John 13:23 ἦν ἀνακείμενος ... ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ

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Jonathan Robie
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John 13:23 ἦν ἀνακείμενος ... ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ

Post by Jonathan Robie » April 24th, 2019, 5:37 pm

I have a question about ἦν ἀνακείμενος ... ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ in the following verse:
John 13:23 wrote:ἦν ἀνακείμενος εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
Louw & Nida, seen through the lens of the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Greek, explain the idiom thus:
Louw & Nida wrote:ἀνάκειμαι ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ (anakeimai en tō kolpō) 3 (an idiom, literally: to recline on the bosom) to take the place of honor at a meal.
Glosses: to dine in the place of honor
Domain: Recline [to eat] (17F)
Comment: These expressions in JHN 13:23 anakeimenos (reclining) and JHN 13:25 anapesōn (reclining) would mean that the so-called ‘beloved disciple’ would be at the right of Jesus, since guests at a meal would be reclining on the left side so as to permit freedom of the right hand in dining. It may, of course, be that the same expression could be used of persons sitting at a table rather than reclining on couches. Literal translations of ἀνάκειμαι ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ and ἀναπίπτω ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος can result in serious misunderstanding, since they might imply overt homosexuality. There is no justification for reading into such idioms this type of implication.
Is it over-interpreting this to say he was "in the place of honor"? If he was ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, this does seem to imply that he was at the right hand of Jesus, and I imagine Jesus would have been the host. But is that too much for the dictionary sense to convey?

Could this also refer to people sitting at a table, as the text seems to imply? Can κεῖμαι refer to sitting? BDAG seems to say no. I had assumed the setting looked like the picture below.

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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

Daniel Semler
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Re: John 13:23 ἦν ἀνακείμενος ... ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ

Post by Daniel Semler » April 24th, 2019, 8:27 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Interesting question. Here's my ramble as I poked about a bit.

The UBS translator's handbook has this to say:
Was sitting next to Jesus is literally “was reclining on Jesus’ bosom.” The word “bosom” is used here and in 1.18 (TEVat the Father’s side). The expression reflects the table posture of that day. Guests at a feast reclined sideways on couches, resting on the left arm and keeping the right arm free for taking food. The feet were stretched out behind. The tables were probably placed in a kind of horseshoe arrangement, with the host in the center, and the place of honor to his left, The next highest place would be the one immediately to his right. Thus, the person to the right of the host would be in a position with his head close to the host’s chest, and it would be easy for him to speak confidentially to the host. The host would occupy a similar position in relation to the honored guest on his left, and could easily speak to him privately. It is impossible to define positively the positions of the disciples at the meal, but the intimation is that the beloved disciple was on Jesus’ right.
It may be impossible in translating, to maintain all the details of the cultural situation of Jesus’ day, particularly in the matter of reclining at table. What is important is to translate in such a way that the situation at the table sounds natural in the receptor language.

Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John, UBS Translator’s Handbooks; Accordance electronic ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), paragraph 28118.
This seems then to indicate the beloved disciple in the second highest place of honour which I find a little unexpected, particularly if you might be able to speak to the host (assuming Christ was the host) in some confidence. Also, given the general importance laid on 'being at the right hand ...' this seems odd.

That said, ZIBBCNT says the same thing.

Now if Jesus were not the host you could imagine him being the most honoured of the guests but (and of course all speculation at this point) were that so the beloved disciple could only have rested on Christ bosom if he were the host, by those definitions above anyway.

Alternatively, the general places of honour might not be the point, but rather that as the beloved disciple could speak in confidence with Christ he was thus in an honoured place regardless of the general table seating, as if being beloved of Christ were not an honor in itself. But it may be going beyond the text a little to try to work places of honor into the interpretation.

I'm sure I've been no help whatsoever and will stop, but I would note that it's curious that Nida should be involved with both the translators' handbook and the lexicon and apparently produce apparently contradicting views.

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John 13:23 ἦν ἀνακείμενος ... ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ

Post by Barry Hofstetter » April 25th, 2019, 12:32 pm

BDAG agrees with L&N:

ἀ. ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τινός lean on someone’s chest=take the place of honor, if it was the chest of the head of the house 13:23 (cp. Lk 16:23, where sc. ἀνακείμενον [some mss. supply ἀναπαυόμενον]; Pliny, Epist. 4, 22, 4 cenabat Nerva cum paucis; Veiento proximus atque etiam in sinu recumbebat)

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 65). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

I would love to see this attested elsewhere in Greek. The Latin (quite simple Latin for Pliny) reads "Nerva was dining with a few guests; Veiento was nearby and even reclining in sinu. Firth's translation, (1900) renders "on his shoulder" and so takes it somewhat literally. I found a similar phrase in Livy, ad spectaculum scorti procacis, in sinu consulis recubantis, "for the spectacle of an extravagant prostitute, who was reclining in sinu of the consul," where the literal "on the chest" might make quite good literal sense. So, while I trust L&N and BDAG, I also want to verify... :)
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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