Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sceva: Initial Thoughts

I am working on the pericope in Acts 19 about the seven sons of the "Jewish high priest" (RSV) Sceva. The name "Sceva" is nowhere attested of any Jewish priestly figure, which has caused many commentators to suggest that he is a Jew who became a "chief priest" in an Imperial pagan cult. Others make much of the variant reading involving arxierewn ("high priest", RSV), suggesting the more general "chief priest" is to be preferred.

Perhaps a more interesting suggestion is offered by Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina Commentary), that the latin equivalent of the greek Skeua is in view. In Latin it means "untrustworthy". Perhaps Luke is meaning to indicate that the priesthood known first-hand to Theophilusis from "untrustworthy" stock. The "seven sons" would then represent Theophilus' and his four brothers, Annas his father, and Caiaphas his brother-in-law - all of whom have been implicated, either specifically or generally, in Luke's previous volume (for example, see
here, and here).

I understand that The Anchor Bible Dictionary (5:1004) claims that "Sceva" may mean "left-handed". I'm not yet sure if there's something to this. I will be checking this next trip to the library.

Copyright 2007


Taylor Marshall said...

The Latin "scaeua" means "left-handed" and thus "untrustworthy".

LTD said...

Yes, I make this point in an article awaiting publication, leaning more toward "untrustworthy" or "unfaithful." I believe Luke is using the themes of the faithful/unfaithful priest throughout his two volumes. My reading of Acts 19.14 is thus: "And there were of a certain unfaithful Jewish high priest seveon sons..."