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Greek idiom

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  • David Hall
    While the fourth Gospel is seldom included in the synoptic problem, I read recently of a Greek idiom that I thought the Greek scholars might be able to
    Message 1 of 8 , Dec 2, 1998
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      While the fourth Gospel is seldom included in the synoptic problem, I read
      recently of a Greek idiom that I thought the Greek scholars might be able to
      clarify. I was reading that the text of the Last Supper when the disciple
      leaning against Jesus' chest asked who it was Jesus was speaking of
      regarding his betrayal.
      The author I read stated, "leaning against someone's breast" was a Greek
      idiom used(commonly?) to describe sitting next to someone. I wondered if
      such usage had been found in other work for it is hard to accept in our
      current culture a man leaning on another man.

      David Hall
      http://www.erols.com/quentino
      quentino@...
    • K. Hanhart
      ... Dear David, I haven t found such usage. I believe that not common usage but the author s theology is at stake in this arresting phrase. The Greek
      Message 2 of 8 , Dec 4, 1998
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        On Dec 2'98 David Hall wrote re. Jn 13,23:
        >
        > I was reading that the text of the Last Supper when the disciple
        > leaning against Jesus' chest asked who it was Jesus was speaking of
        > regarding his betrayal.
        > The author I read stated, "leaning against someone's breast" was a Greek idiom used(commonly?) to describe sitting next to someone. I wondered if
        > such usage had been found in other work for it is hard to accept in our
        > current culture a man leaning on another man.
        >

        Dear David,
        I haven't found such usage. I believe that not common usage but the
        author's theology is at stake in this arresting phrase.
        The Greek expression "en tooi kolpooi tou Jesou" is sometimes (rightly I
        think) interpreted in light of 1,18 "eis ton kolpon tou patros" -"who is
        close to the Father's heart". The latter expression obviously expresses
        the notion of predestination.
        The whispered discussion between Peter and the Beloved Disciple, not
        heard (!) by the other disciples, is intended to convey a similar
        theological secret. The Greek "paradidoomi" means 'to hand over' a
        tradition, or even a person. Its meaning is not exhausted with 'to
        betray' (= Gr. epididoomi). The secret conversation has the double
        purpose of designating Judas as the one responsible for this "handing
        over" of Jesus to his death and at the same time designating the
        apostles, in particular the Beloved Disciple, to "hand over" the
        tradition of the risen Messiah to the world. As the author implies with
        "en kolpooi", the Beloved Disciple would in the future (!) fulfill a
        special function in the tradition, though he hadnot himself been "one
        of the twelve". Nevertheless, Jesus had him 'predestined' for this role,
        so to speak, he was in his heart. Indeed, for this disciple had "written
        these things" (21,24) as the time of the author and was revered in
        John's ecclesia as one with great authority. I have worked this out in
        my "The Open Tomb - A New Approach. Mark's Passover Haggadah (± 72 CE).
        Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN This is an elaborate answer to a
        simple question I haven't answered. But we are dealing, after all with
        the Fourth Gospel.
        your Karel Hanhart
      • Dennis C. Sullivan
        ... From: David Hall To: Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Date: Wednesday, December 02, 1998 12:25 PM Subject: Greek idiom
        Message 3 of 8 , Dec 4, 1998
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          -----Original Message-----
          From: David Hall <quentino@...>
          To: Synoptic-L@... <Synoptic-L@...>
          Date: Wednesday, December 02, 1998 12:25 PM
          Subject: Greek idiom


          >The author I read stated, "leaning against someone's breast" was a Greek
          >idiom used(commonly?) to describe sitting next to someone. I wondered if
          >such usage had been found in other work for it is hard to accept in our
          >current culture a man leaning on another man.
          >
          >David Hall
          >http://www.erols.com/quentino
          >quentino@...
          >


          As far as we know, the custom in the First Century was not to "sit" at a
          table, but to recline at a low U-shaped table called a triclinium. The
          servers would move about in the center of the triclinium, and the diners
          were positioned around the outside of the U shape. The participants in the
          meal would lean on the left elbow facing the table, and eat with the right
          hand. If...The Beloved Disciple were next to Jesus and leaned over (or,
          back) to ask him a question, he might have been "leaning on Jesus' breast".
          There could be, as has been suggested, some theological import in the
          statement as well. EN TW KOLPW may be an example of a Hebrew idiom
          transliterated into Greek.

          We've been influenced by Leonardo's beautiful last supper painting which is
          unfortunately inaccurate in many details. Assuming that this was a Passover
          meal (so say the synoptics), this service always took place after sundown,
          so there would not have been a pretty blue sky visible through the window.
          The big, puffy leavened bread shown on the table contrasts with the flat,
          unleavened matza that has always been traditional (even commanded in Exodus)
          for Passover. And we don't have any textual witness for Jesus saying
          anything like "Everybody who wants to be in the picture come around to this
          side of the table". (Sorry about that!)

          Regards,

          Dennis Sullivan Dayton, Ohio
        • Thomas R. W. Longstaff
          ... Someone may correct me if I am mistaken, but I understood that the term triclinium (which does come from the root to lean ) referred to a couch, or
          Message 4 of 8 , Dec 4, 1998
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            At 12:33 PM 12/4/98 -0500, Dennis C. Sullivan wrote:
            >
            >>The author I read stated, "leaning against someone's breast" was a Greek
            >>idiom used(commonly?) to describe sitting next to someone. I wondered if
            >>such usage had been found in other work for it is hard to accept in our
            >>current culture a man leaning on another man.
            >>
            >>David Hall
            >>http://www.erols.com/quentino
            >>quentino@...

            >As far as we know, the custom in the First Century was not to "sit" at a
            >table, but to recline at a low U-shaped table called a triclinium. The
            >servers would move about in the center of the triclinium, and the diners
            >were positioned around the outside of the U shape. The participants in the
            >meal would lean on the left elbow facing the table, and eat with the right
            >hand. If...The Beloved Disciple were next to Jesus and leaned over (or,
            >back) to ask him a question, he might have been "leaning on Jesus' breast".
            >There could be, as has been suggested, some theological import in the
            >statement as well. EN TW KOLPW may be an example of a Hebrew idiom
            >transliterated into Greek.

            Someone may correct me if I am mistaken, but I understood that the term
            "triclinium" (which does come from the root "to lean") referred to a couch,
            or couches, usually placed in a U-shaped configuration around a low table.
            The term "triclinium," I believe, refers to the couches and not to the table.
            The term is also used to refer to the dining room in which the triclinium
            (couches) were located. An absolutely magnificent triclinium (dining room),
            with a mosaic incorporating motifs from the Dionysian myth, was unearthed by
            the Hebrew University/Duke University excavations at Sepphoris (only about
            6 km from Nazareth).

            >We've been influenced by Leonardo's beautiful last supper painting which is
            >unfortunately inaccurate in many details. Assuming that this was a Passover
            >meal (so say the synoptics), this service always took place after sundown,
            >so there would not have been a pretty blue sky visible through the window.
            >The big, puffy leavened bread shown on the table contrasts with the flat,
            >unleavened matza that has always been traditional (even commanded in Exodus)
            >for Passover. And we don't have any textual witness for Jesus saying
            >anything like "Everybody who wants to be in the picture come around to this
            >side of the table". (Sorry about that!)

            We've also been influenced by a host of other cultural factors. As an
            archaeologist who has worked in the Galilee for more than 25 years, I find
            myself wondering whether a triclinium would be found in most homes. The
            ones I've seen have been in very elaborate villas; I see no trace of any
            such use of space in the more modest homes, either in urban or rural contexts.
            When talking about a triclinium are we talking about the dining patterns of
            a very elite segment of society? Do we envision Jesus and the disciples
            gathering in the banqet hall of some elegant mansion?

            And what has all of this to do with the synoptic problem, I ask myself.
            I think that this thread should end here.

            trwl

            And the child said, "Look! The emperor isn't wearing any clothes."

            Dr. Thomas R. W. Longstaff
            Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies
            Colby College
            Waterville, ME 04901
            Email: t_longst@...
            Office phone: 207 872-3150
            FAX: 207 872-3802
          • Maluflen@aol.com
            In a message dated 98-12-04 10:22:13 EST, K.Hanhart@net.HCC.nl writes:
            Message 5 of 8 , Dec 4, 1998
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              In a message dated 98-12-04 10:22:13 EST, K.Hanhart@... writes:

              << Dear David,
              I haven't found such usage. I believe that not common usage but the
              author's theology is at stake in this arresting phrase.
              The Greek expression "en tooi kolpooi tou Jesou" is sometimes (rightly I
              think) interpreted in light of 1,18 "eis ton kolpon tou patros" -"who is
              close to the Father's heart". The latter expression obviously expresses
              the notion of predestination. >>

              I'm not sure what you mean by "predestination", but the term is loaded in
              theological discourse, and doesn't seem fully appropriate here. The cited
              phrase from Jn 1:18 is most recently translated by Fr. I. de la Potterie: "qui
              est de retour au sein du Pere" (if my memory, and my French, serve me well),
              which would mean: "who is now back with the Father, back in the Father's
              embrace" (Italian: tornato [ora] nel seno del Padre). The Italian is taken
              from notes of same on the Prologue of John, published for students in Rome,
              Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1987, opposite p. 20. I believe de la
              Potterie also has a published article on the subject of the prologue (from
              which I recall the French expression given above), perhaps NTS, or possibly
              Biblica, mid-80's or so, that discusses this translation. He had changed his
              opinion on the subject in about the mid-80's, so earlier works by him may give
              a different translation. I think his earlier opinion was that the phrase
              referred to the historical (pre-resurrection) Jesus in his dynamic orientation
              to the Father.

              Leonard Maluf
            • Daniel Grolin
              Dear Leonard, I am not familiar with Potterie, however, I find it interesting that he should translate thus:
              Message 6 of 8 , Dec 5, 1998
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                Dear Leonard,

                I am not familiar with Potterie, however, I find it interesting that he
                should translate thus:

                <"qui est de retour au sein du Pere" (if my memory, and my French, serve
                me well), which would mean: "who is now back with the Father, back in the
                Father's embrace" (Italian: tornato [ora] nel seno del Padre).>

                I would render the French as: "who is returning to the bosom of the
                Father." The Italian on the other hand would be "[chi e/who is] returned
                [now] to the bosom of the Father."

                Regards,

                Daniel
              • Maluflen@aol.com
                In a message dated 98-12-05 06:34:52 EST, grolin@mip.ou.dk writes:
                Message 7 of 8 , Dec 6, 1998
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                  In a message dated 98-12-05 06:34:52 EST, grolin@... writes:

                  << I am not familiar with Potterie, however, I find it interesting that he
                  should translate thus:

                  <"qui est de retour au sein du Pere" (if my memory, and my French, serve
                  me well), which would mean: "who is now back with the Father, back in the
                  Father's embrace" (Italian: tornato [ora] nel seno del Padre).>

                  I would render the French as: "who is returning to the bosom of the
                  Father." The Italian on the other hand would be "[chi e/who is] returned
                  [now] to the bosom of the Father.">>

                  Thanks, Daniel, for the above. I am extremely hesitant to correct your
                  understanding of the French phrase here (because your family name looks French
                  to me!) but I do think "etre de retour" is a French idiom meaning "just back".
                  Thus the Italian phrase (tornato nel seno del Padre) is (I think) de la
                  Potterie's best effort to exactly render the French phrase into idiomatic
                  Italian. If you are interested in an introduction to the thought of de la
                  Potterie, you might start with his magnificent two-volume opus on :La Verite
                  dans Saint Jean (published in the Analecta Biblica series, with a date about
                  1978-80.)

                  Regards,
                  Leonard
                • Daniel Grolin
                  Dear Leonard, ... No you are quite correct etre de retour is indeed idiomatic and does translate to be back . While I have lived in Italy, my French is only
                  Message 8 of 8 , Dec 6, 1998
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                    Dear Leonard,

                    On Sun, 6 Dec 1998 Maluflen@... wrote:

                    > Thanks, Daniel, for the above. I am extremely hesitant to correct your
                    > understanding of the French phrase here (because your family name
                    > looks French to me!) but I do think "etre de retour" is a French idiom
                    > meaning "just back". Thus the Italian phrase (tornato nel seno del
                    > Padre) is (I think) de la Potterie's best effort to exactly render the
                    > French phrase into idiomatic Italian. If you are interested in an
                    > introduction to the thought of de la Potterie, you might start with
                    > his magnificent two-volume opus on :La Verite dans Saint Jean
                    > (published in the Analecta Biblica series, with a date about 1978-80.)

                    No you are quite correct "etre de retour" is indeed idiomatic and does
                    translate "to be back". While I have lived in Italy, my French is only
                    High School French, hence ...

                    Regards,

                    Daniel
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