Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Elpizomenon Hypostasis Pragmaton

 And faith is title to expected facts, proof of the unperceived. For in this the elders were witnessed. By faith we understand the ages to be completed by divine utterance, what is perceived not being made from what is apparent.

By faith Abel brought a fuller sacrifice than Kain, through which he was witnessed to be just, God witnessing to his gifts, and through it, having died, he yet speaks. By faith Henoch was transferred, so as not to experience death; and he was not discovered because God had transferred him. For before the transfer he was witnessed to have gratified God. Thus what is without faith cannot please him, for one worshiping God ought to believe that he is, and to those seeking him, he becomes a rewarder.

By faith, having been given oracle of things not yet even perceived, Noe constructed a box for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the universe, according to faith becoming inheritor of justice. By faith being summoned, Abraam obeyed, leaving to the place he was receiving for an inheritance, and leaving without knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of the promise, as foreign, residing in tents with Isaak and Iakob, the joint-inheritors of the same promise, for he was waiting for the city to be founded whose architect and maker is God. By faith also barren Sara herself, received power for conception of seed, even beyond the opportune age, because she considered the promiser faithful. Thus also from one man, and he having been dead-like, those as the stars of heaven in multitude, and countless as the sand by the shore of the sea. In faith these all died, not having laid hold of the promises, but having seen them from a distance, and having welcomed, and having assented, to being foreigners and aliens on the earth. For those saying such things make apparent that they are seeking their own country. And if indeed they had brought to mind whence they issued, they would have had opportunity to turn back; so they stretch forward to what is nobler, that is, what is heavenly. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, being named from them, because he has readied a city for them. By faith, Abraam tendered Isaak; put to the test, even the only son was being offered to the promises, by one to whom it had been said, In Isaak your seed will be called, having reasoned that God was capable, even to raise from death, from which in likeness he also received him.

And by faith about the intended, Isaak blessed Iakob and Esau. By faith, Iakob blessed each of the sons of Ioseph and worshiped on the top of his staff. By faith Ioseph, expiring, brought to mind the departure of the sons of Israel, and gave instructions about his bones.

By faith Moyses, having been born, was concealed three months by his parents, because they saw the childling was handsome, and they did not fear the decree of the king. By faith Moyses, having grown great, rejected being called the son of the daughter of Pharao, preferring rather to suffer ill-treatment with God's people than to hold the opportunity of enjoying sin, having esteemed reproach with Christ greater wealth than the treasuries of Aegyptos, because he was looking toward the repayment. By faith he left Aegptos behind, not having feared the forcefulness of the king, for, as if seeing the unseen, he persevered. By faith he has kept the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the one destroying the firstborn would not injure them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as if by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were swallowed.

By faith the walls of Iericho fell, having been encircled for seven days. By faith Raab the prosititute did not perish along with the unbelievers, having received the scouts with peace. And what more shall I say? Time will fail for me to tell of Gedeon, Barak, Sampson, Iephthae, Dauid also, and Samouel, and the prophets, who through faith overcame realms, practiced justice, obtained promises, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of fire, escaped the mouths of swords, were empowered from out of frailty, became strong in war, put to flight hosts of foreigners. Women received their dead by resurrection, others were tortured, not waiting for ransom, so that they might obtain a nobler resurrection. Others received trial from mockings and floggings, and also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were tested, they were sawed through, they died by slaughter of sword. They wandered in sheepskins, in goats' skins, being deprived, being oppressed, being tormented, of whom the universe was not worthy, roaming the wastes and mountains and caves and crevices of the earth. And none of them, having been witnessed through faith, received the promise, God having planned something better for us, so that they should not be completed without us.

[Hebrews 11:1-40, my very, very rough translation. This passage was immensely more difficult than I was expecting, for a number of reasons, one of which is that I think most English translations don't convey how tightly interwoven this passage actually is. It's easy to read it as just a list of faithful people, but there  is a lot going on here. The opening is not just a flourish or definition of terms; the points raised by it are reiterated throughout, so that the passage has a well-defined argument, stating its thesis, arguing for it, and then coming back to the thesis at the end. We likewise have throughout an interplay of the seen and unseen, which is found throughout the passage through distinct but interwoven concepts about having what one doesn't have: witness/testimony/commendation, inheritance, promise. If you have testimony, you have evidence of what is not evident; if you are an heir, you possess what is not in possession; if you have a promise, you have a grant for what has not yet been granted. And, of course, if you have faith, you own what is merely hoped-for and prove what is not perceived.

Hypostasis literally means 'substance', but it can also mean a title or deed, and given the passage's emphasis on inheritance likely does. The words I've translated throughout by 'witness' and its cognates gave me considerable trouble; they are the words from which we get the word 'martyr', and they can mean  'testimony', 'witness', 'evidence', 'commendation', 'martyrdom'. They could get every one of these meanings at some point in the passage, and this seems very deliberate. So it was a choice between obscuring the repetition by translating it in different ways or obscuring the point by using the same word throughout, and I chose the latter, since as I've been doing with these, I'm less interested in the best translation qua translation than in at least capturing some of the key things in the text that might get lost. There are a number of places where the passage is idiomatic from very tight concision; for instance, Jacob worshiping 'on the top of his staff', which, as most translations have it, almost certainly right, is probably intended to indicate his leaning on the staff.]