Re: Night and Day

From: Mary Pendergraft (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 12:28:50 EST

The following message began a thread that has grown too long to

> In a message dated 02/08/2000 5:01:41 AM Pacific Standard Time,
> writes:
> << 1 Clement 27:7 gives a quotation of LXX Ps. 19:1-3, which includes the
> GNWSIN. A typical translation is something like "day utters speech to day
> and night proclaims knowledge to night." But I have no idea what that
> means (i.e., in English) (and note: I'm *not* asking what the original
> Hebrew meant, but what the Greek in 1 Clement did).
> What would you think of something a bit more paraphrastic that, while
> still strange, can at least be construed, something like: "One day utters
> a word to another, and one night proclaims knowledge to the next"?
> -- Bart D. Ehrman >>

I'm writing to comment that Carl's response, that Bart's paraphrase
catches what the passage means, is--typically--correct. It's normal
Greek grammar; and it does represent what the Hebrew says. Perhaps some
of the discomfort others have felt comes from the repetition of "day"
and "night" in different cases, which isn't particularly idiomatic in
English but is in other languages. The most obvious example to my mind
is a Latin one, but it has the virtue of being familiar. The proverb
"manus manum lavat" says "hand washes hand" but it's regularly Englished
as "one hand washes the other." The same idiom holds in Greek: "Day
speaks to day" is fine in Greek, but English would more likely say "One
day speaks to the next."

Particularly because these verses are preceded by the statement that the
heavens declare God's glory, perhaps we can imagine personified Days and
Nights coming and going above or around us, and passing on their RHMATA
and GNWSEIS each to the next. I hasten to add that in so saying I mean
nothing theological nor do I suggest anything about ancient astronomy; I
just think it's a poetic image.


Mary Pendergraft
Associate Professor of Classical Languages
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem NC 27109-7343

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