Saturday 26 June 2010

Wild Gardens of Fernwood and Rockland

Here are some of the gardens (some definitely not wild) we drive by or walk through or ride by to and from work. The cherry picker is in our back lawn - it's a painting year.

Translation as imposition

This morning I was buying a whole fish - fresh salmon - Sockeye, on special at 1.79 per something. What do you think? Was that priced per pound, per milligram, per kilogram or something else? Then as I left with the package, both the meat packer and I said to each other 'thank-you very much' and another client buying shrimp said the same.

I thought for some reason about those syllables thank you - with the hyphen, very much, רב תודות (rav todot) or תודה רבה (todah ravah) according to Google. I imagined the phrase in Japanese - why I don't know. I don't know any Japanese except that one word arigato. Why when I can't remember the names of my friends, I should think of Japanese for thank-you at that time, is a mystery to me - the human mind at work - or not! In Hebrew I thought me'od rather than rav- maybe I like gutturals.

Would I have associated real gratitude with these words in a foreign tongue? They are automatic enough in English and meant. The smooth functioning of our interactions at the grocery store is something we are grateful for. Also the cleanliness, the packaging, the ease of purchase (however much it cost!), the local fishers and the local fish.

Associate thought - feeling - tone - intent - culture - and a few things besides - with just one simple phrase. What do we do when coming from a language no longer spoken with such associations into our own language? Do we study the words to death? Are we rigid or free? Do we appeal to sound? What knowledge of intent do we have? Our clues are many but our output - the phrase / gloss / tone / feeling that we write is mediated through a lens - our being - that we are dimly aware of, whatever our training.

Both BBB and God Didn't Say That are blogs that are written about - really they focus on - translation issues. I the self-trained translator respond occasionally. J.K. Gayle, not regularly blogging at this time shows his mettle with a response to one of these posts here. BBB's current series on foundations has had many comments, especially the hard one on audience. Whom are you translating for? Theophrastus whose blog I should be following, gives a lovely response concerning the problem of language and the issue of ignorance and how to deal with it:
Finally, even for those who [sic] no training in original languages at all, the presence of original languages is certain to raise their curiosity, and in some cases, even provide a first inductive lesson.
Yes - we are curious - and such curiosity is personal, stimulating, growth inducing, and has therefore potential for joy - all good things! Also here are posts on grammar, accuracy, naturalness, collocations, word order, nouns and I expect Wayne Leman will go on with other parts of speech and stuff.

Joel Hoffman has been concentrating on translation traps and has written of a number of them. Some are traps, I suppose. Some are simply facts of life - what do you think? What are the real traps - are they among these?
  • Dependence on the Dictionary
  • Mimicry
  • Missing the Point
  • Myopic Translations
  • Relying on Structure
  • Forgetting your own Grammar
  • Pretending some words don't exist
  • Slavery to parts of speech
  • Seductive translations
  • Short Circuit translations
I don't know if I've got them all. I agree with some, but I think others are not traps, just things that you have to live with.

I have answered the question - 'how I translate' here. A recent phrase I have used is 'deep guesswork' as a description of what I do. Even translating that common experience - 'thank-you' into another tongue implies the guesswork that the other is also feeling gratitude in one way or another that these words will convey my feeling in transmission. So when I translate using dictionary, structure, sound, rhythm, history, geography, culture, grammar, close reading, awareness of parts of speech and their forms and how disputed they are, and whatever else I am feeling at this time: the wars over meaning and rights and wrongs and cosmic things that are in this age, what you get is a personal translation in which I am imposing my limited knowledge and my cultural bias onto the text in a way that gives me pleasure.

But I left one thing out - it's not a thing though it could be translated into דבר even if this word expresses itself in unexpected associations. The thing that is not a thing is that incommensurate and indefinable love that has gripped my life with all its contradictions and troubles and somehow taken it up into its own and allowed itself to know me through its self-emptying. This is my motivation, and I hope the spark in my own thank-you in whatever tongue it is expressed and at whatever price - 1.79 per 100g. Big fish, little fish...

Friday 25 June 2010


There have been a number of posts on prayer etc this week. I note particularly this one at Everyday Thomist. Yesterday while walking alone to choir practice, I had an explanatory conversation I can't remember now about this subject - if indeed it can be called a subject. Subject like object requires a certain distance and distance is not what prayer is about, rather presence.

Here is a letter one of my characters wrote when 'explaining' to one who is beloved what prayer is about.

When you pray, speak to God as you would to anyone, and listen too.
You don’t need big words.
You don’t even have to be polite.
You can pour out your complaints to God,
(better to complain to the one who has power,
than to grouch behind his back) and you can pray in silence.
No place is required; any place will do.
Any time too, whether short or long.
But it is a secret. No outward show is needed.
The conversation and the presence are yours and God’s alone.
And when you find out what he is like,
you will not want to keep silence before others,
but you will not find it easy to explain,
and you will always remember and know his mercy.
You might ask: to whom are you praying?
But the question is not to whom – but with whom;
praying is living with God who already lives with you.
There’s a lot to say about God –
but the face-to-face encounter is better
for it is God who teaches you face to face.
Jacob wrestled with God – and his hip was dislocated.
Prayer can be tough and is intimate.
You might also ask: why pray
we’re not telling God anything he doesn’t already know;
he’s too big to care about us; what will be will be anyway.
There are many excuses not to pray,
but only one reason to pray:
we pray because we are commanded to.
I don’t mean ordered but commanded.
We are given the mandate to be with God.
To pray is not a burden in any way. To pray is to agree
to the relationship with the one who created us.
The reward is God himself.
Our mutual friend, John the Elder, names the reward: to him who overcomes I will give a white stone with a name written on it that is known by no one but only to the one who receives it. The relationship is unique and personal and forever.
Why the God of Jesus?
Why the God of the Jews, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
No explanation will suffice.
Doing is, however, satisfactory.
You’ll know how positive I mean that word, satisfactory.
Satisfaction needs no modifier.
As the psalmist says:
O taste and see for the Lord is good.
Happy the warrior who trusts in him.

Monday 21 June 2010

Searching out the foxes.

Catch the foxes,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in flower.
אֶֽחֱזוּ־לָנוּ שֽׁוּעָלִים
שֽׁוּעָלִים קְטַנִּים
מְחַבְּלִים כְּרָמִים
וּכְרָמֵינוּ סְמָדַֽר
Song of Solomon 2:15

Instructions on searching out the meaning of a text. We absolutely must understand the plain meaning of the text, but we should also be ready to turn it and turn it, and discover new, additional meanings as well. (From the Maggidic blog here - ht Midrash blog)

The Midrash blog notes one form of searching out the text: begin the discourse with a “distant” scripture... which is used to shed light on the text being interpreted. This example also uses a parable.

1. We absolutely must understand the plain meaning of the text.

What have foxes to do with the Song? The word occurs 7 times in the Hebrew Scripture. The vineyard in the Song is the place where the lovers live and work. One may be forced to keep the vineyards of others and not able to keep one's own (Song 1:6). The Beloved is like a vineyard (Song 1:14). The foxes spoil the vineyard, the place of love (Song 7:12). One may have many such vineyards but in the end it is
כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לְפָנָי 
 My vineyard that is mine is before me. 
(Song 8:11,12 vineyard is an inclusio for the whole poem.) How will I tend it?  Psalm 63
O God you are my God
I will seek you early
My life thirsts for you
my flesh faints for you
in a land dry and languished failing in waters
for your loving kindness is better than life
and those who seek to destroy my being
they will go to the nethermost parts of the earth
they will vanish by the hand of the sword
they will be a portion of foxes

2. Now turn it and turn it

While the enemies of Israel are round about, and can be interpreted as foxes (as my old Jerusalem Bible does - rather bluntly as if no other interpretation was possible), the troubles of a life are closer than geography.

In the Song, the foxes (shu`alim) occur twice in one verse and the Shulamite twice in one verse. This too can be seen as an inclusio around the word of peace (shalom). The beloved herself must learn to care for her own vineyard and must not be like a fox.

Twice only is fox referred to in the New Testament, the king Herod is such (Luke 13:32) and the foxes are said to have holes while the son of man has nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58, ||Matthew 8:20). The Herod family is generally thought to be Idumean, but this note might indicate otherwise. In any case, the reading of the foxes as political enemies around Israel requires the reading of Israel as the beloved of the Song.

How is the vineyard of the son of man to be kept from the fox?

And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third [day] I shall be perfected.

The perfection achieved is sufficient to the task of catching the foxes (shu`alim) and bringing them to peace (shalom). Let it be then that one read the Song both individually and corporately, both as a love song of the time and as a love song for the present, both as a song of the Beloved for his people then (Isaiah 5:1) and also for the 24 elders who sing the new song now and in the time to come (Revelation 5:9).

But let it be, Beloved, I speak as one, that nothing be lacking.

3. Now summarize with a distant text, then a near text.

The fox is one who brings trouble to the lovers. The trouble cannot be sufficient to destroy love. For Love is strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave. The grave is overcome by the one who gave his life for the life of the world. So the foxes are caught, but they had their reason for giving trouble, that the Shulamite might learn to lean on her Beloved and not on her own strength, nor even on the forceful orders of her brothers. Daughters of Jerusalem, this is my beloved and this is my companion, he is all sweetness.

This is not a simple process...

Sunday 20 June 2010

Seasonal colour

It is time for more of the poetry of the Beloved. Here are some recent blooms. From the top left...
  • Impatiens, 
  • an unknown - shrimp flower? 
  • Peonies and a spread of lobelia and impatiens with bright lonicera nitida 'Baggesens Gold' behind, 
  • yellow foxglove, 
  • closeup of lobelia, 
  • bonsai maple  (6 years old?) in a pot with begonia behind, 
  • yellow rose, 
  • a pot full of miscellaneous succulents purchased from the Lieutenant Governor's from a year or two ago, 
  • a pink peony and some purple foxglove near the fence, 
  • and a brightly coloured trumpet plant with a stray Solomon's seal in it - The trumpets lived over the winter and bloomed again. 
(Flower names are as hard as Hebrew vocabulary!)
From Collages

Variations on שלמ in the Song

The sound of peace is in the Song but not untempered by some foxes. Here is the graph of all words where shin, lamed, and mem occur in that order.

If one was to search out this letter combination in the Song - what could one make of it?

So we have in order
  1. Jerusalem 7+1 times,
  2. Solomon 4+1+1 times, 
  3. Foxes twice,
  4. 'which all of them' twice,
  5. the Shulamite twice

If we eliminate the ones that are comprised of relative and personal pronoun with all (#4), we have only 4 words playing on the Shalom sound. I can see one could go somewhere with this.

Both structure and allusion are present in many of the texts I have read closely. Allusion is very easy to hear but may be misleading. Take for instance the comments on this post on this same subject. Carl asks for my 'umble opinion. And I immediately think of Uriah Heep - but is that what Carl meant? It would be very appropriate since in Dickens' Copperfield, David is called Dodi, my beloved in Hebrew and definitely a Song word, by his wife.  But one dropped h is not necessarily an allusion. How much do we need to establish allusion or structure in a Biblical text when we can't ask the authors?

Testing the game

Well - we tested the game. Prior to the picnic I had planted a few foxes in trees -as signs - no, most foxes don't climb trees.  But they were noticed. And then several children offered to scatter 36 or was it 48 foxes all over the playing field. Then they got gathered with relish by both children and adults.

There was too little time or place (and too much energy) to sit and do the puzzle till later on, so a mess of named and unnamed foxes were in a pile till the lunch after the service when the puzzles got sorted and matched by some diligent students. This game can work in both indoor and outdoor situations. I think I will come back to this verse as a lesson next season.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Esther chapter 1

I am finally getting back into translation of this book after a month's hiatus. How should one approach this book? What kind of story is it? The commentaries I have read are varied. One is very scholarly and helpful but non-committal as to humour or allegory. One is committed to Esther as an image of Jesus (nice analogy but I don't follow it quite yet) and a third is an SBL book I am reading through on Persian law and policy. Must give SBL a plug - critical or not, nothing stops us from putting on our own critical hats.

This could be titled Xerxes folly and Memukan's face saving dictum.

וַיְהִי בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ
הוּא אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַמֹּלֵךְ מֵהֹדּוּ וְעַד כּוּשׁ
שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה מְדִינָה
1.1And it was in the days of Xerxes
this is the Xerxes who ruled from India all the way to Cush
a hundred and twenty seven jurisdictions
Ahasuerus, Xerxes
= I will be silent and poor - BLB? or lion-king (Gesenius)? or with softer vowels, the origin of Shah? or mighty-eye (BDB)? Is the king silent in this book?
בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם
כְּשֶׁבֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ עַל כִּסֵּא מַלְכוּתוֹ
אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה
1.2in those days
when the king Xerxes sat on the throne of his kingdom
which was in the Shushan Palace
בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו
חֵיל פָּרַס וּמָדַי הַפַּרְתְּמִים וְשָׂרֵי הַמְּדִינוֹת לְפָנָיו
1.3in year three of his rule he made a feast for all his princes and his servants,
the might of Persia and Medea, the chiefs and the princes of the jurisdictions, were in his presence
characteristic of Job's opening - presence and the king
בְּהַרְאֹתוֹ אֶת עֹשֶׁר כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ וְאֶת יְקָר תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּדוּלָּתוֹ
יָמִים רַבִּים שְׁמוֹנִים וּמְאַת יוֹם
1.4as his display of the riches of the glory of his kingdom and the value of the splendour of his greatness,
days of largess, one hundred and eighty days.
This was a big party - the G1 in continuous self-congratulation
וּבִמְלוֹאת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ
לְכָל הָעָם הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה
לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד קָטָן
מִשְׁתֶּה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּחֲצַר גִּנַּת בִּיתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ
1.5And at the completion of these days the king made,
for all the people that could be found in the Shushan Palace
from the greatest to the least,
a feast of seven days in the court of the garden of the king's palace
I was tempted to make the name of the palace Lily palace - but I thought this an insult to the Song and the Psalms under the title, at the place of the lily.
חוּר כַּרְפַּס וּתְכֵלֶת אָחוּז בְּחַבְלֵי בוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן עַל גְּלִילֵי כֶסֶף וְעַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ
מִטּוֹת זָהָב וָכֶסֶף עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט וָשֵׁשׁ וְדַר וְסֹחָרֶת
1.6white, green, and violet, held with bindings of fine linen and purple to cylinders of silver and pillars of marble
beds of gold and silver on a red pavement and marble and mother of pearl and tortoiseshell
two words from Song 5:14-15, + bed Song 3:7
וְהַשְׁקוֹת בִּכְלֵי זָהָב וְכֵלִים מִכֵּלִים שׁוֹנִים
וְיֵין מַלְכוּת רָב כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ
1.7and irrigated from vessels of gold such vessels from vessels varying
and wine of the kingdom in abundance according to the hand of the king
וְהַשְּׁתִיָּה כַדָּת אֵין אֹנֵס
כִּי כֵן יִסַּד הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל כָּל רַב בֵּיתוֹ
לַעֲשׂוֹת כִּרְצוֹן אִישׁ וָאִישׁ ס
1.8and the drinking according to decree - there was no compulsion
for such the king established for all the many of his house
to do according to the pleasure of each person.
גַּם וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה עָשְׂתָה מִשְׁתֵּה נָשִׁים בֵּית הַמַּלְכוּת אֲשֶׁר לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ 1.9Even Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the house of the kingdom which belonged to king Xerxes...
בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי כְּטוֹב לֵב הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּיָּיִן אָמַר לִמְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָא חַרְבוֹנָא בִּגְתָא וַאֲבַגְתָא זֵתַר וְכַרְכַּס שִׁבְעַת הַסָּרִיסִים הַמְשָׁרְתִים אֶת פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ 1.10On the seventh day when good was the heart of the king with wine he said to Mehuman, Bizta, Xarbona, Bigta, and Abagta, Zetar, and Karkas, seven eunuchs in the presence of the king XerxesAs is usual with me, and especially on a first draft, I keep things sounding alike in English that sound alike in Hebrew where I can.
לְהָבִיא אֶת וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת לְהַרְאוֹת הָעַמִּים וְהַשָּׂרִים אֶת יָפְיָהּ כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא1.11to have Vashti the queen come into the presence of the king in the crown of the kingdom to show off to the people and the princes her beauty, for goodly to look upon was she...
וַתְּמָאֵן הַמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי לָבוֹא בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים
וַיִּקְצֹף הַמֶּלֶךְ מְאֹד וַחֲמָתוֹ בָּעֲרָה בוֹ ס
1.12But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's dictum that was by the hand of the eunuchs and the king was very displeased and his rage burned within him.dictum for DBR (instead of word, thing, matter, etc) - dictum puts it on the level of the law of the land - here edict. A foolishness observed.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לַחֲכָמִים יֹדְעֵי הָעִתִּים
כִּי כֵן דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ לִפְנֵי כָּל יֹדְעֵי דָּת וָדִין
1.13And the king spoke to the wise who knew the times, because the king's dictum was in the presence of all who knew decree and adjudication...
וְהַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו כַּרְשְׁנָא שֵׁתָר אַדְמָתָא תַרְשִׁישׁ מֶרֶס מַרְסְנָא מְמוּכָן
שִׁבְעַת שָׂרֵי פָּרַס וּמָדַי רֹאֵי פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הַיֹּשְׁבִים רִאשֹׁנָה בַּמַּלְכוּת
1.14And near him was Karshena, Shetar, Admata, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, Memukan, seven princes of Persia and Medea seeing the presence of the king and seated preeminent in the kingdom...
כְּדָת מַה לַּעֲשׂוֹת בַּמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי
עַל אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָשְׂתָה אֶת מַאֲמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים ס
1.15According to decree - what is to be done with queen Vashti given that she did not do the dictum of the king Xerxes by the hand of the eunuchs?..
וַיֹּאמֶר מְמוּכָן לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים לֹא עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ לְבַדּוֹ עָוְתָה וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה כִּי עַל כָּל הַשָּׂרִים וְעַל כָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ1.16And Memukan said in the presence of the king and the princes,
"Not to the king alone has Vashti the queen done wrong, for to all the princes and to all the peoples in all the jurisdictions of the king Xerxes
כִּי יֵצֵא דְבַר הַמַּלְכָּה עַל כָּל הַנָּשִׁים לְהַבְזוֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶן בְּעֵינֵיהֶן בְּאָמְרָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אָמַר לְהָבִיא אֶת וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לְפָנָיו וְלֹא בָאָה 1.17"for the dictum of the queen will come to all women to hold in contempt their lords in their eyes when it is said to them 'the king Xerxes said to come to Vashti the queen into his presence and she did not come'.lord ba'al rather than husband. Sometimes 'ish is husband in its context (Ruth) as in English with Porgie and Bess - man, woman.
וְהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה תֹּאמַרְנָה שָׂרוֹת פָּרַס וּמָדַי אֲשֶׁר שָׁמְעוּ אֶת דְּבַר הַמַּלְכָּה לְכֹל שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּכְדַי בִּזָּיוֹן וָקָצֶף1.18"and that very day the princesses of Persia and Medea who heard the dictum of the queen will speak to all the princes of the king - and that will be more than enough contempt and spite...
אִם עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יֵצֵא דְבַר מַלְכוּת מִלְּפָנָיו וְיִכָּתֵב בְּדָתֵי פָרַס וּמָדַי וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר אֲשֶׁר לֹא תָבוֹא וַשְׁתִּי לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ וּמַלְכוּתָהּ יִתֵּן הַמֶּלֶךְ לִרְעוּתָהּ הַטּוֹבָה מִמֶּנָּה 1.19"If it is good to the king to set out a dictum of the kingdom from his presence to be written into the decrees of Persia and Medea and not to be altered that Vashti not enter the presence of the king Xerxes and that her kingdom the king give to a colleague good in comparison to her...
וְנִשְׁמַע פִּתְגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל מַלְכוּתוֹ כִּי רַבָּה הִיא
וְכָל הַנָּשִׁים יִתְּנוּ יְקָר לְבַעְלֵיהֶן לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד קָטָן
1.20"And it will be heard - this sentence of the king that he will make in all jurisdictions - for it is great - and all the women will give esteem to their lords from the greatest to the least."greatest to the least - inclusio? - perhaps for this chapter.
וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים
וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּדְבַר מְמוּכָן
1.21And the dictum in his eyes was good to the king and the princes
and the king did according to the dictum of Memukan
וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶל כָּל מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ וְאֶל עַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ לִהְיוֹת כָּל אִישׁ שֹׂרֵר בְּבֵיתוֹ וּמְדַבֵּר כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ ס1.22and he sent letters into all jurisdictions of the king, jurisdiction by jurisdiction according to its writing, and people by people according to their tongue that it should be that each man be prince in his own house and that it be dictated according to the tongue of his people.Many scripts - many tongues - how much Persia then mimics the world today!
What do the complementarians do with this book? This reads like a farce in the making. It is so obvious that the men should have been embarrassed rather than muttering and 'thinging' about the king's rep in the face of foolish behaviour. Bravo Vashti!

Of foxes and Shulamites

I wonder if there is a word play between the foxes שֻׁעָלִים and the Shulamite הַשּׁוּלַמִּית? There is some similarity in sound. I looked around for some more SHL type sounds with or without guttural. Song 4:2 and 6:6 came up (pun) שֶׁעָלוּ, (= which came up from the washing). The significance seems to be nil.

But I will make something of it anyway. What are these foxes that we are to catch? They are so cute.  These are destructive tendencies in each and all of us. If they are not caught, they prevent our learning and growth - not to mention the love of others.

The Academic and the Religious are both fox-filled. (Lots of recent posts - like this one from Mike Koke and others noted here.) There is one world and all the churches are in it. No context can allow us to escape our responsibilities to ourselves and to each other in that world. No label or insistent dogma will allow us to catch foxes. No claim of faith will determine a positive end without critical application - but it doesn't mean critical must be in your mission statement.

The Shulamite might get busy learning her essential unity.

Friday 18 June 2010

A game for children - catch the foxes

How does one teach Scripture to children? I am teaching what I never learned as a child. And here is a game based on Song 2:15 - it will be tested on Sunday at a picnic.

Print out the icons and cut them into 12 pieces. Use as many copies as you need. Some of the images have words and some don't. Scatter the images in the park - perhaps have a few other images around - munching on trees or hiding under picnic tables or whatever is available.

The children can work individually or be in teams. The job is to collect the images and match them to the answer key. The exercise will be too difficult for the small children so there are some images with no words - they can catch the foxes and get a different reward. Then the teacher can show them how the words work to whatever level they can manage.  Here's the answer key.

אֶחֱזוּ־לָנוּ שֽׁוּעָלִים
שֽׁוּעָלִים קְטַנִּים
מְחַבְּלִים כְּרָמִים
וּכְרָמֵינוּ סְמָדַר
Catch for us foxes
little foxes
spoiling vineyards
and our vineyards are bud-adorned

The teacher can explain as little or as much as required and even ask questions about how one might 'translate' this verse. Some ability to recognize Hebrew words is required. The blog here is a record of building this skill at 5 minutes a week over a period of 18 months for children ages 5 to 14. (I have not usually covered meteg or other aspects of stress or cantillation but there are a few meteg in the images. I will wait for the careful eye to ask me.)

The images should be printable from here or from the above image.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Habakkuk 3

The new Hebrew Grammar blog has started out with a blast of the Shophar - a blockbuster substantial post on Habakkuk 3. The intensity of the linguistic rationalizations is staggering. I love it! (Why do I love it? It gives me permission to do almost anything with a verb.) I noted this freedom concerning Piel in the post on psalm 7 here from last year.
Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew defines Piel as transitivizing, denominative, intensive, or unclassified! (Sounds like I can do what I like with it then.)
But all kidding aside - what can be seen in Habakkuk 3? I did some work on it as noted in that post on psalm 7 here. So I pushed it into my framework to see what I could find.  Here is the recursion pattern in the poem. It is typical of a psalm and there are some strong recurrence patterns starting early and ending in verse 16 just before the final summary of faith from the prophet. The verbs didn't bother me much for some reason.
תְּפִלָּה לַחֲבַקּוּק הַנָּבִיא עַל שִׁגְיֹנוֹת 1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. for the reelsfor the reels - rare word - the writhing dance implied is costly
יְהוָה שָׁמַעְתִּי שִׁמְעֲךָ יָרֵאתִי
יְהוָה פָּעָלְךָ בְּקֶרֶב שָׁנִים חַיֵּיהוּ
בְּקֶרֶב שָׁנִים תּוֹדִיעַ
בְּרֹגֶז רַחֵם תִּזְכּוֹר
2 יְהוָה, I have heard your report, and I am afraid;
יְהוָה, Your work in the midst of the years, revive
in the midst of the years make it known;
in trembling remember compassion.
The name occurs 3 times, heard twice
Work - פָּעָלְךָ the essential wonder of deliverance
רֹגֶז - three times this sound recurs - however rendered
אֱלוֹהַּ מִתֵּימָן יָבוֹא
וְקָדוֹשׁ מֵהַר פָּארָן סֶלָה
כִּסָּה שָׁמַיִם הוֹדוֹ
וּתְהִלָּתוֹ מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ
3 God comes from Teman,
and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah
His glory covers the heavens,
and his praise fills the earth.
The opening prayer is answered
This verse opens three recorrences
אָרֶץ occurs 5 times in the first 11 verses in the chapter
Note there is no lack of praise - whatever tense it is rendered in - fills, filled, was full, will be full
וְנֹגַהּ כָּאוֹר תִּהְיֶה
קַרְנַיִם מִיָּדוֹ לוֹ
וְשָׁם חֶבְיוֹן עֻזֹּה
4 And a brightness as the light appears;
Horns at his right hand he has;
and there is the hiddenness of his strength.
the light is good - a fundamental statement of faith
hidden - a hapax
לְפָנָיו יֵלֶךְ דָּבֶר
וְיֵצֵא רֶשֶׁף לְרַגְלָיו
5 Before him goes correction,
and burning coals emerge at his feet.
If praise is associated as the observation of the rightness of judgment, then correction is not a bad gloss for this common word -
עָמַד וַיְמֹדֶד אֶרֶץ
רָאָה וַיַּתֵּר גּוֹיִם
וַיִּתְפֹּצְצוּ הַרְרֵי
עַד שַׁחוּ גִּבְעוֹת עוֹלָם
הֲלִיכוֹת עוֹלָם לוֹ
6 He stood and moved the earth,
he saw and set nations free;
and the ancient hills are scattered,
the everlasting mounds bowed down;
his walkabouts are everlasting
The deliverance is not confined - nations are freed
I intuitively changed tense here - the why was what I call deep guesswork - or maybe not deep enough!
תַּחַת אָוֶן רָאִיתִי אָהֳלֵי כוּשָׁן
יִרְגְּזוּן יְרִיעוֹת אֶרֶץ מִדְיָן
7 in mischief I see the tents of Cushan;
the curtains of the earth of Midian tremble.
If I wrote the land of Midian - you would not notice - my awkward translation shows the recurrence of this word. Is it significant?
הֲבִנְהָרִים חָרָה יְהוָה
אִם בַּנְּהָרִים אַפֶּךָ
אִם בַּיָּם עֶבְרָתֶךָ
כִּי תִרְכַּב עַל סוּסֶיךָ
מַרְכְּבֹתֶיךָ יְשׁוּעָה
8 Does יְהוָה burn against the rivers?
As if your anger is against the rivers,
or your fury against the sea
that you ride upon your horses,
upon your chariots of salvation?
עֶרְיָה תֵעוֹר קַשְׁתֶּךָ
שְׁבֻעוֹת מַטּוֹת אֹמֶר סֶלָה
נְהָרוֹת תְּבַקַּע אָרֶץ
9 Bare, exposed is your bow;
oaths rods a word. Selah
Rivers. You divide the earth.
Making sense of this word rods might obscure its relation to verse 14. Not satisfied with the fragmentation here...
רָאוּךָ יָחִילוּ הָרִים
זֶרֶם מַיִם עָבָר
נָתַן תְּהוֹם קוֹלוֹ
רוֹם יָדֵיהוּ נָשָׂא
10 The mountains saw you and birthed;
the downpour of water passed over;
the deep gives its voice,
and its hands it lifts up on high.
שֶׁמֶשׁ יָרֵחַ עָמַד זְבֻלָה
לְאוֹר חִצֶּיךָ יְהַלֵּכוּ
לְנֹגַהּ בְּרַק חֲנִיתֶךָ
11 The sun and moon stand exalted;
to the light of your arrows they go,
to the brightness of your shining spear.
בְּזַעַם תִּצְעַד אָרֶץ
בְּאַף תָּדוּשׁ גּוֹיִם
12 In indignation you tread earth,
in anger you thresh nations.
יָצָאתָ לְיֵשַׁע עַמֶּךָ
לְיֵשַׁע אֶת מְשִׁיחֶךָ
מָחַצְתָּ רֹּאשׁ מִבֵּית רָשָׁע
עָרוֹת יְסוֹד עַד צַוָּאר סֶלָה פ
13 You emerge for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed;
You wound the head from the house of the wicked,
baring the foundation to the neck. Selah P
Psalm 110:6 (also 18, 68) for this variety of wounding.
נָקַבְתָּ בְמַטָּיו רֹאשׁ פְּרָזָו
יִסְעֲרוּ לַהֲפִיצֵנִי
עֲלִיצֻתָם כְּמוֹ לֶאֱכֹל עָנִי בַּמִּסְתָּר
14 You have stricken through with his own rods the head of his rulers that storm to scatter me;
their joy is as if to devour the poor in secret.
פְּרָזָו hapax - meaning 'dubious'
דָּרַכְתָּ בַיָּם סוּסֶיךָ
חֹמֶר מַיִם רַבִּים
15 You strode the sea with your horses,
the heap of great waters.
שָׁמַעְתִּי וַתִּרְגַּז בִּטְנִי
לְקוֹל צָלְלוּ שְׂפָתַי
יָבוֹא רָקָב בַּעֲצָמַי
וְתַחְתַּי אֶרְגָּז
אֲשֶׁר אָנוּחַ לְיוֹם צָרָה
לַעֲלוֹת לְעַם יְגוּדֶנּוּ
16 I heard, and my belly trembled,
at the voice my lips quivered;
rottenness entered my bones,
and under me I tremble;
that I should rest in the day of trouble,
when in his comings to the people, he attacks
This verse closes four recurrences
כִּי תְאֵנָה לֹא תִפְרָח
וְאֵין יְבוּל בַּגְּפָנִים
כִּחֵשׁ מַעֲשֵׂה זַיִת
וּשְׁדֵמוֹת לֹא עָשָׂה אֹכֶל
גָּזַר מִמִּכְלָה צֹאן
וְאֵין בָּקָר בָּרְפָתִים
17 For though the fig-tree not blossom,
and there be no increase in the vines;
fails the work of the olive,
and the fields work no food;
flock from the fold be cut off,
and there be no herd in the stalls;
This has to be among the best of stubborn faithfulness
וַאֲנִי בַּיהוָה אֶעְלוֹזָה
אָגִילָה בֵּאלֹהֵי יִשְׁעִי
18 Yet I will rejoice in יְהוִה
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
יְהוִה אֲדֹנָי חֵילִי
וַיָּשֶׂם רַגְלַי כָּאַיָּלוֹת
וְעַל בָּמוֹתַי יַדְרִכֵנִי
לַמְנַצֵּחַ בִּנְגִינוֹתָי ש
19 יְהוִה my Lord is my strength
he sets my feet as the hart
and on the ridges he makes me walk
For the leader, on my stringed instruments S
hart - as in the Song - Elohim is hidden in it. The edges are dangerous. The way is narrow - we need sure feet.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Psalm 7 - rereading toil and work

It could be that I am about to fall into another translation trap - what fun!

But there is a trap in Psalm 7 - the last section is a trap for the one who has work to do and the one who bears toil (`amal) עמל. Those words - work and toil I have seen and partially responded to. Toil is a theme in Qohelet - almost half of its uses in the Writings are in this book. I missed 'work' in Job where the word (pa`al) פָעַל is a theme. This word is often paired with iniquity - as in 'workers of iniquity', but it is also used in phrases like - 'wonderful works'. Does פָעַל become significant in its usage as distinct from that other word (`asah) עָשָׂה which is frequently used for fashion, work, make or do? פָעַל is rarer in usage. Here are some rough counts:
Work פָעַל261100000
Make עָשָׂה1103510243746
Toil עמל138000210

I associate the doing of wonderful works with the record of God's deliverance of Israel and through the Elect, of all humanity. E.g. as the refrain in Psalm 107 (his wonderful works for the children of dust) or Psalm 111. I am not alone in this association. It appears that the word for 'works' ἔργον in John's Gospel 'the works that the Father has given me to finish' is reflecting in Greek the connotation of פָעַל.This forms my thoughts when I read the last section of Psalm 7 where it is not clear who is the intended subject of some of the verbs. It seems to me that 'he' chose to create, complete, and consume evil by falling into the trap that the wicked set for themselves. So I would not let God be the subject of some verbs and not others. I have left the subject of the verbs as uncertain in English as it is in Hebrew. Resolving such uncertainty is a translation trap I prefer to avoid.

This psalm was repeatedly presented to me last night as I dreamed and as I awoke. My literal translation and diagram is a bit more complete now and may be found here. The chart to the right shows the words that repeat more than twice.

Here is a reworked English translation.

A reel of David who sang to יְהוָה about the words of Cush of Benjamin
יְהוָה my God in you I have sheltered
save me from all my persecutions and deliver me
or he will seize my throat like a lion
tearing apart and there is none rescuing

יְהוָה my God if I have done this
if there is injustice in the palm of my hand
If I have paid back evil to one who is at peace with me
and have withdrawn empty from one who troubles me
let an enemy persecute me and slit my throat
and take and trample my life on earth
and make my glory to dwell in the dust
Arise יְהוָה in your anger,
be lifted up in the outbursts of my foe
and awake my God
judgment you command
So a congregation of people encircle you
and for her to the heights return

יְהוָה shall judge the peoples
Judge me יְהוָה for my righteousness and my completeness in me
Mature, I pray, the evil of the wicked
and steady the righteous
and test hearts and vital centres
O God of righteousness
My shield is of God delivering the upright of heart
God judges right and God is indignant every day

If he will not turn he will sharpen his sword
his bow he bends and will aim
and for him he has prepared
consuming means of death
his arrow for burnings he will make

Behold he will bind sorrow and has conceived toil
and will bear falsehood
A pit he will dig and will explore it
and will fall into the depths that he worked
He will return his toil on his head
and on his scalp his violence will descend

I will praise יְהוָה for his righteousness
and I will sing the name of יְהוָה on high

I found this post while looking for Habakkuk 3 -  it relates to this psalm.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Tell me the truth about ...

Most murder-mysteries - tell you about trouble, falsehood, and the lie - a negative of love. Who can name the positive? Even Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 has more negative statements about love than positive. Is that why the murder-mystery is such a popular genre? Because we can story what is true of envy or fear or anger but we cannot put words or action to define love - but only its absence.

The word of last week for me was from the early verses of Psalm 110 - "rule in the midst of your enemies". Some of our leaders understand the difficulty and cost of 'ruling' - i.e. that it is not all force or national or personal self-interest. The wound that must be suffered to achieve the rule of God is severe. But this wound is accomplished - making us, the ruler's people, willing in the day of his power.  This thought was stimulated by this post on Barth which actually made me chuckle. Here's a snippet outlining the difficulty of living together.
human life in society, whether on a small scare or a large, means the emergence and conflict, the more or less tolerable harmony and conjunction, of the different judges with their different rights, the battle of the ideas formed and the principles affirmed and the standpoints adopted and the various universal or individual systems, in which at bottom no one understands the language of the others because he is too much convinced of the soundness of his own seriously to want to understand the others, in which, therefore, what will be right as thought and spoken by one will be wrong as received by the others
 Do we dare move forward? One can scarcely hope for more than a live and let live stand-off. Is there no solution? This difficulty relates to my questions about Church. Revelation chapter 4 gives an image of 24 elders worshiping - a unified Israel recognizing that the prerequisite to judgment is worship and the reason for worship is the good judgment of the Most High, the judgment to mercy that creates the possibility of governance within human life in society. (This is as I have noted before, also the message of the Psalter.)

One day I hope I will have told the truth about love (pace Auden). Perhaps it is, after all, here hidden in the ambiguities of this archaic text. This is one of the favorite psalms of the New Testament authors.

Of David, a psalm
a proclamation of יְהוָה to my Lord
Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool
יְהוָה will send the rod of your strength out of Zion
rule in the midst of your enemies

your people are willing in the day of your power
in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning
to you the dew of your youth

יְהוָה has sworn and will not repent
you are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek
my Lord is at your right hand

he will wound kings in the day of his wrath
he will judge among the nations
a fullness of bodies

he will wound greatly a head on earth
he will drink from the torrent in the way
therefore he will lift up his head

New Testament allusions - also perhaps Revelation 3:21
110:1Matthew 22:44, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews10:12-13, 1 Peter 3:22
110:4Hebrews 5:6, 7:17, 21

The transfiguration

We plan to end our Bible study 'season' with a NT reading.

161. Transfiguratio

Mark 9.2 Luke 9.28 Matthew 17.1 %
Luke 9.37 Mark 1.11 Luke 3.22 Matthew 3.17 John 12.28

What does it all mean?
καὶ τὸν λόγον ἐκράτησαν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς συζητοῦντες τί ἐστιν τὸ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῆναι et verbum continuerunt apud se conquirentes quid esset cum a mortuis resurrexerit
(Greek and Latin translated in italics below)

Mark's Version (Mark unique is blue - yellow is common to the synoptics - space white means Greek word order is different)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Eli'jah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah." For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

Luke's Version (Luke unique is greeny blue)
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli'jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah" -- not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain,...

Matthew's Version (Matthew unique is pink)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli'jah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah." He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead."

Source: Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangelium, Edited by Kurt Aland (6th edition).

Psalm 4

Rethinking Psalm 4 a bit this morning.

There is a high level structure to the Psalter. The outer envelope is Psalms 1-2 and 149. There is then an inner envelope of personal psalms 3-4-5 and 140-141-142 (Annotations of further structures here and here.)

Psalm 4 struck me this morning as I was testing some recurrence diagrams.
It fits you, beloved, like a glove, 
and it answers your deepest questions
note particularly the gaps between verses.  Some are marked by Selah.

I refreshed my very literal translation here - note the repeated roots (arrows show them). Here is a smoothed out translation from earlier.

For the leader with strings A Psalm of David

When I call answer me
my God my upright
In straits you have made room for me
Be compassionate and hear my prayer.
My human child, how long will you insult my glory?
your loving on empty? your seeking a lie?
Now set down this: יְהוָה reserved
the beloved(1) as his own
יְהוָה will hear when I call to him
Tremble and do not be missing the goal
speak with your heart
on your bed and be still.
Offer offerings of righteousness
and trust in יְהוָה
Many say who will show us good?
Prove to us the light of your face יְהוָה!
You have put joy(3)  in my heart
more than when their grain
and their new wine increased
In peace as one I will lie down and sleep
for you יְהוָה in solitude in safety(4)  make me live.

(1) from chesed – covenant mercy – elect of God, the chosen - the mercied (singular in this case - cf Psalm 149 chasidim traditionally translated 'saints' - note the singular vs the plural - the same movement as is from Psalm 1 to 149.)
(2) needs another pause – change of speaker or plural vs singular
(3) happiness
(4) from betach – trust

Sunday 13 June 2010

Patterns of observation

Continuing my pattern observations - here are a few more -

The above is Psalm 111 showing all the roots and their frequency of usage in this psalm.  The repeated roots really stand out in this rendering. But the order is not quite right. The repeated root will only show once in the graph due to the nature of this type of graph so the graph software will make a somewhat arbitrary choice as to which it will show. So for instance ישׁר shows against verse 1 and 8 in the above and is placed with the sequence of verbs in verse 8 - but if I reverse the order, it will be placed with verse 1. And I have an oddball reversal in the sort of the first word for an unknown reason.

I think this might be resolved with a scatter chart but we haven't got that mode operational yet.

Here is a familiar passage - Qohelet 5:17-6:2 which we have looked at in some detail last month. At that time I was asking if chiastic structures are deliberate, significant or just normal communications. I suspect that some are deliberate but that others are not. How to decide?

Thursday 10 June 2010

Faith - how can we do it?

There are lots of posts about faith today since Jim West let out his broadside against who knows who. Joel takes up James. Ken writes (independent of the stimulus) on Romans. Mike and Tim take on a response to Jim directly.

It is not possible to please God without faith - but hey - who knows what faith someone else is pursuing? Arguing about postulates is hardly faith. One's faith is proven by what one does. A reliable scholar is faithful in his or her field as a disciplined performer of music. Who knows indeed what one is given to do? I left a few comments around on these posts. The pot is stirred. The stirstick according to Duane is defective. I stir it anyway - maybe someone else with clearer sight will respond also.

Targum Ruth and Boaz

Interesting post here from Targuman. O male, can you not get over your self-importance?

Revelation - a study from 7 years ago

Our Bible study has moved from a year's work in the Old Testament to reading Revelation. I have an old study of this book here. I wonder if I have changed much in my opinions over 7 years. Probably I would read the book with a much greater appreciation of allusions - hopefully we all will. There is a fully annotated text there also with my usual colour coding around the patterns of 7.

Felix Just has lots of information online about art in Revelation.

Here's my brief intro.
My own thesis is that this book is primarily about worship. The keys to the book are the seven references to the hour of judgment and the seven prostrations before the throne of the Beloved. The Gospel of Judgment is another clue - one would expect a Gospel of mercy but finds adoration and doxology for the judgment (14:6-7).
Harold Bloom suggests in his introduction to some critical essays: Hebrews hovers in John's mind on how to read the Hebrew Bible. But I think it is not as Professor Bloom imagines: the will to power of the typological interpretation of Scripture, but rather the intensity of worship that motivates and informs the vision as it does for the author of Hebrews. The Hebrew cult is a vital and primal human reference point. There is no anti-type where there is no type. Yet there is very little reference in Revelation to Hebrews - I have not yet noted any. One would have thought there would be plenty of opportunity with the throne room imagery to get something in on the priesthood of Christ. Even Psalm 110:4 Melchizedek reference is not one that I can read into this text. Revelation mentions the priesthood of the followers of the Lamb, but never the high priesthood of Jesus. Hebrews is all about the high priesthood of Jesus and not at all about the priesthood of his followers. The best I could venture is that both authors read Psalm 110 but took different directions with the text.
The links are to my collection of terms and their significance - not allegorically or symbolically as if there was one or many, but internally and structurally. I cannot answer the scholars who are miles ahead on many roads. As before, I must answer the enigma of my own experience - that God is love and that this revelation, his vengeance, is our story in that love. Who else would send a lamb to shepherd the sheep! 
Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling
and lift itself above all earthly thought.
For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God,
cometh forth to be our oblation and to be given for food to the faithful.
Before him come the choirs of angels, with every principality and power.
The cherubim with many eyes and winged seraphim,
who veil their faces as they shout exultingly the hymn. Alleluia.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Pondering direction with Esther

I have read the Anchor Bible Commentary by Carey Moore on Esther. It is well written c 1971. Esther itself seems to me to cry out for an analogical interpretation - perhaps something along the axis of tension between flesh and spirit and the relationship between male and female. This draws me into theological reflection more than translation. Combined with these topics, I sense and see a focus on words whose roots reduce to praise. Chapter 9 is filled with that word that reduces to praise. (You can see this in the graph on the left.) Should we note that those who are the praise of God should be able to defend themselves? Can they then destroy those who attack - by the only means of destruction available to them - by the love that constrains and leads to the gentlest of deaths, the death already accomplished for us at the mercy seat. I am reminded of Romans 2:29 - maybe some Greek fiend will translate this one for me on the hidden circumcision of the heart.

To follow Esther, I am hoping to use a graphic analysis of the text before I do any translation. I.e. I want to see the shape and hear the sound before turning the story into words I recognize instantly. The graph on the right is hard to read but interesting: According to my root algorithm, there are 127 roots used only once, 60 differing roots are used twice. And by sheer coincidence, there is one root (MLK) used 127 times. So this is a book about royalty. (My results says there are 7 roots used 7 times - a very curious coincidence also - and may or not be 'significant' words. Click on small diagram to see.)  All this sort of information is irrelevant and unknown to us as we hear the story, whether we are irritated by it or not.

I already know I am going to be biased if I read this book analogically - as a continuation of the battle between Saul and Agag (1 Samuel 15:9). I will likely refuse the bias of the irritated overhearing breakfast eater of 33 years ago. If you know who you are, please say hello!

I will also likely refuse an interpretation that privileges Jew over Gentile. Not all Gentiles are macho drinkers. Not all Jews are worthy of praise. But does this book perhaps say that the covenant that gives rise to praise is worthy of defense?

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Psalms 110-112

These two acrostics, Psalms 111-112, occur with Hallelujahs following the triumphant Psalm 110.

Last night we read the letters to the churches in the first chapters of Revelation. I noted how strongly Psalms 2, 110, and 149 are alluded to in those chapters. The faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth invites the churches, and by implication us also, to rule in the midst of our enemies. This must of course include ruling ourselves according to the pattern of his wounding in the midst of the troubles we see and the turmoil they cause. Such honour have all the saints as Psalm 149 notes, summing up the Psalter and closing the envelope opened by Psalm 2. (For prior posts on these psalms see here. Psalm 111 is the only acrostic I have not translated as acrostic. This is out of deference to the translation by Countess Mary Herbert.)

I am in the midst of experiments at seeing structure blind. Left is a diagram of the recurrence of roots within Psalm 111. Right Psalm 112. This post is stimulated by John's colourful (English) posts of  Psalm 111 (Hebrew) from last week.

You need to stare at them a bit - note how the occurrence of the root is by verse. It is like looking down on a city. Psalm 111 has the feature that the last verse repeats 6 words from the prior verses. Psalm 112 has three words repeated between verse 3 and 9 and also between verses 7 and 8. If you look it up you will see the limitations of graphs (though if you stare at them carefully you will see the overlap). These two inclusios are identical across the two psalms showing that they are a deliberate pairing.

I hope to be able to drive through the Lily palace visually before I learn the surrounding street names. I will do this by varying the parameters I pass to the chart(s) allowing me to see different recurrence structures. Of course I need to get the root right too. And in the 10 chapters of Esther there are too many words to see at once.

I feel I cannot leave this post without trying an acrostic translation of Psalm 111. It is slightly silly.

Saturday 5 June 2010

What I did on my holiday

Here's Bob trying to get into the picture before the delay goes off. I think we've figured out the delay now - just when the camera is going obsolete. Today we found the Kettle Valley Railway again - drove to the fabulous Myra canyon with its 18 trestles and two tunnels, all restored after the 2006 forest fire. At 4000 feet, we needed gloves.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

The Borg at play

It's 6:30 in the morning on a rainy day and before breakfast I note that the wired are already online.