Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Fijian word Kalougata

from Peceli,

The word Kalougata

Kalougata means blessing and as I understand it there are three ways of translating the word. Ah Koy only looked at one meaning. I agree with Andrew Thornley in looking at the word more carefully. In the 1941 Fijian Dictionary the other meanings are ‘sharp’ or ‘pointy’, as a knife, or also as in addressing a god, Sa gata cavucavu na Kalou – the God speaks truly, has power to perform. This is like an Amen. It is good that Ah Koy questioned the meaning of ‘kalougata’ and making us think about it, but he did not go far enough to look at the theological dimension of this word. The word gata as serpent or snake is also mentioned in the Bible and as my teacher Alan Tippett said, sometimes we do Christianize something from a former tradition.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert so the Son of Man must be lifted up.
Mevaka sa laveta cake na gata mai na veikau ko Mosese; sa laveti cake vakakina na Luve na Tamata.

From Fiji Daily Post on Saturday

KALOUGATA DEBATE - The origins of 'Kalougata'

Sydney, March 2009

FROM the very early days of the Christian era in Fiji, “Kalougata” was universally recognised as the word for “blessing”.

In 1839, four years after the European missionaries arrived in Fiji, Rev William Cross published the first translation of the book of Genesis.

In Chapter 1:22, for the phrase “God blessed them”, Cross used the Fijian, “Sa vakalougatataki ra na Kalou, ka vosa”.

This was later revised by the missionary scholar, Rev David Hazlewood in the 1864 Fijian Old Testament as “A sa vosavakalougatataki ira na Kalou”.

Hazlewood’s revision was later accepted by Rev Frederick Langham in the 1901 Old Testament Revision, which is the version in use today.

In the New Testament, the first use of the word “blessed” is in the Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3ff. In this case, Rev John Hunt, who was the first to translate the New Testament in full, used the phrase “Sa kalougata ko ira’ for “Blessed are”.

Hunt had the services of brilliant Fijian linguists such as the legendary Noa Koroinavuqona and the Viwa chief, Ratu Ravisa (Elijah Varani), as well as Adi Litia Vatea, relative of Cakobau. These people would have approved the use of this phrase.

The word “Kalou” in Hazlewood’s 1851 Dictionary is defined as “a god” and Hazlewood says that the word is used to denote anything superlative.

In the same Hazlewood dictionary, the word “kalougata” is defined as “a powerful or true god, a god that performs what he promises – hence blessed”.

The word “gata” in Hazlewood’s dictionary has a primary meaning of “sharp” and can also be used in descriptions of the land when referring to “hilly” or “many peaks”.

“Gata” is also used when addressing a traditional deity, in the sense of “so let it be” [viz: Amen].

This is expressive of the god’s power to perform. And so we have the Fijian phrase: “Sa gata cavucavu na kalou”, meaning: ‘The god speaks truly’. A literal rendering of this phrase in English would be ‘the god pronounces to the point or exactly’.

This sense of the word “gata” gives further depth to an understanding of “kalougata”.
Then there is the important idea of ‘functional substitution’, as used by Fijian missiologists like Rev Dr Alan Tippett. This is where something powerful from pre-Christian days is taken and given a sacred Christian use. The best known example in Fiji is Cakobau’s killing stone being now used as a baptismal font. So “kalougata” – a god performing what is promised – becomes “blessed”.

Let us also not forget that ‘gata’ in its meaning as snake has very positive attributes.
The great traditional Fijian deity Degei, of Nakauvadra fame, was imagined to be a gigantic snake, with significant creative powers attributed to it, as well as destructive powers (but then so has the Christian God).

Capell has made the debate somewhat more difficult by not having a separate entry for the word “kalougata” even though it appears countless times in the Fijian Bible.

far more convincing source is Hazlewood’s dictionary, not Capell’s.

* Dr Thornley is a former lecturer at Pacific Theological College and Davuilevu Theological College. He has published books on Fijian Methodism in its foundational years.



Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

When I read the article by Ah Koy I decided it was unprintable here on our blog, as it was so filled with spite and generalisations and lacking in generosity. He believes the word kalougata is really a curse and that is quite stupid. A word is a word is a word and often has many meanings. Thornley writes with common sense and clarity. I take 'kalougata' to be a word of good-will and kindness, something like 'sau[ and 'mana'.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your support on the matter of Kalougata.
You may be aware theat James Ah Koy has sponsored an entirely new Bible translation with Kalougata deleted.
I don't necessarily mind a new translation - indeed I believe that the Fijian Bible requires a new and modern translation. However this one has an ideological agenda above a linguistic one and that carries great risk.
In addition, the translation is from English to Fijian, when really it should be from the original languages - Hebrew and Greek - to Fijian.
I am currently engaged on a project to republish the John Hunt 1847 New Testament, in time for the bi-centennial of his birth in 2012.
Hunt used many Fijian informants with a good knowledge of the Fijian language. They would have endorsed his choice of Kalougata, which had earlier been used by both David Cargill and William Cross.

Anonymous said...

Peceli, just for your interest, I note that you quoted from John3:14, regarded the uplifted serpent.

In the 1847 translation John3:14 is translated thus:
"Me vaka sa laveta cake na gata ko Mosese mai na veikau, e dodonu me laveti cake talega vakakina na Luve ni tamata"

Any comments on the difference? I would be interested.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Sounds like an excellent project. We have the book of the gospels of Matthew, Mark that you wrote with Sevati and Tauga. I was there at the launch in Suva. Thank you. John Hunt's translation is the kai Bau translation and seems very good.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Peceli and Wendy for your support of the Hunt New Testament project. It is true that this first scripture translation of 1847 was in the kai Bau dialect as you say. But there are some interesting sidelights to this. Firstly, for the early gospels, Hunt was influenced by the translations done by David Cargill and these were in the Lakeban dialect, so there are quite a few Lakeban words in the synoptic Gospels.
When we look at the Gospel of John, this translation was initially done by Rev. Thomas Jaggar, the missionary printer who resided at Rewa. This was the only book in the New Testament that Hunt basically accepted from another missionary, although he did the final revision. The result is that the book of John has quite a few Rewan words in it.
For the more pure Bauan, we have to wait until the later books of the New Testament, in particular the writings of St Paul.
When we come to a book like Hebrews for example, Hunt's favourite book in the New Testament, then we can look forward to seeing some beautiful idiomatic translation in the Bauan dialect.
A lot of this idiomatic Fijian was removed in later revisions of the New Testament, first by Rev James Calvert - who preferred a more literal style of translation - and then by Rev Dr Langham who did the 1901 Revision, which is basically the Bible you have today. The revision of the New Testament, done by the Bible Society in the 1970s made very few changes to Langham's version.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I am amazed that many of the words/themes/cultural references can actually be translated into the Fijian language. Also I am not a Biblical scholar but I value some parts of the Bible more than others and don't see the point in some of the Old Testament sections. Really, some bits need a good editor! One time I was on Bible reading roster in the local Uniting Church and before I launched out on a section from one of Paul's letters, I said, 'Paul does need a good editor.' Later the minister looked up at the ceiling waiting for it to fall in! I think he agreed with me though.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

from w.
I discovered that 'they' (Ah Koy and co.) have a website about their new translation. I was disconcerted to read that they are only looking at various English translations. Hey, what about the Hebrew and Greek?

And what is so paramount about the Bauan dialect eh? To me there's nothing wrong with flinging in some Lauan, Rewan, and what about Macuata dialect. 'a'a'a'a etc.!

Here is what they say about themselves:

The “New Fijian Translation” (NFT) has been translated on the basis of a number of English language versions of the Holy Scriptures, with no single English version being solely relied upon in a literal translation, in order to best capture the interpretation of the various English idioms, grammar and nuances of meaning in the Biblical text, into their Fijian equivalents.

The project team was assembled, commissioned and solely funded by the Ah Koy Christian Trust, and commenced work in July 2007. The translation into the Fijian language was carried out by Pastor Peni Seru and Pastor Samisoni Seru, the two Bauan pastors commissioned to complete this work.

Improvements made in the “New Fijian Translation Bible” (NFT) include:

* Exclusion the word “Kalougata” and other mistranslations from English to Fijian of the original scriptures

* 100% consistent usage of the Bauan dialect of the Fijian language, replacing the mixture of Tongan, Bauan, Lauan and other Fijian dialects used in the current 1864 translation of the Bible into Fijian

* Translation of the scriptures into contemporary Fijian language in order to facilitate easier reading and understanding, utilising newly available reference material including the new ‘Fijian Dictionary’

Andrew Thornley said...

I am glad that you have drawn attention to this new translation initiative and, as you say, there are some worriesome aspects about it. At the same time,I believe that Fijian readers deserve a modern translation and Ah Koy is attempting, albeit with controversial revisions, to fill a need that has existed for a long time.
Fortunately the Fiji Bible Society is working on a new version of the Old Testament but I do not think we shall see it for a while.
Meanwhile the New Testament, revised by the Bible Society in the 1970s, did not make many changes from the inadequate Langham revision of 1902.
This general debate about the Fiji Bible needs to continue.

Unknown said...

vinaka ..I've been following the debate and had some lively discussions over lunch at Butt Street with Tony Ah Koy over the matter and also with dad in NZ. I've read a draft of the new translation and in my humble opinion it 'feels' a little watered down already. But its a healthy discussion nevertheless and really opens up questions of identity etc........keitou sa loloma yani mai Lami...Josua kei Lo

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

bula sia Josua and Lo,
thank you for your comments. I think your Dad is the expert in these kind of interpretations but it's good to discuss Fijian words like this. I noticed they are tacking the word 'cibi' at present.
I hope life is good for your family, and even in trying times, there can still be love and humour.

Fair said...

We must aprreciate what our I vola Tabu has contributed and we must not attempt to alter nor delete any word from it as the Revelation or Ai Vakatakila warns in Chp. 22:19. GATA isn't it? We must take heed and refrain ourselves from supporting such move.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a translation from the original Hebrew and Greek, rather than most of the contemporary versions (today's english). They do sound watered down.... When I read the Bible I'd like to still have the sense that it is a 'HOLY' book. The Fiji Times is good enough for 'today's english'...


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Bula vinaka Volau,

There's a time and place for formal translations and colloquial translations I think. The Good News Bible is more colloquial and good for parables and stories. Formal words like 'blessed' instead of 'happy' is best for poetic readings from the Bible. As for the word 'kalougata' it does seem to have a particular history, but as it's a word in general use today as meaning 'blessed' I don't worry about the 'gata' part of it. Words change meaning over time anyway.

The Bible is made up of writings by people inspired by God and there surely are points of view even in the very first Hebrew and Greek versions.

Yesterday we were at a funeral and the reading (in English) was the Beatitudes using the formal language and it was beautiful. I wrote up about the funeral of our friend in babasiga yesterday.

Anonymous said...

It is good that there is much discussion on the "Kalougata" issue. The simple fact is that there is much doubt as to the meaning, and therefore to continue to describe the name of our God and his works, using a potentially hazardous word, is foolish. It is merely academic pride that is holding one back from change.

Note this extract from an old book from Mr.Meo's (former Principal of FIT) collection “Tukutuku kei Viti – O VITI MAKAWA”

..."A nodrau qase vu na Tomanaivi, sa tolu na yacana era dau cavuta na neimami qase:-

1. O Ratu-mai-Bula (koya sa bula mai Bulu). E ra sa qai dau cavuti koya tale kina, o Ratu-mai-Bula, era kaya, koya ka taukeni Bulu kei Vuravura talega.

2. Kotoinaqara. Era kaya sa nona vale o Bula, o ya na loma ivuravura. Sa katuba kei Bulu i Vuravura, na gusu ni qara levu e ruku ni ulunivanua ni Kalou o Nakauvadra.

3. Degei. Sa dua tani vei iratou na yaca oqo. Sa bale ki na ulu-ni-gata levu ka vakalomana (me luaraka mai na veika kece sa dau yacovi vuravura). O ya sa cavuti kina me iDegei se Degea, Degelaka (me tasova mai na lewe ni kato o ya). O Ratu-mai-Bula oqo, o koya ka kacabote mai Bulu, ki na Molikalagi e cake mai Nakauvadra, o ya mai na Vanua ni Yalo e ruku ivuravura e ra. Era qai cavuti koya kina nodrau kawa na Tomanaivi, me yacana o Ratu-mai-Bula (A Kalou Vure iBulu). Oqo ga neimami Kalou-vu-levu duadua na kai Viti. Sa gata ka ulu vakatamata, ni rogo mai na nona vosa i vuravura, sa mana i na ka kecega sa vosa kina; ni lutu na kuru, era kaya na Vu kei Viti; Sa vosa mai bulu o Ratu. E na dua tale na gauna, sa dau rairai mai na gusu ni qara, sa gata ka ulu vakatamata, ka yago va-gata, sa cavuti koya me Kalougata, na noqu Kalou. "

- Chapter 3; Author – Mokunitulevu Narai, written circa. 1907 -1925

If after reading this you do not get a chill down your spine when you hear the word "Kalougata", then you will never be convinced that the meaning of the word is very ambiguous at best, and therefore because of this element of doubt, best omitted from Holy Scripture.

My understanding of the New Fijian Translation is that it was never meant to be a Greek or Aramaic translation, it was always to be a modern translation to allow Fijians (most of whom cannot speak Greek or Aramaic, but who do speak English) to read the bible in modern Fijian (Bauan). There is complete transparency, as the text is available for download free on the website and the hardcopy bibles will be given away free.

The other point is, for all the criticism about a English>Fijian translation, it will be interesting to see just how much of the content of the other new translations being planned, supposedly being translated from Greek etc, is similar or identical to the NFT Bible.

Anonymous said...

I suppose although the quoted extract is not authoritative, because of its age being 100 years old, it would be indicative of the common uses of the term "kalougata" at those times, about 40 years on from the Rev. Hunt translation.

This would be the same as our understanding Fijian language and idioms in use around the time of independence, 40 years ago from today.


Anonymous said...

What’s in a name?

One thing is sure in the Judeo-Christian tradition: we are not at
liberty to call God by whatever name we choose. God has names which he
has revealed to us, names by which he is to be designated. None of
those names include ‘sharp God’ or ‘snake God’ which are the two
possible translations of ‘kalougata’ - the Fijian name for God in
extant translations of the Fijian Bible.

Sir James Ah Koy has forcefully argued that kalougata means ‘snake
god’ and this is an insult to God and a curse to the Fijian people
since it is the enemy of God, the Serpent, the Devil, Satan, who is a
snake god, not God himself.

Apologists have attempted to refute Sir James by asserting that
kalougata has actually come to mean ‘sharp god’ and therefore no curse
on the Fijian people applies.

But we would assert that nowhere in the ancient Hebrew is God referred
to as a ‘sharp God’, nowhere does he call himself by that name.

God is described as strong God, a powerful, God, a mighty God, but
never a sharp God. He may be qualified further as a merciful God, a
loving or compassionate God, even a jealous God, but never a sharp

Sharp, in the Bible, describes arrows, swords, mouths and knives, but
never God.

Sharp is also Biblically descriptive of stones, razors, teeth, iron,
sickles, and even eyes, but never God.

It may also refer to axes, tongues and anger, but never God.

In other words, there is no Biblical warrant for calling God a ‘sharp
God’, neither do we have Biblical permission or rights to give him
that name.

Indeed, we are expressly ordained by God to worship him by his true
names or else we violate the third of the big Ten Commandments which
forbids taking his name ‘in vain’. The fifth of the Ten Commandments
more positively orders us to ‘honour’ our father and mother.

Sir James Ah Koy not only takes those commandments especially
seriously, he has put his mind and money behind his mouth by
commissioning the publication of an altered version of the Bible – the
first wholly Bauan translation and interpretation of the Bible – that
gives God, our heavenly Father his proper honour by referring to him
as he is to be referred to.

Hence, there is no more kalougata or its derivatives in the Ah Koy
funded, New Fijian Bible which has come to completion and will soon be
published online for readers to judge and appreciate.

There is no reference to God as sharp or snake. Rather he is given his
proper titles.

We applaud this revisionism. It seeks to correct a historical gloss.

It is an alteration for accuracy and respect.

Sir James goes further and asserts that the effect of this linguistic
revision will be the lifting of a curse placed upon the Fijian people
by their inadvertent dereliction of duty in regard to calling God what
he has chosen to be called, and Fijian worshippers ignoring what God
orders us to call him.

Sir James may well be right; at the very least he is entitled to this
point of view.

Whether we agree with his corollary to the thesis or not, one thing is
for sure – we are no more entitled to call God what we like any more
than we are entitled to call each other what we like.

Names are sacred self-disclosures. To unilaterally call others, and
God, whatever we choose is a form of swearing.

In the ancient world, names were a blessing – we were blessed by being
given a name.

To expect God’s blessing while we call him something other than what
he has called himself is hardly blessing God. In fact, it renders
hollow our petitions for his blessing.

The New Fijian Bible is a Christian contrition whose time has come.

- Editor, Fiji Daily Post

Andrew Thornley said...

I see the debate continues after quite some time from the original blog. Discussion will be revived when the original John Hunt New Testament is published on the occasion of the bi-centennial of John Hunt's birth in June 2102.
I appreciate all contributions on this matter; people hold beliefs and understandings precious to them and that must be valued. As with the English Bible, so Fijian will gradually accumulate a range of translations, including the NFT. I am suprised however by the great differences between all the Fijian translations to this point in time, based on the original languages, and the NFT translation, which is based on English. I do maintain that translating the Fijian Bible from English is problematic because it removes the meaning and idiom one step from the original languages.
I think Ah Koy would have gained greater credibility if he had used translators with a good knowledge of Hebrew and Greek.
In response to the issue about "kalougata", we must remember that God in the Fijian Bible is "Kalou" and everyone accepts that. "Kalou" was taken from the pre-Christian (pagan) era so if we follow the argument of the NFT supporters, perhaps "Kalou" itself should be changed. Once you do that, where do you stop? As for the translation of 'blessing', to use the word "kalougata" is not disprespectful to God. All words in the Bible are sacred. Moses uplifted the snake as a spiritual image.
Idiom is very important in all languages, no less in Fijian. One has to go back to the very beginning of translation of the Fijian Bible and realize that William Cross in 1839, shortly after reaching Rewa, used the word "kalougata" for blessing. He would have only done so after consultation with his Fijian converts. And remember too that Cross came from a very strong Wesleyan evangelical tradition. He would not have used a word with heavily 'pagan' associations. The early Wesleyan missionaries were very critical of pagan ceremonies and any customs with strong pagan inferences. Cross must have immediately recognized the spiritual power of the word "kalougata" and accepted the word through his evangelical filter. His choice of that word was affirmed by John Hunt and Noa (his Fijian linguistic assistant), by James Calvert(who changed a lot of words in the Hunt translation), by David Hazlewood, by Frederick Langham and by the Fijian talatalas who did the last NT revision in the 1970s. I do wonder how Fijians feel about the replacement word for 'kalougata' used in the NFT. It is 'kalouvinaka' I would be interested to know how people respond to that word - literally and idiomatically.

Anonymous said...

Gata does not mean snake or sharp but effective, when used in the sense the word Kalougata uses it for