Latin Reading Club (4) - St. Jerome, Ps. CXXX (De profundis)

Cato

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Psalm CXXX from the Vulgate of St. Jerome (Sixto-Clemetine edition)

De profundis clamavi ad Te Domine:

Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuae intendentes in vocem deprecationis meae.

Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: Domine, quis sustinebit?

Quia apud Te propitiatio est: et propter legem tuam sustinui Te, Domine. Sustinuit anima mea in verbo Ejus:

Speravit anima mea in Domino.

A custodia matutina usque ad noctem: speret Israel in Domino.

Quia apud Dominum misericordia: et copiosa apud Eum redemptio.

Et Ipse redimet Israel, ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Vocabulary:

intendo, ere - "stretch, extend, direct"
deprecatio, -nis - "prayer"
propitiatio, -nis - "appeasement, (post-classical) atonement"
matutinus, -a, -um - "of the morning, early"
Israel - indeclinable noun

(Thx to Iynx for the suggestion and some notes!)


Linked Perseus text. Note this is Jerome's original, not the later revision given above, but the differences are fairly minor.

Providing an English translation seems superfluous, but please note that the Hebrew numbering of the Psalms (and the Perseus site) mark this as Psalm 129.

Questions:

* Jerome's style is certainly not Ciceronian; what differences do you see?

* Does Jerome bring any art of his own to translation, or is this just a technical exercise?

* Iynx rightly labels the last half of verse 2 a pleonasm, the use of more words than necessary to express a thought. Why does Jerome do this? Why, for example, does he use fio with a participle rather than simply intendunt?

* How do you deal with the tense of the verbs in verse 3?

* Feel free to comment on the use of specific prepositions (e.g. apud, ex) throughout this psalm.

* This psalm (like all psalms) was meant to be sung aloud; what language in particular might a skilled reader/singer illustrate?

Habete ludum!
 

Cato

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A brief note on the hurdles St. Jerome had to face in creating the Vulgate are worth mentioning.

The Old Testament (OT) was known in the Roman world mainly thru the Greek Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew scriptures compiled at Alexandria during the 3rd-1st centuries BCE. With the spread of Christianity and the recognition that the OT quotes in the New Testament were taken from the Septuagint, several ad hoc Latin translations circulated. These were generally of poorer quality, as the tendency to translate literally (this was Scripture, after all) led to word-for-word translations of Greek idioms that made for some peculiar Latin.

Jerome took it upon himself to translate the entire Old Testament while living in Bethlehem, and he decided to teach himself Hebrew so that he could work from the Hebrew originals. His translation was initially disliked by many Christians (particularly St. Augustine), who were used to the older Latin translations. Over time, Jerome's Vulgate generally displaced the older versions and was more-or-less (see below) declared the official version of the Bible at the ecumenical Council of Trent in 1563.

The book of Psalms is a special case where older Latin versions won out, in part because Jerome himself published a revised version of the older Latin Psalms (known today as the Gallican Psalter) before tackling the Hebrew version. The common use of Psalms in Church liturgy also assured that the familiar, sung versions of the Older Latin would be preserved and recognized at Trent in place of the Vulgate version.

Finally, the Vatican issued a Nova Vulgata in 1979, partly as a result of the reforms requested at the Second Vatican Council. The work mainly brought modern methods of textual analysis to bear on the various Vulgate manuscripts, though in some cases scholars felt a need to "correct" Jerome based on a better understanding of the original Hebrew and Greek.
 

Donaldus

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Question about vocabulary: words like misericordia and redemptio have such specific religious connotations that English Bible translators often just took them straight in from Latin, so it's surprising that Jerome didn't similarly have to borrow words from Greek or Hebrew. Did Latin already have the word-stock that Jerome needed, or did he invent some of those words or reapply them in a specific metaphorical way?

Then again, as far as "specific religious connotations" are concerned, the KJV renders verse 5 as "I wait for the Lord..." which is both very literal and very metaphoric, so perhaps Jerome did something similar in Latin?
 

Iynx

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Donaldus dixit:
Question about vocabulary: words like misericordia and redemptio have such specific religious connotations that English Bible translators often just took them straight in from Latin, so it's surprising that Jerome didn't similarly have to borrow words from Greek or Hebrew. Did Latin already have the word-stock that Jerome needed, or did he invent some of those words or reapply them in a specific metaphorical way?

Then again, as far as "specific religious connotations" are concerned, the KJV renders verse 5 as "I wait for the Lord..." which is both very literal and very metaphoric, so perhaps Jerome did something similar in Latin?
For the two words you cite Jerome used existing Latin terms. Redemptio is believed to be derived from redimo, which in turn was derived from re + emo; redimo means to buy or to ransom. Redemptio is attested at least as far back as Cicero. In this Psalm the Hebrew is "peduth"; elsewhere (Leviticus xxv : 24)Jerome uses the same Latin word for the Hebrew "geullah", and in the New Testament he makes it serve for the Greek "apolutrosis" (as in Luke, xxi : 28) and also just plain "lutrosis" (Luke ii: 38). Misericordia goes back at least to Plautus.

But there were of course times when a new word had to be imported. Most of these imports were likely made not by Jerome, but by his predecessors of the Vetus Latina. Consider for example "cherub", which in the Vulgate seems to be indeclinably cherub in the singular, and cherubim in the plural.

Incidentally, chjones, can you tell me how to get Greek characters /accents into text here?
 

Cato

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[quote="Iynx]Incidentally, chjones, can you tell me how to get Greek characters /accents into text here?[/quote]

I use the language bar (I'm running Windows XP).

Under Windows, click Start -> Control Panel -> Regional and language options. You may need to add an ancient Greek font under the "Languages" tab (the default Greek can be used if you don't care about the accents or breathings). I downloaded one from Windows update, as I write handouts for a Greek NT class I run as a seminar down at the church.

here's a description of how the language bar works. here is some info on installing the "Greek Polytonic" font that supports diacriticals.
 

Cato

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There are two things that always strike me about Jerome's translation of this psalm. First, the choice of profundis; I can't comment on the original Hebrew, but the LXX has εκ βαθεων "out of the depths" (cf the English word "bathysphere"). Profundis has a gravity that βαθεων does not, and although there is a very slight shade of difference between de and the more cognate (to the Greek) ex, I suspect Jerome chose this preposition as much for its sound with profundis as for any nuance of meaning (de is often used to indicate the source of actions, e.g. Jove throws lightning de caelo).

Second, note the word order in v. 7; placing apud Eum between the grammatically connected copiosa and redemptio is perhaps a small touch, but it enlarges the redemption and places God at the center of it (this might not be all Jerome, as the LXX has a similar word order, but there is an effect here).
 
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