That Crazy Etymology for the Seven Cities of Revelation

Our buddy St. Beatus of Liebana’s commentary includes a group of etymologies, probably from patristic authors, which aren’t at all like the usual etymological/poetical interpretations of the names of the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the authors were thinking, because it’s not like Greek or the usual “meanings” at all.

Well, I think the method to their madness is that they interpreted the Greek city names according to Hebrew!

For example, “Smyrna” is supposed to signify “their song”. In Hebrew, “zamiyr” means “song accompanied by an instrument”. “Sardis” is supposed to signify “the beginning of beauty”; “shaphar” is beauty and “dasha” is sprout, beginning. And so on. It seems to be the usual sort of poetic interpretation — not really so much about language as about using language to draw pictures. It would be interesting to find out if this was a non-Jewish Christian thing, or something that the Jewish residents of the cities came up with.

Of course, I’m sure the critical edition tells all about this, and the article somebody wrote about it already, but it’ll be a long time before I can take off enough daytime hours to hit the special collections that are only open 8-5 on weekdays. :)

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One response to “That Crazy Etymology for the Seven Cities of Revelation

  1. Joy

    Here’s me being Off Topic again, but I got you an Easter present. It should be arriving at your folk’s house around Tuesday. Here’s hoping tomorrow finds you all blessed and in good voice. :)

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