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].”

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WHEN THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN

At the request of a reader, here is a brief discussion of “All Saints” icons:

In the Greek Orthodox calendar, the first Sunday after Pentecost/Whitsunday is Ἡ Κυριακή των Ἁγίων Πάντων/He Kyriake ton Hagion Panton — “The Sunday of All Saints.”  In Russian Orthodoxy, it is Неделя всех святых/Nedelya vsekh svyatuikh, with the same meaning.

If you are a long-time reader here, you will perhaps recall that we have seen a generally simple form of the icon of All Saints as part of the “Week” icon (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/what-day-is-it-icons-of-the-week/), in which it represents Saturday in the seven days of the week.

“All Saints” (Ὁι άγιοι Πάντες/Hoi Hagioi Pantes) icons do, however, exist on their own.

Greek iconography tends to prefer the “circle” form, which looks like this:

In the center we see Jesus enthroned.  He holds the opened Gospels.  If we look at an example of the same image in a more recent icon of the same type, we can see the text more easily:

It reads:

Δεῦτε, οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου, κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμα[σμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου].

Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

At upper left is the Prophet Daniel, and at upper right King Solomon.  Some examples have King David (called the Prophet David) at left instead of Daniel, in which case he holds a scroll with a text taken from Psalm 32 (33 in KJV numbering):

Αγαλλιάσθε δίκαιοι, εν Κυρίω· τοις ευθέσι πρέπει αίνεσις.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous; praise becomes the upright,
which is also a part of the liturgy for All Saints Sunday.

Solomon holds a scroll with a text from Wisdom of Solomon 5:15, one of the readings for the Sunday of All Saints:

Δίκαιοι δὲ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ζῶσι, καὶ ἐν Κυρίῳ ὁ μισθὸς αὐτῶν, καὶ ἡ φροντὶς αὐτῶν παρὰ ῾Υψίστῳ.

But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High.

At the base of the icon, we see the Forefather Abraham seated in Paradise at left, holding a soul in his bosom.  Some examples include a similar image of the Forefather Jacob at right, also holding souls, as in this icon:

You will recall these fellows from the previous posting on the icon of the Forefathers in Paradise ( https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/three-old-men-on-a-park-bench-the-patriarchs-in-paradise/).  To the right of Abraham is the image of the “Repentant Thief,” holding his cross.

In the circle around Jesus are the various ranks of saints.  At his feet is the altar table we find in icons of the Hetoimasia — the “Preparation of the Throne,” the throne being represented as an altar.  To its left stands Adam, and at right Eve.

At the top of the circle we see angels with the cross and symbols of the Passion, and above them two more angels holding open the doors of Heaven.

Russian icons of “All Saints” are commonly in the “square” form rather than the Greek “circle,” as we see in this example from 1616:

At top is Jesus in the “Deisis” form, with Mary at left and John the Forerunner (Baptist) at right, and many angels on both sides  Below him and between two angels is the “Hetoimasia” — the altar table “throne” prepared for judgment.  The rest of the icon consists of the saints, separated into their ranks or choirs (Slavic лики/liki), just as we saw in the posting on “Week” icons mentioned above.

“All Saints” icons commemorate all saints from the beginning of time to Judgment Day, and the image of the Patriarchs in Paradise is included as representation of the rewards of sainthood.

ANOTHER “GOD THE FATHER” INSCRIPTION

A reader kindly shared some photos of the dome fresco in the katholikon (main church) of the Pantokrator Monastery at Mount Athos.  The much earlier frescos in the katholikon were painted over in 1854 by Matheos Ioannou of Naoussa, so what we see is comparatively recent.

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)

Our purpose in looking at this fresco today is to examine the Greek inscription.  Long-time readers here already know that icons of God the Father painted as an old man are extremely common throughout Eastern Orthodox iconography, with a history going back many centuries.

Here is a closer look at the inscription:

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)
It reads:

Ὁ ΑΝΑΡΧΟC ΠΑΤΗΡ — HO ANARKHOS PATER — “THE BEGINNINGLESS FATHER.”  So the image represents God the Father.

The Pedalion (The Rudder, a treatise on  Orthodox Church canons by Nicholas the Hagiorite, 1749-1809) says:

ὁ άναρχος Πατήρ πρέπει να ζωγραφίζεται καθώς εφάνη εις τον προφήτην Δανιήλ ως παλαιός ημερών.

The Beginningless Father should be painted as he appeared to the Prophet Daniel, as the ‘Ancient of Days.‘”

You will recall from a previous posting here (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-ancient-of-days-trinity-icon-and-how-to-read-it/) that there is an ongoing controversy in Eastern Orthodox circles as to whether the “Ancient of Days” type should be used to represent Jesus, or whether it should be God the Father.  But in the study of icons we pay no attention to modern doctrinaire quibbles over what this or that person thinks painters should have done.  Instead we simply go with historical reality — with what a painter actually did in a given case.  And in this case the image is quite clearly identified as the “Beginningless Father” — God the Father.  You will recall that in Russian iconography, God the Father is commonly titled “Lord Sabaoth.”

Note the triangle halo with the faint HO ON  (“The One Who Is” ) inscription in it — an inscription generally found on icons of Jesus.  The triangle with its three points is of course a “Trinity” symbol, and more often found in late Orthodox iconography.

AN ARGUMENT OVER APPLES

In Greek iconography there is a category of saint called “New Martyr” (νεομάρτυς/neomartys).  New Martyrs are generally those martyred after Constantinople fell to the invading Muslims in 1453, which includes those martyred at any time during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule — a centuries-long period of suffering and oppression of non-Muslims commonly referred to as the “Turkish Yoke.”  There are also earlier New Martyrs, beginning from the time of the Seljuk muslim invasions of Byzantine regions in the 11th and 12th centuries.

An icon found in Greek Orthodoxy, though not so much in Russian, is that of Khrestos/Khristos/Christos/Kristo the Gardener — one of those New Martyrs.  Here is an example:

Let’s look at the inscription:

As you see, it has some ligatures (joined letters):

At left are the words Ὁ ἁΓιος — “The Holy.”  The α is joined to the Γ (g), and ς (s) is attached to the bottom of the ο.

At right is the name ΧΡΗCΤΟC.  The Ρ (r) is joined to the Η (e, pronounced “ee” in Modern Greek), and the C is joined to the Τ.  The last ς (s) is also appended from the ο.

Then comes his secondary title, which is here written as Ὁ ΑΛΒΑΝΤΙΣ — Ho Albantis — but is more generally written Ὁ Αρβανίτης — Ho Arbanites — “The Albanian.”  An Arbanite/Arvanite is traditionally an Albanian who settled in Greek territory.

Other icons of him may add the title Ὁ Νεομάρτυς — “The New Martyr,” and also Ὁ Κηπουρός — Ho Kepouros, meaning “The Gardener.”

The date 1748 and month December are also written on the icon.  1748 was the year of his martyrdom.  Khrestos’ day of commemoration is February 12, so either the painter made an error or it indicates the month in which the icon was painted.

According to his hagiography, Khrestos was an Albanian gardener who decided at age 40 to go to Constantinople.  One day he took some apples to the market to sell.  A Turk came up to him and asked Khrestos the price.  It was higher than the Turk wanted to pay, so after some bickering they could not agree, and Khrestos would not sell him the apples.

In revenge, the Turk told a judge that Khrestos had said he would become a Muslim, but was now refusing.   False witnesses were found to testify against the gardener in court, where he refused to give up his Christian beliefs and convert to Islam.  Because of his refusal to convert, he was beaten and eventually beheaded.

Just how Krestos/Khristos is depicted varies considerably.  Here is a recently painted icon that gives him a rather sly and sinister appearance, oddly enough.  As you can see, he carries a cross of martyrdom and a twig bearing two apples.

You should be able to read the inscription from the information given earlier in this posting.  At lower right we see this added signature:

ΧΕΙΡ Μ[ΟΝΑ]Χ[ΟΥ] ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΒΙΒ
KHEIR MONAKHOU MIKHAEL BIB
“[The] Hand of Monk Michael”

The BIB is a date in letter numbers — 2012.

There is another Neomartyr named Khrestos, but he was a sailor from a Cretan vessel, who it is is said, was martyred in 1668 on the island of Kos, when he got into an argument over religion and was killed by Janissaries (Ottoman muslim soldiers) after refusing to abandon his religion and saying negative things about Islam.  This Khrestos was from the Greek town of Preveza (Πρέβεζα)

There is also an even more obscure New Martyr Khrestos/Khristos of Ioannina, but he was a priest-monk, commemorated on August 15th.

 

JESUS TELLS A LIE

In an earlier posting (see https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/prepolovenie/) we looked at icons of the “Middle” — the church commemoration that stands between Easter and Pentecost — and we saw that they are of two types.  One shows Jesus as a twelve year old boy, seated amid the learned men in the Jerusalem Temple — the event called in Western art “Jesus Among the Doctors,” recorded in Luke 2:41-49.

The other icon depicts a different incident — Jesus as an adult, preaching in the Temple, as described in John 7.

Here is a 14th century fresco from the Vysokie Dechani monastery in Serbia, showing the first type.  It is interesting not only because of its iconography, but also because of its unexpected inscription:

We might expect to find as its inscription a conventional title telling what is happening in a scene, as in this 16th century fresco from the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos:

The Greek title of the image reads:

Ὁ Χ[ΡΙCΤΟ]C ΔΙΔΑCΚΩΝ ΕΝ ΤΩ ἹΕ[ΡΩ]
HO KHRISTOS DIDASKON EN TO HIERO
“CHRIST TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE.”

Some Greek icons of the type are titled simply:

Ἡ ΜΕCΟΠΕΝΤΗΚΟCΤΗ
HE MESOPENTEKOSTE
“[The] MID-PENTECOST”

On the Dechani fresco, however, we find this inscription:

It is neither a scene description nor a conventional title, and though the image depicts a New Testament scene, it is not an excerpt from the New Testament.  Instead, it is a slight variation on Kontakion 8 from the Akathist to Mary:

Кондак 8
Странное рождество видевше, устранимся мира, ум на небеса преложше: сего бо ради высокий Бог на земли явися смиренный человек, хотяй привлещи к высоте Тому вопиющия: Аллилуиа.

Strannoe rozhdestvo videvshe, ustranimsya mira, um na nebesa prelozhshe: sego
bo radi vuiskiy Bog na zemli yavisya smirennuiy chelovek, Khotyay privleshchi k
vuisote Tomy vopiiushchiya: Alliluia

Kontakion 8
Seeing a strange childbirth, let us estrange ourselves from the world by transporting our minds to Heaven; for this sake the Most High God appeared on earth a lowly man, that He might draw to the heights those who cry out to Him: Alleluia.”

Now as I mentioned, there is another Prepolovenie/”Middle”/Mesopentekoste/Mid-Pentecost icon type — Jesus teaching in the Temple as an adult.  Here is a 14th century variant example from Vysokie Dechani:

It has an interesting added detail.  Jesus holds a large pitcher of water as he stands among those in the Temple.  We find out why if we look at the inscription above his head:

АЩЕ КТО ЖАЖДЕТЪ ДА ПРIИДЕТЪ КО МНЕ И ПИIЕТЪ
ASHCHE KTO ZHAZHDET DA PRIIDET KO MNE I PIET
Whoever thirsts, [let him] come to me and drink.

It is taken from John 7:37:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirsts, let him come to me, and drink.

The “feast” mentioned is the Jewish Festival of Booths — Sukkot — which takes place in the autumn.  The odd thing about the speech of Jesus in the Temple on that feast is that if one took him at his word, he was not supposed to be there at all.

Earlier, his brothers had told him in Galilee that he should go to Judea and demonstrate his works in public, meaning at the festival.

Jesus, however, replies (John 7:6-9):
“‘My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but it hates me, because I testify of it, that the works of it are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I will not go up to this feast, for my time is not yet fully come.’  When he had said these words to them, he remained in Galilee.”

That is followed in John 7:10 by:
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

In other words, Jesus told a lie.  He said he was not going to the feast, but later he did go “as it were in secret.”

This text, of course, has bothered a lot of people over the centuries, who do not at all like the idea of Jesus having lied, and in fact it seems to have resulted in someone at some time correcting the problem.  We have early evidence of this.  In Papyrus 66, a manuscript dated variously from the 2nd to the 4th century, we find that change.  Instead of Jesus saying “I will not go up to this feast,” it instead changes the Greek word ουκ, meaning “not,” to οὔπω/oupo, which means “not yet,”  resulting in Jesus saying “I will not yet go up to this feast.” By doing so, Jesus no longer lies to his brothers; he just tells them that he will go up to the feast later, after they have gone.

It is a clever change, but it does not seem to be the original reading.  The point of the exchange appears to be that Jesus does not want his brothers to know he is going at all, because when he does go, it is “as it were in secret.”

In Greek it is the difference between:

ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην
ego ouk anabaino eis ten heorten tauten
“I go not up to this feast”

and

ἐγὼ οὔπω ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην
ego oupo anabaino eis ten heorten tauten
“I go not-yet up to this feast.”

It looks, in fact, as though the “not yet” was borrowed from the latter part of the whole sentence from which this excerpt is taken:

ὑμεῖς ἀνάβητε εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν· ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην, ὅτι ὁ ἐμὸς καιρὸς οὔπω πεπλήρωται
humeis anabete eis ten heorten. ego ouk anabaino eis ten heorten tauten, hoti ho emos kairos oupo peplerotai.
“You go up to this feast.  I go not up to this feast, for my time is not yet complete/fulfilled.”

So which was the original reading, “I go not” or “I go not yet”?  The manuscript evidence is divided, with some copies going with “not” and others with “not yet.”  Modern scholars tend to favor the former interpretation, which results in Jesus having told a lie, given that it not only better fits the sense of the text, but also because it is unlikely that an early editor would have changed “I am not yet going up to this feast” to the more embarrassing “Jesus lies” reading, “I am not going up to this feast.”  Conservatives of course prefer the option that saves Jesus from having lied.

It is interesting that the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry (c. 234-305), who opposed Christianity, knew the “I am not going up to this feast” reading, because as quoted by Jerome, he used it against the Christians of his time — another good reason for Christian editors to prefer the “not yet” reading when copying the text.

 

 

PLACES, NUMBERS, AND PIGS

In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark and the two expanded versions of Mark called Matthew and Luke) we find an odd tale and some peculiar variations:

Mark 5:1-2
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He [Jesus] got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

Matt 8:28
When He [Jesus] came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

Luke 8:26-7
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He [Jesus] came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons;

The first problem we encounter is that “Mark” says it happened in the country of the Gerasenes, where Jesus met one possessed man.

Matthew, however, says it was the country of the Gadarenes, where Jesus met two possessed men.

Luke retains Mark’s  “country of the Gerasenes,” and one possessed man again.

Now if Jesus had just landed by boat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he could not possibly have been — as Mark says and Luke follows him — in the “country of the Gerasenes,” because Gerasa (modern Jerash) is considerably farther from the Sea of Galilee than Gadara — over 30 miles away.  The writer of Matthew seems to have recognized this error, and to have attempted to correct it by naming the place of the encounter as the land of the Gadarenes.  Gadara (modern Umm Qais), is a little over 6 miles from the Sea of Galilee.

The distance from the sea is important not only because of where Jesus landed, but also because of what happens in the story.  As Mark relates, when Jesus cast the demons out of the man,

Now there was there near the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

So the place of the encounter has to be where a herd of swine/pigs can run down a steep place into the sea.

Some decided that the supposed miracle must have been at a place called Kursi (Κυρσοί/Kursoi),  not far from ancient Hippus, because that is the only area where one can find a “steep place” (κρημνός/kremnos — “cliff,” “precipice”) above the sea, descending toward the lake shore. There was once a 5th-century Byzantine church there.  The problem, however, is that it is considerably north of Gadara, and much farther up the shore of the Sea of Galilee, though still much closer to the Sea than Gadara.

The theologian Origen (c. 184 – c. 253 ), who traveled through the region, had this to say:

“In the matter of proper names the Greek copies [manuscript copies of the Gospels] are often incorrect, and in the Gospels one might be misled by their authority. The transaction about the swine, which were driven down a steep place by the demons and drowned in the sea, is said to have taken place in the country of the Gerasenes. Now, Gerasa is a town of Arabia, and has near it neither sea nor lake. And the Evangelists would not have made a statement so obviously and demonstrably false; for they were men who informed themselves carefully of all matters connected with Judæa. But in a few copies we have found, into the country of the Gadarenes; and, on this reading, it is to be stated that Gadara is a town of Judæa, in the neighborhood of which are the well-known hot springs, and that there is no lake there with overhanging banks, nor any sea. But Gergesa, from which the name Gergesenes is taken, is an old town in the neighborhood of the lake now called Tiberias, and on the edge of it there is a steep place abutting on the lake, from which it is pointed out that the swine were cast down by the demons. Now, the meaning of Gergesa is dwelling of the casters-out [Origen is apparently wrong here], and it contains a prophetic reference to the conduct towards the Savior of the citizens of those places, who besought Him to depart out of their coasts.” (Commentary on John 6.40-41)

So Origin considers both Gerasa and Gadara errors, and introduces yet a third possibility — Gergesa, the “land of the Gergesenes.”

These are the kinds of problems one encounters with the Biblical accounts.

It is possible that the whole story of the possessed man and the pigs is simply an allegory having to do with the occupying Romans.  In Mark, Jesus says to the demon possessing the one man,

“Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”

Then Jesus asks the possessing demon his name, and he answers strangely:

My name is Legion: for we are many.”
Λεγιὼν ὄνομά μοι, ὅτι πολλοί ἐσμεν·
Legion onoma moi, hoti polloi esmen

Now a “legion” was the term at that time for a unit of about 5,000 Roman soldiers.  There was a Roman legion called Tenth Fretensis that played a major role in the first Jewish Roman war (66-73), and its symbol was the boar (wild pig). It was the Tenth Fretensis that destroyed the monastery at Qumran, near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were eventually discovered.  It participated in the Siege of Jerusalem, camping on the Mount of Olives.

Regarding Matthew’s two demoniacs in place of Mark and Luke’s one demoniac, we already know that Matthew liked to double Mark’s numbers; for example, not only does he double the number of demoniacs here, but he also doubles the number of blind men healed (Matthew 20:29-30 compared with Mark 10:46).

In any case, the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox commemoration of the event —  placed on the 5th Sunday After Pentecost — generally depicts two possessed men — going with Matthew’s doubling — and tends to ignore or gloss over the discrepancy in location.  One does, however, sometimes find only one demoniac depicted, as in this Bible illustration:

Gadara

Here is a rather standard depiction in a modern sketch by Photis Kontoglou.

The inscription reads:
Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC ΙΩΜΕΝΟC ΤΟΥ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΙΖΟΜΕΝΟΥC
HO KHRISTOS IOMENOS TOU DAIMONIZOMENOUS
“CHRIST HEALING THE DEMON-POSSESSED.”

At the base we see several miniaturized pigs ridden into the waters of the Sea by demons.

The Kontoglou image is much the same as  — indeed, appears to be based upon — this earlier 14th century Slavic-inscribed fresco from Vysokie Dechany (Serbia) of the scene, with the title reading “Christ Heals the Two Demon-possessed.”

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Here is Jesus with his disciples at left:

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And here the two possessed men at right:

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And here are the pig-riding devils:

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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.