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Different Croatian translations of naming a woman in Genesis 2:23

Domagoj Runje ; Katolički bogoslovni fakultet Sveučilišta u Splitu
Ana Šimić orcid id ; Staroslavenski institut

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 467 Kb

str. 141-169

preuzimanja: 103



The verse Gen 2:23 is a part of the Second story of creation in the Book of Genesis (2:4b – 2:25). In the encounter of the very first human couple described in Gen 2:23 the man in Hebrew is called ’îš and the woman ’iššāh. The used Hebrew gender pair with the same lexical root expresses equality between man and woman based on their creation.
Unlike the biblical Hebrew, Croatian language has no usual words for man and woman derived from the same root. Therefore, Croatian translators struggled to offer neologisms in order to mirror wordplay of the Hebrew gender pair ’îš and ’iššāh. Being members of the Roman Catholic Church, in doing so they followed Saint Jerome’s Latin equivalents vir (‘man’) and virago (literally, ‘a man-like woman, female warrior’) that are used in Vulgate. The oldest known example of such a Croatian translation is the word mužehotica. As a compund of mužь (‘man’, ‘husband’) and hotêti (‘to want’), mužehotica is ‘a woman who desires a man’. That meaning anticipates the description of women given after the first sin in Gen 3:16 (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”), which is not the true meaning of the relationship between man and woman as it was presumed at the beginning of creation.
The other Croatian attempts to echo biblical Hebrew’s and Jerome’s gender pairs also failed to deliver an appropriate word for a woman. The problem isthat none of the later used lexemes (muževnica, mužavka, mužakinja, mužica derived from muž ‘man’, ‘husband’ and čovječica derived from čovjek ‘man’, ‘human being’) was regularly used for woman in Croatian. In addition, their literal meaning (muževnica ‘belonging to a man’) as well as their other meanings confirmed in the history of the Croatian language (mužakinja ‘a peasant woman’, mužica ‘a peasant woman’ and ‘prostitute’, čovječica ‘maid’) do not correspond to the meaning of ’iššāh nor virago. Perhaps the most successful solution was mužavka (literally ‘woman with abundance of manly qualities’) used by M. P. Katačić in 1831.
Consequently, it is not surprising that after centuries of efforts, the nowadays most widely used Croatian translation of the Bible has taken different direction from that of the Saint Jerome’s Vulgate and previous Croatian biblical translations. In translating the Hebrew words ’îš and ’iššāh, S. Grubišić uses ordinary Croatian gender pair čovjek ‘man’ and žena ‘woman’. There is no derivational connection between those two lexemes, but they do not fail to communicate the authentic message of the Gen 2:23 which emphasizes the parity of man and woman.
It is most likely that the Greek translators of the Septuagint made the similar choice for the same reason. They also did not have the words to mirror Hebrew ’îš and ’iššāh. But unlike the later Greek translators (Symmachus, Teodotion), they did not force a completely new word for woman in Gen 2:23 only to produce a derivational connection which exists in the Hebrew original. Rather, they used the words ἀνήρ ‘man’ and γυνή ‘woman’ because those are the most common words for man and woman in Greek. In spite of not following Hebrew original verbum e verbo, they remained faithful to the sense of the original biblical writer who in Gen 2:23 used the common words for man and woman in his own language. Different attempts, despite their good intentions, have proved to be confusing, sometimes funny and often a cause of misunderstandings that weren’t true to the original biblical thought concerning woman’s identity.

Ključne riječi

Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, Vulgate, Gen 2:23, Croatian translation, woman, man, creation

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