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#260294 11/04/07 12:28 AM
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This afternoon one of my errands was to stop at the post office to mail some packages. After the packages were processed the postal worker asked me the usual �Do you need stamps?� and I asked for the hundred roll of first class stamps. After he processed that and handed me the roll of stamps the postal worker asked: �Do you need Christmas stamps?� I said yes, thinking that I might as well get them because the weeks between now and Christmas will speed by. Then he held up the two designs for this year and said: �Which ones? The Mother of God with Child or the Holiday Design?�

The postal worker wears a turban and is, I think, a Hindu.

This reminded me of another experience from three years ago. The contractor I hired to build a new deck on my house came into my house and was sitting at my table having a cold soda at the end of a workday and noticed the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall and commented: �That�s a nice picture of the Mother of God.� I was a bit taken aback. He is Muslim.

As most know, I have stated that using the original Greek term �Theotokos� is certainly theologically correct, and promotes a term that should be more widely known. But what pastoral and evangelical dimensions are we missing (and have we lost) when we ban the term �Mother of God� as a translation for �Theotokos� / �Bohorodice� when almost the entire English speaking world knows instantly who she is? Even Hindus and Muslims? Is it really wise to throw away a term that has a long and worthy usage in our English language?

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The main thiing is that "Mother of God" has been [u]thee[/u] English word used by Rusyns and Ukrainians in the past 100+ years to call the Virgin Mary, by using Theotokos, however accurate, dose causes confusion among the faithful. I know for a fact from talking to Ruthenians, espiecially among the elderly.

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Originally Posted by Administrator
... a translation for �Theotokos� / �Bohorodice� ...
How about Birth-giver of God as a translation of Bohorodice? What does Bohorodice literally mean? (Ignore the meaning of Theotokos for the time being.)

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In our Melkite Greek liturgy, there are times when the Greek says "Mother of God" and there are times when it says "Theotokos" or 'God-bearer'. We translate (into Arabic or English) accordingly.

Is it not the same in the Slavonic liturgy?

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There is an old article, available on CCEL here
Excursus on Theotokos [ccel.org] , especially Section 2 toward the bottom, that discusses the name Theotokos and the various English possibilities of rendering it into English. The Latin word coined to have similar roots was Deipara, and in a lot of the liturgical prayers of the Latin Rite, this term is used. For whatever reason, it never found its way into English using either the Greek or the Latin word, so the phrase "Mother of God" is, in English, very traditional.

Best regards,
Michael

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Even if the term Theotokos is used in the liturgical texts does not mean that one cannot speak of the Mother of God in homilies, etc. Both terms could be and should be used.

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Quote
The postal worker wears a turban and is, I think, a Hindu.

If he was wearing a turban, he was probably a Sikh (i.e. the Hindu version of a Protestant.)

I find it interesting how the various Christian cultures refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Irish and Italians seem to emphasize her role as "Mother of Christians"; the French, her role as "the Vessel of the Holy Ghost"; the Copts and Ethiopians, her role as "The Ark of the New Covenant"; the Slavs and Greeks, her role as "The God-bearer"; and for us Spanish, her role as "Queen of Heaven & Earth".

Interesting...

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This weekend, I heard Bishop Nicholas (Samra) give an excellent talk on the title "Theotokos" and its theological meaning - in particular, how the translation "God-bearer" could actually be heretical if it used with respect to the Virgin Mary to mean the same moral and spiritual union that we refer to when we say a saint is a "God-bearer." He also pointed out another Greek work that ALL liturgical languages have kept untranslated: "Christ".

Yours in the Anointed One^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Christ,
Jeff

P.S. And to stay on the topic of the original thread: he insisted that the different Greek titles, "Mother of God" and "She who have birth to God", should keep their distinctiveness in translation - and that since English is not really a synthetic language (i.e. one where we backinventputtingtogetherwise necessarynew Godwords), using Theotokos in English simply makes good sense.

P.P.S. Dear John (Administrator): The term "Mother of God" has not been banned anywhere I have heard of - certainly not in the new Divine Liturgy text under discussion, where is is always used to translate the title "Mother of God" as given in the Greek and Slavonic. And of course, many use it in devotional settings and in ordinary speech as well.

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Originally Posted by ByzKat
He also pointed out another Greek work that ALL liturgical languages have kept untranslated: "Christ".

Yours in the Anointed One^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Christ,

OK he did; what's the point, especially with the emphasis "ALL"?

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Dear Father Deacon

The "ALL" was my own poor attempt to emphasize that while some languages have invented a word to translate Theotokos, none thatr I know of has invented such a term for "Christ". Thus, the tradition is even stronger in this case than in the case of the title of the Virgin.

The point is that there are Greek words which certainly COULD be translated in an "obvious" way, which are either translated using "coined" words, or left untranslated, depending on the receptor language - and "Christ" is one I have not yet seen mentioned as part of this discussion! Our administrator implied that "Mother of God" has been "banned"; not only has it not been banned, but both respected Greek Catholic bishops in other Churches, and quite a few English-speaking Orthodox jurisdictions, use "Theotokos" and "Mother of God" precisesly as the new Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic translation does. Words like "Christ" simply illustrate that our tradition DOES involve keeping some words in the Greek by choice.

Jeff

P.S. And my "all" is probably not literally correct, since some Aramaic liturgies may very well use a form of "Messiah" - I would be interested in knowing if there are examples.

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Jeff,

Thanks for the clarification. Just two brief comments for now:

Originally Posted by ByzKat
Our administrator implied that "Mother of God" has been "banned";

Actually what he said is a bit more nuanced:

Originally Posted by Administrator
But what pastoral and evangelical dimensions are we missing (and have we lost) when we ban the term �Mother of God� as a translation for �Theotokos� / �Bohorodice� ...



Originally Posted by ByzKat
P.S. And my "all" is probably not literally correct, since some Aramaic liturgies may very well use a form of "Messiah" - I would be interested in knowing if there are examples.

I think you are right about the "all." The Paschal greeting / exclamation (having a liturgical connection) comes to immediate mind (apologies if I've butchered the transliteration): Al Mashiach qalm.

Dn. Anthony

Last edited by ajk; 11/05/07 03:55 PM. Reason: further clarification
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Originally Posted by ByzKat
Words like "Christ" simply illustrate that our tradition DOES involve keeping some words in the Greek by choice.
I certainly agree that a number of words (of mixed theological importance) have been handed on by maintaining in essence their original form. Thus, say,

Greek - Latin - Slavonic - English:

Christos - Christus - Christu - Christ
mitra - mitra - mitra - miter

I don't see how that goes to support a retrofitting of Theotokos in the English:

Theotokos - Dei Genetrix(?) - Bohorodice - Theotokos.

If anything it would seem to indicate against it.

Dn. Anthony

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Dear Father Deacon,

There would be no need to "retrofit" anything if we were not in the custom of translating two different titles in Greek and Slavonic by a single title in English! We chose in 1965 NOT to use "Birthgiver of God" even though that coinage had been around for fifty years (at least since Isobel Hapgood) - and outside of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese, there seems to be a very strong concensus in American Orthodoxy to use "Theotokos". I don't quite understand why those who push to commonality with Orthodoxy, and exact theological translations, in other areas, seem to be insisting that a non-literal translation be kept here... Neither Latin nor Slavonic translated "Theotokos" simply as "Mother of God", as can be seen from your examples above. All four words are "extraordinary" terms in the various languages.

Yours in Christ,
Jeff

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There seem to be several discussions going on. I thought I was pretty clear that the question I was raising was not the one about the most literal translation (or non-translation) of the term Theotokos but, that given that the translation (paraphrase) of �Mother of God� is so well known by English speakers, we might be negating opportunities for evangelization that currently exist simply because we are discarding a term that is instantly recognized by an incredible majority of English speakers.

I am not speaking here of the pastoral issues of forcing our people (especially the older ones) to use new texts that will never become primary for them (one never forgets what one memorized first). That is another discussion.

I am not speaking here of the need to be literal as possible while being as eloquent as possible when making translations for previously untranslated (or at least fairly unknown) texts. [When changing memorized texts what is perfect is often the enemy of what is perfectly good. The criteria for adjusting memorized texts is more complicated and should involve pastoral considerations.] That is another discussion.

I am speaking of the choice to abandon a term that is instantly recognizable to most English speakers, a term that has a long usage in the English language, even if that term is not as exacting as we might like to be. [A not exact example of what I mean could be the ecumenical and evangelical aspects of retaining the inexact translation of the Lord's Prayer.]

PS: I seem to remember (hopefully correctly) that there is an article by Bishop Kallistos [Ware] in which he states his preference for leaving the term �Theotokos� un-translated but in which he also argues that if one is going to translate it, it really should be translated as �Mother of God.� I seem to remember he touches on some of these issues. I can�t think of the reference or I�d dig it out and post it but if someone does know I ask that they please post it or PM it to me.

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John,

"As most know, I have stated that using the original Greek term �Theotokos� is certainly theologically correct, and promotes a term that should be more widely known. But what pastoral and evangelical dimensions are we missing (and have we lost) when we ban the term �Mother of God� as a translation for �Theotokos� / �Bohorodice� when almost the entire English speaking world knows instantly who she is? Even Hindus and Muslims? Is it really wise to throw away a term that has a long and worthy usage in our English language?

I am speaking of the choice to abandon a term that is instantly recognizable to most English speakers, a term that has a long usage in the English language, even if that term is not as exacting as we might like to be."

So you state there is a pastoral dimension to translation and a translation may be better pastorally and evangelically even if not technically and literally as accurate as another.

You have summed up very well the arguement for horizontal inclusive language and the use of "Brothers and Sisters" rather than "Brethren" and "Humankind" or "People" rather than "Mankind" or "Men" in places where a mixed group is clearly intended.

For there are good women, both within and without the Metropolia, who are put off by language that they see as male centered even though they understand females are intended when mankind or men is used. This does not make them radical feminists. So limited use of horizontal inclusice language can be both pastoral to those in the Church and evangelical to those not yet in the Church.

Fr. Deacon Lance


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