Monday, June 12, 2006

Say HIja' Somebody!

Daq 'Iv taH the batlh reH je ever. Amen.
to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen Galatians 1:5

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There are limits to the practical value of studying a language like Klingon - which is not to say there are NONE. It is certainly a great way to learn about linguistics - and understand the limits of translation between languages and cultures. And in studying languages, real and constructed, you also can discover a few universals.

Without warp drives or cloaking devices, words have the power to move across borders, from culture to culture. Some time ago I talked about Alleluia - a scripture word that has found its way into many languages. Today I've got another - a universal word you all know whether you speak Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Creole, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Kenyan, Latvian, Maori, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, or Xhosa. Can somebody say "amen?"

Originally a Hebrew word, from a primitive root meaning to build up or support, Amen has become a part of many languages. We see it used in different ways in the Bible. As a word used to reinforce a statement (eg. when the we read in the Nehemiah "The whole assembly responded, 'Amen,' "), used in prayer ("Bless his glorious name forever! Let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen!" Psalm 72:19)) and as a title for Christ ("the one who is the Amen" Rev 3:14) Actually, even when we don't see it, you can find "Amen" being used, for it is a word that at times IS translated. For example, the familiar words of Jesus as translated in the King James Bible "Verily, verily, I say unto you" translate the Greek "amen amen lego umin" (amen, amen I say to you).

I think it's natural that, in translating Biblical texts in some distant future, we'd preserve "Amen" as a part of the vocabulary. And just as naturally, we'd include synonyms for the strong affirmation when the congregation calls out "Amen!" For Klingons, I'd nominate "HIja'!" That's one of the Klingon words for yes, and I can imagine a Klingon preacher calling out
HIja' noblaH'a' vay'  - can somebody give a HIja'?

But what is the point? Is "Amen" simply a rallying cry? Is it no more than a religious cheer or demonstration of loyalty. No - I'd say that the bottom line is truth. As a verb, it signifies to confirm, establish, verify; to trust, or give confidence; as a noun, truth, firmness, trust, confidence; as an adjective, firm, stable. We say "amen" to what is indeed TRUE.

It's not unusual to regard believers as engaging in some disconnected-from-reality enterprise. To see worshippers as being part of a fanciful set of beliefs that don't connect to the day-to-day world. I disagree, and think it is a shame when some believers appear to question science - seeming to fear or doubt the truth. The foundations of a Biblical faith are found in dictates like those of Leviticus "'You shall not steal; neither shall you deal falsely, nor lie to one another. (19:11). The AMEN of believers is to a faith that includes honesty as central - so core to the faith that it is within the ten commandments.

Those who commit themselves to the God of the Bible are putting their trust in one who we're told "cannot lie." So when considering the promises of God - take heart! Whether you speak Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Creole, Croatian,Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Klingon, Latvian, Mando'a, Maori, Russian, or Vulcan - these promises are indeed something about which to shout AMEN!
vaD however law' 'oH the promises vo' joH'a', Daq ghaH ghaH the . HIja'..
vaj je vegh ghaH ghaH the .Amen,. Daq the batlh vo' joH'a' vegh maH.

For however many are the promises of God, in him is the "Yes." Therefore also through him is the "Amen," to the glory of God through us. 2Co 1:20


Edward Ott said...

you missed a few languages that use amen arabic, portugese, and creole. quite a few languages use it. having creeped into many languages from american culture, christianity and Islam. so are you or have you translated the christian bible into klingon?

Joel said...

quite right - I know I didn't include an exhaustive list.

I have not precisely translated - I've relexified the World English Bible using an English/Klingon table. It is more the sketch of a what a Klingon Bible would look like - the grammar is way wrong. It is a pidgin language, really. See