Bethphage.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: A Page of Fishing Bet

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:20 pm

JoeWallack wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:47 am
What does "Bethpage" (unripe figs) add to the narrative besides Marking the beginning and ending of the pericope?
I pretty much agree with Ulan here, but I am not sure I am understanding you, since I interpreted your original post on this thread as implying that you, too, thought that Bethphage was significant in a symbolic way, as more than just a way to begin and end the pericope appropriately.
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:32 pm

We should never forget that the Semitic language tends to manifest itself poetically. Terms have a literal and figurative meaning. http://cal.huc.edu/showjastrow.php?page=1132 Here is how the term is used metaphorically:

According to the Rabbis Eccl. 4:9 describes the marriage of David and Bathsheba: “Two are better than one.” Bathsheba was a fitting wife for David, and had been thus designated already in the week of Creation, but she came to him through suffering [resulting from sin]. Another approach concurs that she had been appointed for David during the six days of Creation, but “he enjoyed her as an unripe fruit,” that is, he married her before the proper time, when the fruit [the fig] was still unripe. He rather should have waited until she was ready for him, after the death of Uriah (BT Sanhedrin 107a). This exposition is based on a wordplay, since, in the Rabbinic period, bat sheva was the name of an especially fine type of fig (see Mishnah Ma’aserot 2:8).
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:37 pm

The same idea expressed in Greek:

and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs (ὀλύνθους) drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. (Rev 6:13)

I suspect the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree with respect to Mark and Revelations use of the equivalent terminology.
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:41 pm

Oddly enough there is a mythological Olynthos who dies tragically too:

In Greek mythology, Olynthus was a son of Heracles and Bolbe, from whom the ancient city of Olynthus, and the river Olynthus near Apollonia, were believed to have received their name according to Athenaeus.[1] According to Conon[2] and Stephanus of Byzantium[3] Olynthus was son of king Strymon. When he had been killed during the chase by a lion, his brother Brangas buried him on the spot where he had fallen, and called the town which he subsequently built there Olynthus.
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:06 pm

In case people don't get why the best figs were called 'bat sheba' = 'daughter of fullness' or 'well-endowed daughter.' Remember David had sex with her and she gave birth at 6 years old. You get the idea.
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:13 pm

In modern Hebrew it is the term used to mean 'premature' baby

What you see here is a premature (פג) baby.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Stuart » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:08 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:38 am
...
Naturally, if we are to expect place names in Mark to bear a double meaning, then of course that is why I was expecting the same principles to apply to Bethphage as apply to Arimathea. The name Bethphage means something like "house of unripe figs," so I can think of lots of potential for a double meaning here (figs being symbolic of the land of Israel, its inhabitants, and its peace in the scriptures), and if that were all that had been claimed, I would be content to speculate along with someone that perhaps the name Bethphage made its way into Mark because of its etymology. But more is being claimed here than that the name of a locale was chosen for its name value. In the case of Arimathea:
He is named Joe --> Joe is rich, a disciple from Arimathea (best disciple) --> Joe of Arimathea, as he was rich, was a member of the council, and he was looking for God's kingdom --> Joe from the Jewish town of Arimathea (lost the pun) may have been on the council, but he was a good guy not one of those who consented to killing the lord, as he was looking for God's kingdom. This is simply classic case of filling in the back story.
In this scenario, the name Arimathea precedes its recognition as a Jewish town. In other words, the name was an invented pun which later got attached to a real Jewish locale, presumably based on phonetic similarity, as part of "filling in the back story" for Joseph. But I think this is profoundly wrong, and it does not work for Bethphage (which is why I brought it up as an example) or other place names in Mark (the Jordan river, Jerusalem, Capernaum, and so on), so why should we expect it to work for Arimathea? In other words, Mark rarely if ever invents place names (there are a couple of puzzles, like Dalmanutha, but the overwhelming majority of place names in Mark are easy to identify with real and known locations). He may well choose existing place names for their symbolic value or their capacity as puns (an argument which would have to be mounted separately in each and every case), but he does not tend to invent them. Yet for some reason a lot of people seem to lapse extremely easily into thinking that Arimathea was just a made up place. In reality, its derivation from Ramoth is just as easy as the derivation of the names of other locales (like Jerusalem and Bethphage) in Mark from Hebrew place names. Is it perhaps the initial A in Arimathea that throws people off? Not sure. At any rate, to suggest that the connection of Arimathea with a real place name in Palestine is completely artificial is misguided. There is no reason to treat Arimathea differently than we treat, say, Jericho, whom nobody thinks Mark invented as a place name.

...
Ben,

You are under a few mistaken assumptions here, and are in need of correction. the first is that Arimathea is a real town. We don't know that. The only thing we have is speculation on the legend from Eusubius at least 150 years after Luke was written (and I am dating Luke late, as in 175 AD here). Eusubius is where the Ramoth came from. Did Mark and Matthew's source know that town and make that pun? Maybe, or maybe some other town Eusubius "the dubious" is unaware of, or made up from whole clothe.

The second point you get wrong is what I am saying about Luke mentioning that it is a Jewish town. Mark and Matthew and even John make no mention of this condition of the town, because it was not a point of contention for them. This does not mean they were not aware of it being a town in Judea. This would however indicate that they wrote from an earlier stage of development than what Luke was concerned with, the Jewishness of the town was not an issue to them, as it was to Luke. (ask why)

A mild digression here, to understand the perspective I come from looking at the Gospel. I sort their order by their knowledge of the others and their direct refutations of what must be prior Gospels. Matthew targets the Marcionite Gospel for correction, John targets Matthew for correction, while Mark shows mild correctives of Matthew, and Luke corrects all. These corrections are from the perspective of the author and his sect. Each wrote in a different style and using a different core. So be it. A second note, John sees Matthew's Christians as those who are "Jewish" and believe in a Davidic Christ and that John is Elijah, points he refutes head on against Matthew's depiction, and believers in his Jesus as not being Jewish (Jewish Christian).

So when I look at Luke's account I see a corrective of two versions, John and Mark. John states that Joseph was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews. But it was important for Luke to counter this by pointing out that Joseph was himself a Jew, hence the mention that Arimathea was a Jewish town. (One could also argue this is a post Bar Kokhba account, made necessary because we are now aware that Jewish towns mostly vanished in the mid-2nd century from Judea and instead recent Israeli archaeology finds Gentile towns in the region starting the mid-2nd century; but my point is theological here.) So Luke counters John, in addition to exonerating Joseph of responsibility for Jesus' death by being on the council, as Mark mentions - Mark never intending to imply guilt. This is what I mean by corrective. Luke rejects John's theology, and so whenever a character was named as being separate from the Jews, like Joseph, he corrects that.

Luke's correction is dependent upon Mark and John. John is dependent upon Matthew, who in turn is dependent upon Marcion. Mark in this instance seems to expand upon Matthew.

None of this correction says anything about the realness or not of the town. I am more skeptical because I have a very low regard for Eusubius. But understand, my order of the gospel stories is based on the theology and the questions each is answering as it relates to the others. If Arimathea was a Jewish town in Judea near Rammoth as Eusubius claimed, and all the writers were aware, that would not change the dependency order. It is in fact irrelevant.
Last edited by Stuart on Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:30 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:33 pm

Stuart wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:08 pm
You are under a few mistaken assumptions here, and are in need of correction. the first is that Arimathea is a real town. We don't know that.
Please clarify. Are you saying that no town called Ramoth existed? Or are you saying that there is no way to tell whether Arimathea derives from Ramoth?
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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Stuart » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:16 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:33 pm
Stuart wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:08 pm
You are under a few mistaken assumptions here, and are in need of correction. the first is that Arimathea is a real town. We don't know that.
Please clarify. Are you saying that no town called Ramoth existed? Or are you saying that there is no way to tell whether Arimathea derives from Ramoth?
I am saying both. We have no strong evidence the town Arimethea existed, and that the speculation that had it existed this Arimathea derives from Ramathaim-Zophim (near Lod) starts with Eusubius, which makes the connection dubious, since it is already handing down speculative myth.

The obliteration of Jewish life and towns in the aftermath of Bar Kokhba makes it even more difficult, for had such a town existed, it might well have been one of the few hundred blotted off the map. That would have happened 200 years before Eusubius wrote. Heck it's hard enough to find any evidence my family's ancestral town in Scotland ever existed, and it vanished less than 150 years ago.

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Re: Bethphage.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:57 pm

Stuart wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:16 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:33 pm
Stuart wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:08 pm
You are under a few mistaken assumptions here, and are in need of correction. the first is that Arimathea is a real town. We don't know that.
Please clarify. Are you saying that no town called Ramoth existed? Or are you saying that there is no way to tell whether Arimathea derives from Ramoth?
I am saying both. We have no strong evidence the town Arimethea existed, and that the speculation that had it existed this Arimathea derives from Ramathaim-Zophim (near Lod) starts with Eusubius, which makes the connection dubious, since it is already handing down speculative myth.
Okay, my comments really have nothing to do with the first question (did Ramoth actually exist in Jesus' time, or even in Mark's time?); rather, the question is whether Mark invented a place name; it does not matter to my position whether he got the place name from an actual living town or whether he plucked it from the pages of scriptures (where there are plenty of places called Ramah or Ramathaim), either assuming that or not caring whether the town actually existed.

My comments are all about the second question (did Arimathea derive from the place name Ramah/Ramathaim?). And to this question I reply, probably yes. I think that the derivation of Ἁριμαθαία from רָמָתַ֛יִם or one of the other variants should be not much more controversial than the derivation of βηθφαγὴ from בית פגא (or בית פגי), or any of the other obvious ones.

Eusebius does not come into it at all except by way of the most general confirmation of the etymology, as if that were needed. (I have no way of knowing whether he identified which Ramoth correctly; there were many.)

All I am saying is that Arimathea (probably) derives from Ramoth; therefore Mark did not invent the place name wholesale. He merely used it.
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