Finished the Protoevangelium of James

I did it. Last night at around 11:45 I read the closing of the gospel. I would have blogged it last night, but as it was I had already posted four times yesterday, and two were quite lengthy. I needed something to post today anyway.

I wasn’t expecting the amount of concentration at the end on John the Baptist and his parents. Other than the last chapter, which is mostly just closing material, the work ends with Zachariah’s murder and Simeon’s installment as priest.

I will end this with a note on the closing of the gospel, a tale of two idioms, and a bit on how to describe a crime scene, all found in chapters 23-25. First let’s discuss the idioms.


So I ran into one idiom that I thought was interesting. Here’s the text (a snippet from 23:2):

καὶ ὀργισεὶς ὁ Ἡρώδης ἀπέστειλεν ἐκ δευτέρου πρὸς Σαχαρίαν λέγων...

ἐκ δευτέρου, "from the second"? Actually, that’s an idiom for saying "a second time".

And growing angry, Herod sent (them) a second time to Zechariah saying...

This idiom is used a number of times in the Septuagint (Jonah 3:1) as well as a few times in the New Testament (e.g. John 9:4). So now if you want to say "a second time" in Greek, here’s at least one way.

I Am At Your Disposal

Our second idiom can be found in the following snippet:

οἶδας γὰρ ὅτι τὸ αἶμά σου ὑπὸ τὴν χεῖρά μού ἐστιν.

This snippet is a threat from Herod through his henchmen to Zachariah. Literally ὑπὸ τὴν χεῖρά μου means "under my hand". Idiomatically it means "at my disposal", or "I can use you as I see fit." This idiom is used in the Septuagint in 1 Sam 21:9, when David says the following to Ahimelech: "ἰδὲ εἰ ἔστιν ἐνταῦθα ὑπὸ τὴν χεῖρά σου δόρυ ἢ ῥομφαία...", roughly translated into English as "See if there is here at your disposal a spear or sword...". So here in Prot. Jas. Herod is saying that Zachariah’s blood is at his disposal, that is, that he could kill him any time if he wanted to do so. And in fact he did.

Describing Your Koine Crime Scene

I know you’ve wanted to write a murder-mystery novel in Greek. Admit it. Well, if the only reason why you didn’t was because you weren’t sure how to describe a murder scene, this should help as I have interesting expressions for you. But before I tell you exactly what they are and what they mean, I’ll let you see them only in Greek. The first:

ἀποτολμήσας δὲ εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν εἰσῆλθεν καὶ εἶδεν παρὰ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κυρίου αἷμα πεπηγός.

And the second:

τὸ δὲ σῶμα αὐτοῦ οὐχ εὗρον, ἀλλ' εὗρον τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ λίθον γεγενημένον.

So the stories go like this. Herod’s thugs question Zachariah about his son’s (John’s) whereabouts. He says "I dunno." So the thugs kill him and take his body away. Now τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ, "the hour of greeting" the other priests meet together. They wait...and wait...and Zechariah doesn’t show. So eventually one gets the courage up, goes in, and sees the congealed blood (on the floor presumably) around the alter (this is the event reported in the first quote above). Next a legal enforcer (at least that’s my working theory on what ὁ ἔκδικος in 24:2 means) seems to comes by. The priests are then quite upset and tear their cloths. Then one, probably the one who saw the scene first, says the second statement above, "Now his body I did not find, but I found his blood which had become as stone." The latter seems to me like just one more way of speaking of congealed blood.

So there you go. If you want to write a crime scene in Greek, that should help.


So, I’m done. One down for my April and May Greek goals. Next some Pseudo-Apollodorus. Woohoo!

Prot. Jas., at least some copies at least, ends with the following: εἰρήνη τῷ γράψαντι καὶ τῷ ἀναγινώσκοντι. I think I’ll augment it and make up a new word and reuse it for this post.

εἰρήνη τῷ βλόψαντι περὶ τούτου καὶ τῷ ἀναγινώσκοντι.

Yeah. That will work.