Monthly Archives: August 2012

Soon-to-Be-Blessed Allegra, a Translator of the Bible into Chinese

Ven. Br. Gabriele Maria Allegra, a Franciscan friar who died in 1976, will soon become the first person from Hong Kong to be beatified. He was also the guy behind the first translation of ALL the books of the Bible into Chinese.

During the 600th anniversary of Bl. John of Monte Corvino in 1928, Ven. Allegra was greatly impressed by hearing how he translated the Psalms into Mongolian. Allegra wrote later that it was like “a lit match thrown into a powderkeg.” The speaker chanced to mention that there was still no full translation of the Bible into Chinese. With a feeling like a “powerful electric shock,” he immediately became determined to do it himself, discerning that God meant him to. For the rest of his time in Italy in formation, and from his first arrival in China in 1931, Br. Gabriele studied Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and various kinds of Chinese, determined to translate the full Bible direct from the sources, and to provide a commentary as well. Despite being interned by the Japanese, he finished his Old Testament translation in 1944.

Then he had to stop translating during WWII due to the press of duties and stuff happening, and part of his finished translations were lost.

He founded Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Hong Kong, a Biblical studies institute affiliated with other Franciscan ones, in 1945 in Beijing, to spread the work and not make its survival depend on one person. He and several of his Franciscan brothers, all native speakers whom he taught Hebrew and Greek, started in on the Old Testament again. In 1946, their translation and commentary on the Psalms was published. Then the turmoil with Mao caused his superiors to transfer the institute and him to Hong Kong in 1948. This turned out to be a blessing, as Ven. Allegra glommed onto refugee priests and monks with Biblical and language skills, including an expert on Greek. In 1949, the first volume of the historical books of the Old Testament was published, and the second came out in 1950. By 1954, the entire Old Testament was out.

Then the group took a sabbatical year — to study in Jerusalem, at the Studium Biblicum there. Then they plunged right back into translation and commentary. All four gospels were out by 1957, Acts and Paul’s epistles came out in 1959, and the rest of the epistles and Revelation were published in 1961. What had never been done was done — in exactly thirty years!

Publication of the entire Studium Biblicum translation of the Bible with commentary in a single volume was not completed until 1968. But sheesh, that was the downhill slope. Not done yet, they started writing a Chinese Bible dictionary with reference articles. That was finished in 1975, and then most of the friars were assigned to other duties. That’s what it means to work for the Church’s needs.

But the Studium is still around, focusing on both scholarship and promoting love of the Bible among laypeople. Here’s their online learning website in English. If you go to their main webpage and choose the English version, there’s some nice info about Ven. Allegra. There’s also a wonderful page under News about their “Project Isaiah 61,” which is providing Bibles in Braille to the blind, Bibles for Chinese speakers in prison and for Chinese migrant workers around the world, Bible study to the physically challenged, and ecumenical Bible activities to help unite all Chinese Christians.

The Studium Biblicum Version or “Franciscan Version” is the most popular Catholic Bible translation in China. Since it is written in Chinese characters, it can be read by members of many different Chinese language groups. The “spelling” tends to lean toward Cantonese forms, although some only found in Mandarin are also used.

The beatification ceremony will take place at his hometown in Sicily, probably to avoid freaking out the Chinese government (or giving them scope to try to meddle and threaten), but the Catholics of China will be celebrating all the same.

Here’s a very nice article about Ven. Allegra by an Orthodox blogger.

I think Ven. Allegra is a great example to us of academic patience and fortitude. Imagine losing large parts of over ten years of work, and starting over again! But he did.

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More Good Dragons in Christianity

St. Isidore of Seville, in his Questions about Exodus (Quaestiones in Exodum, part of his series of quaestiones about the whole Old Testament) talks about the miracle of Moses turning his staff/rod/stick into a snake, matched by the Egyptian magicians turning their staffs/staves into snakes. Moses’ staff-snake eats the Egyptians’ staff-snakes, then Moses turns it back into a staff. Thus showing that God’s power given to his servants beats the power of gods, pagan priests, and magicians. Blah, blah, blah — you know this story.

Except that St. Isidore describes Moses’ staff turning into a dragon, and eating the Egyptians’ dragons. In fact, the title of Chapter 12 is “De virga in draconem versa.” He calls the staff-snake a “serpent” in the first two paragraphs, but paragraph 3 goes straight for the dragon thing. It’s not a big ref, but it’s St. Isidore, whom everybody read and copied. That makes it a big thing.

“Moses’ rod, turned into a dragon, swallows up (adsorbuit) the rods of the magicians; and beneath the worthiness of His glory, Christ “is found obedient even unto death,” and swallows (consumpsit) death’s sting through that same death of the flesh, the prophet having attested, “O death, I will be your death; O hell, I will be your bite.” (Hosea 13:14)

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the little-used ancient titles of the server guy who carries the processional crucifix is “draconarius,” after the Imperial cavalry guy who carried the Imperial cavalry’s dragon banner. There are a good few pieces of Christian art which show Christ’s cross conflated with the snake on a stick raised up for the people to look at and be healed (such as certain Easter snake/dragon candlesticks borne by a “draconifer”).* And in fact, St. Isidore refers to that passage in paragraph 2.

But this is the first passage I’ve seen clearly connecting Christ/snake-on-stick with Christ/snake-staff, and with Christ as the Real Dragon that beats the pitiful illusionary ones. St. Isidore being a trusted source in all of medieval Europe, this explains a lot of the art.

Now, dragons being sometimes good guys would also explain why a place like Christian Wales would take a dragon as its symbol and show it battling the bad pagan dragon of the Saxons in their legend of King Vortigern. If Christ is a good dragon that fights and eats bad dragons, Christians are also good dragons that can fight bad dragons (demons or pagan humans) or convert them (pagan humans).

Previous old posts on the obscure odd reference to Christ the Dragon:

“Wrong on Rowling,” in which I refute certain things opined by the writer Michael O’Brien.

“Dragons in the Tain Bo Cualnge,” in which I show the epical origins of the generally favorable connotations of dragons in medieval Irish poetry by Christians.

“Dragon-Stompin’ Jesus,” featuring a Christ as dragonslayer poem by the poet named Dunbar who’s from Scotland, as opposed to the one from Dayton.

I find that I’ve never actually quoted the nifty medieval sequence for Pentecost Thursday and other occasions (like marriage, in the medieval UK), “Alma chorus Domini,” though I mentioned its medieval combat use. Some say it’s by Orientius, some by Notker. The point to notice is that the title Vermis, worm (as in “I am a worm and no man”) also can be translated as “dragon” in Germanic languages in Europe. Anyway, whoever it’s by, it goes like this:

“Let the dear chorus praise now the names of the Highest Lord.
Messiah, Savior, Emmanuel, Sabaoth Adonai;
Only-Begotten, Way, Life, Hand, Homoousion;
Beginning, First-Born, Wisdom, Power,
The Alpha, called the Head and End both together, and the Omega;
The Fountain and Source of good, the Paraclete and Mediator;
Lamb, Sheep, Calf, Serpent, Ram, Lion, Worm;
Mouth, Word, Splendor, Sun, Glory, Light, and Image;
Bread, Flower, Vine, Mountain, Gate, Rock, and Stone;
Angel and Bridegroom and Shepherd, Prophet, High Priest;
Immortal, Lord God, Pantocrator, and Jesus;
May He save us; to Him be glory through all ages.”

UPDATE: * The “pateritsa” or pastoral staff of an Eastern bishop, or of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (as pointed out in the comment box by Ivan), is described as “made of a precious metal and having at the top a cross with serpents turned inward towards it, denotes the power of the Holy Spirit and especially the Cross as an instrument of support for all the faithful. It is pastoral in nature and is there for all the people to see and to know that the Cross can lead them, chastise the disorderly, and gather the dispersed. It reminds us of Moses who held up the staff in the wilderness as the snakes came to bite the people. As long as they looked at his staff, they suffered no harm. The serpents on top, turn inwardly toward the Cross as reminders of the Lord saying, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”” (Google pateritsa images shows that it also comes in a tau/crutch shape without snakes, or sometimes is replaced by a tall cane for everyday use.) Also called “zhezal” or “zheslo”, but they’re not good search terms. Here are some good pics of pateritsas.

So material on the Eastern pastoral staff tradition would probably be a fruitful place for research. And indeed, the pateritsa snakes seem to be described as “dragons” fairly often, perhaps because their appearance is more that of a fabulous monster than a naturalistic snake.

August 1, 2014 UPDATE! Welsh vs. Saxon dragons are actually based on the Mordecai vs. Haman dragons in the longer Septuagint version of the Book of Esther! Check it out!

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Paula Volsky Alert!

Paula Volsky has written a new fantasy trilogy, under the name Paula Brandon!

For those who haven’t read Volsky, some call her work fantasy-of-manners, and some compare her worldbuilding and prose to Jack Vance. I would say that she’s a historical novelist, except that she writes the history of a different world than ours. (All her books are set in the same world in various places and times in it, except possibly these three.) Hence she draws on many different genres, styles, and moods in her work, and we meet all sorts of interesting or frightening people. Her books are always better executed than any blurb or cover art can express. They often start a bit slow, but be patient. She is setting the scene, and things begin to start happening very soon.

The Veiled Isles Trilogy sounds like classic Volsky, as history (in this case, a rebellion, her father’s past actions, and an impending magic natural disaster) rise up and hit the protagonist (magicless and not a Mary Sue) in the face. The only way to survive is to become clever and adaptable, instead of taking life for granted. Also, as one reader notes, “There’s a prophecy and a robot… world building, political espionage….” As one would expect from the trend of her work, it’s more serious than funny, although I’m sure there are still funny bits too.

The cover art is headless-woman-in-fancy dress romance art, I guess to make Volsky’s disguise more complete. (Although Volsky has always done a lot with love interests, including her early unobtainium fantasy/romance/Gothicness, the Sorceror trilogy.) And it’s trade paperback, which of course is not one’s favorite format — or slightly less pricey Kindle files. And I’m sad that Bantam Spectra isn’t supporting the lady’s work under her own name, but that’s the publishing world scumminess of today for you. But the advantage is that you can buy the whole trilogy at once, since all three books have already come out.

Anyway, it’s three new books by Paula Volsky! Buy it, buy it!

Thank you, ISFDB, for your continuing research into author pen names.

I had noticed the announcement that she had a new trilogy coming out, but no mention it would be under a pen name. Bah.

Spectra has only put out three of her previous books on Kindle and on Nook: The Great Ellipse (a Longest Race or Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines kind of world racing story, which gives you a look at her entire fantasy world in “modern” times), The Gates of Twilight (a Victorian-esque story of a halfblood imperial officer lured to explore his exotic heritage and magic skills, but bound by loyalty and love), and The White Tribunal (the story of a man trying to secure revenge on an evil government at all costs — even his soul and the world).

Many of her other books are incredibly out of print, so hopefully we will see something of them soon.

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Neil Armstrong, RIP

He was a pilot, a warrior, a leader, an explorer, a teacher. He lived a life that was full, and lived it on his own terms and not those of the world. He will be remembered as long as humans love the stars.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong. May light eternal shine upon you. And may the angels lead you into Paradise.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the long interview he did earlier this year.

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Banquet Chocolate Pudding!

I’ve never been a big fan of the Banquet fish sticks frozen dinner. Fish sticks, okay. Macaroni and cheese, okay. Brownie, okay. (I swear it was a brownie last time I ate one.) Like a lot of folks, Banquet has been changing their food formulas slightly to keep things cheap. So the fish sticks are now smaller and blander, the macaroni and cheese is watery and blander. And the brownie has been replaced by chocolate pudding, possibly to reduce flour content.

But holy St. Martha! What a great chocolate pudding! It is sweet and chocolatey! It is filling and good! If it came in any bigger portion than a tiny square, I think people would be parading it through the streets or succumbing to orgies of solitary greed!

The ingredient list reveals a lot of the secret. They currently use real sugar, real cocoa powder, and real sweet cream as majority ingredients (albeit mixed into a powder with nonfat milk and whey bits and such). It makes a huge difference.

There is one consequence that you’ll have to watch out for. You cook the fish stick dinner after removing the plastic film, and microwaves make real sugar heat up pretty quickly. So the pudding bubbles and swells while cooking (and you might want to watch out for overflow), and then comes out of the microwave as pudding napalm. So yeah, let it cool down like the package says. Your patience will be rewarded.

If you don’t want to eat the new fish stick meal, you can also get chocolate pudding in the pepperoni pizza meal.

The Banquet individual frozen fruit pies in a pot pie pan are also pretty darned tasty, of course. But the Banquet chocolate pudding is magnificent.

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Boston Market Promotes Thyroid Disease

Boston Market took steps this week to eliminate iodine supplements from its customers’ diet. “Thyroid disease is totally natural for inland dwellers. The women of America should accept goiters as stylish and healthy,” says Boston Market. “Scarves are in.”

Seriously, folks, there’s a reason we have an epidemic of thyroid problems in this country. Unless you have sodium problems already, use a little shake of salt. (Especially if you’re doing low carb and thus avoiding iodine-supplemented bread.)

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Slate Article Claims That Minorities Don’t Drink, Work, or Get Welfare

Actually, it claims that since minorities in inner cities are less likely to drive, that they have no state picture ID of any kind. This is BS. I don’t drive, thanks to never having the guts to take the test, and I am constantly carded at businesses for all sorts of purposes.

First off, if you’re really poor, you’re going to have a ton of ID from a ton of different agencies, so that you can collect on public assistance of various kinds. This would include state picture IDs if you don’t drive.

Second, if you get accepted for any job in the US, you have to show several forms of picture ID, birth certificate, etc.

Third, if you drink any kind of alcohol, you have to have a state picture ID unless you are never carded, or other people always buy your booze.

Fourth, if you use a credit card or checks, or if you ever go to the bank, you’re going to be asked to show picture ID. Go to the cellphone store and want to change your account? Picture ID. Do much of anything besides veg? Picture ID.

Given these facts, you’d expect the only minorities not to have state IDs, and thus have trouble voting, to be independently wealthy Mormons, Muslims, and teetotalers of various stripes. This does not seem to be the case.

Hardship would be more likely for self-employed rural people who live a hundred miles from their county seat. And they’re fairly likely to be Caucasian, although I imagine a lot of Hispanic farmers and Pacific Islanders are also affected. I imagine that stay-at-home moms who don’t drive and are supported by their husbands might have problems also. (And of course, if your husband keeps you stuck at home in a burkha, he probably doesn’t want you to have picture ID, take a public bus with men on it, or vote.)

So yeah, I’m really really doubtful about the writing, factchecking, and editing of this professional article, for which several people received actual financial remuneration.

Not checking voter IDs was always premised on having people at the polls who could recognize your signature, and preferably, recognize you as you. It depended entirely on the honesty and neighborhood knowledge of polling personnel (and the vote collectors and counters, more like). Corruption has taken over whenever honesty faltered. In today’s mobile society, and with today’s renewed onslaught of dead voters and Mickey Mouse registrations, we have to do something about corruption. Otherwise, your vote literally won’t count, while your dead granny and various Disney characters will outvote you every time.

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