Skip to main content

The Bible in Classical Nahuatl

Since the first time I heard the Nahuatl language spoken in a country church in San Luis Potosi, Mexico when I was a teenager, I have been fascinated by this language. Despite all odds, Nahuatl has held its own for over 500 years since the Spanish conquest, and continues to be spoken in many parts of Mexico to this day.

In modern times, American missionaries have translated the New Testament (as well as the Old Testament in a handful of cases) into a number of modern dialects of Nahuatl. However, until up to a few years ago, I was unaware that the Scriptures had already been translated into Nahuatl centuries before, during a time when the Catholic Church was a bit more tolerant towards native languages than it later became.

This translation is known as the Evangeliarium, and it was compiled in the mid 16th century. It is worth mentioning that it is not a complete translation of the Bible—in fact, it could be more accurately described as a lectionary, a book containing readings of Scripture organised according to the liturgical calendar. I don’t know whether or not the Nahuatl Evangeliarium was actually used in Catholic mass in times past, but that was clearly its original purpose. It is attributed to Bernardino de Sahag煤n, a Franciscan friar who took a great interest in Aztec language and culture, although it is very likely that he worked with a number of Nahuatl speakers to produce this book.

Despite the fact that the Evangeliarium does not contain the complete Bible, the more I looked at it the more I thought it would be worthwhile to reorganise the scriptures into books, chapters, and verses as in conventional Bibles. I took an edited version of the Evangeliarium which was published in 1858, and over the span of almost a year (15 minutes a day!) I copied, pasted, and proof-read the text verse-by-verse using Google Books and Archive.org. I used the Bibledit software to compile the text, and I am happy to report that the final result may be browsed and searched at this website:

teoamoxtli.nawatl.org

Read More
John 3:3 in Greek and Nahuatl, demonstrating the use of macrons on long vowels

Adventures in Vowel Length

There was a time, not so long ago, when I fancied myself somewhat of an expert in the ancient Greek language. I learned the Greek alphabet shortly after learning the Roman one, and throughout childhood I studied the language slowly but surely. Upon arriving at university, the Greek professors graciously allowed me to test out of the first year of Greek, which is how I ended up taking Greek 3 during my first semester, and went on to take every Greek class that was available. So imagine my surprise, when, after all those years of acquainting myself with the language, for the first time I recently came across the fact that ancient Greek has phonemic vowel length. I had a foggy notion of Eta and Omega being “long” vowels and Epsilon and Omicron being “short” vowels, but I had chalked it up to being a weak attempt at explaining how they should be pronounced, something akin to how in my native English they say that the A in “apple” is short, whereas the “A” in “acorn” is long. Phonologically speaking, the difference between these two is a difference in quality, not quantity—in fact, the A in “acorn” is a diphthong; not even a simple vowel!

Read More

Clannad lyrics: “A Quiet Town”

In 2013, Clannad (one of my favourite bands) came out with their newest album, N谩d煤r, and after seven years, it appears that still no one has taken the trouble to transcribe the lyrics of these songs and to make them available online. I did this song just now, and I thought I would share it here for anyone who may be searching the web for just that.

A Quiet Town

Moraira is an old fishing town
The Christians came here long ago
And they worked and toiled with love and devotion Read More

Hats Off to Respect

Looking back on my growing up years, I don鈥檛 recall any time in particular when someone told me it was disrespectful to wear a hat in the house. Maybe I just noticed it from others, or heard other people talking about it. Or maybe it was from mere utilitarian motives: In my mind, the purpose of a hat is to keep sun or rain off your head, and when you鈥檙e indoors, this protection is no longer necessary. But regardless, traditionally a man is considered disrespectful if he wears his hat indoors (ladies can keep them on, because theirs are mainly decorative).

I have had some conversations of late with people my own age who informed me that this is no longer a sign of disrespect in our society. I will continue to do it, because it is part of my nature, but is this the case? Has our culture changed in this point, to where no offense will be taken when a man wears a hat indoors?

Last week I was on a mission trip in West Virginia with 14 other Christians, and while visiting a nursing home a Christian lady remarked that she really appreciated me taking off my hat when we came in鈥擨 didn鈥檛 notice whether some of my team members may have neglected to remove their caps, but that is a possibility. She then went on to cite some male figure in her family鈥攈er father, perhaps鈥攚ho had stressed the point in her past.

I think what my friends have said is becoming true: among middle-aged and younger people in the United States, no one really thinks about removing their hat when entering a building. However, it is also clear to me that there still exists a generation that holds to this way of showing respect, and out of respect for them, I believe that we men should be more conscious of that aspect of culture (even if it is passing away), and observe it when in the company of older people. As for me, I鈥檓 quite content to continue in all situations even if the idea disappears completely, since I like it. But the bottom line is this: Be thoughtful, and show respect!

At St. Roque’s

From Ailenroc鈥檚 Book, by Cornelia Alexander. Note from the blogger: St. Roch’s chapel still exists in New Orleans, and greatly resembles the description given by Mrs. Alexander more than a century ago. Here is more information about the cemetery and chapel, and here is a collection of photographs from the place which I found very interesting.

鈥淣o visit to New Orleans is complete without a pilgrimage to St. Roque, and you must go there. I have some wishes to make, and will go with you.鈥

So said my friend, whom I will call 鈥淣ell.,鈥 for short.

鈥淪ome wishes to make?鈥 I repeated.

鈥淵es,鈥 she said. 鈥淎ccording to an old legend, one may get any wish granted by walking to St. Roque鈥攏ever stopping on the way鈥攕aying a prayer, and making a wish.鈥

鈥淗ow easy! And who, pray, might St. Roque be?鈥 I asked.

鈥淥, he was just a saint,鈥 she said, lightly, 鈥渁 very holy man. I don鈥檛 know much about him, but I do know that wishes are granted at St. Roque鈥檚 Church. I鈥檝e tried it. I wished once for money, and got it.鈥

Nell. was not raised a Catholic, but has drifted that way from superstition and association.

Seeing that I was still unbelieving, she appealed to Miss Cecilia, a lovely Creole girl, a native of the city, and a pure and tender lamb of the Catholic fold. Read More