing all the low level analysis including morphology,
>syntax, lexicography, and the medium level analysis such as the poetic
>structure (e.g., parallelism) and after looking at the high level issues
>such as intertextual alusions to known mythologemes of the Ancient Near
>East. After all of this is done, I still am looking at a problem which
>is not really solved.
>Most of my troubles seem to be with the low level issues, particularly
>syntax and lexicography. Some verses in this text just don't compute.
>What do you folks do when you run into a situation like this. You have
>done all the work you know how to do and you are still starring at an

first- clay, i would suggest you set the difficult text aside for a few days
and let it simmer in your mind (if you will). often we get so immersed in
the trees of the text we lose the forest of meaning. so step back, take a
deep breath, and let the text come to you. it will. like the prodigal son
it will make its way back to the homeland of understandability and it will
embrace you as you open the gate to meet it.

>This reminds me a little of trying to translate Agamemnon a year or too
>ago. Had the same sort of feeling. You just reach dead ends.

yes- having let the text rest there is no shame in seeing what others have
done with it. pull down a couple of good commentaries and see what the
sages of the past have said about it. surprisingly- there is "nothing new
under the sun" and someone has wrestled with the problem you wrestle with.
they might not have reached a solution that satisfies you- they will be
helpful in pointing the way...

>Anyone else ever have this experience?

every single day of my life.

>This question isn't perhaps entirely a b-greek question, so if your
>response if off topic send it in private.

ha- my responses are never off topic! :-)





Jim West, ThD

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