Throw it to the potter

Today I’m translating into Cebuano the scripture readings in the Royal Hours of Holy Friday.

I’ve read them from Protestant Bibles in the past but this year we’ll be using the versions in the Orthodox (LXX) Bible. A few of the readings need updating to match the Greek text.

One of the readings is Zechariah 11:10-13. The connection is clear enough: Judas feels remorse for betraying Christ, and returns to throw his 30 pieces of silver back to the priests of the temple. English Bibles either translate יָצַר literally as “potter” (“Throw it to the potter”) or else they paraphrase “Throw it in the temple treasury.”

The connection of “potter” and “temple treasury” is not especially clear. But the Greek gives some insight:

And the Lord said to me: Place them in the crucible, and I will observe whether it is genuine, as I have been proven for them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, into the crucible.

That word crucible, or smelting-furnace, refers to a place where things are melted down — and, incidentally, where counterfeits are revealed.

The passage begins in the future tense: The prophet says, in behalf of the Lord, “And I will take my staff, ‘Beauty,’ and I will cast it away, in order to scatter my covenant that I made with all the peoples.”

I could paraphrase the next part as, “Give me what I am worth! And they valued me at 30 pieces of silver.” It’s in that context that the prophet is told, “That amount they said I was worth? Melt it down; test it, and we’ll see if even that is genuine.”

This passage now makes rather more sense to me as part of the Royal Hours of Holy Friday.

Fr Silouan Thompson

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