A CONTENTIOUS BEGINNING

You will recall from an earlier posting that in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Evangelist John is commonly called John the Theologian.  Icons of him are very common, and so is the text one usually finds on the book he holds, whether written in Greek or in Church Slavic.

Here is a Greek example from the end of the 14th century:

(Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum of Mytilene)

Here is a closer view of the text:

It is slightly worn, but we can easily emend it:

Left page:

ΕΝ ΑΡ
ΧΗ ΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ΚΑΙὉΛΟ
ΓΟC ΗΝ
ΠΡΟCΤονΘΕΟν

Right page:

ΚΑΙ ΘCΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ὉΥΤΟCΗΝ
ΕΝΑΡΧΗ
ΠΡοC ΤοΝΘΝ
ΠΑΝΤΑΔΙΑΥτου

You will note the common abbreviations:
ΘC with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟC/Theos, “god.”
ΘΝ  with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟΝ/Theon, “God” in the accusative form.

This is such a common text in icons and so frequently used a phrase in Christianity that everyone interested in icons should know it in Greek, at least as it is found in John 1:1-5.  The portion used in the above icon text is in bold type here:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton Theon, kai theos en ho logos.  Houtos en en arkhe pros to Theon.  Panta di autou egeneto kai khoris autou egeneto oude hen.  Ho gegonen en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton anthropon.  Kai to phos en te skotia phainei, ka he skotia auto ou katelaben.

“In [the] beginning was the Word/Reason, and the Word/Reason was with [the] God, and god was the Word/Reason.  All through him came-to-be, and without him nothing came-to-be that has become.  In him life was [or, depending on punctuation, ‘That which came to be in him was life’], and [the] life was the light of [the] men.  And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome/taken/understood it.”

Huge amounts of ink have flowed through history on both the proper translation and the interpretation of this.  “Logos” — ordinarily translated as “Word,” was actually a common term in Greek philosophy, used more in the sense of “Reason” as the reasoned order behind the universe.  Philo of Alexandria — influenced by Greek philosophy — used it to refer to the divine Reason of God — an emanation of the invisible and hidden God through which he acts in the material universe — a “second god,” as Philo called it/him.  This is the usage adopted in the Gospel called “of John,” saying essentially that this Reason was in the beginning, it was with God, and it was theos — that is, god by nature — divine.   Theos indicates here the nature of the Logos, just as we would say of a person, “He is man, not animal.”  In the same sense the Logos is god by nature.  The Greek is deliberately ambiguous, to indicate a distinction of this Logos from the hidden God.

Of course this grammatical ambiguity has resulted in endless theological bickering over the centuries as to precisely in what sense Jesus as Logos is theos, — and it continues to this day among Christian denominations.

Fortunately, all we need worry about is learning to recognize this common inscription on the book held in icons of John.

Advertisements

A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

AN INSCRIPTION REVISITED

Here is an 18th century Greek icon:

The title — which you should be able to read on your own if you have followed past postings here — is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΑΝΤΙΠΑC
Ho Hagios Antipas
“The Holy Antipas.”

This Antipas is  the Hieromartyr (Priest-martyr) Antipas of Pergamum — traditionally the go-to saint for those suffering from toothache.

In this icon he is a serious-looking fellow:

He holds an open book of the Gospels.  Usually we find book texts in Greek icons written in upper case letters, but this inscription includes lots of lower case, rather cursive letters:

Don’t let it worry you.  Cursive inscriptions, when clearly written, are not that difficult; and in fact we have already seen this inscription on an icon of St. Nicholas:
(https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/a-greek-nicholas-text/)

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σωθήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει.

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, sothesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.

It is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

This inscription adds to that earlier text, continuing with the beginning of John 10:10:

ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ [καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν].

Ho kleptes ouk erkhetai ei me hina klepse [kai apolese. ego elthon hina zoen ekhosin kai perisson ekhosin.

“The thief comes not but to steal [and kill, and destroy: I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.]”

As one often finds on Greek icons, there are two inscriptions at the base.  Here is the first:

ΧΕΙΡ κονσταντινου του κονταρινε
KHEIR Konstantinou tou Kontarine
“[The] Hand of Konstantinos Kontarines”

That is the painter’s signature.  He lived from 1699-1738, and we see the date 1738 above the end of the signature.

And here is the second:

ΔΕΙCΙC ΤΟΥ ΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ CΠΑΝΟΥ
DEISIS TOU DOULOU THEOU MIKHAEL SPANOU
“Prayer of the Servant of God Mikhael Spanos.”

That is the standard form giving the name of the patron who had the image painted.

As for the subject of the icon, according to hagiographic tradition (which we know is generally quite unreliable), Antipa was a disciple of John the Theologian (the supposed Evangelist John), and was bishop of the city of Pergamum during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 c.e.).

Antipa is said to have preached against the worship of the traditional gods, irritating the priests of the older religion.  When he persisted and refused to venerate the Gods, the priests are said to have taken him to the Temple of the goddess Artemis, where he was placed inside a hollow, red-hot copper image of a bull/ox.  That is what we see in this image:

The inscription reads:

ΜΑΡΤΥΡΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ἉΓΙΟΥ ἹΕΡΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC ΑΝΤΙΠΑ
MARTYRION TOU HAGIOU HEROMARTYROS ANTIPA
Martyrdom of the Holy Priest-martyr Antipas.”

Christians retrieved his supposedly unburnt body, and placed it in a tomb in Pergamum, which later became a pilgrimage site for those seeking healing of illnesses.

Antipas of Pergamum, because of his supposed help with tooth problems, was very popular in Russia as Антипа Пергамский — Antipa Pergamskiy, and is a common subject not only in painted icons, but also in large numbers of cast metal icons.

“OH, NO! NOT MORE GREEK!” OR “YAY! MORE GREEK!”

Depending on whether you want to learn to actually READ icons or not, you will either find this posting quite interesting or else unutterably boring.  In any case, here we go.

Today we will look at a Greek-inscribed image of  a rather generic-looking saint called in Greek Ὁ Άγιος Ιωαννίκιος ο Μέγας ὁ εν Ολύμπω/Ho Hagios Ioannikios ho Megas Ho en Olympo — “[The] Holy Ioannikios the Great, the-one in Olympus.”  You may also find him as Όσιος Ιωαννίκιος ὁ Μεγάλος/Hosios Ioannikios ho MegalosHosios Ioannikios ho Megalos.  You will recall that Hosios is the Greek title for a male monk-saint — the equivalent of the Slavic Prepodobnuiy, which is customarily loosely rendered as “Venerable.”  And ho Megalos here has the same meaning as ho Megas — “the Great.”

In Russian iconography he is called Преподобный Иоанникий Великий/Prepodobnuiy Ioannikiy Velikiy, which means simply “Venerable Ioannikios the Great.”

It is not so much the saint that interests us today as reading his inscriptions, which are good practice.  Here is his image:

If you have been a faithful reader of this site (you all are, aren’t you?), then you will easily be able to translate the title inscription.  Here is what we see at top left:

Γ
ὉἉ

That is obviously a common abbreviation for ἉΓΙΟC/Ho Hagios, “The Holy.”

Below that we find:

ΙΩΑΝΝΙ
ΚΙΟς

ΙΟΑΝΝΙΚΙΟC/IOANNIKIOS, the saint’s name.  Notice that the second letter of the name is the old form of the letter Omega, but I have used the common modern form in representing it.

At right we see:
Ὁ ΜΕ
ΓΑC

— which you have probably already read as HO MEGAS and have translated as “The Great.”

Now we come to the interesting part — the scroll inscription.  As you already know, saints in icons speak through scrolls, just as cartoon characters speak through cartoon bubbles.  Here is the inscription:

It reads (with spaces added, ligatures separated,  and abbreviations completed in lighter type):

Ἡ ΕΛΠΙΣ ΜΟΥ Ὁ
ΘΕΟC ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ
ΜΟΥ Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC CΚΕ
ΠΗ ΜΟΥ ΤΟ
ΠΝΕΥΜΑ ΤΟ ἉΓΙ
ΟΝ

From past reading here, you already should know several of the words — those I have put in bold type here:

HO ELPIS MOU HO
THEOS KATAPHYGE
MOU HO KHRISTOS SKE-
PE MOU TO
PNEUMA TO AGI-
ON

Here are those you don’t know, with their definitions:

ΕΛΠΙC/ELPIS/HOPE
ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ/KATAPHYGE/REFUGE
CΚΕΠΗ/SKEPE/PROTECTION

We can read the whole inscription like this:

Ho Elpis mou ho Theos;
Kataphyge mou ho Khristos;
Skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion

Literally,

The Hope of-me the God;
Refuge of-me the Christ;
Protection of-me the Spirit the Holy

And in normal English — the way we would translate it — it means:

My Hope is God;
My Refuge is Christ;
My Protection the Holy Spirit.

This inscription — which is a common inscription on icons of Ioannikios — is a variation on what was said to be a frequent prayer of his:

Η ελπίς μου ὁ Πατήρ, καταφυγή μου οὙιός, σκέπη μου το Πνεύμα το Ἁγιον, Τριάς Ἁγία, δόξα σοι.

He elpis mou ho Pater, kataphyge mou o Huios, skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion, Trias Hagia, doxa soi.

Literally:

The help of-me the Father, refuge of-me the Son, protection of-me the Spirit the Holy, Trinity Holy, glory to-you

In normal English,
“My help is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

In Eastern Orthodoxy, it has become a Trinitarian prayer that is often inserted into longer prayers.

Let’s look now at a late printed icon of Ioannikios that is inscribed in both Greek and Church Slavic:

We see his title written beside his head, first in Greek, then in Church Slavic, both of which you should now be able to read.  But what about his scroll text?

As we shall see, it is nothing to worry about.  It reads (I am using a modern Russian font):

Упование мое
Отец, прибежи-
ще мое Сын,
покров мой Ду-
х Святый, Тро-
ице Святая
слава Тебе.

Upovanie moe Otets, pribyezhishche moe Suin, pokrov moy Dukh Svyatuiy, Troitse Svyataya, slava Tebye.

“My hope is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

So it turns out to be precisely the same inscription — with a slight lengthening — that is common on Greek icons of Ioannikios — only here in Church Slavic.

If you can endure a bit more of this, we should probably take a look at another Greek inscription on a fresco of Ioannikios:

dd

You will easily recognize the triliteral abbreviation at left as Ho Hagios — “The Holy,” but it is the rest of the title inscription that concerns us here:

Though a bit worn, we can fill it in as reading:

ΙΩΑΝ[N]IΚΙΟ[C]
Ὁ ΘΑΥΜΑΤΟΥΡΓΟC

IOANNIKIOS HO THAUMATOURGOS
“IOANNIKIOS THE THAUMATURGE/WONDERWORKER

“Thaumaturge” is just the word borrowed into English from Greek, but in Greek it means simply “Wonderworker,” someone who works miracles.

So we see that there is another title for Ioannikios the Great:  “Ioannikios the Wonderworker.”

As for the hagiographic life of this Ioannikios, some say he was born in 754 or 755, others in 762 — in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  As a boy, he tended his parents’ pigs, and was illiterate.  He joined the army, and is said to have been an Iconoclast (an opposer of the use of icons), but later in life converted to the opposite belief, becoming an Iconophile (an advocate of icons).  Troubled by the slaughter he saw in battle, he left the army and became a monk at the Antidion Monastery on Mount Olympus.

As a monk, he was said to have miraculous abilities, and could levitate and become invisible.  He predicted when a number of people would die.  He had power over wild animals, and could overcome snakes and dragons (the dragon part alone tells us that as with all Eastern Orthodox hagiography, we should maintain a healthy skepticism).

He is said to have died in 846 c.e.

SPIT, SMEAR, WASH

The sixth Sunday after Easter, in the Eastern Orthodox Calendar, commemorates the rather lengthy story found in John 9 — the healing of the man born blind.  It seems to be a long allegory in nature, finishing up with the implied lesson:

Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind‘”

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’

Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

In the story, Jesus, passing by, sees a man born blind.  His disciples ask him a question that has troubled interpreters ever since:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

For such a question even to be asked, there had to be a belief among some that the soul can exist before birth — before it is united with the body — and that the soul can “sin,” which then may affect the body at birth.

We find this notion in the apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon (8:19-20):

παῖς δὲ ἤμην εὐφυὴς ψυχῆς τε ἔλαχον ἀγαθῆς,
μᾶλλον δὲ ἀγαθὸς ὢν ἦλθον εἰς σῶμα ἀμίαντον.

For I was a clever child, and had a good spirit.
Rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.

We already know from his “Logos” doctrine that the writer of John shared some Hellenistic notions with Philo of Alexandria.  One of Philo’s concepts was the pre-existence of souls.  We find it, for example, in his On the Confusion of Tongues, XII:

For this reason all the wise men mentioned in the books of Moses are represented as sojourners, for their souls are sent down from heaven upon earth as to a colony; and on account of their fondness for contemplation, and their love of learning, they are accustomed to migrate to the terrestrial nature.

We find the notion also in Josephus, for example in his War of the Jews 8:5:

The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter; but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies.

Josephus attributes that view to the Essenes (2:8:)

For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward.”

In any case, in the account given in John, Jesus says that the man was born blind neither due to his own sins nor those of his parents, but rather “that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”  In other words, he is blind so that Jesus can use him to demonstrate the power of God.

Jesus uses a rather odd healing method here.  He mixes his own spit with earth, rubs the wet clay mixture onto the blind man’s eyes, then tells him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam.  The man does so, then returns, able now to see. Similarly,  In Mark 8:23 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him.  In Mark 7:32-35 he heals a deaf man, and also cures his speech impediment by spitting on his tongue.

A rather typical example of the icon type for the Sunday of the Healing of the Blind Man — Κυριακή του τυφλού/Kyriake tou typhlou — is this one, from the 16th century and the Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece:

The inscription is not difficult:

If we fill out the abbreviation and separate the words, it reads:

Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC ΙΩΜΕΝΟC ΤΟΝ ΤΥΦΛΟΝ
Ho Khristos Iomenos Ton Typhlon
“Christ Heals the Blind [man]”

At left we see Jesus applying the wet clay to the blind man’s eyes:

And at right we see the blind man gaining his sight as he washes the clay from his eyes in the Pool of Siloam:

Note that the pool is represented in the form of a cruciform well, much as we see the well often depicted in icons of the Samaritan “Woman at the Well” story, commemorated on the Sunday preceding this one.  In icons we often find this cross shape used for wells and pools, of course for symbolic reasons.

This icon type of Jesus healing the blind man completes the group of six Pascal (post-Easter) Sundays in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar.  The icon type following this one in that now completed liturgical sequence is that of the Ascension of Jesus.

THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION’S — WELL, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Two postings back, I discussed the prevalence of slavery in the New Testament and its survival in Christianity (see https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/jesus-slaves/).  Today we will look at an interesting related issue.  Be cautioned — this requires careful reading, because it can be rather confusing — a confusion that is reflected in iconography.

There is an icon type depicting the healing story found in Matthew 8:5-13:

In it, a Roman centurion (we see him with Jesus in the above image) comes to request healing for his παῖς/pais:

“[Jesus] Having entered into Capernaum, there came to him a centurion [ἑκατόνταρχος/hekatontarkhos], beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my pais [παῖς] is lying in the house paralyzed, terribly tormented.’  And he [Jesus] says to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’

But the centurion, answering him, said, ‘Lord [Kyrie], I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only speak the word and my pais will be healed.  For even I — a man — am under authority.  I have under me soldiers, and I say to this one, Go! and he goes, and to that one, Come! and he comes, and to my slave [doulos] Do this! and he does it.’   Jesus hearing him was amazed, and said to those following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel.'”

Now the question is, what did the Centurion in the story mean by pais?  The usual English translation will say (euphemistically) that the pais here is his servant, however that is not at all clear from the context.  Indeed, when the Centurion is telling Jesus how he just gives a command and is obeyed by his soldiers, he adds that all he has to do is say to his slave (doulos) “Do this!” and the slave does it.  Now again, in most English translations, both pais and doulos are commonly and euphemistically translated as “servant.”

A doulos, however, is not a servant as we understand the term.  A doulos is quite literally a slave, and the legal property of his owner.  Pais, however, can mean a child, a boy; it can also be a term used for a male slave (just as slave owners in the American South used the term “boy” when referring to a male slave, with the appellation surviving even in post-slavery times as an implied disrespectful deprecation in the southern United States when used for men of African descent).  A pais may even signify the male sex partner of the slave owner (those who favor this interpretation point out that in New Testament times, centurions were not allowed to marry, though of course some had female sex partners).

So, was the pais of the Centurion in “Matthew” his son?  Was he asking Jesus to heal his boy?  Or was he asking him to heal his slave, and if so, why does he use pais in one place, and doulos in another, as though he is speaking of two different persons?  I will leave the “male sex partner” possibility for others to ponder.

In any case, how is it that most English translations  — given this uncertainty — render pais here as “servant” and not “boy”?

The answer is that the translators go to the parallel story in the gospel called “Of Luke.”  As you know, “Mark” is considered to be the first gospel written of the New Testament four, and both “Matthew” and “Luke” are expanded, edited versions of Mark, adding additional material (notably birth and resurrection appearance stories at beginning and end, as well as other material in the main body of the text).

Mark, however, has no tale of a centurion coming to Jesus and asking for healing.  But there is a version of the story in “Luke” 7:1-10:

“And when he [Jesus] had finished all his words in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capernaum.  And a certain slave [doulos] of a centurion was ill, about to die, who was precious to him.

And hearing about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, begging him to come cure his slave [doulon].  And coming to Jesus, they begged him earnestly, saying, ‘Worthy is he to whom he will grant this, for he loves our nation, and built a synagogue for us.’  And Jesus went with them.

And when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.  Therefore I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my pais shall be healed.  For I a man am appointed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, Go! and he goes, and to another, Come! and he comes, and to my slave [doulo] Do this! and he does it.’

And having heard these things, Jesus was amazed by him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I did not even find such faith in Israel.'”

Now obviously this is just a variation on the same story, though in Luke’s version, the Centurion does not himself come to Jesus, but instead sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come.   But in the Lukan version (unlike “Matthew”) it is quite clear that the Centurion’s doulos and his pais are one and the same person — his slave.  And that is why translators, reading Luke, make the Centurion’s pais in Matthew his “servant” and not his boy (though as we have seen, doulos really means “slave.”

We have, however, also seen that there are differences in the two stories, and so we cannot know for certain that the pais in Matthew was the Centurion’s slave and not his own son.

In fact the matter is only further confused if we take a look at another story, found in the gospel “Of John,” 4:46-54:

“So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he had made the water wine.  And there was a certain royal official [βασιλικὸς/basilikos], whose son [υἱὸς/huios] was ill in Capernaum.

He, hearing that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, asked that he would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.  Jesus therefore said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.’

The royal official [basiliskos] says to him, ‘Lord [Kyrie], come down before my child [παιδίον/paidion] dies.’

Jesus says to him, ‘Go, your son [υἱός/huios] lives.’

The story continues for a few more lines, but that is the essence of it.

Now it seems this tale in “John” is just another variant of the same tale told in Matthew and Luke.  The Centurion becomes a “royal official,” and the pais of Matthew  becomes quite clearly the “son” of the official in John.  In fact when the official asks Jesus to come before his son dies, he uses the word παιδίον/paidion, which is just a diminutive form of παῖς/pais.

So that leaves us still not knowing what “Matthew” intended the pais of the Centurion to be, though it may well have been his son, as in John, and not his slave.  Luke makes it quite clear that in his story, the pais is a slave.  But in John, the official’s paidion is quite clearly his huios, his son.

Now, those brave and patient souls among you who have read all of that, will now know the confusion that lies behind the presence of two quite different images in Eastern Orthodox iconography.  We have already seen the first, which shows the Centurion beseeching Jesus to heal his pais, which is generally interpreted to be his slave by the admixture of Luke’s version of the story with that of Matthew.

John’s story, however, results in quite a different icon type, in which the Centurion (not just “royal official”) has Jesus heal his son.

Here is an example from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos:

We see Jesus and his disciples at left, and the Centurion at right, beside the bed on which his son lies.

The Greek inscription reads:

Ὁ Χριστός ιώµενος τον ὑιον του εκατοντάρχου
Ho Khristos iomenos ton huion tou [h]ekatontarkhou

“Christ Healing the Son of the Centurion.”

Now in Eastern Orthodoxy, Matthew’s tale of the healing of the Centurion’s “servant” is read on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost.  John’s tale of the Royal Official’s (“Nobleman’s”) son is read on Monday of the 3rd week In Pascha.  They are treated as two quite separate “miracles.” But in practice — including in iconography — they are often confused, as we see from the Dionysiou fresco, in which we find the Centurion (not “royal official/nobleman”) of Matthew and Luke, but the Centurion’s son (from the Gospel of John) is the one being healed, not his slave.

If your head is spinning after all that, relax, sit down, have a nice hot cup of herbal tea.

 

COOKING WITH APPLES

You may remember the tale associated with the popular Greek female saint Irene Chrysovolantou — that the Apostle and Evangelist John sent her — via some sailors — three apples from Paradise.  You will find the story here:

https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/irene-and-her-apples/

This motif of the three apples from Paradise is also found in the hagiography of the saint depicted in this fresco from Meteora:

We can see enough of his title  inscription to translate it:

At the top is the usual Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC  — Ho Hagios abbreviation, meaning “[the] Saint.” Here it is represented by just the three letters O A Γ.

Then comes the name of the saint, written here as

ΕΥΦΡω
CΙΝΟς

When we join the parts, it forms Euphrosinos, but it is more commonly written as Ευφροσυνος  —  Euphrosynos.

Notice the ligature (“joining”) of the letters E and Υ (E and U in English) as:

If we look to the right of his head, we find his secondary title:

It reads

Ὁ ΜΑΓΗΡος — HO MAGIROS

The common spelling of this is Ὁ ΜΑΓΕΙΡΑC — HO MAGEIRAS, but as we know from past experience, Greek spelling on icon images often varies, though the pronunciation is usually much the same.

HO MAGIROS/MAGEIRAS — means “the cook,” so we have identified this saint as “Euphrosynos the Cook.”

The tale associated with him — his “hagiography” — relates that he worked as the cook in a kitchen in a monastery.  He took a lot of abuse from the other monks (as cooks often do from those they serve), but through it all he remained patient and humble, though the others did not think much of him.

Now as the tale goes, a priest in the monastery wanted to know what life was going to be like for the “righteous” in the next world.  He prayed fervently for God to show him.

One night the priest had a dream.  In it, he found himself in Paradise, and who should he see there but the abused cook from his own monastery kitchen!  He was quite amazed, and asked Euphrosynos how he managed to be there.  The cook replied that it was just through the goodness of God.

Surrounded by all the beauty of the Garden of Paradise, the priest asked the cook if he might have something from Paradise to take back with him.  The cook picked three juicy apples from a tree, wrapped them in a cloth, and gave them to the priest.

The priest woke suddenly when the semantron (that “gong” board used in old monasteries) was struck.  He found himself in his own room, still thinking of his strange dream.  But he smelled a wonderful fragrance, and found something wrapped in a cloth beside him.  When he opened the cloth, he found there the three apples the cook had given him in Paradise.

The priest hurried to the cook, and when he found him, he asked him where he had been the night before.  The cook replied simply that he had been where the priest had been.

The excited priest went off to tell the rest of the monks about what a holy person the cook they were always complaining about really was, but when the monks went to honor him, he was nowhere to be found, and they never saw him again.  All that was left were the three fragrant apples from Paradise.  Whoever ate them was healed of all physical problems.

Now if we look more closely at this story, we find it is severely lacking in details.  The story does not say when it happened, or precisely where.  Some say it happened in a monastery in Palestine, others say Alexandria in Egypt, and still others say it happened in a monastic community on Mount Athos in Greece.  It is just a kind of pleasant folk tale, the religious equivalent of a fairy tale (which many lives of saints actually are), and it served much the same purpose, both entertaining and teaching a lesson.

Now you know why icons of Euphrosynos picture him holding a branch with three apples on it.  And you also know why icons of Euphrosynos the Cook are commonly found in Greek monastery kitchens, and in many ordinary Greek restaurant and home kitchens as well.  Euphrosynos has become the patron saint of Greek cookery.

We have one more little detail to notice — the little cross with letters on the garment:

If you are a regular reader here, you will recall that IC XC abbreviates Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ,” and the NK abbreviates the Greek word NIKA, meaning “He Conquers.”