6th Sunday of Pentecost Batos Commentary

In preparation for correcting and translating liturgical texts, Minatasgeel pointed me to an interesting text that I hope will spark a fruitful discussion. Even though the text is said during the Pentecost festive period, the text has more to do with Good Friday. I thought it would be a good reflection for Good Friday. I also wanted to get your input. 

The text in Coptic is 

Ⲕⲣⲁⲛⲓⲟⲛ ⲙ̀ⲙⲉⲧⲟⲩⲉⲓⲛⲓⲛ⁚ Ⲅⲟⲗⲅⲟⲑⲁ ⲙ̀ⲙⲉⲧϩⲉⲃⲣⲉⲟⲥ⁚ ϯⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ Ϥⲟⲓⲛⲁⲃⲟⲗ⁚ ⲑⲏⲉⲧⲁⲥⲁⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̀Ⲓⲉⲣⲟⲩⲥⲁⲗⲏⲙ. Ⲡⲓⲙⲁ ⲉ̀ⲧⲁ ⲛⲓⲡⲁⲣⲁⲥⲙⲟⲥ⁚ ⲛⲓⲟⲓⲩⲇⲁⲓ ⲙ̀ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲃⲁⲧⲏⲥ⁚ ⲧⲁϫⲣⲟ ⲛ̀ϧⲏⲧϥ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲥⲧⲁⲩⲣⲟⲥ⁚ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ Ⲓⲏⲥⲟⲩⲥ ⲡⲓⲚⲁⲍⲁⲣⲉⲟⲥ.

The translation in English is

Cranion in Greek, Golgotha in Hebrew, the Rock of Fanawal ( صخرة فنوال) , which is outside of Jerusalem. This is the place where the disobedient Jews set the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth.

(Not that it is important, but "cranion" is a Greek word meaning cranium or skull. English does not have this Greek loan word. The closest English equivalent is Calvary)

So what is the Rock of Fanawal? 

I think there are three possibilities and I wanted to see which definition you find most plausible.

1. Rock of Fanawal is the Rock of Phenuel.

This is a reference to Anna in Luke 2:36-38. “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

The biblical narrative says nothing of a rock. Jerome wrote a letter to Furia about widows. (Letter 54, Nicene Fathers Vol 6). On paragraphs 16-17, noting that Phaneul means "face of God" and Asher means "blessedness and wealth”, Jerome states that as a reward for 84 years taking care of the temple, Anna's title is "the daughter of the face of God who obtained a share in the blessedness and wealth of her ancestry." Jerome continues to describe Anna’s ancestry who were widows. He compares Anna to the widow of Zarephath who gave food to Elijah (1 Kings 17), Judith who was a widow (Judith 8:4), the widows with Deborah, and Naomi (Ruth’s mother in law). Regarding Naomi, Jerome says she is the fulfillment of the law. He quotes Isaiah 16:1 "Send out a lamb, O Lord, to rule over the land from the Sela (rock of the desert) to the mount of the daughter of Zion. The Vulgate changes Isaiah 16:1 from Sela to Petra. Jerome implies that the "rock of the desert" is Moab. Therefore, the Rock of Phanuel could be an allegorical reference to Moab that was outside of Jerusalem (not just physically but spiritually), fulfilled in Christ through Naomi.

2. The Rock of Archangel Penuel

Penuel is the name of one of the four angels of the throne (Sibyllene Oracles ii, 215). In the book of Enoch, Fanuel is a variation of Penuel. In both cases, the name means "Face of God". On the flip side, Turel is the evil archangel in the Ethiopian Book of Enoch 67, 69. His name means “rock of God”. (Source: Journal of Biblical Literature 1912, "The Origin of the Names of Angels and Demons in the Extra-canonical Apocalyptic Literature." by George A Barton).  In this case, apocryphal literature may have been conflated where the name of one angel is associated with the meaning of the name of another angel. 


  • 3. Peniel is also the place in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestled with God. This was at the trans-Jordan by the River Jabbok, where Esau came to capture Jacob.  Jacob called that place Peniel "“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Gen 32:30). After Jacob met Esau, Esau left to Seir and Jacob built a house in Succoth. It is possible that the author of our liturgical text intended to associate Golgotha with Peniel allegorically since in both places God wrestled and someone saw the face of God. But how is a rock associated with Peniel? Well we have to go one chapter before in Genesis 31, where Jacob and Laban make a covenant of peace and manifest this covenant in an erection of a stone monument. In Genesis 31:45-48 it says, "So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed," So we can see here that the monument was a heap of stones. It was called Galeed. Let's look at some etymology: 

    Etymology of the name Galeed (taken from http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Galeed.html#.VRGO41xAWHs)

    The name Galeed consists of two parts. The first part is the word גל (gal), meaning heap, from the verb גלל (galal), meaning to roll:


    The verb גלל (galal) is all about rolling; it means to roll some object on, upon or away. In a figurative sense it is used in ideas like to whirl or dazzle and even to roll oneself onto the Lord, meaning to put one's trust in Him (Psalm 22:8) or to commit oneself to Him (Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 16:3). When this verb is used for physically rolling something away or somewhere else, the object is usually stones (Genesis 29:3, Joshua 10:18). 

    This root-verb's enormous array of derivations:

    The masculine noun גל (gal), meaning heap or pile (Joshua 7:26), a heap of ruins (Isaiah 25:2), or, in case of water: wave or billow (Jeremiah 5:22).

    The masculine noun גיל (gel), meaning dung (Job 20:7, Ezekiel 4:12).

    The feminine noun גלה (gulla), meaning bowl, basin or spring (Joshua 15:19, Zechariah 4:2). Note that this noun is spelled the same as the verb גלה (gala).

    The masculine noun גלל (galal), meaning dung (1 Kings 14:10).

    Scholars assume the existence of a adjective גליל (galil), meaning turning or folding, to explain the statement made in 1 Kings 6:34, that two "leaves" of a door were turning or folding. Here at Abarim Publications we don't agree that the text speaks of a door's leaves, but read our article on the root צלע (sl') for the details. We believe that this word is the same as the (obviously) identical masculine noun: גליל (galil), denoting a supporting cylinder or rod (Esther 1:6), or circuit or district (Isaiah 8:23).

    The previous noun made feminine: גלילה (gelila), meaning circuit, boundary or territory (Joshua 4:4, Ezekiel 47:8).

    The noun גלול (gillul), meaning idols (Ezekiel 22:3, 1 Kings 15:12). This word occurs only in plural. Scholars can't decide whether this noun came from the idols shapes (round/curvy?) or whether they were considered "dung-things" or crap, so to speak.

    The masculine noun גלגל (galgal), meaning wheel (Isaiah 5:28) or whirlwind (Psalm 77:18).

    The masculine noun גלגל (gilgal), meaning wheel (Isaiah 28:28 only).

  • The feminine noun גלגלת (gulgoleth), meaning skull or head. Note that the noun פנימ (panim), meaning face, comes from the verb פנה (pana), meaning to turn. Also note that in Biblical times the head did not hold the same regard as it does to us today. To us the image of a skull represents death or danger, but that symbolism is not Biblical. In Biblical times, the head was also not regarded as the seat of the mind or the intellect, but rather as the most public part of the body, comparable with the door of a house or city. The head was seen as the seat of individual personality, or rather a person's public profile. It was the part of a person with which that person engaged others and the world around him. One consumed food via the head, listened to others, spoke to others and viewed others, but the head was not seen as a repository or reservoir of anything. Our word occurs a mere 13 times in the Bible, half of which in the context of literally a head- (skull-) count (Exodus 38:26, Numbers 1:2, 1 Chronicles 23:13). In Exodus 16:16, the Israelites are commanded to gather one omer of manna per "skull" (something similar occurs in Exodus 38:26 and Numbers 3:47). In Judges 9:53, a certain woman drops a mill stone on Abimelech's head, thus crushing his skull and with it his personhood, in 2 Kings 9:35 we find what's left of Jezebel after the dogs are done with her: her hands and feet and her skull, and in 1 Chronicles 10:10 Saul's skull ends up in the temple of Dagon. Note that all gospels emphasize that Jesus died on Golgotha (or Calgary in Luke, which means the same), which is obviously highly significant when one realizes that the name Golgotha comes from our word גלגלת (gulgoleth), and what that word meant to the gospel's audience.

  • The second part of the name Galeed is the word עד ('ed), meaning witness, which comes from the verb עוד ('ud), meaning to return or repeat:


    The verb עוד ('ud) occurs all over the Semitic language spectrum, in meanings such as to return or repeat. In the Bible it occurs only four times (only in the Psalms) and tends to mean to encircle (Psalm 119:61), or restore (Psalm 146:9). This verb's derivations occur much more frequently:

    The substantive עוד ('od), expressing addition or repetition (Genesis 7:4), or continuance (Genesis 18:22).

    The masculine noun עד ('ed), meaning witness (Exodus 20:16, Job 16:19 ).

    The feminine noun עדה ('eda), meaning testimony or witness (Genesis 21:30).

    The denominative verb עוד ('ud), meaning to bear witness (1 Kings 21:10, Isaiah 8:2), or to protest or warn (Jeremiah 6:10, Amos 3:13).

    The feminine noun עדה ('eda), meaning testimony. This word only occurs in plural: עדת('edot; Deuteronomy 4:35, Psalm 25:10).

    The feminine noun עדת ('edut), also spelled עדות ('edut), meaning testimony, and that usually of the Law (Exodus 31:18, Psalm 19:7).

    The feminine noun תעודה (te'uda), meaning testimony (Isaiah 8:16) or attestation (Ruth 4:7).

    For a meaning of the name Galeed, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Hill Of Witness. NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Heap Of Witness.

    As you can see Galeed is taken from the same root word of Golgotha. The rock heap of Galeed in Genesis 31 is a symbol of a covenant like Golgotha is a stone monument of a covenant between God and mankind. In this “Galeed”, man saw the face of God suffering on the cross. As a city, Galeed was geographically very close to Peniel. Given the association of Galeed to Golgotha and Galeed to Peniel, it is likely that the Rock of Peniel was a conflation of the Hill of Witness (Galeed) and the Face of God (Peniel). In other words, it should say "the Galeed of Peniel". But since Galeed is normally understood as a geographical biblical place, not a heap or hill of stones, our author likely changed Galeed to Rock. 

    Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no recorded manuscript that speaks of a "rock of Phanuel", a "rock of Peniel", a "rock of Galeed", "a Galeed of Peniel", etc. However, there is another allegorical reason why I think  our liturgical text is speaking of Peniel, not Phanuel (neither Anna's father or the archangel). 

    In Judges 8, Gideon asks for help from the men of Succoth (remember that name) and the men of Penuel, but they refused to help Gideon and his soldiers. When Gideon defeated the Midianites and their 15,000 soldiers, he returned to Succoth, took the elders of Succoth with thorns of the wilderness and briers and taught the men of Succoth. But when he went to Penuel, he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. This leads me to believe that at some point, another heap of stone was erected as a tower monument in Penuel, as it was done in Galeed. But this stone monument of Penuel was destroyed because of the unfaithfulness of the Jews in Penuel. In our liturgical text, the second verse describes the Jews as disobedient law-breakers. It is here that the once valued stone monuments that symbolized obedience to a covenant and the face of God, or an encounter with God, has become a symbol of Jewish disobedience of the law (or more accurately, the covenant). 

    I think this is the intended meaning of the "Rock of Foinabol/Fanawal“. What are your thoughts? Anybody have any other possibilities? Sorry for the multiple posts.

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