[B-Greek] SOFIA SIRAX 19:4 - Hearts and Minds

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sun Jul 29 06:46:10 EDT 2007

On Jul 29, 2007, at 5:16 AM, kathleen.taylor at dpag.ox.ac.uk wrote:

> Hello,
> SOFIA SIRAX 19:4 (taken from my Rahlfs Septuagint) reads:
> ὁ ταχὐ ἐμπίστεύων κοῦφος καρδίᾳ [hO  
> The King James translates this as:
>      He that is hasty to give credit is lightminded
> And the New RSV as:
>      One who trusts others too quickly has a shallow mind
> As a beginner, I'm struggling with this, for three reasons, and would
> really appreciate any guidance.
> Firstly, I might have naively expected, from the English, that
> καρδίᾳ [KARDIAi] would be in the genitive ('light of heart').
> Please, what's going on here?

I think that your expectations are governed by an assumption that the  
grammatical constructions and semantic associations of Greek are more  
comparable to those of English than they in fact are. In this  
instance, let's start with the Greek dative form καρδίᾳ  
[KARDIAi] rather than the English by which it has been conveyed. What  
is the function of the dative case? Here it's not locative (place  
where, time when) and it's not an indirect object; in fact it's an  
instrumental usage involved in this instance -- and that tends to be  
adverbial, answering a question of "how? by what means? with what? in  
what respect?" In the current instance, the usage seems to be "in  
what respect?" In what respect is ὁ ταχὐ ἐμπίστεύων  
(hO TACU EMPISTEUWN) κοῦφος (KOUFOS)? Answer: "in respect to  
heart" -- (and we can't be too sure that "heart" has the same  
referent and implications that it has in English).

> Secondly, I thought κοῦφος [KOUFOS] meant 'light' or 'nimble',
> which these days is complimentary when applied to minds and  
> positive when
> applied to hearts. But from the context this verse is obviously
> pejorative. To me this suggests that ἐμπίστεύων  
> not one who believes in the cognitive sense of belief (e.g. I  
> believe the
> world is round), because being fast at that would presumably be a good
> thing. Instead, it refers to a committed believer -- one who places  
> faith,
> or trust, in something -- and recommends (by implication) being  
> wary about
> what or whom you trust.

Here we're in an area of connotations: even in English usage "light"  
and "heavy" can be used in distinct nuances in different expressions:  
"heavy" in "a heavy hand" is pejorative, but in "He's a heavyweight"  
it is positive. Generally speaking, "heavy" (βαρύς, BARUS) tends  
in Greek to refer to what is strong, impressive, sturdy,  
dependable ... -- you get the idea, while conversely  
"light" (κοῦφος, KOUFOS) tends to refer to what is weak,  
trifling, insubstantial, flighty, etc.

 From this it appears that, while KOUFOS KARDIAi might, to one not  
familiar with Greek language and patterns of thought, suggest a  
notion of "light-hearted" or "gay" or "untroubled," the Greek speaker  
is in fact thinking of someone who is "flighty," not really serious  
or dependable: his or her heart won't stay put and can't be counted on.

> Thirdly, is it stretching it too far to read into the use of  
> καρδίᾳ
> [KARDIAi], rather than, say, some form of FRONIS or NOOS

FRONTIS (φροντίς), NOUS (νοῦς)

> , a stronger, more
> emotional or personally-important relationship between the believer  
> and
> the belief-object ('trust' rather than mere 'belief')?

Well, I think you'd really need to consult a good, more-or-less  
unabridged lexicon for the word KARDIA and examine the contexts in  
which it is used, which authors use it in what kinds of context or  
writing, whether its usage varies from earlier to later eras of the  
Greek language, etc. And one needs to be thorough about this too --  
glossaries and most hand-lexica are too abbreviated and one tends to  
search them for a quick-fix equivalent to stick in a slot in  
translation; while the KARDIA is thought of as the seat of affections  
and commitment generally, it sometimes gets into the intellectual  
sphere: in a text drawn from Isaiah 6 that is cited by Jesus in the  
gospels, there is talk of a KARDIA that has grown PACUS (Matthew  
13:15 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ  
people's heart has been thickened"): we wouldn't want to speak of  
"thick-hearted"; rather, here the idea is what we mean by "thick- 
headed" or "numb-skulled." Similarly Mark (6:52( speaks of Jesus'  
disciples as having "hardened hearts" (ἦν αὐτῶν ἡ  
καρδία πεπωρωμένη HN AUTWN hH KARDIA PEPWRWMENH); to  
us that sounds like it indicates insensitivity, but the context makes  
it clear that it means "thick-headedness" (οὐ γὰρ  
συνῆκαν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις OU GAR SUNHKAN EPI  
TOIS ARTOIS "For they hadn't understood about the loaves").

> Thank you!
> Kathleen Taylor
> Research scientist
> Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
> Oxford University
> PS: I am a neuroscientist (hence the limited Greek) but I am  
> interested in
> how the contrast between 'cognitive' and 'emotional' aspects of  
> belief has
> been understood in different eras (hence the query). If anyone can  
> point
> me to work on this topic I would be most grateful.

That's an immense topic (seems so to me, at any rate, a lowly  
humanist). I've read some fascinating stuff related to that sort of  
thing; some classics in the realm of Greek literature are Bruno  
Snell's _The Discovery of the Mind_ (Ger. _Die Entdeckung des  
Geistes_), R. B. Onians' _The Origins of European Thought: About the  
Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time and Fate_.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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