Sunday 30 October 2011

Narrow place and broad place

We don't see Egypt as a symbol for 'the world' in the negative sense these days, but Bishop Tutu, writing to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) says
"Salvation means being called out of our narrow bonds into a broad place of welcome to all." 
(via Facebook and James McGrath).

Look at the resonance with the Psalms. Narrow bonds - Egypt מצרים is Mitsraim, within the word is צר Tsar - straits - (Psalm 3) narrow. Contrast Psalm 18.20
He will bring me out into extraordinary (רחב broad) space
he will rescue me for he delighted in me

Balanced in Psalm 18.37 at the end of that section.

Narrow and broad - whatsoever you bind ... Have we learned to bind and loose knowing the mercy under which we have life?

My troubled son wants to write a book (or a song) called How to stay in Heaven when you get there.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Psalms 115 and 28 - connections

As I work through the psalms yet again, this time with some real research capacity (though I haven't used it much for a week), I am working out how much each psalm is related to each other. Yesterday I improved an ancient graph in the original 150 diagrams to show me the real root relationships to all psalms from the point of view of any one of them. Individual examples need teasing out but I am getting clues from the shape of the tables of recurring words that help to see if a particular case should be more closely examined.

For instance, the graph shows a 40% relationship between Psalm 115 and 28. You can see the peak on the graph of all psalms against Psalm 28. Are these really very strongly related in their word usage? As usual I am excluding the divine names and some ultra-common particles,  על יהוה את אלוה כי אל, to keep the tables a little more compact. I can prove the result with an independent query on these two psalms alone.

Psalms 28 and 115

Count of Shared Selected RootsVerse CountWord Count (Excludes some common words)
The percentage of words with these selected shared roots is indeed 78/194 or about 40%. Closer inspection indicates that this may be a consequence of one or two frequently recurring words (bless, no) but there are also words used in sequence (what their hands have made) and some conceptual similarity in the two poems (their hands are contrasted with his hands in Psalm 28 and verse 7 of Psalm 28 clearly resonates with the trio of verses 9, 10, and 11 in Psalm 115).

Selected words occurring in each of psalms -28,115

Word and gloss * first usage12345678910123456VsStem
עם with
יורדי those going down into
שׁמע hear
ידי my hands
דביר the matter of
עם with
ועם or with
דברי speaking
עם with
תן give
* להם them
כמעשׂה what have made
ידיהם their hands
תן give
* להם them
* להם to them
לא not
מעשׂה to what has made
ידיו his hands
ולא and not
ברוך bless
שׁמע he has heard
ומגני and my shield
בטח trusts
ונעזרתי and I am helped
הוא is he
עמך your people
וברך and bless
עד to
העולם the everlasting
לא not
לא not
תן give
עשׂה he did
מעשׂה a deed of
ידי the hands of
להם they have
ולא and not
ידברו speak
להם they have
ולא and not
להם they have
ולא and not
ישׁמעו hear
להם they have
ולא and not
ידיהם their hands
ולא and not
ולא and not
לא nor
עשׂיהם their makers
בטח are trusting
בטח trust
עזרם their help
ומגנם and their shield
הוא is he
בטחו trust
עזרם their help
ומגנם and their shield
הוא is he
בטחו trust
עזרם their help
ומגנם and their shield
הוא is he
יברך he will bless
יברך he will bless
יברך he will bless
יברך he will bless
עם with
ברוכים the blessed of
עשׂה who makes
נתן he has given
לא not
ולא nor
ירדי descending to
נברך we will bless
ועד and unto
עולם everlasting

  • Re collected notes, I am working on psalms 1-41 (in a private blog - email me at bobmacdonald at if you want to read this draft of the full Psalter). 
  • In this potential draft of full text, I am working on psalms 1-8 with critique from my wife and another serious scholar of the ancient world. 
  • At Poetry of Christ, I am working on Psalms 93-100. You are welcome to comment on the posts at PoC which are all drafted and are scheduled to March 31, 2012. I have limited PoC to 10 posts per month. I do not post any random posts there. It contains only the posts on my draft notes on each psalm in sequence, and one summary per Book.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Inter-textual relations between psalms

Well I am having fun again. Uvic has excellent research resources, and I am still, even in my retirement, inventing ways of seeing things that confirm the subjective impression sometimes.  So psalm 15 and 24, as part of a progression in Book 1 are strongly related in their word usage. 13 roots recur between the two psalms.

Selected words occurring in each of psalms 15 and 24

Word and gloss * first usage12345678910123VsStem
מזמור a psalm
לדוד of David
* מי who
* מי who
בהר on hill
קדשׁך your holy
צדק righteousness
בלבבו in the heart
לא not
לא not
לא not
נשׂא he does lift up
יכבד he glorifies
נשׁבע he swears
ולא and not
לא not
נקי the innocent
לא not
לא not
לעולם forever
לדוד of David
מזמור a psalm
מי who
בהר to the hill of
ומי and who
קדשׁו his holy
נקי those of innocent
לבב heart
לא not
* נשׂא has lifted up
ולא and not
נשׁבע sworn
* ישׂא such will take away
וצדקה and righteousness
* שׂאו lift up
* והנשׂאו and be lifted up
עולם everlasting
* הכבוד glory
מי who
* הכבוד glory
* שׂאו lift up
* ושׂאו and lift up
עולם everlasting
* הכבוד glory
מי who
* הכבוד glory
* הכבוד glory
This post continues my series on psalm snippets. I now have the capacity to control my notes for a publishable volume. I am putting things together and am on the lookout for the pleasure of beauty after the manner of Psalm 90:17:
וִיהִי נֹעַם אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ 
And let the pleasure of the Lord our God be on us
and the deeds of our hands establish on us
and the deeds of our hands establish

Sunday 16 October 2011

Food - Eating in the Psalms

Food and eating (אכל) is a frequent topic in the Psalter. The first instance is metaphorical - the eating of people. This is repeated in psalm 53, the Elohist double of Psalm 14.

הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ
כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי
אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם
יְהוָה לֹא קָרָאוּ
14.4Did they not know
all these working mischief -
eating my people
as they eat bread?
יְהוָה they do not call

Psalm 18 brings us the image of the fire devouring from the mouth of יְהוָה. Consumption is here of the consuming fire that eats (devours) its enemies.
עָלָה עָשָׁן בְּאַפּוֹ
וְאֵשׁ מִפִּיו תֹּאכֵל
גֶּחָלִים בָּעֲרוּ מִמֶּנּוּ
18.9A smoke ascends from his nostril
and fire from his mouth devours
coals were kindled from it

Psalm 21, the answer to the prayer of Psalm 20, continues the metaphor of fire as the eater.
תְּשִׁיתֵמוֹ כְּתַנּוּר אֵשׁ
לְעֵת פָּנֶיךָ
יְהוָה בְּאַפּוֹ יְבַלְּעֵם
וְתֹאכְלֵם אֵשׁ
21.10you will set them as a fiery oven
in the time of your presence
יְהוָה in his anger will swallow them
and fire will devour them

Psalm 22 associates eating with worship. Those who cannot buy food will also eat and be satisfied. The hart of the dawn is in three rings of animals, lions, bulls, and dogs, all looking in the wrong way for that right sort of food.
יֹאכְלוּ עֲנָוִים וְיִשְׂבָּעוּ
יְהַלְלוּ יְהוָה דֹּרְשָׁיו
יְחִי לְבַבְכֶם לָעַד
22.27The abused will eat and be satisfied
Those who search for יְהוָה will praise him
May your heart live for ever
אָכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ כָּל דִּשְׁנֵי אֶרֶץ לְפָנָיו
יִכְרְעוּ כָּל יוֹרְדֵי עָפָר
וְנַפְשׁוֹ לֹא חִיָּה
22.30All the sleek of the earth will eat and worship in his presence
All who go down to the dust will bow
but his being he could not keep alive
sleek, דשׁן (dshn), fat, feels like a misprint for sleep, ישׁן

Psalm 27 uses eat as Psalm 14 as a metaphor for being injured by others.
בִּקְרֹב עָלַי
לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי
צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי
לִי הֵמָּה
כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ
27.2in drawing near to me
to injure
to eat even my flesh
my foes and my enemies
they to me
they stumbled and fell

Psalm 41 notes the community of those who eat together, who share food, yet who may still be betrayed in that trust.
גַּם אִישׁ שְׁלוֹמִי
אֲשֶׁר בָּטַחְתִּי בוֹ
אוֹכֵל לַחְמִי
הִגְדִּיל עָלַי עָקֵב
41.10Even a person with whom I was at peace
in whom I trusted
eating my bread
has planted an exaggerated footstep against me
[John 13:18]

Psalm 44, the communal lament, again uses the food image metaphorically as one of exile.
תִּתְּנֵנוּ כְּצֹאן מַאֲכָל
וּבַגּוֹיִם זֵרִיתָנוּ
44.12You have given us like sheep for food
and among the nations you have sifted us

Psalm 50 continues the metaphor of the devouring fire. And God asks rhetorically - do you really think I eat goats?
יָבֹא אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאַל יֶחֱרַשׁ
אֵשׁ לְפָנָיו תֹּאכֵל
וּסְבִיבָיו נִשְׂעֲרָה מְאֹד
50.3our God comes and and will not keep silence
Fire from his presence will devour
and surrounding him a great sweeping
sweeping, שׂער (s`r) reads like a misprint for tempest or storm, also in psalm 58.10, but there's nothing quite like his broom
הַאוֹכַל בְּשַׂר אַבִּירִים
וְדַם עַתּוּדִים אֶשְׁתֶּה
50.13Will I eat the flesh of the mighty
or the blood of goats imbibe?
the mighty, not bulls necessarily.
imbibe שׁתה (shth)
contrast שׁקה (shqh) drink

Psalm 53 extends with variation the earlier psalm 14.
הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ
פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי
אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם
אֱלֹהִים לֹא קָרָאוּ
53.5Did they not know
these working mischief
eating my people
as they eat bread?
God they do not call

The enemies of Psalm 59 are like dogs in the evening.
הֵמָּה יְנִיעוּן לֶאֱכֹל
אִם לֹא יִשְׂבְּעוּ וַיָּלִינוּ
59.16they will totter off for food
if not satisfied then they will hang around

Psalm 69 has another metaphorical use for eating - the devouring zeal of the one who works hard.
כִּי קִנְאַת בֵּיתְךָ אֲכָלָתְנִי
וְחֶרְפּוֹת חוֹרְפֶיךָ נָפְלוּ עָלָי
69.10For jealousy for your house has eaten me up
and the reproaches of those reproaching you have fallen on me
[Romans 15:3, John 2:17]

Leviathan whose sneeze features in Job is subject as food in the tohu and bohu of creation. Job is framed by Leviathan. He raises the creature in his anti-creation speech in chapter 3, only to find himself satirized by the speech of יְהוָה in the final chapters.
אַתָּה רִצַּצְתָּ רָאשֵׁי לִוְיָתָן
תִּתְּנֶנּוּ מַאֲכָל לְעָם לְצִיִּים
74.14you yourself fragmented the heads of Leviathan
you gave him as food to a people of wild places

Seven times in the epic poem of Psalm 78 food is an issue from the taunting of the people to their over-satiation, in the memory of the plagues of Egypt, and in the terror of the exile.
וַיְנַסּוּ אֵל בִּלְבָבָם
לִשְׁאָל אֹכֶל לְנַפְשָׁם
78.18and they tempted God in their heart
by asking edibles for themselves
וַיַּמְטֵר עֲלֵיהֶם מָן לֶאֱכֹל
וּדְגַן שָׁמַיִם נָתַן לָמוֹ
78.24and he rained on them manna to eat
and the grain of heaven he gave to them
[John 6:31]
לֶחֶם אַבִּירִים אָכַל אִישׁ
צֵידָה שָׁלַח לָהֶם לָשֹׂבַע
78.25the bread of the mighty each ate
victuals he sent among them to satiation
וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׂבְּעוּ מְאֹד
וְתַאֲוָתָם יָבִא לָהֶם
78.29and they ate and were sated much
and let their desires come to them
לֹא זָרוּ מִתַּאֲוָתָם
עוֹד אָכְלָם בְּפִיהֶם
78.30and they were not a stranger to their desires
while their food was in their mouths
יְשַׁלַּח בָּהֶם עָרֹב וַיֹּאכְלֵם
וּצְפַרְדֵּעַ וַתַּשְׁחִיתֵם
78.45he sent a swarm of flies to them and it ate them
and frogs and he destroyed them
בַּחוּרָיו אָכְלָה אֵשׁ
וּבְתוּלֹתָיו לֹא הוּלָּלוּ
78.63his young men fire devoured
and his maidens were not praiseworthy

Psalm 79 like the Lamentations of Jeremiah remembers the exile.
נָתְנוּ אֶת נִבְלַת עֲבָדֶיךָ
מַאֲכָל לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם
בְּשַׂר חֲסִידֶיךָ
לְחַיְתוֹ אָרֶץ
79.2they have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the creatures of the heavens
the flesh of your mercied ones
to the animals of earth
animals, the Hebrew for life or living things, compare 74.19, 68.31
כִּי אָכַל אֶת יַעֲקֹב
וְאֶת נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ
79.7for he devoured Jacob
and his home they have desolated

Psalm 80 has tears for food.
הֶאֱכַלְתָּם לֶחֶם דִּמְעָה
וַתַּשְׁקֵמוֹ בִּדְמָעוֹת שָׁלִישׁ
80.6you make them eat the bread of tears
and you make them drink a bucket of tears
a bucket, שׁלשׁ (shlsh) a measure, used only here in the Psalter, elsewhere perhaps also a third part, or a triangle (percussion instrument), perhaps here the sense is in great measure

But it could be otherwise.
וַיַּאֲכִילֵהוּ מֵחֵלֶב חִטָּה
וּמִצּוּר דְּבַשׁ אַשְׂבִּיעֶךָ
81.17I would feed them from the best wheat
and from the honeyed rock I would satisfy you
satisfy you, singular, though Israel is referred to and 'their' enemies uses a plural suffix, this one is a singular suffix.

In Psalm 102, the disabled prays and knows ashes for bread.
הוּכָּה כָעֵשֶׂב וַיִּבַשׁ לִבִּי
כִּי שָׁכַחְתִּי מֵאֲכֹל לַחְמִי
102.5stricken like dried up herbage is my heart
for I forget to eat my bread

כִּי אֵפֶר כַּלֶּחֶם אָכָלְתִּי
וְשִׁקֻּוַי בִּבְכִי מָסָכְתִּי
102.10for I eat ashes as bread
and I mix my drink with my weeping

Psalm 104 celebrates in line with other ancient hymns the reliance of all on God for food.
הַכְּפִירִים שֹׁאֲגִים לַטָּרֶף
וּלְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֵל אָכְלָם
104.21the young lions roar at their prey
and seek from God their food
כֻּלָּם אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּן
לָתֵת אָכְלָם בְּעִתּוֹ
104.27all of them rely on you
to give their food in its time

Psalm 105 celebrates the promised land.
וַיֹּאכַל כָּל עֵשֶׂב בְּאַרְצָם
וַיֹּאכַל פְּרִי אַדְמָתָם
105.35and they ate all the herbs in their land
and they ate the fruit of their ground

Psalm 106 remembers how eating can be idolatry.
וַיָּמִירוּ אֶת כְּבוֹדָם
בְּתַבְנִית שׁוֹר אֹכֵל עֵשֶׂב
106.20and they exchanged their glory
into the shape of an ox eating herbage
shape, from בנה (bnh) build
וַיִּצָּמְדוּ לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר
וַיֹּאכְלוּ זִבְחֵי מֵתִים
106.28and they joined themselves to Baal-peor
and they ate the offerings of the dead

Psalm 107, a psalm that applies to all humanity, notes how food can be abhorrent in illness
כָּל אֹכֶל תְּתַעֵב נַפְשָׁם
וַיַּגִּיעוּ עַד שַׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת
107.18their beings will abhor all food
and they will touch even to the gates of death

Psalm 127, a Song of the Ascents, the only psalm associated with Solomon, promises that food could be dissociated from hardship.
שָׁוְא לָכֶם מַשְׁכִּימֵי קוּם מְאַחֲרֵי שֶׁבֶת
אֹכְלֵי לֶחֶם הָעֲצָבִים
כֵּן יִתֵּן לִידִידוֹ שֵׁנָא
127.2in vain for you to rise in urgent and sit late
to eat the bread of hardship
so he gives his beloved sleep
in urgent שׁכם, (shkm) the root of back or shoulder, so figuratively, put your shoulder to the work

Psalm 128, also part of the Songs of Ascent, with Psalm 127 promises adequacy of food as reward for labour.
יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל
אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ
128.2for you will eat the labour of your palms
your happiness and good for you

Psalm 145, the last acrostic, reminds us of our dependency on God reflecting Psalm 104 at the end of Book 4.
עֵינֵי-כֹל אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּ
וְאַתָּה נוֹתֵן-לָהֶם אֶת-אָכְלָם בְּעִתּוֹ
145.15Eyes all rely on you
and you yourself give them their food in its season
For links to my translations (complete and as concordant as possible within my rules and whims) click here.

This post is in response to blog action day.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Another Psalm Snippet - on how to read

Psalm 1 - verses 4 to 6 only (in bold are the recurring roots in this section)

לֹא-כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים
כִּי אִם כַּמֹּץ
אֲשֶׁר-תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רוּחַ
4Not so the-many wicked
in contrast: like chaff
that blows in the wind
עַל-כֵּן לֹא-יָקֻמוּ
רְשָׁעִים - בַּמִּשְׁפָּט
וְחַטָּאִים בַּעֲדַת צַדִּיקִים
5So it is that they will not arise
the wicked - in the judgment
nor sinners in the assembly of the-many righteous
כִּי-יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה
דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים
וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד
6For יְהוָה knows
the way of those righteous
but the way of those wicked will perish

What we observe here is a pair of circular forms pivoting around the word wicked with an ultimate focus on the way. 

Word and gloss12345VsRoot
לא not
כן so
הרשׁעים the-many wicked
כן so it is that
לא they will not
רשׁעים the wicked
צדיקים the-many righteous
דרך the way of
צדיקים those righteous
ודרך but the way of
רשׁעים those wicked
Parallelism is subjective and people argue over it. Prosody has its conflict with available space and lines get shortened or lengthened depending on paper size or page size.  But recurrence is relatively objective. Dig first,  (recurrence) then lay out (prosody), then look for the parallels and other features within the frame established.  And look in small segments - finding them is tricky, but once found, they don't disappear.

Now my job is to learn to see and to write what I see. Do I see here in the beginning the statement that the assembly of the righteous is the judgment? Does this anticipate the binding of the kings by the merciful in Psalm 149?

As Hooker noted - what is there necessarie for man to know which the Psalmes are not able to teach?

(quoted in Renaissance Quarterly > Vol. 55, No. 1, Spring, 2002 > Psalm Culture in the English Renaissance: Readings of Psalm 137 by Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and Others.)

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Mid month forgetfulness

I had a full day today - I delivered my presentation at 10:30 and I think it was received as I intended it. (Some details at these posts) There was good interest and engagement with my simple 'rhetorical criticism' but then I had so much difficulty with my computer later in the day that I forgot to go to the regular Wednesday lecture! Yech - but we will discuss it tomorrow so I will get a bit of the context.  Just look at what I missed.
We often think we know how the Roman Catholic church treated women in the 16th and 17th centuries. Indeed, a study of the court from that period in France suggests a gradual shift by lawmakers from a heightened stance against Protestant heresy toward greater concentration on the enforcement of Catholic morality. At first this policy focused on female sexual deviance, vigorously pursuing “loose women” such as adulteresses and prostitutes. To those familiar with the general outlines of the Catholic Reformation, this may sound like a familiar story. The results of the changes brought about by the law courts of France, however, may come as a surprise.
In the meanwhile, I have been reading and commenting on other blogs. My starred items this month include a bunch on theological issues.
  • Nathan MacDonald (no relation) noted here 
  • The War prayer
  • A quote from Bauckham where I left a question
  • A post on the Zohar - that looks like an interesting and incarnational journey
  • A question yet to be approved on theology - I do not consider that all theology has to be 'Christian' but you know what I think of exclusive adjectives. The link came to my attention because of a recent post. (where my comment was immediately accepted)
  • Finally, engaging with Theophrastus on BLT is a delight. Here is another Iyov. Welcome respite.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Sunday school report

I had to substitute this morning for a teacher who was ill. Report of experience is here.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Psalm 18, subdividing a long psalm

Psalm 18 - translation and detailed recurrence tables here.  I had missed a clue in the division of this first long psalm. The words of verse 2 play no part in the rest of the poem. The words of verse 20 have no part in the first 19 verses. Verse 37 has a word that frames verses 20 to 37. This divides the poem in three roughly equal sections.  Recurrence is perhaps more than a trowel, indeed, possibly a spade, or even a shovel!

As noted in my presentation, psalm 18 has a beautiful snippet in verses 21-25. The tools of parallelism, prosody, and recurrence set this set of verses up nicely.

Psalm 18:21-25

יִגְמְלֵנִי יְהוָה כְּצִדְקִי
כְּבֹר יָדַי יָשִׁיב לִי
21יְהוָה will reward me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands he will turn to me
כִּי שָׁמַרְתִּי דַּרְכֵי יְהוָה
וְלֹא רָשַׁעְתִּי מֵאֱלֹהָי
22for I have kept the ways of יְהוָה
and I have not been wicked with my God
כִּי כָל מִשְׁפָּטָיו לְנֶגְדִּי
וְחֻקֹּתָיו לֹא אָסִיר מֶנִּי
23for all his judgments are before me
and his statutes I will not put aside from me
וָאֱהִי תָמִים עִמּוֹ
וָאֶשְׁתַּמֵּר מֵעֲו‍ֹנִי
24and I will be complete with him
and I will keep myself from my iniquity
וַיָּשֶׁב יְהוָה לִי כְצִדְקִי
כְּבֹר יָדַי לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו
25and יְהוָה turned to me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands before his eyes
The recurring words in relative order in this section clearly show a circular structure with an added focus on the apparently unimportant word before. Before is more than an unimportant preposition. It establishes a close relationship between the poet me and the eyes of  'my God'.  Prepositions are tricky and I have been relaxed with them frequently so undoubtedly missing some sonorities at times.

Word and gloss * first usage12345678VsRoot
כצדקי for my righteousness
* כבר for the purity of
ידי my hands
ישׁיב he will turn
* לי to me
שׁמרתי I have kept
ולא and not
* לנגדי are before me
לא not
ואשׁתמר and I will keep myself
וישׁב and turned
* לי to me
כצדקי for my righteousness
* כבר for the purity of
ידי my hands
* לנגד before
I posted earlier on this poem here. Verses 8-16 give us another strongly coherent section

Word and gloss * first usage123456789101VsRoot
* ותגעשׁ and shakes
* ומוסדי and the foundations of
* ויתגעשׁו and are shaken
באפו from his nostril
* ואשׁ and fire
* גחלים coals
שׁמים heavens
* רוח the wind
* חשׁך darkness
* חשׁכת dark
* מים waters
* עבי thick clouds of
* עביו his thick clouds
* ברד hail
* וגחלי and coals of
* אשׁ fire
בשׁמים in the heavens
* ברד hail
* וגחלי and coals of
* אשׁ fire
* מים waters
* מוסדות the foundations of
* רוח the wind of
אפך your nostrils

Focus - the toolset

I am now in a position to focus on minute discoveries in the Psalter. These miniatures are things I am looking at myself based on my three tools for reading psalms.  These gardening tools are applicable to all the Hebrew texts I have looked at in any detail, and they apply to New Testament texts in some measure as well.

So the tools are: Parallelism, Prosody, and Recurrence.

Parallelism is the traditional recognition of what I have called rhyming ideas based on work done by Robert Lowth  (1710-87) and continued by many.

It was John Hobbins who illustrated, convincingly for me, seeing in 2s and 3s. This is Prosody, the art of laying out the word and verse structures of poetry.

Recurrence is the repetition of the same word for structural impact. See Jonathan Magonet, A Rabbi Reads the Psalms, 2003 for a delightful read, though with a few distractions (original sin and the missing Nun).

Distinguish parallelism - different words used to say similar (or contrasting) thoughts, and recurrence - the same root used to create a sound structure. It's a bit like the difference between using a weeder to dig a hole in the ground compared to using a trowel. You could use either, but they are not the same tool. Parallelism is the weeder of course. It dives into a specific area of the text.  Let the three pronged cultivator be Prosody and the trowel the tool you can use to find structural soundness in the ground.

Here is one miniature example in a single verse, Psalm 1:1.

Happy the person

who does not walk in the advice of the wicked
and in the way of sinners does not stand
and in the seat of the scornful does not sit

Just look at it: three parallels, 9 keywords, 3 on each of 3 lines, and three recurring beats of 'not'.

This is a form that is often reproducible in translation, and often ignored.

There is an introductory presentation (revised after two test runs) for these tools here.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Sunday school

Our Sunday school was bursting at the seams this morning - lots of boys playing ball hockey during the coffee hour were a testimony to the four classes we now have compared to none 5 years ago. My first lessons in Hebrew - two in one morning - are noted here.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Psalm 23 - de-sensed

I am rereading with some delight Rabbi Magonet's little book on the psalms (2003) in which he quotes this construction of Psalm 23 by "five clever young men in Christ Church, Oxford", quoted from the Telegraph.

Still waters aside - here it is, dynamic equivalence for the technical guru
The Lord and I are in a shepherd/sheep situation, and I am in a position of negative need. He prostates me in a green belt grazing area; he conducts me directionally parallel to non-torrential aqueous liquid. He returns to original satisfaction levels my psychological make-up; He switches me on to a positive behavioural format for maximal prestige of his identity. 
It should indeed be said that not-withstanding the fact that I make ambulatory progress through the umbrageous inter-hill mortality slot, terror sensations will not be instantiated within me due to para ethical phenomena. Your pastoral walking aid and quadruped pickup unit introduce me into a pleasurific mood-state. 
You design and produce a nutrient-bearing furniture-type structure in the context of non-cooperative elements. You act out a head-related folk ritual employing vegetable extract; my beverage utensil experiences a volume crisis. 
It is an ongoing deductible fact that your inter-relational empathetical and non-vengeance capabilities will retain me as their target focus for the duration of my non-death period; and I will possess tenant rights in the housing unit of the Lord on a permanently open-ended time basis.
R. Magonet quotes the Telegraph writer's conclusion: Having read that, I assume the translators of the Authorized Version have adopted an ongoing burial rotation posture.

May the vulnerable inner pulsing engine that beats the duration of your non-death period find in the interstices of its measured pulse the experiential sensible tenderness component of the manifest Presence.