Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraphs 10-11



Καὶ εἶπεν Βίλβος· Καλόν πρωΐ! καὶ ἐλάλησεν ἐν εἰλικρινείᾳ. ἔλαμπεν ὁ ἥλιος καὶ χλωρός ὁ χόρτος. Γανδάλφος δὲ ἠτενίσεν εἰς αὐτὸν κάτωθεν ὀφρύων δάσεῖων ὧν ἐξετείναν πέραν χεῖλου τῆς θολίας αὐτοῦ τῆς σκιεράς. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· τὶ σημαίνεις; θέλεις με ἔχειν καλόν πρωΐ , ἤ σημαίνεις ὅτι καλὸν ἔστιν τὸ πρωΐ εἴτε θέλω εἴτε οὐ θέλω, ἤ ὅτι ἔχεις καλῶς τοῦτο τὸ πρωΐ, ἤ ὅτι ἔστιν πρωΐ  ἐν ᾧ εἶναι καλός;


Βίλβος δὲ εἶπεν· Πάντα τούτων ἅμα. σφόδρα δὲ καὶ καλόν πρωΐ ἐν ᾧ καπνίζειν ἔξω αὐλόν αὐλοφύλλων. ἐάν ἔχῃς αὐλόν ἐν τοῖς κτήμασίν σου κάθισας γεμίσαι ἐκ τῶν ἐμῶν! οὐ δεῖ σπούδαζειν ὅτι ἔχομεν πᾶσαν τὴν ἡμέραν διατρίβειν. Βίλβος οὖν ἕκηλος κάθισας ἐπὶ καθέδρας τῆς πρὸς τῇ θύρᾳ ἐξεφύσησεν κύκλον ὡραῖον φαίον καπνοῦ πλήσαντα ἄνω μετεώρως μὴ ἐκλείποντα ἀποφερόμενα δὲ ὑπὲρ Τὸ Ὄρος.


Words invented or modified:
αὐλοφύλλος = pipeweed, tobacco
Καλόν πρωΐ = Good morning. I have never seen a phrase that means "good morning" in ancient Greek. I have kept using καλός throughout the passage even when ἀγαθός might be slightly better, in order to preserve the wordplay.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New claims regarding the "Family of Jesus" tomb

“Geologist claims Jesus was married… and had a SON: Expert says he has proof son of God was buried in 'family tomb' along with wife Mary and his brother” screams the headline. The sensational headline, along with the release date on Easter weekend, should be our first warning to take the announcement with a grain of salt.

To understand what these claims are, we need to go back to a (widely discredited) documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” released by documentarist Simcha Jacobovichi in 2007.

“The Lost Tomb” in question, now called the Talpiot Tomb, was discovered in 1980. It contained ten ossuaries – a type of small coffin for holding bones – dating to the first century or perhaps a little earlier. Some of the ossuaries had names: Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus son of Joseph), Maria (Mary), Yose (Joseph/ Jose), Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus), Mariamene e Mara (Miriam [and] Martha), and Matya (Matthew). One blank ossuary was measured and then stored with other blank ossuaries. None of this was very surprising, since tombs and ossuaries are common archeological finds in and around Jerusalem.

But Jacobovici asserted that this was Jesus’ family tomb: “Jesus son of Joseph” is the Jesus of the New Testament; “Mariamene e Mara” is a single person, Mary Magdalene, who was married to Jesus; and Judah is their son. Others in the tomb include Mary the mother of Jesus, Jose the brother of Jesus (Mk 6:3) and an otherwise unknown Matthew. In addition, Jacobovici claimed that the famous James ossuary, inscribed with “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” originally came from the Talpiot Tomb (rather than being from the Silwan area east of the Temple, which is what experts have previously claimed). That rounded out Jesus’ family by including another of Jesus’ brothers, James (Mk 6:3, Gal 1:19).

Before we tackle the new claims this year, let me briefly explain the problems with Jacobovici’s original documentary. At the time of the documentary, many experts in archeology (some Christian, some Jewish, some with no particular beliefs) examined the claims that the Talpiot Tomb contained Jesus and his family, and they roundly rejected it. Their main reasons:
  • All of the names found in the tomb are very common in ancient Israel. Some estimate that during the three-to-four generation period that the tomb was in use, there were about 1000 men with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” living in Jerusalem, and many more outside Jerusalem. Archeologists have catalogued three other ossuaries with the name “Jesus son of Joseph.” Mary / Miriam, along with spelling variants, was the name of 21% of Jewish women! A papyrus find from the early second century gave evidence for another family with the names Jesus, Simon, Mary, Jacob and Judah, so this combination of names is not strange.
  • Jacobovici made much of the DNA evidence showing that some of the males in the tomb are related, but Mariamene is not related to Jesus. He claimed that this was proof that the two were married. It doesn’t take much to see the silliness of this claim. Mariamene could have been the wife, daughter, half-sister, or cousin of any of the males in the tomb; the DNA test only proved that the two did not share a mother.
  • Ossuaries were often reused. Amos Kloner, the archeologist who oversaw the initial find, estimated that the ten boxes contained the remains of 17 people, and that the surrounding tomb contained another 30 sets of remains. In particular, the ossuary labeled “Mariamene e Mara” may have contained the bones of two women who died at different times (it may also have been a name and a nickname). So there is no way to tell if any of the bones tested correspond to the names on the boxes. In addition, since the ossuaries and remains were handled by several people after the discovery, it is even possible that the DNA tested came from a modern archeologist.
  • Jacobovici heavily relied on statistical work: what were the odds that this clustering of names was just coincidental, rather than being connected to Jesus’ family? A statistician quoted in the documentary, Andrey Feuerverger, estimated that the odds were 1 in 600 that the collection of names was mere coincidence. But Feuerverger based this on multiple faulty assumptions that were given to him by Jacobovici. Among the faulty assumptions: Jesus’ family had a tomb in Jerusalem (begging the question!); Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene; the name Mariamene is highly likely to refer to Mary Magdalene; a son of Jesus named Judah is historically plausible; and others. Since all of these assumptions are highly suspect, the resulting odds are not worth much.
So what is new this year? In an attempt to bolster the claim that the James ossuary comes from the Talpiot tomb, Jacobovici asked a geologist to examine the patina on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb and the James ossuary. Patina is a layer that builds up on ancient artifacts from centuries of exposure to dust in the environment. The geologist, Aryeh Shimron, says that there is a close geological match between the patina on the James ossuary and the ossuaries in the Talpiot Tomb, thus (says Jacobovici) providing proof that the James ossuary was taken from Talpiot.
Do the claims of the geologist bolster Jacobovici’s “Tomb of Jesus” idea? Not really. Here are some problems with the new claims.
  • The James Ossuary was photographed in 1976. The Talpiot Tomb was discovered and  excavated in 1980, so it is very unlikely that the James Ossuary is from the Talpiot Tomb
  • The so-called “tenth ossuary” from the Talpiot Tomb was measured and described as having no inscription. The James Ossuary has different measurements and an inscription. So the “tenth ossuary” from Talpiot is not the James Ossuary.
  • The idea being floated that this is an "eleventh ossuary" that was somehow removed much earlier than 1980, while the rest of the tomb was left intact, seems like mere supposition, with no real evidence.
  • This method of evaluating patina for location is interesting, but untested. No one has demonstrated that the composition of the patina could be used to identify the specific place of origin for an artifact. It has not yet been tested in enough locations. It is quite possible that the James ossuary was in another tomb that was filled in with the same kind of soil.
  • So far, patina analysis has primarily been used to prove that the false patina on forged artifacts does not match the patina expected for a genuine artifact. In fact, patina analysis is uncertain enough that archeologists have sometimes been unable to agree on whether the patina on other artifacts (such as the Jehoash inscription) is genuine.
  • The geologist who did this work has never done any previous research on patina.
  • The James Ossuary itself is on shaky ground. Because it was bought on the antiquities market rather than uncovered by an archeological team, its inscription may be forged. Experts remain divided on its authenticity.
Conclusion? Yet another sensational claim about Jesus. News agencies report them because they are sensational, not because they are based on solid scholarship.

The picture: the James Ossuary, inscribed with "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraph 9


Οὐδέν ὑποπτεύων Βίλβος εἶδεν οὐδενα τούτο τὸ πρωΐ  ἀλλά πρεσβύτην ῥάβδον ἔχων. ἦν δὲ ἐνδεδυμένος  θολίας εὐμήκης ὑακίνθης καὶ στολὴς φαίης μάκρας καὶ ταινίας ἀργυρόχροης ἐπὶ ἧν πώγων λευκός κατεκρέμασεν εἰς  τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ κρηπῖδων κολοσσικών μέλανων. 


Words invented or modified from ancient Greek: 
  • Ancient Greek (along with most ancient languages) had few words for colors, so I have to approximate sometimes. 
  • ὑακίνθος = blue; means "hyacinth" in ancient Greek, but was used to translate the Hebrew word for blue/violet in the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (2nd cent. BC).
  • φαίος = gray
  • ἀργυρόχροος  = silver-colored; just using ἀργύρος or ἀργύριον didn't sound right, since that would imply a scarf actually made of silver. 

The picture of Gandalf is one of my favorite by John Howe.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraphs 7-8




Κατὰ ἄτοπην συγκυρίαν πάλαι ἡσύχασης τῆς γῆς ὄντος ἧσσου θόρυβου καὶ οὔσης πλείοντος χλωράς καὶ ὄντων τῶν ὅββιτων πολλῶν τὲ εὔοδοντων, Βίλβου δὲ Βάγινου ἑστῶτος ἐπὶ τήν θύραν αὐτοῦ πρωΐ  ἀριστήσαντος καπνίζοντος μέγιστον αὐλόν ξύλινον ἐκτείναντα σχεδὸν εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ (ἐρεάς  κατάκτενους κόσμιως) Γανδάλφος αὐτός παρῆλθεν. Γανδάλφος! 

Εἶ ἀκηκόεις μόνον τὸ τετάρτον ὥν ἀκηκόα περὶ τούτου (καὶ ἀκηκόα μόνον τὸ μικρότερον πάντων τῶν δυναμένων ἀκούεσθαι) εἶ ἄν ἕτοιμος εἰς πᾶν θαυμαστον μύθευμα. μύθευματα τε καί τολμήματα ἀνεφύσατο θαυμαστῶς ὅπου ἄν πορευθῇ. χρόνον πολὺν σφόδρα οὐκ εἰσελήλυθεν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ ὑπὸ Τοῦ Ὄρους, ἀφ᾽ οὗ ἀπέθανεν ὁ φίλος αὐτοῦ ὁ Τούκ Πρεσβύτης. οἱ ὅββιτοι δὲ σχεδν ἐπελάθοντο τὸ εἶδος αὐτοῦ. ἀπῄεσεν ὑπὲρ Τὸ Ὄρος καὶ πέραν Τοῦ Ὕδατος τὰ ἴδια πράγματα ἐπιμελόμενος ἀφ᾽ οὗ ἤσαν πάντες μίκροι ὁββίτοπαιδες καί ὁββίτοκορασια.


You can see all of the paragraphs translated so far here
Words invented or modified from ancient Greek
  • αὐλός = pipe (a water-pipe in Classical Greek, but used for tobacco-pipe here)
  • ὁββίτοπαις = hobbit-boy
  • ὁββίτοκορασιον = hobbit-girl
  • Γανδάλφος = Gandalf
The book cover shown is a translation of the Hobbit into modern Greek (which is significantly different from Ancient Greek.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Three Days and Three Nights

The message of Easter is much more important than its chronology. Still, people often ask me questions about chronology in the Gospels. In my earlier post, I answered questions related to the date of Easter and the apparent difference between the chronology found in John and in the Synoptic Gospels. Today, I answer a few questions related to the "three days and three nights."

Why is the resurrection described happening after “three days and three nights”? If Jesus died on Friday afternoon, and the tomb was empty on Sunday morning, isn’t that only a day and a half?
To read more, click here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chronology of Easter in John and the Synoptic Gospels

The exact chronology of Easter is not the most important thing to think about during Easter week, but students often ask me questions about chronological issues in the Gospels. Here are some common questions:

What is the probable date of Jesus’ crucifixion?
Calculating ancient dates gets complicated for a number of reasons: Jewish months all started at the new moon; they had two “new years” per year; they added in leap months as needed; days started at sunset, not sunrise; ancient people often used imprecise designations for years, and not everyone was using the same calendar system in the first century.   To read more, click here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraph 6


Βύγγος, ὅς ἔστιν ὁ πατήρ τοῦ Βίλβου, ᾠκοδόμησεν τὴν ὁββιτοτρώγλην τὴν τρυφότερην αὐτῇ (ἐν μέρῳ τῷ ἀργυρίῳ αὐτῆς) ἥν εὕρηται εἴτε ὑπὸ Τοῦ Ὄρους εἴτε ὑπέρ Τὸ Ὄρος εἴτε πέραν Τοῦ Ὕδατος. κακει ἔμειναν εἰς τὸ τέλος τῶν ἡμερῶν αὐτῶν. Βίλβος ὁ υἱος ὁ μονόγενης αὐτῆς ὤν ἐν εἴδει  καὶ ἐν ἀνάστροφῃ ἀκριβῶς ὅμοιος ἔκδοσει δευτέρῳ τοῦ πατρός αὐτοῦ ἀσφαλοῦ μαλακοῦ, εἰ τύχοι ἔλαβεν μικρόν τι ἄτοπον ἐν τῇ φύσει αὐτοῦ μητρόθεν κατὰ τοὺς Τούκας. τὸ ἄτοπον ἔμεινεν μόνον καιρὸν τοῦ ἐξελθεῖν. ὁ καιρὸς οὐδέποτε ἥκει  ἕως ἁδρύνθῃ Βίλβος Βάγινος ὤν ὡσεὶ ἔτῶν πεντήκοντα, κατοικῶν ἐν τῇ ὁββιτοτρώγλῃ τῇ καλῇ ἥν ᾠκοδομήθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός αὐτοῦ (ἥν ὧδε διηγησάμην σοι) ἕως ἀληθῶς ἐδοκήσεν κεκάθισθαι ἀκινήτως.

You can see all of the paragraphs translated so far here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, paragraph 5


Ἀνέρχομενος τῳ μύθευματι. Ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ ὅββιτου τούτου, Βίλβου Βάγινου,  ἦν  θαυμάστη Βελλαδόννα Τούκ, μιᾶ τῶν τρεῖς ἀξιόλογων θυγατέρων τοῦ Τούκ τοῦ Πρεσβύτου, ἀρχόντος τῶν ὅββιτων τῶν κατοικούντων πέραν Τοῦ Ὕδατος, τοῦ ποταμοῦ τοῦ μίκρου τοῦ ῥευσάντος ὑπὸ Τῷ Ὄρει. Ἐρρέθη πολλάκις ἐν ἑτεραῖς ταῖς οἰκίαις ὅτι εἷς τῶν πατρών τῶν Τούκων ὄντως ἔλαβεν δρυάδα εἰς γυναίκα. Τούτ’ἔστιν ὄντως ἀνόητος, ἀλλὰ ἔτι ἀληθως ἦσαν οὐκ παντώς ὅββιτικοι ἐν φύσει. ἐλθόντες δὲ  ἐνίοτε Τούκιται ἔσχον τόλμηματα. Ἠφανίσαντο ἀδήλως καὶ ἡ οἰκία αὐτῶν ἐσίγησαν τὸ χρῆμα. Ἐν ἀληθείᾳ οἱ Τούκιται οὐκ ἦσαν εὔκοσμοι ὡς οἱ Βάγινοι, ἐάν καὶ δήλως πλούσιωτεροι. Βελλαδόννα δὲ Τούκ οὐ μή ἔσχεν τόλμηματα γένουσα ἡ γυνή τοῦ Βύγγου Βάγινου.

Picking appropriate Greek equivalents for fantasy creatures is not always easy. Some I have to make up, while others already have an equivalent in Greek mythology. Here I have decided to use δρύας to translate fairy. In an earlier paragraph, I used νάνοι for dwarves. But I decided to transliterate hobbit as ὅββιτος. Perhaps I might translate halflings as ἥμιται? (actually, I don't think Tolkien used the term halfling until LOTR) I'm not sure yet what words I will use for elves, trolls and goblins.

Another important word I had to choose was adventureτόλμημα seems like the best choice, although readers of Hellenistic Greek will notice that it does not have quite the same feel as our English word. 

Words invented or modified from ancient Greek usage:
  • Βίλβος = Bilbo
  • Βελλαδόννα = Belladonna
  • Τούκ = Took
  • Τούκιτης  = a Tookite or member of the Took clan
  • Βύγγος = Bungo
  • δρύας = fairy (dryad in ancient Greek)