Thursday, September 23, 2010

David, Orpheus, and Reception History

David and the animals - asheri the first word of the psalter
John Sawyer began with this image and later contrasted it with one of Orpheus from a floor in Perugia where he teaches. The image of Orpheus below that I found is close - maybe the same one but my visual memory is confused in that mine is in colour.

John Sawyer reminded me of the rumour I had heard when I was young that the inscriptions on the psalms are not inspired. It seems that REB originally left them out for these reasons given by G.R.Driver
  • the musical instruction is not understood
  • they are frequently incorrect or out of context
  • they are likely not original
Orpheus and the animals
Well, you sure could have fooled me - I have used them extensively in frame analysis and for genre identity among other things.  He noted that where late used to be derogatory, now reception history has become in vogue.  He cited even Steven Fry's autobiography entitled Moab is my Washpot. Fry must have stolen the title from my wife and me. We wore poster boards with such texts on a hallow'een in the 70s. If I write such a bio, I will use our other text:: his undergarments are like sharp potsherds.  So ridicule is part of reception history. He also noted Voltaire's comments on the narratives of blood and the moral outrage that many see in the text.

Jesus and the sheep
How do we answer them? (Ezekiel comes to mind - it is not that I am unrighteous, says the Lord but that you sin against each other - or words that could be read to that effect to the people of the 20th C and ongoing).  But we do see churches pick their lectionaries to leave out the nasty bits like the Do Not Destroy psalms.

Against these thoughts, he asked what do the images tell us about reception history? And what did Christian art do? Replace the harp with a cross and the animals with sheep - Psalms 23, 100, 78, 79. Qumran has its own version: Psalm 151 contains these words of David: the trees parse my words and the flocks my deeds (in a Hebrew version from the DSS 11a psalms a).

Day 2 is half over as I write this - my notes are accumulating. More reflections to come still on Day 1.