Just as we were all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worth while asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I’m certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in an agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all-too-familiar sight — three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, “It’s disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can’t the authorities execute criminals humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?” Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the nature of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
In Greek, whose color lexicon did not stabilize for many centuries, the words most commonly used for blue are glaukos and kyaneos. The latter probably referred originally to a mineral or a metal; it has a foreign root and its meaning often shifted. During the Homeric period it denoted both the bright blue of the iris and the black of funeral garments, but never the blue of the sky or sea. An analysis of Homer’s poetry shows that out of sixty adjectives describing elements and landscapes in the Iliad and Odyssey, only three are color terms, while those evoking light effects are quite numerous. During the classical era, kyaneos meant a dark color: deep blue, violet, brown, and black. In fact, it evokes more the “feeling” of the color than its actual hue. The term glaukos, which existed in the Archaic period and was much used by Homer, can refer to gray, blue, and sometimes even yellow or brown. Rather than denoting a particular color, it expresses the idea of a color’s feebleness or weak concentration. For this reason it is used to describe the color of water, eyes, leaves, or honey.