Adventures in NT Greek: Is Jesus a vegetable?

Today I’m working my way through John 6, the famous “bread of life” chapter. I noticed something curious in a section where Jesus is contrasting the “true food” of his body with the manna Moses fed the Israelites in the desert. Throughout the passage, he uses what seems to me to be the more usual verb for eat, ἐσθίω, including when referring to eating his body. But when he’s drawing a contrast, he uses a verb I hadn’t seen before, τρώγω, which appears to connote primarily the eating of vegetables, particularly by herbivorous animals — but also human “snacking” on similar light fare. Are we to graze on Jesus, presumably as a food source that’s more reliable than manna, which only lasts a single day at a time?

The LSJ does have a later meaning for the term that says it is a substitute present tense for ἐσθίω, but there’s a verse in which both appear, in what’s hard not to read as a clear and intentional contrast: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἐζ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, οὐ καθὼς ἔφαγον οἱ πατέρες καὶ ἀπέθανον· ὁ τρώγων τοῦτον τὸν ἄρτον ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (6:58; “this is the bread that comes down from heaven, not like the fathers ate and died; the one who eats this bread will live forever). Of course, there is the tense issue that the LSJ mentions….

While I’m here, I have another issue: when the disciples are gathering up the leftovers from the feeding of the 5000, the text uses the verb συνάγω. Is this meant to evoke the synagogue, and hence to symbolize gathering up the “remnant” of Israel?

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6 Responses to “Adventures in NT Greek: Is Jesus a vegetable?”

  1. Craig McFarlane Says:

    What word is used in Genesis 1:29 when Adam and Eve are explicitly told to be vegans?

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Whatever word it is, it’s a Hebrew word. The lexicon also indicates that τρώγω doesn’t appear in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

  3. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Good point: Greek and Hebrew are different languages.

  4. CaboTennisDude Says:

    I copied + pasted the LXX of Genesis 1:29 if that helps:

    καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν πᾶν χόρτον σπόριμον σπεῖρον σπέρμα ὅ ἐστιν ἐπάνω πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πᾶν ξύλον ὃ ἔχει ἐν ἑαυτῷ καρπὸν σπέρματος σπορίμου ὑμῖν ἔσται εἰς βρῶσιν

    My Hebrew is rusty, but that last phrase in the LXX looks to me like a fairly exact translation of the Hebrew text:
    לָכֶם יִֽהְיֶה לְאָכְלָֽה (“and it shall be for you for eating”)

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    So to answer Craig’s question, it’s not a verb, but the noun βρῶσις, which appears to refer to food in a generic sense (and can include meat in other contexts, though it’s clear that it’s only plants here).

  6. Bruce Rosenstock Says:

    Alliteration? Contrast between the p sounds of the epagon and pateres and apethanon, and the tr/rt sounds of the new food, trogon and artos. Just a nice way to reinforce the contrast. Maybe.


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