Gothic synonyms: Biuhti and sidus

I attempted to write an article on orthographic variants involving the words for devil and apostle that the Gothic version received transcribed from Greek. However the possible explanations for the rather few variants branched out too much and I found I don’t have access to the variants from Codices Ambrosianus because the transcription at Project Wulfila, that of Streitberg, is somewhat normalized so that some orthographic variants have been removed and some have remained in the text. I leave it to my dear readers from the next generation as I guess digital facsimiles will be made and released some day. Anyway, here is an illustration with two of the words: apaustauluns and unhulþom from Luke 10:1 in Codex Argenteus:

Luke 9:1 in Codex Argenteus

Biuhti and sidus can both be translated with ‘custom’, ‘manner’ or ‘habit’ in English. Biuhti is the more commonly used word in the Gothic version, and so is unquestionably original. In Peshitta it sometimes correspond to the similarly sounding ܒܥܝܕܐ bayādā ‘by habit’. But usually, it is matched by ܕܡܥܕ damād. In the Greek, we have mostly ἔθος ‘custom’ and εἰώθει from εἴωθα ‘be accustomed’ or ‘make into a custom’. So both the Greek tradition and the Syriac tradition deviate from the Gothic. The usual Latin word is a form of consue-, such as consuetudo.

Sidus appears in three places:
– In 1 Corinthians 15:33 it translates ἦθος (Latin mores or ingenia), which is almost the same word as ἔθος.
– In 2 Timothy 3:10 it doesn’t translate anything as the other major language versions have no corresponding word mentioning customs at this place.
– And in Skeireins 3:5 it also doesn’t translate anything in particular since Skireins is an original composition in Gothic.

1 Corinthians 15:33b is a quote from Menander. The King James wording might be familiar:
“Evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Peshitta has a completely different sense. For example James Murdock translates:
“Evil stories corrupt well-disposed minds.”

Since Greek, Latin and Syriac all use a different word choice at this point, even though they are synonyms, it would be wrong to draw a definitive conclusion saying sidus points to the second translator. But it is likely. Another consideration when it comes to 1 Corinthians 15:33 is the fact that there are multiple discontinuities in the text. The Menander-quote is incidental towards the defaitistic digression about how we may all as well be Epicureans if there were no resurrection.

And then there is the possibility, which we touched upon recently in the analysis of 1 Corinthians 14 (that is the previous chapter) that since our preserved version of 1 Corinthians probably contain material from some of Paul’s other unpublished letter(s) to that congregation, he may have written all that and quoted Menander, but in a different letter and in a different context. A little more digging and we will find out!

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