NAVIN = NUN.

I’m on the very last chapter of War and Peace, almost finished marching through the (extremely tedious and annoying) Second Appendix, and I’ve been held up (or, if you will, have seized the opportunity to take a break) as a result of running into the name Иисус Навин [Iisús Návin], which is how Russians refer to Joshua. I’ve known his Russian name for a long time, and I’ve known that they have to use his patronymic to distinguish him from Jesus Christ because in Russian, unlike in Western European languages, there is no differentiation between Joshua (Yehoshua) and Jesus (Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua)—they’re both Iisús. What I had not given much thought to was why his patronymic is Навин rather than Нун [Nun], which according to tradition is the name of his father. I decided to investigate, and was coming up empty when I happened on a page called “Имя Иисуса Навина в традиционной экзегетике” (Word doc, Google cache), which says in a parenthetical aside that “Наве” [Nave] and “Навин” [Navin] are used instead of “Нун” [Nun] “благодаря ошибке переписчиков первых манускриптов” ['thanks to a mistake by copyists of the first manuscripts']. Does anybody know the background of this mistake and why it persisted in the Orthodox tradition? While I wait for enlightenment, I’ll go finish the book.
(N.b.: My next post, either later today or tomorrow, will be a summing up of my reaction to War and Peace, so if you could hold off on your responses to my irritation with the appendix—which I will go into in detail—until then and focus for the moment on Navin/Nun, plus of course the usual derails, I will be grateful.)

Comments

  1. Joshua’s original name was Hoseah. In the Septuagint, Numbers 13:8 and 13:16, he is referred to as “αυση υἱὸς ναυη”, so that might take care of “Наве” – assuming, of course, they pronounced/transcribed Septuagintic η as [e]. Someone with a firmer grasp of Greek could explain how they got ναυη from Nun. Or have the translators perhaps mistaken ναυη for a female name?

  2. I am going to offer only a guess, but maybe it is something.
    Nun is נונ (N-V-N) in Hebrew.
    In the LXX, Nun is written Ναυη (Naue) which would be (Navi) with a Byzantine pronunciation.
    It would be around this time that it entered Russian, which would explain why Наве and Навин were used in the first manuscripts. They probably are retained because of the emphasis of the LXX in the Orthodox tradition.
    That is only a guess though. Someone else may have more information.

  3. 1 Chronicles 7:27 is the only place which gives Joshua’s father’s name undeclined and suprisingly enough, it’s νουμ.

  4. It appears that Russian is merely following the name of Joshua’s father in the Septuagint (LXX), the old Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. There, e.g. (Jos 1:1), the name נון (Nûn, but also as Nôn in 1 Chr 7:27) was translated as Ναυη, “Nave”.
    I’m not sure what the latest thinking on why the LXX’s rendering of the name differs from the Hebrew, but my older reference work claim that it is because a scribe had misread ΝΑΥΝ (presumably for Nôn) as ΝΑΥΗ.

  5. Huh, that’s all extremely interesting and makes sense; the misreading of ΝΑΥΝ as ΝΑΥΗ is a guess, but strikes this amateur as a sensible one.

  6. Non-prophet says:

    I’ll take a stab at it.
    Navi in Hebrew is prophet.
    Yehoshua the Prophet.

  7. The Hebrew letter ‘vav’ (ו) can stand for either the ɒ, the ʊ or the v sound. That is, in the absence of nikkud (diacritics representing vowels in Hebrew), which I find difficult to believe was the case at the time of translation – but who knows?

  8. Bill Walderman says:

    Last year I made it through the whole thing in Russian except the second appendix. The first appendix was enough for me.

  9. J. W. Brewer says:

    It’s not just the Orthodox. In the King James Version, Ecclesiasticus 46:1 (part of the “Let us now praise famous men” section) begins “Jesus the son of Nave was valiant in the wars . . .” referring to the same fellow who elsewhere in the KJV is Joshua the son of Nun. The KJV translators often followed either the Hebrew or Greek variant version of a name, depending on whether they were using a Hebrew or Greek vorlage for the particular book, despite the resulting inconsistency in the KJV as a whole (so, e.g., Isaiah is frequently Esaias when referred to in the NT). Since for whatever reason Ecclesiasticus (a/k/a Sirach) never made it into the final Jewish canon, the Hebrew original has been lost and the Greek is all we have.

  10. J. W. Brewer says:

    Oh, and just to make it even more ecumenical, the Douay-Rheims also has “Jesus the son of Nave” in the same passage (Ecclus. 46:1), following the Vulgate’s “Jesus Nave.” In the books where the Vulg used a Hebrew vorlage, the D-R uses “son of Nun,” although it’s “Josue” in preference to “Joshua.”

  11. Very interesting—I hadn’t realized the KJV was so inconsistent!

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Since for whatever reason Ecclesiasticus (a/k/a Sirach) never made it into the final Jewish canon, the Hebrew original has been lost and the Greek is all we have.

    The German Einheitsübersetzung (a translation that was a cooperation project between Catholics and Protestants) contains a Buch Jesus Sirach, and the preface says that several Hebrew manuscript fragments are known from Cairo (found in 1896, containing additions and repetitions), Qumran and Masada. It also says the book is called “Ben Sira” in Hebrew.

  13. The Hebrew letter ‘vav’ (ו) can stand for either the ɒ, the ʊ or the v sound. That is, in the absence of nikkud (diacritics representing vowels in Hebrew), which I find difficult to believe was the case at the time of translation – but who knows?

    The LXX dates to about 100 BCE. Hebrew diacritics (nikkud) weren’t developed for another 750 or more years.

    I’ll take a stab at it. Navi in Hebrew is prophet. Yehoshua the Prophet.

    נביא navi prophet is spelled differently than נון nun (better reflecting actual pronunciation: nuhn or noon), the name of Joshua’s father. Curiosity: נון nun is an old word for fish. (Nebi/Nabi is Arabic for prophet: Nebi Musa = the Prophet Moses.)

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