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31.03.2014 г.

Temple concept and related idioms and figures of speech in Japanese translation of The Book of Psalms

Borisova A.S. (Institute of Asian and African Studies / IAAS MSU)

Concept of the Temple is one of the major psalmic poetry notions that emerged mainly in a period of foundation of centralized Ancient Hebraic state with hereditary monarchy rules, when simultaneously process of centralization of religious cult with an establishment of austere monotheism was running. The Temple in Jerusalem became the cults' main seat and was seen as a physical manifestation of the center of the world (universum) and God's major earthly residence. The idea did not appeal to everybody. Some were still willing to serve rites in their old family or tribal sanctuaries. For instance Samaritans made Grizim mountain heart of their cult. The Temple itself was built after the rule of David, however the tabernacle and Zion Temple Mount became symbols of the state centralized cult in his time.

The psalms postulated and repeatedly affirmed in a poetic form the importance of temple as Gods' residence and Zion as the centre of the religion, the people and the state. Latter psalms of the sons of Korah described the Temple of Jerusalem. Created during the exile the psalms emphasize sorrow of loss of the Temple - a center, a point of attraction. The Temple, sanctuary, altar, Zion Mount figure in multiple Biblical metaphors and metonymies, idioms related to the cult and the state.

 Nevertheless when compared to Japanese culture and religion that gave shape to Japanese language Ancient Jews appear to have notion of sanctuary very different from the one the Japanese show. Even though Shinto similarly views a temple as deity's or spirit's dwelling there is no idea of unique and single center as temples can be of greater or minor significance yet each place marked by tradition or signs is suitable enough for worship. Even a capital the emperors sacred dwelling can be relocated, reestablished etc.

 Japan has adopted closer understanding of a temple and its bonds with a government rule and political center from Chinese philosophy, and it came to a special emphasis on capital city as a temple. However biblical reality was rendered with a Shinto touch when translated into Japanese which frequently led to reader's misinterpretation of psalmic dogmatics.

Translators extensively used previous Japanese literary and philosophic tradition therefore Japanese text of the Book of Psalms gives reference not only to Shinto but to Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism as well. Temple concept analysis translations gives opportunity to see distinction in perception of sacral within different cultural traditions, and how it is reflected in the means of artistic expression, as well as the way it can be transmitted with use of a different language.


1. Bible translation (

2. 口語訳新約聖書 translation (

3. Ernst R. Wendland «Harmony and algebra of the Psalms. Literature and linguistic analysis of biblical psalms» (original name «Analyzing the Psalms»), Bible translation institute, Moscow, 2010

4. Alexander Men "Bibliological Dictionary" (Volumes 1-3), Alexander Men's foundation, Moscow, 2002

5. Bonnefoy Y. Asian Mythologies , University of Chicago Press, 1993

6. Itō, Mikiharu, Evolution of the Concept of Kami,

7. Ono, Sokyo, 2003. Shinto: The Kami Way, Tuttle Publishing.

8. Yaron Eliav, God's Mountain: The Temple Mount in Time, Place and Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005)

For full text see: IOCS Works («Orientalia et Classica» Series) History and culture of traditional Japan. 7 / Ed. A.N.Mesheryakov, RSUH. Moscow, 2014.
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