Re: Luke 10:13 - Woe?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Aug 24 1999 - 13:44:26 EDT

At 12:55 PM -0500 8/24/99, Joseph Brian Tucker wrote:
>In an effort to capture the color and force of OUAI, the Scholars Version
>of the Jesus Seminar translates OUAI SOI BHQSAIDA "Damn you, Bethsaida!" At
>the expense of trying to be current, the use of "damn" loses, not the sense
>of anger, but certainly the sense of the gravity and pain conveyed by the
>original OUAI. As O. Betz notes such, "vulgarizing" destroys the orginal
>thrust of Jesus' words. (_Theologische Literaturzeitung_ 119 (1994), no.
>11, p. 989).
>What is the best understanding of OUAI and can someone provide another way
>to capture the original color and force of the OUAI?

Well, of course one can go back to "Woe to you!" or you might use "Curse you!"
But my own feeling about this is that just how strong "Damn you!" is
thought to be may depend upon the sensitivity of the reader or listener to
the word rather than to any implicit meaning in the word. This IS an
onomatopoetic word isn't it that is expressive by virtue of its very sound;
it is the exact equivalent of the Latin VAE and it isn't far removed from
the older Hebrew, the later Yiddish OY, Oyveh, the Greek OI or OIMOI or

I really think that such words are forceful in terms of how they are
sounded rather than how they look on paper. I have no difficulty thinking
that "Damn you!" when UTTERED forcefully the conveys gravity and pain
intended in those curses. I'd certainly be hard put to imagine anything in
contemporary English that doesn't seem pretty pale in comparison to "Damn
you!" when forcefully spoken.

I'm reminded of a chapter in a book on Bavarian dialect I once read
explaining how different word-order and intonation of "Leck mi am Arsch!"
could express a whole spectrum of emotions ranging from mild shock to
eschatological fury.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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