Small bit of Coptic homework (can Leolaia help?)

by slimboyfat 12 Replies latest jw friends

  • slimboyfat

    Thank you Leolaia for welcoming me back to the forum, it means a lot.

    As part of my homework for next week I need to translate 23:11 of The Story of Joseph, the Carpenter, in Sahidic, which says something like (my rough translation):

    Michael took two ends of the pure silk cloth and it was precious.

    Gabriel took the other two ends.

    They welcomed the soul of my beloved father Joseph.

    They gave it the cloth.

    As an extra bit of homework the tutor said we could try to find out if there are other possible or more likely meanings for the word translated "pure silk" (holosilikon) because he thinks the idea that it means silk is possibly a misunderstanding based on a phonological similarity with the English word and the context.

    Have you got any idea how I could find that out? Apparently the word is not in Crum's dictionary because it is not a native Egyptian word.

    By the way our tutor gave an excellent lecture on how the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a fraud that I know you would have loved.

  • Chariklo

    Googling holosiikon brings up a fascinating results page.

    Even more intriguing and surreal if one accepts Google's suggestion of treating it as two words!

  • scholarjw

    I am higly qualified to assist with such translations. I translated rigorously many parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures from Coptic during my Phd coursework.

    scholar JW

    Ph.D. in Comparative Religious Studies

  • cantleave

    There's an offer you can't refuse Slimboy...

    A Ph.D in Bullshit Sudies.

  • Leolaia

    Wow, that would be a big goof if holosilikon was interpreted by way of an English word. Well, as a loanword, the most obvious source would be Greek of course. The word resembles such compounds as holostèmòn "consisting all of warp-threads", holosphurèlatos "consisting all of hammer-beaten metal", holokhalkos "consisting all of copper", holokhrusos "consisting all of gold", etc. So this appears to be a similar word describing the material from which the object was made. I checked the TLG and did not find holosilikon as an attested word. The Greek word for silk was sèrikos (Latin sericus), as in Revelation 18:12, so holosèrikon would have been the expected form. I'm kind of stumped on what silikon could otherwise signify. The only contender that comes to mind is Latin silicius "of, pertaining to silex", but a cloth made from flint powder doesn't make much sense at all to me, and we would have to presume that it was then loaned into Greek and then into Coptic. The passage is reminiscent of the Testament of Abraham 20:10: "And immediately Michael the archangel stood beside him with multitudes of angels, and they bore his precious soul in their hands in divinely woven linen". The burial story of Adam in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve mentions both linen and silk: "Then he spoke to the archangel Michael, 'Go into Paradise in the third heaven and bring me three cloths of linen and silk (sèrikas, c.e. of surikas)'. And God said to Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, 'Cover Adam's body with the cloths and bring oil from the oil of fragrance and pour it over him' " (40:1-2). So "silk" does make contextual sense, so I wonder if it is possible that sèrikos was not the only form but if other dialectal forms of the loanword existed. But other burial stories emphasize the radiant nature of the clothes and one uses the phrase "garments of light" (Encomium of Eustathius, 128.27-28), so I wonder if the compound is one that refers to the whiteness, brightness, radiance, fiery nature, etc. of the clothes (maybe in that sense clothes made from a fiery material like flint might just barely be intelligible), e.g. hololeukos "entirely white". I notice that Roberts & Donaldson have "a shining wrapper" instead of "a precious silken napkin" (M. R. James) in their translation of the passage in question.

    I notice that the book is extant only in fragments in Sahidic but is complete in Bohairic and Arabic. If I were you, I would try to find out what word the Bohairic text has in that sentence, and also what word the Arabic uses. That might help narrow down the meaning. Consider too the possibility of a textual corruption.

    ETA. Also the word basilikos "royal, kingly" comes to mind, and royal clothes would also make sense in the context. But holobasilikos sounds utterly bizarre as a neologism (unattested of course) and I can't think of a plausible corruption that would produce holosilikon, unless perhaps a conflation of something like hololeukon basilikon > holosilikon. *shrug*

  • Satanus

    So scholar, whats your authoritative on holosilikon?


  • slimboyfat

    Thanks Leolaia that's great. Our tutor actually mentioned that it looks most like the Latin for flint, except it is hard to make sense of that in the context. Is it simply a word whose etymology is now unrecoverable then? Or even just a mistake by the copyist? Or could mappa mean something other than cloth? If it could mean a covering rather than a cloth then that would make sense and the passage could be talking about entombment. I will be sure to mention those similar passages from other texts and the basilikon idea.

    I could be wrong but I think our tutor says this passage only appears in the Sahidic version. I have Bart Ehman's new translation, which is from the Bohairic for this text, and I can't find it there.

    Coptic is by far the language I have most enjoyed (attempting) to learn, following Biblical Hebrew, Latin, and German. It is so simple and easy to make good progress. Plus the teacher and the class are very good.

  • slimboyfat

    Oh I just noticed Ehrman does give a translation of the Sahidic in a footnote!

    Michael took hold of two ends of a silken package, and Gabriel took hold on the other two ends. They greeted the soul of my beloved father Joseph and put it down into the package.

    I wonder how he justifies that!

  • Leolaia

    It could indeed also be a hapax legomenon in the corpus of Coptic and Greek; our knowledge of these languages are still incomplete. I wonder if there is a searchable corpus of the Oxyrhynchus texts...I don't think the everyday non-literary papyri are in the TLG, and I think its possible that there are words attested therein that are not found elsewhere.

  • Jeffro

    A reasonable interpretation:

    Michael held two ends of the cloth, and Gabriel held the other two ends. They wrapped (i.e. 'embraced', 'welcomed', 'greeted') the body of my beloved father Joseph in the cloth.


    If it could mean a covering rather than a cloth then that would make sense and the passage could be talking about entombment.

    The fact that they grab it by four 'ends' (rather than two) suggests a flexible piece of cloth rather than something rigid, which for two people would typically involve holding two ends. The cloth is probably silk, but could be some other material.

Share this