Friday, March 30, 2007

Old Poem

While cleaning out some papers, I came across a poem I wrote in college (that's back in the seventies, kids) for some class or other. Maybe the assignment was to "cram as many classical references as possible into one overwrought sonnet." In any case, that's what I did, and it's still better than anything I could write now, 35 years later.

Day after day I spend on a journey
With You; but too often the one who fell
Calls, calls, luring me, Siren-like, to Hell.
Sometimes I feel that I dangle helplessly
(Beyond your grace, your love, your bliss)
Over the pit of Satan, his outer dark.
Too often his attacks leave their mark
And, despairing, I feel the heat of his abyss.
But then you come; his Phlegethons
Cannot compare with the flow of blood
That swept and washed away my million sins.
Then, like magic, I can feel my bonds
Give and break; and, borne on that flood,
I continue my journey, higher up and farther in.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thoughts about Arni (Luke 3:33)

As a side-effect of the Talpiot tomb discussion, I've been reading Richard Bauckham's Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, an interesting read and a work of high merit. One of the most stimulating chapters is the one on the Lukan genealogy of Jesus. The genealogy has a couple of odd names that drew my attention. In this post I'll discuss one of them, the name Arni in Luke 3:33 ("Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni").

"Arni" is an odd name in Hebrew. Although there are names with a general similarity — Aran (Gen 36:28) and Oren (1 Chr. 2:25) — the name in Luke 3:33 corresponds in the parallel Greek/Hebrew genealogies to "Ram" or "Aram" (Ruth 4:19, 1 Chr. 2:10; cp. Matt. 1:4). In several major witnesses to the text of Luke (including D and A and Peshitta), "Aram" appears instead of "Arni," and in others it occurs in addition to "Arni." "Aram" was apparently added later as a correction or crept in as a marginal or interlinear gloss. (I assume that "Admin" also originated as a correction of "Arni.")

It therefore seems that "Arni" was a copyist error for "Aram" and recognized to be such already in ancient times. However, "Arni" could only be an error for "Aram" in Hebrew script: ‏ארם‎ could be mistakenly read as ‏ארני‎, but ΑΡΑΜ could not as easily be read as ΑΡΝΙ.

There are examples of similar errors in the Bible at Amos 7:7, where the Hebrew text ‏אדני‎ should probably, on the evidence of the LXX, be read ‏אדם‎. The reverse error occurred in 1 Sam. 17:32, where Hebrew ‏אדם‎ should probably be read ‏אדני‎ (cf. LXX).

This suggests that the original of Luke's genealogy, at least for these names, must have been in Hebrew script, since it reflects a copyist error only possible in Hebrew. The question is, was the copyist error present in the Hebrew biblical genealogies that were used as a source for these names, or was it present in a separate Hebrew genealogy preserved, say, in the family of Jesus? If it was the latter, then the Lukan genealogy may be older and more reliable than it is usually considered to be. In a future post I'll try to adduce some evidence to show that that is actually the case.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Mary the Master"

The biblioblogosphere has been jumping on the Jesus Tomb documentary with both feet; I haven't seen such a bonanza of crackpot-theory refutation since The DaVinci Code. So there's not much left for me to do. Enjoy Jodi Magness's take on the subject, or Mark Goodacre's, or Ben Witherington's, or Richard Bauckham's at Paleojudaica. Shooting fish in a barrel is fun.

I'll limit myself to a few observations on one point. The sole Greek text among the ossuaries reads Μαριαμηνου Μαρα. (The particle η, said to be present between the two words, is not.) The "Jesus Tomb" scholars would like to understand this as "Mariamene (= Mary Magdalene) the Master." They are taking the word Μαρα to be a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning "lord, master." However,

1. It is hard to understand why the Aramaic word would be used instead of a Greek one in the Greek ossuary.

2. It's not clear exactly what form of the Aramaic word they are referring to. Μαρα could = מרה ‎, that is, the emphatic state of the masculine form of ‏‎maré. However, this form is only attested centuries later; the usual emphatic masculine form at this period would be ‏מריא‎. It's also not clear why a female would have a title in the masculine gender.

3. The word Μαρα could also = מרה, ‏מראה‎, the feminine absolute form of the word. However, the absolute form would have to mean "a lady" or "a mistress," not "the Master" or "Master." The emphatic form of the feminine would be ‏מרתא‎ = Μάρθα, "the Mistress," "the Lady" (also the proper name Martha).

Therefore the Jesus Tomb scholars seem to be wrong again. "Mara" is pretty obviously either a nickname for Mariamene, or refers to another woman whose bones were also interred in the ossuary.