Sunday, October 24, 2010

Funniest Verse in the Bible?

Some king or other . . . somewhere
By Nicolas 'Somebody' Cordier
(Image from someplace in Wikipedia)

In looking over Hebrews 2:6 this morning to prepare for today's Bible study, I was once again struck by how humorous the verse sounds, at least to some of us sometimes:
διεμαρτύρατο δέ πού τις λέγων τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ ἢ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν

But somewhere someone testified, saying, "What is a man, that you remember him or a son of man, that you care for him?"
Somewhere? Someone? Well, someone else might expect more specificity here than a careless "πού τις," especially since this psalm of 'remembrance' so obscurely cited (Psalm 8:4) is attributed to King David (cf. Psalm 7:17/8:1) and gets used in Hebrews as a messianic prooftext.

Despite how amusing this might sound to our ears, given that one would likely assume inspired text to cite inspired text in a less careless fashion, the scholar Harold Attridge, in his commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), notes the "indefiniteness with which the citation is introduced is paralleled in Philo" and suggests that this "probably reflects a common homiletic practice, whereby the expositor does not dwell on what is commonly known or presupposed" (pages 70b-71a). One of the Philo passages Attridge cites is De ebrietate 61:
εἶπε γάρ πού τις . . .
In English, this translates as:
For someone somewhere said . . .
That's certainly a close parallel, and it sounds equally peculiar to our ears since Philo was citing Genesis 20:12, in particular quoting Abraham, not the sort of fellow one would likely forget. Attridge suggests that this manner of citing scripture is "a common homiletic practice," but I haven't noticed its prevalence by anyone anywhere. Whatever its justification, it should give pause to anybody whose views on scripture tend toward bibliolatry.

Or if I might be allowed a greater degree of subversion, perhaps this manner of quoting without specifically identifying is merely a vain attempt to circumvent what someone has said somewhere:
He who quotes others lacks the ability to think for himself.
On that note, I close today's words of wit . . .

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At 12:24 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

Some reader you are!

At 5:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That could be taken two ways . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:11 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

Twofold Always

........ as somebody said somewhere


At 3:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Make that three ways . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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