Today’s Reading from the Ancient World

I’ve been consumed with PhD exams, so I’ve not blogged much at all and thought this would be an easy reentry to the practice.This is just for the sake of reading tidbits of ancient literature, so there will be no commentary of other insights unless I feel it’s something I’d like to note.

So, today’s reading comes from the Mishnah, the Shabbat tractate, 7:2ff (concerning the prohibition of labors on the Sabbath):

A. The generative categories of acts of labor [prohibited on the Sabbath] are forty less one:

B. 1 he who sews, 2 ploughs, 3 reaps, 4 binds sheaves, 5 threshes, 6 winnows, 7 selects [fit from unfit produce or crops, 8 grinds, 9 sifts, 10 kneads, 11 bakes;

C. 12 he who shears wool, 13 washes it, 14 beats it, 15 dyes it;

D. 16 spins, 17 weaves

E. 18 makes two loops, 19 weaves two threads, 20 separate two threads

F. 21 ties, 22 unties

G. 23 sews two stitches, 24 tears in order to sew two stitches;

H. 25 he who traps a deer, 26 slaughters it, 27 flays it, 28 salts it, 29 cures its hide, 30 scrapes it, 31 cuts it up;

I. 32 he who writes two letters, 33 erases two letters in order to write letters;

J. 34 he who builds, 35 tears down;

K. 36  he who puts out a fire, 37 kindles a fire

L. 38 he who hits with a hammer, 39 he who transports an object from one domain to another–

M. lo, these are the forty generative acts of labor less one.

From The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 187–88.


Interesting Similarities

I’m always intrigued when I encounter similarities between the texts of the Bible and other ancient literature. One such example I happened upon while reading about Heracles’ twelve labors. For his eleventh labor (Apollodorus Library 2.5.11), Heracles was commissioned by Eurystheus to bring him the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, which were a gift from Gaia to Zeus and Hera at their wedding. These apples were the source of immortality for the gods and, interestingly, were guarded by a dragon, itself the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.

So, a tree of apples (fruit) that gave immortality which was guarded by a serpent–where have I read of such things before? Yes, this is obviously quite different from the Genesis account, but it is quite interesting that these elements–fruit, unnaturally long life, and a serpent–are all together in the same story.

Αυτω η δοξα