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Enochscion

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Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« on: February 04, 2020, 07:20:50 pm »
Over the past several years I've started "retranslating" the scriptures in my own mind when I read them.

This can be as simple as the fact that I almost always replace "bear* record" with "bear* testimony" (such as in 3 Nephi 11) because they are the same thing and it connects scriptures that mean similar things, or often replace "faith" with "belief" because they are usually translated from the same Greek word in the New Testament (and modern scriptures often use New Testament language, and I've found understanding the Greek meaning of that language helps interpret modern scriptures). Or just updating to modern English to remove a level of separation (which is why in my most earnest personal prayers I dispense with the thees and thous and formality in general). Or it can be as involved as inserting fragments of sentences that I honestly believe were lost somewhere in transmission (you'll see an example later).

I'm sure I'm not the only one on this forum who does this. ;) I thought it could be beneficial to share some of these "para-translations" with each other.

To start, I'll give my version of a passage from 2 Nephi 2. I'll start with commentary to place my interpretation in context.

Commentary: I look at spiritual/eternal things very ontologically. I think in terms of there being real particles, energies, and/or forces similar to physics but dealing with spiritual things (and at some level interwoven with physics). I call these things "eternal principles" or sometimes "spiritual principles". Do I know how they operate? Nope. But I have glimpses occasionally, and the concept of spiritual/eternal things being natural, concrete, and inherent, rather than being artifical, abstract, and contrived, is a fundamental axiom my mind operates under.

So from that perspective, here is how I interpret some of the meaning of Lehi's awesome teachings in 2 Nephi 2:5-13.

2 Nephi 2:5-13
 5 And men [receive sufficient light and knowledge] that they know good from evil. And [eternal principles apply to] men. And by [eternal principles alone] no [fallen human] is [brought into harmony with eternal principles]; or, [fallen humans are in disharmony with eternal principles]. Yea, by the [Law of Moses] they were cut off; and also, by [their disharmony with spiritual principles] they are [separated from eternal happiness], and become miserable forever.
 6 Wherefore, [harmonization with eternal principles] cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
 7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin(1), to [fulfill harmony with eternal principles], unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can [harmony with eternal principles be fulfilled].
 8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no [fallen human] that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
 9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall [unify with] all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
 10 And because of [his unification with] all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be [processed(2) through] him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the [eternal principles] which the Holy One has [transmitted] [must fulfill their harmony](3), unto the [arising of negative consequences], which [negative consequences are opposites of the happiness that arises] to [fulfill the end results] of the atonement[(unification)(4)]—
 11 For it must needs be, that there is [a state of opposites] in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, [harmony with eternal principles] could not [exist], neither [disharmony with them], neither [happiness](5) nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, [if a body should not have opposite states] it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor [change] nor [unchangeability], happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
 12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end [result] of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
 13 And if ye shall say there [are no eternal principles], ye shall also say there is no [arising of disharmony with eternal principles]. If ye shall say there is no [arising of disharmony with eternal principles], ye shall also say there is no [abiding in harmony with eternal principles]. And if there be no [abiding in harmony with eternal principles] there be no happiness(6). And if there be no [abiding in harmony with eternal principles] nor happiness there be no [negative consequences] nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God.(7)
 
(1) - I want to rephrase "offereth himself a sacrifice for sin", but that would be an entire sermon on the Atonement of Christ that I don't know how to give.
(2) - "Processed" is a colder, more sterile, term than I'd like, but I can't find the exact term to express what I'd like to express: the idea of agency assisting in finding the best results for each individual according to eternal principles, where emotions, connections with others, spiritual disharmonies and exaltations are felt and engaged with in a therapeutic and healing manner.
(3) - I believe there is a missing fragment between "given" and "unto", and have inserted something that makes contextual sense. The sentence literally doesn't make any grammatical sense without something here. I'm assuming the original was something like, "must be answered".
(4) - "Atonement" is too sacred and good of a word to replace, but "unification" can be read as an alternate to bring out a connection with where I used it previously.
(5) - The original "holiness" is likely a transcription mistake at some point, as the context of the surrounding verses indicates "happiness" is more likely the original intent.
(6) - The logical validity of this claim relies on the unstated assumption that happiness is a state of harmony with eternal principles, which assumption I find very compelling. I interpolated it into my para-translation of verse 5.
(7) - In this sentence (and the next one which I left out) Lehi seems to finish this sermon by suggesting that the existence of a moral, wise, and purposeful God is necessary for the created universe to exist! Why did he think that? Based on the nature of his sermon so far, I assume he had a very logical reason for it, but I haven't figure out what it was yet. Maybe he (or Nephi) didn't include it here, because it was clear to them from other communications.

I really like Lehi's sermon, and I think its structure indicates that he had a much deeper understanding of the principles he's speaking about than the abstract legal language he's phrasing them in. He seems to be one of the most intelligent and insightful prophets in the entire Book of Mormon, and it's sad that we have such a limited record of his teachings.

Who else is interested in doing this sort of thing? I included 2 Nephi 2 in the title of this post, in case this idea of sharing our paratranslations catches on and people want to start other thread on different scriptures, but that's up to you guys. It doesn't matter to me if people want to share other scriptures in this thread or in a different one.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2020, 07:23:11 pm by Enochscion »
 
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JLM

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2020, 07:41:15 pm »
I think this is a perfectly valid approach of likening scripture to ourselves.  I sometimes recast verses using modern language.  One thing I like to do when we do our daily family scripture study is to read the scriptures like I would read a novel outloud, such as using unique voices for all the characters spoken words, add emotion to dialogue, read the sections addressed directly to the reader in a conversational tone, etc.  I think it makes it more personal and read when I read it that was.  Also, I'm really not fond of most of the readers in the app.
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2020, 08:32:27 pm »
I've found Lehi's teachings gets an interesting twist if you consider he might have been prompted by being troubled by Nephi's slaying of Laban. His insight 'Nephi fell so that the Lehites might be, and we are that we might have joy' would then find a powerful antecedent in the Adam story, it suddenly falling into place for him, and transforming that story, too. Since that idea was first suggested to me, I've thought that would be VERY meaningful catalyst for Lehi's new and extremely unique postive casting of the Eden story.
 
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Sparky

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2020, 04:33:55 pm »
To be honest, when I first read your post, Enochscion, I was very concerned with it. It didn't seem right to be rephrasing things as much as you were doing. Then I read JLM's response, and that made it all make sense to me. Then Taalcon's addition pulled it together more for me. I like reading Hardy's "Reader's Edition" of the Book of Mormon because it's formatted like books that we read today instead of by verses. And in a sense, that isn't so much different from what you are doing. So, no longer concerned, but rather, quite intrigued! It's amazing the things I've learned and pondered about from this forum that I've never encountered elsewhere. Thanks all!
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2020, 04:43:37 pm »
Adam Miller published something that I love, a book called 'Grace Is Not God's Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul's Letter to the Romans' - it's a wonderful supplement to reading Romans.

Also:

Sparky, you noted Hardy's reader's edition. One thing he did was to note when Nephi (and others) weren't just quoting Isaiah, but parpahrasing, and widely expanding. There's a few places where there's a speech that is spattered with bolded phrases from an Isaiah chapter, with new insights and contexts are expanded. The Book of Mormon teaches and demonstrates this process of 're-translating' and 'likening' scripture.

An, I mean, that's what the JST is. It is my thought that the canon is there to show the in general what we can and should be doing personally.

Also:

I think it goes back to Nephi's vision of the tree of life. He had the 'scriptural account' - his Dad's talking about the vision. But that wasn't enough. Nephi wanted to experience the source, and have his own account. His own translation.

This approach to the scriptures is an attempt to get at the 'source' behind the scriptural text. It's an attempt to tap into the raw revelation that prompted its writing in the first place.

While we don't have the authorty to declare our translations and inspired for the whole Church, I believe we are called to do such things for our own profit and learning.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2020, 04:48:52 pm by Taalcon »
 
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Enochscion

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2020, 05:54:02 pm »
I've found Lehi's teachings gets an interesting twist if you consider he might have been prompted by being troubled by Nephi's slaying of Laban. His insight 'Nephi fell so that the Lehites might be, and we are that we might have joy' would then find a powerful antecedent in the Adam story, it suddenly falling into place for him, and transforming that story, too. Since that idea was first suggested to me, I've thought that would be VERY meaningful catalyst for Lehi's new and extremely unique postive casting of the Eden story.

That's an interesting idea, and I have a thought/question about it, but first something else contextually relevant.

The thing that has pretty much always somewhat bothered me about Nephi's killing of Laban is the "ends justifies the means" sort of reasoning the Lord gives him. Someone with the same thoughts expressed that recently in a conversation and it got me thinking about it again. (Sarahgirl, if you're reading this, you might want to share these thoughts with daughter 1 regarding the utilitarian aspect of Nephi killing Laban.)

Now, the killing wasn't a violation of the basic commandment to "commit no murder". It was a different type of justifiable killing. The justifying scripture was actually partially quoted to Nephi by the Spirit:

Quote
Exodus 21:13
 "And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee."

It's interesting that the Lord also did appoint a place where he could flee--not the cities of refuge in the land of Israel, but a promised land across the sea.

There is further support for Nephi's actions being according to established divine law in D&C 98, where his laws regarding justification for slaying foes are given. And there is this particular verse:

Quote
D&C 98:31
  "Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles."

It's interesting that he specifically mentioned Nephi first and foremost in the list of those he gave this law to.

Did Nephi have this law before or after his slaying of Laban? If it were given to all his ancient prophets, then that should include Lehi, and that would at least lean the direction further into Nephi having already known it.

Certainly, after Nephi's initial reluctance, and first reiteration of the command by the Spirit, the first thoughts he has attempting to make sense/justify it to himself in verse 11 of 1 Nephi 4, appear similar to the principles in D&C 98. I've also heard that scholarship suggests ancient Israel had legal justifications in this sort of situation also, that Nephi may have been also (or entirely) thinking in context of. Even if the principles in D&C 98 weren't given to Nephi until sometime afterwards, the same basic idea arises--these were the principles that seem the intended justification from the Lord's perspective.

Then, after that, the Lord gives Nephi some "ends justifies the means" excuse (pardon me, reason) for the commandment to kill Laban, and Nephi goes with it and works it out in his own mind until he's satisfied with that justification.

Here's the new insight I had. The Lord didn't bring up the utilitarian reason until he had already given him the scriptural basis, and it didn't seem to fully satisfy Nephi. What if the Lord gave the utilitarian explanation, not because it's necessarily a guiding divine principle, but because that's the way Nephi needed to think of it to process it?(1)

And here's where it connects into that idea with Lehi. What if he gave that explanation because it would benefit Lehi? Perhaps it wasn't even essential for Nephi, but only for Lehi. Maybe in a grander scheme, the cause for which "the Lord had delivered Laban into [Nephi's] hands" wasn't primarily that he might obtain the records (He didn't need Nephi's help to kill Laban, angels were established as being involved in their journey, and he could have sent one of those to kill Laban), but was so that Lehi would be prompted with ideas that would lead to important doctrinal principles being revealed.

And here's the thought/question. How would Nephi performing an "ends justifies the means" act that was not actually disobeying any commandments, relate to Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit that was disobeying a commandment? Perhaps there was an idea of greater and lesser commandments involved? It seems like that particular element though (whether actual disobedience took place) would be a key component of the story. I personally think the only reason the transgression technically wasn't a sin (and therefore didn't involve spiritual damage--the inevitable result of sin) is because Adam and Eve lacked moral capacity (knowledge of good and evil), otherwise it would have been. I haven't found any really satisfying explanation of the "good transgression" understanding we tend to favor in the Church, but there also isn't any better non-Latter-day Saint explanation.

This approach to the scriptures is an attempt to get at the 'source' behind the scriptural text. It's an attempt to tap into the raw revelation that prompted its writing in the first place.

That makes sense, and I think it helps me understand you better. Thanks!

I think this is a perfectly valid approach of likening scripture to ourselves.  I sometimes recast verses using modern language.  One thing I like to do when we do our daily family scripture study is to read the scriptures like I would read a novel outloud, such as using unique voices for all the characters spoken words, add emotion to dialogue, read the sections addressed directly to the reader in a conversational tone, etc.  I think it makes it more personal and read when I read it that was.  Also, I'm really not fond of most of the readers in the app.

One reason I'm not really into listening to scriptures or watching videos of them, is that there is a lot of extra interpretation inserted. A recorded reading of scriptures will include word emphasis, pauses, etc. You can't get around it. The same written text can imply a significantly different meaning based on how you present it.

On the other hand, it can be instructive because the interpretations that others put into it can bring up ideas that you haven't thought of. For me, it might be more useful now that it's not going to color my formative experiences with the scriptures.

Hmm...that makes me think of a problem. Children are often the intended audiences, but they're the very ones who are creating formative understandings of the scriptures! Whatever interpretations we put into our presentations are going to become part of the scriptural account for them unless and until they really dig into it themselves and potentially come to a different way of looking at it. So, if there is any error in the presentation, that error is likely to influence generations. That's a horrible burden to place on media creators!

Although, a solution comes to me there also (my brain is full of thoughts today for some reason). If children are exposed to multiple different interpretations that should provide them a framework for better personal examination of the scriptures.

Like take when Alma and Amulek were tied up watching the believers being burned in Ammonihah, and Amulek says, "...perhaps they will burn us also". You could read it with a stoic, unconcerned tone. You could read it with a subdued trepidation. You could even (which is fun in light of the previous verse) read it with an excited, eager tone. So that might be a fun exercise--inviting the kids to read the dialogue with their own interpretation and emphasis.


(1) Anyone who knows my absolutist thoughts on truth versus deception knows I don't think the Lord would be telling Nephi anything that isn't true. It's impossible to share all truth with us since it's too much for our minds to contain, so he chooses which truths to share with us based on what seems best for us, but he never presents something false as truth. In this case, I'm suggesting that while it is true that it's better for one man to physically die than for a whole nation to die without the knowledge of the Gospel, I doubt that is the primary reason for the Lord having Nephi kill Laban.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2020, 06:01:15 pm by Enochscion »
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2020, 06:22:34 pm »
Quote
One reason I'm not really into listening to scriptures or watching videos of them, is that there is a lot of extra interpretation inserted.

And unless you're reading them in the original language, of course, you're getting this as you read them, too. All translation is interpretation. You don't get around that.

It's actually a reason I try to rotate around different translations each time I work through a book of scripture.
 
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Roper

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2020, 06:43:49 pm »
I've read "The Lord of the Rings" several times in the past 40 years. I have created in my mind a rich understanding of the world Tolkein built and the themes he explored. Then I watched Peter Jackson's film adaptation.

- There were some things in the film which were more fully realized than I had formed on my own.
- There were a lot of things which were remarkably similar to my own way of seeing them.
- There were a few things which were utterly ridiculous and needlessly sensational, such as The Mouth of Sauron.
- There were a few things which were left out that missed key elements of the story, such as The Scouring of the Shire.

I find the same thing when I compare others' interpretation of the scriptures to my own: Some are valuable, many are similar, some are ridiculous, and some are woefully incomplete.

Ultimately, the work of likening scriptures to ourselves is our own individual work.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 
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Enochscion

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Re: Para-translating the scriptures: 2 Nephi 2
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2020, 06:57:55 pm »
Quote
One reason I'm not really into listening to scriptures or watching videos of them, is that there is a lot of extra interpretation inserted.

And unless you're reading them in the original language, of course, you're getting this as you read them, too. All translation is interpretation. You don't get around that.

I know, I know. And yet it's still...so...frustrating. :) I've come to realize a lot more recently how bad the KJV really is.

Quote
It's actually a reason I try to rotate around different translations each time I work through a book of scripture.

I primarily stick with the KJV so I'll see the connections with the other Standard Works, but I get a lot of use out of the Blue Letter Bible's alternate translations and interlinear/concordance. Ideally I'd learn more Greek and then branch out into Hebrew...but I just don't have the time-energy for that right now.
 
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