Sunday, March 16, 2014

Was ἐκκόπτω the Greek Name of the Aramaic Marcionite Text Called Seke?

I have already explained my friend and mega-scholar Tjitze Baarda's suggestion about a misreading by Braun perpetuated by subsequent generations of scholars. The Syriac text which was vocalized 'saka' might have read 'seke' - the Aramaic plural of sekta which among other things means 'minted coin(s).' Now I ask, what would be the Greek equivalent of seke? Of course some of this may be premature but I think it is worth mentioning for the sake of Sunday morning speculation.

I suspect the word would be ἐκκόπτω which literally means 'to knock out' or 'cut out' and as such was used to describe the fabrication of coins (undoubtedly because they were 'knocked out' as they were fabricated. Here's an interesting coincidence to consider. The Marcionites are strangely associated with Theodotian's Greek translation of Daniel. One of Daniel's most important references (at least from a Christian point of view) is Daniel 9:26's reference to the messiah being 'cut off.'

Theodotian doesn't translate the Hebrew word here with ἐκκόπτω. Indeed he speaks instead about 'the anointing' not the anointed one coming to an end. However he does use the term to describe the 'cutting off' of the Jewish people - "they will be cut off in a cataclysm" καὶ ἐκκοπήσονται ἐν κατακλυσμῷ. The term is also frequently used in the gospel and what is intriguing is the fact that it often mirrors the implications of the 'be skillful money-changers' context.

For instance, when Jesus advises his hearers to 'test' the coins for their (symbolic) 'purity' the context is clearly placing the coins in fire. So too it would seem with respect to the two trees:

Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down (ἐκκόπτεται), and thrown into the fire. (Matt 7:19) 


If it bears fruit, fine; but if not, after that, you can cut it down (ἐκκόψεις). (Luke 13:9) 

and similarly in another context:

Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t bring forth good fruit is cut down (ἐκκόπτεται), and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3.10, Luke 3.9) 

and again:

He said to the vine dresser, ‘Behold, these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and found none. Cut it down (ἔκκοψον). Why does it waste the soil?’ (Luke 13.7) 

and again:

If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off (ἔκκοψον), and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna (Matthew 5:3) 

and yet once more:

So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off (ἔκκοψον) and throw it away. It's better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. (Matt 18:8) 

Marcionites frequently seem to have been castrated which may be another shade of meaning of the term. I have a strong suspicion this terminology was passed on to the Russian Skoptsy sect of castrated monks.  Notice the related Greek sense of the original terminology is preserved in the 'cutting off' as also a 'seal' as in the minting of coins - "there were two kinds of castration: the "lesser" and "greater seal" (i.e. partial and complete castration)."

I am also curious about whether any scholarly consensus has been reached with respect to the origin of the Egyptian Christian term qibṭ or 'Copt.' Could there be some underlying connection too?

Email with comments or questions.

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