Re: MENOUN in Luke 11.28

Date: Wed May 05 1999 - 14:19:19 EDT


Mark Goodacre wrote:
> I would be grateful for any help on the translation of the following:
> The standard translation is "Blessed *rather* are those who hear the word of
> God and keep it". But I am wondering whether it might be legitimate to
> translate more along the lines of "Indeed -- and blessed moreover are those . .
> ." or some such thing. There seems to be some ground for doing this, e.g. Rom.
> 10.18 where MENOUNGE might reasonably be translated "Indeed . . ." or Phil.
> 3.8, also MENOUNGE, "Indeed I count everything as loss . . ."

Liddell & Scott: *men oun* is freq. used with a corresponding *de*,
so that each Particle retains its force, Od. 4.780, Pi. O. 1.111, S.
OT 244, 843, Ph. 359, D. 2.5, etc: but frequently also in an absolute
sense, "so then", S. Ant. 65; ... especially in replies, sometimes in
strong afffirmation, *pantapasi men oun* Plato, Thaeatetus 158d...
[but] also to substitute a new statement so as to correct a preceding
statement, "nay rather" [my favorite example is "'Wipe your nose on my
head?'... 'Nay rather, on mine!'" Ar. Eq. 9.11]; L&S also quotes the
subject passage (Lk 11.28), translating as "yea rather, pointing to Rm
9.20 as an example of the same.

Indeed, that's the way the fathers read it-- positive, rather than
disjunctive. Someone recently pointed out to me that in the British
language, "rather", pronounced "rah-THER!" can indeed mean, "indeed!"
or "rather so!".

I think a translation as positive or affirmative "indeed" would be far
more in keeping with the general thought of St Luke than a disjunctive
"rather" (as we tend to read it, really out of an anti-Catholic polemic):

"Indeed, happy are those who hear the word of God, and keep it"' (Lk
11.28), for "the [seed] in the good ground, is those who hear the word
with a good and noble heart, preserve it and bear fruit in patience"
(Lk 8.15). And who is the example of this? Only six verses later Jesus
says, "My mother and my brothers are these (outoi) who are hearing the
word of God and doing it" (Lk8.21). The theme of
hearing-keeping-doing-bringing forth fruit and blessedness seems to be
more than a little emphasized-- Mary is twice portrayed as the one who
"kept all these words, turning them over in her heart" (Lk 2.19), or
who "preserved all these words in her heart" (Lk 2.51); she is called
blessed (*makarios*) three times-- "blessed is she who believed that
there will be a completion to the things said to her by the Lord!" (Lk
1.45), "Blessed among women... the mother of my Lord"'! (Lk 1.42-43),
and she herself says, "All generations will call me blessed" (Lk
1.48). Of course, if "those who hear the word with a good and noble
heart, preserve it and bear fruit" (8.15)-- her fruit is most blessed:
"Blessed [indeed!] is the fruit of [her] womb" (Lk 1.42)!

So the scenario in Lk 11.28 is not that, as we usually read this,
Jesus is being cruel to his mother and brothers, who are outside
trying to see him (I would have trouble with this anyway), but that he
is pointing them out as examples of what he's talking about (faith)
and welcoming them in as indeed close to him on that basis. And of
course we know that the "brothers of the Lord" played a big role in
the early Christian community, so in the gospel of Luke this phrase
would possibly have been read as some kind of an affirmation of them.

The problem is, this gets you into the whole discussion of the place
of the Virgin Mary, which has been such a shibboleth in
Protestant-Catholic relations, and is fraught with emotional significance!

Indeed he is risen!

John Burnett, MA (OT)

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