Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday is for funny words

I've seen quite a few "Friday is for..." series and I wanted to start my own. I don't have any friends, so Scot McKnight's idea wouldn't work. However, I do like odd Greek words that I run across in my readings. Thus...Friday is for funny words.

This week's word is "εγγαστρίμῦθος": Belly-Myther.

Liddel-Scott has it listed as "ventriloquist" and someone who "prophecies from the belly." The most famous "belly-myther" is the Belly-Myther of Endor 1 Samuel 28 (1 Kingdoms 28 in the LXX). As Margaret Mitchell has pointed out, she's neither a witch in Hebrew or Greek. In fact, Mitchell has written an excellent book along with Rowan Greer on interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in antiquity. A few of the passages from Patristic authors who discuss the "belly-myther" are bellow:

Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho105
καὶ ὅτι μένουσιν αἱ ψυχαὶ ἀπεδειξα ὑμῖν ἐχ τοῦ καὶ τὴν Σαμουὴλ ψυχὴν χληθῆναι ὑπὸ τῆς ἐγγαστριμύθου, ὡς ἠξίωσεν ό Σαούλ.
And I have proved to you that souls survive on the basis of the fact that even Samuel's soul was summoned by the belly-myther, as Saul requested.

The Martyrdom of Pionius
ἔστι δὲ γεγραμμένον ὅτι ὁ Σαοὺλ ἐπηρώτησεν τὴν ἐγγαστρίμυθον καὶ εἶπεν τῇ γυναιχὶ τῇ οὕτω μαντευομένῃ, "ἀνάγαγέ μοι τὸν Σαμουὴλ."
It is written that Saul asked the belly-myther and that he said to the woman who was divining through this means, 'Bring up for me Samuel the prophet'.

And, of course, you should read Origen's homily on 1 Kingdoms 28. I suggest picking up Mitchell and Greer's book where you can read it.

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