Did you know BDAG occasionally cites Aesop’s Fables? In this post, I’ll explain how you can benefit from this useful repository of evidence.
Let me begin with a word of warning. The numbering system for the fables is unsystematic and BDAG induces some struggle because of this lack of uniformity. Here are some examples to show what I mean. The entry for ἀγαθοποιέω directs the reader to “Aesop H.,” while the entry for ἀγάλλομαι points to “Aesop., Fab. 74 P.=128 H.” And under ἀρνέομαι one encounters “Aesop, Fab. 323 P.=Babrius 152.” In other words, it’s complicated.
Refer to BDAG’s section on abbreviations in the introduction for this explanation of the reference system:
Aesop, cited editions of writings associated with Aesop (VI BC) include: Aesopica, ed. BPerry 1952 (Vitae Aesopi, Sententiae, Proverbia, Fabulae); Vitae Aes., ed. Eberhard 1872 (s. Vi. Aes. below); and other editions of the fables: CHalm (H.) 1854; AChambry (Ch.) 1925; AHausrath/HHunger (H-H.), Corpus Fabularum Aesopicarum I/1 1970, I/2 1959. Synt.=Syntipas, referring to a collection of fables (date uncertain) associated with a philosopher of that name in a Sinbad-type of story, prob. of Persian origin (xli).
The best resource I’ve found for locating a fable is the website Aesopica: Aesop’s Fables in English, Latin, & Greek. From there you can access a Perry Index, Babrius Index, and Chambry Index. I’ve also found it helpful to use the indices in the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Aesop’s Fables by Laura Gibbs. You can access this for free using the preview feature on Amazon. Finally, the Loeb edition of Fables: Babrius and Phaedrus is the best place I know of to access the Greek text of these fables. The indices are also helpful. If you don’t have access to a physical copy, you can check this book out from Archive.org in one-hour increments here.
I use Accordance Bible Software to run English Content searches for “Aesop” in BDAG. This appears to locate most, if not all, of the Aesop’s Fables citations. You could also read the Loeb edition and run word searches in your Greek NT for words of interest that appear in Aesop’s Fables. Doing this very thing, I noticed how Babrius 36 (“The Oak and the Reeds”) offers an excellent specimen of ἐκπλήσσω that could be related to Matt. 19:25.
Paying close attention to these references to Aesop may yield lexical value, but they could also offer unique opportunities for illustrations in sermons or devotional thoughts. See an example of how this can be done here: