Translating Nonsense

How does one translate nonsense that has arisen when scribes fall into a doze and begin to write drivel? There is a celebrated passage in the Great Stemma which I have been looking at today which marks a low point in scriptorial quality control. It derives from the Septuagint version of the Book of Job. I have tried to collate it in six parallel lines of continuous text below:

LXX  οι δε ελθοντες προς αυτον φιλοι  
VL   Nam qui venerunt ad eum amici  eius hii fuerunt: 
del  Nam qui venerunt ad eum amichi eius hic fuerunt: Sophar Israel
gam  Nam qui venerunt ad eum amici  eius hii fuerunt: Sofar filius
alf  Nam qui venerunt ad eum amici  eius hii fuerunt: Sofar filius
bet  Nam qui venerunt ad eum amihi  eius hii fuerunt: Sofar filius

ελιφας των ησαυ υιων         θαιμανων βασιλευς 
Elifaz, de filiis Esau       Themanorum rex;
Elifaz, de filiis Esau       et Temanorum uxor filiis 
Elifaz, de filiis Esau       et Themanorum uxor et filiis
Elifas, de filiis Esau       et Temanorum uxor filiis 
Elifaz                       et Hemanorum uxor filiis

βαλδαδ ο σαυχαιων τυραννος
Baldad sauceorum tirannus;
Ammon                                 qui fuit Ar-auce tiranni
Ballenon filii Ballac  et filiis Amon qui fuit Cobar-auce tiramni 
Balenon filii Ballac uxor filiis Amon qui fuit Chobar-aucce tiranni 
Balexion             uxor filiis Amon qui fuit Bar-auce tiranni

σωφαρ ο μιναιων βασιλευς
Sophar mineorum rex
et Themas de filiis Elifaz dux Idumee
et Heman     filius Elifaz dux Idumee
et Temans    filius Elifaz dux Idumee
et Themas    filius Elifaz dux Idumee

The six texts are: the Septuagint, the Vetus Latina and the Great Stemma's delta, gamma, alpha and beta recensions. This text does not appear in modern bibles, as it has never been incorporated into the Masoretic or Vulgate versions, and must therefore be referenced as LXX Job 42:17e.

The context is that Job sits on his dung-heap, owning just a broken bit of pottery to wipe the discharge from his ulcers, lamenting and asking God what's up.

A trio of guys -- Eliphaz of Teman (a town in Edom); Bildad of Shuah; and Zophar of Naamath -- show up and make the snarky kind of unhelpful remarks that guys always make, to the effect that it might just be Job's own fault. We men tend to brutality.

Rabbis must have often been asked what rank these guys had. One suspects the three names are simply some kind of impenetrable humour, but a midrash which claims they are monarchs is recorded in the Septuagint.

Here is how the New English Translation of the Septuagint renders the midrash: Now the friends who came to him were: Eliphaz of the sons of Esau, king of the Thaimanites; Baldad, the tyrant of the Sauchites; Sophar, the king of the Minites.

The repetitious, inflated mess this turns into in the Great Stemma was first spotted by the great Yolanta Zaluska. I want to mention the passage in my planned book. It's a dilemma deciding which nonsense version to translate and how to render it. Here's one of the more absurd possibilities:
  • Sofar the son of Elifaz of the tribe of Esau
  • the wife of the Thaimanites
  • the sons of Balenon's son Ballac
  • Amon who was tyrant of Chobar-auce
  • Themas son of Elifaz, duke of Edom
That inflates the list to more than five visitors in the scribal version. Of course, the nonsense could be understood as meaning that a throng of sons came to visit Job too. In which case, the country lane outside Job's country estate in Uz would have had a parking problem with chariots, camels and donkey-carts jamming all available roadside space.