Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Prophet Isaiah Could Have been Sawn Asunder

"On account of these visions, therefore, Beliar was wroth with Isaiah, and he dwelt in the heart of Manasseh and he sawed him in sunder with a wooden saw. And when Isaiah was being sawn in sunder, Belchira stood up, accusing him, and all the false prophets stood up, laughing and rejoicing because of Isaiah" (The Ascension of Isaiah 5:1-2).



JimSpace said...

Hi Edgar,
I have James Charlesworth's OTP 1-2. Vol. 2 has the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah. His translation of 5:1 has the tool of execution being a "wood saw" (a saw to cut wood), and it has a footnote referring the reader to the prolegomena entry "Original Language". A complicated explanation awaits, but at the end it states that the Hebrew original was incorrectly translated as "wooden saw" into Greek. So it appears that this legend states that Isaiah was executed with a wood-cutting saw.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the comment. Your remarks show why these issues usually take a specialist to sort out, and even then, things might remain foggy.

I believe that the translation I used was done by R.H. Charles which is an older work. The point made by Charlesworth is therefore of some interest.

Googlebooks contains a number of sources that address the issue of translating Ascension to Isaiah 5.1-2.

James Hastings (Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, written in 1916) agrees with Charlesworth. He too considers the rendering "a wooden saw" to be a misreading of the Hebrew for "a wood-saw." See p. 99 of his work. As you have no doubt read, Charlesworth also notes that the context demands the reading, "a wood saw/a wood-saw."

But looking back at the note in R.H. Charle's edition, it's helpful for seeing why he translates 5.1-2 the way he does.


All the best!