Re: John 8:58 (longish)
Thu, 8 Aug 1996 15:25:01 -0500

Alan Repurk writes on 8/8/96:

> I do not have the same problem with Exodus 3:14 as expressed in the LXX.
> My Hebrew is nonexistent, though :(

In the LXX, the translation has already been made and words inserted.

> I am intrigued, however, in the concept that there are puns in Greek and
> that this can justify abnormalities in syntax. Do you know of any other
> examples in the cannon of scripture ?

Even though I usually say "pun", often it's more like wordplay (paranomasia).

Here a few, people have kindly provided me (their words):


Amos 8:1-2 (QFYIC, Q"C); Jer 1:11-12 ($FQ"D, $OQ"D); Isa 5:7 (MI$PF+,

Gn - Babel is the name of the city, but bilbel means to confuse or mix up.
Also "bab el" means something like "gate to God";

Gen 29 - meeting of Jacob and Rachel. In this passage we see several puns
whose literary function are to identify Rachel (whose name of course means
"ewe") with her flock - perhaps in an attempt to portray Jacob's interest
in her as a means of gaining wealth. Note how Jacob first catches sight of
Rachel (v. 6), "Look, Rachel comes ( <ba'ah> with final participial accent
on the last syllable, 'baaing' as it were) with the sheep".
Scott Noegel, who by the way has gathered a huge and varied assortment of
puns from many ANE and Mediterranean sources, pointed out to me that as
early as Homer we see "baa" used for the sound of sheep. A few verses later
we see a wonderful pun based upon the final heh root <$qh> "to water" and
the first nun root <n$q> "to kiss" - both of which are assume the form
<y$q>, thereby connecting Jacob's watering of the flock (v. 10) with his
kissing of Rachel (v. 11). The author may be commenting on Jacob's sloppy
kisses of course;

I Sam. 15:14 - King Saul returns from the expedition to destroy the
Amalekites. Samuel refers to the bleating of sheep by saying, "...umeh qol
hatz'on hazeh..." ("...and what is this sound of sheep...?"). From a strictly
grammatical point of view, it should read "umah". ("meh"
is the Hebrew equivalent of English "baaa." ) [It could be, but then, it
may also be anachronistic. The "meh" that Samuel uses may be more closely
related to his father's "meh" in I Sam 1: "Lameh" instead of "lamah". It
seems to me to be more of a literary play on their accent being from

Many of the prophets use puns extensively, especially when belittling pagan

LXX: Sus 54-55 (SXINON, SXISEI) and Sus 58-59 (PRINON, PRISAI)


To ancient peoples, it is the sound rather than the orthography which
is meaningful. Sounds have power, creative and destructive power, as in
magical spells, the dreaded power of the spoken YHWH, "God says, Let
there be light", "In the beginning was the (spoken) 'word'", even conjuring
in the name of Jesus.

In view of this, recent discussions on Greek pronounciation show how much
we miss of this all important aspect of oral and early literate cultures.

Will Wagers "Reality is the best metaphor."