Monday, October 06, 2008

More on the Christ Cup

Wieland Willker has carefully assembled a good deal of the recent discussion on the so-called Christ cup. Here it is:

Mysterious CRESTOU inscription
Everything else of potential interest to forum members.
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Mysterious CRESTOU inscription
by wie on Wed 17. Sep 2008, 12:35

Another enigmatic inscription has surfaced:

DIA CHRHSTOU OGOISTAIS
ΔIA XPHCTOY OΓOICTAIC



Images courtesy of Der Spiegel. Thank you!
Copyright: © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, Foto: Christoph Gerigk


(Larger images are available from me on request.)

Franck Goddio found this cup on the ground of the harbor of Alexandria in May this year. It has a diameter of about 9 cm and weighs 200g. According to their report, it was found in layer 2 of the stratigraphy, which means that it is from the first half of the first century!

The epigraph André Bernand from Paris thinks that the biblical Messiah is meant. He considers the cup as some kind of witch's cauldron which belonged to a fortune teller who was basing his authority on Jesus. The text means "Magician through Christ".

Skeptics think that Chrestos is just a common name and that OGOISTAIS refers to some kind of cult of Ogo, whatever that was.

The cup has been transfered to Madrid today where it will be shown in the "Matadero de Legazpi".

My initial thought was that OGOI just cries for LOGOI.
STAIS = "dough"?
The final U could also be a Nu.

Source: Der SpiegelΕἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
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Re: Mysterious CRESTOU inscription
by wie on Thu 18. Sep 2008, 09:03

Several comments have been given on blogs and mailing lists, which I have tried to collect below.

First, some raised the obvious question as to the authenticity of the artifact. Of course we cannot know. It may well be a forgery. The inscription looks very new to me, too, as well as the cup itself. The letters look like milled in. Well, I am no expert. But from what I gather, some epigraphs have seen it and not immediately rejected it.

The funny thing is that Google now has a new "word": OGOISTAIS.

Detail from the back:

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Some comments
by wie on Thu 18. Sep 2008, 09:06

From various sources in no particular order:

Antonio Lombatti writes on his blog:
"You don't need a microscopical analysis of that inscription: of course, it cannot be so neat if the object was found under the sea. Moreover, I also find the carving of the Greek letters to be quite unusual--I mean, too perfect--for a text on a 2,000 year-old cup."
with these comments:
John N Lupia III: "The sgrafitto looks very recent. Compare the condition of cup's surfaces to the incuse of the letters and it looms out as incongruous, and suggests a modern hand."
Antonio Lombatti answers: "I agree. One doesn't need to have any expertise in Greek epigraphy or to try to understand the meaning of the inscription. The James Ossuary (among many others) docet!"

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AnneMarie Luijendijk wrote:
both words, christos and chrestos would, of course, be pronounced the same. In ancient manuscripts, the word "Christos" itself occurs most frequently written in contracted form as nomen sacrum. In those instances we don't know how the scribe would have spelled it in full. Several church fathers use the word play christos-chrestos (e.g,. Justin Martyr, Apology 1.4).
In the case of the word "christianos, -h," the spelling with an eta instead of iota is in fact the common one in documentary papyri (for example P.Oxy. 42.3035, P.Oxy. 43.3119, SB. 12.10772), but also the scribe of the Codex Sinaiticus wrote the word chrestianos thus in the three New Testament passages where that word occurs (Acts 11:26, 26:28 and 1 Pet 4:16).

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Lincoln Blumell wrote:
DIA XRHSTOY - As for your second point, the replacement of iota with an eta is fairly common in the papyri I have come across:
SB XVI 12497.50 (Early III) List of Nominations of Liturgies
P.Oxy. XLII 3035.3-5 (28 February A.D. 256) Order of Arrest
P.Oxy. XLIII 3119.14, 18 (A.D. 259-260) Official Correspondence
P.Oxy XLIII 3149.3-4 (V) Letter
P.Laur. II 42 r.2 (U) Letter
On this point Tertullian complains non-Christians do not pronounce the name correctly and he reiterates that he is a "Christian" not a "Chrestian." (Tertullian, Nat. 1.3.8-9).
See also the discussion in Orsolina Montevecchi, "Nomen Christianum," in Bibbia e Papiri: Luce dai Papiri sulla Bibbia Greca (Barcelona: Institut de Teologia Fonamental, 1999), 155.
I hope this has been somewhat helpful.

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Peter Arzt-Grabner wrote:
I´d like to mention that
- the earliest papyrus references (for chrestianos!) are of the 2nd/3rd century CE (see also Lincoln´s mail),
- whereas the spelling chrestianos (with the eta) for "Christian" is quite common, the spelling Chrestos for Christos ("Christ") is rare; maybe the earliest and best reference for it is Suetonius´ famous passage on Claudius, expelling the Jews from Rome (Claud. 25,4), which proves that for a Roman the Greek "name" Christos could be easily mistaken for the Graeco-Roman name Chrestos/Chrestus,
- we have no evidence that the word play christos-chrestos (as used by several church fathers) was already used (and understood) by the very early Christians (during the first century; also Philem. 10 cannot be taken as a hint).
On the topic see already G.H.R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, vol. 3: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1978, Macquarie University 1983, 129; M.J. Edwards, Χρηστός in a Magical Papyrus, ZPE 85 (1991) 232–236, esp. 232–233: “it is one thing to play upon words and another to think them identical, or advance one as a substitute for the other. The same observation applies with even greater force to those inscriptions and papyri [pagan and orthodox] in which the substitution of Χρηστιανός for Χριστιανός is regular, but that of Χρηστός for Χριστός more rare”.
Concerning the text and its meaning of the cup from Alexandria: as Wieland Willker already mentioned on his website, "We need an image of the back." Does anyone have access to such an image?

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John Whitehorne wrote:
The hand looks OK for i/ii CE, and XRHSTOS for XRISTOS is not a problem. But OGOSTAIS is a problem. There are very few Greek words that begin OGO or O (definite article) GO to choose from. The pot itself is also a bit small for a cauldron. Does it have any signs still of use on a fire? Or, if its [L]OGO ..., how much does it hold - does it correspond to any common measure of volume?

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Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:
I do wonder why the inscription reads "DIA CHRESTOU OGOISTAIS" rather than "DIA CHRISTOU OGOISTAIS." The word "chrestou" is the genitive singular form of "chrestos," which is an adjective meaning "good," and therefore not the title "Christos," which is what one would expect if this referred to Christ. Why would a forger choose to inscribe the word "good" rather than "Christ"? Was the supposed forger so inept?
The German article in Der Spiegel notes that "chrestos" was actually used rather often as a Greek name:
"Chrestos war in Griechenland ein gebräuchlicher männlicher Vorname", erklärt der Historiker Manfred Clauss aus Frankfurt am Main, "das muss nichts mit Jesus zu tun haben."
Translated, this says:
"Chrestos was commonly a man's given name in Greece," explains the historian Manfred Clauss of Frankfurt am Main. "That need not have anything to do with Jesus."
This is correct, but I do recall, from my time studying with New Testament Professor Otto Betz in Tübingen, that "Christos" and "chrestos" were sometimes interchanged as a wordplay since "Christ" was "good." Perhaps the putative forger was not inept but clever?
To be clear, however, let me emphasize that I am also skeptical about this inscription, and for the reason given by Antonio Lombatti. The letters simply look much too distinct to be nearly 2000 years old.
But what in the world does ogoistais actually mean? If this is a forgery, it's a very odd one.

-------------------------------------------

Helene Cuvigny wrote:
Ma collègue Sylvie Marchand, céramologue à l'IFAO, me signale qu'il s'agit d'un gobelet à boire (pas d'un chaudron!) en sigillée égyptienne fabriqué à Assouan au Ier s. p.C. Elle a l'impression, d'après la photo, que l'inscription a été faite avant cuisson.
On aimerait vraiment voir à quoi ressemble l'inscription lue OGOISTAIS. Serait-il possible qu'il s'agisse d'une mélecture pour ὁ γεύστης, "celui qui goûte" ?
En ce cas, χρηστοῦ pourrait être une allusion à du vin "excellent", mais je ne sais pas quoi faire de διά. Il ne semble pas non plus exister d'attestation d'une expression familière διὰ χρηστοῦ ou δι’ ἀχρήστου.

Rough translation:
My colleague Sylvie Marchand, céramologue at the IFAO, says it is a cup to drink (not a pot!). Egyptian sigillée produced in Aswan au Ier s. p.C. She had the impression, after the photo, that the inscription was made before cooking.
We would really like to see the inscription of OGOISTAIS. Would it be possible that this is a mélecture for ὁ γεύστης, "the one who tasted"?
In this case, χρηστοῦ could be an allusion to wine "excellent" but I do not know what to do with διά. It does not seem to exist an attestation of a familiar expression διὰ χρηστοῦ or δι 'ἀχρήστου.

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Daniel Streett wrote:
My initial reading is that OGOISTAIS ογοισταις is best understood as a fuller form of O GOHS ο γοης, or magician. The Attic spelling would be O GOHSTHS ο γοηστης. We seem to have itacism of ι for ε and αι for η, neither of which is unusual for Alexandria.
I am guessing that this is the same conclusion that the scholars came to who were initially consulted and quoted in Der Spiegel to the effect that it referred to a μαγικος.

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Jean-Luc Fournet wrote:
To my opinion, it can't be a modern forgery because it was made before firing — it is clear on the picture (such inscriptions are not rare). Morever, the handwriting would perfectly fit the first century A.D. (i. e. the archaeological context).

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Jack Kilmon wrote:
I think the goblet refers to wine and states "enchantment through excellence." I am puzzled by the claim that the inscription was done before firing since the brown slip appears flaked by the stylus suggesting it was
dried. The hand could also be 2nd to 3rd century, to me, so I would like to know more about the stratigraphic context that places it on the ground of the 1st century harbor. In my opinion, if the provenance is correct,
reference to XRISTOS is highly unlikely for the first half of the first century. I think XRHSTOS (excellent, good) is correct but the eta/iota shift is in O GO(H)ISTAIS. Alexandrian Koine is noted for provincialisms
and archaisms.
Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad slogan for a modern wine producer.

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Jean-Luc Fournet wrote:
An inscription made after firing would not look like that: the line of the incised letters would not be so neat. If the letters appear clearer, it is because the clay is clearer than the external slip. They were made before firing but after the slip was applied on the pottery. I have studied inscriptions on amphoras for many years and came across many times this kind of graffiti and I must confess that I am not surprised by this one. But noboby is infallible and, since it is a ceramic object, I propose to ask directly ceramologists: they will surely have an authoritative opinion. As far as the writing is concerned, 3rd century seems to me highly unlikely.

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Video and another image
by wie on Fri 19. Sep 2008, 09:44

A short video of Franck Goddio presenting the cup was given by El Mundo yesterday. You can see it here:
(Note: a short advertisement is at the beginning)

Video:
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2008/09/17/ciencia/1221645751.html

And another image:

Franck Goddio presents the cup. (El Mundo, Foto: Bernardo Díaz)Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
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More comments
by wie on Fri 19. Sep 2008, 19:12

Mika Kajava wrote:
The inscription looks somewhat strange (as others have already said: firing, incision, hand, etc.), but whether or not it is a fake, has anyone considered = diakhristou? - Diakhriston "ointment" (and similar) is found in medical texts and recipes (at least from Dioscorides), but it is also well attested in later sources, e.g., in Aetius' (compilations of) medical writings. Incidentally, I note that among his innumerable recipes (and abbreviations as well as expressions of "recipe language") one frequently finds "gost./goist.", e.g., "elaiou kalou goist. etoi oug. is", "asprou goist.", etc. etc., but this may not be relevant for the present case. - O might stand for o(inou) [e.g. diakhristou, o(inou)... a(na) ic] rather than for a numeral...? - Needless to say, this is pure guesswork (and a lot depends on the dating of the text).

Mika later explained further:

O might stand for O(INOU)
"gost./goist." - this is an abbreviation for "grammata hosa...", i.e. "ca. X grams".
Thus, ELAIOU KALOU GOIST IS
would mean
"ca. 16 grams of good oil".

He concludes:
"Generally, it seems that the tenor of a text like this, with reference to ointment and wine (both are very well attested in similar contexts), would suit the object itself (i.e., a cup)."

[Very good! Definitely worth checking further! So, whatever exactly is was, it seems to me a rather mundane usage, nothing to do with Jesus Christ. --- Wieland]

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Re: Mysterious CRESTOU inscription
by nconst on Wed 24. Sep 2008, 11:34

But this cup seems to contain 300 - 400 grams of oil, not 16 ... Or did I miss something ?nconst

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Re: Mysterious CRESTOU inscription
by wie on Wed 24. Sep 2008, 15:55

nconst wrote:
But this cup seems to contain 300 - 400 grams of oil, not 16 ... Or did I miss something ?
No, you didn't miss anything.
This isn't completely clear.Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
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Having now looked at the detailed pictures of the cup itself two things seem clear to me: 1) there appears clear to be ancient patina in some of the letters; 2) it is quite possible that the first two words are actually one word--- DIACHRESTON, which means ointment. The meaning of the other word with the definite article can be debated. This then may be an ointment cup and not an ancient reference to Christ, but it is true that christos was sometimes rendered chrestos in the first and second centuries, because in that oral culture they sounded basically the same.

BW3

2 comments:

  1. Why are the words from both sides of this two-handled cup being joined into one sentence ?

    One side reads "Through Christ" the other side reads something else.

    http://www.ancienttouch.com/540.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  2. This article suggests: "The archaeologists have apparently forced their translation, as if goistais is genitive singular, like chrestou, and functions in the phrase as an appositive. The word goistais, however, is dative plural, making their suggested translation impossible. The phrase dia chrestou goistais probably means '[Given] through kindness for the magicians.'"

    ReplyDelete