Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

As I have been writing on the psalms in a predictable fashion, reading them as one would read a novel, and as I have been correcting broken links in my journey through old things that I and others have said on the psalms, I occasionally come across some funny old posts - here's one on letter counts - complete with a query on what letters are used and not used in each of the psalms.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas walk - 2010

The sun shone brightly this morning on the waters of the Straits of Georgia and on the peaks of the Olympic mountains in Washington across the water from us.

Monday 20 December 2010

Christmas 2010

#3 – 906 St Charles Street, 19 December 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
This has been a year of celebration and sadness, farewells and feasts.
2010-11, the 25th anniversary of the GVYO, is dedicated to the memory of our beloved director János Sándor, who died in May. The baton has passed to his colleague, student and friend Yariv Aloni, whom János mentored as he had countless musicians throughout his full rich life. Silver Season concerts this fall featured superb performances by alumni Jonathan Crow (Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto) and Sarah MacDonald (Poulenc Organ Concerto), commending 25 years of Work in Progress, the title of a film made about the GVYO in this banner and memorable year.
Diana continues her work with the orchestra, as 25th Anniversary Project Coordinator. She had the privilege of presenting a reflection at the memorial service for János. This was the second of two ‘micro-sermons’ Di was asked to give during the year, the first having been for one of the services celebrating St. John’s Church 150th anniversary year. Preparing a sermon is a significant and humbling task.
Bob, now post 65, is still working at AMA and immersed in the study of Hebrew poetry. The language was great for identifying hummus in Israeli grocery stores – that's חומס, roughly.

Here is our year-in-review. You’ll see our busy-ness did not prevent an inordinate amount of holiday travels!

February: Ten days on the Big Island of Hawaii with our friends John and Helen Money – tennis every day, flowers galore, stargazing, snorkelling, coffee tasting, and hiking around volcanoes.

April: after 15 years we finally bought a new car – a Prius (Hybrid), a good thing considering all this holidaying!

May-June: after a quick trip to Winnipeg Di and Simon took a road trip west through the Rockies to meet Bob and Jennifer and Stephanie in the Okanagan, for a holiday with Bob's brother Bill and wife Jeanne, and Di’s brother Jim and wife Ardis, not to mention the dogs. Biking, barbecuing, more tennis and wine tasting! The Chateau St-Charles Winery, after declaring incompetence, is now officially out of business.

June: Di and Simon threw a surprise party for Jeremy’s 40th birthday. Jer put red windshield wipers on the Civic!

July: here at home for a sail on the HMCS Oriole with GVYO friends, two wonderful weeks of Duruflé with Garth MacPhee – and more tennis!

August: Di flew to UK for Sarah’s organ recital at St Paul's Cathedral London and visited the sweet little house in Cambridge newly bought and proudly owned by Sarah and Marcus. Di joined Marcus and Rita as groupies on tour to Paris where Sarah conducted Ely Cathedral Girls at Notre Dame (and others). We ate pastries, climbed la Tour Eiffel and finally visited Musée d’Orsay, then returned to London where Sarah directed the girls, now joined by the Lay Clerks, at Evensong in Westminster Abbey.
And Di arrived home just in time to prepare…

September: a second surprise party, this time for Bob’s 65th, with lots of friends, family and surprise guests, Simon and Jennifer. Two days later Bob flew to Ottawa. Di joined Bob the following week and we drove to Kingston to hear Sarah's Selwyn College Chapel Choir on tour, and to meet Bob's old school friend Peter whom he had not seen for 48 years (a story in itself). Di returned home and Bob flew to the UK for a conference on the Psalms in Oxford followed by two weeks reading at the University Library in Cambridge, again thanks to the very patient and ubiquitous Sarah - talk about seven-league boots!

But wait – we’re not finished – we met, next month in …

October: Jerusalem! - fulfilling years of anticipation, and no small preparation. Of course this visit just happened to coincide with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 75th Anniversary Tour, and we watched Jennifer dance in two performances! After 12 days ‘walking about Zion and considering her citadels’ Di ‘translates’ the psalm: Jerusalem is builded as a city that is at enmity with itself. Bob’s take is similar: Jerusalem is built as a pomegranate in razor wire.

We had time to explore everything from Holy Sepulchre and Yad Vashem (Sho’a memorial designed by Canada’s Moishe Safdie) to the City of David (Hezekiah’s Tunnel, 7th Century BCE) and the more we saw the more we felt we needed to see. But time ran out and we took to the road with our Lonely Planet Guide and spent nine days exploring the rest of this ancient and complex Land that is called Holy.
We had walked the ramparts above the old romantic walls of Jerusalem. We were ushered through the new and frighteningly unromantic walls of its neighbour Bethlehem. There be scaffolding in the Church of the Nativity and shops where olive wood is sold in abundance. High-rises are cheek by jowl on the hillsides. The Dead Sea is weird and Di got muddy. Qumran is hot. The hills above the Sea of Galilee are as cool and vegetarian as our own Hornby Island. The Golan Heights and Nimrod’s Castle are high and mighty. The town of Nazareth is bewildering, but our stay there was a highlight. We were housed in a partially restored Ottoman mansion owned, managed and staffed by Jews, Christians and Moslems, some paid, others volunteers from around the globe. Eventually we found ourselves in Tel Aviv on the beach for 36 hours, just prior to the long flights home, where it took weeks to realize we were not in hotels halfway around the world.
There are many pictures – the summary is here:
And while you're there, do take a gander at Bob's translations. Especially fun is Qohelet in the style of Dr Seuss.
Our love and Christmas Blessings to you all.
Bob and Di

Sunday 19 December 2010

Letters I never knew disappear or get the L outa here

I am working my way through the psalms - and posting little as I study 'the vocabulary of recurrence', that is my 500 or so words that sound alike or have the same roots in the 19500 word forms in the psalter.

What do you make of psalm 49 - the verb acquire, לָקַח, get, actually drops the letter ל from the root like weak I-yod and I-nun verbs drop their yods and nuns!  I had not seen this before in studying letter behaviour among Hebrew word forms.

Only in psalm 49 - see text here - does this word recur as a potential frame in the psalter.

Here is the bit that is framed - selah - think about it.
you will not fear when someone becomes rich
for the increase of the glory of his house

Sunday 12 December 2010

The day of the performance

The day of the rehearsal

Here are some pictures from our Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra concert with my daughter, Sarah, playing the Poulenc Organ Concerto.  Sorry I can't give you an excerpt. It was a stunning work in performance the next day.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

The Senior Testament

How's that for a nice name for the OT?

Now, here's the question or two.

I would love to see developed thoughts on the Senior Testament connections to the unity texts of ch. 17 of John.

Doesn't that sound like a good thesis topic?

And #2

Why is it that Jesus calls his commandment a 'new' commandment?

Saturday 4 December 2010


Psalms 39, 62, and 77 all have a superscription to Jeduthun (39) or against Jeduthun (62, 77). Jeduthun is a name used elsewhere as noted in this article from Wikiperdia - ha ha - you can verify the references.

Jim West asked about this on his Biblical Studies list. He wonders 'are there instances in the psalms where 'al' is definitely used in connection with a clearly proper noun?' My posts don't show up on that list, so I am posting my answer here. The list can't handle unicode, and I don't get email from it - too much volume on questions that I have little or no interest in. But it looks as if there will be a good discussion coming up January 10 list on Jesus, John and History with guest Tom Thatcher. (You need to be a member of this group to see the list).

In the Psalms, על is used with proper names such as the name of God, or Zion, or Edom, or Israel. Other uses of the preposition are in the list below. It seems to me that there would not be any distinction in a language of what prepositions can be used with common or proper nouns. While there are few personal names in the psalms, the examples show that other classes of proper nouns (place names, the Divine name) are used with this preposition.

על in the psalms: is על used with proper names?


Psalm 1.3על פלגי

Psalm 1.5על כן

Psalm 2.2על יהוה

Psalm 2.6על ציון

Psalm 3.9על עמך

Psalm 4.5על משׁכבכם

Psalm 6.1על השׁמינית

Psalm 7.1על דברי

Psalm 7.11על אלהים

Psalm 8.1על הגתית

Psalm 8.2על השׁמים

Psalm 9.1על מות

Psalm 9.20על פניך

Psalm 10.12על מה

Psalm 10.3על תאות

Psalm 11.2על יתר

Psalm 11.6על רשׁעים

Psalm 14.2על בני

Psalm 15.3על לשׁנו

Psalm 15.3על קרבו

Psalm 15.5על נקי

Psalm 16.4על שׂפתי

Psalm 18.11על כרוב

Psalm 18.11על כנפי

Psalm 18.42על יהוה

Psalm 18.43על פני

Psalm 18.50על כן

Psalm 19.7על קצותם

Psalm 21.13על פניהם

Psalm 22.1על אילת

Psalm 22.10על שׁדי

Psalm 23.1על מי

Psalm 24.2על ימים

Psalm 25.8על כן

Psalm 27.6על איבי

Psalm 29.3על המים

Psalm 29.3על מים

Psalm 31.17על עבדך

Psalm 31.19על צדיק

Psalm 31.24על יתר

Psalm 32.6על זאת

Psalm 35.13על חיקי

Psalm 36.5על משׁכבו

Psalm 36.5על דרך

Psalm 37.10על מקומו

Psalm 37.11על רב

Psalm 37.4על יהוה

Psalm 37.5על יהוה

Psalm 39.12על עון

Psalm 40.16על עקב

Psalm 40.3על סלע

Psalm 41.4על ערשׂ

Psalm 42.2על אפיקי

Psalm 42.7על כן

Psalm 45.1על שׁשׁנים

Psalm 45.18על כן

Psalm 45.3על כן

Psalm 45.4על ירך

Psalm 45.5על דבר

Psalm 45.8על כן

Psalm 46.0על עלמות

Psalm 46.2על כן

Psalm 47.3על כל

Psalm 47.9על גוים

Psalm 47.9על כסא

Psalm 48.11על קצוי

Psalm 48.15על מות

Psalm 49.7על חילם

Psalm 50.8על זבחיך

Psalm 51.21על מזבחך

Psalm 53.1על מחלת

Psalm 53.3על בני

Psalm 55.11על חומתיה

Psalm 55.23על יהוה

Psalm 56.1על יונת

Psalm 56.8על און

Psalm 57.12על השׁמים

Psalm 57.12על כל

Psalm 57.6על השׁמים

Psalm 57.6על כל

Psalm 60.1על שׁושׁן

Psalm 60.10על אדום

Psalm 61.1על נגינת

Psalm 61.7על ימי

Psalm 62.1על ידותון

Psalm 62.4על אישׁ

Psalm 62.8על אלהים

Psalm 63.11על ידי

Psalm 63.7על יצועי

Psalm 66.5על בני

Psalm 68.30על ירושׁלם

Psalm 68.35על ישׂראל

Psalm 69.1על שׁושׁנים

Psalm 69.28על עונם

Psalm 70.4על עקב

Psalm 71.14על כל

Psalm 72.13על דל

Psalm 72.6על גז

Psalm 74.13על המים

Psalm 77.1על ידותון

Psalm 79.9על דבר

Psalm 79.9על חטאתינו

Psalm 80.18על אישׁ

Psalm 80.18על בן

Psalm 81.1על הגתית

Psalm 81.6על ארץ

Psalm 81.8על מי

Psalm 83.19על כל

Psalm 83.4על עמך

Psalm 83.4על צפוניך

Psalm 84.1על הגתית

Psalm 88.1על מחלת

Psalm 89.20על גבור

Psalm 89.48על מה

Psalm 89.8על כל

Psalm 90.13על עבדיך

Psalm 90.16על בניהם

Psalm 91.12על כפים

Psalm 91.13על שׁחל

Psalm 94.2על גאים

Psalm 94.21על נפשׁ

Psalm 95.3על כל

Psalm 96.4על כל

Psalm 97.9על כל

Psalm 97.9על כל

Psalm 99.2על כל

Psalm 99.8על עלילותם

Psalm 102.8על גג

Psalm 103.11על הארץ

Psalm 103.11על יראיו

Psalm 103.13על בנים

Psalm 103.13על יראיו

Psalm 103.17על יראיו

Psalm 104.3על כנפי

Psalm 104.5על מכוניה

Psalm 104.6על הרים

Psalm 105.16על הארץ

Psalm 106.17על עדת

Psalm 106.22על ים

Psalm 106.32על מי

Psalm 106.7על ים

Psalm 107.40על נדיבים

Psalm 108.10על אדום

Psalm 108.6על שׁמים

Psalm 109.20על נפשׁי

Psalm 109.6על ימינו

Psalm 110.4על דברתי

Psalm 110.5על ימינך

Psalm 110.6על ארץ

Psalm 110.7על כן

Psalm 113.4על כל

Psalm 113.4על השׁמים

Psalm 115.1על חסדך

Psalm 115.1על אמתך

Psalm 119.104על כן

Psalm 119.127על כן

Psalm 119.128על כן

Psalm 119.129על כן

Psalm 119.136על לא

Psalm 119.162על אמרתך

Psalm 119.164על משׁפטי

Psalm 119.17על עבדך

Psalm 119.49על אשׁר

Psalm 119.62על משׁפטי

Psalm 121.5על יד

Psalm 124.4על נפשׁנו

Psalm 124.5על נפשׁנו

Psalm 125.3על גורל

Psalm 125.5על ישׂראל

Psalm 128.6על ישׂראל

Psalm 129.3על גבי

Psalm 132.3על ערשׂ

Psalm 133.2על הראשׁ

Psalm 133.2על הזקן

Psalm 133.2על פי

Psalm 133.3על הררי

Psalm 136.6על המים

Psalm 137.1על נהרות

Psalm 137.2על ערבים

Psalm 137.4על אדמת

Psalm 137.6על ראשׁ

Psalm 138.2על חסדך

Psalm 138.2על כל

Psalm 138.7על אף

Psalm 139.14על כי

Psalm 141.3על דל

Psalm 145.9על כל

Psalm 146.5על יהוה

Psalm 148.13על ארץ

Psalm 149.5על משׁכבותם

Thursday 2 December 2010

Must not spare the praise for Psalm 9 CEV

I like very much the laying out of the acrostic letters in Psalm 9. The layout implies that daleth is verse 6. It is the ד that is missing - verse 6 (Hebrew verse 7) is ה.

There is a suggestion that Psalm 10 is also part of the acrostic, but there only one letter ל is noted. There are more: מ, נ, ס, ע, פ, צ are missing but the remainder ק ר ש ת are quite clear.

It is such a good idea to name and note the Hebrew letters. It gives the reader the sense that the text is old and different and not 'common'.

There are 8 opportunities to teach the letters, but they have taken only 2: Psalm 9 and Psalm 119. These are opportunities missed, I think. Particularly since all the acrostics in book 5 are perfect but each in book 1 is missing at least one letter.

My Sunday School children love learning the Hebrew letters. They particularly like puzzles - like why are the acrostics not perfect in book 1 but are in book 5?

These are ordinary uncommon children.

Here's a great invention

Blogwater into wine

Monday 29 November 2010

CEB Psalm 3 and victory or the shopping-list Bible

I guess that some things that I consider important are not important to others. E.g. in Psalm 3, God and salvation are a pair of recurring words - verse 3(Hebrew 2) and 8(7) - and note verse 9(8) where salvation is from YHWH. It is the first time we have heard the designation God. And a first for salvation / victory / rescue also.

The CEB uses three different words: help, save, rescue for the three words related to salvation so the framing of the poem is rendered practically invisible.

What should one do here? Am I wrong to pick salvation for my gloss to rhyme with the verb to save?

At least - or so I think - the same root could be used three times. rescue, rescue, rescue. That would allow the poet's thought to be heard and seen.

Maybe my ways of seeing are less than interesting. Maybe these are not the same roots. (But they are)

Why do I bother looking for and pointing out structure? Because it often surrounds a key concept that I would otherwise miss. OK everyone knows that YHWH is God so no need to point out that the poet implies this connection here.

Here's another small point. Is there such a thing as a space between the lines? A space in which we are encouraged to hear a special word for us?

I lie down and I sleep
אֲנִי שָׁכַבְתִּי וָאִישָׁנָה
I awake for יְהוָה sustains me
הֱקִיצוֹתִי כִּי יְהוָה יִסְמְכֵנִי

I lie down, sleep, and wake up
because the LORD helps me

The second is a list of actions with the 'and' connecting the second and third in the list. The first has a pause where there is not a list. Am I at liberty to convert a non-list into a list?

Technically, the first is very close to the Hebrew. I did not note the separate personal pronoun as I often do, since it is not repeated in the poem. It might be emphatic, or it might just be there to equalize the syllable or word count on the consecutive lines. If the Hebrew is poetry, then the first follows the poet's selection of phrases.

This is a battle I will not win. But I have no intention of winning. What was it that verse 9 (Hebrew 8) reads?

Anyway, it's time to watch Mystery.

CEB Psalm 1

The first verse
The truly happy person
doesn't follow wicked advice
doesn't stand etc
These persons love the Lord's Instruction
They are like a tree
replanted ...
which bears fruit
That's not true for the wicked
They are like dust

I want to illustrate what I think is important that is missed here. Though I realize that my translation is often stilted, I wonder about other modern translations and what we have lost in our sensitivity to our own language.

Verse 1 - misses the chiasm a-b,b-a,b-a in the trio of thoughts. I am glad they kept the singular at least in verse 1. The opening 'truly happy' is a false sequence in human thought. What do you think - is happiness a consequence or a prevenient grace? A sequence - do this and you will be happy, or a mystery of the interaction of hidden dimensions?

(skipping the complex 'instead of doing these things', an explanatory gloss in a poem)
'These persons' -  the switch to plural here is potentially a misreading of the Psalter. In any case, it is not yet plural.

replanted - what's wrong with transplanted or just planted? Transplant is surely a very common word for trees.
The tree is singular, 'they' is plural. What does that do to the English agreement of relative pronoun and verb?

'dust' - this misses the harvest image. It is arguable that harvest (psalm 67) is a centrepiece of the Psalter. So missing the image here is unfortunate. The chaff is a necessary part of fruitfulness.

Friday 26 November 2010

On Conversation

A conversation is empty
when the verse is without a reader
when the con is by itself
without with
when there is no one hearing the converse

A few years ago, I had a conversation with Iyov, whom I miss. Here is the conversation reworked.

About 165 years ago the Reverend J. M. Neale D.D. began a comprehensive collection of the interpretations of primitive and medieval commentators of the psalms. His work, he writes "is not, in the slightest degree, critical. My acquaintance with the Hebrew is far too limited to enable me to offer anything of value in that way." He strives rather to trace "above all things, their mystical meaning." Yet a paragraph later he also says that "not one single mystical interpretation through the present commentary" (2400 or so pages) "is original; and (if I may venture on the term) that fact constitutes its chief value."

Christians read and hear that word mystical in the prayer that follows communion: that we are members of his mystical body. Mystical and incarnate. Mysterious and flesh. Mystery and body.

It seems to me that what is there in the psalms is the same as what is in the New Testament, the offer and the reality of relationship, mysterious and incarnate, now as then and for ever. In this I find myself unable to consider many discussions and studies as approaching the mystery. Explanation will not do as a substitute for understanding. To the extent that discussion separates the doing and the hearing, the form and the action, the obedience and the presence, to that extent, the discussion becomes a substitute for the reality of relationship. And it is then a distraction.

I like the Reverend Neale's approach, collecting the record. But since we can only come to the record gradually, we must learn something more foundational and secure than a collection of memories or opinions or even confessional truths. But will Neale's appeal to the mystical do? Many would not agree especially since he and most of his collection appeal only to a New Testament Christological view of the psalms.

Applying an adjective to this will prove to be difficult. There are more than two ways of understanding and even the many ways can be distracting. But bear with the catalogue, for it may be useful when the fire starts. If we are to express the mystery of our participation in covenant, we must learn many languages and find how to refine our use of the term Christ, a word derived from the Greek for Anointing.

Harry Caplan in "The Four Senses of Scriptural Interpretation and the Mediaeval Theory of Preaching", Speculum, Vol. 4, No. 3. (Jul., 1929), pp. 282-290 lists nine methods of expanding a sermon from a late Dominican tractate professing the influence of St Thomas Aquinas:
  1. through concordance of authorities,
  2. through discussion of words,
  3. through explanation of the properties of things,
  4. through a multiplication of senses,
  5. through analogies and natural truths,
  6. through marking of an opposite,
  7. through comparisons,
  8. through interpretation of a name,
  9. through multiplication of synonyms.
He then subdivides number 4: "Senses are multiplied in four ways:
  1. according to the sensus historicus or literalis, by a simple explanation of the words;
  2. according to the sensus tropologicus, which looks to instruction or to the correction of morals.
  3. according to the sensus allegoricus... a sense other than the literal.
  4. the sensus anagogicus, used mystically or openly, 'the minds of the listeners are to be stirred and exhorted to the contemplation of heavenly things.'"
A list of nine items with the fourth subdivided is like a long board supported by one leg and is inherently unstable. Of the making of many taxonomies there is no end, but hierarchy and subdivision are useful for visualization and understanding.

Here is another saying: on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets distinctly organizes for us, the hearers, a challenge to interpret the instruction (law) and the prophetic corpus in terms that are subordinate to love of God and love of neighbour. At the same time, we are told that love of God is to be with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and that the second great commandment is like the first. So here we have a laminated board supported by two broad legs or perhaps three if we include the psalms and the other writings. This is a stable and unified structure. One can not only sit under it but one can stand on it with some degree of safety. (I say some degree for the degree must involve learning which will involve both study and correction.) One can also liken the saying to the identification of a pair of handles with which we can lift the canonical texts and watch the hanging pieces as one can watch a mobile in a child's bedroom.

Point 3 above, the sense of allegory, is apophatically defined (a sense other than the literal) in such a way as to allow us to make "anything out of anything" as J. M. Neale puts it in his Dissertation on the Mystical and Literal Interpretation of the Psalms. (p 429 Commentary on the Psalms, Neale and Littledale 1860/1874.)

The problem of subdivision is one I have spent my life with as a student and teacher of data analysis. Theology and Biblical Studies require a similar distinction of difference. Data is notoriously difficult to pin down. When are two classes of thing different? When will they subdivide into three? How does one balance a useful subdivision? The emphasis, for the limited time we have, must be first of all, useful. Our birth and death make usefulness a necessity. To be useful, a taxonomy needs to be understood and retained by our limited memory. So we frequently find subdivisions into 4. These are common in teaching. For example the medicine wheel of North American native tribes subdivides many concepts into the four directions, and animals, colours, and so on are used as imagery for pedagogy. This teaching encourages a metaphorical view of life and its many problems and mysteries.

We can see by the title of Neale's dissertation that he is dividing the Interpretations into the Mystical and Literal. His twofold division would not be understood the same way today, for his Mystical is largely Christological and Typological or as he later notes 'spiritual' and his Literal encompasses today's historical critics rather than those who might be named literalists today.

What an enormous problem! Nine items is too long a board for one leg, but everything with only two legs, the mystical and the literal, is equally problematical. Where will we find a 'useful' decomposition?

Neale lists the same fourfold decomposition cited by Caplan which was, he writes, "well known from very early times: Litera scripta docet: qui credes, Allegoria: quid speres, Anagoge: quid agas, Tropologia." So he says "S. Gregory the Great composed his Morals on Job, keeping his skeins of meaning separate."

Let's wonder how we can put new things into the skeins without their breaking and spilling whatever skeins might spill.
  • Docet is teaching, from the written letter. This summarizes the whole.
  • Allegory: similarity, metaphor, image, applicability. These invite consideration: of bread to teaching, of yeast to power, of escape, of promise, of making present an ancient event, of participation, of love. I would seriously question, however, the necessity of allegory for belief. But certainly, such creative work can express the engagement of faith.
  • Anagogy is hope
  • Tropology: this too is figurative but is used of action and moral edification.
It will be seen immediately that this is not a fourfold subdivision but is governed as a whole by the issue of teaching. It is really a threefold division. But surely it is too simplistic to identify, as Neale does, the allegorical with the spiritual! Words are so slippery, and so creative. How will the word slip into us creatively? How will we learn? Our own human limits of comfort in complexity react pleasantly to a fourfold subdivision. But we demand clarity! It will not do to make "anything out of anything".
Caplan has another fourfold division:
  1. Peshat, plain meaning
  2. Remez, allegorical meaning
  3. Derash, homiletic (or midrashic) meaning
  4. Sod, mystical (or hidden) meaning
There are corresponding meanings in traditional Christian exegesis as well. When Neale says "mystical", he means primarily "allegorical" or "homiletic". But today, when we speak of mysticism, we are more likely to refer to the level of "hidden". What if the “hidden” is “incarnational”?

Can we put 8 legs on our table? If I attempt a quick translation: Peshat and Derash are closely related. One is a seeking out of the other. What is plain is not obvious. This is clear from the last 200 years of division among the literalists alone! That means that the allegory related to the plain is hidden and must be sought out. Horrors! The legs are not divisible. The touching skeins have refused to separate their leathery surfaces and become separate legs to truth.
Caplan points out that Augustine had a different four: historia, aetiologia, which considers causes, analogia which studies the text from the point of view of congruence of the Old and New Testament and allegoria. Aquinas subsumed these first three under the 'literal' or plain meaning. Apparently Aquinas escaped into the concept of 'subtype'. This is a common escape from normalization in database design also.

What is an effective subdivision of meaning? Caplan moves onto a seven fold subdivision from Angelon of Luxeuil:
  1. historical,
  2. allegorical,
  3. a combination of the historical and allegorical,
  4. the intimation proper of tropical (sic) of Deity,
  5. parabolic, where one thing is written in Scripture but something else is meant,
  6. with respect to the two comings of the Saviour
  7. moral and figurative
Regrettably, these animals are not well named. Adam! Really!
Here's another one
  1. litteralis, historicus
  2. allegoricus, parabolicus,
  3. tropologicus, etymologicus,
  4. anagogicus, analogicus,
  5. typicus, exemplaris,
  6. anaphoricus, proportionalis,
  7. mysticus, apocolypticus, diuinis atque ineffabilis
  8. boarcademicus, primordialis
(Compendium of the history of doctrines, Karl Rudolf Hagenbach‏)
I would be hard-pressed to follow these as a means of organizing a treatise, even if I could translate them! There are too many to remember. We almost got to the original nine from Aquinas (though on inspection, some of those merge into or become subordinate to others.)

As I noted above, the Eucharistic prayer combines mystical and incarnate. What do we mean by mystical? Is there a subdivision of meaning that we can apply to the Scripture? And to the psalms that we might read them with a new clarity.

When I am involved in data analysis, there are a few questions that help: what are the object classes? how are they distinct? how are they related? what are the elements? does an element describe or identify an instance of an object? does an element run the risk of morphing into an object? What event happens that creates an instance of an object? Once created, can I find it again? If I update it, will that change affect other instances? Will it affect other objects? Can it be deleted? If an event does not happen, what then?

These are the events that give rise to our theological thinking: birth, death, initiation into covenant, failure. Teaching. There must be a better way! Hope, engagement with the presence, time, forgetfulness, hurt, recovery, sin, judgement, a reliable record, love.
As the Magi noted in the poem by T. S. Eliot, 'we had seen birth and death but had thought they were different'.
  1. I think I must retain the historical. This is the Peshat, the plain meaning. 'There was a Birth, certainly'. So there is a plain meaning, a surface which divides the waters from the waters.
  2. I think I must retain the figurative. This is the Remez, the allegorical meaning. I am 'no longer at ease' with the merely historical.
  3. I must retain the hidden. This is the Sod, the mystical meaning. It encompasses the moral but is not itself moral in the sense that we can define separately. I will put it down to encounter and presence. 'I should be glad of another death'. If I use the word mystical, think hidden, and ask.
I would hope to give some regulation to the figurative so that we do not make "anything from anything". But above all, I would decline to say that the hidden is without respect to our historical and literal, material life. And I think all three: the plain, the figurative, and the hidden meaning require seeking out. This is the Derash, the homiletical meaning.

In this fourfold division, I operate then
  1. as an observer and scientist: The text before us is to be considered in all its historical, cultic, and linguistic reality. Historical-criticism is acceptable and useful.
  2. as a reader of poetry: I am attuned to the figurative, and I may apply the poem to the anointed king, to Israel as elect and anointed, to Jesus as beloved and anointed (Christ), to a priest or prophet, to any of the tribes of Israel, to an individual anointed or elect or one who fears God.
  3. as one who expects a response from God: I expect engagement and knowledge from what is beyond me.
  4. as one who searches, I let the questions stand and enter into them, seeking fuller questions.
This is a hermeneutic of faith

What's what with theology

From Eric M. Vanden Eykel, via James McGrath, I read this little bit of catechism. And more here.
According to Cyril of Alexandria, the humanity of Jesus had no other subject than the second person of the Trinity, the Word (λόγος); namely, Jesus’ body never existed apart from the Word, and thus the body of Jesus was in fact the Word’s own body. Now, a qualifier is needed, which is provided by Ephesus 431. That is, although the body of Jesus never existed apart from the Word, the Word did exist before the body of Jesus. That is, the second person of the Trinity has always existed, but the man Jesus has not.
Do I get this based on my experience of God in the Scriptures and through the death of Jesus?  Is this necessary to my salvation? Or does this sort of thinking arise from the human desire to tidy things up and express truth in a span of words about something?

Theology is a tongue and requires interpreting. Virginity is an image that requires seeing. Sex is a problem but it is not sin.

Sunday 21 November 2010

It's chilly here

Warming up without and with flash:

Bugs and Spirit - a year later

I came across this post from a test blog where I don't publish. It is too funny and still too true. (The next major version of the famous program has fixed a few errors in right to left and left to right but still manages to print the right to left words correctly on the printer and then reverse them when printing to Portable Document Format  (.pdf) - so it is useless with this error.)

Here's the original post.

I wonder if the next generation will be able to handle the inheritance of software from the previous. How often will they mutter at the errors and shortcomings of their forebears. Forbearance may be in as short supply as knowledge.

For the record, software taught us our fallibility. I suspect it will continue so to teach. Most recently, besides following up and taking responsibility for my own errors, omissions, and accidental oversights, I have had the opportunity to see how confused left and right can be in the management of words on the page. How can I define the problem when successive versions of famous programs cannot handle the terrible complexity of left to right and right to left processing in the same document.

But let's give credit: they have tried - even though copy and paste sometimes reverses words, sometimes does not, and sometimes reverses letters. And having landed in the target document, the host program (vintage circa 2007-2008) sometimes cannot tell the difference between one word and another. Double-click, which usually selects a word, selects part of one word and part of another. The left hand part of the software is not letting the right hand know where it is!

To which hand do I submit the error report? To the source (which is correct in its apparent form) or to the target? And if I dared find the right forum, how long would it take to get a resolution?

I reported a problem some time ago to a major vendor. After dozens of clarifying emails, they finally 'got it' and said they had corrected the font spacing error. Well, I guess it depends on what platform you are using. It has never worked for me. I gave up. I still use the old run time where it works. Of course, all these combinations of complex cultural mixes are bound to create difficult software problems and mutual incompatibilities in format of the clipboard, and tables about fonts that refresh on some platforms and not others.

Even for the local single supplier of software, the process of managing and correcting software changes and fixes is one that has to be passed on to the next generation. What is it like? I think it is more like learning a language of courage than like following procedures. Procedures are important. Copy management is important. Knowing the history (source libraries) and the definitions (data models) are important. But there is no substitute for courage, learning, experimentation, patience, empathy, forbearance and discrimination - all features of the human enterprise that are of the spirit.

Saturday 20 November 2010


Beloved reader, I am working very hard to focus what will be a new book in some form. I will be blogging lightly  but hopefully a little. What I have noticed after 2 weeks concentrating on Psalm 1 is that style and focus are sometimes lacking in my online writing. This is because blogging is necessarily part of a time-conditioned ongoing conversation, not a determined scope of a writing of a more 'permanent' type.  Books are so difficult. Every comma, every nuance, every word, every omission, commission, and acknowledgement is measured. But books have the advantage of allowing a record of a particular purpose.

Dare I say that I want to communicate the joy of the psalms in a more disciplined form? Yes, that is it, more or less. Each of the 150 sections will include the following

  • A translation - sparse, readable
  • A construction - how is the psalm constructed
  • Themes in the psalm
  • Notes including such issues as gender, word play, variations in translations
  • and a personal application

I think it is this last that will distinguish my book from the academic, though I will do my best not to be academically foolish. There will be some but limited Hebrew. My target audience is the church-going public. To turn them on to the beauty in which I have begun to be known. Some of my conclusions even I find surprising. The wholeness of the Shema is not compromised by the New Testament, but such wholeness is not followed by many of the readers of the New Testament. I hope I can point in the direction of a deeper reading.

I am willing to share with anyone who so desires and with a few whom I will ask. If you are interested - especially if you would like to criticize or proof read, you can let me know via a comment on this post or send me an email at bobmacdonald at gx dot ca. You don't have to hurry. This is a long project - circa 3 years.

I hope I do good work while hibernating. My existing blogs will remain live and occasionally I will correct the odd post or post a new thought.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Simplifying and equalizing volumes

It's better to keep things simple and just write about a sequence in sequence - so here's a division into 7 pieces respecting the existing 5-fold division in the text. Seven roughly equal sized volumes.

1 Psalms 1-23 Book 1 - part 1 - 2599 Hebrew words in this pile.
2 24-41 Book 1 part 2 - 2650 words
3 42-72 Book 2 - 4036 words - less commentary or thinner paper :)
4 73-89 Book 3 - 2777 words
5 90-106 Book 4 - 2433 words
6 107-119 Book 5 - part 1 - 2479 words
7 120-150 Book 5 - part 2 - 2602 words

Each part will have the following sections

There will be a structural introduction to the psalms in the volume in relation to those in other volumes. Then for each psalm:
  • the text in English footnoted where necessary :)
  • images of how the text is constructed and where the play is
  • relationship of the text to other texts - e.g. Genesis, Deuteronomy, Job, Samuel, other psalms
  • specific word studies based on the frames and cell contents
  • hearing the spaces between the words
  • How the psalm relates to the seven themes I noted in the last post: Torah, Anointing, Enemies, Sin, Covenant, Creation, Praise.
Example - it would be instructive to do an example detail section. E.g. Psalm 62 and its relationship to Qohelet's favorite word and Psalm 39. All these are touched on in what I have applied myself to over the past 4 years. But none of this is a slam dunk.

There will be no complete Hebrew text. [two months later, changed my mind] The English is meant to stand alone [yes] but it will also encourage investigation into the Hebrew or Greek text. This will be done by using some Hebrew words and showing how the fine grained grammatical and syntax structure works sometimes. There's quite a bit of tension in this statement. The tetragrammaton will always be in Hebrew letters. The square letters will be used but as if one is writing for one who is learning rather than one who already knows.

What else should I include in such a book series? Anyone want to help?