[B-Greek] KATABOLH SPERMATOS/WN (was "Translating Hebrews 11:11")

yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Sun May 3 06:34:40 EDT 2009


Iver EGRAYE,
> This is the only text so far with SPERMATOS. Those with SPERMATWN  
> belong to a different category.
>
> Can someone point me to a translation or translate it for me

Below, I give texts and translations of some of the more important  
passages, that may help illustrate the more likely meaning of  
KATABOLHN SPERMATOS in Heb. 11:11. I don't think Iver is completely  
right in assigning all texts that use SPERMATWN to another (what,  
lexical?) category. The Pseudo-Lucian passage shows that "KATABOLH  
SPERMATWN" means "deposit seeds/ejaculate sperm" and a singular  
KATABOLHN SPERMATOS may simply be a collective, with no need for a  
separate lexical category at all.

The Galen translation is my own, so you might want to check it. The  
Pseudo-Lucian translation is from Harmon. Both texts exhibit cultural  
assumptions about the male role in procreation that are relevant to  
Heb. 11:11. The male deposits the seed, the female is a receptacle.

The basic idea of the metaphor is borrowed from farming imagery. The  
male is like a farmer who sows the seed, the female is a receptacle,  
like the earth. This does not mean, however, that the female was  
considered completely passive.  For example, Clement of Alexandria,  
Stromateis 2.6.26 has:
συνεργεῖ οὖν καὶ γῆ γόνιμος  
ὑπάρχουσα πρὸς τὴν τῶν σπερμάτων  
καταβολήν.
SUNERGEI OU KAI GH GONIMOS hUPARCOUSA PROS THN TWN SPERMATWN KATABOLHN.
Therefore even the earth, since it is fertile does its work toward the  
sowing of the seeds.
(Speaking of the activity of faith that meets the word to yield the  
product of moral excellence.)

The Clement example SUNERGEI . . . PROS THN TWN SPERMATWN KATABOLHN  
reminds me of DUNAMIN  EIS KATABOLHN SPERMATOS ELABEN and suggests  
that some philosophically inclined Alexandrians may not have thought  
of the female contribution to procreation as strictly passive, but  
cooperative. So, Clement's phrase may be relevant to the similar  
εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος EIS KATABOLHN SPERMATOS  
and could help explain, if Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα  
στεῖρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν  
σπέρματος ἔλαβεν PISTEI KAI AUTH SARRA STEIRA DUNAMIN  
EIS KATABOLHN SPERMATOS is original, that the author meant that she  
obtained power to cooperate with Abraham's καταβολὴν  
σπέρματος KATABOLHN SPERMATOS and not her own. Conversely,  
the writer of Hebrews could have been thinking of KATALABHN and was  
either misheard or misspoke. A transposition of LAB for BOL would not  
be difficult. Still, I think that it is more likely that the subject  
of DUNAMIN . . . ELABEN is SARRA and that the putative subject of the  
verbal noun KATABOLHN is Abraham and that problems have arisen because  
of faulty disambiguation.

Here goes, on Galen, Aphorisms 17b 652-3. l. 7ff

  Αἱ πρὸς τὰς μήτρας συμφύσεις τῶν   
ἐμβρύων
hAI PROS TAS MHTRAS SUMFUSEIS TWN EMBRUWN
Embryos implanted in the uterus
ἀνάλογον ἔχουσι ταῖς τῶν καρπῶν   
πρὸς τὰ φυτά. ταυτὶ γάρ τοι
ANALOGON ECOUSI TAIS TWN KARPWN PROS TA FUTA. TAUTI GAR TOI
are analogous to fruit on trees. For surely with a similarly
κατὰ μὲν τὴν πρώτην γένεσιν   
ἀσθενέσι λαβαῖς
  KATA MEN THN PRWTHN GENESIN ASQENESI LABAIS
weak grasp the budding of fruit takes hold [of the plant]
συνέχεται καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἀποπίπτει   
ῥᾳδίως, ἐπειδὰν σφοδρότερος ἄνεμος  
αὐτὰ διασείσῃ.
SUNECETAI KAI DIA TOUTO APOPIPTEI hRAiDIWS, EPEIDAN SFODROTEROS ANEMOS  
AUTA DIASEISHi.
and for this reason easily falls, if a rather strong gust of wind  
should shake them.
μετὰ  ταῦτα δὲ αὐξανόμενα δύσλυτον  
ἔχει τὴν πρὸς τὰ φυτὰ  κοινωνίαν,  
ὥσπερ αὖ
META TAUTA DE AUXANOMENA DUSLUTON ECEI THN PROS TA FUTA KOINWNIAN,  
hWSPER AU
But after this time when the fruit grows it has a firm connection with  
the plant, likewise
πάλιν, ἐπειδὰν τελειωθῇ, καὶ χωρὶς  
τῆς  ἔξωθεν βίας ἀποπίπτει. κατὰ τὸν  
αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον
PALIN, EPEIDAN TELEIWQHi, KAI CWRIS THS EXWQEN BIAS APOPIPTEI.  KATA  
TON AUTON DH TROPON
again, once it is fully grown, it falls without any external force at  
all. In the same way
καὶ  τὰ κυούμενα ἐν μὲν τῷ πρώτῳ  
χρόνῳ τῆς καταβολῆς τοῦ  σπέρματος,  
κἂν ἅλ-
KAI TA KUOUMENA EN MEN TWi PRWTWi CRONWi THS KATABOLHS TOU SPERMATOS,  
KA)N hAL-
also embryos being carried in the womb in the first period after the  
depositing of seed
λεσθαί ποτε συμβῇ τὴν γυναῖκα ἢ   
καταπεσεῖν ὀλισθήσασαν
LESQAI POTE SUMBHi THN GUNAIKA H KATAPESEIN OLISQHSASAN
whenever a woman happens to leap, or she slips and falls,
ἢ ὁπωσοῦν ἄλλως σφοδρότερον ἢ κατὰ   
ψυχὴν ἢ κατὰ σῶμα κι-
H hOPWSOUN ALLWS SFODROTERON H KATA YUCHN H KATA SWMA KI-
or in any slight way suffers some abrupt movement either psychological  
or
νηθῆναι, ῥᾳδίως ἀποῤῥήγνυνται.   
παραπλησίως δὲ καὶ ἐπειδὰν
NHQHNAI, hRAiDIWS APOR)R(HGNUNTAI. PARAPLHSIWS DE KAI EPEIDAN
physical, the fetus breaks away [and is lost]. And [the same occurs]  
again when near
ἤδη τέλεια τυγχάνειν ὄντα. ὁ δὲ   
μεταξὺ χρόνος ἀσφαλεστέραν
HDH TELEIA TUGCANEIN ONTA. hO DE METAXU CRONOS ASFALESTERAN
the end of the pregnancy. But in the intervening period it has a very  
firm
ἔχει τὴν σύμφυσιν, ὥστε καὶ κινήσεων   
σφοδροτέρων ἀνέχεσθαι
ECEI THN SUMFUSIN, hWSTE KAI KINHSEWN SFODROTERWN ANECE-
connection, so that the pregnant woman holds fast with even rather  
abrupt movements
τὴν κύουσαν ἄνευ τοῦ βλαβῆναι  τὸ  
ἔμβρυον.
SQAI THN KUOUSAN ANEU TOU BLABHNAI TO EMBRUON.
do not damage the embryo.
>
Pseudo-Lucian Amores 19 last bit.

ἐπεὶ δ' ἦν ἄπορον ἐξ ἑνός τι  
γεννᾶσθαι, διπλῆν ἐν ἑκάστῳ φύσιν  
ἐμηχανήσατο· τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἄρρεσιν  
ἰδίας καταβολὰς σπερμάτων  
χαρισαμένη, τὸ θῆλυ δ' ὥσπερ γονῆς τι  
δοχεῖον [ἀγγεῖον] ἀποφήνασα, κοινὸν  
οὖν ἀμφοτέρῳ γένει πόθον  
ἐγκερασαμένη συνέζευξεν ἀλλήλοις,  
θεσμὸν ἀνάγκης ὅσιον καταγράψασα  
μένειν ἐπὶ τῆς ἰδίας φύσεως  
ἑκάτερον, καὶ μήτε τὸ θῆλυ παρὰ  
φύσιν ἀρρενοῦσθαι μήτε τἄρρεν  
ἀπρεπῶς μαλακίζεσθαι. διὰ τοῦθ' αἱ  
σὺν γυναιξὶν ἀνδρῶν ὁμιλίαι μέχρι  
δεῦρο τὸν ἀνθρώπινον βίον ἀθανάτοις  
διαδοχαῖς φυλάττουσιν· οὐδεὶς δ'  
ἀνὴρ ἀπ' ἀνδρὸς αὐχεῖ γενέσθαι.

EPEI D' HN APORON EX hENOS TI GENNASQAI, DIPLHN EN EKASTWi FUSIN  
EMHCANHSATO; TOIS MEN GAR ARRESIN IDIAIS KATABOLAS SPERMATWN  
CARISAMENH TO QHLU D' hWSPER GONHS TI DOCEION [AGGEION] APOFHNASA,  
KOINON OUN AMFOTERWi GENEI POQON EGKERASAMENH SUNEZEUXEN ALLHLOIS,  
QESMON ANAGKHS OSION KATAGRAYASA MENEIN EPI THS IDIAIS FUSEWS  
EKATERON, KAI MHPOTE TO QHLU PARA FUSIN ARRENOUSQAI MHTE TARREN  
APREPWS MALAKIZESQAI. DIA TOUQ' hAI SUN GUNAIXIN ANDRWN hOMILIAI MECRI  
DEURO TON ANQRWPINON BION AQANATOIS DIADOCAIS FULATTOUSIN; OUDEIS D'  
ANHR AP ANDROS AUCEI GENESQAI.

But, since it was impossible for anything to be born from but a single  
source, she devised in each species two types. For she allowed males  
as their peculiar privilege to ejaculate semen, and made females to be  
a vessel as it were for the reception of seed, and, imbuing both sexes  
with a common desire, she linked them to each other, ordaining as a  
sacred law of necessity that each should retain its own nature and  
that neither should the female grow unnaturally masculine nor the male  
be unbecomingly soft. For this reason the intercourse of men with  
women has till this day preserved the life of men by an undying  
succession, and no man can boast he is the son only of a man; no,  
people pay equal homage to their mother and to their father, and all  
honours are still retained equally by these two revered names.


Yancy Smith, PhD
5636 Wedgworth Road
Fort Worth, TX 76133
817-361-7565 (home)

I suppose it is impossible to write any 'story' that is not  
allegorical in proportion as it 'comes to life'; since each of us is  
an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the  
garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life.
	J.R.R. Tolkien (7 June 1955)











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