History and being Catholic


"Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλος και γινώσκω τὰ ἐμά καὶ γινωσκουσί με τὰ ἐμά." - John 10: 14

If this line doesn't make sense to you, it's Greek to me also. Many people realise that the society that our Lord and Saviour was born into centuries ago was a heavily Hellenised society, that most Jews even had to know at least some Greek to get along and certainly they would have had to know more Greek, the further they were from the Holy City of Jerusalem. This was part of the fall-out from the declining empire of Alexander the Great, largely taken over by the Romans by the time of Christ. The Romans loved the Greek language and culture, which retained its priority for centuries later in the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

So, if Christ may have preached in some places in the Aramaic language, whose dominance was the result of the Persian hegemony that preceded the Greek, he may as well have used Greek in other places. This would have made more sense the further north he went. We do know that after the first Christian Pentecost, the evangelists and missionaries wrote and preached in Greek, they built the Christian Church on Greek language and culture. Our translations of the New Testament today are all made into our many languages from the Greek, but translations are translations and can never completely bring forth the vitality of the original.

Which brings me around to that line in Greek at the top of this block of text. It is a favourite among the various Churches and ecclesiastical bodies that make up Christianity today. For it is a quote from Christ and translates as 'I am the good shepherd and I know my own, and my own know me.' He may have said this many times during the time of his public ministry, in many different ways, possibly many different languages. We may not be able to quote the Aramaic, even from an Aramaic translation, but we have the Greek, carefully preserved for us in the Gosple of John. We may not have any Greek, or we may have a lot of Greek, or we may have enough Greek to read this and other simple fragments of the New Testament as they were written centuries ago. But it is nice to have these original texts, because they are part of the root from which the Church has grown. The textual tradition, alongside every other tradition that has arrived down to us across such a long period of time, defines us. For a Catholic, history, in whatever form it comes, is also identity.