[b-greek] Or a SWMA

From: porson (porson@ix.netcom.com)
Date: Thu Mar 07 2002 - 14:55:44 EST

Carl Wrote:

>No, it is NOT just in Homer that SWMA may mean "corpse"; what is true about
>Homer is that it never means anything else, but LSJ shows it used for
>"corpse" in later Greek writers too, including Hesiod, Simonides, Pindar,
>Herodotus, Posidonius, as well as Mark--and in Hellenistic Greek elsewhere
>than in that one GNt passage in Mark. I don't think Mark got that usage
>from Homer, anymore than did Ptolemy in Alexandria.

 Agreed. Unless I've missed some mail, I don't recall anyone asserting
that SWMA referred to a dead body only in Homer.

Porson wrote:

>with the exception of Homer, seems to refer for
>>the most part, but not exclusively, to a living body or to the body as
>>opposed to spirit

Several of the examples cited by LJS shouldn't surprise anyone: Hesiod,
Simonides, Pindar, where Homeric affinities would not and are not
unusual, and are so abundant as to be almost commonplace. Incidentally
the citation from Pindar, in my estimation, is a weak one to support SWMA
as corpse. The god of the underworld doesn't lead corpses down to the
hollow path of the dead. He leads mortal shapes or forms, which I think
is a better understanding of BROTEA SWME8'. In the example from
Herodotus, again, the sense seems to be of sacrificial offerings to be
consumed by fire, not of corpses subject to putrefaction. Now again this
does not exclude the possible use of SWMA as corpse (subject to
putrefaction) in other contexts. It just means that in the examples cited
from Pindar and Herodotus, this is not the case, and, I suspect, it is
not anywhere as common a use as that which denotes a living body or a
dead body which either will be free of putrefaction or will be saved from

Previously Carl had written:

>SWMA may be (the
>>>main square of Alexandria, where Alexander's sarcophagus was publicly
>>>entombed (like Lenin's centuries later on Red Square in Moscow) was termed
>>>SWMA for that very reason.

Again this is not a surprise, as a three dimensional figure is one of the
extended meanings of SWMA. However, this does lead us back to etymology
and analogy.

Carl wrote:

>SWMA also has an etymology, although I wouldn't try to define the word so
>strictly in terms of it: from the verb SWiZW, the root SW (older SAO): SWMA
>is what is kept intact (insofar as anything in personhood is kept intact)
>when what is not corporeal alters or goes away.

Yes, this is a possible etymology for SWMA. However, at least one other
possiblility, of which I am aware, has been offered. It has been
conjectured that SWMA was once SHMA. Now one of the meanings of the
surviving SHMA is a cairn to mark a place of the dead. The examples of
Alexander's and Lenin's resting places are interesting in the light (or
the umbra, depending on one's viewpoint) of this conjecture: the erection
of cairns, as attested in the Vedic literature, is an Indoeuropean
practice of great antiquity. SHMA has been related to a Sanskrit root
meaning to know. SWMA, as a resting place for the dead body (perhaps by
an analogous connection with a root SHMA, from which it may have split
off in great antiquity), in Alexander's case, raises an interesting
question: since Alexander was presumably embalmed, did the tourist to
Alexandria view a PTWMA or a SWMA? I suspect it was a SWMA. Indeed, there
is an adjectival form SWMFIAKOS which pertains to embalming practices. My
concern with putrefaction as a possible key, I think, derives some
support from Carl's citation of Louw and Nida:

>Since in some languages one must distinguish varying degrees of
>decomposition of a corpse, it may be important in certain contexts to
>indicate whether the body is of a person or an animal which has recently
>died or one which has undergone considerable decomposition.

While I agree that Mark probably didn't draw his inspiration from Homer,
or, for that matter from the tourist trade in Alexandria, it does seem
that an older primary meaning, which survived as a secondary meaning, may
have, in a later period of the language, emerged into new prominence.
However, we might do well not to overlook the ideological (or possibly
stylistic) issue: In 15:43 Mark uses SWMA for the body of Jesus, which,
both he and we, in retrospect, know was not subject to putrefaction. SWMA
in the NT also refers to the glorified body. In Wes's citation for PTWMA
from Matthew, I would suggest that Matthew chooses to leave the issue of
resurrection in suspense. Hence he consigns a PTWMA to the tomb.

Carl also wrote:

>It seems to me that the only objection to translation of PTWMA in Mk 15:45
>as "corpse" would depend upon some doctrinal presupposition about the
>reality of the physical death of Jesus.

I think that at this juncture our different twists and turns begin to
converge. However,I wouldn't limit the possibility to doctrinal
presupposition. I think rhetorical preference and narrative device can
also enter into the soup.

That's it for me.


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