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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

Commonplace Book 1: Gospels (Evangelium)

Gospels (Evangelium)


(Note: The rvemainder of the books consists of fragments of Varshe's translation. It is remarkable the degree to which the language of these texts perfuses Varshe's diaries and poety. His writing seems to be a digestion and reconstitution of these words--the Other's words, translated words, words domesticated and claimed in translation. This is particularly true of the present entry, Varshe's translations from the New Testament. This language, this discourse, in Varshe's Yiddish, forms of the backbone and armature of his discursive world. His obsession with the(/his) sinful body as dead, with a sort of asexual asceticism, with birth as master metaphor, with "unworth," with the sinner as "prey" for the Devil, with truth and lie, with tempation and distraction, and so on and so on, all can be traced back, quite directly, to the present translations of the New Testament. I have opted to use the KJV translation not only because of its poetry, but also because it seems quite probable that it was at least one of Varshe's source texts.)


And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. (Matthew 6:13)


Breng undz nit tsu keyn nisoyn, nor bafray undz funem beyzn. Den dayn iz dos kenigraykh, un di gvure, un di herlekhkayt af eybik.


And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7:3)


Un farvos derzestu dos shpendl in dayn bruders oyg, un a balkn in dayn oyg bamerkstu nit?


But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15)


Yeder eyner brengt zikh aleyn tsu a nisoyn ven er vert fun der lust fun zayn eygenem harts tsureytst un farfirt. Di lust vert trogedik un gebirt zind; un di zind vos me tut, gebirt toyt.


For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)*


Un veysn mir fun emes un zindikn mir mutvilik, iz nito keyn kapore far undzer zind.

Nor es loyert af undz der shreklekher yom-ha’din, un der grimtsorn fun fayer vos iz greyt uftsufresn ale vidershpenike.


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)


Kumt tsu mir ale mide un faryokhte, un ikh vel aykh gebn ru. Nemt mayn yokh af zikh un lernen op fun mir, den ikh bin dermutik un gut iz mayn harts un ru vet hobn ayere zele, den mayn yokh iz--gut, un mayn last--gring.


Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)**


Vorhaftik zog ikh aykh: vet ir nit ton tshuve un vern vi kinder, ver ir nit kumen in gots kenigraykh.


Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee (Matthew 18:8-9, abridged)


Un iz dir dayn hant oder fus a shtroykhlung, hak zey op un varf zey avek.

Un iz dir dayn oyg a shtroykhlung, rays es aroys un varf es avek.


For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)***


Den nokh tkhies-ha’meysim veln mener keyn froyen nit nemen, un froyen keyn mener, nor zey veln zayn vi malokhim in himl.


Judge not, that ye be not judged; For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 7:1; 6:14)


Mishpet nit, un ir vet nit gemishpet vern; zayt moykhl un men vet aykh moykhl zayn.


The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41, abridged)


Vilik iz der gayst un shvakh--dos fleysh.


Jesus saith unto him, [Thomas], because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29)****


Un yezus hot tsu im gezogt: vayl du host mikh gezen, hostu gegleybt. Zelik zenen yene, vos hobn nisht gezen un hobn gegleybt.


For he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:35)


Got iz gut oykh tsu di umdankbare un shlekhte.


A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)


A guter mentsh brengt fun’m gutn oytser fun zayn hartsn guts, a shlekhter brengt fun’m shlekhtn oytser fun zayn hartsn shlekhts. Den vos dos harts iz ful, redt dos moyl.


For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25, c.f. Luke 9:24, Mark 8:35)


Un ver es vil gevinen zayn lebn, vet es farlirn; un ver es git op zayn lebn fun maynetvegn, vet es gevinen.


At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matthew 11:25, c.f. Luke 10:21)


Un yezus hot gezogt: ikh dank dir, mayn foter, har fun himl un erd, vos du host dos farborgn fun di kluge un farshtendike. Un host dos megale geven kleyne kinder.


For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (Romans 8:24)


Un es leyzt undz oys di hofnung; di hofnung, vos zet, iz keyn hofnung nisht; den zet eyner, vos hot er tsu hofn?


O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:55-56)*****


Toyt! Vu iz dayn shtakhl? Gehenem! Vu iz dayn nitsokhn?

Dem toyts shtakhl iz di zind, un di shtarkayt kegn zind iz dos gezets.


Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)


Zayt afn vakh, den ayer soyne, der sotn, geyt um vi a brumendiker leyb un zukht vemen tsu fartsukn.


For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:18-24)


Un ikh veys, az es lebt nit in mir, dos iz, in mayn fleysh, dos gute; ikh hob dos viln tsum gutn, ober tun tu ikh nit. Dos gute, vos ikh vil, tu ikh nit, un dos shlekhte vos ikh vil nit, tu ikh.

Un ikh gefin in zikh a gezets. Dos ven ikh vil guts ton, iz dos shlekhte in mir faran.

Den loyt dem ineveynikstn mentsh hob ikh freyd fun gots gezets.

Ober in mayne glider hob ikh an ander gezets, vos brekht dem gezets fun mayn farshtand, un makht mikh far a gefangenem fun’m gezets fun zind, velkher iz in mayne glider.

O, ikh umglikhlekher! Ver vet mikh oysleyzn fun’m toytn layb?


A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:8)******


Un der mentsh, vos tsveyflt, iz nit zikher in ale zayne vegn.


Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10, probably)


Der, vos vet oyshaltn bizn sof, vet oysgeleyzt vern.


Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)


Altsding iz reyn far di reyne; un keyn zakh iz nit reyn far di umreyene, vos hobn keyn gloybn nit, den zeyer farshtand un gevisn iz farumverdikt.

Zey zogn, az zey kenen got; ober mit zeyere meysim leykenen zey in im, un zey zenen umverdike un vidershpenike, un toygn nit tsu gornisht.


And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)


Un ver es nemt nit af zikh zayn kreyts un geyt mir nit nokh, iz mikh nit vert.


For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)


Gots kenigraykh iz nit in vort, nor in makht.


By Moyshe Varshe

Back-translated and annotated by Corbin Allardice


*- Here, Varshe intentionally deploys specifically Jewish discourse. First he does translate “sacfirice” with the biblical and standard term, korbn, but instead uses kapore. A kapore is a sacrificial chicken used on Yom Kippur to expiate and absorb the sins of a penitent. Moreover, he translates “looking for of judgement” (or, “waiting for judgement”) into a specifically Jewish register: yom-ha’din (Day of Judgement). This term not only references the end of days, but is also a term for Rosh Hashanah.Through both of these, Varshe forms a strong rhetorical pattern linking the Jewish discourse of atonement to a Christian discourse of repentance, salvation, and eschatology.

**- Where the English translation uses “convert” (or, in other translations, “turn”), Varshe instead uses “tshuve ton” (to repent or atone). Once again, through the patterned deployment of specifically Jewish rhetoric, Varshe links the the Jewish High Holidays (particularly, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) to a Christian discourse of atonement and salvation.

***- Here, Varshe opts to use the Hebraic term Tkhies-ha’meysim rather than the German-origin oyflebung/uflebung to denote (the) resurrection.

****- Interestingly, Varshe omits Thomas’s name in his translation.

*****- What the KJV renders as “O, grave” (In the Greek, both verses refer to death, thanatos), Varshe translates as “O, Gehinnom.” The exact reason for this choice is unclear. It is also worth noting that Varshe clarifies the somewhat ambiguous phrasing “and the strength of sin is the law,” rendering it instead “and the strength against sin is the law.”

******- Varshe’s back translation would be most literally rendered as “and the person, who doubts, is never sure in any of their ways.” However, the root of the word for “to doubt” (tsveyfln) is tsvey (two), thus to doubt is, as it were, to be of two minds.In using the word tsveyfl, Varshe follows the Luther translation which offers “Ein Zweifler ist unbeständig in allen seinen Wegen.”


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