Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Courts of Solomon

еще одна зарисовка.

Sword prudjan. In the legend whose parallel in Jellinek’s Beth ha-Midrash has been noticed already by Aleksandr Veselovskij (1880)[1] there is a hapax: an adjective прудянъ applied to “sword”. This is a rare case when the alleged source of the Slavonic cycle is available in Hebrew. In Hebrew, the word used is בדיל “tin” or “plumbum” (the sword is said to be made “from tin”, מנ הבדיל).

The context is the following[2]. Solomon tests a couple enjoying a reputation for virtue. At first, he was trying to persuade the husband to kill his wife as a proof of his loyalty before he gives him a high position. After some hesitation, the man refused and returned to Solomon the sharp sword he had give him to murder his wife. After thirty days, Solomon promises to wife that he will take her as his first wife if she murders her husband. She agreed and had no hesitation. However, Solomon gave her the sword not from iron, but from tin (or lead) while looking as if it was from iron. Only this made the murder impossible. This is why, said Solomon, “One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found” (Ecc 7:28 NRSV).

The Slavonic text has the only important difference from the above midrash in Hebrew: the sword given to the wife is prudjan. Prokhorov translates this word from the context: if the previous sword was “sharp”, then, the second sword must be “blunt” (тупой), without any etymology but with implicit harmonisation with the midrashic account (where the leaden sword was certainly blunt). For lack of other data, this is, probably, the wisest decision. Alekseev, instead, is seeking for a Hebraism (p. 51). I think, that despite his inability to perform such search[3], his intuition that there is a Semitism here could be right.

I see no appropriate word in either Hebrew or Aramaic of Rabbis but I know an interesting possibility in Syriac (however, given that the word is derived from a very productive root, there is no possibility to exclude other Aramaic dialects): ܦܪܝܕܐ (prida “fragile, putrid”)[4]. Therefore, the second sword would be a perfect counterpart of the first, being not “sharp” but “putrid”, “fragile”, “crumbling”. The wife was trying to jugulate her husband but her sword crumbled. This would make better sense than that of the Hebrew text where, in this case, the recension of the midrash could be secondary.

[1] The correct reference is not “part IV, p. 146” (as Alekseev repeats from Veselovskij) but A. Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch: Sammlung kleiner Midraschim und vermischter Abhandlungen aus der altern judischen Literatur 4 (Leipzig, 1857) 147–148 (p. 146 corresponds to the beginning of the whole collection on Solomon).

[2] Cf. an English summary of Jellinek’s text in L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 4 (Philadelphia, 1913) 135–136.

[3] Here, Alekseev constructs a long chain. He supposes that прудянъ is a corruption of some derivate of the word прутъ (in the sense of “wooden stick”). In turn, this прутъ could appear as a distortion of the Hebrew word עפרת (sic! the correct spelling is, in fact, עופרת) “lead, plumbum”, because the consonants are the same (the initial ayyin is not counted as consonant; here Alekseev is right). However, it is useful to recall that the probability of a chain of events is the product of probabilities of the individual events in this chain, that is, in our case, a vanishingly small value.

[4] Payne SmithThesaurus Syriacus, 3237, in the sense of “putris, friabilis”.


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