Sunday, June 08, 2008

Xenophon, regarding the setting aside of money for the gods.

"At this place also they distributed the money that had come in from the sale of their prisoners. The generals took over the tenth part, which they had set aside for Apollo and for Artemis of Ephesus, to keep for this religious purpose. Each general took a share of the tenth, and Neon of Asine took charge of Chirisophus's share. Later Xenophon had an offering made for Apollo and put it in the Athenian treasury at Delphi. He had it inscribed with his own name and with the name of Proxenus, who was killed with Clearchus, for he had been his friend. As for the part which belonged to Artemis of Ephesus, when Xenophon was returning from Asia on the march to Boeotia with Agesilas, he left it in the keeping of Megabyzus, the warden of the temple of Artemis, as he thought that his journey would be a risky business ..."

From Xenophon's Anabasis (aka The Persian Expedition). Written ~370BC regarding events in 401BC.

Two points are of interest. The first is the use of pillage from war as sacrifices. The second is the emphasis on "the tenth part", which reminds us of the Bible. Abraham in his victory when recovering Lot also gives a tenth to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20. Based on similarities, I suspect the tradition of a "tenth" is quite ancient, but would be curious to know where else it occurs.

2 comments:

Delirious said...

My understanding is that inherent in the word "tithe" is the meaning "tenth". "Etymology: Middle English, from Old English tēothung, from teogothian, tēothian to tithe, take one tenth
Date: before 12th century" Webster's dictionary

You mentioned Abraham. We can also read about Jacob paying a tithe: "And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." Genesis 28:22See also Leviticus 27:30-34

We can also read about tithing in Malachi 3:8-12
8 ¶ Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts."

I'm not sure why I'm uncomfortable with the idea of paying tithes from money taken as spoils of war...maybe it feels like filthy lucre or something lol. But in our religion we tithe. I think most religions do, don't they?

Looney said...

In the example I cited, it is likely that the pattern of a tenth used by the Greeks wasn't derived from associations with Judaism. This had me wondering to what extent it might be an ancient practice done elsewhere.

For example, the swastika was a pre-Christian religious symbol in Europe. It is also a symbol for temples in Japan (just pick up a local map) and the American Indians used it in some pre-Columbian art. This is enough coincidences for another Indiana Jones plot, except that these coincidences are real - not contrived. On the other hand, it is really irresponsible to make any assertions about why this symbol is so widespread among ancient cultures.

That was why the Greek reference to a tenth caught my attention. It leaves me wondering about practices in other ancient cultures including Egypt, Mesopotamia, China and India.