If I take the wings of the morning... (Psalms 139)

Serenus

legātus armisonus
I came across this passage in Psalms 139 (which is 138 in the Septuagint/Vulgate numbering) while playing the game of comparing passages of the KJV and the Vulgate, and I was surprised to see it sounds a lot nicer in the KJV translation than in the Latin translation:

7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit,
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there shall thy hand lead me,
and thy right hand shall hold me.

7 Quo ibo ab spiritu tuo
et quo a facie tua fugiam?
8 Si ascendero in caelum, tu illic es;
si descendero ad infernum, ades.
9 Si sumpsero pinnas meas diluculo
et habitavero in extremis maris,
10 etenim illuc manus tua deducet me
et tenebit me dextera tua.

I think what really makes the difference for me is the use of "of" in "the wings of the morning". I find it a wonderful metaphor.

Then I looked into what the received Hebrew text has, and it turns out the metaphor is in fact in there:

אֶשָּׂא כַנְפֵי־שָׁחַר、 אֶשְׁכְּנָה בְּאַחֲרִית יָם
eshá khanpe-shákhar, eshkená be-akharít yám
(literally, "I.take wings.of-dawn, and.I'm.living in-end sea")
'If I take wings of dawn, living at the end of the sea...'

I thought this was cool, and made me wonder how the Latin could be "fixed". Māne is an adverb, 'in the morning', so that can't be forced into a genitive (or can it, just as it is?). Dīlūculum in the genitive would be a good option after all, but I wonder whether in the 4th century there would've been some very pagan connotation about using aurōra instead... Sī sumpserō pennās (or ālās) aurōrae, et habitāverō in extrēmō marī, etenim illūc manus tua dēdūcet mē, et tenēbit mē dextera tua.
 
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Serenus

legātus armisonus
By the way, the Septuagint has much the same wording as Jerome here, so presumably it is to be probably blamed.

7 ποῦ πορευθῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός σου
καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου σου ποῦ φύγω;
8 ἐὰν ἀναβῶ εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, σὺ ἐκεῖ εἶ,
ἐὰν καταβῶ εἰς τὸν ᾅδην, πάρει·
9 ἐὰν ἀναλάβοιμι τὰς πτέρυγάς μου κατ᾿ ὄρθρον
καὶ κατασκηνώσω εἰς τὰ ἔσχατα τῆς θαλάσσης
10 καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖ ἡ χείρ σου ὁδηγήσει με,
καὶ καθέξει με ἡ δεξιά σου.
 

Ronolio

New Member
What strikes me here is why it would be translated 'wings of the morning' (other than the fact that KJV is full of very 'loose' translations)? Diluculo is clearly an ablative of time when, so 'at dawn'. Additionally, κατα with the accusative is used to indicate time when. I don't know Hebrew, so I have no idea what the time when construction might be there, but it seems to me that it is referencing birds taking flight at dawn after roosting through the night.
 

Hemo Rusticus

Lounge Lizard
Ronolio dixit:
I don't know Hebrew, so I have no idea what the time when construction might be there
I'm certainly no expert, but the word 'wing' is in what is referred to as the 'construct form' (dual), which equates more or less to a 'backwards genitive' ('two wings-of'). There's no temporal construction here.

That is quite a find, Ser. Well done.
 

Ronolio

New Member
Interesting to see the KJV is closer to correct than the Latin and Greek. I wonder if the author of the Greek perhaps thought about the Pagan elements of the personification of dawn.
 

Hemo Rusticus

Lounge Lizard
That's a good point. Although isn't there a Canaanite dawn-god? I don't really know the status of 'old' gods in the Hebrew bible. Like, Baal is still around, but he's considered evil?
 

Gregorius Textor

Civis Illustris
From the Nova Vulgata:

7 Quo ibo a spiritu tuo
et quo a facie tua fugiam?
8 Si ascendero in caelum, tu illic es;
si descendero in infernum, ades.
9 Si sumpsero pennas aurorae
et habitavero in extremis maris,
10 etiam illuc manus tua deducet me,
et tenebit me dextera tua.

Whatever pagan elements there were with the dawn personified have been long forgotten here, it seems.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
I'm certainly no expert, but the word 'wing' is in what is referred to as the 'construct form' (dual), which equates more or less to a 'backwards genitive' ('two wings-of'). There's no temporal construction here.
That's right. I edited the gloss to reflect this (khanpe-shákhar "wings.of-dawn").

Interesting to see the KJV is closer to correct than the Latin and Greek.
The translators of the KJV knew Biblical Hebrew and checked a Hebrew received text, so it's not surprising. There are a lot of passages where the KJV is closer to surviving wording of the Hebrew than the Septuagint or the Vulgate.

This doesn't necessarily mean it's more "correct" depending on who you ask though... Jews have often said, for a long time, that although the Septuagint was translated by Jews, it contained errors made by the Jewish translators, and that then Christians have altered it intentionally and unintentionally down the centuries. Conversely, Christians have often said, for a long time, that the received Hebrew text contains intentional alterations to make Christian readings difficult or impossible... Archeological ancient fragments like the Dead Sea Scrolls escape this, but they don't cover that much together. It doesn't help that the oldest complete copy of the received Hebrew text dates to only the 11th century, and before that there's only another important one from the 10th (sadly incomplete after being maimed in the mid-20th century, as a theft, before examination by non-clergy scholars was allowed). The oldest Septuagint and Vulgate copies are much older than both.

Whatever pagan elements there were with the dawn personified have been long forgotten here, it seems.
Hah!
 
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Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
That's a good point. Although isn't there a Canaanite dawn-god?
There are a few candidates to that; mainly Attar and Aziz come to mind.

I don't really know the status of 'old' gods in the Hebrew bible. Like, Baal is still around, but he's considered evil?
Well, really it depends on the book, as they encompass different time periods. It's the result of the horrible clash of three ideas; polytheism, henotheism, and pure monotheism. Some remnants are left in where Ba'al is the highest god and gets explained away as being Yahweh (Deut. 32 8-9), others refer to Ba'al as an evil idol. Yet others refer to scenes in which Canaanite gods give power, as 2 Kings 3:26-27 describes an invoking to the god Chemosh. The king of Moab was losing the fight with Israel, so he asked for his help. But the invoking actually worked and brought divine anger onto Israel‽
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
There are a few candidates to that; mainly Attar and Aziz come to mind.
More to this, as I've got some smart friends around to discuss, it's dawngod Shahar: Attar (male Ištar) and Aziz (Azizos) are actually gods of the morning star (Aziz's twin brother is the evening star). But the actual two twins were Shahar and Shalim, the twin gods of dawn and dusk. You've probably heard of 'em because some guys think that Jerusalem bears the name of the duskgod.

There's an Ugaritic poem describing their birth, which was at the beginning of time and started the universe, and they have immense appetites. Mortals below should sacrifice to them for that reason, so they can keep going, like the Aztec sun god‽
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Yeah, although in Hebrew around the time that could well be taken as just a poetic personification or name of dawn. In Bereishit the sun is Šemeš.
 

Tsidkenu

New Member
Heilel ben Shachar (Isa. 14:12) could be a reference to the planet Venus, as also may be the case with "wings of the dawn" in Ps 139. The lady planet has long been associated with the Morning Star/Dawn and with her glorious wings, e.g:

"Devastatrix of the lands, you are lent wings by the storm ... you fly about the nation. At the sound of you the lands bow down. Propelled on your own wings you peck away at the land. With a roaring storm you roar; with Thunder you continually thunder... To (the accompaniment of) the harp of sighs you give vent to a dirge."[1]

"The wings which she wears on rare occasions and the stars which sometimes top the weapons emerging from her shoulders confirm her celestial character. .. The image of the new goddess corresponds exactly to what is known of the Ishtar of the Semites, personification of the planet Venus." [2]

From a plasma physics perspective, the wings are a highly excited (glow mode) plasmasphere/magnetosphere surrounding the planet in ages past when energies in the solar system were much higher than they are now. The plasma-illuminated magnetic field lines of Venus' magnetosphere/magnetotail was an impressive sight and the source of reams of mythological fascination and artistic interpretation the world over. It is for this reason that it is almost unanimous amongst world traditions that the planet Venus was 1. a female goddess, 2. had long 'hair', namely her glow-mode cometary tail (Venus' still has her magnetospheric tail, which is so long it extends out into Earth's orbit; the only difference between now and then is that Venus' tail is no longer in 'glow-mode'), and 3. prone to fits of sudden, cataclysmic rage much to the terror of human observers. Her hair turns into fiery, biting serpents in the Medusa myth, for example, or in terms of plasma physics, an arc-mode plasma seething with rippling electric current (think a novelty plasma ball, but planetary in scale).

These, and similar, past visible phenomena in the sky have regular appearances in the Hebrew scriptures, e.g. Deut. 32; Judg. 5; Pss. 29; 74; 89; Hab. 3 etc.

[1] W. Hallo and J. van Dijk, The Exaltation of Inanna (New Haven, 1968), 17-19.
[2] P. Amiet, "The Mythological Repertory in Cylinder Seals of the Agade Period," in E. Porada ed., Ancient Art in Seals (Princeton, 1980), 46.
 
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Laurentius

Civis Illustris
Castellio has alas aurorae in the translation you posted about so I wonder where he translated it from. If he translated it from Hebrew, that may be why he didn't use the common words for some Christian concepts.
 
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