Monthly Archives: June 2010

Wisdom Personified, Mother of the Word

In The Wisdom of Jesus Sirach (c. 200 BCE), Wisdom is personified twice, in chapters one and 24.

Sirach 1

1: All wisdom cometh from the Lord, and is with him for ever.
2: Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?
3: Who can find out the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the deep, and wisdom?
4: Wisdom hath been created before all things, and the understanding of prudence from everlasting.
5: The word of God most high is the fountain of wisdom; and her ways are everlasting commandments.
6: To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed? or who hath known her wise counsels?
7: [Unto whom hath the knowledge of wisdom been made manifest? and who hath understood her great experience?]
8: There is one wise and greatly to be feared, the Lord sitting upon his throne.
9: He created her, and saw her, and numbered her, and poured her out upon all his works.

Sirach 24

1: Wisdom shall praise herself, and shall glory in the midst of her people.
2: In the congregation of the most High shall she open her mouth, and triumph before his power.
3: I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud.
4: I dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar.
5: I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep.
6: In the waves of the sea and in all the earth, and in every people and nation, I got a possession.
7: With all these I sought rest: and in whose inheritance shall I abide?
8: So the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and he that made me caused my tabernacle to rest, and said, Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thine inheritance in Israel.
9: He created me from the beginning before the world, and I shall never fail.

At Sirach 1:4 the genesis of Wisdom is described much as it is at Prov 8:22.
Like Prov 8, in Sirach 24 Wisdom tells us that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures.” Wisdom also keeps souls from sin (Sir 24:22).

Of course, Philo personified the word (of God) as the Logos, and claimed the same thing – that the Logos keeps people from sin 200 years later:

And the same is the case with regard to the soul, the good things, namely food, he gives to men by his power alone, but those which contain in them a deliverance from evil, he gives by means of his angels and his Logos.”

– Philo, Allegorical Interpretaion III (178)

Philo even says that Wisdom gave birth to the Logos.

And the divine Logos, like a river, flows forth from wisdom as from a spring, in order to irrigate and fertilize the celestial and heavenly shoots and plants of such souls as love virtue, as if they were a paradise.

On Dreams Book 2, (242)

Philo calls the Logos (word or reason) the firstborn of god's creation, the son of god, a mediator between humans and god, the mind of god (compare with 1 Cor 2:16), a heavenly mediator of sins (apparently in “De Agricultura Noe,” § 12 and “De Profugis,” § 20 but I can’t find those online anywhere. Which is really annoying because Philo didn’t even write in Latin yet they’ve given them Latin titles…).

And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a supplicant (or paraclete) to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You; neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.


Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Gen 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational soul of man should bear it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word God is superior to the most rational possible nature. But he who is superior to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself? Nevertheless he also wished to intimate this fact,
that God does rightly and correctly require vengeance, in order to the defence of virtuous and consistent men, because such bear in themselves a familiar acquaintance with his Word, of which the human mind is the similitude and form.

These ideas all seem to have been the result of Greek influence and the Hellenism of Judea. An very interesting and informative blog gives an outline of Greek history in Judea.

Anyway, in a text of the Jewish Gnostic Sethians (c. 100 CE) called Trimorphic Protennoia (Threeform First Thought) it identifies the Father, Son and Sophia as a trinity: God the Father, Sophia (wisdom) the Mother, and Logos (word) the Son. So taking Philo and Jesus Sirach into account, it seems as though there was already a precedent for a “trinity” prior to the Christian era among Hellenized Jews.

And then, Theophilos of Antioch wrote the same later on in the 2nd century: “God, his Word (Logos) and his Wisdom (Sophia)” in To Autolycus 2.15. Theophilos himself is a weird case, which I wrote a bit about earlier and I plan on revisiting in another post. He seems to be a Christian that was a direct link between Jesus Sirach and Philo without any Jesus.

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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in ben Sirach, gnosticism, sethians, trinity


Pobrecito Marquitos!

From this blog:

That Μαρκίων is a diminutive of Μαρκος, I conclude also from the relation of Εὔρυτος to Εὐρυτίων, (vgl. Phil. Griech. Gramm. 21. Aufl. S. 119, Anm. 12), κοδράτίων (from Philostratus vit. sophist. II, 6 p. 250) to κοδράτος (vgl. W. H. Waddington, Memoire sur la Chronologie de la vie du rheteur Aristide, 1867, p. 32). So also I think κάλλιστος, the Roman Bishop (217 – 222) against whom the author of the Philosophumena shows such hostility, is behind Rhodon’s reference to κάλλιστίωνι προσφωνων (Eusebius, Church History V, 13, 8). Stronger still is the case for the Μαρκιανοί – which Justin Dial c. Tr. c. 35 p. 253 mentions before the Valentinians, Basilideans, Satornillians, etc – being a reference to Marcionites. Similarly, one will have to read the Muratorianum Z 82-84: quia etiam librum novum psalmorum Marciani (= Marcionitae conscripserunt).

I always thought there was some relationship between Mark[os] and Markion (Marcion). Here is what Wikipedia says about diminutives:

Diminutives are often used for the purpose of expressing affection (see nickname and hypocoristic). In many languages, the meaning of diminution can be translated “tiny” or “wee”, and diminutives are used frequently when speaking to small children; adult people sometimes use diminutives when they express extreme tenderness and intimacy by behaving and talking like children.


Greek [Diminutives]:

Several diminutive derivational suffixes existed in Classical Greek. The most common ones were -ι-, -ισκ-, -ιδι-, -αρι-.

Diminutives are also very common in Modern Greek. Literally every noun has its own diminutive. They express either small size or affection: size -aki (σπίτι/spiti “house”, σπιτάκι/spitaci “little house”; λάθος/lathos “mistake”, λαθάκι/lathaci “negligible mistake”) or affection -ula (μάνα/mana “mother”, μανούλα/manula “mommy”). The most common suffixes are -άκης/-acis and -ούλης/-ulis for the male gender, -ίτσα/-itsa and -ούλα/-ula for the female gender, and -άκι/-aci for the neutral gender. Several of them are common as suffixes of surnames, originally meaning the offspring of a certain person, e.g. Παπάς/Papas “priest” with Παπαδάκης/Papadacis as the surname.

Nothing here about adding ίων to make a diminutive of a masculine noun. But then again, there’s nothing here about what diminutive suffixes were extant in Koine Greek. One diminutive in Mark 3:9 is “little boat” / πλοιαριον which ends in -ιον but not ιων. Ironically, the difference between the two is between a little o (o micron) and a big o (o mega).

This, however, is from a Perseus Project website:

The comparative suffix (earlier -iōs) is akin to the Greek -ίων, or the Sanskrit -iyans.

Which is also corroborated by this Google Books page. -ίων is a “lesser known” comparative suffix than -οτερος.

In other words, it seems as though ίων might be added to denote a comparative (i.e. Μαρκίων is “something or other” than Μαρκος) and not a diminutive.

Nominative Diminutive Comparative Superlative
Adjective πτωχός / poor πτωχάκης / little poor one (i.e. “pobresito”) πτωχότερος / poorer πτωχότατος / poorest
Noun Μαρκός Μαρκάκης (?) Μαρκίων Μαρκίστος

The name “Mark” itself seems to come from Mars (and his month March), the god of war.

Maybe this moniker was added to differentiate between “orthodox” Mark and “heretical” Mark? Like Paul and Simon Magus, Jesus called BarAbba and Jesus called Christ? It might be that “Markion” actually was the author of Mark and they are really one and the same person. I can’t help but think it has something to do with the word ετερός, meaning “other” (but of a different kind) which sounds pretty close to the comparative suffix οτερος. Markion was the “other, different” Mark. Μαρκός ετερός > Μαρκότερος > Μαρκίων.

Regardless, it seems as though Mark and Markion are the same name. The really fishy thing being that they are both charged as being gospel authors. One orthodox, and one heterodox (ετερος).


Posted by on June 11, 2010 in gospel of mark, marcion


Historicity and the Empty Tomb

From this link:

“The criterion of ‘embarrassment’… or ‘contradiction’… focuses on actions or sayings of Jesus that would have embarrassed or created difficulty for the early Church. The point of the criterion is that the early Church would hardly have gone out of its way to create material that only embarrassed its creator or weakened its position in arguments with opponents.”

The criterion of embarrassment, at least in the New Testament, does not necessitate historicity. It can also imply ahistoricity. Take the baptism by John for instance. The fact that Matthew (and possibly John) were embarrassed by this means that Mark’s account is the first time Christians heard about it. Why did it take for whenever Matthew or John were written to address this particular embarrassment? Why wait two or three generations to “correct” this?

Either Mark was written immediately after the events, or Mark (written sometime after 70) is the first time these evangelists heard about any sort of baptism by John and their gospels are where this embarrassment is addressed. If Mark was written after 70 and Christians in 33 (or 50 or 65) were embarrassed by John’s baptism, then embarrassment about John’s baptism should have been present in Mark.

Criterion of Multiple Attestation

There are two ways of formulating this criterion:

(1) “A passage [i.e., a saying or story] is more likely to go back to Jesus if it has been preserved in two or more sources which are independent of each other.”[6]

(2) Motifs or phrases that appear in more than one form of discourse (e.g., parable, chria, aphorism).[7]

(1) Sayings, Stories: E.g., ‘Children and the kingdom’ appears multiples sources: in Mark (10:13-16), special Matthaean material (18:3), the GThom 22 and in John 3:3, 5.


But a saying that appears in Mark and Matthew does not represent two independent attestations, since Matthew normally depends on Mark. An exception would be if the Matthaean (or Lukan) occurrence does not obviously depend on Mark, as is the case with Matt 18:3, which is not directly dependent on Mark 10:15 (Matt has a parallel to Mark 10:13-16 at Matt 19:13-15).

Multiple attestation only works if your sources are established as being independent. If Matt used Mark as a source, then Matt used Mark as a source. Period. Do NT historians really think that Matt was only aware of sections of Mark? Once a documentary relationship between the gospel narratives has been established, then asserting “independence” is nonsense.

A professor who is checking two or three (or ten) papers for plagiarism won’t think that, if three papers have an entire paragraph or page copied word for word that these students still worked independently of each other. If one student shows knowledge of another’s work, then it’s evidence of the copying student being possibly aware of the entirety of the other student’s work. While it’s certainly possible that one author (Matt) was only aware of certain sections of another author’s work, because they share similar wording in multiple parts, share similar stories, and — most importantly — share a similar narrative, then there’s no justification for stating that one particular part of Matt is “independent” of Mark.

The name “Barabba” is a literary invention of the author of Mark. This is the entire point of the so-called Aramaisms and his subsequent translations (into Greek) in Mark. When Jesus is praying in Gethsemane, he says “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”. For one, if this is an authentic prayer, why would Jesus (supposedly speaking in Aramaic) say “father” twice? Two, who was around to hear this prayer? The entire point of this pericope is that the disciples are asleep and fail to keep watch.

Here, the author is telling the reader what the word “abba” means for when he introduces the character “BarAbba” a couple of paragraphs later. Markan Irony – contrast between Jesus Son of the Father who is the insurrectionist and rightly deserves execution, and Jesus [the real] Son of the Father who did nothing wrong but gets executed.

This is entertainment, not history.

Of course, subsequent gospel authors leave out the redundancy to make it more “authentic”. Since two other gospels copy word-for-word from Mark in large swaths and that all four canonical gospels utilize the Markan invented “Barabba” character means that there’s strong evidence for all three later evangelists being aware of Mark, or aware of a source that was aware of Mark. Of course, this also explains why John includes the hitherto unknown Greek word ΝΑΖΩΡΑΙΟΣ (19:19) in his gospel; this word was invented by Matthew at 2:23 based on a misremembering of Judges 13:5 (Samson the ΝΑΖΙΡΑΙΟΣ). A word that is unused in Mark.

Oddly the ΝΑΖΙΡΑΙΟΣ in the LXX is a good example of what actual independence looks like. At least, documentary independence. Judges 13:5 has ΝΑΖΙΡΑΙΟΣ in some manuscripts, ΝΑΖΕΙΡΑΙΟΣ in others, ΝΑΖΙΡ in others, and ΑΓΝΕΙΑ (Greek for “consecrated”) in others. ΝΑΖ(Ε)ΙΡΑΙΟΣ is the proper Greek nominative form of ΝΑΖΙΡ, which itself is the spelling of the Hebrew word נזיר (NZYR) with Greek letters. The Hebrew word NZYR means (you guessed it) “consecrated”. This is evidence that there were different translators that took a jab at translating Judges 13:5 independently of each other. If one author is copying from another, then they wouldn’t spell a word differently, such as the difference between ΝΑΖΙΡΑΙΟΣ and ΝΑΖΕΙΡΑΙΟΣ. On the other hand, ΝΑΖΩΡΑΙΟΣ is spelled consistently in the various (at least, the ones I’ve looked at!) NT manuscripts.

Multiple attestation only works if you know that your data is independent. Compare Thomas 3 with Lk 17:21-22, The phrase “the kingdom of god is within you” appears nowhere else. One of those writers knows the other’s saying.

This brings us to the main argument used for the resurrection by modern Christians. The “empty tomb” argument. Since there’s a documentary relationship between these gospels and the fact that Matthew was “embarrassed” by Mark’s illogical empty tomb scenario by adding guards, bribes, and other stuff means that Matthew read and was aware of Mark and Mark was the first time that Matthew (and later evangelists) heard about any sort of empty tomb. Which explains why all of the resurrection appearances vary wildly after the sabbath – where Mark ends.

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Posted by on June 8, 2010 in historical jesus, historicity

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