Thursday, August 12, 2010

But what do you mean the appearance of evil doesn't mean what I think it means?!!

In my History of the English language seminar that I took from the lovely Professor Don Chapman, we had this assignment where we had to compare translations of the New Testament. We had to learn enough Greek to verify word choices and conjugations and inflections and such and essentially write a translation for one chapter. Then we had to use about twelve different bible translations from twelve different times in English history and decide which translation was first: the most accurate; and second: the most poetic; and third: the best combination of poetry and accuracy.

we found some really interesting things as we did this.

One such was a mind-blowing re-working of the phrase: "Avoid even the very appearance of evil."

We all know how this verse has been *used.* It's been used to tell us that we should not get tattoos and have purple hair and piercings because *appearance* matters and we do not want to *appear* like we are/know a drug dealer. I think a lot of Mormon appearance obsession can be traced directly back to this verse. And, um, we gotta lot of appearance obsession. (Ooo, Audra! There's another one: "gotta.")

The problem is that while the phrase "very appearance" does represent an accurate translation from the Greek to early modern English it is NOT an accurate translation into Modern English.

My brain iz toast, so I don't remember what it meant back then (Zina: do you?). But I do remember the way that the verse would read if we were to have it translated directly from the Greek to *modern* English. It would read: "Avoid evil in all its forms (even the little ones)."

So unless there is sin in having purple hair, you can have your purple hair and look like a drug dealer or whatev. According to King James, at least. It's the *sin* that matters, not its "appearance."

Purple hairlers unite. [Kick! Make me a purple hair picture, would you?!]

post edit:


lyse. hi. said...

This is literally the best blog post ever. I basically want to go teach a lesson on this. Also, are you ever coming back to teach at BYU? Because i would take a random english class from you just to hear all your hilarious stories!

Kerry said...

Lyse! Helloooo!

I am finally coming back to teach, yes.

In the winter (or spring/summer if they make me do more skin grafting surgery in the winter) I'm hoping to teach English 312 which is a persuasive writing class. It'd be awesome to see you there! xok

AzĂșcar said...

Persuasive Writing? Such nonsense! As if anyone could make a living doing that.

Wait a minute. That's what I...shoot.

bff said...

w00t!! you're blogging again!! I go paint kids' rooms for a coupe weeks and emerge from my right-brain stupor to find you near unto recovery! At least brain-wise.

Verray-->very. From Veritas, Latin "truth"; so "avoid the truly (even if it's deceptively) evil."

So avoid things that are evil even if they look harmless. Basically the flipside freaking opposite of how we use it in Mormondom, which is: "You can BE as evil as you want, just DO. NOT. APPEAR. EVIL."

Case in point: Jesus could NEVER get into BYU (longhair, wine-drinking, beard, hippy forgiiiive ever-body trouble-maker), whereas Adolf Hitler, whose mustache did not extend beyond the corners of his mouth, and who abstained from alcohol and was very erm...self-disciplined, would be an IDEAL BYU student.

Elise said...

I am such a hard core nerd. Want to blog more on this? I would read faithfully. Or you should just write an amusing book on the history of English. And I would buy it and make you RICH.

Kristin said...

On paint?

nicole said...

I love this. I am sending it to my mother. (Hi mom!)

Kerry said...

on paint, yes!

Kathy said...

When I think of the very appearance of evil I think of not chewing on a stick of gum that looks like a cigarette. Or not being alone with a married man even if nothing is happening, it just looks like there could be. I don't think of purple-haired pierced dudes.

Kerry said...

I totally think of purple haired dudes. And beards. Especially purple beards on people with purple tattoos.