Re: OUAI = "DAMN"?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Sep 14 1998 - 08:40:25 EDT

At 5:53 AM -0500 9/14/98, Mark Goodacre wrote:
>The Scholars Version (the version produced and used by the Jesus Seminar)
>translates OUAI hUMIN, normally translated "Woe to you . . .", as "damn
>you . .
>." How do b-greekers feel about this? Their aim is to re-create the
>impression that original readers and hearers would have had. MAKARIOI . .
>. in
>the Beatitudes is translated "Congratulations . . ."

If anything, I suspect that "Damn you" is rather weak for OUAI hUMIN,
although of course the force of this phrase in English depends considerably
on the circumstances in which it is uttered and the assumptions that the
speaker and hearer of it have about the phrase's meaning. While I don't
mean to suggest that it is wholly relative to these factors, I think its
force will vary over a very broad range of sensibilities, presuppositions,
judgment of the listener upon the authority of the speaker, etc.

Nevertheless, what seems right about this suggestion is its propriety if
one views the beatitudes and their antithesis (more clearly balanced in
Luke's "Sermon on the Plain") as following in the older tradition of
"blessings and curses" for obedience and disobedience to the covenant, as
those appear, for instance, near the end of Deuteronomy and as the
Mendenhall hypothesis assumes was an essential part of a suzerainty treaty
upon the precedent of which the Sinai covenant is thought to be formulated.

Wouldn't the listeners to John the Baptist's "Brood of Vipers" speech have
felt the same way about that? If this is not a curse in the proper sense of
a prayer for someone's damnation, it is at the least a powerful admonition
that rejection of this opportunity for salvation must be damnation.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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