Jesus the Ark: An Epigram from the Greek Anthology

Greek Anthology 1.62 is one of the typological or figural epigrams found in the Anthology‘s Christian material. It deals with the parting of the waters of the Jordan River in honor of the Ark of the Covenant when Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

The poem makes its typological nature clear through the use of τύπος (typos). I’ve tried to bring it out even more strongly, not only by connecting the Ark of the Covenant with Jesus (as the poem does), but also by linking Joshua and Jesus (who, of course, have the same name), as well as by the further connection of Christ to the mercy seat on the ark, evoked by the imperative ἵλαθι (hilathi, “have mercy,” translated below as “pity me”).

The Greek poem consists of a single elegiac couplet, which I have expanded to six lines of unrhymed trochaic tetrameter.

I give the Greek text according to the Loeb edition; the Loeb translation; and my rendering.

The Greek text:

Εἰς τὴν κιβωτόν, ὅτε τὸν Ἰορδάνην ἐπέρασεν

Λάρνακι χρυσείῃ ῥόος εἴκαθεν· ἵλαθι, Χριστέ,

   σὸς τύπος ἡ λάρναξ τῇδε λοεσσομένου.

The Loeb translation:

The stream yielded to the golden ark. Have mercy, O Christ: the ark is a figure of your washing here.

Trans. W.R. Paton, rev. by Michael A. Tueller

My version:

On the Ark, When it Passed Across the Jordan

Here the river Jordan yielded

To the gilded ark of Joshua.[1]

Pity me, my Mercy Seat, for

You’re the gilded Ark, O Jesus,

Baptized here for my salvation.


1 The final two syllables must be pronounced together by synizesis so that the word is disyllabic.


Related Articles


Other Articles by

Join our Community
Subscribe to receive access to our members-only articles as well as 4 annual print publications.
Share This