“Uncanny King, Perplexing Priest”: An Epigram from the Greek Anthology

I’ve got a new translation, or rather “translation,” to share today, again from Book 1 of the Greek Anthology and again on the Old Testament read typologically.

Today’s poem is on Melchizedek and his mysterious appearance in Genesis 14. The Greek epigram consists of one elegiac couplet, which–as in the case of the previous poem–I have expanded and rendered in nine lines of unrhymed iambic tetrameter.

I’ve taken the anonymous author’s hint in τύπος [typos] and run with it, making a number of explicit New Testament connections.

I know that today is Reformation Day, and this poem is not directly about the Reformation. But indirectly, it is: for the Reformation represented a recovery of the gifts of God for the people of God, and that is what my version below is about. One might even say that that is implicitly true of the original.

Anyway, here is Greek Anthology 1.66. I give the Greek text according to the Loeb edition; the Loeb translation; and my paraphrase.

The Greek text:

Εἰς τὸν Μελχισεδὲκ διδοῦντα τῷ Ἀβραὰμ οἶνον καὶ ἄρτους

—Μελχισεδὲκ βασιλεῦ, ἱερεῦ, ἄρτους τε καὶ οἶνον

    ὡς τίς ἐὼν παρέχεις; —ὡς τύπος ἀτρεκίης.

The Loeb translation:

“Melchisedek, king and priest, who are you to give bread and wine?”

“A figure of Truth.”

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

My version:

On Melchizedek, When He Gave Wine and Bread to Abraham

“Melchizedek, uncanny king,

Perplexing priest, whence do you come

With bread and wine? As who do you

Provide these gifts?” “I am a type

Of him who is to come: the one

Who is the Way, the Truth, the Life,

Who gives his body for the feast,

For healing potion potent blood,

Under the signs of bread and wine—

Who says, before you were, ‘I AM.’”


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