On Tuesday, September 17, 2019, the New Century Edition (NCE) team hit the most significant milestone they have ever achieved. Latin translator Lisa Hyatt Cooper finished translating all 15 volumes of Secrets of Heaven!
And with her completion of that long task, the team has now completed translations of all of Swedenborg’s published theological works.
There are three main tasks involved in creating an NCE volume: translation, editing and annotating, and production. The first of these three is now complete for all volumes! There is much work still to be done to finish the other two processes, but this is the most gratifying milestone the team has reached in the project so far. Of the fifteen volumes in Swedenborg’s magnum opus Secrets of Heaven, only Secrets of Heaven volume 1 and volume 2 have made it through all three steps to date.
As NCE Series Editor Dr. Jonathan Rose shared during a recent tribute to Lisa’s work, Lisa started preparatory work in 1997 and started translating Secrets of Heaven in earnest in 1998, over twenty years ago. Secrets of Heaven constitutes 62.5 percent of Swedenborg’s published theological works, so she has had far more translating to do than all the rest of the team put together. And before translating for the NCE, she was the Latin consultant (and American reader) on the latter half of John Elliott’s translation of Arcana Coelestia (the same work), for the Swedenborg Society in London; John is the only other person alive today who has done what Lisa has done.
Gratitude and congratulations are also owed to Chara Cooper Daum, who is Lisa’s Latin consultant. Throughout the history of the project, others agreed to do a volume here or there, but only Chara was willing to go the distance and has done so. When she signed on, the Latin consultation for only volume 1 and part of volume 3 of 15 had been done; Chara signed on with volume 2, and has stayed from parts of volume 3 and all of volume 4 on. Ever since she committed to the task many years ago, Chara has been with Lisa every step of the way. This duo has done amazing things for the New Century Edition—and we cannot thank them enough!
For the last five or more chapters of Exodus at the end of Secrets of Heaven, Swedenborg lays aside his exegesis entirely, on the grounds that he has already covered that material when the tabernacle was described in earlier chapters. So the text at that point consists of three elements: the front fields (part of what used to be called “interchapter material”), the biblical text quoted without commentary, and the end fields (which were also called “interchapter material”).
Exodus 40 is the last chapter. It’s about Moses assembling the tabernacle, the “meeting tent.” Lisa was surprised by the emotion that suddenly took hold of her when she translated a particular phrase at the end of verse 33 of that last chapter. It reads, “And Moses finished the work.”
She found herself continuing to feel emotional as she translated the next two verses as well: “And the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of Jehovah filled the dwelling place, and Moses could not go into the meeting tent, because the cloud was staying above it and the glory of Jehovah filled the dwelling place.”
Chara had known in advance that the conclusion of Lisa’s epic effort might soon take place, and she had prepared a flower arrangement in anticipation of the need to mark the occasion. On receiving a text from Lisa—who, in keeping with her usual understatement, announced the end of her toils with the single Latin word Finis, “The End”—Chara and Jonathan immediately went to Lisa’s house to present the flowers and extend their congratulations in person.
This is the scene they found when they arrived:
This is the final paragraph on Lisa’s screen.
And this is the smile on her face.
Jonathan commented, “This is an accomplishment that really beggars description. I believe that no one who has not translated something as large and complex as Secrets of Heaven can quite imagine what it must have taken to keep going, largely alone, day after day in that herculean task.”
In fact, very few people ever have translated Secrets of Heaven into English or any other language. John Clowes, a brilliant Swedenborg scholar of the late 1700s and early 1800s, was the first to achieve a full English translation of the work. Over the years, various scholars have revised Clowes’s translations and put their own names on the title page, but no one completed a new and fresh translation of Secrets of Heaven until later in the 1800s, when a man named George Harrison composed an unfortunately too idiosyncratic version. In recent times, the distinguished British Swedenborgian John Elliott became the third to join this restricted club.
Jonathan adds, “Lisa is the only woman we know of who has had the calling and the intellectual and spiritual chops to get the job done. She brought many unique abilities and perspectives to her work—discipline, an astounding attention to detail, and a deep reverence for the Lord. These abilities led her to deeply love the work she was doing, despite its difficulty; and her love and the Lord’s guidance led her to excel at the task the Lord gave her.
“Her hope and prayer is something we all share—that the glory of the Lord will come down and fill the text that she has now finished,” he concludes.
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