Wednesday, 23 March 2016

And God saw that it was ...

I've been reading from the Septuagint recently - the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament familiar to the early church. It's been an interesting experience.

I discovered last night that when the translators worked on the opening chapter of Genesis they came across this recurring refrain:
And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1.4,10,18,21,25)
They rendered the repeated phrase like this:
καὶ εἶδεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι καλόν.
where the final word, καλός, means "good". But it's just one of a number of Greek words with that meaning, and this one has a particular shading to it. Καλός refers to something so rich in beauty that its goodness is self-evident; its goodness of form reveals its intrinsic goodness of character. A perfectly acceptable translation, then, of the Septuagint text would be:
And God saw that it was beautiful.
And I rather like that.

Image: Sunset at Launde Abbey (Chris Webb)

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