Biblical Greek ὡραῖος

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by Scholiast, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Greetings everyone

    I know Latin and Greek, but sadly no Hebrew, so I wonder if anyone here can help me with a biblical query.

    In Luke's Acts 3:10 the phrase ὠραῖα πύλη appears as the name of the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem where the apostle Peter cured a cripple of his lameness. English versions of the New Testament translate this as the "Beautiful Gate".

    The same Greek word is also found in the LXX, at Gen. 3:6 and 2 Chron. 36:19 and in the Gospel of Matthew 23:27, and again most English translations translate as "beautiful" or "delightful to the eyes".

    This is not, however, the primary sense of ὡραῖος in Greek, which is more like "timely", "opportune" or "ripe". Can anyone please identify the Hebrew word that lies behind this, and explain its nuances?

    Much obliged,

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  2. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Hello once more

    My sincere thanks to origumi for this instant response. Of course no Hebrew tradition exists for the NT text(s), but self-evidently the writers of Gen. and 2 Chron. were writing Hebrew, and, though writing his Gospel in koiné Greek, Mt's first language was Hebrew.

    In the Genesis passage, Eve is contemplating the Tree of Knowledge, before succumbing to temptation, and origumi's suggestion of "adorned" could well be a close approximation here, if the connotation was anything like that of "reich behangen", "richly laden" with (ripe) fruit; and in Chron. it is the sacred vessels, presumably richly decorated, which Nebachudnezzar's forces plundered from the Temple.

    So I am still wondering what Hebrew tradition would call the "Beautiful Gate", and whether "Beautiful" is the aptest modern English for it.

    Thanks again,

  3. origumi Senior Member

    Sorry, I deleted my previous post because it wasn't complete. Here is more info.

    ὡραῖος in NT translation of Delitzsch for Act 3:10 is מהודר = adorned, decorated, elegant, glorified.
    ὡραῖος in Septuagint Genesis 3:6 is נחמד = pleasant, lovely.
    ὡραῖος in Septuagint Chronicles 36:19 is מחמדיה = dear, precious things.

    All are similar to beautiful, not to timely. Liddell & Scott translate ὡραῖος = beautiful, graceful, but this doesn't provide new info because they refer only to the places you have. I guess it's a "Jewish Greek" issue, that ὡραῖος means in its prime, in its best time yet I find no specific argument. Hebrew בשעתה (since Gemaraic time or earlier) means timely and maybe also in its prime but this is not conclusive.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  4. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    Many thanks, origumi, for your research and this explanation. I had been wondering whether there was a single Hebrew (or Aramaic) word behind these Greek usages of ὡραῖος, but evidently this is not so, in this much you have more than satisfied my curiosity.

    Indeed it was from LSJ that I plundered the other LXX references from the OT, and I have no Concordance of LXX Gk available to see whether these references exhaust the instances of the word (which perhaps appears in places in Philo or Josephus), but that will take me some time.

    Meanwhile, if I may follow up with a subsidiary question: is there any known Hebrew/Aramaic record of what, in early 1st-cent AD times, the "Beautiful Gate" of the Temple or its precinct was called?

  5. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    It's impossible to know for sure, since there isn't a record which says something like "the beautiful gate, otherwise known as ...". What I mean is, even if that particular gate appears in writing, how are we to know that it is the gate we are interested in? Maybe you'll find this piece of interest:
    It seems that the most commonly accepted theory for what its name was during that period (Mishnaic) is Nicanor's Gate (שער ניקנור).
  6. origumi Senior Member

    The 2nd temple gates are documented in the Mishna, מסכת מידות. Their exact number and names are disputed, this is because the Mishnaic text can be interpreted in various ways. None of them is called "The Beautiful Gate" or anything similar. There were also several gates to the Temple Mount and again, none of them is "The Beautiful Gate". Another internal gate stood between the two temple parts, the Nikanor Gate. This one was not covered by gold (or had golden color) like the other ones.

    It is likely that these places had colloquial names, documented or not in any literature.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2013
  7. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Dear origumi

    Thank you so much. Similar information is coming to me from another source (a British NT scholar), who says that there is at least a strong body of belief (though she is too scrupulous a scholar to commit herself to this unconditionally) that it is the "Nikanor Gate" that is in question.

    But that raises yet further questions....!

    Does anyone have any idea what the plan of the Temple looked like? This, I suppose, is more an archaeological than a linguistic question, so (to Moderator) I shall not be offended if you rule this one out of order.

    Yours ever,

  8. origumi Senior Member

    You can see a sketch in the Hebrew Wikipedia:שערי_המקדש (scroll to the bottom). All gates are marked by blue color, Nikanor is the one in the middle. I am not sure what's the basis for this specific drawing.

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