Sunday, November 11, 2012

Heathens and Hellenes

OOPS! Wrong kind of "Goth". Sorry!
The Germanic word "Heathen" can be traced back to the mid 4th century (348), when Ulfilas produced his Gothic translation of the Bible. Ulfilas used "Haiþi" as a Gothic equivalent of "Hellene".

Lets take a look at Mark 7:26:

ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν ἑλληνίς, συροφοινίκισσα τῶ γένει· καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς.
[Greek text, link:]

wasuþ~þan so qino haiþno, Saurini fwnikiska gabaurþai, jah baþ ina ei þo unhulþon uswaurpi us dauhtr izos.
[Ulfilas, 348, link:]

erat autem mulier gentilis Syrophoenissa genere et rogabat eum ut daemonium eiceret de filia eius
[Jerome (Vulgate), ca. 385, link:]

Soþlice ðæt wif wæs hæðen, Sirofenisces cynnes. And bæd hine, ðæt he ðone deofol of hyre dehter adrife. 
 [West Saxon Gospels, ca 990, link:]

And the womman was hethen, of the generacioun of Sirofenyce. And sche preiede hym, that he wolde caste out a deuel fro hir douyter.
[Wycliffe, 1389, link:]

The woman was a Greke oute of Syrophenicia and she besought him yt he wolde caste out ye devyll oute of her doughter.
[Tyndale, 1526, link:]

(und es war ein griechisches Weib aus Syrophönizien), und sie bat ihn, daß er den Teufel von ihrer Tochter austriebe.
[Luther, 1545, link:]


It is also worth taking a look at some modern commentaries on this passage (taken from here:

"all heathens or idolaters were called Ἑλληνες, Greeks, by the Jews; whether they were Parthians, Medes, Arabs, Indians, or Ethiopians. Jews and Greeks divided the whole world at this period."
Adam Clarke

"A Greek - The Jews called all persons 'Greeks' who were not of their nation. Compare Romans 1:14. The whole world was considered as divided into Jews and Greeks. Though she might not have been strictly a 'Greek,' yet she came under this general appellation as a foreigner."
Albert Barnes

"The woman was a Greek,.... Or Gentile, an Heathen woman, which made her faith the more remarkable. So the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions call her; which she might be, and was, though she was a woman of Canaan, as she is said to be in Matthew 15:22, for though the land of Israel in general, was called the land of Canaan, yet there was a particular part, which was at first inhabited by Canaan himself, which bore this name; and is the same with Phoenicia, of which this woman was an inhabitant, and therefore she is afterwards called a Syrophoenician."
John Gill

Also check out this closely related post:
Defining Paganism: "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also." 
Ulfilas preaching to the Goths.