Barabbas

We are going to hear the name Barabbas a bit during Holy Week this coming week, especially on Thursday and Friday during the Gospel readings. He is the character whom the crowd wants released by Pilate during the “passover pardon” instead of Jesus, whom Pilate sees as innocent. The usual English or at least American English pronunciation of Barabbas is something like berABis, with the stress on the second a. When I read these passages, I make a point to pronounce it Bar Abbas, breaking it into three equally-emphasized syllables. This is to accentuate the fact that it is not just an Assyrian (or Aramaic, or Syriac – take your term of choice for what is the same language) word but one that clearly means son (bar) of the father (abbas – there is no definite article in Assyrian). The word play is obvious – Barabbas is a false messiah and Christ of course is the real thing. The crowd doesn’t get it and wants the false messiah released to them. This is pretty straightforward, but there are other possibilities of translations that stem from the imperfections of transliterating from Semitic languages to Greek (and English) that help us color out the meaning of Barabbas’s name in a way that can help us understand the story better, not unlike the way the Rabbinical writings expand scriptural stories for the same purpose. Let’s keep the “bar” for what it is – son of, in this construct – and look at “abbas”. We are told directly in the New Testament that Abba – a term Jesus uses to address his father – means father, and this is indeed true – the root is the same in all Semitic languages, with an alef – actually a glottal stop that becomes an alef – a- when elided with a previous consonant – and a b sound. The s is the masculine ending for a male name in Greek (Barabbas in scripture is most always in accusative case (perhaps in dative – my Greek grammar is a bit rusty due to my interest in Semitic languages). But what if the a is actually an ‘ayin – the voiced pharyngeal fricative characteristic of Semitic languages – rather than a glottal stop? This changes the meaning in a way that still fits with the story of Barabbas and Jesus. There is nothing new here. Fr. Tarazi, in his first New Testament introduction, offers one alternative translation. He introduces the idea of metathesis – switching around the consonants of a Semitic word – a not uncommon development in these languages. Fr. Paul keeps the two alefs and reads the s as a velarized s rather than the fricative sigma in Greek and makes the name bar saba – son of the army. The implication is that Barabbas is the hoped-for military insurrectionist messiah. But what if the alef were an ‘ayin? Greek would represent this as an a, although in the Septuagint the rough breathing mark would be added to an alpha to represent the ‘ayin. Without metathesis and subbing the ‘ayin for the alef or alpha, we get bar ‘abbAs (with the capital a representing a long vowel). This is one of the words for lion in Arabic, so son of the lion. If we metathesize the consonants and get sab’a, with that last a actually an ‘ayin, we have an Assyrian (Syriac, Aramaic, etc.) word meaning “to be satiated”. These last two understandings of Barabbas highlight the character’s role. The reference to a lion brings to mind the Roman gladiator fights and the idea of sacrifice, while the Syriac “to be satiated” take clearly fits the idea of satisfying the crowd. The meaning of Barabbas is obvious; these parallax Semitic views help flesh out the meaning.

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April 7th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

New England Clam Chowder

Last week we kicked off this Lenten season’s Celebrity Chef series at the church after presanctified liturgy.  Konstantina Choros showed us how to make her delicious fasting clam chowder while also regaling us with tales from the history of chowder.  Here is the recipe:

Ingredients 2 tablespoons Olive Oil 1 medium onion, finely diced (150g) 2 celery stalks, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces (130g) 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cups water or vegetable stock 3 6.5 oz cans chopped clams with juice 1 cup potatoes finely chopped for thickening agent (250 g) 2 bay leaves 1 pound potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes (500 g) Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions Soup 1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until softened, mixing often. 2. Stir in flour, distribute evenly and break any clumps. 3. Add the stock, juice from chopped clams, potatoes, and bay leaves. 4. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken). 5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often. 6. Add potato thickening agent and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and tender. 7. Add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper. 8. Cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.

Thickening agent 1. In a small pot cook the finely chopped potatoes until they begin to fall apart. 2. Using a food processor pulverize the potatoes in to a thick paste.

Approximately 0.79 calories per gram or 23 calories per oz

 

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March 13th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Christian Unity 2017

Last Saturday a bunch of us from the Metropolis joined our Catholic brethren as well as representatives from other Christian traditions – our Coptic friends, the Black Mission Alliance, Congregacion Leon de Juda, the Mass. Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and many others – for a day of Christian unity.  There were workshops and fellowship culminating with a worship service at the beautiful Holy Name parish in West Roxbury.  There is an account on the Metropolis site here and some remarks from Cardinal Sean here.  It was a great day – the worship service was beautiful, with hymns from different choirs and an inspiring homily from Cardinal Sean – and a nice gathering of different Christians from across the Christian spectrum.  Let’s pray for and plan more such events!

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January 30th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Christmas Reflection From His Eminence

Below is the Christmas message from Metropolitan Methodios.  You can find the original – in both languages – here.

We live in a world of constant turmoil, of financial crisis, of poverty and unemployment, of disillusionment and uncertainty, of confusion and unrest, of pain and suffering. War rages in that part of the world where Christianity flourished for centuries but now is inhabited by only a handful of faithful. Thousands of refugees continue to flee their homelands for far-away countries that are not always welcoming. On a daily basis, we are inundated with news of one crisis after another, of one suicide bomber after another. It is to such a world that the newborn Savior comes this Christmas to bring “Peace on Earth and goodwill among men.”

Christ comes into the world to reconcile man with his Creator, “to lead us up to heaven and grant us his Kingdom which is to come” (Prayer of the Anaphora). He comes in an age of unbridled consumerism — in an age of plenty — where poor and abandoned brethren suffer and die of hunger and thirst, victimized by our indifference. He comes this Christmas to free those enslaved by tyrants. He comes to console those exploited and stripped of their dignity. He comes to heal the wounds of victims of racial and religious hatred and those victimized by all forms of intolerance and discrimination.

It is to such a world that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes. The Son of God lowers himself – He stoops down to our limitations, to our weak and sinful states. St. Paul writes, “though he was in the form of God he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7.) He lays in a manger so that we may understand that the power of God appears in our midst without any of the trappings of what we define as power and might.

The infant Savior comes this Christmas to re-ignite our souls. To instill in our hearts the same joy and hope felt by the Magi and the Shepherds that “Silent and Holy Night” in Bethlehem. He invites us to cultivate the virtues of humility and simplicity, of self-sacrifice and love. He comes to encourage us to be more aware of, and sensitive to, our neighbors. Not just those who live in our neighborhoods. Not just Christians of Orthodox faith, but men and women of ALL faiths. Not just those whom we know, but especially those whom we know as “NONES.”

Brethren,

The feast of the Nativity of the Lord who “emptied Himself taking the form of a servant” is an opportunity for us to be more humble. To be more sensitive to the needs of the poor and of the sick, of orphans and of strangers, of the homeless and hungry. The Son of Almighty God chose humility to reveal to us who He is. He was born in humility. He lived in humility. He humbled Himself even unto death. It is only in humility that we can comprehend the meaning of His Birth.

I pray that our hearts be transfigured into mangers of humility worthy to become the birthplace of the Incarnate Lord. May His presence radiate in our lives every day of the New Year 2017.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston

December 2016

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January 3rd, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Pumpkin Kibbeh

Last night after presanctified liturgy we had the latest installment in our series of local celebrity chefs doing a cooking demonstration for us.  First, some background: There is a tradition of having potluck meals after these evening liturgies.  When I came to Marlborough I realized there hadn’t been a Wednesday night lenten liturgy in a while.  I didn’t want to saddle everyone with six straight potlucks, so I decided to alternate them with lenten cooking demos.  We always have fun – the chefs give freely of their time and food, everyone enjoys it and learns something, and we eat well and see a side of the chef’s personality that we may not see in everyday life.  Last night Miriam Hyder from Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace kicked off this year’s series, and it was awesome.  Miriam made pumpkin kibbeh, a vegan variation on the traditional meat dish.  Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the food – pictures will soon be up on the church website.  A nice bonus was having Miriam’s mother Edna on board to help out.  Edna and I are both from the same hometown, so we enjoyed reminiscing.  The recipe is below.  If you wish to make it gluten or grain-free, you can substitute quinoa for the bulgur.

 

Pumpkin Kibbeh
Preheat oven to 400. Grease 9 X 13 Pyrex
1.5 cups fine bulghur
2 15oz cans pumpkin puree
1 can chicpeas
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1t salt X 2
1/2 t black pepper & 1 t black pepper
1t cumin
1T Sumac
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil
4-6 cups spinach, or leafy greens
Soak bulghur in very hot water for 20 minutes. Drain in mesh colander, squeezing out extra liquid. In a mixing bowl, combine bulghur, pumpkin, flour, water, salt, 1/2t black pepper, cumin.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Saute onions for a few minutes, before adding chickpeas. Sprinkle spices (Sumac, Black pepper, Cinnamon, Salt) over this mixture. Stir, mixing spices throughout. Add spinach (or other greens.) Once wilted, add raisins and walnuts. Mix. Take off heat and pour contents into a bowl.
Use half of the pumpkin/bulghur mixture to evenly line the bottom of the pyrex. use spatula to distribute. Evenly spread “stuffing” (chickpea, onion mixture) over. Lay down third layer, using remaining pumpkin/bulghur mixture.
Use knife to cut halfway down to give kibbeh desired shaped pieces. Brush top with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes, or until you reach desired crispness.

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March 31st, 2016 by Fr. Greg

A Titled Post

After logging on tonight I noticed my last post – about the most common words in the Hebrew Old Testament – was untitled.  We will let that anomaly remain unedited.  Today we will finish with the 6-10th most common words in the Hebrew scriptures.  I would have posted yesterday but I left the flashcards which inspired this in my office.  So…

6) Min – from or out of – is the 6th most common word in the Hebrew OT and appears 7, 592 times.  In Semitic languages the words for from and who are pretty much the same with usually just the verb – which is flexible in Semitic languages – changing.  In Arabic min means from and men means who – in Hebrew we have min as from and mi-, with the weak n sound dropped, as who.  Young scholar Gabrielle Russo suggests that the sameness of the words comes from the fact that in ancient Near East society your identity was so tied into the area from where your family originated.

7) ‘al – on or upon – clocks in at number 7 with 5, 777 occurrences.  This otherwise unexciting preposition lives on in the name of the Biblical priest Eli as well as the common Islamic name Ali, meaning elevated.  All of these words begin not with an a sound but with the voiced pharyngeal fricative ‘ayin, a consonant that is very difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce.

8) Appearing 5,518 times is the preposition el, which means to or toward and is clearly a variant of le which we examined above.

9) ‘ashar appears 5,503 times and is an indeclinable relative pronoun.  There may be a connection with the word for happy, which shares the same tri-consonantal root, but again that is for another article.

10) Rounding out our top 10 occurring Hebrew words is kol, which means all or every and is common in Semitic languages.  If you come to liturgy at Sts. Anargyroi you will hear it during the Great Entrance, when after the Greek and before the English I proclaim “‘al ‘ana wa kulla ‘awanin” – literally now and all nows, meaning forever.

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March 23rd, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Tonight at the church is, as mentioned in the previous post, Bible Boot Camp.  In preparing for my presentation I brought out my Old Testament Hebrew vocab card set.  I’ve never actually used these – I bought them long after I took my last Hebrew class, but when you are into languages you tend to collect these things.  The cards are numbered from 1-1000 and on the back of each is a number saying how many times the word occurs in the Hebrew scriptures.  Cards 1-979 are every word that occurs 30 times or more except for proper names.  Cards 980-1000 are words occurring less than 30 times and select proper names.  So it doesn’t include every single word (and remember that many Hebrew words are built off of each other due to the root system – words meaning liver, heavy, and glory all come from the roots k-b-d, for example) as many proper names are left out and there are words that appear only a few times or once that aren’t included (such as the word for gopher wood – the wood of Noah’s ark).  This also explains the neat round number of 1000 cards.  So what are the top ten most frequently used words in the Hebrew Old Testament?

1) The most used word, at a count of 50,524, is we, a conjunction that primarily means and.  It is an enclitic, which means it never stands alone and always attaches to the following word.  Its appearance at the top of the list is a bit deceiving, though; in Semitic languages there is no concept of commas like we have when listing things.  It is proper in Semitic languages to say something like “I saw the bird and the dog and the cow and the eagle” and on and on.

2) Coming at number 2 is ha, the definite article (and also enclitic), with 24,058 appearances, less than half of the word for and.  In its primeval form, ha likely had a lamed at the end, making it hal.  This makes it easy to see how it is cognate with the Arabic definite article ‘al.

3) At third we have another enclitic – there will be more – with le, which appears 20,321 times.  Le is a preposition meaning to or for.  It is a very useful word, but that is about the extent of the story.

4) Be (and please note there are no capital or lowercase letters in Hebrew) -is much like le – a preposition, this time meaning in or at.  It can also mean with but in an instrument sense and its use in this form is very idiomatic. Be appears 15,559 times.

5) The fifth most common word in Biblical Hebrew…well, it isn’t actually a word.  Eth appears 10,978 times and it is used as a definite direct object marker and always left untranslated.  The reason such a thing exists is that in Hebrew sentence order is fluid and vowels are not written, so sometimes it can be confusing to know what is the direct object of a sentence.  The marker removes most all ambiguity.  Also, case markers do not exist in Biblical Hebrew, although the “u” in the name Samuel may signify a case marker from an older form that was left in the word – that is a subject for a future article.

Words 6-10 up next!

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March 21st, 2016 by Fr. Greg