Sunday 31 October 2010

The Biblical Studies Carnival

The October carnival has arrived before the day is done - it being NZ time. Read it here at Xenos by Jonathan Robinson, resident alien.

Thursday 28 October 2010

2010-10-29 - sitting in Ben Gurion airport

The last - last photos - have a curious translation problem - how would you manage the accents and the words for the Hebrew subtitles in The Trail of the Pink Panther? E.g. the confusion between message and massage - or the way he says his English words with an umlauted French accent?

Jaffa - the final day

What do we know of Jaffa? Oranges. And the house of Simon the tanner - near the water.

Tel Aviv -

Renting the car was a good idea - and quite inexpensive - $205 for the week. It allowed much easier access to sites. Not needed of course for Jerusalem. But I was glad to be rid of it and the responsibility of finding the way to places. (Not that difficult except for Nazareth)

Now we are on the last lap

Wednesday 27 October 2010


The city of Tzipori (Sepphoris) only a few short km from Nazareth, sits on a hilltop like a bird - the mosaics are exquisite. I write from the coffee shop at the Sheraton, a blue expanse of sea stretching out before me - a sandy beach inviting -

Tuesday 26 October 2010

A second attempt to see the Church of the Adolescent Jesus


Too late for this church again. On the way back from Cana we attempted to drive up but there was a very severe traffic jam - so we found our parking space and went back to the hotel and climbed straight up the 400 steps - I didn't count them. We had no information on hours - it turns out they are only open between 2 and 3 PM!

Cana - about 6 km from Nazareth

2010-10-26 - we braved the car and drove to Cana - 6 km in the direction of Tiberias. Right away we found a parking place - the churches being closed for siesta - so we bought some wine (and tasted it also at the proprietor's insistence.) Good dry red wine. Then we found a place to have our lunch. At the bakery we had been given a package of crushed oregano and sesame spice to eat our bread with. A loaf of fresh baked bread - 4 shekels.

The Basilica of the Annunciation

2010-10-26 - This includes the Basilica's two churches - lower story with a church of the grotto perpendicular to it in a cruciform shape, and upper story - a second church on top of the lower one, also the Synagogue of Luke 4 and St Joseph's church behind the Basilica

Evening and morning the 18th day

Just a few pictures of our room and the Inn and where we had supper

Monday 25 October 2010

A walk to the top of the hill

Architecture and History of the Old City

The Sister Inn

The Orthodox chapel and Byzantine caves

This requires more story but later and perhaps cast back into an earlier time

The Babour Spice shop

Named after Vapour - which became Babour, this colourful shop always looks great in the market and is really great when you are allowed to taste everything.

The carpentry row

There were a dozen shops that specialized in various forms of woodwork

The Coffee Maker

The Bedouin Coffee is made with cardamom

The White Mosque

First section of the tour is the White Mosque

Nazareth by day

2010-10-25 We had an excellent tour of the old city this morning. The Fauzi Azar is a rather special place - the choice of the Lonely Planet for Nazareth. There are 9 sets of pictures today - but fewer than there would be since I left my card in the computer and had only memory in the camera on our walk to the places up the mountain where we were so disoriented yesterday.

Nazareth is a city in need of rebuilding. The Fauzi Azar is part of that rebuilding. It is a complex story on which I hope Diana will write a guest post some time in the future. In the meanwhile here are the first of the images of the beautiful Ottoman designed home that we are staying in.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Nazareth by night and day at the Fauzi Azar Inn

Mount Tabor - Har Tavor

On our way to Nazareth we visited Har Tavor (Mt Tabor), the mount of the transfiguration. It is indeed a high mountain - not far from Nazareth but far enough to have been a full day's trek if not two, about 24 km from Kinneret.  We are reading about the Jesus trail - 5 days and 6 nights along the paths between the cities that we are visiting - Nazareth to Capurnaum including Tsipori and Mt Tabor.

It occurs to us that travel cannot be taken for granted as we do in a car (though we were soon to find that dead end streets are a problem when you are looking for a hotel that you cannot get to by car - but we did not know this). I only bashed into one telephone pole - and dented the pole and my pride more than the car - though I did add to the many scratches already on this car.

 Anyway - lost or not - as you will see, and in order not to lose our cool, we decided we must eat something. We found ourselves in an Arab restaurant where we were fed an enormous meal. It appears they pride themselves in serving everything in the house no matter what you order. We do not eat that much (remember the leftovers) and I was a bit embarrassed by the excess but I held my peace. It is a cultural difference that I may not get used to. We could have brought back the leftovers and fed this entire hotel.

Late morning walk in Amirim

We noticed a reference to Psalm 84 on this walk
Even bird finds house
and swallow nest for herself
where she sets her brood
at your altars יְהוָה of hosts
my king and my God

Saturday 23 October 2010

The Banias springs

Do we say - all my springs are in thee? (Psalm 87:7) Here are the springs of the north of Israel. On our way to the north, we noted a flock of cranes in phalanx formation tacking into the wind. I should have stopped and taken the picture - the flock was very large as were the birds - alternating bright white in the sun and darker as they turned into the wind - an Escher moment.

The Nimrod Fortress

The second part of our walks today - the Nimrod Fortress

On the Golan Heights

2010-10-23 - we drove north to the foothills of Mt Hermon and toured the sources of the Jordan river and the Castle Nimrod. At the foot of Mt Hermon, you can imagine the hart finding flowing streams of water as the pictures will show.

On the high places of Galilee

2010-10-22/23 We are in the small community of Amirim about 40 km from the Sea of Galilee high up on the hills and with a view of that sea in the distance.  It is very different from Jerusalem. The hills are all greener. The temperatures have cooled.

Friday 22 October 2010

The Mount of the Beatitudes

Finally, on our way to our new guest house in Amarim, we found the switchbacks up to the Mount of the Beatitudes, and the vital water which is protecting us from the smiting of the sun. While here we also tried some fresh pomegranate juice - deep, rich, almost instant dry wine. Again this post includes 8 translation exercises - this time from Latin

Picnic at the Jordan River Wetlands

After our hot walk, we wanted to swim, but refused to pay 55 shekels for a lousy hot private beach. So we paid instead for an entry into a place that looked like it might afford some shade. It was a huge campsite and park - some of it very poorly maintained. But it also included an archeological site - the town of Bethsaida. Here the bilingual inscriptions are not translations but different stories. So I took a series of pictures for translation exercises- but I haven't translated them yet. - do offer translations if you wish and leave a note or a link in the comments.

Capernaum to the Mount of the Beatitudes

2010-10-22 Today's journey began with a distant view of the Mount of the Beatitudes to which we thought we might walk - well - maybe - but it was not feasible in the heat. As you will see from this walk to the Church of the Primacy of Peter and the Mosaics in the Church of the Multiplication, and the following posts, we did eventually make it - but using the car.

Thursday 21 October 2010

The Japanese Garden

Yes - there is a lovely Japanese garden in Beit Alfa


Beit Alfa - Synagogue floor near Beit She'an

Be sure and go to the fish restaurant if you are in Beit-Alfa - the food was excellent

Qumran - hot hiking

Almog - Qumran - and points north

We are 2 weeks into our trip with 1 week to go. Today we began at Almog, traveled south to Qumran, scrambled up to the cave in the mountains and then drove north to Beit She-an and Tiberias where we are staying at the YMCA - a beautiful space with a hot spring in the lake of Galilee (or Kinnereth, as the locals call the body of water here).

The lake is surrounded by lights at night - but not enough to capture in a night photo. They are spread thinly around the lake.

On our way north we stopped at Beit-Alfa where in 1928 a complete Synagogue floor was uncovered while digging an irrigation ditch. The floor is lovely - in three main sections, the Akedah - the binding of Isaac, a section in the middle containing the signs of the Zodiac, and a depiction of the place of the Torah in the 'top' section.

Early morning at Kibbutz Almog:

Wednesday 20 October 2010

The Dead Sea

We are staying at Kibbutz Almog - at the north end of the Dead Sea. You will see that we swam today - but I doubt that we will travel the 3 extra hours south to Masada tomorrow. May give Qumran a pass also. The north is drawing me - Tiberias and Kinnereth and Amirim where a laundry is awaiting and 2 days rest, then Nazareth and two final nights on the beach at Tel Aviv

A visit to the Tower of David

2010-10-19  In the afternoon of the day of the second performance of Carmina Burana we went to the Tower of David with the evening soloist. We ended up at our favorite restaurant for a light lunch.  The Tower of David is well worth the visit - the opening film is animated with a sensitive script.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

RWB - First performance since 1975 in Jerusalem

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has two performances in Jerusalem. Here are a couple of pictures.

The Promenade in East Talpiot

2010-10-18 The East Talpiot promenades - a 30 minute walk south and east from the hotel. This is a high ridge where the UN Observer Force has its headquarters. There are views in all directions.

The artists' colony by day

2010-10-18 A day walk in the same places as last night and back by way of the YMCA tower.

A night walk through the Artists' Colony

Discovering our immediate neighborhood.

Sunday 17 October 2010

St George's Cathedral - Service in Arabic

We attended the 9:30 service in Arabic today - fun just to try and figure out the numbers.

Then we wandered back to the hotel through the old city.

Saturday 16 October 2010

The Israel Museum

This museum could take weeks to visit. One day was barely enough. Inside images are here at their site - and well worth looking at. Our walk there and back and a few outside images are below.

Friday 15 October 2010

The sites an E(i)n Kerem - Elizabeth and Mary

2010-10-14-PM Catching up yesterday's afternoon walk. We had hoped to get to the Hadassah Hopital's Synagogue where there is more Chagall (images here) but we were too late to do it.

A walk through Hezekiah's water system

2010-10-15 Suitable for blog action day on water, we walked the city of David in Jerusalem to day. Hezekiah's system is built over another earlier system from the bronze age c 1700 BCE. Diana took the wet walk through the tunnel, I took the dry Caananite walk.

Thursday 14 October 2010

The Knesset

2010-10-14 AM A trip to and tour of the Knesset - there were two main presentations in this secure place, the science of the political aspects of voting etc and the Chagall Room. I will write my impressions of the Chagall later. It was of course excellent. Official information is here.

Supper on Thursday at the Old City

2010-10-14 (more to come later) There was a busy time on the night before the weekend - I don't know what the occasion was or if it happens every week. A policeman said it was only for two more weeks - so perhaps a harvest / Halloween type of partying but over several weeks. Anyone out there know what we ran into? Found out - the Jerusalem Knights - four nights in October described here.

The Garden Tomb

2010-10-13 A retreat to a quiet space - impressive.

A Walk along the Ramparts

2010-10-13 mid-day - a walk around the ramparts and back - Damascus Gate to the East Wall then back past the Damascus Gate to the Jaffa Gate - then a lunch at the Armenian Tavern

The Dome of the Rock

2010-10-13 AM Here is our morning at the dome of the rock, the place where the binding of Isaac is remembered.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Technology, faith, and action

It is not true that Jesus did not write as noted here. He wrote, created, and redeemed the world with one word written in the dust. So it is that we in faith use technology and by means of that same sand in the form of computer chips (the gift to Zebulun) make images and words do his bidding.

While Jesus needed no technique, we learn through his Anointing the power of word and image that we too might be one. If indeed like him, we empty our words of self, they also will do his will. In this action we become as he is, miracle livestock.

Yad Vashem - Memorials of the holocaust

Tuesday 2010-10-12 Yad Vashem

I grew up knowing about this horror - I am glad to see it so well remembered. When shall we come to appear before the presence of God - without hurting each other and delivered from the thirst for blood and the bloodthirsty? (Pss 42, 55, 58) We were there at the same time as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet tour and also it turns out on the same day as the German Army Chief and the President of Finland. There were of course many tours and visitors there.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

A brilliant post on writing

Read it here

HT Clayboy

As Winnie the Pooh read - I require an answer. Soon to come.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church is a complex of chapels and actions by the faithful. Many were taking flash pictures. I tried to confine myself to the hand-held still photograph aided by some automated jiggle-adjusting software. Click on the bottom of the slide show to show the controls to start it or click to go to the album. The high wall is around the cemeteries. Supper at the Armenian Tavern in the Old City. The meal at the tavern was excellent.


Monday 10-10-11

We were a bit shocked to see Bethlehem as it is today, a city of 61,000 people. It is not the pastoral village with quaint inn that we imaged from our childhood. The new houses are all of stone, very bright together. The old house of the Church of the Nativity is 'under reconstruction'.  Lineups for the crypt were hours long, but our alternative tour guide had us in through the back door in a few minutes. We also bought all our Christmas presents here (at the store run by the alternative tour company of many cousins) - appropriate to the place.

The entrance to Bethlehem from the highway is on the side of the highway going north only. To get to it you had to travel a mile beyond and do a U-turn on a side road. The way in to Bethlehem was not secured but the way out and back to Jerusalem was secured by a wall - three security gates and an airport equivalent security scanner. I think that some tours get special treatment. Our treatment was to become as the residents of Bethlehem are for a few moments.

See the Bethlehem component comments from Bishop Alan here and here.

Monday 11 October 2010

Sunday - 10-10-10 Day at St George's Cathedral

After Church we took advice from the Dean Stephen Need of St George's re tours of Bethlehem. And we planned a trip via alternate tours to Bethlehem (this morning - next post.) Sunday afternoon we picked up our tickets for the ballet in the 'downtown'.

Pictures from Church

Day 2 - PM Gethsemane and Mount of Olives

The first full day - Saturday PM, we walked down the Hinnon valley and up the Kidron to the Garden of Gethsemane - passing through the field of blood, Diana just told me. (It is Monday PM - so I am two days behind in real time). The captions and photos give an impression...

Sunday 10 October 2010

Day 2 - Shabbat in Jerusalem

10-10-09 AM We walked to the Old City for our first glimpses in the daylight - easy to get lost especially in the warren-like market streets which go on for ever and have urchins looking to guide you and get too many shekels (not good not good, one said to my offer of 8 shekels - about $2.50, when he was showing us the way to the Damascus gate on Sunday - and left us on the right street but pointed us in the wrong direction!)

First glimpses of the Land of the Holy One

We are in Israel - these photos of an evening walk in Jerusalem are from Friday, Oct 8. We each separately caught the shared taxi (like a Turkish dolmesh) from the Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem. Both of us thus had a tour of Jerusalem as a result!

At church this morning at St George's Cathedral, we met Bishop Alan Wilson with his 116 people from Oxford - a nice coincidence. He has started his blogging from the North here and here. We hardly had time but to say hello since we were going in and he was coming out from the prior service.

We have settled into a pattern of walk in the morning, quick lunch - humus and bread, siesta - though the weather is not hot. Then walk again - then a glass of wine and finally walk to supper. The final photo below is one that became a study as we walked through the valley to Gethsemane - I will post more photos later.

Thursday 7 October 2010

A brief on the Genizah fragments

A fragment to be unfolded
I had been prepared unexpectedly for a special gift this morning and my timing couldn't have been better. I had printed my boarding card and bus ticket and remembered that I had dropped my card at the Genizah manuscript office last week. This morning I made it back just to meet the director and see if our software might have some application to their online programs some day. It turned out I was just in time for an unofficial presentation of the fragments complete with an introduction to the Sisters of Sinai, a fine book and good read that I was already familiar with having met the author Janet Soskice at the John Albert Hall lectures last year. What a delightful presentation it was from researcher Gabriele Ferrarno, of which I will say more later.
a fragment recovered

Last full day in Cambridge

I walked the streets today from Blossom Cemetary to the Cathedral of Mary and the English Martyrs, then to the Polar Museum (Browsable here) and the Fitzwilliam. (Their search appears not to work). From there I walked to the library and read some more on Job (Seybold) and Psalms (yes more on 137 in the Word Commentary). Ended up at Selwyn to hear the choir practice.

I checked a few books on Job and could not find anyone to confirm my sense of the inclusio implied by Leviathan and the eyelids of dawn. I will eventually pursue both Psalms and Job together and refine my thoughts - maybe even (after reading some of the hymn selections in my daughter's office) try for some real poetry. I am convinced that Job should be performed as drama, but it takes a lot of work and would need to create its own audience in this age. Hymns must have more substance than what I glanced at in this preview of a supplement to Common Praise (a hymn book I cannot stand to begin with). Personally, any sampler that tells me it is going to 'refresh' worship has already got three strikes against it. Where are the scholars when we need real poetry? Where are the poets who know the psalms and will not feed us pabulum?

For a few weeks I will be taking things in and may perhaps post some travel pictures.

how many generations does it take to change a lightbulb

What do you think? This is a new lightbulb joke. So it has no answer.

none - can't be done - let darkness and obscurity redeem it; let a cloud dwell on it; let blackness of day terrify it

many - the fullness of time

one - let there be light

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Places to go, things to do in Israel

Sunday the 17th is for the Dead Sea - the RWB will be there too -(no not dancing on the sea).
The lake is "deep to the very shore, and has water so very heavy that there is no use for divers, and any person who walks into it and proceeds no farther than up to his navel is immediately raised afloat. It is full of asphalt. The asphalt is blown to the surface at irregular intervals from the midst of the deep, and with it rise bubbles, as though the water were boiling; and the surface of the lake, being convex, presents the appearance of a hill. With the asphalt there arises also much soot, which, though smoky, is imperceptible to the eye; and it tarnishes copper and silver and anything that glistens, even gold" (Strabo, Geography, XVI.42 cited in The Holy Land, Jerome Murphy O'Connor).
Note: such water in the lungs is fatal.
Below Qumran, the road passes over the wadi ed-Nar (Nahal Qidron). The detergent from the sewers of Jerusalem is still intact as the evil-smelling stream passes beneath the road (give that one a pass.)

At the top of the cliffs a splendid view, and in the northern (left) corner of the vast natural amphitheater are the celebrated hot-springs of Callirrhoe where Herod went in his last terrible illness (Antiquities 16:171). Just below the skyline a truncated cone slightly whiter than the surrounding hills is Machaerus, where (according to Josephus) Herod Antipas put John the Baptist to death. At En Gedi - swim - and see the nature reserve in Nahal Arugot.

But we begin in Jerusalem where the view to the east is blocked by the Mount of Olives which rises 100M above the city. David escaped this way when confronted by Absalom's treachery (2 Samuel 15:30-32). Solomon built temples for the gods of his foreign wives on the southern spur (2 Kings 23:13). Here the ritual of the Red Heifer was celebrated (Numbers 19:1-10) . When Jerusalem was full to bursting and Jesus was there at festival, he walked over the hill to the city and returned at nightfall (Luke 21:37). The lie of the land permits only one route if one wants to avoid climbing in and out of wadis. Gethsemane straight up hill to et-Tur and along the ridge to Bethphage. Luke locates the Ascension here (Acts 1:6-12) where you can find the Russian Ascension Church and the chapel of the head of John, and the Mosque of the Ascension where in the Byzantine period the footprints of Jesus were 'plainly and visibly impressed in the dust' which pilgrims were permitted to take away (!)

The look for the Church of the Pater Noster (Acts of John C3 CE), a cave associated with the teaching of Jesus (closed Sundays, open 8:30 to noon and 3-5 PM, Lord's Prayer in 62 languages).

Original Love

Many have posted on the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist. Rachel Barenblatt on the Velveteen Rabbit, James McGrath on Exploring our Matrix, and though not directly related I should mention the insights of Richard Beck and his post on Narratives of Injury.

It is very difficult to write on this subject. So many correspondents are deeply afraid of their own bodies and so many others might take offense at such boldness. If there anything that my Lord has done for me it has been to teach me about this body that he prepared for me that I might do his will (Psalm 40 - 'body prepared' LXX or 'ear dug' - it's all the same in its context).

This Lord my God taught me about his own presence with me and in me. This I learned through the death of Jesus - I know that needs unpacking - but it's a lifetime's job, like the study and love of Torah - and it is the same Spirit and the same anointing for Jew and Gentile alike and for all who fear God but have no language to express it.

The more I study Psalms (and the Writings), the more I see this same Spirit of truth leading, correcting, and embodied in his ancient anointed servants, the writers and redactors of the canon, and in his son and servant Israel, and in the daughters of Zion - in all these images of us in the fearful love into which we are born - there - original love rather than original sin.

Having learned, sometimes painfully, to love ourselves, he teaches us then how to love others - even those, especially those that are not like us - not conservative or not orthodox or not reformed or not Christian - for if the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, and the glory of God is in the face of the outcast, and the knowledge of that glory covers the earth - who am I to judge against myself, or against those whose works I have sung (like Tchaikovsky or Britten) and who had more discipline that they knew in themselves than I knew in performing them.

All those who use the New Testament - especially Romans - to condemn others have not read it nor do they know in themselves the salvation of his presence - for if they did, they would no longer speak or act to condemn same-sex intimacy. As for one who exposes another to reveal his private life, (for there is a private life - a hidden manna and a white stone on which is written the name that is known only by the one to whom it is given and the Lord himself) one who so exposes another's life is himself revealing his own fear and his own abuse of his own person and of others.

I have known such abusers and their end was destruction. If the end is to be destruction, let us destroy ourselves by the Spirit in the atonement so that our judgments might remain on the scapegoat and we ourselves be engaged by the Spirit to use our energy in the Elect for love rather than the will to power. It should be our desire to confirm the holiness of all lives when they seek such in truth. God is capable of bringing such people who are different into the body and into the great assembly in the same way that anyone else is so brought.

Steal Away

The section from Michael Tippet's Child of Our Time - 6 minutes worth spending

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Museum of Anthropology and other things

Here are some images from the museum of anthropology and some churches around Cambridge - St Butolph, Great St Mary's and Kings. I stayed too long in the library to get to the Kings' evensong. The little red mailbox at Kings is where I mailed my postcard to my office. The last picture is the crazy clock that always wows the tourists. It was unusual to be able to get an unencumbered view. The museum has all sorts of totems and things from several cultures. The Assembling Bodies display was amusing - some of them are very hard to see in an image - look at the one that appears in the space before the BC totem pole. The array of forks made from trees are not a pleasant reminder of primitive practices in Fiji. Yes they are cannibal forks.

The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology

The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology is a substantial volume with a considerable list of contributors. Edited by Richard Bauckham, Daniel R. Driver, Trevor Holt, and Nathan MacDonald there are articles in it from the 23 scholars exploring this subject in depth. These are many of the papers I heard presented and discussed before I started blogging and learning Hebrew myself. The full table of contents and list of contributors is available at the link above.

I cannot help but remember the conferences I have been to over the last 8 years, from small to large, with specific focus and general, each one having its own place. Blessed be the cloud of computing that keeps my memories for me. It seems to me that we are all like sieves swimming in a vast sea but our lead fish has given us direction and continues to.

The Jewish Roots of Christian Sacrifice was the first one I attended. Here I heard and read with another Canadian (unknown to me) my first Targum taught by Jo Milgrom, and where I was first introduced by her husband Jacob to his theories of purity based on his work on Leviticus. Stefan Rief also presented as did George Bebawi and Bishop Kallistos. There too Bishop Basil introduced me to Réné Girard. Not a bad beginning to conferences. It was three years before I attended another, that is the one above at St Andrews that started me on learning Hebrew because this conference changed for ever the way I viewed the 'Old' Testament.

In 2008 I decided to join SBL and attended two of their conferences, the national SBL meeting San Diego 2008 and the regional meeting in Victoria 2010. These are, by way of contrast' enormous conferences compared with the others.

I think the Jewish roots conference was about 40 people. I had come to Cambridge also to present at the engineering faculty a session on brain computer interfaces which we had been working on behalf of Claire Minkley. Unknown to me, one of her teachers also came to that conference and then to my lecture also - it was the two of us from the same city half-way around the world unknown to each other that were chosen to read the targum on the Akedah. (The text for this is not easily available online.)

The Oxford Psalms Conference is full circle for me from the St Andrews Hebrews Conference. In a couple of days I will be in Israel - what sort of experience with this background awaits me? What should I see? What remember?

A new blog has appeared from one whom I do not know. It touches also on a longer and more painful history. I go into a painful and even longer history as I approach Jerusalem.  How long O Lord?

Monday 4 October 2010

More science - enjoy the pictures at the album link

Instead of reading all day I went to two museums and noted a few more that will be open tomorrow

First the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences where one is greeted by fierce dinosaurs and enormous fossil shells.

Then the University Museum of Zoology. Here I noted the delicacy of bone formation and the beauty of some shells.
30 more at this link 2010-10-04

Abstracts of Graduate Theses

Krista Mournet, John Barton (chair), Alison Gray
Not wishing by any means to be incomplete, I want to list the theses briefly from the 14 graduates. I read these on the train to Ely and made a few notes. Some struck me as of considerable interest. Three were presented from Alison Gray, John Wigfield, and Krista Mournet.

Alison Gray gave us a clear short handout illustrating the use of Metaphors in the Psalms with examples from Psalm 18. I loved her talk of course since my recent reading of the Psalms treated them as if they were framed pictures in a gallery. (See the Psalter kata Bob). Alison being from Selwyn, we soon discovered we had an acquaintance in common, my daughter Sarah, from whose house I am writing.

John Wigfield
John Wigfield (Nottingham) presented the ideal and the realized Deuteronomic king (Psalm 1) and the royal Davidic king (Psalm 2). His thesis title is "Deuteronomy and David in dialogue: evoking a conversation between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 in the joint introduction to the Psalter."  After reading the abstract, I jotted down a few questions I would ask if he were in the room with me: how would you justify "fuse" vs "contrast" (in the two individuals in the two psalms) as the purpose of the juxtaposition of the 2 psalms? And - is David superceding Deuteronomy?

Krista Mournet (Durham) is exploring "'Turning' in the Psalms: with special reference to Psalm 90:13". Psalm 90 certainly turns on turning. I always think of the Shaker song when I consider this psalm - till by turning, turning, we come round right. Krista intends to explore the various words we translate as turn and their significance.

Stephan Attard (Pontifical Biblical Institute) The Structural Scheme Ordering Book II of the Psalter: A Synchronic Analysis. "From the point of view of a theology of prayer, a general movement from a moment of crisis or human predicament to a divine response or theological solution, leading to a human response, can be shown to occur in various cycles in the itinerary commencing with Psalm 42 and concluding with Psalm 72."

Simon - hand over mouth
Simon Chi-Chung (St Edmund's). Simon and I traveled back to Cambridge together - a scintillating 3 hour conversation. His thesis is Classifying and Contextualizing "Wisdom Psalms". He will be analyzing psalms 37, 49, and 73 in detail and applying his results to several other psalms (1, 19, 32, 39, and 128).

Helen Dare (Bristol). Always on the way and in the fray: British Baptist hermeneutics in dialogue with Walter Bruggemann. From her abstract: "...interpretation should be marked by a willingness to 'risk' a dialogical openness to the voice of covenant partners, human and divine."

Bill Goodman (Sheffield) Yearning for you: Songs in Conversation. Bill's thesis "attempts a conversation between contemporary songs and biblical songs." I put a circle in the margin against the words implying that "the language of lover or eros is notably absent" from the Psalms and that the language of rebuke is absent from the Song. Perhaps his thesis will fill in the circle from the lilies to the watchman's strike with his staff.

Will Kynes (Cambridge, St John's College) My Psalm has turned to weeping: The Dialogical Use of the Psalms in the Book of Job.  "In their dispute the Job poet often has Job and his friends represent opposing sides of tensions latent within a psalm, thereby placing his interpretation of the psalm in the space between their interpretations." He has identified a vital aspect of the white fire in this sentence. This is a paper to watch for. I note a comment from Childs that I read this week re Job: "the failure to assign any value to the final form of the book ... has resulted in widespread confusion." (Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture p523)

Seonghye Lee (Bristol) - The book of Psalms as an anthology designed to be memorized. This is a lovely idea - and every structural clue that can be identified will help translators give us a new lasting translation.

Sean Mayer (right)
Sean Maher (St Patrick's Carlow, previously Pontifico Istituto Biblico) What Law? What Truth? A study of the notion of torah in Psalm 119. Sean asked me if Yeats was my favorite poet. And I said not particularly - but that he made a mistake in not staging O'Casey's play.  (There - that's my inclusio for these blog posts - now I know I am finishing. But there is one more post if you are reading 'in sequence')

Isobel Rathbone (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford) The theological agenda of King Alfred's reforms - and a double line goes against this sentence: "I am particularly interested in Alfred's translations, with additions, of the first 50 psalms."
Phil, Till, and Johannes

Antonia Richards (Liverpool Hope University) Who are the divine assembly in Psalm 82? Her study proposes an interesting convergence of Mesopotamian, Canaanite, and Hebrew religion, law, and culture.

and finally - not to be omitted - is fellow-blogger Phil Sumpter (Gloucestershire/Bonn) Reading Psalm 24 in the context of B.S. Childs' canonical approach. Phil's abstract is here on his blog.

Neale and reception history of Psalm 137

John Mason Neale on Psalm 137 and Babylon - note the striking reference to the rock that is Christ. Here it is in the destruction of the anointed, the self-giving of the elect servant, the vine brought out of Egypt, that the creation is redeemed. This is the work of the 6th day.

For the collection of older views from the 19th century. This last interpretation is very similar to the one I developed yesterday. For more of Neale's collected information go here.

Sunday 3 October 2010

One more response to Psalm 137

In the Selwyn gardens behind the chapel, the sounds of choir practice are again in the air, as they are preparing for the freshers service at 5:30. These two weeks were worth the wait just to hear Michael Tippet's Steal Away to Jesus sung by the Selwyn Choir. It's windy. I remember that the wind blows where it wills. It won't blow just so I can take a picture.

Reward her even as she rewarded you and repay her double for her deeds. (Revelation 18:6). Is this an allusion to Psalm 137? Also to Isaiah 40? Suddenly Babylon and Judah are juxtaposed.

The reception history in film that I saw in Lyons paper is anathema to me. The vengeance of Psalm 137 behind me, I cannot see in it a justification for ultra violence à la Clockwork Orange. This is not the righteousness of God. Just because it seems to be reception history, that does not mean it is right. So what is Revelation doing with this text from psalm 137? It is putting it in its only possible context, the sacrifice of the Lamb whose life is given for the life of the world.

If they strike you on the one cheek, offer them the other. Who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.

The one who said these words saves psalm 137 for his revelation to John. What shall I do with it in this context? I will not receive it as justifying a war of vengeance even though I might know and understand such thoughts. My thoughts would not attribute a blessing of happiness to one who fulfills them as vengeance. There is no joy set before him with respect to vengeance. God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. It is too easy to allegorize as do Origen and Lewis - of course we can be in a place of confusion, but Babylon is destroyed. God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:5).

Remember is the keyword linking this passage in Revelation to psalms 70 and 38 with inscription 'to remember' and those that use the frame of remember like psalm 137. The poet asks God to remember Edom and Babylon. (strophe 3) The poet wishes a curse on himself if he should fail to remember Jerusalem. (strophe 2)
If Revelation can use the fall of Babylon in this way, then I can say that to remember Zion (strophe 1) is to remember where the price was paid for sin in the self-giving of the Lamb of God. The anointed servant offered himself there for the people and for the life of the world. The elect servant and son, Israel, is the one to whom this love is entrusted and this finest gold is justified in remembering Zion and Jerusalem in this way - as the place of self-giving, even of our own selves.

And each of us, chosen, whether we are Jerusalem, or Edom or Babylon, as we acknowledge our role as destroyer, and allow ourselves to be destroyed in the Lamb, we each will be blessed with that happiness that is written of in the psalm because we will know the resurrection that is equivalent to the restoration of Zion. Even the foxes are redeemed.

For consideration for the Song of Solomon

Concerning the foxes - read this out loud of course. Go to the end.

It is for respite that we return to the gardens

Today slightly windy and rainy - this graveyard is just behind my daughter's house where I am staying this weekend.
and here are some pictures from yesterday of the garden behind the Selwyn chapel

Mary Herbert and Psalm 137

Psalm 137 continuing the exploration of reception history

Given the immense amount of information in Sue Gillingham's presentation on Psalm 137, I have decided that I have done the psalm an injustice in being unaware of how it is used - so apart from the sources I already know like Neale and various commentaries and my comfort level with the text, I will now consider some of the leads in the Conference information.

First - the text again for remembering (my translation)
Three voices - plural first person, singular oath first person, second and third person report as prayer
By the torrents of Babel
there we sat
yea we wept
in remembering Zion
on willows in the midst of her
we hung our strings
for there our captors asked us the words of a song
and our tormentors mirth
"Sing to us a song of Zion"
how will we sing such a song of יְהוָה
on strange ground?
If I forget you Jerusalem
let my right hand forget
let my tongue cleave to my palate
if I do not remember you
if I do not take you Jerusalem
as my chief mirth
Remember יְהוָה of the children of Edom
in the day of Jerusalem
those saying
expose her to the foundations
Devastating daughter of Babel
happy the one who makes peace with you
even weans you as you have weaned us
happy the one who takes and dashes
your unweaned against the rock.
The first thing I came across is a critique of canonical criticism1 - as limiting the reading of Scripture. But he quickly moves to commendation because "the forces operating within the canonical approach itself did not allow me to accept the readings already available to me". And this note too: "two thousand years of opportunity does not necessarily mean that we have become very good at reading the canonical text". So Lyons offers here a reading of the films Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects (1995) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) in the light of their reception of Psalm 137.

Lyons begins with Origen's analogy - My unreported notes read: "the allegories are awful. Origen - Christian readings have lost their material reality." Here is a citation of Origen. He has allegorized the children away:
The infants of Babylon, which means confusion, are the confused thoughts caused by evil which have just been implanted and are growing up in the soul. The man who takes hold of them, so that he breaks their heads by the firmness and solidarity of the Word, is dashing the infants of Babylon against the rock; and on this account he becomes blessed (Contra Celsum, VII.22).
C.S. Lewis is quoted next further informing our present with Origen's analogy
I know things in the inner life, which are like babies; the infantile beginnings of small indulgences, small resentments, which may one day become dipsomania or settled hatred… Knock the little bastards’ brains out, And “blessed” is he who can, for it’s easier said than done.
I recommend the rest of the article - it is a good summary of the history which Lyons is critical of as hiding the reality of the psalm. The film applications are quite striking.
The psalmist sees the inflicting of shame on his enemies as a way of negating the ongoing loss of honour which had been inflicted on him. Since Babylon had already fallen, this was to be achieved rhetorically, by the constant repetition of the psalm within the ongoing life of Israel. Babylon’s destruction was to be made obvious to all Israel by the open recitation of an Israelite desire which could never have been voiced openly within the living Babylonian Empire.
I wonder if there is more to say.

References (1) William John Lyons, ‘A Man of Honour, A Man of Strength, A Man of Will? A Canonical Approach to Psalm 137’, Didaskalia 16 (2005), pp. 41-68.

More on music - 2 Chronicles and chironomy

Chironomy - the hand gestures indicate the music
Suzanne Haik Vantoura writes in her book concerning the te-amim - Only the signs below the text had fixed meaning. The signs above the text being subordinate to those below.

John Wheeler, editor of Haik Vantoura's English translation, has an article on chironomy here. The mapping of sound, scale, harmony and cadence onto hand gestures holds the complexity of a language of musical notation in a transmittable form. Suzanne Haik Vantoura points out the meaning then of a verse like 1 Chronicles 25:6
כָּל־אֵלֶּה עַל־יְדֵי אֲבִיהֶם בַּשִּׁיר בֵּית יְהוָה
All these were under the musical direction (lit. under the hands - in the song) of their father [in] the house of יְהוָה (or possibly in the song of the house...?)
כל־א֣לה על־ידי֩ אביה֨ם בש֜יר ב֣ית יהו֗ה
(JPS 1917 All these were under the hands of their fathers for song in the house of the LORD assuming that אביהם is used distributively of each father of the sons named.)

(Aside: you can do almost anything in translation! What could one do to resolve ambiguity with music?) The subsequent mapping of hand gestures to the written text is also a credible language coding scheme and efficient - no longer requiring individual directors for each voice or instrument. Even the rubrics were meant to be sung.

Here is another example  [click on show cantillation if necessary] Psalm 19:6 (7 Hebrew)
מקצ֤ה השמ֨ים מֽוצא֗ו ותקֽופת֥ו על־קצות֑ם
and a hint in the image below of how the mapping is done to modern notation. Note that the metheg has been understood at this site as related to stress and pronunciation rather than music - (Lambdin #11). Haik-Vantoura considers that the metheg moves the singer back to the tonic. (Her default tonic is E. Pitches are relative. Absolute pitches not known.)

These markings could be seen as the equivalent of punctuation and phrasing. This section of psalm 19 can be compared with the performance - hopefully ear, hand, eye, and voice will agree.

The videos etc which I had here are no longer available. You will find several sample performances on the music page.

Saturday 2 October 2010

The Oxford Psalms Conference - in sequence

Here are the posts for the Oxford Conference on the Psalms from Sept 22-24, 2010 in the order the topics were presented. These are reconstructed from my notes, from handouts, and from pictures I have taken or from the web. If you find errors or can offer clarifications please feel free to comment or email me at bobmacdonald at gx dot ca and I will adjust or correct the post.