Sunday Morning Greek Blog

May 16, 2011

It Comes in Threes

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Greek,John Gospel of,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 6:46 am

I wanted to write just a quick note to follow up on one of my brief musings yesterday about τῇ ἐπαύριον (tē epaurion ‘on the next day’) occurring three times in chapter 1 and then chapter 2 beginning with “On the third day.”

The cardinal number “two” (δύο dyo) appears three times in chapter 1. The cardinal number “three” (τρεῖς treis) appears three times in chapter 2, which is introduced by a phrase with the ordinal for three: “On the third day.” Granted, John did not form his chapter divisions, so again, there’s not too much exegetical significance in how many times a number occurs in a chapter. But what is more than mere coincidence in my mind is that the word for the “banquet-master” (ἀρχιτρίκλινος architriklinos /ar khee TREE klee nos/; /kh/ sounds like German ch in Bach) occurs three times in the story of the wedding at Cana. Why is this more than coincidence? The word derives from three Greek words that mean, literally, “ruler of three beds,” according to the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon and the NASB Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionary. To prepare a large banquet table, a host would place three beds (κλίνη klinē; the verb form of this word means “recline”) together to make a large enough table for the guests. Of course, the number of beds would have varied depending on the size of the feast, but that’s not really the point here.

In 2:19, after Jesus cleanses the Temple, Jesus says, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will rise again.” Just as God signaled the coming of the Messiah as early as Genesis 3:15 with the Protoevangelion (“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”), so John here is signaling to his readers early on the significance of the third day. I don’t have time to explore this more in depth on a Monday morning, but I wanted to get it out there before it slipped my mind.

Peace!

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