Barry Newman's Blog

November 28, 2011

The Agape [Feasts] (part IV)

Filed under: Agape meals,Christian Community Meals,Love Feasts — barrynewman @ 7:03 am

Jude 12

Acknowledging that there are some alternative readings, Jude 12a reads: “Houtoi eisin hoi en tais agapais humon spilades suneuochoumenoi aphobos heautous poimainontes”, which the NIV translates: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm – shepherds who feed only themselves.”  Similarly, the ESV: “These are blemishes on your love feasts as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves”  In both cases, “spilades” which on the surface seems to be a reference to “rocks over which the sea dashes”[1] has been rendered as “blemishes” the assumption presumably being that that “spilos” [blemish] is the noun involved rather than “spilas” .  Given Jude 12b which refers to: “They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind, autumn trees without fruit and uprooted – twice dead.” (NIV), it would not seem inappropriate to translate spilades in a way which refers to a physical entity such as rocks.  Bauckham’s translation “These are people who feast with you at your fellowship meals without reverence, like dangerous reefs”[2]  reflects this.  (One should note at the same time that his reference to “fellowship meals” goes somewhat beyond, “agapais”.)  The stance adopted in this paper is that the reference is to “rocks” rather than “blemishes”.

If we were to translate Jude 12a somewhat literally it could be rendered: “These are the ones, in your loves (?), sunken rocks, feasting together fearlessly, pasturing themselves.”

Leaving aside the problematic, “loves (?)” for the moment, we should notice how graphic the description Jude gives to these “certain men (who have) secretly slipped in amongst” (NIV) those to whom he is writing. Already in vv. 4 to 11 Jude’s description and identification of these people has been scathing, even frightening.  Now in v. 12 our imagination is allowed to fill in the bare descriptions of them as dangerous rocks (that can cause the shipwreck of others), shepherds that feed only themselves (with no interest in helping the saints), clouds bringing no rain (people of no worth to others), simply blown along (they are under no control), trees without fruit (they have nothing to offer others) and blown over (essentially of no utter use) – twice dead (offering no life giving sustenance to others and no life within themselves?)

But what of “agapais” in the phrase, “en tais agapais humon” so commonly translated, “in/at/on your love feasts (or agape feasts)”?  Does the phrase occur anywhere else in the New Testament? Unfortunately or otherwise, its only occurrence is in Jude 12 though there is some minor manuscript evidence that something like it occurs in 2 Peter 2: 13.  The better attested reading there is, “entruphontes en tais apatais auton suneuochoumenoi humin.” [indulging in their deceits feasting with you], “apatais” [deceits] being preferred to “agapais”.  Indeed there is minor manuscript evidence that “apatais” rather than “agapais” occurs at Jude 12. Bauckham suggests that the writer of 2 Peter purposefully alluded to the Jude text but by way of a deliberate pun.[3]

[1] Liddell, H.G. and Scott, R., “spilas” in A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. with revised supplement, Clarendon, Oxford, 1968, p. 1628.

[2] Bauckham, R.J., Jude, 2 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, volume 50, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1983, p. 77.

[3] ibid., p. 266.


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