Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Thru December 2001: Apocalypse
By Guillermo on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 11:04 am: Edit

"Oh,BTW, please do me a favor and don't post in Latin, it was long ago and far away. :-)"

Fear not -- my Latin consists of two years back in junior high / high school. But let me know if you ever need to translate the mottos on a dollar bill!

By Etienne on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 05:24 am: Edit


The class was taken at Western Michigan University. It was given through the Institute for Medieval Studies there. The teacher was a gentleman named Rand Johnson, who had recently joined the faculty from Berkley. He had entered Classics through his interest in Bible studies and one of his particular interests was the alleged rewriting of the Vetus Latina version of the Bible into the Vulgate by St. Jerome. His feeling was that while some books were reworked by Jerome the largest part was pretty much untouched.
Oh,BTW, please do me a favor and don't post in Latin, it was long ago and far away. :-)

By Guillermo on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 07:48 pm: Edit

Dear Etienne,

A class on the NT in Latin -- wow! I must admit, I'm pretty impressed with the erudition here! Where did you study?

Also Chrysippvs -- commentary on the prologue in 8th grade? Let's see what I was doing then...maybe reading Catcher in the Rye?

Hey Chevalier -- which Loyola? Chgo? New Orleans? Did you happen to have any Jesuit teachers?

-- Bill by the Bay.

By Etienne on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 02:03 pm: Edit

Oops, sorry. A class on the New Testament in Latin. Dumb mistake.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 01:56 pm: Edit

I concur...in 8th grade I wrote a commentary on the 1st chapter of of John. The notion of the logos is very powerful to me, and the wording is fnatastic. A very powerful gospel.

By Guillermo on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 01:01 pm: Edit

"hehehe...I have never taken a class in biblical studies, latin, greek, hebrew, near east languages etc in my life...this is all my 1.50 education in late book fines from the Eudora Welty library downtown.. "

Sounds like $1.50 well-spent!

I like what you said about Matt's gospel, Chrysippvs. For my part however, I always feel one degree removed when I read the synoptics. Of all Xtian scripture, John seems to give me most direct access. It is a lovely expression of faith.

These are of course devotional, not scholarly, remarks.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 11:38 am: Edit

Right now just doing core items...I will probably study political science and then head to Hebrew University to learn New Hebrew, Arabic, etc and hopefully work in Israel. I want to join the effort in getting justice (for both sides). Perhaps an international lawyer, working for the hague etc..I am not sure yet.

Maybe when I retire I can do Biblical Studies or translation cuneiform tablets, but the world has more pressing matters that perhaps I can lend a hand in...

By Bob_Chong on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 11:12 am: Edit

What are you studying at the university?

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 10:57 am: Edit

hehehe...I have never taken a class in biblical studies, latin, greek, hebrew, near east languages etc in my life...this is all my 1.50 education in late book fines from the Eudora Welty library downtown..

By Chevalier on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 09:56 am: Edit

Is it a dream, or am I reliving my college years at Loyola; an English major in a sea of Latin and Greek?

By Guillermo on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 06:32 am: Edit

Etienne -- NT Latin class?

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 06:13 am: Edit

Well, Hebrew wasn't spoken at the time and was used, like it was for most of it's history, for liturgy. Aramaic is a language that was the lingua Franca of the ancient near east, and would have been spoken when Jesus was alive. We actually have a quote from him in Aramaic in which he quotes from a Targum (an Aramaic copy of the OT) of Psalm 22. He cries "Eloi Eloi..." while the original Hebrew is actually "Eli Eli."

The dead sea scrolls were composed in Aramaic which some Hebrew used for flair, and even as early the 500's BCE we see Aramaic creeping into the scriptures (Daniel, Ezra, etc). So I don't think it would have been Hebrew just from sheer writability. Most people would have not been able to read it. Now Aramaic and Hebrew are similar in the way that Middle English and Newspaper English are similar, in Chaucer there are still some remnants of case and declension. No sign of that in a newspaper, try to get someone to read chaucer in the original from off the street...won't happen.

Despite their similarities, Hebrew and Aramaic remain relativly different. Even among Aramaic there was Syrian, Sianitic, Persian, and Palestinian among hundres of dialects (There is a scene in the NT where someone knows Peter is a Gallilean by his dialect, translated as accent, but I think the more literal translation is possible).

So why Aramaic, the same reason why David Koresh didn't write his commentary on the seven seals in middle English.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 05:13 am: Edit

This forum is great, biblical critcism in one thread, marc lynching some kid in another, and the wonders of taco bell in yet another. Certainly we are a montley crew.

By Etienne on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 05:10 am: Edit

Why do you feel that Matthew was originally Aramaic? I was taught in a NT Latin class that there are grammatical constructions in Matthew that were foreign to Greek and Latin but very common in Hebrew. Of course it seems logical to think that Hebrew and Aramaic could be similar in structure, Aramaic being a language I know absolutely nothing about. Certainly not disagreeing with you, just curious.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 05:10 am: Edit

What I was trying to convey was that Mark is though to be incomplete (notice that most Mark documents have extensive sections that others don't towards the end, and there are numerous sources in which there is an extended ending.) What I was getting at it that there isn't a new Q Gospel as much as there is probably just more chunks of Mark.

If one takes a good look at Mark, it is rather disjointed and it almost haphazardly put together in parts. It is probably a collection of oral, and some written traditions written down in the late 1st century like you guys have already mentioned.

I enjoy the G. of Matthew, people tend to forget that Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic mystic and social critic well before the notion of Meshiach was tagged on him. It is impossible to really get to the matters Jesus is addressing without a rather extensive knowledge of the second temple period. I once read that it is impossible to understand any ancient document without looking at language and social context, of course very few people do either to the books on which they base their lives. It is somewhat dangerous, the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures are very horrific if taken out of their social context.

By _Blackjack on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 - 01:23 am: Edit

Guillermo is right on Q. It is, by definition, the source of the material common to Matthew and Luke but absent from Mark. The questions are: was there an actual written document known by both the authors, or was there simply a common oral tradition, was it a singular or multiple tradition, and did the authors of Matthew and Luke have other, exclusive sources.

And, well, Bob, if your belief is that the gospels were written by their traditionally attributed authors, that is your perogative, but it is not the opinion held by the majority of scholars, who place the Gospel of Matthew at around 70-90CE, by which time the actual apostle would have been pretty feeble. There is nothing in the text to identify the author; the attribution comes from the second century.

Critical study of the history of texts requires a certain detatchment from the doctrines and traditions surrounding the Bible. An understanding of the facts and historical evidence is not incompatible with faith. A scholar simply looks at the evidence as it can best be uncovered. It is certainly posible that the evidence is wrong, especially if God was involved. He certainly could inspire whomever He needed to write whatever book He wanted. But since that factor is beyond our ability to test, it is usually set aside for purposes of scholarship.

You are correct that the author of Matthew seems to have wanted to convey that Hebrew prophecy was being fullfilled. He even goes so far as to concoct a wonderful explanation of how the messiah can come from both Bethlahem and Egypt, and still be called a Nazerean, as various prophocies contend. However, it is a less than complete picture to assume that the message of prophetic fullfillment the author wished to convey to his Jewish audience is necissarily the one which has become the foundation of mainstream Christianity. There were numerous views of who and what the messiah was, during and immediately after the Second Temple period.

By Guillermo on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 10:56 pm: Edit

Hey again:

As far as absinthe in scripture, a friend sent me sth recently from one of Brown's commentaries that the gall in Matt 27:34 may have been a. absinthium, but I lost the reference.

Cheers -- Bill.

By Guillermo on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 10:42 pm: Edit

Hey Chrysippvs --

I'm not sure about what you wrote here:

"both Matthew and Luke tend to rely on a common source which is thought to be Mark. 'Q' or Quelle may be (and I am not sure I agree with this) a form or proto-mark from which this gospel is derived."

You seem to be using Q here to mean something different than what I've read in the commentaries. As I understand it, the position of a sayings document (Q, quelle) came as a way to account for the non-Markan stuff common to Matt and Luke -- the "double tradition" of about 220 verses.

And so: the question, as I understand it, is not whether Mark is a source for Matt and Luke, but how to account for the material that does NOT appear in Mark, but appears in both Matt and Luke.

Anyway, if as you suggest Mark is itself the source document, or is derived from it, then why does Mark leave out some stuff common to Matt and Luke? I don't find the two-source theory such a "complex answer" to the problem, but I'd like to hear more about why you think so.

Thanks BTW, this is good review for my comps!


By Bob_Chong on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 09:25 pm: Edit

and above anything else..,

If you add an "IMO" here or there, and you might be on to something.

FWIW, I don't know what this quelle stuff is, nor what it matters if it's Greek or Aramaic or whatever, but I believe the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew Levi, one of the original twelve (i.e., a first person witness to what he wrote about). To suggest that Matthew presents Jesus as anything but Lord and messiah misses the point, frankly. He was writing for Jews to illustrate that the OT had been fulfilled. (Then again, you are not a believer, so YMMV.)


By Chrysippvs on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 09:04 pm: Edit

Mark was certainly composed original in Greek, as well was Luke (which was intentionally aimed at a Gentile audience by having it composed in a pseudo-attic manner). The Gospel of John was also Greek, showing evidence of Hellenistic philosophical terms via Philo. However Matthew (atleast parts of it) are in fact from a Semitic backdrop, probably Aramaic, certainly not Hebrew. Matthew presents Jesus as a rabbi, mystic, and above anything else, a social critic which follows in the Jewish prophetic tradition.

As far as any of their relations to Q, John is certainly independent, while both Matthew and Luke tend to rely on a common source which is thought to be Mark. "Q" or Quelle may be (and I am not sure I agree with this) a form or proto-mark from which this gospel is derived.

I know I am stepping on lots of toes with this one, but I don't buy the whole quelle argument. Of all the patristic fathers, Gnostics, etcs there are no sources which quote texts that we have yet to find. We, not even in the most extreme Gnostic sects, do not find quotes from books not yet discovered. Even the early Gospels of Thomas are included here. It just seems to me that Mark is probably quelle. If not the earlier gospel is certainly either a saying gospel like that of Thomas (make sure to read the last saying in that one, and see if you still want it in the cannon), or a series of fragments probably in Greek of the original autographs. The fragment idea seems unlikely as does the saying theory.

Like I said, I got nailed for this "heretical" opinion lots of times so if anyone disagrees let me know. I just can't see such a simple issue having such a complex answer...I am just too pragmatic for that...

- J

By Egeneto on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 08:47 pm: Edit

i am intrigued by Chrysippus' remark that the author of Revelation appears to b a Hebrew writer struggling to compose in Greek. i would b interested in his opinion as to whether any of the Gospels r translations of Aramaic works, & if so, what is the relation of these works to Q?

By Chrysippvs on Friday, September 07, 2001 - 06:12 am: Edit

Long story bob. To make it short, my mother remarried a Christian man, and I was raised being told that I was not a XP but a Jew, but at the same time my parents practiced what I call the "Southern Civil Religion." It is a mix of determinism and this type of schizophrenic fundamentalism. I am sure Don, Ted, and the others from down here know what I am talking about. So I was raised knowing I was a Jew, but not really knowing what that meant until I was around 10 or 11 I started reading up on it. I attended Shabbat etc...So what does this all mean? That I have a very schizophrenic religious upbringing.

By Bob_Chong on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 10:28 pm: Edit

Xmas? You sure about that? You're not one of them Jews For Jesus types, are youse?

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 10:08 pm: Edit

The Oxford Dict. is around 300 USD for the lot. I paid a bit more for mine because I got it for an X-mas present and this was when I was like 12, well before the days of good e-mail relations, e-bay and the like. I am sure one can find a used edition for a good price, certain though a rare book search.

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 10:06 pm: Edit

There seems to also be some contest of the exact nature of the word for wormwood in latin. Some sources give the nominative as "absinthium" a 2nd decl. neuter while others render it as "absinthius" a 2nd decl. masculine noun. So that is up in the air as well. Obvious the verb is not indigeneous to latin and certain stems from a Greek cognate, if this importation is late enough that may explain the variants in the reading.

By Head_Prosthesis on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 10:05 pm: Edit

Dont you have to finance that like you would a car though?

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 09:59 pm: Edit

Bottom line..get the 5 volume oxford latin dict. That is one of the best investment that I have ever made...it covers latin up to Vatican 2 reprisals and they put out add. out ever 5-10 years for papal and newly discovered words (like those found recently in the Pompeii Epistulae).

I swear by the oxford and it is all I use...

By Etienne on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 09:51 pm: Edit


I have a copy of Niermeyer's "Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus". It doesn't even list absinthium. Is it really that rare a word or is my library in need of overhauling?

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 09:13 pm: Edit

The Hebrew vaires between two words, one of which I am pretty sure is acutally hittite or some form of proto-sianitic. Bear also constantly in mind that when we talk about greek there are clear divisions to be made in the Koine of the NT and of the Attic period of the Classical Greek writers.

It appears from a linguistic look at the Revelation that the author is clearer a hebrew writer struggiling to compose this semi-gnostic work in Greek. Unlike the Gospel of Luke there are no hints of attic forms and word choice, thus the author is using a very base koine. It has also been presented that the work is of an egyptian gnostic and only very Hebrew sections are original. I like the theory but things are shotty to a point in my opinion.

As for the word, no it doens't appear often but more than 10% of all words used by early Christian writers are not used in any form of classical literature. Why? Becuase the language had radically changed since the Hellenestic time. The term Apsinthon does show up in the alchemic works of Zoisimus and it rendered as "wormwood" and in the context of verifuge. So the translation fits the bill in my opinion.

My look at the LXX renders L'anah as pikria "pikria" in Deut et al (greek for bitterness). This translation is not suprising. Why? Becuase the LXX is using Attic greek as a render and not Koine. I would be willing to argue that the translation of la'anah to apsinthon and then to the latin Absinthium and amaritudo (See Deut 29:18 in the vulgate 29:17 in the Hebrew and LXX). This latin word apparently is a 3 decl. term for bitterness only found in late post roman latin.

So thoughts...the Bible and her translators do what they always do, make translations that would be apparently clear to the scholar, but vague enough for the theologian. I think the translation of wormwood is valid in most cases, although in the Deut case it may need some restoration. This word choice is used in the Talmud and most scholars render "L'anah" and likewise "Pikria" in Talmudic and Mishraic literature as wormwood and I trust their authority.

I hope this clears things up a bit...

- J

By _Blackjack on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 04:04 pm: Edit

Hey, Justin's not the ONLY dead languages guy.

He's right. The original Greek reads "Kai onoma tou asteroV legetai ayinqoV kai ginetai to triton eiV ayinqon..."

The online search at Tufts shows agyinqion and aysinqoV as only showing up in a couple of pieces of Greek literature besides Revelations, so I would be reluctant to assume they meant any particular plant. I am going to have to check what the Septuagint uses for the Hebrew la`anah, the word usually translated "wormwood" in the Old Testament.

By Bob_Chong on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 01:12 pm: Edit

Oh, Justin???

Where's the Forum's dead languages guy when you need him?

By Egeneto on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 01:01 pm: Edit

i am puzzled that Nikos Sarantakos ( see page on wormwood in ancient literature)wrote in to say that there is no reference to wormwood in the Greek text of Rev. 8:10-12. in my edition, (Kingdom) the word appears twice as Apsinthos, apsinthon, that is wormwood, and there is no reference to chole, bile. allow me respectfully to suggest that Mr. Sarantakos is looking at a modern Greek Bible, that is, a translation.
John Harvey
Concord, CA

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