“The Light That Gives Us Heaven”: A Greek Epigram on Paul

Here, have a new poem. (And the last one, if you like.)

Today we have Greek Anthology 1.79, on the Apostle Paul.

As usual, I include the Greek text according to the Loeb edition, the Loeb translation, and my poetic version, which is in alternating iambic pentameters and tetrameters.

The poet makes a connection between Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, on the Damascus Road and the light with which Paul subsequently fills the world, a light that I take to be equivalent to the gospel that Paul preached.

As I try to bring out in my version, we can connect these two lights together in the closest possible way. For the light of the gospel gives us the Light of the World Himself, who is heaven personified–the Beatific Vision in which all Christians will share, the glory of God in the face of Christ, the Son who is the Sun, making our sun superfluous. As Revelation 21:23 (KJV) puts it, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

The Greek text:

Εἰς Παῦλον τὸν ἀπόστολον

Παῦλος, ἐπεὶ θεῖον σέλας οὐρανοῦ ἔδρακεν ἄντην,

    φωτὸς ἀπειρεσίου γαῖαν ἔπλησεν ὅλην.

The Loeb translation:

Paul, having seen face-to-face the divine light of heaven, filled the earth with infinite light.

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

My version:

When Paul had seen the Light of God, the Light

    That shines in heaven, face to face,

He filled with boundless light the earth, the light

    That gives us heaven, face to face. 


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