Tag Archives: place

Bread of affliction

I read in the news today that at least 43 of the dead in covid-19, the Wuhan Virus in Sweden so far (when official figures were a total 225 dead) were Suryoyo/Assyrians. Another two ethnicities with disproportionately large number of dead were Somalis and Jews. Probably the official numbers miss a digit or so, but still. It happens to be Påsk/Pesach/Pascha, and the triage used by the medical complex cannot avoid reminding us of the eugenics programmes which Pharao ran, according to Lysimachos as quoted by Flavius Josephus:

The people of the Jews being leprous and scabby, and subject to certain other kinds of distempers, in the days of Bocchoris, king of Egypt, they fled to the temples, and got their food there by begging: and as the numbers were very great that were fallen under these diseases, there arose a scarcity in Egypt.

Hereupon Bocehoris, the king of Egypt, sent some to consult the oracle of Hammon about his scarcity. The god’s answer was this, that he must purge his temples of impure and impious men, by expelling them out of those temples into desert places; but as to the scabby and leprous people, he must drown them, and purge his temples, the sun having an indignation at these men being suffered to live; and by this means the land will bring forth its fruits.

Upon Bocchoris’s having received these oracles, he called for their priests, and the attendants upon their altars, and ordered them to make a collection of the impure people, and to deliver them to the soldiers, to carry them away into the desert; but to take the leprous people, and wrap them in sheets of lead, and let them down into the sea. Hereupon the scabby and leprous people were drowned, and the rest were gotten together, and sent into desert places, in order to be exposed to destruction.

In this case they assembled themselves together, and took counsel what they should do, and determined that, as the night was coming on, they should kindle fires and lamps, and keep watch; that they also should fast the next night, and propitiate the gods, in order to obtain deliverance from them. (the story continues in Josephus’ book) — Against Apion I.34

The only thing I know about liturgy, and I learnt it from an East Orthodox author, is it is supposed to be a symbol of real life. Ironically, if I say that about the bread and wine served at Pascha, whereas a Jehovah’s Witness would agree, most high-church people would emphasize that the bread becomes Christ’s body literally. Well yes. This should not prevent it from functioning as a symbol, but maybe that’s what has happened. Who cares about real life when churches are so beautiful?

Deuteronomy 16:3a
ἑπτα ἡμερας φαγῃ επ αυτου αζυμα αρτον κακωσεως, ὁτι εν σπουδῃ εξηλθετε εξ Αιγυπτου
seven days eat with it unleavened bread of affliction, for in a haste did you exit Egypt

Verse 6 in this same chapter is a bit funny. In Josua chapter 8 we learn that Josua built an altar on the mountain Ebal. The Samaritan Pentateuch uses the verb בחר bachar ‘elect’ in a form which can refer to past or present time, while the Jewish Pentateuch uses יבחר jibchar ‘will elect’ in a form which suggest future or something on-going. This enables Samaritans to claim that the mountains Ebal and Gerissim were elected to be the place where the passover sacrifice should be made. And it enabled the Israelites to claim that later Jerusalem was elected to be that place.

The septuagint is then an unbiased arbitrator. It uses subjunctive with the little word “an” which is also used in Scandinavian languages. It is always difficult to know if Koine Greek works the same way as a Germanic language which happens to have the same construction, but if it does in this case, then ὁν αν εκλεξηται would translate to ‘which ever [he] may elect’, yelding:

αλλ η εις τον τοπον ὁν αν εκλεξηται Κυριος ὁ Θεος σου,
But in the place, whichever the Lord your God may elect,
επικληθηναι το ονομα αυτου εκει,
to have his name called [upon] there,
θυσεις το πασχα ἑσπερας προς δυσμας ἡλιου
you will sacrifice passover in [the] evening at sunset
εν τῳ καιρῳ ᾡ εξηλθες εξ Αιγυπτου
at the time when you exited from Egypt.

So both the Israelites and the Samaritans were right, except when they accused each other of being wrong. Nowadays, however … gospel of John 4:19-21.