Leviticus 18 - Uncovering ... = Euphemism?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by readmore, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. readmore

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    During a recent sermon, a quote from Leviticus 18 came up from the KJV. I had recently been pondering euphemisms in Scripture and it dawned on me that, "wow, uncovering someone's nakedness may be a euphemism!" I didn't have any reason to believe this went any further than walking in on your mom while they were taking a bath. I know--I'm kind of dense sometimes. When I did a little research online, sure enough, most modern versions translate this (rather abruptly) as "sexual relations".

    So, first question, do you think this is a euphemism? Second, if so, would you prefer it translated as a modern-day euphemism? "Sleep with", for example? Since the original author obviously was trying to put it delicately, it seems to me to mishandle the translation by putting it so directly. Of course, I only speak one language and have no translation experience whatsoever. ;)
     
  2. StefanM

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    I do think it's a euphemism, but I think we need to translate it with a euphemism. I prefer to remain close to the source text.

    However, if Scripture does not use a euphemism, I think that we should not use a euphemism.
     
  3. franklinmonroe

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    Maybe its not an euphamism. Are there examples of other Hebrew terms for the same act?

    Just as describing a person as "dead" is not necessarily an euphemism for "murdered"; one term is just more specific than the other. Some words carry more or less information.
     
  4. readmore

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    I must defer to the superior wisdom of the experienced translators over at bible.org... They say:

    tn Heb “to uncover [her] nakedness” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV), which is clearly euphemistic for sexual intercourse (see J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 282, and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 119). This expression occurs a number of times in the following context and is generally translated “have sexual intercourse with [someone],”

    at http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Lev&chapter=18&verse=6
     
  5. rsr

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    John Gill observed the same thing:

    "[SIZE=+1][FONT=Times New Roman,Times][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][SIZE=+1][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][SIZE=+1][FONT=Times][COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana][SIZE=2] ... this phrase signifies the same as to lie with another, or have carnal knowledge of them ... "

    Translators face some tricky choices in dealing with idiom and euphemism. Sometimes in Hebrew, "feet" obviously means "feet." Other times, "feet" are obviously something else. Sometimes it's not clear whether the words are to be taken literally or metaphorically.

    Cases have been made that any number of passages should be translated differently because words are being used metaphorically, sometimes giving a radically different meaning to the passage. (The story of Ruth and Boaz and the exact meaning of "uncover his feet" is an example.)

    For the most part, it appears the wisest course for a translator is to stick to the black-and-white cases and leave the questionable ones untranslated, thus providing continuing work for writers of commentaries and Internet blogs.
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  6. Salamander

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    What's a euphamism?
     
  7. Trotter

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    "euphemism" -
    1. the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.
    2. the expression so substituted: “To pass away” is a euphemism for “to die.”

    (euphemism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved January 14, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/euphemism)

    Basically, putting something a diiferent, more delicate way. Such as "being in the family way," to "know" your wife, "making water."
     
  8. franklinmonroe

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    If the Hebrew expression properly means "sexual intercourse", it may not be a euphamism in Hebrew. What other ways is engaging in coitus expressed in Hebrew? Is there a more explict Hebrew term?

    It seems that the KJV may have (intentionally or unintentionally) obscured the meaning in English by merely translating it literally. Just because the Hebrews didn't use accurate biological terminology for the act, doesn't necessarily mean there was euphamistic intent. Is "sexual intercourse" just an English euphamism for "copulation"? Isn't "sexual intercourse" a somewhat ambiguous expression in itself?

    Context is key when words have more than one meaning: using the Hebrew "feet" example, sometimes the word means means the structures at the end of our legs used for locomotion, other times it mean genitals. Just as our English word "bat" means a flying mammal in one context, and in another situation "bat" is a club with which to hit a baseball.

    "(uncovered) nakedness" seems to mean to be observed unclothed in some passages, and to refer to physical intimacy in others, but that doesn't necessarily make it an euphamist term in those verses.
     
    #8 franklinmonroe, Jan 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2008
  9. Salamander

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    So then anything I find offensive should have been said in a way as not to offend me, according to my/ or popular opinion, in the form of a euphemism?

    Maybe I ought to become a euphemism everytime I preach so I can get the applause of all the congregation and never offend anyone?:rolleyes:
     
  10. rsr

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    But the "bat" example is an obvious one. There are passages where it is not at all clear which meaning is the correct one. In such cases, surely ambiguity is called for.

    (The Song of Solomon, for example, is rife with such ambiguities - or double entrendres. A literal reading could be defended, but a metaphorical reading also makes sense.)
     
  11. franklinmonroe

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    Of course, it is desirable that examples be plainly obvious. Although, there are some minor league ballclubs with the mascot/logo as bats (the flying mammals) which could obscure the meaning of that word in a baseball context. Clever, eh?

    Its true that there are passages where it is not at all clear which meaning is the correct one. I wasn't attempting to sort them out. I was just making the argument that what may appear to be a euphamistic in English to us today, may have been perfectly explicit in ancient Hebrew.
     
  12. Salamander

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    No wonder the BB administrators decided to allow the smiley hitting his head against a brick wall.:smilewinkgrin:
     
  13. rbell

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    Why are you arguing regarding this issue? I don't understand what you have a problem with.
     
  14. rsr

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    That's a valid point; some euphemisms deteriorate over time so that they become increasing "uneuphemistic" and require coining of yet newer euphemisms.
     
  15. rbell

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    Would that, then, be "newphemisms?"

    :D
     
  16. rsr

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    ______________________
    :thumbs:
     
  17. Salamander

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    I didn't know you knew I have a problem? All I've dome is remark to the objections regarding the use of euphemisms as if it really meant anything at all!:type:
     
  18. rbell

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    This statement of yours, at face value, seems to insinuate that those looking at this phrase as a euphemism are somehow compromising the message. That's an overly harsh judgement on your part, IMO...if I'm reading your statement right.
     
  19. Salamander

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    To be completely honest, Brother, I don't believe you have ever read anything I've said right.

    All I said was if it's left up to the hearer to designate whether something is too harsh for their ears then they are become a law unto themselves due to their opinion having precedence over anything they don't agree to.

    Now quit stalking me.:1_grouphug:
     
  20. readmore

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    If this is directed at the OP, I think you misunderstand... I'm not saying I prefer this to be translated as a euphemism, I'm asking what peoples' opinions are as to translating euphemisms--should they be:

    • Translated literally
    • Translated using present day euphemisms
    • Translated more "to the point" as they are in dynamic equivalent translations

    I think Frank is saying it might not be a euphemism at all. I certainly can't point to a more explicit Hebrew term using the only tool I know--the KJV + Strong's, however I hesitate to throw out the studies represented in the works already referenced.
     

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