Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ready to begin - so teach me about words and worlds

It's been almost 5 years to the day since I determined to learn Hebrew. I can date it from the conference on Hebrews in St Andrews in 2006. The first two psalms took me the better part of 4 months to decipher. I used books like Lambdin and BDB which I can now read, but which then were nearly incomprehensible, like wandering in a forest with no paths.

But I have persevered. That much I can say. Perhaps this is part of being human, the face of the need to continue.

As it happens, the first post (and the only one of about 50) that I read this morning was David Ker's three point review of why the Old Testament is important for the Church. Yes and more.
First, the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. His covenant of love is consistent with regard to his interaction with humanity. Second, the Old Testament is essential background information to the New Testament. Katy shows at length how the New Testament is brimming with Old Testament references and concepts. It’s simply impossible to read the New without a familiarity with the [Old]. Third, we must become lifelong students of the Old Testament in order to enrich our understanding of the New Testament message.
I hear these same three reasons in differing words
  1. that God is love
  2. that we need the historical parable of the OT
  3. that the psalms build the very community we seek to be
It is really quite astonishing with respect to Israel how little has changed (see psalm 83). Mark Nanos at the St Andrews conference remarked to me that the days of Messiah could not have come because the world is not fixed  (psalm 72).

Establishing the world in mercy (repairing the word) is what the Psalter is designed to teach by forming its faithful hearers. All are invited, Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus as Anointed illustrates this by example not by force. As we follow, we learn the full and free extent of that promise of mercy and rebuke in covenant that forms a people. It's a good lesson, and it is not learned instantly. Add water and stir - a lifetime of stirring. But the result is real.

ignore the rest of this meandering...
Establish - good word, right? Where does the phrase tikkun olam as used by so many come from? Here is my first lesson in the splaying of language this morning. I looked up כון since I figured it came from that word. But in Genesis, the KJV uses 'establish' with 'covenant' 11 times - and the word is קוּם for which I would prefer the gloss, rise or arise. Surprise! So is it tiqun olam or tikkun olam? (olam is easy - age, world, etc). My guess is that the establish would have been derived from כון as in Psalm 48:8
אֱלֹהִים יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עַד עוֹלָם
And still this is not the 'meaning' that many associate with the phrase. A common gloss is 'healing the world'. Healing - Rafa - that's tennis. Google translate gives
 מרפא העולם.
What's your explanation of the derivation of this phrase? Modern Hebrew seems to prefer the derivation from קוּם but would use כּוּן for preparing. Psalm 89:2 (Hebrew 3) has the consonants תָּכִן. But for all that meandering, the word is probably from Ecclesiastes 12:9.