Thursday, September 28, 2006


More on Epiphanies

This supplements an earlier post on some ways in which Greek gods manifested themselves to humans.

Euripides, Hippolytus 84-84 (tr. E.P. Coleridge), where Hippolytus is praying to Artemis:
For I, and none other of mortals, have this high guerdon, to be with thee, with thee converse, hearing thy voice, though not thy face beholding.

ἐγκέχοδα μόνωι γάρ ἐστι τοῦτ' ἐμοὶ γέρας βροτῶν·
σοὶ καὶ ξύνειμι καὶ λόγοις ἀμείβομαι,
κλύων μὲν αὐδῆς, ὄμμα δ' οὐχ ὁρῶν τὸ σόν.
In their commentaries on this play, W.S. Barrett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964) and Michael R. Halleran (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1995) do not discuss the fact that Artemis manifests herself exclusively to Hippolytus and does so through his sense of hearing alone, not sight.

On the exclusive appearance, see Homer, Odyssey 16.159-163 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
And she [Athena] stood over against the door of the hut, showing herself to Odysseus, but Telemachus did not see her before him, or notice her; for it is not at all the case that the gods appear in manifest presence to all. But Odysseus saw her, and the dogs, and they did not bark, but with whining slunk in fear to the farther part of the farmstead.
On the manifestation by hearing alone, see Sophocles' Ajax 14-17 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Voice of Athena, dearest of the gods to me [Odysseus], how easily do I hear your words and grasp them with my mind, even if I cannot see you, as though a Tyrrhenian trumpet spoke with brazen mouth.
It is interesting to compare Saul's vision on the road to Damascus. Details differ slightly in the three descriptions of this vision in the Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 9.3-9:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
Some think that Saul's companions heard only a sound, not a voice, at 9.7. Cf. John 12.28-29: "Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him."

Acts 22.6-14:
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.

And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

And I said, What shall I do, LORD? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.

And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
Here Saul's companions did not hear the voice (22.9).

Acts 26.12-18:
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
At 26.14, for "I heard a voice speaking unto me," the Western Text reads "For I myself alone heard a voice speaking unto me."

The only commentary on Acts available to me, by F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 13th printing, 1977), refers on 9.3-6 to the Hebrew bath qol ("the daughter of the voice [of God]") but cites no classical Greek parallels. E.R. Dodds thought that the author of Acts was familiar with Euripides' Bacchae.

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