Saturday, September 5, 2009

Poets of the Word

Some of my readers indicated an appreciation for my esoteric Greek posts, which I promised were about to stop now that language school is over. Rejoice then, O Greek fans; my promises were empty, and Greek posts will evidently continue. My thesis director gave a delightful anecdote in class the other day, and I cannot help but post it.

In his Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney makes much of the fact that English gets its word for poet from the Greek (ποιητης), which is derived from the verb that means “make, do” (ποιεω). In a literal sense, poets are makers and doers.

For a literary scholar who also dabbles in theology, this is absolutely delightful.

Literally, then, when St. James tells us to be doers of the word rather than hearers only, he is commanding that we be poets of the word (ποιηται λογου). Don’t just be a hearer, he says; be a poet!

After all, we must remember, God himself is a poet. The Apostle’s Creed which Christians have been reciting for centuries declares in Greek, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, poet of heaven and earth” (ποιητην ουρανου και γης). Who could stand on a mountain or stroll through the forest without suspecting that the authors intended the double-meaning?

That alone validates spending a summer in an intensive course to study a dead language!

3 comments:

Kate said...

As a theologian who aslo dabbles in literary scholarship (and one of your readers who enjoys your Greek posts), I think this is just wonderful!!

Nikki J said...

I read your post and then stumbled across this: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2007/03/20

The ending makes much more sense now -- marvelous. Thanks!

Nikki J said...

bother - that didn't seem to fit. Maybe this?