In any of the documents I have at hand, I have only come across the word eleon, (note the spelling) which is derived from the Greek word eleos (mercy), not elaion (olive or olive oil). Not sure where the author got the idea that the original form was “oil”. Given that almost every word in the Liturgy is from scripture, it seems very odd to me that “oil” could ever have been the original form, due to the complete match of the scripture passage “I will have mercy and not sacrifice” with the opening words of the hymn.
The only problem is that it doesn't make any sense from a linguistic perspective.
From Fr. Demetrios Hatzidakis' book The Heavenly Banquet
Besides being very hard to explain what 'a mercy of peace' might mean, there is a grammatical problem with this construction. Eleon
has to be in the accusative (objective) case, as thysian
is (paratatic construction, common in Hebrew). But the accusative of to eleos
is to eleos
- and not to eleon
! However, there might be another solution.
It is possible that eleon
is a corruption of elaion
. We would then have two parallel constructions: accusative with genitive: elaion eirenes, thysian aineseos
.... We decline here the two nouns for a clearer understanding:
Nominative. to eleos to elaion
Genitive. tou eleous tou elaiou
Dative. to eleei to elaio
Accusative to eleos to elaion
Now, to bring a couple of examples to illustrate what we say. In the Septuagint text we read:Ei oun poiete ymeis eleos kai dikaiosynen
- Gen. 24:49; and eleoskai aletheia autou tis ekzetesei auton
- Ps. 60:7.E ge epakousetai ton siton kai ton oinon kaito elaion
- Hos. 22:24; and Epi ton oinon kai to elaion
- Hag. 1:11.
and vice versa was common, since the diphthong was pronounced the same way as the epsilon. Thus, in Ps. 88:20 we have 'With my oil I have anointed him.' In some manuscripts we have the alternate reading 'mercy.' Also in Ps. 91:10, "I have been anointed with fresh oil.' Certainly no one would mean to say 'anointed with fresh mercy,' yet this is the reading in two important manuscripts, having eleo
instead of elaio
. In Ps. 101:1, we have: 'I will sing of mercy and justice'. Surely no one would want to sing of 'oil and justice,' yet this is how a manuscript has it. In Ruth 3:10 we have: 'Blessed are you, my daughter, for you have shown more kindness.' A manuscript has 'oil'. There are more examples.
There is a further complication, however: eleon
can also be masculine, o eleos
! Thus is Mt. 12:23 a few manuscripts have ten krisin kai ton eleon
, whereas the majority have ten krisin kai to eleos
. Also in the inaudible prayer offered immediately after the consecration in St. Basil's Liturgy, we have 'ina euromen eleon
', 'that we may find mercy'.... Therefore, in the construction eleon eirenes, thysian aineseos
could stand grammatically, since without the article the gender cannot be determined.
OK, it's me again. In my mind, what the hymn is referencing isn't the passage "I will have mercy and not sacrifice," but rather the two-fold offerings that we offered at the Temple: the oil offering (which the LXX uses eleos
for) and the animal offerings (thysias
Also, what exactly is 'a mercy of peace'? Could someone explain that to me?