b-greek-digest V1 #801

b-greek-digest             Thursday, 27 July 1995       Volume 01 : Number 801

In this issue:

        Re: Easter Events
        Re: Astronomy and the Nativity
        centurion in matthew
        Re: centurion in matthew 
        Re: Astronomy and the Nativity 
        Re: Word Order in Poetry
        Re: Astronomy and the Nativity 


From: "Larry W. Hurtado" <hurtado@cc.umanitoba.ca>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 17:38:25 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Easter Events

A major problem in the "challenge" posted is that the author of the 
challenge is insufficiently acquainted with the nature of the sources 
he's challenging.  The gospel narratives reflect three major 
forces/factors:  (1) the ministry-events of Jesus (here including the Easter 
events, whatever one concludes they were, it is widely accepted that some 
sort of "appearance" events generated early faith in the risen Jesus), 
(2) the subsequent spread of earliest Christianity (here needs of 
preaching, teaching, etc.), (3) the writing of the gospels (authorial 
intentions to address churches' needs, etc.).
	So the challenge to harmonize each 'n every detail in the several 
narratives is simply foolishness.  That's like demanding that every 
portrait of some great figure be "harmonized", or that every hymn be 
"harmonized".  The resurrection narratives are interpretive and didactic, 
intended both as vehicles of the Easter events and as guides as to what 
the events mean for faith & life.  
	The question is not whether each detail can be harmonized as a 
pre-condition for seeing the accounts as "true".  The integrity of the 
accounts must be respected for any sound historical work.  But to assess 
the nature of the Easter events to which they witness we might well seek 
to determine (1) what they have in common, and (2) what is not likely to 
have been prompted by the individual actions/purposes of the Evangelists.

Larry Hurtado, Religion, Univ. of Manitoba  


From: MR JAMES W FOGAL <JTZK63A@prodigy.com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 20:04:38 EDT
Subject: unsubscribe 

Please let me know how to unsubscribe to your listserv.

James Fogal


From: Larry Swain <lswain@wln.com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 17:08:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Astronomy and the Nativity

Pisces if memory serves, but I haven't the foggiest notion what part of 
the Palestinian sky that would be.  Somewhere I read on this a suggestion 
that such phenomena were also believed to be angels or divine beings of 
some sort, so that in addition to describing the "conjunction" as 
historical/astronomical event with astrological portents (or is that 
redundant?) it also is being who is able "to go before".  Not 
satisfactory in my opinion, but addresses Bruce's issue.

Larry Swain 
Parmly Billings Library


From: "Gregory Jordan (ENG)" <jordan@chuma.cas.usf.edu>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 20:19:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: centurion in matthew

On Tue, 25 Jul 1995 WINBROW@aol.com wrote:

>  Look at Matthew's handling of the healing of the Centurion's servant (from
> Capernaum).  In his desire to shorten the narrative he had the Centurion come
> directly to Jesus where Luke has him send Jewish leaders and even uses that
> to prove his humility and feeling that he was unworthy to have Jesus enter
> his house.  

I realize this is slightly aside from the Easter events thread (where 
everyone seems eager to recognize the disharmony, but only on their own 
terms) but this point caught my eye also.  I would have thought Luke is 
responsible for extending (and censoring) a version closer to Matthew's 
account, at least in this particular.  It seems to me Luke's account 
doubles over the Gentile centurion's self-distancing from the Jewish 
Jesus.  I don't see any reason why Matthew would want to shorten the 
incident, but it's easy to see why Luke would have extended it.

Also, Matthew preserves more complexity and less ambiguity in wording 
about the person who was ill.  In Matthew he is the centurion's _pais_, 
which I take to mean his homosexual lover (as contrasted with _doulOi_ in 
verse 9).  In Luke he is an _entimos doulos_ (honored slave) and there is no 
contrast with the example of slaves and soldiers.  Matthew has him paralyzed, 
whereas Luke has him melodramatically on the verge of death for some 
uncertain reason (7:2 kakOs ekhOn). 

Greg Jordan


From: WINBROW@aol.com
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 21:01:06 -0400
Subject: Re: centurion in matthew 

Greg Jordan wrote,
" I would have thought Luke is 
responsible for extending (and censoring) a version closer to Matthew's 
account, at least in this particular.  It seems to me Luke's account 
doubles over the Gentile centurion's self-distancing from the Jewish 
Jesus.  I don't see any reason why Matthew would want to shorten the 
incident, but it's easy to see why Luke would have extended it."

My comparison of Matthew to Mark has convinced me that Matthew was eager to
shorten everything.  One reason that I have so much trouble believing that
Mark took Matthew and Luke and conflated them (ala WR Farmer) is that where
Matthew follows Mark his narrative is always shorter.  The story of the
centurion at Capernaum looks to me like an instance where Matthew has given
us the reader' digest version.  Luke sometimes will have a slightly shorter
version than Mark but not nearly to the degree of Matthew.  When both Matthew
and Luke get down to the dialogue, as usual their accounts come much closer
to being verbatim.

Carlton Winbery
Prof. Rel. 
La College, Pineville, LA


From: Timster132@aol.com
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 21:16:26 -0400
Subject: Re: Astronomy and the Nativity 

to: b-greek@virginia.edu

On Sat, 22 Jul 1995,  Daniel  W Taylor wrote:
> Regarding the various postings concerning astronomy and the natal star, I
> certainly have been impressed by the level of the research on this matter.
> But I puzzles me that every discussion of the matter assumes that there
> must have been a reportable, natural, astronomical event to account for the
> record of the star in Matthew.  Does it necessarily HAVE to be so?  The
> text does not seem to say that the star "led" them to Jerusalem.  While
> they were in the east, they saw the star.  After they left Jerusalem, the
> star reappeared.  Apparently it had not been seen for awhile, perhaps not
> since they left the place in the east where they first saw it.   And it
> seems that no one else saw this star, for no one else followed it to the
> birthplace, at least according to the Scriptural record.  No one in the
> court of Herod made mention of it.  Later, Matthew seems to indicate that
> the star actually rested over the house where the child was.  This is not a
> trait of any known star.  Since other aspects of the birth of Christ were
> miraculous, especially the announce, incarnation, and virgin birth, could
> not this star also be a miracle, a special star designed to alert the Magi
> of the birth and then confirm its location?  Do we need astonomical
> verification on this point?

  A non-astronomical interpretation is that Matthew, looking for Torah
to Jesus, is reworking the Balaam story into his birth narrative of Jesus.
a foreign prophet, is confronted by Balak who is angry because Balaam blesses
Israel instead of cursing it.  In Matthew we see the foreign prophet(s) as
magi, who
come to bless the new born king of Israel, which makes Herod angry.

  The stellar reference from Balaam's story is from Numbers 24:17 "I see him,

but not now; I behold him, but not near-- a star shall come out of Jacob and 
a scepter shall rise out of Israel".

    That Matthew did weave elements of his story from the OT, one notices
another reference which is found in Is 60:6 "A multitude of camels shall
cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah, all those from Sheba shall come.  They
shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord."

  The star of Bethlehem could have been an interpreted element from Scripture
rather than an actual star or convergence of planets.

  Tim Staker


From: PHILIP_WAINWRIGHT.parti@ecunet.org
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 95 21:30:13 EDT

According to R.L.Marshall, in *The Historical Criticism of Documents*
(Macmillan, New York, 1920), contradictions of the sort we see between the
gospel accounts are what historians expect to see between genuine
eye-witness accounts. When stories match too closely, historians, like any
other detectives, get very suspicious!


From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 21:13:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Word Order in Poetry

At 4:40 PM 7/26/95, Bruce Terry wrote:
>On Wed, 26 Jul 1995, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>my doctoral diss. actually did count instances of word-order patterns in
>>poetic texts
>Now there is an interesting topic, especially to those of us who were involved
>in an occasional discussion with our major professors as to whether or not
>there was a discourse grammatical difference between poetry and prose.  Could
>you please post the bibliographical info on your dissertation?

Most people, I think, would find this rather dull stuff, but I did
demonstrate that some items of poetic word-order are by no means arbitrary
and by no means simply explained by metrical necessity, but rather that
creative poets, beginning with "Homer," exploited the expressive
possibilities inherent in the structure of the dactylic hexameter to
develop several patterns of word-order that continued to be used, with
significant novel variations, by later Greek and Roman poets. Very briefly
described, the work dealt with patterns of distribution of nouns and
epithets (adjectives, genitive-case nouns, etc.) at key positions of
rhetorical and metrical emphasis in the dactylic hexameter (both in the
stichic line and in enjambement) of Greek poets from Homer through the
Alexandrians and of Roman poets from Ennius through Vergil, then with the
transferral of these patterns to lyric verse in Catullus and Horace. The
dissertation was actually completed and submitted in 1963; it was
completely rewritten for publication in Garland Press' series, "Harvard
Dissertations in Classics," under its original title, _From Epic to Lyric:
A Study in the History of Traditional Word-Order in Greek and Latin Poetry_
Garland Press, 1990. An expanded key chapter was published separately as
"Traditional Patterns of Word-Order in Latin Epic from Ennius to Vergil,"
in _Harvard Studies in Classical Philology_  69 (1965) 195-258.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/


From: Nichael Lynn Cramer <nichael@sover.net>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 23:18:06 -0400
Subject: Re: Astronomy and the Nativity 

At 9:16 PM 26/07/95, Timster132@aol.com wrote:
>On Sat, 22 Jul 1995,  Daniel  W Taylor wrote:
>>   [...] And it
>> seems that no one else saw this star, for no one else followed it to the
>> birthplace, at least according to the Scriptural record.

Excuse me, but several of these posting have finally sent my old
ex-astronomer neurons into overload.  ;-)

First off, "no one else followed [the star] to the birthplace" because the
very notion of following a star to a given location on the surface of the
earth is meaningless.

Consider the phrase "he followed the Sun to my house".  Granted, at a given
time on a given day, following the sun might mean going, say, west at
sundown.  But over the course of a trip lasting several weeks or month the
phrase is simply devoid of meaning.

Even if some sort of implied meaning is assumed --such as "they followed
the star as it rose in east"-- this doesn't buy us much.  *All* stars, as
do all celestial bodies, rise in the east.


From: Larry Swain <lswain@wln.com>
> [speaking of a suggested planetary conjunction."]
>Pisces if memory serves, but I haven't the foggiest notion what part of
>the Palestinian sky that would be. [...]

Pisces is in the same part of the Palestian sky as it is in the sky at any
place on the Earth's surface: i.e. at different time of the night, it is in
*all* parts of the sky.  Or, more precisely, it rises in the east, moves
across the sky and sets in the west.  And it does this once each and every

It may be _generally_ to south, but only in the sense that the sun is "in
the south" when viewed from the northern hemisphere.  But again, watch the
sun moving across the sky over the course of tommorrow and imagine what it
mean for it to "lead you somewhere".

There only two exceptions to this rule; i.e. a star placed at either
celestial pole would necessarily remain fixed.  But unless someone wishes
to argue that the nativity took place at either the North or the South pole
I don't think we're going to get very far with this.  (In any case, even if
were to "follow such a star" it would only mean that it was directly
overhead --and would appear "overhead" to any naked-eye observer within a
radius of error of several hundred kilometers.)

No, the description of the star in Matthew --as "leading" the magi or
"stopping" directly over the stable-- is, astronomically speaking, simple
gibberish.  There's no way to avoid this.

It would seem that the only reasonable way out is to follow the example
set, for example, here by Timster that basically what Matthew was trying
for was an OT tie-in.

Nichael Cramer


End of b-greek-digest V1 #801


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