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Neck-Riddles in Mimetic Theory Michael Elias Lexis Language Consultancy, Amsterdam The citation to Matthew 13:35 on the title page of René Girard's Des choses cachées depuis lafondation du monde points to the source of "things hidden since the foundation of the world." The Greek text reads ?e?- ? ?µµ? ? a ap? ?at? ß?? ? ? kekrummena a?? katabolês. These words of the Gospel are, as a footnote in the Bible de Jérusalem explains, a citation of Ps. 78:2: "J'ouvre la bouche en paraboles, févoque du passé les mystères." The terms "des choses cachées" and "mystères" reflect the difference between the Greek phrases of the Gospel and the Septuagint. In the latter, Ps. 78 (77):2 describes the things that have been hidden from the foundation of the world as p??ß??µata ap' a???? problêmata ap'arches. The Hebrew text DTp^Ou mT>n ny>iN >d tnym nrmDN renders for the parables in 2a masal, and for the "problems from the beginning " in 2b, hîdôt minnî qêdêm 'riddles of old'.1 A brief overview of the different terms in various languages, whose connotations overlap in part, suggests a complicated semantic field which needs to be examined in order to document the cultural meaning behind the diversity in rhetorical terminology. The distinctions resemble those of the well known Familienähnlichkeiten which Ludwig Wittgenstein discusses in chapter 67 of his Philosophische Untersuchungen. Masai (usually rendered 1 The riddles referred to in Ps. 78: 4 concern the praiseworthy acts of YHWH and the wonders he has done. 1 90Michael Elias in LXX as pa?aß??? parabole) is to be translated, according to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, 'comparison, saying, derived meaning'. It includes parables, fables, riddles, allegories, and proverbs. If we restrict ourselves to the Hebrew word for riddle, hîda, it is interesting to learn that etymologically it means 'sharpness'. Hans-Peter Müller distinguishes four different meanings of hîda: folk riddle; symbolic dream and enigmatic oracle; riddle as means of the contest between kings; and a wisdom-genre ofcourtly schools (465).2 The only text in the Old Testament where a complete riddle is rendered (image, solution, and context) is Judges 14, the riddle of Samson. The Bible de Jérusalem employs another term in Judges 14, énigme, which goes back (via Latin) to the Greek a????µa ainigma from a???? ainos, meaning 'tale, story, saying, proverb'. Fnigme is found in other contexts in the Bible as well. In 1 Cor. 13:12—"Car nous voyons, à présent, dans un miroir, en énigme, mais alors ce sera face en face" [Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face]—it corresponds to the original Greek ?? a????µat? en ainigmati. In the Poetics, Aristotle defines ainigma as follows: "The very essence of a riddle is to express facts in an impossible combination of language. This cannot be done by a mere succession of ordinary terms, but it can by the use of metaphors, as in the riddle, ? saw a man welding bronze on another man with fire' and similar examples" (22).3 There is in Greek another word for riddle, ???f?? grifos, meaning 'fishing basket, creel'. André Jolies comments on their distinction: "Irre ich mich nicht, so liegt in dem ersten mehr die Tatsache der Verrätselung, in dem zweiten dagegen, das eigentlich Netz bedeutet—ein Netz, das uns fangt, in dessen Verknotungen wir uns verwirren—, die Heimtücke der Verrätselung ausgedrückt (144) [If I am not mistaken, the first term refers primarily to the act of riddling, while the second means originally 'net': to trap us. Our entanglement in the net's knots expresses the treachery of the riddle]. For a better understanding of the differences and similarities in the semantic field of 'riddle' it is useful to distinguish between, on the one hand, performance-oriented riddles as an element of discourse, in a speech situation, with a riddler and a riddlee, and, on the other hand, the use of the term in a more general sense, as mystery, problem, secret, paradox, etc., which do not 2 Translations...


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