Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sons of Benjamin

There is a term used in Biblical scholarship -- “hard sayings” – which refers to passages, or even phrases, which can prove vexing. Metaphors, idioms, disagreements in translation, not to mention the hot-button political notions of slavery, women, men lying with men, and other such abominations. Think of them as the “yes, but…” passages.

I usually refer to them, when they are raised, as “well, here we go.”

Harder than “women keep silent in the churches,” though, or even “the poor will always be with us” (loosely translated from the Aramaic “fiddle-dee-dee”), are the passages that read like the author had just given up on the reader. You know those irritating Family Circus strips when “Billy” fills in for “Daddy” and the drawing is a lopsided illustration of a common metaphor? Or how I would fill the middle sections of my high school papers with pages of gibberish?

What’s “hard” about these sayings is that they are uncovered by one’s scientist/agnostic friends (the ones who speak Elfish and have avatars, but make fun of you, you medieval sap) as proof of just how silly religious thought is. “Gag and Magog?!” They say, “Who wrote this, the cast of Zoom?”

Real passage I had to recite recently, while reading the Book of Genesis at Recording for the Blind:

These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:….
The sons of Benjamin:…
Muppim, Huppim and Ard

Oh, my aching theology.

Gen. 46, to see all the names in one mouthful.


  1. And I daresay your pronounciation was much better than most preachers I have heard. Even some of the more common names get mangled by folks who are unable to discern the diacritical marks for the names. Marn

  2. Statistically speaking, any book with an enormous pool of names is going to have a few clankers. Just wait a few years and those names will be popular with the elite crowd. As we have discussed, this means that they will eventually become popular with everyone else. By that time they will be spelled Muppym, Huppym, and Arde.

  3. I think there should be a cartoon show about three adorable little ... well I don't know what they would be, but they'd be adorable, and their names would be Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. And they'd have adventures. And right wrongs. And they'd have a little monkey. Maybe they're monkeys! In which case, their sidekick would be a little chipmunk. My daughter would have them on her little kindergarten backpack! And she'd say, "I love Muppim best!" And we'd say, "Is that more like Yuh-Gi-Oh or Teletubbies?" And she'd roll her eyes at how uncool we are.


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