Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sea of Galilee

Steven Notely has an intriguing article 'The Sea of Galilee: Development of an Early Christian Toponym' in the Spring 2009 JBL (Matthew 4:12b-16). Considering just the words describing the region: ὁδὸν θαλάσσης דרך הים, the way of the sea; πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου עבר הירדן, along the Jordan, Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν גליל הגוים - is that Galilee or region of the Gentiles? Is this a lake (fresh water) or a sea (salt water)? He points out how the 'Sea of Galilee' as a name carries Isaiah's prophecy forward in a unique way.
The tripartite topographical combination by Isaiah, "Way to the sea", "Gelil Haggoyim" and "Beyond Jordan" was intended by the prophet to define the frontiers of Israelite settlement in the north that stood in imminent danger before the Assyrian threat. ... Isaiah's intentions notwithstanding, the LXX's translation of גליל with Γαλιλαία signals that by the Greco-Roman period the Jewish community understood Isaiah to mean Galilee. ... the term θάλασσα - which is the LXX's rendering of ים in Isaiah 8:23 was still intended for the Mediterranean Sea - was transferred to another body of water, namely, the lake of Gennesar.
This is a fascinating introduction to Matthew for me - showing the great barrier presented by the Hebrew-Greek divide and creative Matthean exegesis.