Saturday, 8 October 2011

Euodia and Syntyche

Good news that an ancient Greek scroll, which I have conveniently found in the toolshed, has shed new light on the situation St Paul refers to in Philippians 4. Who would have thought that, even in those days, some church council secretaries wrote out every word spoken in the meetings, no matter how relevant or otherwise?

It turns out that Syntyche's original grievance was when Euodia presented a gourd at the Philippi Harvest Festival. Euodia complained that she always gave the gourd. Syntyche pointed out that the church was only a few years old, so that was a wild use of the word "always".
From then on, it would appear, Syntyche was "a bit off" with Euodia. At the Philippi flower festival, Euodia's fuchsias were mysteriously moved to the back of the display. While in a piece of alleged skullduggery, Syntyche was unexpectedly voted out of her position in the Mothers' Union.

Things came to a head at the Christmas Faith Lunch. Annoyed by Syntyche turning up with a bigger quiche - and putting currants in the snails to make them extra posh - Euodia refused to pass her the bread. Syntyche went around complaining about Euodia - "look at her, going around making out she's so humble. Well, I'm humbler than she is..."

The trouble spread to their families. After a minor jostle in the Athens Arms over whose mother made the better jam, Euodia's eldest told his opposite number, "don't be so touchy, Son". While in the commemorative 10 Years of Philippi Church booklet, the engraving of the "church family" clearly showed Euodia's fingers making "rabbit ears" behind Syntyche.

That these two matrons of the church were able to maintain this rivalry at a time when the church was facing persecution, heresy and schism is some kind of tribute to them. The Greek language has changed, the Bible is now preached in English and is even available electronically. The note Paul dashed off on borrowed parchment during his imprisonment has been elevated to the status of Holy Scripture. But one tradition - that of rivalry and petty quarrels underming the Gospel of peace and unity - has been maintained through 2,000 years. I believe we should all feel humbled.


  1. Ouch! What a brilliant comment on tomorrow's epistle reading!

  2. All I can say is: "Follow the gourd!" (Ignore the sandal...)

  3. A brilliant piece. I just read it out to my husband, and we laughed!


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