“Dear Woman” – Odd Gospel Greek
λέγει ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν…
καὶ λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς,
τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί,
the mother of Jesus said to him…
And Jesus said to her,
what does this have to do with me?”
– John 2 (ESV)
Ἰησοῦς οὖν ἰδὼν τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὸν μαθητὴν παρεστῶτα ὃν ἠγάπα
λέγει τῇ μητρί·
γύναι, ἴδε ὁ υἱός σου·
εἶτα λέγει τῷ μαθητῇ·
ἴδε ἡ μήτηρ σου.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother,
“Woman, behold, your son!”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother!”
– John 19 (ESV)
If Mark’s gospel Greek has Jesus crying Αββα ὁ πατήρ, the odd gospel of John has its Jesus saying some odd Greek indeed.
The Greek word John’s Jesus uses when talking to his mother is not that very distant formal Greek phrase ἡ μήτηρ /hē mḗtēr/. Nor is it that childish childlike and girlish little girl Greek, that overly familiar term of endearment like μάμμη /mamma/ or the unambiguous μαμμία, μαμμία, μαμμία /mammia mammia mammia/.
No, those would have English equivalents respectively to phrases like these:
- what author P. D. Eastman wrote “To My Mother,” when he wrote his book for children entitled Are You My Mother, which happens to be incidentally one of the first books I ever read with my mother.
- what songwriter Freddy Mercury sang to his Mama (i.e., “Mama, I killed a man“), after he “did a bit of research” to write this, to sing further (i.e., “Oh mama Mia mama Mia Mama Mia”), which seems pretty clearly obviously to be what prompted:
- what songwriter Tommy Shaw wrote (i.e., “Oh Mama, I’m in fear for my life…”).
In Greek, never mind these English translations, the phrase μάμμη would be one where the writer of 4 Maccabbees is mixing up mother/woman/grandmother familial familiar Greek phrases (in chapter 16) and Paul would use it later when making clear to young Timothy that he keeps distinct his Mammy Lois from his Mother Eunice (in 2 Timothy, chapter 1). And the phrase μαμμία, μαμμία, μαμμία is what the little baby of Myrrhini is made to cry out by the nasty Cinesias in the play of Lysistrata by Aristophanes (lines 877 to 890, where the words for Mother, Mama, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, and γυναιξί [gynaizi] get all mixed up).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek twice calls Mary, or Mariam, his mother.
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek calls the unnamed loose wo-man of the outcast mixed-breeds of Samaria (in chapter 4).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek calls the unnamed wo-man caught in the act of having sex with another man’s husband (in chapter 8).
Γύναι /Gynai/, of course, is what Jesus in the odd gospel Greek twice calls an-Other Mary, or Mariam, who for all of her womanly public uncontrolled emotion fails to recognize him (in chapter 20).
It’s a far cry from crying Αββα ὁ πατήρ. So what are we to make of this odd gospel Greek?