"Acceptable fast"

mpatricksweeney

Senior Member
US (English)
(Please excuse this post if it's inappropriate for the forums; I wanted some feedback, and consider WR forum readers the most literate folks online!)

Here's the context:

Tolstoy's ethical writings, driven by the question-- “What, then, must we do,” given the estrangement of the poor?-- particularly influenced Maurin. Tolstoy was after the practical expression of true religion, “the acceptable fast,” and saw that his relationship with the poor was central to the question.


Question:
Is "the acceptable fast" a widely-understood reference? It's from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah (ch 58), but I think may be familiar enough to English speakers that it can stand alone, without reference. Do you all think the average US reader can "call up" and work with the reference here? I'm using "the acceptable fast" to characterize the spirit of 'true religion.'


If no, would it work to say:
Tolstoy was after the practical expression of true religion-- "love God, love neighbor"-- on which all the law hangs, and realized his relationship with the poor was central to the question.


Thanks again for your feedback.

Patrick
 
Last edited:
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Your second version works immediately for me.

    The expression "the acceptable fast" rattled a very small bell in a long-forgotten distant dusty corner of my brain. Unfortunately the string broke before I could follow it up to find out what the expression meant.

    I'll have to look it up, now :)

    It may have an immediate resonance for others, though.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Never heard of "an acceptable fast", but wouldn't it mean logically a fast undertaken for reasons of piety as opposed to the involuntary hunger of the poor - a quite unacceptable fast? A holy or saintly person like Jesus or Gandhi fasted to humble and purify himself, which is acceptable to God. But the phrase is not a spontaneously recognisable concept.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "Acceptable fast" was immediately clear to me, but I'm a nun. I don't know if most of today's English speakers have enough of a "Bible culture" to catch it right away, though.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Dear Nun-translator, if the expression is so clear to you, why do you not lighten our darkness, or did I guess aright?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi mpatricksweeney

    I'm afraid "acceptable fast" wouldn't have meant anything to me. It didn't even ring the small broken-stringed bell that it did with panj:eek:

    Your second version, though, was absolutely transparent.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Dear Nun-translator, if the expression is so clear to you, why do you not lighten our darkness, or did I guess aright?
    Because the reference is given in the first post: Isaiah 58. Nothing mysterious: an "acceptable fast" is that fast that God finds acceptable.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Thank you, but now I have read your answer and the passage quoted, I am little the wiser. Could you,please, sum up what is an acceptable fast, a phrase that does not actually occur in the passage, at least not in the King James Version? There is some mention of being kind to the poor (which does not have much to do with fasting), and taking pleasure on the Holy Day, which He is against, but which is not necessarily relevant either.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Thank you, but now I have read your answer and the passage quoted, I am little the wiser. Could you,please, sum up what is an acceptable fast, a phrase that does not actually occur in the passage, at least not in the King James Version? There is some mention of being kind to the poor (which does not have much to do with fasting), and taking pleasure on the Holy Day, which He is against, but which is not necessarily relevant either.
    I'm not sure that this is within the scope of the forum, but another mod will delete it if it isn't. The term is found in verse 5. In the New International Version (NIV): Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

    The chapter goes on to explain what constitutes an acceptable fast: not a day of demonstrative and temporary practices, but a lifestyle change. If you relate to fasting as simply not eating the passage won't make much sense.

    I'd really rather not go into more detail here, but I'm sure you can find online sources that explain further.
     

    Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'm a Protestant Minister, so the image is not foreign to me for the same reasons as NT.

    The problem is that this is a metaphorical use of the verb "to fast." Elsewhere in the bible this image is used more directly/less metaphorically. Amos 5:22-24 expresses the same idea more directly.

    I hope this accepted as "on topic" as we are in the business of defining a phrase. But I yield to the administrators.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I thank you both, I am much clearer about it now, but there seems to me to be no reason to think you are breaking any rules: this is a phrase in plain English which I with my veneer of education did not understand and even the sagacious and erudite panj was unsure about, so it seems quite legitimate to have explored the matter. Apparently, the word fast was a translation of observare, which concerned religious observance, whether involving fasting or not. A quote from the passage mentioned by Oeco makes matters even clearer:

    23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.

    24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!


    So the Lord wanted good deeds and fairness not just a lot of elaborate ceremonies. Sounds good to me.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    [...]Apparently, the word fast was a translation of observare, which concerned religious observance, whether involving fasting or not. [...]
    Perhaps in the King James Version it was, but the original was in Hebrew, which is the text I referred to in trying to explain. I left out the explanations of the connotations of the Hebrew word that is translated as "fast" because that really would have taken us too far afield.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Acceptable fast meant nothing to me either, Patrick. (I'm not an American, or a nun, but am old enough to have done a fair amount of Bible studies.)
     
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