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Linguistic Lunacy

July 28, 2009

I’m beginning to wonder if knowing a lot of languages is slowing down my dissertation. I spent the better part of Friday reading Leviticus 16 in the Pešiṭta, tracking down a hunch in regards to Raymond Westbrook and Theodore Lewis’ article “Who Led the Scapegoat in Leviticus 16:21?” JBL 127 (2008): 417-22. This little article has also led me to a Hittite ritual by Ašḫella (CTH 394) and a passage in Strabo (10.2.9). My big wonder here is whether I need to take the time to translate both of these texts (and throw in the original texts!) in my dissertation.

Neither text is outside of my linguistic range. I know that I have worked through the Ašḫella ritual at some point. But that was three addresses ago, and I’m not sure where the files are. I can probably work through the text again in a day or two (once I find the cuneiform).  Likewise, Strabo’s Greek isn’t that difficult (it has an alphabet for G-d’s sake!). However, I’m wondering how necessary it is for me to mock up my own transcriptions and translations for a project that is supposed to focus on Northwest Semitics.

Thoughts from the older brothers in the

One Comment
  1. July 28, 2009 1:11 pm

    With stuff on the far margins of my own focus (or knowledge, in the case of the Hittite), I would sometimes just try to look deeply enough to see whether there is a known controversy about the translation, or if something in the standard translations just looks “fishy” to me. Basically, it’s a CYA approach to see if there are any elephants tip-toe-ing around in that particular room.

    Ideally, a bit of collaboration will shorten my search: whom do I know that can point me toward the clearest, most accessible resources?

    It is certainly true that trying to do a full-blown, ground-up critical re-translation of every source (however marginal its role in my argument) would occasionally bog me down far out of proportion to the goods for my dissertation.

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