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Father Tradition

It is always fascinating to me how different words and phrases in scripture will catch my attention when I read a passage in a different language. I don’t know how many times I’ve read I Peter in English before, but today as I read it for the first time in Greek, a word in chapter 1, verse 18 stuck out to me. The verse reads thus:

“…οὐ φθαρτοῖς, ἀργυρίῳ ἢ χρυσίῳ, ἐλυτρώθητε ἐκ τῆς ματαίας ὑμῶν ἀναστροφῆς πατροπαραδότου…”

The English Standard Version says “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold.”

As you may be aware, words carry connotations that are unique to every person. This does not usually hinder understanding of scripture, and in English I can understand the verse just fine. But in Greek, when I read the word πατροπαραδότου, I thought about the word that it is derived from: παράδοσις, or “tradition.” My mind wandered to παραδοσιακές τυρόπιτες, traditional Greek cheese pitas (not so relevant), but then I thought of the traditional culture and religion of the Greeks.
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Codex Alexandrinus

Codex Alexandrinus

Of the many significant documents on display at the British Library, Codex Alexandrinus does not catch the eye. There are no illuminations, no gold leaf or fancy calligraphy. All that it presents to the viewer is line upon line of uncial Greek text. Nevertheless, to me this document stood out from all the others, both because it was written in Greek, and because of its great significance in New Testament textual criticism. It is remarkable because it contains nearly all of the Septuagint and New Testament, unlike most other surviving Greek texts, and it is quite old, having been written in the fifth century.

The codex was open to the Book of Psalms, and as I read those ancient words of praise to God, I thought about how they were written in a time when Greek was still commonly spoken, and in a time when, perhaps, the scene of “Christianity” was a little less confusing than it is now. I was also struck by the precision of the lines and letters, and it was very evident that the scribe whose hand copied those sacred lines truly had concern for accuracy in regard to the Word of God—something that many people today care little about.

Diceus and Pleonectes

The righteous man considereth the house of the wicked, How the wicked are overthrown to their ruin. (Proverbs 21:12)

One evening a man was walking down the street towards the neighborhood where he lived.  He walked with a steady, but ponderous gait, as one does when he is encompassed with thought and is pressing forward only by the will of his two feet.  As he walked thus, deep in his own contemplations, another man called out to him from a shop on the left side of the dusty street.

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Back to the Roots

As English speakers, I think we often do not appreciate the great linguistic diversity that exists within our native language. All languages have their loanwords, but English has been more extroverted than most, to the point that it has departed drastically from its Germanic brethren. It is true that most of our everyday vocabulary is Germanic, but whenever we want a new technical word we have two Classical languages at our disposal: Latin and Greek.

Derivitives from these tongues are more numerous than you might think. I can’t believe anything that’s incredible, but it would be rude of me to call you cenocephalic. Alumni come from campuses (or should it be campi?) and it’s no wonder that platypuses have wide feet (platypodes, I suppose).

Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you to dig up the roots whenever you feel the urge for etymological excavation. I hope you find diversion in this activity! (Id est have fun!)

An Early Christian Hymn

I’ve been studying Biblical Greek from quite a young age, and at times I wondered about the songs the first Christians sang. I figured many of them must have been in Greek, but have any of these hymns survived to the present day? As I researched this question recently, I discovered that there actually are Greek Christian hymns that have come to us through the ages from the early years of the church. That is, we have the hymns themselves, but not the music to which they were set.

However, in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, someone came across a very unique papyrus–one of a kind, in fact–on which someone had written a Christian hymn to the Trinity, along with Greek musical notation.

You may not have known that the Greeks knew how to write music. Well, they did, and were quite advanced in their ideas of modes and music theory. But the importance of this little piece of papyrus that someone threw in an Egyptian rubbish heap ages ago is not that it has music (there is a good amount of extant Ancient Greek music), but that it is a spiritual song from the time when most all such songs were written with only the words–if they were written at all. Read More