Tuesday, March 11, 2008

some questions on my birthday

כַּבֵּד אֶת־אָבִיךָ וְאֶת־אִמֶּךָ
τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα

Birth is mysterious in the first place. I'm forever grateful to Mom and Dad for conceiving me and to her for having given birth to me.

So a first question (below) is Why?

Why is a bilingual, multicultural Hebrew scholar like Paul (a dual citizen of Tarsus and of Rome no less) silent towards mothers? He writes in Greek to his friends in Ephesus and in Colossae, and he gives explicit rules to husbands and wives; to masters and slaves; and to fathers and children (who are to obey and to honor both father and mother). But Paul says not one word to mothers. Why not? Why the silence?

Likewise, why is a monolingual Greek scholar like Aristotle (an itinerant of the Hellene cities) silent towards mothers? He writes in Greek for his students a treatise on Ethics named after his father Nicomachus, and he writes of different sorts of friendships in which one person is over the other: fathers over sons; elders over youths; husbands over wives; rulers over subjects; and parents over children. But Aristotle does not address friendships of mothers. Why not? Why the silence?

The Greek texts (and their silences on mothers are below).

First Paul to children and fathers:

τὰ τέκνα ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ
καὶ οἱ πατέρες μὴ παροργίζετε τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀλλὰ ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου

τὰ τέκνα ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν κατὰ πάντα
οἱ πατέρες μὴ ἐρεθίζετε τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἵνα μὴ ἀθυμῶσιν

Now Aristotle on various kinds of unequal friendships (but none involving mothers):

τερον δ' στ φιλας εδος τ καθ' περοχν,
οον πατρ πρς υἱὸν
κα λως πρεσβυτρ πρς νετερον,
νδρ τε πρς γυνακα κα παντ ρχοντι πρς ρχμενον.
διαφρουσι δ' αται κα λλλων:

ο γρ ατ γονεσι πρς τκνα κα ρχουσι πρς ρχομνους,
λλ' οδ πατρ πρς υἱὸν κα υἱῷ πρς πατρα,
οδ' νδρ πρς γυνακα κα γυναικ πρς νδρα.
τρα γρ κστου τοτων ρετ κα τ ργον,
τερα δ κα δι' φιλοσιν:
τεραι ον κα α φιλσεις κα α φιλαι.

Now the question continues (further below) but in a different direction: Why?

The other students of Joshua (i.e., the students other than Paul) have their Rabbi saying much about and for and around and with mothers. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have Jesus talking, in their written Greek translation, about both his parents (including his step father) and more about and with his own mother. Why?

As he died, Jesus was with the woman who had given birth to him, and she was of course there with him. Some of his final words were these:

γύναι ἴδε ὁ υἱός σου

ἴδε ἡ μήτηρ σου

And why does another Greek scholar, Sappho (not Aristotle), so honor mother and father? Here are fragments remembering and receiving such sweetness:

Γλύκεια μᾶτερ, οὔ τοι δύναμαι κρέκην τὸν ἴστον,
πόθῳ δάμεισα παῖδος βραδίναν δἰ Ἀφρόδιταν.

Ϝέσπερε, πάντα φέρων, ὄσα φαίνολις ἐσκέδας ᾽ αγως ,
φέρεις οἴν, φέρεις αἶγα, φέρεις ἄπυ ματέρι παῖδα.

Δώσομεν, ἦσι πάτερ.


David Ker said...

ὑπόμνησιν λαβὼν τῆς ἐν σοὶ ἀνυποκρίτου πίστεως, ἥτις ἐνῴκησεν πρῶτον ἐν τῇ μάμμῃ σου Λωῒδι καὶ τῇ μητρί σου Εὐνίκῃ


J. K. Gayle said...

Obrigado! Paul não odiou mães. Você lê seu bible grego bem, e você faz-me lê-lo mais melhor. E assim eu digo-lhe para trás o que disse também ao timothy:

πέπεισμαι δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐν σοί.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any answers for your questions, but I do wish you a happy birthday :)

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for musing with me, and thanks for the wishes!

Wayne Leman said...

A belated Happy Birthday, Kurk. I hope it was a special day for you.

Wayne Leman said...

Jesus sure would have had many corrective things to say to presentday Christians. And it's clear he cared/cares very deeply for women, for their plight in masculinist society.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thank you, Wayne, for your wishes and your comments!