Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fornication is not required

Though I'm a little embarrassed by the title of this blog, I will continue with this humorous post. Students (especially foreign language students) provide teachers with some laughs. I had one yesterday in my 2nd Year Greek class. The class translated the entire Gospel of John this year, finishing it last week.For this week, I had my students read and translate portions of the The Didache, particularly from chapters 1, 7-10.

Our section for class yesterday covered chapters 7-8 (English translation available here). The verse in question is Didache 7:4, which in the Greek says:

πρὸ δὲ τοῦ βαπτίσματος προνηστευσάτω ὁ βαπτίζων καὶ ὁ βαπτιζόμενος καὶ εἴ τινες ἄλλοι δύνανται.

The important word there is the imperative προνηστευσάτω, which indicates that fasting is required. The text says, "Before the baptism, the baptizer and the baptizee must fast (beforehand), as well as others who are able." The text continues with a commandment that the baptizee must fast one or two days in advance of his or her baptism.

In class, I use a data projector, and project the Greek text onto a screen, and use a laser pointer, asking students to translate the Greek into English. When I got to verse four, the student I called on said something like, "No, it doesn't really say that, does it? Is it talking about fornication?"

I don't think he is dyslexic, but his question stems from a dyslexic moment. You see, the Greek word for fornication is πορνεία
(the first four letters of which are porn, from which we get the English word pornography.) The Greek word in question here was not from that root, but was προνηστεύω, which means to fast beforehand. It is made up of the common word for fasting, and a prepositional prefix (πρό), that means before. So the first four letters of the Greek word (transliterated into English) are pron, not porn. Perhaps because of extreme fatigue, my student saw them as porn, and came up with the idea that the Didache teaches this:
Before the baptism, the baptizer and the baptizee must fornicate, and any others who are able.

No, that's not what the text says. Fornication is not required.

1 comment:

jmac said...

This is really funny!! :) I needed a good laugh this afternoon.