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Thursday, June 09, 2011

τὰ ῥήματα הדברים used in a narrative contextualizer

This morning I was reading C. A. Gieschen’s monograph on Angelomorphic Christology[1]. In the chapter on hypostases, discussing “The Word of the Lord,” Gieschen cites Gen. 15 where Abram experiences a theophany which is introduced by the formula “After these things the Word of YHWH came to Abram in  a vision.”[2]     

Gen. 15:1
μετὰ δὲ τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα
‎‏אחר הדברים האלה
ἐγενήθη ῥῆμα κυρίου πρὸς Αβραμ …
‎היה דבר־יהוה אל־אברם 

Reading the LXX, I noticed that the clause initial adverbial contextualizer  μετὰ δὲ τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα “After these things” includes ῥήματα (words, things, events ...) which is repeated in the next clause ἐγενήθη ῥῆμα κυρίου “the Word of YHWH happened[3].”  The LXX (old greek OG) follows the Hebrew closely. No english translation I have seen makes this play on words (if it is one) obvious. I couldn’t find any other examples of this in the MT (Hebrew Bible) or LXX.

The temporal contextualizer which includes τὰ ῥήματα rendering הדברים  appears other places in the Hebrew bible[4] but only once (Gen. 15:1) with דבר in the following clause. The contextualizer μετὰ δὲ τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα does not appear in the New Testament, although take a look at Luke 9:28 Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους where μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους “after these sayings” functions as a contextualizer. In this case τοὺς λόγους is understood by the english translators as refering to speech not a generic term for events like τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα.

The New testament uses μετὰ ταῦτα (after these things) as a narrative contextualizer with the bulk of the examples in John and Revelation. This is common enough in ancient greek narrative.

Thucydides, Hist.
Book 1, chapter 56, section 1, line 1

Μετὰ ταῦτα δ' εὐθὺς καὶ τάδε ξυνέβη γενέσθαι τοῖς
Ἀθηναίοις καὶ Πελοποννησίοις διάφορα ἐς τὸ πολεμεῖν.

Thucydides, Hist.
Book 1, chapter 100, section 1, line 1
Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα καὶ ἡ ἐπ' Εὐρυμέδοντι ποταμῷ     

[1] Charles A. Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence,  Brill  1998, page 103.

[2] Gieschen’s translation.

[3] Most english versions say “the word of the LORD came …” which uses a travel metaphor but the hebrew and greek both use the existential verb ‏היה ἐγενήθη which isn’t a travel metaphor. The word of the Lord is an event, it happens. For the travel metaphor, see  Jer. 17:15 ἰδοὺ αὐτοὶ λέγουσι πρός με ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ λόγος κυρίου ἐλθάτω. Jer. 17:15 Behold, they say to me,  “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come!” RSV.  

[4]Gen. 15:1‏,  ‎Gen. 22:1,‏  ‎Gen. 39:7,‏  ‎Gen. 40:1,‏  ‎1Kings 13:33‏,  ‎1Kings 17:17,‏  ‎1Kings 21:1,‏  ‎Esth. 2:1‏  ‎Esth. 3:1,‏  ‎Ezra 7:1.‏


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