Barry Newman's Blog

December 1, 2011

The Agape [Feasts] (part VI)

Filed under: Agape meals,Christian Community Meals,Love Feasts — barrynewman @ 10:48 pm

                         Translating “Agapais” as Loves?

One supposes that the main reason for not translating “agapais” as “loves” is that as such it would not make sense in English!  Perhaps we need to propose however, that “agapais”, appearing in isolation as it does in the Greek, is an oddity even from a Greek point of view. And if this is so, what are we to make of this oddity?

Perhaps, Jude was simply being subtle. Throughout the letter his language is extravagant in character, verse 12 being no exception. And even if “euochia” or something similar is to be assumed, Jude could be indicating that behind their “loves” there was not all that much love, not the love of which God would approve.  What is being proposed here is that by simply referring to “agape” without explicitly mentioning “feast” or “dinner” or “banquet” Jude is highlighting that their “agape” was a so-called “agape” but not in reality an “agape” event.  It seems to be more faithful to the text to not refer to “agapais” as “love feasts” but to restrict the translation to something akin to simply “loves” or, to make a little more sense, something like “love events”. At least “love events” allows for something more to be said about these events.  The heading for this blog series, “The Agape [Feasts]” acknowledges that the common reference is to “the agape feasts” but it is intended by the use of the parentheses to cast some doubt on the appropriateness of introducing the term “feasts”.  It is arguable that by not introducing the word, “feasts” we are more able to see what Jude is actually trying to do at this point in his letter.

It is suggested here that Jude’s subtlety amounts to his using a form of irony or even sarcasm.  Either the number of people, whose character and behaviour are so scathingly outlined, is not small or if they are few in number their presence and the effect of their presence is quite marked.  It is not that everyone at these meals is behaving improperly it is simply that the improper behaviour is dominant.  Consequently, these “agape” events, as a whole are themselves called into question as to whether they really are “agape”.  “Agape” might be what they these events were supposed to be but overwhelmingly they were not.  They can only be referred to ironically or even sarcastically as “agape”. If the Greek had been written as, “agapais feasts” then there would be no suggestion of irony or sarcasm.  The absence of a noun accompanying “agapais” creates an oddity – an oddity which can be understood as a device for conveying such as irony or sarcasm.

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