The Monastery of the Temptation, above Jericho

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fill the Earth and Subdue it!

Pardon my delay in writing. I fell from my discipline. But here is a good picture to remind us what Lent is all about.

In the last few days, we are reading from the First Book of Moses, called Genesis. Today, we finish chapter 8 and move into chapter 9, with the following command:

Καὶ ηὐλόγησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν Νωε καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς αὐτου̂ καὶ εἰ̂πεν αὐτοι̂ς Αὐξάνεσθε καὶ πληθύνεσθε καὶ πληρώσατε τὴν γη̂ν καὶ κατακυριεύσατε αὐτη̂ς

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (RSV) and the LXX, Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) adds, "and subdue it".

So often, "subdue it" takes on some grand character. We are the bosses of the world. We must dominate it, put it into submission, rule it. All of these, of course, are reasonable interpretations of katakurieo, the verb from which the second to last word comes in the Greek quotation above.

I'd like us to consider the term, however, in a slightly different way. Rather than taking the sort of Western, imperial translation, let's break it into its component parts: kata and kurieo.

Each of the Gospels in the New Testament have a beautiful title in Greek: "According to *Evangelist*":  According to John, According to Matthew, According to Luke, According to Mark.

In Greek: Kata John. Kata Luke. Kata Matthew, etc.

So, we might take "katkurievsate", from "kata-kurieo" to be "According to the Lord". In verb form: be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and **according-to-the Lord it**.

This surely adds a new dimension to the command. It is no longer "rule", "subdue". After all, the Lord himself doesn't "rule" or "subdue" us according to medieval feudal/lord standards. He loves us and rules us and guides us ultimately by laying down our life for us.

And so, without getting overly "green" about this command in Genesis 9:1, let's recall that our vocation is to "rule", "govern" the whole Kosmos entrusted to us by God, which he so loved, by overseeing it by his love and grace.

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