Walking & Chewing Gum

Colloquialisms and the untranslatable in literature, the Bible, Quran and the problem of translation generally. In learning Biblical Hebrew and reading the book of Ruth, I came across a segment which appeared to be … sexually suggestive. Now, I’m sure to many scholars who work with these materials in their native language consistently, but this was one of the first times I would make a special study on the Hebrew bible, as it exists today, and the various and multitude of English and Russian translations, including an old Church Slavonic Bible which included books of the Apocrypha absent from the Protestant Bible and the Catholic Bible, the former following the tradition of Luther in which books without Hebrew precedent were not considered “truly” true. They were apocryphal, which meant okay to make laws but not enough to go to hell for breaking them one’s self.

In the book of Ruth when our girl is hedging about the edge of Boaz’s great property, she spends time at the gleaming tree. The gleaming tree is another such thing which makes little sense without knowing the cultural context of the gleaming tree and what it stood for; it was thought to be a charity and prescribed by the law, that is the Torah, that large orchards should be left to overhang their boundary markers, so the excess fruit might fall into public land, so that anyone who should pass by and find themselves hungry, they would find food. Not only does Boaz give her something to eat but he gives her the meat, too.

Now I don’t mean to be crude, but when Ruth is in bed with Boaz and is “about his feet”, what we are reading here in Holy Scripture is the description of Ruth taking our boy Boaz ball’s deep. There it is, for all to read and laugh, but when Boaz says, in English translation, “What are you doing … about my feet?” Or “Around my feet?” – something you may find in a “proper” translation. A real translation would make it necessary to include the context that to refer to one’s feet in such a manner, culturally speaking, at that time was known to mean the genitals and penis.

Another important and lasting image is that of the threshing floor, among beautiful, poetic passages of comfort and the presence of God:

Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, now realizes that God was not against her but was caring for her even in her difficulties. She is now excited that one of her redeemers (and thus, Ruth’s redeemer) is showing an interest in Ruth. No longer “bitter,” Naomi now plans. Ruth has now been working in Boaz’s field for about two months (Ruth 2:23).

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