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Old Georgian phrases and sentences 56 (Lk 1:15)   1 comment

In the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth, the archangel Gabriel tells John’s father-to-be, Zacharias, that John should abstain from drinking alcohol (Luke 1:15):

ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον [τοῦ] κυρίου,
καὶ οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ,
καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου πλησθήσεται
ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ

This is all seemingly simple enough, but I was surprised to find an interesting reading here in one of the Old Georgian versions of the text. Here it is in the Adishi, Pre-Athonite, and Athonite texts (this verse not extant in ms A-89 or Vind. georg. 2):

Adishi რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და სათრობელი და იყი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა სავსე იყოს მიერვე მუცლით დედისა თჳსისაჲთ.

  • ღჳნოჲ wine
  • სათრობელი intoxicating drink
  • იყი strong drink
  • სუას aor conj 3s სუმა to drink
  • სავსეჲ full
  • მუცელი belly

PA რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლუჭი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმუცლით მისითგან.

  • თაფლუჭი mead (cf. თაფლი honey; see excursus below)
  • აღ-ი-ვს-ოს aor conj 3s აღვსება to fill (NB the CV -ი- > to be filled)

At რამეთუ იყოს დიდ წინაშე უფლისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლუჭი არა სუას და სულითა წმიდითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმუცლით მისითგან.

In addition, here is an image from the Gospel manuscript BnF géo. 28, f. 111v, col. b., ll. 14-20, which is a 13th-cent. witness to the Athonite version:


Here is the text from transcribed from nusxuri into mxedruli and with abbreviations resolved:

რ(ამეთუ) იყოს დიდ წ(ინაშ)ე ო(ჳფლ)ისა და ღჳნოჲ და თაფლოჳჭი არა სუას და ს(უ)ლითა წ(მიდ)ითა აღივსოს მიერვე დედისმოჳცლით მისითგ(ა)ნ.

The Adishi text, then, has three in the list of prohibited drinks, while the Pre-Athonite and Athonite have two, just like the Greek. Furthermore, neither the second nor the third in the Adishi list is თაფლუჭი, which we find elsewhere paired with ღჳნოჲ in the “wine and strong drink” passages of the Bible (e.g. Lev 10:9, Num 6:3). (Of the same root as the second word in the Adishi list, სათრობელი, we see დამათრობელი in Jdg 13:4, which also has ძმარი “vinegar” and ყურძენი “grape”.)

Since, alongside Greek, both Armenian and Syriac enter into discussions of the textual lineage of the Georgian Gospels, I’ll give them both here, too. For Syriac, the Old Syriac (Sinaiticus), the Peshitta, and the Ḥarqlean all have simply ḥamrā w-šakrā lā neštē. In Armenian, this part of the verse reads, գինի եւ աւղի մի́ արբցէ. So the witnesses for this verse in both of these languages give simply a bipartite prohibition, just like the two later Georgian versions, not a tripartite one like that of the Adishi text.


On honey-water, or mead

As pointed out above, the word that stands sometimes in the Georgian versions for σίκερα (traditionally “strong drink”, but probably better, “beer”) is თაფლუჭი “mead”, derived from the word თაფლი “honey”. As is well known, mead is a thing and a word with a long history in at least some Indo-European societies (see Pokorny; Buck, Synonyms, §§ 5.84, 5.91). The modern English “mead” goes back to medu in Old English, where there are many derivatives appearing in Beowulf and elsewhere (all of these in Bosworth-Toller), e.g.

  • medoærn banquet-house, place to drink mead
  • medubenc mead-bench
  • medoburg city of mead-drinkers
  • medudrēam mead-revelry
  • medoful mead-cup
  • medoheal mead-hall
  • meoduscenc mead-draft
  • meodosetl mead-seat
  • medostīg path to the mead-hall

(“Honey” itself in OE is unrelated: hunig; see PIE *kₑnəkó- “golden” in Pokorny.) Here are a few other words of the same origin as this word medu in other IE languages (PIE *médhu-). Sanskrit madhu- was used for sweet drinks, including soma, and in line with Avestan maδu- is the Middle and later Persian may “wine” (Mackenzie 55, Steingass 1357). Greek μέθυ (> μεθύω to be drunk > μεθύσκω to make drunk) is a poetic word for wine; it does not mean “mead”. (The latter is μελίτειον, as in Plut. Quaest. Conv. 672b: καὶ μέχρι νῦν τῶν τε βαρβάρων οἱ μὴ ποιοῦντες οἶνον μελίτειον πίνουσιν. Mod. Gr. has ὑδρόμελι like Latin hydromeli, with derivatives in the Romance languages). In Russian, “honey” is мёд (for the color, cf. медь “copper”). The Slavic words for “bear” derive partly from this root, e.g. Russian медведь (honey-eater; cf. Buck, § 3.73). (In Old Georgian, “bear” is დაფჳ [modern დაფვი], as in 1Sam 17:34 JerLect. The word does not sound dissimilar to თაფლი “honey”: should we posit a direct etymological link?) Note that Chubinov/ჩუბინაშვილი (Грузинско-Русско-Французскій Словаръ/Dictionnaire géorgien-russe-français [Saint Petersburg, 1840], 220) defines თაფლუჭი with “сикера” — σίκερα! — and “медовика”.

Lastly, for one more (non-mead) term for drinks, to return to Lk 1:15, Gothic has

jah wein jah leiþu ni drigkid

The first noun is, of course, “wine”, and the second is cognate with OE līþ, “strong drink” (cf. the first element in German Leithaus).

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