Re: HELP: Paul and the greek word musterion

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 24 1998 - 15:03:57 EDT

At 12:15 PM -0400 9/24/98, Mary L B Pendergraft wrote:
>On the word-family MUW and MUSTERION I'd like to offer the assessment of
>Walter Burkert , _Ancient Mystery Cults_ (Cambridge and London 1987) pp.
>8-9 and footnote 36. Apparently the root is attested in Mycenaean Greek
>in the sense of initiation or installation of an official into his office.
>"The connection," he says, "with MYW 'to shut one's eyes or lips,' may be
>just popular etymology." I say this with regret, because I taught that
>connection to my students for years.
>On the other hand, that popular etymology had great appeal because the
>"things seen and things done" of the mystery cults were quite secret--to
>reveal them was to court the penalty of death.

What Burkert actually says there ("The verbal root MY(S)- seems to be
attested in Mycenaean Greek, possibly for the initiation of an official,
but the context and interpretation are far from clear."), suggests caution
regarding the popular etymology, but falls considerably short of
demonstrable evidence that it's wrong.It seems to have exercised
considerable impact on the ancients, at any rate. And the suggestion that
there's some linkage between MUSTHRION and MUQOS strikes me as very
strange; does Zodhiates really say that?

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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