Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eagles or Vultures?

In response to a question regarding the second coming (and by extension, the final judgment) Jesus responds, in Matthew: 28

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matt 24:28, ESV)

Hmm. Or is it:  

28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. (Matt 24:28, NKJV)

and in Luke this response is recorded:  

37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37, ESV)

Or is it:  

37 So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Luke 17:37, NKJV)

Vultures or eagles? Corpse or body? As for the latter, the Greek word translated as carcass or corpse in Matthew indeed refers to a dead body—while the word used by Luke can refer to either a live or dead body. The easiest way to resolve this is to assume that Luke was also referring to a dead body, but chose the more general word. Because reasons.

But what about eagles v. vultures? It gets confusing here. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is sometimes used for both. The Septuagint then used the Greek eagle or vulture for the Hebrew word, as it was deemed appropriate, so there was already some precedent, in the Greek, for using eagle where one might also use vulture. Maybe that’s all there is to it.

There is also the theory that this was a proverbial saying, and that vulture was the word used proverbially, but eagle was substituted because a) it could be, as discussed above, or perhaps b) it made reference to the material cause of the appearance of the corpse (figuratively, Jerusalem) which was the Roman legions with their eagle standard.

Interesting speculation—no way to prove it.

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