Friday, December 27, 2013

Tyranny and Faithfulness

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments about Matthew 2:13-23, the lectionary reading for Sunday, December 29. Please keep me in your prayers this Sunday as I say goodbye to a congregation where I've had an enormously gratifying and grace-filled journey for almost 18 years. I'll be in transition over the next few weeks, so my posts may be late or spotty.  

13  Ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ' ὄναρ 
τῷ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων, Ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ 
καὶ φεῦγε εἰς Αἴγυπτον, καὶ ἴσθι ἐκεῖ ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι: μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρῴδης 
ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό. 
Then [the Magi] having departed behold an angel of the lord appears in a dream to Joseph saying, “Arise, take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell you; for Herod seeks to find the child in order to kill him.  
Ἀναχωρησάντων: AAPart gmp, ἀναχωρέω, 1) to go back, return 
φαίνεται: PMI 3s φαίνω, 1) to bring forth into the light ... 2b) to become evident 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἐγερθεὶς : PPInf nms, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake 
φεῦγε: PAImpv 2s φεύγω, 1) to flee away, seek safety by flight  
ἴσθι: PAImpv 2s εἰμί 
εἴπω: AASubj 1s λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct  
μέλλει: PAI 3s μέλλω, 1) to be about  1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something  1b) to intend,
ζητεῖν: PAInf ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find  1a) to seek a thing  
ἀπολέσαι: AAInf ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  ...  1c) to kill  
1. I’ve had a habit of translating δὲ as “Yet,” in the rough translation, just to hold off on deciding whether it has the tone of an ‘and’ or perhaps ‘but.’ The way Matthew keeps using here, however, makes me feel that it is more of a connective word – so I’m using ‘then’ – without qualifying the connection as either a continuation (and) or contrast (but).

14  δὲ ἐγερθεὶς παρέλαβεν τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ νυκτὸς καὶ 
ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς Αἴγυπτον, 
Then having gotten up he took the child and his mother at night and departed into Egypt,
ἐγερθεὶς : APPart nms, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  
παρέλαβεν: AAI 3s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to, to take with one's self, to join to one's self  1a) an associate, a companion  1b) metaph. 
ἀνεχώρησεν: AAI 3s, ἀναχωρέω, 1) to go back, return  2) to withdraw 

15καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἕως τῆς τελευτῆς Ἡρῴδου: ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου 
διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, Ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου. 
and was there until the death of Herod; in order that the word of the lord may be fulfilled through the prophet who said, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
πληρωθῇ: APSubj 3s πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full  λέγοντος: PAPart gsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἐκάλεσα: AAI 1s, καλέω, 1) to call  1a) to call aloud, utter in a loud voice 
Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. Also, Numbers 23:22 and 24:8 use this phrase, “God, who brings him out of Egypt.”

16 Τότε Ἡρῴδης ἰδὼν ὅτι ἐνεπαίχθη ὑπὸ τῶν μάγων ἐθυμώθη λίαν, καὶ 
ἀποστείλας ἀνεῖλεν πάντας τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς ἐν Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς 
ὁρίοις αὐτῆς ἀπὸ διετοῦς καὶ κατωτέρω, κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ὃν ἠκρίβωσεν 
παρὰ τῶν μάγων. 
Right then Herod having seen that he had been deluded by the Magi was exceedingly infuriated, and having ordered he slayed all the children who were in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and younger, according to the time which was exacted from the Magi.
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἐνεπαίχθη: API 3s, ἐμπαίζω, 1) to play with, trifle with  1a) to mock  1b) to delude, deceive 
ἐθυμώθη:API 3s, θυμόω wroth (be) to make,to provoke. Here, passive, to be stirred up into a tumultuous state of mind.  HE LOST IT!
ἀποστείλας: AAPart nms, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  
ἀνεῖλεν: AAI 3s, ἀναιρέω, 1) to take up, to lift up (from the ground)  ... 2b) to put out of the way, kill slay a man 
ἠκρίβωσεν: AAI 3s ἀκριβόω, 1) to know accurately, to do exactly  2) to investigate diligently
1. Matthew uses Τότε to begin this verse and the next. I am translating it as ‘right then’ only to show that it is a different term than the δὲ that began vv.13-14.
2. Grammatically, it is unnecessary and redundant to include the pronoun ‘he’ for ‘he slayed,’ since Herod continues to be the subject. But, I wanted to emphasize how Matthew equates Herod giving the order with Herod actually slaying the children, not those who carried out the order.

17τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, 
Right then the word was fulfilled according to Jeremiah the prophet who said,
ἐπληρώθη: 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full 
λέγοντος: PAPart gsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 

18 Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη, κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς: Ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα 
τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι, ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν. 
A cry was heard in Ramah, wailing and much lamentation; Rachel mourning her children, and was not willing to be comforted, because they are not.
ἠκούσθη: API 3s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear  2b) to attend to, consider what is or has been said  
κλαίουσα: PAPart nfs, κλαίω, 1) to mourn, weep, lament  1a) weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified  
ἤθελεν: IAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose  1b) to desire, to wish
παρακληθῆναι: APInf, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon  2) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in  the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.  
εἰσίν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Ramah is a town of the tribe of Benjamin, situated north of Jerusalem on the road leading to Bethel;
2. Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” The weeping in Jeremiah was over the exile and was followed by a promise that the exiles would return. No such promise follows for the dead in Matthew’s birth story.

19 Τελευτήσαντος δὲ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ' ὄναρ 
τῷ Ἰωσὴφ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ  (Cf. v.13:  ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ' ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ)
Then Herod having died behold an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
Τελευτήσαντος: AAPart gms, τελευτάω, 1) to finish, bring to and end, close  2) to have an end or close, come to an end 
φαίνεται: PMI 3s, φαίνω, 1) to bring forth into the light, cause to shine, shed light   2) shine   2a) to shine, be bright or resplendent  

20 λέγων, Ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ πορεύου 
εἰς γῆν Ἰσραήλ, τεθνήκασιν γὰρ οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ παιδίου. 
Saying, “Rise take the child and his mother and go into the land of Israel, for those seeking the soul of the child have died.”   
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἐγερθεὶς : PPInf nms, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake 
παράλαβε: AAImpv 2s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to,
πορεύου: PMImpv 2s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey  
τεθνήκασιν: PerfAI 3s, θνῄσκω, 1) to die, to be
ζητοῦντες: PAPart nmp, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find  1a) to seek a thing

21  δὲ ἐγερθεὶς παρέλαβεν τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς 
γῆν Ἰσραήλ. 
Then waking up, he took the child and his mother and went into a land of Israel.
ἐγερθεὶς : APPart nms, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  
παρέλαβεν: AAI 3s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to,
εἰσῆλθεν: AAI 3s, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter

22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὅτι Ἀρχέλαος βασιλεύει τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἀντὶ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ 
Ἡρῴδου ἐφοβήθη ἐκεῖ ἀπελθεῖν: χρηματισθεὶς δὲ κατ' ὄναρ ἀνεχώρησενεἰς τὰ μέρη τῆς Γαλιλαίας, 
Then having heard that Archeleaus [was] king of the Judeans after his father Herod, he was afeared to go there; then being warned in a dream he returned [to] the region of Galilee.
ἀκούσας: AAPart nms, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear 
ἐφοβήθη: API 3s φοβέω to terrify, frighten,  to put to flight by terrifying Pass. 1. to be put to flight, to flee, 2. to fear, be afraid; 
ἀπελθεῖν: AAInf ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart  1a) to go away in order to follow any one
χρηματισθεὶς: AAPart nms, χρηματίζω, 1) to transact business, esp. to manage public affairs  1a) to advise or consult with one about public affairs  ...  2) to give a response to those consulting an oracle, to give a  divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven 
ἀνεχώρησενεἰς: AAI 3s, ἀναχωρέω, 1) to go back, return  
1. The verb ‘was’ is supplied.
2. Every time I use “afeared” it sounds like something my Grandfather used to say. I am using it because “was afraid” sounds like an adjective and I’m trying to catch the spirit of this aorist passive verb ἐφοβήθη. The root φοβ is the root of the English “phobia”.  

23καὶ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ, ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται. 
And having come they settled in a city which is called Nazareth, so that which was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled that he shall be called a Nazorean.
ἐλθὼν: AAPart nms, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons 
κατῴκησεν: AAI 3s, κατοικέω, 1) to dwell, settle  1a) metaph. divine powers, influences, etc., are said to  dwell in his soul, to pervade, prompt, govern it  2) to dwell in, inhabit
λεγομένην: PPPart afs, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
πληρωθῇ: APSubj 3s, πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full  1a) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally 
ῥηθὲν: AAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
κληθήσεται: FPI 3s, καλέω, 1) to call  1a) to call aloud, utter in a loud voice
Richard Erickson, No known Old Testament scripture reads exactly Ναζωραίος κληθήσεται, but neither are such nonspecific 'quotations' otherwise unknown in the New Testament.
1. In vv.21-23a all of the verbs and participles are singular, with the subject being Joseph. One might expect a “they” along the way, but Matthew’s emphasis is that Joseph is the one waking, taking, hearing, fearing, being warned, having come, and settling – with the child and his mother.

I’m torn about what Matthew is ultimately communicating in this story. I see some possibilities.
1. If we look at the grammatical phrasing, Matthew is telling a story about Joseph. The angelic visits, the emphasis on Joseph’s decision-making and actions, etc. pull the attention toward Joseph – more than the story about the massacre of the innocents, which compels us with its horror; more than the story of the Magi, which compels us with its majestic juxtapositions; and more than the story of the birth itself – which is told in passing.

2. At the same time, if we look at the exceptions, Matthew is separating Joseph from Jesus with the phrase “the child and his mother,” instead of “his child.” I have to wonder if Matthew is addressing a burning question of his day, going back to the genealogy, regarding the lineage of the coming one. As powerful as lineage is – and in ancient cultures I think lineage was a much greater part of one’s identity than it tends to be in my own culture – what is more powerful here is that the Messiah is generated by God, a fulfillment of the words of the prophets.


3. Then there is the insight form Richard J. Erickson’s article, “Divine Injustice? Matthew’s Narrative Strategy and the Slaughter of the Innocents.” Erickson outlines the story in three major sections: Vv.13-15 is “the flight to Egypt”; vv.16-18 is “the slaughter of innocents”; and vv.19-23 is “the return to Israel and Galilee.” Erickson argues that the implied story of Jeremiah’s lament is that the exiles will return. It’s hard to fit that to a story about children being slaughtered, to be sure, but the family’s flight to Egypt and then their return is a fulfillment of the weeping followed by joy. 

1 comment:

  1. I keep thinking about what it was like to come back from Egypt with a toddler and have to face all of the mothers whose babies were slaughtered by Herod. The 'boy who lived' because his family got a message from an angel while the rest of the world didn't?
    Seems like the equivalent of that email going around saying "thank god I missed my train on 9/11 and was late for work and didn't die in the towers. Miracle!"
    Theodicy!

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