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The Last Adam’s Nose

May 19, 2014

The Vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
Thine has a great hook nose like thine,
Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
Socrates taught what Meletus
Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,
And Caiaphas was in his own mind
A benefactor to mankind.
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.
— William Blake, from “The Everlasting Gospel”

I was thinking to do another Odd Gospel Greek post, since it’s only in John 5:21 and in John 6:63 where there’s this Hellene phrase ζῳοποιέω /Zoe – Poie / which means something like Life Creator, or Giver of Life, if it were a Proper Noun. Without too much of a stretch, Greek readers could hear a hearkening back to the poetry of Genesis. Without too much of a stretch, it could be read as Jesus speaking Greek (made into English) this way:

ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐγείρει τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ ζῳοποιεῖ,
οὕτως καὶ ὁ υἱὸς οὓς θέλει ζῳοποιεῖ.

(So as, in fact, Abba raises the corpse even as Eve’s Poetry,
so also the Child to whom he wishes makes Eve’s Poetry.)


τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζωοποιοῦν, ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν·
τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα ὑμῖν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν.

(The Spirit is the Poetry of Eve. The Flesh does not at all profit.
The words that I speak to you all, they are Spirit, and they are Eve.)

Some may ask, Why does the English translator have to over specify? Yes, we all get the fact that the Septuagint translator made the Hebrew into Hellene this way:

καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Αδαμ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς γυναικὸς αὐτοῦ Ζωή,  
ὅτι αὕτη μήτηρ πάντων τῶν ζώντων.

(And Mortal called the name of his wife Life,
because she was the mother of all living.)

To be very clear, this is odd Greek perhaps. In the Odd Gospel Greek of John, it’s not the usual. None of the synoptic gospel writers use the phrase ζῳοποιέω /Zoe – Poie / which means something like Life Creator, or Giver of Life, if it were a Proper Noun.  There’s no gesturing there that this refers to Eve, to a Birth woman, to the first Mother, to that Mother of All Living.

To be sure, the phrase is used in interesting ways in ancient Greek literature before it goes into the Septuagint. That’s another story.

Let’s fast forward to one way Paul the writer of much in the New Testament used it, after all that ancient Greek literature and the Greek translation of the Creation story with Eve.

Paul, for instance, writes to his Greek readers in Korinth to say this:

οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται
Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν· 

ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν.

He’s sort of riffing off of the Greek translation called Genesis, adding a few words here and there. Go here to see the changes.

The big deal here is that Adam is a human (the first ἄνθρωπος), a living soul. The last Adam is an Eve Poet, or Life Creator. 

Here’s a translation of the Greek translation of the Hebrew:

So it is written [in the Greek Genesis]:
The first human the First Mortal became a Soul [like Eve] Living;
the Last Mortal became a Spirit of [Immortal Life Giving], of Poet Eve. 

Well, that’s too much this time, isn’t it? It’s absolutely over specified. Paul couldn’t possibly have been thinking of or intending Eve. Nor would his Corinthian readers. So why be so ridiculous with the over reach?

It’s like paying attention to the nose of Jesus. Yes, it’s probably even that offensive. Why mark a body as a particular race? Why stereotype? Why be a racist here, an anti-Semite like Poet Blake? Jesus was a human. Why over specify?

Why not talk about the Last Mortal, the Last Adam, in terms of his nose so specific? So stereotyped? So raced and so marked?

These are the sorts of questions, of course, that aren’t usually asked when translators over specify ἄνθρωπος , anthropos, or human, or Mortal, as a male human, as a man, as a person with a particular body part between his legs. Yes, that’s it. Who cares if it’s over reaching?

(Related: Today, at Richard Beck’s wonderful blog Experimental Theology, there’s this wonderful post of his on Open Theology and how it can make a bit of sense if seen in terms of human relationality. Does he over reach in specifying how Jesus was a man, a limited male? One of his commenters thinks so. What do you think? Is he being sexist? He does give an answer for himself.)


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