Category Archives: Greek Bible Stuff

Odyssey Reference in the Bible

Apparently it is well-known among Classics scholars that the first few lines of the Letter to the Hebrews are a sort of imitation of the first few lines of Homer’s Odyssey. The word “polytropos” is used in both, and both have alliteration based on the letter P. (I don’t know if the scansion is the same.) And both books take their own sweet time talking about the hero, leading up to it, before finally naming Odysseus and Jesus Christ.

It does not seem to be a well-known fact among Bible scholars; and even the Oxford Study Bible and the Navarre Bible don’t have bupkis about it in the footnotes or introductions to Hebrews. Some patristics types know about it. Nobody seems to talk much about it.

I found out about it by chance, from the Odyssey side, because I heard something doubtful about the Emily Wilson translation of the Odyssey; and so I have been looking into it.

Odysseus is described as the “andra… polytropon”, and in both Iliad and Odyssey he gets described as lots of poly- adjectives. The word “polytropos” means a lot of different things, as varied as “many-traveled,” “versatile,” and “of many guises.”

The Fathers don’t really seem to comment on this, possibly because it seemed too obvious, and possibly because the association with pagan literature was controversial. But they do often comment on how God’s theophanies to Israel were literally “of many guises.” (It might also be that the Fathers were translated by people who didn’t know what the Fathers were alluding to, and therefore the allusions vanished in translation.)

Classics scholars point to a possible comparison of Israel and the Church to Odysseus, in that they went lots of places and did lots of different things, but still stayed focused on “returning home” to God. In this view, Odysseus would be a sort of “all things to all men” prototype. (And apparently the Odyssey does compare Odysseus to an octopus at one point, because he could “fit in” like a sneaky little octopus, which is always fitting into all sorts of holes, spaces between rocks, and other undersea environments.)

But of course Odysseus was also a hero who changed and affected things in the places where he went, and from which he escaped, or when he was helped and then departed. (Also like Paul.) He is identified by Homer as someone who suffers troubles, but also causes troubles to all humans he meets. His great-grandfather on his mom’s side (through Autolycus the famous thief) is Hermes, also described as “polytropos.”

On the lowest level, you could certainly compare Paul’s travels to Odysseus’ travels, right down to all the shipwrecks and escapes. And guess who Paul was mistaken for, in Lycaonia? Hermes! Hermes polytropos!

I still think there has to be more to the Hebrews allusion to the Odyssey, because a proemion is supposed to frame your view of everything that comes after it, all the way to the end. So you would expect mini-allusions throughout, and a wrap-up allusion at the end.

It wouldn’t even surprise me if different sections of Hebrews alluded to different sections of the Odyssey, although obviously it would have to be a bit subtle (because otherwise there would be footnotes all over). But I don’t know enough about the Odyssey in the original, or the Letter to the Hebrews, or Greek, for any of that to “pop up” in my brain immediately.

Odysseus is favored by Athena and others, but he also suffers the wrath of Poseidon because… his buddy Athena is angry at him, and at all the Greeks, for enabling her temple in Troy to be profaned. So she doesn’t help him with her wisdom, and he stupidly and rashly reveals his identity to Polyphemus when escaping. (For once, he acts like a Bronze Age hero, and gets punished for it.)

Odysseus’ mother wanted him to be named “Polyaretus,” “Many times-prayed for,” but his grandfather Autolycus names him “Odysseus,” which means something like “Curse”, “Troublesome,” or even “Odious.” (This is similar to Deirdre being named “sorrow.”) He’s a jinx, a Jonah, the opposite of a Benedict. And throughout the poem, the divine wrath against him, fair and unfair, is associated with the verb “odysthai,” to be wrathful. (And of course the Iliad is all about singing about “menis,” righteous wrath, both by Achilles and the gods. Really really destructive and self-destructive wrath, no matter how justified at first.) Jenny Strauss Clay’s book The Wrath of Athena talks a lot about all this stuff, and it is full of great points.

So you could argue that the children of Jacob/Israel (another trickster like Odysseus) were also both favored by and punished by God. (And they had anger issues, too.)

Odysseus is also called “many-sorrowed;” and certainly this would describe the children of Israel and even Jesus.

Also, both the Iliad and the Odyssey involve a lot of advice sections and proverbs, which is part of why many pagan Greeks and Romans regarded them as a sort of Scripture.

A lot of Hebrews is comprised of OT quotes, and explanations of how a Christian is supposed to live in the world, but also stick with God and care about people nobody cares about. You could argue that it is a book of adventure advice, maybe.

So I think there’s a lot going on with Hebrews which is implicit, and that it is mostly whooshing over our heads. The author is engaging with the whole Jewish tradition, but also with the diaspora’s Hellenic traditions. Otherwise, why the Odyssey reference?

UPDATE: An extended Odyssey reference in Acts 28, by St. Luke. This one I had heard theorized, but it doesn’t apparently involve direct quotes.

This blogger theorizes that Luke wants the reader/listener to put himself into the protagonists’ place, such that Paul’s story becomes the reader’s story.

This goes along with Homer’s tricky way of turning people inside the Iliad and Odyssey into people listening to the same story as us, and us into participants and judges of the story.

Luke also shows the hospitable goodness of pagans on the island, implicitly comparing them to the faerie Phaeacians and their king, who are much more kindly and just than the pagan gods. Paul responds graciously, by healing those who are sick.

So it’s all pretty fun but strange.

UPDATE: Anyway… we’re not used to thinking of God as “versatile” or “resourceful” or any of the other polytropos meanings. But He is. He speaks to us in all ways, by any means necessary. He is single and simple, but He finds and makes all those ways.

UPDATE: The Polymeros kai Polytropos blog listed a 2019 Society of Biblical Literature conference paper about Hebrews and the Odyssey as associated by sound and other poetic devices:

Jeffrey E. Brickle, Urshan Graduate School of Theology
“Sing in Me, Muse”: Converging Soundscapes in the Prologues of the Odyssey and Hebrews (25 min)
“While reflecting radically different eras, outlooks, genres, and styles, both Homer’s Odyssey and the Epistle to the Hebrews capitalize on the theme of an epic homecoming. The “hero” of each work seeks to lead his people on a journey fraught with danger in order to arrive safely at the intended telos. This essay will explore the prospect that the opening of Hebrews may aurally evoke the opening of the Odyssey, a well-known cultural text celebrated in antiquity for its literary characteristics, frequently deemed a mimetic exemplar, and deeply embedded in the psyche and paideia of Greco-Roman society. By investigating (1) key shared words and concepts, (2) the distinctive sound signatures developed by these prologues, (3) subjecting both prologues to the principles for euphonious composition advocated in Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s On Literary Composition (which, incidentally, begins with a quotation from the Odyssey and frequently cites Homer), and (4) examining aural resonances between these passages, the essay will attempt to demonstrate the value of utilizing sound mapping for interpreting biblical texts. Importantly, the study will evaluate the auditory effects obtained when Dionysius’s recommendations on elements such as word order, melody, rhythm, variety, and appropriateness are factored into our comparative analyses. This essay will advance the preliminary inquiry into this topic proposed by the author in his contribution to Sound Matters: New Testament Studies in Sound Mapping, volume 16 in Cascade’s Biblical Performance Criticism series.

UPDATE: Nope, the scansion of the two intros does not seem similar.

Another book that I found helpful and interesting was Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past by Gregory Nagy, which talks a lot about the relationship between the epics and the lyric poets of Greece, like Pindar. It is online at Harvard for free reading, thanks to a donation by some alumnus or fund.

The Wrath of Athena mentions one of Nagy’s earlier books, The Best of the Achaeans, as also very useful for understanding epics.

The audiobook “Homer’s Odyssey 101: How to Understand the Greatest Epic Ever Written” is an excellent and enlightening set of audio courses, by Fr. Gregory I. Carlson. It focuses on the Odyssey’s moral instruction about the consequences of actions, as well as the various strong emotional stories of various characters. IT IS GREAT. And as a Catholic, I found that the Catholic POV was really helpful.

I first read the Odyssey when I was a tad too young to get some of this stuff, so I really learned a lot. (I highly recommend listening to such a complex subject at the speed of recording, by slowing it down, rather than at the “current day audiobook” speed of 1.5x.)

Elizabeth Vandiver has several relevant Great Courses available, including on Audible and on the Great Courses channel on Amazon Prime. I haven’t listened to most of them, but her course on The Iliad of Homer is FREAKING AMAZING. (It also treats of a lot of the gore bits, so maaaaybe not for little kids.)

John Wright, the science fiction writer, posted a discussion of the science fiction and fantasy elements of the Phaeacians (and their telepathy-controlled ship) on his excellent blog. Unfortunately I cannot presently find it.

George Guidall’s amazing audiobook readings of both the Iliad and the Odyssey, from Robert Fitzgerald’s translations, are both out of print and unobtainium, now. They may be available used or at your library. You may also be able to find them online, particularly on YouTube (as with many audiobooks that are unavailable due to licensing having ended).

If you ever wondered why oral poetry epics were popular and enthralling, George Guidall will make you understand. However, there are about one zillion recordings of various translations by various actors, most of whom manage decently with such great material.

If you take Greek 101 from the Great Courses (video only, for obvious reading reasons), you will learn how to read the beginning of the Gospel of John and the Iliad; and the Iliad will take the top of your head off, even without the advantages of divine inspiration. The teacher is eccentric and fun.

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Fake Fathers Quotes: St. Ignatius Edition

Somebody decided to make St. Ignatius of Antioch say something anti-Semitic, and those who are easily deceived are passing it around the Internet. The pro-Jewish people who are condemning Ignatius are being just as gullible as the anti-Jewish people who like the quote. Faugh.

St. Ignatius spends some time, in his letters written on his way to martyrdom, warning Christians against “Judaizing”. By this, he means exactly the same thing as St. Paul did. He’s telling Gentile Christians not to get circumcised or follow Jewish holidays and disciplines, and he’s telling Jewish Christians not to get concerned about the old Law and old interpretations.

(Why? Because they have been freed from these things by Christ dying and rising, and through His rabbinical teachings with the power of binding and loosing, which power He has also given to His Apostles and their successors, the bishops. As a bishop, St. Ignatius is one of those who has exercised this power.)

And St. Ignatius is largely doing this instruction through quotes from St. Paul, who was Jewish. Oh, how radical.

However, there’s another quote going around, which is not from St. Ignatius at all. It is scummy, besides being baldly unconvincing. Here it is:

“Christianity did not come from Judaism. Judaism is a perversion of Christianity.”

NO. HE DID NOT SAY THAT.

The closest thing to that which he said was:

It is out of place (ατοπον) to speak of (λαλειν) Jesus Christ and to Judaize. For Christianity did not believe in (επιστευσεν) Judaism; but Judaism believed in Christianity, so that “every” believing “tongue” was gathered into God. (Is. 45:23, Rom. 14:11, Phil. 2:11)’

  • St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter X, 3.

Do you see how different this is? The fake quote treats Judaism like Islam, whereas St. Ignatius is pointing out that it was Jews who believed Christ and became Christians.

There are plenty of quotes where early Christians point out the disconnect between Jewish life while the Temple still existed, and Jewish life as basically remade by post-Temple rabbis. The Talmud spends a lot of time trying to justify those rabbinical choices. Obviously both sides have strong opinions about it, just as they had strong opinions about the legitimacy of Christianity.

But that’s not what St. Ignatius was talking about. At all. He died in AD 105, when the “new” Judaism barely even existed yet, and certainly didn’t yet have a system all worked out. The divinity of Jesus, circumcision, and kosher were the issues of his day. “Judaismos” did not meant to him what “Judaism” means today. And never mind “Christianismos” — it wasn’t that long ago when the term “Christian” had been coined. In Antioch.

(And yes, I also checked the spurious epistles attributed falsely to St. Ignatius, and even they didn’t say anything like this. Sheesh.)

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“Life-making”

1 Cor. 15:45 has a great word in it, in Greek.

“And so it has been written: The first human [anthropos], Adam, was made [egeneto] into a living soul [psychen zosan]; the last Adam into a lifegiving spirit [pneuma zoopoioun].”

Zoopoioun literally means “life-making” or “life-doing.” You could also translate it as “animating” or “quickening,” but the point is that Jesus’ breath/spirit puts life into dead or unliving things, just like the breath of God in Genesis does. (Because Jesus is God the Son, and all three Persons can do this, and do, together as the One God.)

The same word comes up in John 6:63, and Paul may well have heard it from people recounting the Bread of Life discourse.

“To pneuma estin to zoopoioun.,,,

“ta rhemata ha ego lelaleka hymin, pneuma estin, kai zoe estin.”

“The life-making [one] is the spirit/breath…

“The words/sayings/things that I have said to y’all, they are spirit, and they are life.”

The Bread of Life discourse is interesting also because Jesus brings in his multi-level teaching style.

  1. I don’t want you to do this, which is bad.
  2. I want you to do that, which is good.
  3. But I want you to do it because of that other thing yonder, which is EVEN BETTER.

So what you see is Jesus saying, “People, you have to eat My flesh and drink My blood. Seriously. And no, it’s not because I advocate human cuisine. It’s because I said so, and My words are spirit and life, and My breath makes life happen! I’m the Creator! I say ‘Let there be’ and it happens! Come on!”

I mean, obviously the Body and Blood of God-made-Man are going to be full of life, but He’s the Word Incarnate, first and foremost. You could even say that, when eating His Body, one is eating and drinking God’s Word.

(And to those who discern Him, eating the Word is sweet on the tongue and sweet in the belly, both.)

But considered as a protein source from human flesh, only —

“….he sarx ophelei ouden….”

“The flesh/body benefits nothing”

Because we’re not talking magical effects of cannibalism; we’re talking about the will of God expressed through eating a miracle, which is also a covenant and mystery.

John uses a different form of the same “life-making” verb in John 5:2. Paul uses it in Rom. 4:17 and 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:22 and 36; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:21; and 1 Tim. 6:13. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 3:18.

But in the Septuagint, it shows up as a translation of “to make alive” or “revive”. It’s in 2 Kings 5:7, Job 36:6, Ps. 71:20, Eccl. 7:12, Ezra 9:8-9, and Neh. 9:6. The Ecclesiastes passage even says that Wisdom “makes alive” those who have her, and of course Early Christians and the Fathers regarded references to Wisdom as references to Christ.

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Pseudo-Chrysostom Sermon, Part 2

The other day, WordPress decided to get rid of about half of the sermon post, which I had to rewrite; and then later it gave up on letting me post anything more. So I guess I’m not going to fight it anymore; and here’s a second post with the non-Chrysostom, non-Ephrem, non-John Damascene sermon. Back to talking about the widow who was planning to make some cakes for herself and her kid, and then die of starvation, before Elijah came along and multiplied oil.

To her, in a time of famine, Elijah was sent, when nearly all the ground was cracking into pieces from drought — when the sky was burning, and the air turned bronze, and the clouds were held back. When not an herb, not a flower, not a thorn branch, not a dewy breath of air, and not an ear of grain stirred. When the rivers dried up, and the breasts of springs would not let down the waters, and the sea at the river mouth had nothing coming into it, with no sweet water or rain running down.

Then Elijah was sent to the poor woman, and to the widow.

But look, a widow endures trouble even in a time of prosperity. And yet the prophet left the rich, who had loaves of bread, and descended from the mountain, and came to her.

So why is it better that he bring the fire down from heaven than that he bring down bread?

Could he not do it?

Oh yes, he could. But he doesn’t do it.

Why?

Because then the widow would be deprived of the fruit of her hospitality. But in this other way, he multiplies both the handful of flour and the tiny drop of oil, by his blessing.

For the prophet was not so much fed, as that he provisioned the poor woman. And he proved that her hidden heart was a resolutely purposeful and good one (euproaireton). [cf. 2 Cor. 9:7, “proairetai kardia”]

The mighty God does this with all the saints who are in the world, so you are fed yourself [by others]. He presents a gift, so that at the time of hospitality, one may pick out the resolutely purposeful and good hearts from their fruit. (cf. Mt. 23:33, Lk. 6:44)

But if those indebted [to God] may not be persuaded to receive them with welcome, either they will be fed by birds, like Elijah on the mountain; or by a prophet-host, like Daniel in the pit; or by a sea animal, like Jonah by the whale; or they will rain down food for themselves, as with our fathers in the wilderness. For, when not received with welcome by the true indebted, the manna rained down from heaven, and water sprang forth from the rock.

But whenever the saints should go about living with others in the world, He suspends His right hand. And when He should see them afflicted, He allows it, so that, taught by the grace given to them through others, having shown beneficence to them, the many willing may harvest fruit of salvation.

Therefore Elijah was sent to the widow – to her and nobody beside her (cf. Lk. 4:26) — not for the handful of flour, which was the very thing which she got with toil, and which would have been enough for her and her son in better times.

And what did he say to her?

‘”Fetch me a little water in a vessel, so I can drink.” (3 Kgs 17:10/1 Kgs. 17:10)

But as she was going after it, ‘he cried out after her… “And bring me a bit of bread in your hand.”‘ (3 Kgs. 17:11/1 Kgs. 17:11)

And she, who did not have anything, spoke to him — and what she did not have, she was granted.

Why?

‘”As [your] Lord lives, I have no ash cake; but only a handful of flour, and a little oil in the bowl.”‘ (3 Kgs. 17:12/1 Kgs. 17:12)

Admirable, because in such a lack of food, what her present poverty left to her was not denied to him.

How many inviters now, who, treating gold and silver like clay, renew good deeds to their friends, and how many flatterers refuse to take them? And turning to the ones consoled for an investment, letters are drawn up in terms stronger than iron; and the hand that was accepted at first is handcuffed by the scribes, taking the gold as proxies and mediators.

But at the first sound, she did not deny him that handful of flour.

And what did the prophet say to her?

“Hurry, and make an ash cake, and first give it to me, and afterwards make one for yourself and your son.” (cf. 3 Kgs. 17:13/1 Kgs. 17:13)

The saying of the prophet was a testing, a trial of heart, a touchstone of resolution. And the heart of that blessed woman was as if under a yoke; and it was tested.

How would she choose? To care for her own son, or to hospitality for the prophet?

But her decision was to accept trouble for herself and for her child, and to receive the prophet with welcome. For she sees that “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward… and he who pours a cold cup of water… in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” (cf. Mt. 10:41-42)

And what did the prophet say to her? “Hurry.”

[This is not in our existing Septuagint versions of 3 Kgs. 17:13. But it is in the LXX version of Genesis 18:6, in which Sarah is told to make cakes.]

In fact, therefore, was he so hungry as to beg for hurry?

Not at all; instead, he begged the cheerful and warm haste of doing good, not the haste of suffering or “necessity. For God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7, cf. Deut. 15:10)

“Hurry… and make it for me first… and afterward, for yourself and for your son.”

“Hurry,” as Abraham hurried when the angels came to stay — “to the cattle,” to the “calf,” so that he could welcome the Lamb. (LXX Gen. 18:7)

And like Sarah, she hurried to make an ash cake, so that she could receive the hidden Bread from the Heavens. (LXX Gen. 18:6)

“Hurry,” and do a sacrifice to God, like Abraham — and not “Do it for yourself first, and then for me.” Not like Cain; not like Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli the priest; who insulted God, first receiving the first fruits of the gifts offered to God. But do in haste what has been commanded.

And so, having considered her wealth, the ash cake bread — it was acceptable — it was worthy of proclamation, and He filled the house of the virtuous woman. For He says, “It shall not run out — the handful of flour in the pitcher, and the oil in the cruse — until the Lord gives rain upon the earth.” (LXX 3 Kgs. 17:14/cf. 1 Kgs. 17:14)

Why until then?

Also according to necessity.

For the end is to restrain the old Law, until there should be a loosing of the rain of new grace. And the work followed the word.

Do you see how virtuous women harvested the fruits of hospitality? For the fruits of virtuous labors are famous, and the root of prudence is imperishable.

O women, you have heard about the practices of wicked women, and the excellences of virtuous women! Therefore, love the latter, but do not long [to be like] the former! And imitate the latter, but hate the former!

So that by following the virtuous around the racecourse — I say more beautifully, by following them in their holy dance — you may be counted in Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

And that’s both parts of the sermon. As you see, it’s not misogynist at all.

An ash cake or hearth cake or hoecake is when you make flatbread on a nice flat stone next to a fire, using it like a baking sheet, and then you rake warm ashes over the top, using the ashes like aluminum foil or a pot lid. When the bread is done, you take it out of the ashes; and since it’s a flatbread, the ashes can be brushed off. It’s a camping thing, nowadays, but it used to be a standard way to make bread. You can also roast skin-on potatoes in ashes.

White ashes are hot enough for cooking; gray ashes are too cool. And if you don’t want to be eating ashes, it’s good to wrap the cakes in leaves, or to put a lid on top of the cake before piling on the ashes. And if you don’t have a flat stone (or don’t trust local stone varieties in the fire), you can even use a sturdy board as your cookie sheet, like this guy. (Because the ashes shouldn’t be hot enough to set your board on fire.) Propping it up in the air next to the fire, like this guy does, is a pro move that is also used to cook meat. (The infamous Civil War recipe for cooking rat uses a board, but the peacetime use was cooking squirrel. Obviously the meat is very lean and skinny.)

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Pseudo-Chrysostom, “On the Beheading of the Forerunner and Baptizer, John; and on Herodias.”

Part 1:

Jezebel has come around again, asking [Ahab] to seize Naboth’s vineyard, and to pursue St. Elijah into the mountains. But I suppose I do not connect them alone, in a daze; but that you all can hear it with me (who am the voice of the evangelist), and wonder at the freedom of speech of John, the shallowmindedness of Herod, and the brutish madness [theriode manian] of impious women.

Then what did we hear?

‘For Herod had laid hold of John… and put him into prison.’ (Mt. 14:3)

Why?

‘Because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.’ (Mt. 14:3)

And you rightly blame the shallowmindedness of Herod for bringing in this most miserable woman.

What would you say, and how would you explain the remarkable wickedness of these women?

Indeed, it seems to me that no evil wild animal in the world is comparable to evil women. [Ἐμοὶ μὲν δοκεῖ μηδὲν εἶναι ἐν κόσμῳ θηρίον ἐφάμιλλον γυναικὸς πονηρᾶς.]

Surely the sermon by me now is in regards to evil women, not about virtuous and sensible [agathes kai sophronos] women. And indeed, I know many women to be honestly behaved and virtuous [euskemonas kai agathes], whose lives I have recounted, along with the reward of their works — for edification, and for stirring up a love of good things.

But indeed, no evil wild animal in the world is comparable to evil women. What is more ferocious among four-legged creatures than the lion? Nothing. What is more savage among serpents than the dragon? Nothing. And yet, both the lion and the dragon give way, in this matter, to evil women.

My witness is wisest Solomon, saying, “I would rather dwell with a lion and a dragon, than to live together with an evil and sharptongued woman.” (Sirach 25:23, LXX Sirach 25:16) And lest you should suppose the prophet to have said this as irony, you should study it according to these same matters.

In the lion’s den, Daniel was treated with awe; but indeed, Jezebel slew the righteous Naboth. The whale served Jonah in his belly; Delilah handed over the caught and bound Samson to the foreign-born. The dragons, asps, and horned vipers shivered before John in the desert; but indeed, Herodias cut off his head at a banquet. Ravens nourished Elijah on the mountain; Jezabel pursued Elijah to kill him, after the favor of rain had been given.

Then what did she say?

‘”If you are Elijah and I am Jezebel, may the gods do these things to me, and add these other things, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like the life of one of those you killed.” And Elijah was afraid… and ran for his life’ (LXX 3 Kgs. 19:2-3/1 Kgs. 19:2-3), and he ran from her ‘forty days’ road into the wilderness’ (LXX 3 Kgs.19:8/1 Kgs. 19:8). And when he came ‘under the broom tree… and asked, concerning his life, that he might die,’ he said, ‘”O Lord God, let it be enough now; take my life from me… for I am no better than my fathers.”‘ (LXX 3 Kgs. 19:4/1 Kgs. 19:4)

Oh, my! The prophet Elijah was afraid of a woman?

The same guy who commanded the globe’s rains with his tongue? Who brought down fire from heaven (cf. Sirach 48:3), and awoke the dead with a prayer (cf. 3 Kgs. 17:17-22/1 Kgs. 17:17-22)? He was afraid of a woman?

Indeed, he was afraid. So there is no wickedness that can be compared with an evil woman.

Wisdom speaks as a witness to this word when she says, “There is no head worse than the head of a serpent, and… there is no wickedness… above… the wickedness of a woman.” (LXX Sir. 25:15, 13/Sir. 22-23, 19)

O evil and sharp spear of the Devil! Through a woman, at the beginning, in Paradise, [the Devil] ran Adam through. Through a woman, he instigated David, the mildest man, to trickery for killing Uriah. Through a woman, he led Solomon, the wisest man, to lying. Through a woman, he blinded and cut off the hair of Samson, the strongest man. Through a woman, he laid low the sons of Eli the priest. Through a woman, he locked up Joseph, the noblest man, in prison. Through a woman, he cut off the head of John, the lantern of all the world.

But what am I saying about humans?

Through a woman, he made angels fall from heaven. (cf. Gen. 6:2?)

Through a woman, he has slain all, murdered all, dishonored all, cursed all. (cf. Eve.)

So a shameless woman spares no man (oudenos). She honors no Levite, she reveres no priest, she fears no prophet.

O evil wicked woman of evilest evil! Even if she be poor, she is rich in evil. But if wealth be her co-worker, twice the evil unbearable life! An incurable disease is the untamed wild animal.

I have seen both an asp tamed by gentling, and lions and tigers and panthers soothed and made mild. But a bad woman both rages when insulted, and swells up when gently treated.

So if she has a husband who is a ruler, she sharpens him with her wiles, night and day, to do murder, as Herodias did to Herod. If she has a husband who is a poor man, she stirs him up with tempers and quarrels. If she happen to be a widow, she herself holds everyone in dishonor.

She does not restrain her tongue for fear of the Lord; neither does she look toward the future Judgment, nor does she look toward God; nor did she know to heed the institution of friendship.

To a wicked woman, it is nothing to hand her own husband over to death. Even back then, Job’s own wife, reckless of her own blasphemy, would have handed over righteous Job, saying, “You should say some word [a curse] to the Lord, and be finished!” (Job LXX 2:9)

O, one of wicked temper! O, one of chosen lack of distress! To see the guts of her own husband not spared under the blistered pustules, as if under the sparks of burning coals, and all his flesh seized by worms. She did not turn to pity, to see him all rolled up into himself, and burning, and agonized, and constantly gasping for breath, with pain in his mouth. Not softened with compassion to see him first in royal purple robes, and then with his naked body on a dungheap. She did not remember her habit of old toward him — not as far as his glory days and when she was blooming beautifully.

And what?

“You should say some word to the Lord, and be finished!”

O gratitude of a woman! O soothing lotion in the bath preparation room of pain! O institution of friendship of one equally yoked!

Therefore, at the time he was sick, should he have uttered such a word from you [or not]? And [did you or] did you not cleanse his disease with lotion, with your prayer and beneficence?

So did temporary chastisement not suffice for him, but do you also help him toward “eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:46) for blasphemy? Or do you not know that “Every blasphemy and sin will be forgiven to humans, but however, blasphemy toward the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”? (Mt. 12:31, variant quote)

Would you like to see another equally-yoked one of wickedness?

Look at Delilah with me.

For she both cut off the hair of that manly Samson and tied him up, handing him over to the Gentile tribes — her own man, her own bedmate. She warmed him, coaxed him, flattered him, pretended love for him. She loved him yesterday, she cheats on him today. She warmed him with loving yesterday, she buried him by cheating on him today.

And wasn’t he handsome? And who at that time was more handsome than him, who bore seven locks on his head, which carried the image of the sevenfold Grace?

And wasn’t he manly? And who at that time was more manly than him, who, alone on the road, choked a lion, and who laid low a thousand Gentile tribesmen with a single jawbone?

But wasn’t he holy? He was so holy that when there was a lack [of water] and he was thirsty, he prayed; and still water sprang forth, from the damaged place left [in Ramath-lehi], by the jawbone he held in his hand; and from there he poured out the remedy for his thirst.

And the one so handsome, the one so manly, the one so holy — his own wife tied him up for the enemy, handing him over to the Gentile tribesmen.

And from where, therefore, came a woman who prevailed against one so manly?

Out of the household of the man, from his beneficence. She looted the mystery of his strength by night, overcoming him, naked, with a strong rope. 

For this reason, Wisdom orders you, “Beware what you entrust to your bedmate.” (LXX Micah 7:5)

Tell me, what kind of wild animal ever considered such a thing? What dragoness wants to destroy her equally yoked one? And what kind of lioness would hand over her male for slaughter? 

Do you see that Wisdom hit the mark when she said that “There is no head worse than a serpent’s head” and “there is no evil like an evil woman”? 

And clearly, he who has a wicked wife has already paid the wages of his lawlessness. The word is not unwitnessed. Listen to Wisdom talking: “A wicked woman will be given to a lawless man, for wicked works.” (Sirach 26:26)

But the word about this has to be the end, absolutely, about wicked women.

Part 2: 

But at present, we must remember the virtuous women (tas agathas) most of all. For virtuous women look for the excellence of their own virtuous husbands, and they are counted as the crowns of their husbands’ previous labors.  (cf. Prov. 12:4)

The blessed Shunammite woman — who, having urged her husband, built a little room for Elisha, so that whenever he came he could have his rest unhindered — was virtuous and hospitable, preparing for him “a bed… and a lampstand… and a table.” (2 Kgs. 4:10)

The bed was not lacking a bedcover (himation); instead, it had bedclothes (stromata) fit for a prophet. The lampstand was not without a lantern; instead the light had oil poured into it. The table was not left empty of bread; instead it had fruit and meat.

But what could be said, what, about that blessed widow who hosted the prophet Elijah? Poverty of goods in no way hindered her, because she was rich in purpose. She had no bread, no wine, no side dish, not another earthly thing besides the consolation of poverty. No wheatbearing seed was offering her material for bread; no vine grew her a  sweet juicy bunch of grapes. No tree was offering her its late summer fruit.

For how could they, with no place with a handspan of arable earth, nor a cubit of ground for planting a vine? 

Otherwise, in the hot season, in the plowed fields of bowing grain, she would glean the ears of wheat let fall from the hands of the scythe-reapers, putting away food in proper measure to the time, according to the cycle of the year. 

Continued in next post.

Here’s the text of the sermon in digital format.

Modern article on the text parallels and reversals between Jezebel/Herodias and Ahab/Herod. “Femme Fatale Redux: Intertextual Connection” Very nice summation.

A good chunk of this sermon is found under the name of St. John of Damascus in Sacra Parallela Recensiones secundi Alphabeti, aka Parallelon. It’s also attributed to St. Ephrem under the title “Kata ton Poneron Gunaikon.”

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Not a Chrysostom Quote, Not Quoted Correctly

There’s a longish list of supposed quotes from the Fathers that shows up repeatedly in supposedly feminist works. The quotes are almost always in identical wording of an English translation, and they never provide citations from the Fathers. Rather, they cite other feminist authors, who also turn out to have cited other feminist authors as authorities. It shows up in the Congressional Record, in Irish letters to the editor, and in the Antioch Review from 1954… but with never a citation.

This is just the dumbest thing. It’s not scholarly. It’s a pre-Internet photocopy meme, or even a mimeograph meme. You can smell the purple ink.

So here’s a meme picture drawing from the Internet meme version, from “Women Without Religion”:

https://me.me/embed/i/11820961

via MEME

However, unlike many meme quotes, this one wasn’t just made up from wholecloth. It was made up from a different quote, by a different author, with a different context, which was only in existence in Greek at a monastery on Mount Sinai and some other places, and in a Latin translation, during the entire Middle Ages. (And it was also a sermon which took pains to avoid being misogynist, both in Latin and Greek, if you read the whole thing.The author specifically says in the first paragraph that he’s not talking about good and honest women. Sheesh.)

It was from a sermon by an anonymous author. It is referred to as Pseudo-Chrysostom, because it was one of many sermons misattributed to him. The Greek manuscript was found in the Sinai Polycephalon, from the 5th-7th centuries. It was a sermon about Herodias getting Salome to dance and to ask for St. John the Baptist’s head. (The sermon is also misattributed to St. Ephrem of Syria and to St. John of Damascus, so it’s Pseudo-Ephrem and Pseudo-Damascene too.)

The actual quote says, “It seems to me, that there is no other beast [therion, wild animal] on earth like an evil woman.”

And there’s a long list of Biblical bad women, but the sermon ends by praising good women.

So it’s not Chrysostom, it’s taken out of context, and it makes a specific “an evil woman” into Woman. Checks off most of the bad quote boxes, and it’s also terrible scholarship.

The paper that had the quote with actual Greek text in it was “Motivations for the Beheading of John the Baptist in Byzantine and Old Georgian Writings” by Maia Barnaveli, in the journal Phasis, 2014. (So “not all women.”)

The citation for the homily itself is Sinai Polycephalon of 864th Year, ed. by A. Shanidze, Tbilisi, 1959, 212-215; and also in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, tome 59, columns 483-490. The quote itself is in column 483 of Migne, in Greek, and in column 485 in a Latin translation that was kicking around.

Thank you, Maia Barnaveli!

I will get the Greek wording in here, but I have to get to work.

UPDATE: Even in Migne’s Chrysostom edition, back in Victorian times, the homily was listed under Spurious Works!!!!

And apparently the meme list… at least partly comes from Sprenger’s Malleus Maleficarum! Seriously, ladies and gentlemen? You are quoting a medieval nutcase’s out of context meme list, and turning it into a modern feminist meme list? I know what his misogynist excuse was, but what’s yours? Why am I having to dismantle his crud “proof,” when you could have done it?

(And heck, I’m sure there’s dismantling already, in the medieval anti-Malleus literature. Arrrgh.)

UPDATE 2: The sermon is actually a two-part structure, and the subject is evil wives and good wives. The first part compares Herodias to Jezebel and St. John the Baptist to St. Elijah. Then it brings in Job’s wife and Delilah, and closes with various references to evil women/wives in Micah, Sirach, and Proverbs. The second part talks about the rich, married Shunamite woman who housed Elisha, and the poor widow who housed Elijah, as examples of good women.

Seeing as both “gune” and “mulier” mean “wife” as well as “woman,” it’s possible that the best translation of the quote is that it is about an “evil wife.” (And actually, there’s several true crime shows just about evil husbands and/or evil wives….)

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The Translator Is a Traitor

Roger Pearse notes some altered translations of Bible passages about sexual practices.

And here’s a paper by Daniel Jennings on how some significant Bible texts about divorce have been… softened.

It’s disappointing. And it shows that some people don’t care about saving souls.

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“Distinguished among Mortals”

Fr. Hunwicke is a classics guy, so his well of reference is very deep.

He recently mentioned that a certain line in the Greek tragedy Hippolytus is hated by feminists.

The line is about Aphrodite, and describes her as “episemos en brotois,” which means “distinguished among mortals.”

The thing is — Aphrodite was a goddess, not a mortal. The line means that mortals were impressed by her, without meaning that she was part of the mortals’ group.

Why should we care?

In Romans 16:7, Andronicus and Junia are described as “episemoi en tois apostolois” (“distinguished among the apostles”), without actually being described as apostles. So logically, St. Paul is saying that the apostles think his kinfolk (syngeneis) are excellent, but not that Andronicus and Junia are part of the group of apostles.

It is like saying, “Spongebob is popular among kids,” which does not imply that Spongebob is a kid among kids.

This is very common in foreign languages. Phrases don’t mean what they literally seem to mean. Groups and words don’t include what you think they should include. “Heos” means “until,” but it doesn’t imply that a time ends at the time talked about after “heos,” which is why Jesus will continue to love you and be with you after the end of the world, not only “until” the end of the world.

This is also why you should be very, very wary of posts written about Greek and Latin by people who are not experts in Greek and Latin — which would definitely include me. One of the problems with self-study is that, even with the Internet existing, it is difficult to find reference material or definitive answers to certain questions. If you don’t know that you should be looking, it gets even harder.

The Wikipedia article about Junia talks about some of the issues with the wording, so you can see what the fuss is about.

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More Headcovering

Here’s an interesting passage from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.

2 Samuel 15:30 — “… and [David’s] head was covered… and all the people with him, [each] man covered his head also….”

This is a passage about David mourning and weeping, of course. But the words in Greek are “ten kephalen epikekalymmenos” (he covered the head) and “epekalypsen aner ten kephalen autou” ([each] man covered the head of him). So that goes along with the previous wording we saw in the Byzantine putting up your hair rite. (Okay, I know that’s not what it was, but that’s how I can remember it.)

Exodus 29:6-7 – “And you shall put the mitre on his head” (epi kephalen) “and put the holy crown on the miter. And you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head” (epi ten kephalen) “and anoint him.”

Another interesting parallel to Paul’s comment about women having authority on their heads. First lets’s run Paul.

1 Cor. 11:10 — “Because of this, the woman ought to have authority on the head, because of the angels.”

“Dia touto, opheilei he gyne exousian echein epi tes kephales, dia tous angelous.”

Matthew 7:29 — “For He taught them as one having authority, and not as their own scribes.”

“Gar en didaskon hos echon exousian, kai ouk hos auton grammateis.”

Usually when Greek says “on the head,” it means “on the head of the person I’m talking about.” So normally you would translate it as “the woman should have authority on her head.”

So… yeah. Unless I’m really, really missing something in the Aramaic or Hebrew, it seems like Christian women should have authority on their own heads. Their own authority, granted by God. Much like Jesus had authority from the Father. It wasn’t saying that He had no power at all, but that it was delegated authority. He was acting as God’s official; and they are officials also.

Daniel 3:3 in the Theodotion LXX actually uses “oi ep’ exousian” as a translation for “the sheriffs” or “the authorities.”

Daniel 4:3 in the LXX uses “he exousia” to translate “dominion” or “His dominion.” And it’s that way in a lot of other verses, too.

Look. If anybody was saying “dominion is on his head,” they’d be sure we were talking about a king or another mighty servant of God. So exousia on a woman’s head is probably the same – a sign of her authority and her right to make decisions. She’s only a subordinate to her husband the way a first officer is subordinate to a captain — ie, she runs things most of the time, and only needs to consult on big stuff. She’s his ‘ezer.

Before the angels, both Christian men and Christian women should remember that they are able to judge in small things, as they will judge angels later. So women should be able to judge what’s appropriate to wear on their own heads, surely? If an individual woman is wearing something inappropriate, that’s her individual ignorance or bad judgment.

So women’s hats and veils, etc. are symbols of office, dignity, and authority. It’s not about shame, or keeping men from being tempted, or anything like that.

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Clothed with Power

In the Ascension Thursday readings, we are looking back and looking forward.

We look back to David fleeing Jerusalem with his followers, barefoot as a sign of repentance for his sins and failings that led to Absalom’s revolt. He is followed by two priests with the Ark of the Lord, but he orders them to take back the Ark and remain in the city. In the Septuagint, they “sat down” there, just as the Apostles are ordered to “sit down” in the city. And David goes up to the Mount of Olives, talks to his friend Hushai and to God, and then leaves to be an outlaw in the wilderness. Again.

But Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives in triumph, sending His followers back to the city to rendezvous with the Holy Spirit and be clothed with power, and then to go out and evangelize the world. But the painters remembered David’s bare feet; and they often draw the Ascension with Jesus’ bare feet being the last thing the Apostles see, as He disappears into the clouds.

So then we look forward. The angels say that Jesus will return the same way He left, as if the Apostles should already know that. And they should, because the angels are referring to a Messianic prophecy, and here come the feet again:

(Zechariah 14:1, 4-5, 9) “And the days of the Lord shall come… And His feet shall stand that day upon the Mount of Olives… And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Him… And the Lord shall be king over all the earth.”

But then we think a little bit back , but still forward, to the Apostles’ mission and the beginning of the Church, at Pentecost.

We often think of Confirmation in terms of the mighty wind and tongues of flame of the Holy Spirit. But this reading tells us that it’s also being “clothed with power from on high.” Or, since it’s the same word, “clothed with miracles” or “clothed with mighty works.”

One of the first things that happened was God replacing Adam and Eve’s worse-than-poison-ivy fig leaf clothing with clothing made of animal skins. But before that, Jewish tradition says that Adam (and presumably Eve) was clothed with light, by God’s grace. Now we read that everyone in the Church who is confirmed is clothed, by the Holy Spirit, with miraculous power.

The Gospels use the exact same word and tense to refer to how Jesus tells the Apostles not to worry about how they’ll be dressed or what they’ll eat. Apparently we’ll always be clothed in miracles, so I guess that means the other clothes really are less of a worry.

This kind of “clothed” is also a reference to an office. It’s not about us. It’s the job we’ve been given to do and be. We are becoming more and more like Christ, but (right now) that’s because we’re supposed to be doing His work and representing Him.

So it’s a very interesting reading.

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Authority Words in the Bible

It turns out that the word “authority” in English translations of the Bible covers a whole range of Greek words. Which are not the same at all.

There’s “exousia” and all of its derivatives, which usually are the words used in the Gospels. No problem there. There’s an interesting Esther LXX version that has Esther along with Mordecai sending out letters with authority.

Then there’s “those in authority,” which is really “hyperoche,” preeminent people or superiors.

Then there’s the Titus “with all authority,” which is “meta pas epitage,” where epitage means a command, and a bunch of other similar meanings. It’s not the Gospel thing where Jesus is teaching with authority; it’s Paul telling Titus to teach it like he’s ordering it.

The bit about women not usurping authority over a man is “authentein,” which originally could mean “to do something oneself” (which is where we get our word “authentic”), but which eventually meant “to domineer over somebody else, in a self-appointed way.” I think this is significantly different from “usurp authority,” unless there’s some Greek literature example I’m missing. “Don’t let women push men around” is significantly different than “don’t let women run anything involving men.” It’s more like, “Thou shalt not be Karens.” Adding that they should be “in silence” means “and mind your own business” in Greek.

While I was poking around, I looked at the verse about “let the women learn,” and it’s got some interesting things going on.

“Gyne en hesychia manthaneto en pase hypotage.”

Okay, the first interesting thing is “manthaneto,” which is from the same rootword “matheo,” to learn, as “mathetai,” disciples or students. 3rd person singular, present imperative active.

Yup, it is a command, and “gyne” is singular, in the nominative case.

The other interesting thing is that the sentence is set up with “en hesychia” and “en pase hypotage” separated by “manthaneto,” which is a nice stylish way to put it. It’s not supposed to be a nasty comment, IMHO. But how can “silence” be nice? And “hypotage” means subjection, right?

Well, let’s go to “hypotasso” first. It was originally a word about arranging a Greek phalanx in a military way. The men in a phalanx were fellow citizens, not slaves, and they normally would have no command over each other. But they’d elect or choose some military leader, and obey him in battle and in the field. He wasn’t better or worse than them; they had put him in charge. He had command, as we saw above with “epitage,” but he fought in the same phalanx line with all the rest.

So no, this isn’t some weird slavish submission thing. If it had been, why would Jesus have been subject to His parents, in Luke 2:51? (“en hypotassoumenos”) He was by nature the boss of them, their God and Messiah. But like the citizens of Athens, He chose them and obeyed them voluntarily, because it made sense to Him in the situation.

Secondly, “silence” isn’t a bad thing in Christianity or in Greek secular literature. Someone who lived in silence was someone who didn’t meddle in his neighbor’s business. Hesychia was seen as the root of Christian mysticism, because it let you listen to God.

In general, a good disciple of a secular philosopher would listen receptively and take it all in. He would regard himself as under orders while learning, even if he later went off and did his own teaching.

Secular female disciples would ask questions of their teacher and try to spend a lot of alone time with the teacher, but from various verses in Paul, this wasn’t seen as fitting for Christian women. The female disciples of Jesus traveled around and spent time with Him in an aboveboard way, just as the informal female rabbinical students (mostly relatives or daughters of rabbis) did. And maybe that’s why we don’t hear about female Christian disciples getting the sexual harassment that was standard for female secular philosophers and students.

“I do not permit women to teach” is clearly about formal teaching, during Mass, because Paul compliments how Timothy was taught Christianity at home, by his mom and grandma.

And finally, the whole chapter begins with Paul talking about unauthorized men who presume to teach crazy talk while sinning, and the men who believe them. So yeah, people take some of these verses as anti-woman, when really Paul is just telling all these people to quit doing crazy stuff at church.

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Clothed by Jacob, Supported by Leah

Every so often, we have to remind people that the Woman in Revelation 12 is alluding to Biblical imagery from the Book of Genesis, not to anything pagan.

“A great sign appeared… a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars.”

Specifically, we’re being referred to Genesis 37:5-10 —

“Joseph told his brothers a dream that he had dreamed, which made his brothers hate him more…

“‘I thought we were binding sheaves in the field, and my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves bowed to my sheaf…’

“His brothers answered, ‘Are you going to be our king? Or shall we be subject to you?’…

“He dreamed another dream, which he told to his brothers, saying, ‘I dreamed a dream where the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’

“And when he had told this to his father and his brothers, his father [Israel/Jacob] rebuked him, saying, ‘What does this dream that you have dreamed mean? Shall I, and your mother, and your brothers, bow down to the ground before you?'”

At this point, Joseph’s biological mother Rachel is dead. But Leah is still alive, and is the highest-ranking woman in the household. She’s “the moon.” Jacob, now named Israel, is “the sun.” The eleven stars (the Hebrew says “one and ten”) are all the other sons of Israel.

Leah doesn’t get a lot of modern attention; but both Judah (and hence David) and Levi (and hence the priests) are descended from her. The rabbis liked to point out that Rachel got all the earthly attention, but that the eternal promises from God went to Leah’s sons. Leah is the “rafter” that holds up the whole roof of the house. (Although often Leah and Rachel are described as twin rafters, where both are needed.) Leah is also seen as a prophetess, because her words about her children came true.

Most importantly, though, Leah is tied to Mary by her words in Genesis 30:13, on the birth of her son Asher — “The daughters [ie, women] will call me blessed.”

So the Woman of Revelation 12, previously tied to the Ark of the Covenant, is shown to be clothed with the sun — ie, showing her descent from Israel — and she has the moon under her feet — showing that she springs from Leah. All the tribes of Israel crown her. She comes from them, but she is higher in status than all of them.

The interesting bit is that “hypokato ton podon” is the same Greek used by Matthew and Mark to translate, “The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'” (Ps. 110:1)

The idea of the original psalm, in Hebrew, is that the enemies become a footstool. (The Septuagint translation is “hypopodion ton podon sou.”) Hypokato literally means something like “down under,” whereas “hypo” just means “under.”

But there is a Septuagint text that uses “hypokato ton podon autou” — Ps. 8:7/8:6.

The Gospel writers deliberately honor Jesus, and indicate both his divinity and His humanity as the everlasting king of the House of David, by combining Ps. 110:1 with Ps. 8:7/8:6. (1 Cor. 15:25 has Paul talking about these verses together, also.)

So…. what kind of “mighty sign” is it, if John combines Ps. 110:1, Ps. 8:7/8:6, and Rev. 12:1?

Let’s go back and look at Psalm 8, to get the context.

“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth!

You have set Your splendor in the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babies and suckling children, You have ordained praise

Because of Your adversaries, to silence the Enemy and the vengeful.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars which You have established firm,

What is man [enowos] that You are mindful of him,

And the son of Adam [ben Adam] that You visit him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,

And have crowned him with glory [kabod] and honor.

You made him reign over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet:

Sheep, and oxen, and even the beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea

That pass through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth!”

So I think we have to understand the Woman through the lens of this psalm. Even a fallen ordinary human is walking around crowned with God’s kabod, and has power over all created things, including the moon and the stars. A Christian who overcomes until the end will have the iron rod that rules the pagan nations and will wear a crown. Mary and the Church, Daughter Zion, are not any less important than that.

So why does this image of the Woman upset people?

(One last thing: Leah’s name means “cow,” and Rachel’s name means “ewe.” So if the Woman is standing on Leah, she’s standing on the cows, and one assumes, on the sheep too.)

(And walking around crowned with God’s kabod is obviously connected to the whole female headgear discussion, which supports the idea that women are indeed wearing diadems of authority, including the coming Christian authority to judge angels.)

Of course, what we usually connect to Rev. 12:1 is Songs 6:4, 10 —

“My love, you are as fair as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with flags flying!

“Who is this who peers out [the window] like the dawn?

“Fair as the moon, pure as the sun, terrible as an army with flags flying?”

And since the Beloved is clearly Israel, we’re back with Daughter Zion again. Tirzah was the capital of Israel in the North, as Jerusalem was capital of Judah in the South. “Tirzah” means “my pleasure” or “pleasant,” and alludes to God’s promise in Isaiah 62:4 that “you shall be called ‘my delight.'”

But what did it say in Songs 6:9?

“The daughters saw her, and called her blessed.”

Hmmmmmm. Almost like we’re talking about Mary, isn’t it? Obviously there’s no reason at all to connect the Woman with Mary, noooo.

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“Neighbor” vs. “Kinsman”

Today I learned that, in a few places in the Vulgate translation of the Old Testament, “proximus” (usually “neighbor”) actually means “near kinsman,” or “the avenger of blood.”

In one of these cases, “vicinus” is used to represent a neighbor who physically lives close to a person. (A “vicinus” is a person in your neighborhood, a person whom you meet when you’re walking down the street, a person whom you meet each day.)

The Greek used for “neighbor” in “love your neighbor” is “plesion,” a neuter noun which means “person living physically nearby.” The Septuagint uses other words for the avenger of blood.

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Jesus Wants You to Ask for Stuff

It’s okay to want to pray for things you need. It’s a sign of spiritual growth to be happy with what God gives you, or to ask for important things that are worthy of prayer; but the lives of the wonderworking saints tell us that a lot of things are worthy of prayer, according to God.

It’s a sign of spiritual trouble if you are ashamed to pray for what other people need or what you need, or think that prayer is useless. Jesus orders and encourages us on many occasions to ask the Father for stuff we need, to be persistent about it, and not to be afraid that the outcome will be bad. The Lord’s Prayer that He gave us is all about asking for essentials and for eternal life. He’s not a vending machine and the “prosperity gospel” is heresy; but He’s not stingy, either.

John records that Jesus spent a lot of the Last Supper leading up to telling the Apostles to ask the Father for stuff. He’s the true Vine, we’re the branches, and we dwell in Him if we keep His commands. If we keep His commands and dwell in Him and His words and His love, we will bear much fruit. If we keep His commands, we are His friends, and He will lay down His life for us.

John 15:16-17 – “Y’all did not choose me. But I chose y’all and I appointed (etheka: literally, placed, laid down – the same verb in “lay down his life for his friends”) y’all, so that you may go out and bear fruit and your fruit may dwell/remain — so that whatever y’all might ask the Father in My Name, He may give to y’all.

“I command these things so that y’all may love one another.”

John 16:24 – “Up until now, y’all have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, so that the joy of y’all may be filled up.”

So basically, Jesus did all this for us, and we bear fruit in response, so that we can have joy and eternal life, and so that the Father answers our prayers, and so that we love one another. That’s a lot of trouble for the Trinity to go to, if we never ask God for what we need; and it’s ignoring a direct commandment.

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