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Yearly Archives: 2008


More on Matthew’s Genealogy

This just in: Michael F. Bird at Euangelion has uncovered amazing evidence that Matthew 1:1-16 is actually a catchy piece of folk music:


The Tenth Muse 15

Pihas barely had time to wash the blood from his hands before spying yet another wounded villager. He lumbered across the street and knelt beside a teenaged boy clutching his side, doubled over in pain. His mother hovered over him, sobbing. The priest of Apaliunas ripped open the boy’s tunic to reveal a gash, no doubt made by some Achaian spear. He asked the mother to find bandages as he emptied his water skin onto the wound.

By the time Pihas had returned from offering the morning sacrifice at the temple, the Achaians had already descended upon the village. The damage had been done; all Pihas could do was try to ease the suffering of the survivors.

Pihas stitched up the wound with needle and thread, then wrapped it in the strips of cloth the mother had no doubt ripped from her bedding. He wiped sweat and grime from his face with the back of his forearm. His hands were bloody again. He wiped them clean on the end of the boy’s bandage and sat down in the dust.

He had helped as many as he could. Taras was dead, stabbed in the gut like the boy in front of him. There was no sign of Ashtinamas, Tuwatis, or Sam.

Apaliunas, what have they done? What have they done with my girl?

An old man shuffled past. A little girl-his granddaughter-held his hand. They both looked ancient with worry.

There’s nothing for them here any more, Pihas thought. Others will be leaving, too, as soon as the dead are buried.

The mother cradled her injured son in her arms and the three of them sat on the ground, devastated, broken, and numb.

“Take care of your son,” the priest said. “He’s all you have left, now.”

Pihas glanced at the temple at the top of the hill. Not even filthy Achaians would loot a temple…would they?

Astinamas is all I have left. And by all the gods, I’ll get her back!

Lessons and Carols: The Sixth Lesson

The Sixth Lesson:

St Luke tells of the birth of Jesus.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. All returned to their own towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. (Luke 2:1, 3-7, NLT)


I Wonder as I Wander

Lessons and Carols: The Fifth Lesson

The Fifth Lesson:

The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, god sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

“Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.”

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
The angel answered,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.

And Mary Said,

“Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.”

Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-35, 38, The Message)


Mary, Did You Know?

The Tenth Muse 14

Sam staggered to the door of his bedchamber.

“Sam!” Ashtinamas called, struggling in the arms of the man in bronze armor who had just entered Pihas’s courtyard. “Samparpar!”

Another Achaian warrior had scooped up Tuwatis and cupped his hand over her mouth.

Dammit, I was right. Why did I have to be right?

The armored man, perhaps in his early forties, was saying something to the warrior who had just finished manhandling Sam. He was obviously someone important. His helmet sported an impressive horsehair crest and his armor was ornately decorated with gold and silver fittings. At nearly six feet tall, he was one of the tallest men Sam had seen since his adventure began.

Okay, Sam, think. You’ve taught courses in ancient Greek. This shouldn’t be too hard. Just pay attention. The guy in the armor is the king. I definitely heard “wanax.” So, what’s going on?

The king was thanking Sam’s captor for a gift. It wasn’t that hard to read the man’s body language and figure out it wasn’t a gift he had given freely. Next the king spread his arm to indicate the courtyard and said something else.

Say that again! I almost had it!

Sam was terrified at what was happening but also thrilled to hear a language spoken he could somewhat understand-even if it was ancient Greek! But he had to know what was being said. His life depended on it.

Suddenly, someone was yanking Sam by the arm. A warrior threw him down in front of the two men who had been talking. He asked a question of some sort. Sam didn’t catch much more than houtos: “this one.” He guessed what the question was, however.

Ashtinamas screamed Sam’s name again as the king dragged her from the villa.

My God, what are they going to do to her? And where is Pihas?

He couldn’t leave her. He moved to follow her, but his captor was holding him by the strap of his satchel. Only then did he remember he had put it on when he first heard the commotion in the village.

The man opened the leather bag to find Sam’s wax tablets. He had stayed up into the night taking notes on the bits and snatches of the Luwian language he had managed to acquire. They were the closest things to valuables Sam currently had. The man puzzled over the writing, then barked a question at Sam.

“Wait, I didn’t catch that. Ou katalambanô.” I don’t understand. They’re talking too fast, and the dialect is-

Sam froze. His captor’s dialect was archaic-maybe even older than Homer. It hadn’t registered when he had called the king wanax instead of the later form anax. Now Sam could hear all the hallmarks of a very ancient form of Greek-the uncontracted vowels, the aspirations, the “w” sounds that would eventually be eliminated, everything.

Sam realized his captor was still talking to him, and getting angry. He had to follow Ashtinamas. He couldn’t let anything happen to her if he could help it.

Eleêson, kyrie,” he said, bowing as contritely as he could manage. “Have mercy, my lord.” He hoped the man could follow what must surely have been an atrocious pronunciation.

Ho pistos doulos sou esomai. I will be your faithful slave. Eleêson.”

The man grunted and shoved Sam toward the door.

Sam caught a glimpse of Ashtinamas on the beach as Achaian warriors herded a dozen or more captives on board their ships, along with sheep and goats, a few cattle, and bags of stolen treasure. She went onto the king’s ship; he the ship of his captor. He, Tuwatis, and some young men he hadn’t seen before huddled on the deck.

Tuwatis pleaded with him in her native language. Sam wished he had the words to comfort her. All he could do was hold her close against the cool sea breeze and pray they would all be okay.

Sam tried to catch as much of the sailors’ speech as he could. It was definitely some kind of Mycenaean-era dialect, but he thought he could fake it if he could keep his Homeric forms straight. Grammar might not be as much a problem as pronunciation, however. Sam had adopted the native Greek custom of pronouncing Greek from every era according to modern rules of pronunciation. His captors’ vowels and consonants sometimes conformed to the scholarly reconstructions of what early Greek sounded like, sometimes they were surprisingly modern, and sometimes they defied every pronunciation scheme Sam had ever heard of.

On either side of the ship, twenty-five men pulled at the oars while a piper kept them in proper rhythm. At the stern, a pilot guided the ship by a single steering oar. Sam’s captor was apparently in command. Wiphitos was his name. He shouted orders to the men. Someone at the prow had caught sight of their encampment.

Sam strained his neck to see past the bird’s beak carved on the stem post of the prow.

The camp was more like a small, rustic city of tents and makeshift huts. Perhaps as many as three hundred other black ships dotted the beach, and beyond the sprawling camp was a palisade of wood and stone. As they drew closer, Sam could make out the shapes of both humans and animals.

Beyond the palisade was a large cleared area at the foot of a hill, and at the top was a walled city. When he saw it, Sam’s jaw dropped open.

“My God,” he whispered. “it’s true.”

He had seen that hill before. He had, in fact, stood at the top of it six years ago and listened as an archeologist told him and his students some of the theories behind the demise of the city that once rose above the plain of the Scamander River. When Sam was last there, there were nothing but ruins on the hill of Hissarlik. The massive walls had crumbled and been overgrown with three millennia of grass and weeds.

Now, there stood a city of maybe as many as ten thousand people hiding behind those legendary walls. Actually, there were two walls: an outer perimeter over fifty feet tall, made of mud-brick on a stone foundation; and an inner citadel to which defenders could retreat. Beyond the outer wall was a trench, eight feet deep and ten or eleven feet wide, if Sam remembered correctly.

Sam lurched forward as the ship’s hull scraped the beach. The sailors prodded him and the other prisoners into the water and shoved them toward the shore. He helped Tuwatis find her way to dry land, craning his neck to see whatever became of Ashtinamas. At last he spied her struggling in the arms of the Achaian king, whose name he now knew beyond any doubt. Then he fell to his knees on the beach and gazed again at well-walled Troy.

Lessons and Carols: The Fourth Lesson

The Fourth Lesson:

The peace that Christ will bring is foreshown.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:1-3a, 4a, 6-9)


Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

The Tenth Muse 13

The sun was still low in the sky above the eastern hills when three black ships slipped toward to the beach. Wiphitos clutched two javelins in his left hand and on his left arm he wore a round wooden shield reinforced with bronze. In his right hand was another javelin, ready to be hurled. His men were outfitted with either spears or javelins, and, like Wiphitos, a few officers wore swords on baldrics strapped across their shoulders.

Above the surf, he could hear the cries of watchmen in the village raising the alarm. He cursed under his breath. He could have hoped they would at least reach the shore before they were discovered. But if they couldn’t count on stealth, at least they could try to stun the villagers into submission.

Ships slammed into the beach as fighting men rushed down from the village to meet them. Most weren’t even wearing armor, although two or three carried shields and were decked out in leather tunics.

The ship captain splashed into the surf and up onto the beach. He stopped his advance and flung his first javelin at the nearest of these armored warriors. It struck him under his arm with enough force to wheel him around before he fell. Spearmen were advancing even so. They harried the other two ships, preventing the men from disembarking. Wiphitos retrieved his javelin from the body of the fallen Wilian and raised a war cry. He led his men across the sand to support his countrymen. Other javelins flew into the handful of men who had mustered to defend their village.

Soon fighting men were slipping over the sides of their ships and storming up the beach. Then the king’s trumpeter sounded the attack. The Achaians advanced and soon pushed into the village itself.

There was a villa not too far from the beach at the foot of a small hillock. It was a fair bit larger than most of the peasant huts. Wiphitos wasn’t the only Achaian to have noticed the prize, but he was first to reach it. It wasn’t long before the door gave way to his shoulder. He and half a dozen comrades poured into the house.

Outside he could hear the screams of women and children. Achaian soldiers were battering down doors throughout the village, ransacking houses, and dragging off anything-and anyone-they thought would be worth something.

In the dim light of early dawn a young man lunged at him from the shadows. Wiphitos deflected his attacker with his shield and skewered him with his javelin. He heard a muffled scream and headed toward a door just off the courtyard. His men had begun to carry out gold and silver trinkets: goblets, jewelry, whatever they could find. He turned his attention to the door.

This door gave way before his strength more easily than the first. Behind it he found a sleeping chamber and three shivering bodies huddled in a corner. A man about his age, sporting a bandage across his forehead and clean-shaven but for a couple day’s growth of beard, rose and set himself between Wiphitos and the other two occupants of the room: two girls, one maybe twelve years old and the other a few years older. The man said something. What, Wiphitos couldn’t begin to guess. He shifted his weight and spread out his hands in some sort of wrestling stance, but it was obvious he knew little about self-defense.

“Out of my way!” Wiphitos growled.

“No!” the man answered in the ship captain’s own language. But the ship captain could see the man’s whole body was shaking with fright.

“You’ve got some fire in you, Wilian, but not enough.”

He slapped the man to the ground with the back of his hand and grabbed the young woman around the waist. She and the little girl screamed in unison. Wiphitos shoved the woman into the courtyard and returned for the girl. He shoved her also into the courtyard, but when he followed her the man jumped upon his neck to prevent him. He shrugged the man off as if he were a cloak and followed after the prizes he had found.

In the courtyard, two of his men were making sport of the woman. She escaped from the  grasp of Tharsios and, before Eriklewês could catch her, she bolted for the main door of the villa. Wiphitos moved to cut her off, but just as she reached the open doorway she ran headlong into an imposing figure who had just entered the courtyard.

“A present for me, Wiphitos?”

The captain sighed. Anyone else, and he would fight for the right to keep her.

“As you say, O King.”