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.

[Bungo, that was Bilbo'’s father, built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilbo, her only son, although he looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father, got something a bit queer in his makeup from the Took side, something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father, which I have just described for you, until he had in fact apparently settled down immovably.]

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.

[As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit - of Bilbo Baggins, that is - was the fabulous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that
long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them, - and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer. Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she became Mrs. Bungo Baggins]

Translation notes
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 adventure. τόλμημα 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. 


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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hobbit in Ancient Greek, parag 4



Ἔστιν μίκρη καὶ οὐδεμία τέχνη μαγεῖα ἐν αὐτοις, ἀλλά μόνον ἑπιτυχη τέχνη εἰοῦσα ἀφανίζεσθαι ἡσυχῆ καὶ ταχέως ὅταν οἱ μεγαλοι μώροι ὡς σὺ καὶ ἐγώ παραπταίουσιν φωνοῦντες φωνήν ὡς ἐλέφαντες ἧς δύνανται ἀκούειν ὅββιτοι ἀπό μίλιον. τείνουσιν εἰς παχύτην κοιλίας. ἐνδύονται δὲ ἐν ἱματισμῷ λαμπρῷ (μάλιστα χλωρῷ καὶ ξανθῷ) καὶ οὐκ ὑποδοῦσιν σανδάλια, ὅτι οἱ πόδες αὐτῶν εἰσιν δερματίνοι ὑποκάτω καὶ δασεῖς θερμοί μέλανες ἄνω, ὡς ἡ θρίξ ἔνουλη ἡ ἐπὶ κεφαλαὶ αὐτῶν. ἔχουσιν δάκτυλους μακρους συνετούς μέλανας καὶ πρόσωπα εὐηθικά. γελῶσιν δὲ γέλωτα ἰσχυρά γλυκέα, μάλιστα μετὰ δεῖπνον, ὅ ἐσθίουσιν δὶς τῆς ἡμέρας ἐάν δύνωνται λαβεῖν. Νῦν γινώσκετε ἱκανόν προέρχεσθαι ἐν τούτ τῷ μύθευματι.

[There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be at in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which iscurly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with.]

Again, suggestions from experts in Hellenistic Greek are welcome!
To see all paragraphs translated so far, see here

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Hobbit in Ancient Greek, parags 2-3




Οὖτος ὅββιτος ἦν πλούσιος σφόδρα, ἐπίκλησις δὲ αὐτῷ Βάγινος. οἱ Βάγινοι κατῴκισαν ἐγγὺς Τοῦ Ὄρους ἀπὸ παλαιοῦ, οἱ δὲ ἄνθρωποι ἡγοῦνται αὐτούς εἶναι σφόδρα εὔκοσμοι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον οἱ πλεῖστων ἦσαν πλούσιοι ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅτι οὐ μή ἔχωσιν τολμήματα μηδὲ ποιῶσιν τι ἀπροσδόκητονΓινώσκεις Βάγινος εἷς ἀποκριθήσει τῳ τινι ἐρωτήματι μὴ ταράσσων ἐρωτᾶν αὐτόν. Τοῦτο τὸ μύθευμα περὶ Βάγινα ἕνα ὅς ἔσχεν τολμήμα καὶ εὑρέν ἑαυτὸν λέγοντα καὶ ποιοῦντα τινα ἀπροσδόκητα πάντως. σχεδόν ἀπολώλεκεν τὴν τιμὴν τῶν γειτόνων αὐτοῦ, ἀλλα ἐκέρδησεν - ὄψῃ οὖν εἴτε ἐκέρδησεν τι εἰς τέλος.

[This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained--well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.]


Ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ ὅββιτου τούτου... Τί ἔστιν ὅββιτος? οἶμαι σήμερον δεῖ ἐξηγεῖσθαι περὶ ὅββιτων ὅτι σπάνιοι γεγόνασιν καὶ αἰσχυντηλοί τῶν Μεγάλων τῶν Ἄνθρωπων, ὡς καλοῦσιν ἡμᾶς.  Εἴσιν (ἤ ἦσαν) μίκροι ἄνθρωποι, ὡς ἡμισυ τὸ ὕψος ἡμῶν καὶ μικρότεροι τῶν Νᾶνων τῶν γενειῶν. Οἱ Ὅββιτοι ἀγένειοι.

[The mother of our particular hobbit... … what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards.]

Translation notes:
I settled on Βάγινος for Bilbo's surname. One γ had to be removed for pronunciation purposes, and I decided to give it a standard Greek 2nd declension ending, since it will be used often in the translation. 
  • βάγινος = Baggins
  • Νᾶνος = dwarf