σῖτος / σιτίον Acts 7:12 - (cf. σπέρμα)

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Stephen Hughes
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σῖτος / σιτίον Acts 7:12 - (cf. σπέρμα)

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 10th, 2014, 5:49 am

Is there enough a difference in sense between σῖτος, ὁ with a heteroclitic plural σῖτα, τά and σιτίον, τό to affect the intended meaning of the textual variant in Acts 7:12? While both mean grain as a potential foodstuff and also the foods derived from them (or even food in general), I'm wondering if the eclectic text's σιτία has more of the nuance of food than the Byzantine text's σῖτα has.
Acts 7:12 Byzantine text wrote:Ἀκούσας δὲ Ἰακὼβ ὄντα σῖτα ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, ἐξαπέστειλεν τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν πρῶτον.
Acts 7:12 Eclectic text wrote:Ἀκούσας δὲ Ἰακὼβ ὄντα σιτία εἰς Αἴγυπτον, ἐξαπέστειλεν τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν πρῶτον.
There is of course a very obvious difference - in Greek, as in English - between the grain that we will eat - σῖτος (grain) and the one that we will plant - σπέρμα (seed grain). In my case at least, I am stressing the difference in meaning between these two in my learning of the words, and paying too little attention to the extenstion of the meaning of σῖτος / σιτίον to "food", which is more particular to Greek, and not so easily taken in English.

I am interested to actively extend my own understanding of the meanings of σῖτος / σιτίον to "food" in an intelligent way. Has anybody looked at this?
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: σῖτος / σιτίον Acts 7:12 - (cf. σπέρμα)

Post by Stephen Carlson » September 10th, 2014, 4:33 pm

I haven't considered this variant or word in particular, but my understanding is that Koine preferred the use of derivational diminutives more than Classical Greek, so much so that the diminutive sense can hardly be discerned at times. With regards to the difference in the variants, I'd chalk it up more to a difference in Koine vs. Classical diction or literary quality and the concomitant feel it brings than to a particular semantic nuance.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: σῖτος / σιτίον Acts 7:12 - (cf. σπέρμα)

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 11th, 2014, 12:41 am

On the assumption that published translations bring a whole lot more scholarship to bear than I - as a tinkering dilettante in Greek - am even aware of, it is interesting to see that most English translations simply talk about Joseph going to Egypt for "grain" (or "corn").

My impression about σῖτος / σιτίον (specifically the extent to which its meaning extends into "food") is that it reflects the fact that grinding (ἀλήθειν, which is also described in non-technical terms as ἀλευροποιεῖν) flour (ἄλευρον, τό / ἄλευρον κρίθινον (made from barley) / (LSJ also mentions) ἄλευρον τήλινον (made from fenugreek - Modern Greek μοσχοσίταρο "cow fodder")), was viewed as part of the food production process rather than as a (socially recognised) profession.

Of course there is a word for miller μυλωθρός, but, consider
Revelations 18:22 wrote:Καὶ φωνὴ κιθαρῳδῶν καὶ μουσικῶν καὶ αὐλητῶν καὶ σαλπιστῶν οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ πᾶς τεχνίτης πάσης τέχνης οὐ μὴ εὑρεθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ φωνὴ μύλου οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι,
Here the πᾶς τεχνίτης πάσης τέχνης "every tradesman of every trade" seems to be separate from φωνὴ μύλου "the sound of a millstone (milling)". And consider
Δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐν τῷ μύλωνι (eclectic text has μύλῳ)· μία παραλαμβάνεται, καὶ μία ἀφίεται.
(perhaps either) "with a millstone" or "at the mill"
Here milling is portrayed as a task undertaken by women (presumably a domestic task). cf. The development of μύλη from a simple hand powered grinding device to a larger scale one powered by an ass (or the like) ὄνος (VII.2).
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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