White Marble Stone, The
DESCRIPTION: "Sister Dolly light the lamp, and the lamp light the road, And I wish I been there for to yedde Jordan roll." "O the city light the lamp, the white man he will sold, And I wish...." "O the white marble stone, and the white marble stone...."
EARLIEST DATE: 1866 (Allen/Ware/Garrison)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Allen/Ware/Garrison, p. 42, "The White Marble Stone" (1 text, 1 tune with a variation)
NOTES: My guess (only a guess) is that this refers to the "white stone" given to the believers in Pergamum who "conquer" in Revelation 2:17. The King James Version does not use the word "marble" to describe this stone, but interestingly the word "stone" used in this verse is unusual (psephos, used elsewhere only in Acts 26:10 of casting a vote. It also refers to small round stones that might be used on an abacus -- as opposed to some random rock you find in the ground).
The use of the word in this context is significant: when voting for or against conviction, a Greek juryman would drop a white stone to acquit, a black one to convict. Thus to give someone a white stone (psephos) was to declare not guilty.
J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (being volume 38 of the Anchor Bible), Doubleday, 1975, p. 399, says of the white stone, "The stone mentioned here is probably the tessera of ancient times, which was used variously as a voting ballot or a ticket to public functions. It was also used when drawing lots in a criminal case; the white stone was a favorable verdict, i.e. life.... Another interpretation may be that this stone is an entrance ticket into the promised land or paradise."
There is no reason to think that the stones mentioned in the Apocalypse were marble. It may just be a sort of logic: "If God is giving out a stone, it must be a high-quality one."
Don't ask me if slaves would know about the use of the word psephos, and if so, how they would have found out. In addition to Ford, I needed three Biblical concordances (Young's, for the KJV, Kohlenberger's, for the NRSV, and Moulton & Geden for Greek) and two grammars (Bauer and Liddell & Scott), plus some knowledge for Greek history, to write this note. - RBW
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