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Author Topic: Should You Learn the Language of your religion?  (Read 15369 times)
ILuvEire
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« Topic Start: December 26, 2007, 01:39:04 am »

llo !

Me again, I was just wondering, do you think that you should learn the language of your religion? By this I mean, if you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist, should you learn Ancient Greek? Or even modern Greek?

I know, most people would disagree, however I was just thinking: have you seen the problems that the Christians have had with reading translations? Well, wouldn't it make sense to read the Bible in the original language it was written in? This works for the Jews, so why not the Pagans?

In my opinion, yes we DO need to learn these languages. I am learning Ancient Irish, for the few texts there are about the CRs.

Well, thanks so much for answering (you will answer won't you?!)
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« Reply #1: December 26, 2007, 01:58:20 am »

In my opinion, yes we DO need to learn these languages. I am learning Ancient Irish, for the few texts there are about the CRs.

Well, personally, I am trying to teach myself Scottish Gaelic, but not because of my religion. (I am a semi-Wiccan follower of Cernunnos, by the way.) I am of Scottish descent on my mother's side (Clan McKay, but WAAAAY back) and am interested in all things Celtic in general, and Scottish in particular. I would love to incorporate some Gaelic prayers and invoactions into my rituals.
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« Reply #2: December 26, 2007, 06:54:21 am »


I think there's a huge difference between "it would be a good idea" and "required".

Yeah, learning Greek would be nice.  Though if I was going to do a language, it would be German - I'd be able to talk to my inlaws AND read good primary and secondary sources in just about every subject I'm interested in.  (WHY is so much psych and sociology done in German?  *sob*).

But I think there's also a question of priorities, and there are other things that are far more important to me both religiously and secularly.  And quite frankly, even if I had the TIME to learn a language, I'd use that time elsewhere.
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« Reply #3: December 26, 2007, 07:05:59 am »

I know, most people would disagree, however I was just thinking: have you seen the problems that the Christians have had with reading translations? Well, wouldn't it make sense to read the Bible in the original language it was written in? This works for the Jews, so why not the Pagans?

That's probably the best argument I've seen for learning the language of one's Gods.  I definitely don't agree that we need to learn said languages in order to communicate with the Gods or in order to be able to honor them properly--they seem to have no problem understanding my English--but I might be tempted to agree a little more if it's for the sake of being able to read primary sources without a translation.  (If I did agree with this, though, I'd have to agree that the ancient language should be learned; learning modern Greek is not really going to help me read Homer in the original language as far as I'm aware.  Or at least, it might help in that the ancient and modern languages are related, but if I'm learning one to read primary sources it just doesn't make sense for that one to be the modern language.)

My major problem with it, though, is that I just don't think it's practical.  I'm sure it works (or would work, as the case may be) great for some people.  Me, I'm horrible with languages.  It would be a horrendously difficult undertaking for me to actually learn to read Greek, ancient or modern.  It's far more practical for me to simply do a little research before reading a given translation and make sure that I've got a good one.  My time and energy is limited (the moreso now with the new baby in the house), and I just feel like the time and energy I could spend trying to pummel ancient Greek language into my skull and then read anything in that language once I've learned it would be better spent in other ways.
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« Reply #4: December 26, 2007, 07:11:58 am »

I think there's a huge difference between "it would be a good idea" and "required".

*nods*

Is it a good idea?  Perhaps.  Should it be required?  No.  I think requiring it is only going to make a lot of people frustrated and drive some people away who otherwise would fit very well into certain paths.  I'm not in favor of dumbing down religion just to make it more popular, but there's also a point at which you have to accept that not everyone who feels called toward a certain type of religion (*coughreconstructionismcough*) is going to be a scholar, and make allowances for that.  I feel like "learn the language as part of the religion" is beyond that point.
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« Reply #5: December 26, 2007, 07:23:42 am »

*nods*

Is it a good idea?  Perhaps.  Should it be required?  No.  I think requiring it is only going to make a lot of people frustrated and drive some people away who otherwise would fit very well into certain paths.  I'm not in favor of dumbing down religion just to make it more popular, but there's also a point at which you have to accept that not everyone who feels called toward a certain type of religion (*coughreconstructionismcough*) is going to be a scholar, and make allowances for that.  I feel like "learn the language as part of the religion" is beyond that point.

Well - and in those times, every single Greek was NOT a scholar.  Most of them were, y'know, farmers.  Crafters.  Etc.

It's a false reconstruction, and a VERY lopsided one, to say that everyone that worships those gods NOW needs to be a scholar when the majority of worshipers in the past were anything but.
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« Reply #6: December 26, 2007, 08:01:00 am »

llo !

Me again, I was just wondering, do you think that you should learn the language of your religion? By this I mean, if you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist, should you learn Ancient Greek? Or even modern Greek?

I know, most people would disagree, however I was just thinking: have you seen the problems that the Christians have had with reading translations? Well, wouldn't it make sense to read the Bible in the original language it was written in? This works for the Jews, so why not the Pagans?

In my opinion, yes we DO need to learn these languages. I am learning Ancient Irish, for the few texts there are about the CRs.

Well, thanks so much for answering (you will answer won't you?!)
-ILuvEire-

I don't think it is necessary to learn the "language of your religion".

Some ancient languages are very difficult - Old Irish being a good example. It often takes whole panels of linguists to successfully translate ancient texts  (the Jerusalem Bible springs to mind) and then there are often untranslatable parts in ancient texts - such as the gaps in translation of The Morrigan's prophesy at the end of the second Cath Maige Tuired. (Dr E A Gray's Irish Text Society translation)

Some things are untranslatable because the words no longer have relevance. The thing or action to which they refer no longer exists. I remember going to a Mary Rose Exhibition where there was a display case with a small number of artifacts that they didn't know the name of and didn't know what they were used for.

For most people a good professional translation is probably the best way to go.

Not that you shouldn't learn it if you think you are up to it and have the luxury of having the time to do it. It is alway good to learn something new and it can only help with understanding the culture within which the language was formed.

I think a good understanding of the culture of the deity is vital.

I am having a hard enough time learning modern Irish Gaelic. I don't think I will be ready for Old Irish in this life time :-)
 
Good luck with your studies.

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« Reply #7: December 26, 2007, 08:27:08 am »

Me again, I was just wondering, do you think that you should learn the language of your religion? By this I mean, if you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist, should you learn Ancient Greek? Or even modern Greek?

If one wants to, why not? If one doesn't want to, I don't see much reason to do so. Gods who can't understand humans regardless of what language they speak probably do not deserve to be called a "god." Deities might like to hear a particular language in ritual, but one can learn set pieces of ritual without having to learn the language.

Quote
I know, most people would disagree, however I was just thinking: have you seen the problems that the Christians have had with reading translations? Well, wouldn't it make sense to read the Bible in the original language it was written in? This works for the Jews, so why not the Pagans?

IMHO, the Bible is a different type of text than the texts associated with most Pagan religions. It is thought by most believers (Jewish and Christian) to be the inspired word of God (although only fundamentalists generally think it was somehw written by God himself). The texts of most Pagan religions are the opinion of humans about the Gods or stories told by humans about the Gods. It seems far less necessary to me to be able to read "the original" as the originals are already opinion to begin with.

Also, why should I think that my amateur translation of a Greek text (I'm a Hellenic Pagan) is going to be better than that of a expert in the language and the culture/history of its time? Accurate translation requires not only knowledge of the language, but knowledge of the culture at the time it was produced (and a good knowledge of the modern language and culture one is translating the text into, not to mention the ability to write well in that modern language) -- as to do a good translation of ancient one has to the ideas expressed in one language into the equivalent ideas in a modern language.
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« Reply #8: December 26, 2007, 09:47:34 am »

If one wants to, why not? If one doesn't want to, I don't see much reason to do so. Gods who can't understand humans regardless of what language they speak probably do not deserve to be called a "god." Deities might like to hear a particular language in ritual, but one can learn set pieces of ritual without having to learn the language.

One of the reasons I would like to be able to say some prayers in Gaelic is because - as a new convert - I want to have as much of the "pagan feel" to my rituals as possible, and saying a prayer in another language would go a long way toward helping me achieve just that, which in turn helps me to feel closer to the Divine.
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Scotland is the land of my heart. Gaelic is the language of my soul.

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« Reply #9: December 26, 2007, 10:04:44 am »



I think learning the language is important, though not necessary. Learning the language of a people is like an open window into a culture and helps you better understand their world view.
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« Reply #10: December 26, 2007, 10:28:36 am »


I plan on learning Chinese but not because of my religion. And the Chinese I wish to learn is modern Mandarin which is unlikely to help me out much with reading Lao Tzu. While I would love to learn Ancient Chinese the time necessary is simply something I do not have, I would much rather add to my list of modern languages I speak. I suppose that however much I would love to learn Ancient Chinese, and no matter how much it would aid me in my religious path I just don't think it would be a good use of my time. As such I suppose I do not believe that it is necessary to do so.
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« Reply #11: December 26, 2007, 11:03:15 am »

I plan on learning Chinese but not because of my religion. And the Chinese I wish to learn is modern Mandarin which is unlikely to help me out much with reading Lao Tzu. While I would love to learn Ancient Chinese the time necessary is simply something I do not have, I would much rather add to my list of modern languages I speak. I suppose that however much I would love to learn Ancient Chinese, and no matter how much it would aid me in my religious path I just don't think it would be a good use of my time. As such I suppose I do not believe that it is necessary to do so.

Well, as far as I understand, (written) Chinese is the same, and has been the same for like...ever. It's not gone under any big changes. So if you learned to read Chinese, you could read Lao Tzu.

Back on topic...

I see what you all are saying. One of the people in my circle speaks (or actually reads) ancent Irish. It is a really useful tool, because I would like to know what (for example) the Book of Kells actually says.

I pick up language pretty fast, and I already speak modern Irish so it's a bit easier for me.
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« Reply #12: December 26, 2007, 11:24:24 am »

In my opinion, yes we DO need to learn these languages. I am learning Ancient Irish, for the few texts there are about the CRs.
Well, thanks so much for answering (you will answer won't you?!)
-ILuvEire-

Bit of a problem with Ancient Egyptian. No one knows how the words were pronounced. The Egyptians used no vowels in writing. I do know a little of hieroglyphics and I like to read many translations of texts. But as for actually learning this language, it isn't possible.

As for Christians reading the Bible in it's original language, that would be a scholarly effort, as it was originally written in several ancient languages, not just Hebrew. Not to mention all the translations and edits it has been though.  Smiley
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« Reply #13: December 26, 2007, 11:55:55 am »

Me again, I was just wondering, do you think that you should learn the language of your religion? By this I mean, if you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist, should you learn Ancient Greek? Or even modern Greek?

A very kind lady, who was also a linguist, took the time to translate my tradition's lore from the Welsh so she wouldn't have to spend her time teaching a language to those who wanted to learn Gwyddonics. I know some people who would give their eye teeth to get their hands on those original books (I'm one of them - but for history sake, not out of greed). Even though I'm 100% US American, my gods understand me just fine, even though they're Welsh, Celtic, and Teutonic.
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« Reply #14: December 26, 2007, 12:03:19 pm »


As for Christians reading the Bible in it's original language, that would be a scholarly effort, as it was originally written in several ancient languages, not just Hebrew. Not to mention all the translations and edits it has been though.  Smiley

Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testement) is written only in Hebrew and hasn't really changed. The two most widely divergent copies that come from different linages differ by 26 letters total after 1500 years or so. 

New Testement I'm not so sure about. Mostly Greek, but you'd have to ask Koi.
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