As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been working on a translation of Mark’s gospel for some time. In this project, I’ve attempted to do two things simultaneously, make the text more accessible and make it stranger. For those of us who’ve known these stories for a lifetime, it can be hard to read the stories afresh, as if encountering them for the first time. And for those of us who find the setting, the language, and the context of the gospels too difficult, it can be hard to feel that these stories are relatable and understandable.

To those ends, I have prepared two simultaneous translations: a hyper-literal translation that renders the basic meaning of the text, including names and places; and a reader’s translation that attempts to tell the story in as natural sounding English as possible.

The layout of my project is based on a design from the Talmud, which is really hard to replicate using HTML. For this preview, I’ve put the text in parallel columns, so that you can read them side by side. Enjoy!

Literal Translation

The beginning of the good message of Jahsaves Anointed, son of God. As it is written in Savethjah the Foreteller: Look, I’m sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way A voice crying in the wasteland: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

Reader’s Translation

The beginning of the good news of Jeshua the Anointed One, God’s Son.°

As it is written in the book of the Prophet Isaiah:°Look: I send my messenger before you who will prepare your way. A voice crying in the wildland: ‘Prepare the way of Yhwh, make his paths straight.’

Translation Notes

Good message • Traditionally “gospel” or “good news,” the Greek word εὐαγγελιον euangelion is the Septuagint’s translation for the Hebrew word בְּשׂרָה b’sorah, meaning “good tidings.” It is here rendered “good message” so as to keep the connection to the messengers who bring it (i.e., ἀγγελοι angeloicf. 2 Sam. 4:10. 

Jah • The rendering in this translation of the portions of a person’s name (usually rendered-iah or Je-) signifying the divine name of God: YHWH.

Jahsaves • Jesus’ name in Hebrew/Aramaic was יֶשׁוּעַ  Yeshua‘ a diminutive of יְהֹשׁוּעַ Yehoshua which means “Yhwh is Salvation.” RTJeshua

Anointed • Traditionally “Christ,” this word is not a name but a title, a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ mashiaḥ “messiah,” literally, “the anointed one.

Savethjah • Isaiah. The Hebrew name יְשַׁעיָהוּ Yeshayahu means “Salvation of Yhwh.”

Forteller • Prophet. The Greek προφήτης prophētēs means “one who utters before.”

Wasteland • The Greek word ἔρημος eremos here is actually an adjective meaning “waste, desolate, deserted.” “Wasteland” is used here because it preserves the sense of waste and desolation in the original and unlike “desert” does not merely suggest an arid place. RTWildland.

Jahgraces came, immersing in the wasteland and preaching an immersion of transformation into forgiving errors. And all the countryside of Praiseland and all the residents of Peacehome were coming out to him, and were being immersed by him in the Downgoing River, professing their errors.

And Jahgraces was dressed in camel’s hair and a belt of leather around his waist, and was eating locusts and wild honey.

4Johanan arrived in the wildland,immersing and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for theforgiveness of sins. The whole region of Judah and all the Jerusalemites would go out, profess their sins, and get baptized by him in the Jordan River. Johanan was dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and he’d eat locusts and wild honey.

Jahgraces • John. The Greek Ἰωάννης Iōannēs renders the Hebrew יוחנן Yoḥanan, itself short for יהוחנן Yehoḥanan “Yhwh is gracious.” RTJohanan.

Praiseland • Judah, from יהודה Yehudah, meaning “praise.” 

Peacehome • Jerusalem, although the etymology of the name is disputed, this is an approximation of what the Hebrew  ירושלם Yerushalem would evoke in a hearer.

Downgoing River • The Jordan River.  Although likely a folk etymology, the name ירדן Yarden bears a resemblance to the Hebrew root ירד yarad, which means “to descend, go down.”

And he was preaching, saying: “One stronger than me is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I immerse you with water; he will immerse you with holy wind.”

7 He would proclaim: “Coming after me is someone stronger than me—I’mnot worthy of even stooping down to untie his sandals. 8 I’m baptizing you with water; he’ll baptize you with holy spirit.”

Baptize with  The text may be translated either as “baptize you in holy spirit” or “baptize you with.” Mark uses the preposition ἐν en, which means “in” but may reflect the Hebrew/Aramaic בּ– b- which means both “in” and “with/by means of.” Mark’s Greek frequently reflects such Semiticisms.

Holy wind •The Greek text says ἐν πνεύματι ἁγῖω en pneumati hagio, lit. “in holy spirit/breath/wind.”  There is no definite article to suggest “The Holy Spirit,” though that possibility is not completely eliminated.  But Mark might be engaged in using Hebrew parallelism—I baptize in water, he in wind—in which case the contrast is between water and wind/spirit rather than between a physical and a spiritual baptism.

And it happened in those days: Jahsaves came from Watchtower of Borderland and was immersed in the Down-going by Jahgraces. 10 And straightaway, coming up out of the water, he sees the heavens split and the Spirit-Wind coming down like a dove into him. 11 And a voice came from the heavens: “You are my beloved son. In you I take delight.”

9 At that time, Jeshua camefrom Nazareth in the Galilee and was baptized byJohanan in the Jordan. 10 Right away, as he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit coming down like a dove onto him. 11 Then a voice came from the heavens: “You are my beloved son; I’m delighted in you.”

Watchtower • The name “Nazareth” appears to be built on the Hebrew verb נצר natzarto guard or watch.

Borderland • In Hebrew, גליל Galil means “circuit” or “boundary.”  The region known as Galilee is, thus, the border region, or boundary circuit.

Straightaway • Usually translated as “immediately” the Greek εὐθυς euthus is built on a root that means “straight.” RTRight away.

I’m delighted in you • The Greek ἐν σοι εὐδοκησα en soi eudokēsa “I have delighted in you,” may reflect the Semitic usage of the perfect stative, signifying a present state, i.e., “I am well pleased,” or “I take delight.”

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