Long in the nose

Or “long in the nostrils” and as a verb “lengthen your nostrils.” Well, Lingalinga wants us to take a stab at translating this as a verb.

Update: Peter adds some thoughts. And in response to a question, I cannot find references to makrothumeô in classical Greek – it appears to be from the LXX.

My preceding post on Psalm 103 was partially tongue in cheek, but also a reflection on the fact that Hebrew poetry uses gender, concrete metaphor and other features of language in ways that cannot be translated into English so the study of Hebrew is very rewarding.

However, I also wanted to point out what has been mentioned before on this blog, that “long in the nostrils” is the underlying metaphor for “slow to anger” in English Bibles. This occurs in Ex. 34:6 and Ps.103:8 among other places.

This expression was translated into Greek as μακροθυμεω which is found in 1 Cor. 13 as “suffers long” or “is patient.” But it is the same expression.

It is regrettable that there has never been enough sensitivity to the Septuagint to translate these two corresponding expressions, one from Greek and one from Hebrew, with the same English word. I have not seen this phrase cross-referenced with the Hebrew Bible either although I may have missed it.

I am not mourning the loss of the literal translation for these expressions – to a certain extent both “slow to anger” and “suffers long” are literal. What is lost here is that Paul is describing love in terms of the Hebrew Bible. This passage is not in contradistinction with the Hebrew but is a reiteration of the Hebrew scriptures.

So why not use “slow to anger” in 1 Cor. 13:4. “Love is slow to anger.” Love is slow to anger, love does not keep track of wrongs, doesn’t this remind us of Ex. 34:6 and Psalm 103? Love waits a long time before getting angry, love forgives, love hopes and love endures.

5 thoughts on “Long in the nose

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Yes, I think you have it with “love is slow to anger”. That will give the appropriate link to Exodus 34:6.

    Out of interest, does anyone know if makrothumos is a new word to LXX, or of classical origin? It looks to me a but like an over-literal loan-translation or calque of the Hebrew. Suzanne or Kurk, do you know if it was actually used by classical or other pre-LXX Greek authors?

  2. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    It looks as if it only occurs in the LXX, NT and later so that would make it a calque from Hebrew and not a native Greek word. I can’t say for sure but that is what it looks like. It is very strange to me that when the theologians were doing their famous word studies on kephale and authentew that none of them thought about researching the background for words like this.

  3. J. K. Gayle says:

    Suzanne may be right about this, Peter. Although I think none of us would be entirely surprised to find μακροθυμία or some such variant before the LXX.

    Homer has these:
    προθυμία
    μεγάθυμος
    ὑπέρθυμος
    καταθύμιος
    ἀποθύμιος
    ἄθυμος
    εὔθυμος
    γλυκύθυμος
    and
    ἐνθύμιος

    The latter above is Aristotle’s famous central term in his Rhetoric. Aristotle also has:
    μακροβιοτητος
    μακροβιοι
    μακροκωλους
    μακροτερως
    μακρολογιαν

  4. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Thanks Kurk, makrothumew sounds very naturally Greek to me, and I was surprised that I could not find it attested to before the LXX. However, it must be at least associated to the Hebrew idiom in Paul’s mind so I think a translation could reflect that.

  5. J. K. Gayle says:

    Suzanne,
    You are definitely on to something. Probably the Hebrew (in LXX) motivates the nonetheless very Greek sounding word.

    Aristotle sees the root word as an essence of human nature (although we wonder if woman is for him essentially human):

    ὡστε παντα ὁσα πραττουσιν ἀναγκη πραττειν δι’ αἰτιας ἑπτα, δια τυχην, δια φυσιν, δια βιαν, δι’ ἐθος, δια λογισμον, δια θυμον, δι’ ἐπιθυμιαν. [9] το δε προσδιαιρει̂σθαι καθ’ ἡλικιαν ἠ ἑξεις ἠ ἀλλ’ ἀττα τα πραττομενα περι εργον: εἰ γαρ συμβεβηκεν τοι̂ς νεοις ὀργιλοις εἰ̂ναι ἠ ἐπιθυμητικοι̂ς,

    Thus all the actions of men must necessarily be referred to seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, anger, and desire. [9] But it is superfluous to establish further distinctions of men’s acts based upon age, moral habits, or anything else. For if the young happen to be irascible, or passionately desire anything, it is not because of their youth that they act accordingly, but because of anger and desire.

    Rhetoric Book I, Chapter X –John Freese 1926 translation.
    Notice how Freese makes θυμός a synonym of ὀργιλος with anger.

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