Saturday, February 26, 2011

Psalm 17 structures

I did an auto-translate of this into Modern Hebrew - the results are unpublishable! It is remarkable what technology can do and I can see that speakers of modern Hebrew have little advantage over speakers of any other language as to what the psalms are about.

Notice the double underline - the close framing at the end using the word that ends the book of Job.
Ch VsRootKeywords in relative order
17.1פלל תפלה
17.1שׁמע שׁמעה
17.1צדק צדק
17.1שׂפת שׂפתי
17.2חזה תחזינה
17.3בל ,בל בל
17.4דבר בדבר
17.4שׂפת שׂפתיך
17.4אני אני
17.4שׁמר שׁמרתי
17.5אשׁר אשׁרי
17.5בל בל
17.6אני אני
17.6שׁמע שׁמע
17.7פלל הפלה
17.8שׁמר שׁמרני
17.8סתר תסתירני
17.9רשׁע רשׁעים
17.9נפשׁ בנפשׁ
17.10דבר דברו
17.11אשׁר אשׁרינו
17.12סתר במסתרים
17.13נפשׁ נפשׁי
17.13רשׁע מרשׁע
17.14מת ,מת ממתים
17.14שׂבע ישׂבעו
17.15אני אני
17.15צדק בצדק
17.15חזה אחזה
17.15שׂבע אשׂבעה


There is a time to run and a time to walk

I have corrected hundreds, even thousands, of errors caused by my incomplete algorithm. It's the Karate Kid all over - keep on doing the slow and painful repetitive mechanical work of individually reading and reviewing 4000 or so of 19500 words, and just watch how much you learn without knowing it. The brain is like the ground that works you know not how and eventually - viola - harvest.

I am approaching the harvest psalms but first I have combed through psalms 1-16 checking the recursions and correcting them based on all the manual changes I had made.  And I will mechanically catch up to where I am in a few days.

Essentially as I do more manual tables, I have enough of a measure to correct the 20 to 25% error rate in root calculation left in my first broad-brush measures. That will considerably reduce the effort and the errors in my construction of the rest of the framework for the comments I am developing on the psalms as a book.

Mechanically I have a full draft of the translations but I can see my methods taking me over every psalm at least 5 or 6 times before the first complete draft is done.  Still considering December as the time when the complete draft will be done.  In the meanwhile - do feel free to read and comment here and at POC  Psalm 17 will appear shortly...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some thoughts on Atonement

Colin Gunton in his book The Actuality of Atonement explores the philosophy behind metaphor and three significant metaphors of atonement: victory, justification, and sacrifice.

Gunton reasons and concludes entirely from the perspective of the theology of Christendom. How is reconciliation perceived before the time of Jesus and his own particular uniqueness? I am confident that it was perceived just by reading the psalms with all their turmoil and joy.

Even a superficial search for Hebrew and Greek words translated as atonement or reconciliation produces a pattern from which one might draw short-circuited conclusions. I find myself wondering how much I can open up this particular 'cover' designed by Tyndale within my own limits of understanding. I think we have been overwhelmed with explanation when we needed something quite different: a form of hearing and doing that is well established in the Senior Testament and also attested to in the New Testament.

What Gunton provides in this context is threefold:
  • a review of rationalism using Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Kierkegaard as examples of the limits of rationality, and how science uses metaphor to express our perceptions of reality (chapters 1-2)
  • three metaphors of atonement: victory, justification, and sacrifice to act as a lens in our view of reality (chapters 3-5)
  • a reasoning with this lens as to how the community of reconciliation ought to function in the world (chapters 6-7)
Each of these sections is valuable and requires a careful reading. I found I could only read a few pages at a time. 

The question remains for me as to whether I can begin to organize my thoughts around a set of equivalent passages reasoning up to the New Testament rather than reasoning with New Testament conclusions already determined.  What if one worked from the one day of Genesis 2:4, to the knowledge of evil that produces the primary disorder, to the critique of Law and the final satisfaction in Job 42:17, to the overshadowing wings of the cherubim (Psalms 17:8, 57:1, 91:4), to the living of God with humanity expressed by the tabernacle, and from that seat of mercy to the formation of the people of God and the great assembly (Psalm 22:25), and in parallel through the experience of exile together (Psalms 137:1) and with its individual (Lamentations 3:1) speaking for the people and not failing in engagement, and also in the background, as in the New Testament, the one on whose shoulder the beloved comes up from the desert (Song 8:5).

I do not think we would find anything lacking in this shepherding of the people and the tribes of the nations.  Then we could ask afresh why we have the actualization of this consolation in the person of Jesus and the work with which he finishes creation and redemption and with which he, in consecrating himself, prays us into unity (John 17:21), a unity that puts purification into its true context (1 John 3:3). I think I would continue to agree with Gunton's conclusions, but I would see them in an earlier light and perhaps help polish the lens which we must all look through in some sense.

And you will note that I did not use the word atonement or reconciliation in this outline.

A little snow for Victoria

The fence is being built to keep the deer out of the garden. I wonder if we will see some telling footprints in the snow before it melts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Psalm 56 - is the structure as precise as some say?

I omit some words from these tables - notably God (8 times) is not in the table below. Sometimes the divine invocation is a factor in the structure. Therrien has a detailed set of indentations that make the poem look more metaphysical than it really is. The Hebrew poet is not from 17th century England. As noted in the earlier post, the new frame is quite appropriate - David is a fugitive, will he not return?

Ch VsRootWord Recurrence in Relative Order
56.4ירא אירא
56.4בטח אבטח
56.5הלל אהלל
56.5דבר דברו
56.5בטח בטחתי
56.5ירא אירא
56.5עשׂה יעשׂה
56.6דבר דברי
56.7נפשׁ נפשׁי
56.9ספר ספרתה
56.9הלא הלא
56.9ספר בספרתך
56.11הלל אהלל
56.11דבר דבר
56.11הלל אהלל
56.11דבר דבר
56.12בטח בטחתי
56.12ירא אירא
56.12עשׂה יעשׂה
56.14נפשׁ נפשׁי
56.14הלא הלא

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Psalm 55 - the shape of the recurring words

I am going to go through this exercise for psalms of the right length - not too short not too long, just to see what comes up. Psalm 55 is the right length.  It is clearly dominated by a wordplay around קרב (qrb) war, battle, and within. As such it reflects the self-reference of psalm 36 and again gives the lie to objectivizing the enemy.
Ch VsRootKeyword in relative position
55.3שׂיח בשׂיחי
55.4קול מקול
55.4איב אויב
55.5לב לבי
55.5קרב בקרבי
55.5מות מות
55.11קרב בקרבה
55.12קרב בקרבה
55.12רמה ומרמה
55.13איב אויב
55.14אתה ואתה
55.15אשׁר אשׁר
55.16מות מות
55.16קרב בקרבם
55.17אני אני
55.18שׂיח אשׂיחה
55.18המה ואהמה
55.18שׁמע וישׁמע
55.18קול קולי
55.19קרב מקרב
55.20שׁמע ישׁמע
55.20אשׁר אשׁר
55.22קרב וקרב
55.22לב לבו
55.22המה והמה
55.24אתה ואתה
55.24רמה ומרמה
55.24אני ואני

Friday, February 18, 2011

Keeping ahead of myself

I wondered how I would manage the construction of a 'book'. Here's the status report.

There are a lot of mechanical things to do before you can really let the text speak and hope for a creative response in your 'self'. The translation has to be 'reviewed'. I do this is several stages:

  1. read it, 
  2. pay attention to the questions that rise up in you, 
  3. check the word and phrase usage in the one poem especially repeating roots, fix the ones that are wrong, 
  4. rework the original translation post:  
    • a. translation, 
    • b. recurring roots and the glosses in this poem, 
    • c. below the horizontal line, any music 
    • d. delete the old list of all recurring roots, delete the old translation and transcription (stuff transcriptions except for individual phrases for readability in the text) 
    • e. take the resulting html which is a pile of junk and delete all the spurious stuff in it.
  5. Mechanically during this process I am also formatting the translation and recurring roots from the database into an outline in Open Source. 
  6. Eventually in that outline, read the psalm again and decide where the strophe boundaries are. I am largely doing this conceptually and subjectively based on who is speaking about whom to whom in the psalm. Sometimes the recurrence structure is more important.
I have all the base outlines, 150 chapters prepared. I am up to psalm 58 with a first review of these outlines.  I am up to psalm 52 and still working on it with a complete draft. I am up to psalm 15 on the Poetry of Christ blog.  So I am lagging by 37 psalms - letting them cook before publishing the draft. Even when published it is still somewhat subject to change if I find an important note.

As I review each chapter in detail, I often discover serious concordance issues that must be addressed. Concordance is not the only factor but it is one that makes me search backwards and forwards to deal with textual allusions that I think must be allowed to stand in English.

So 20 days ago I was 32 poems ahead in draft of the published draft. Now I am 37 poems ahead. I have drafted a little over a third of the 'book' in three months. So I will probably be finished a full draft by Christmas 2011. Isn't that nice? Who wants to read and critique it? You are allowed to volunteer. There are fewer gross errors than there were three months ago.

You know why I am doing this, don't you?  It is for the excellency of the knowledge of ...

נָכוֹן לִבִּי אֱלֹהִים
נָכוֹן לִבִּי
אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמֵּרָה
My heart is set O God
my heart is set
I will sing and I will make a psalm
עוּרָה כְבוֹדִי
עוּרָה הַנֵּבֶל וְכִנּוֹר
אָעִירָה שָּׁחַר
Be roused my glory
Be roused psaltery and harp
I will rouse the dawn
אוֹדְךָ בָעַמִּים אֲדֹנָי
אֲזַמֶּרְךָ בַּלְאֻמִּים
I will give thanks to you among the peoples O Lord
I will sing a psalm among the tribes
כִּי גָדֹל עַד שָׁמַיִם חַסְדֶּךָ
וְעַד שְׁחָקִים אֲמִתֶּךָ
for great to the heavens is your loving-kindness
and to the clouds your truth
רוּמָה עַל הַשָּׁמַיִם אֱלֹהִים
עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדֶךָ
Be high in the heavens O God
over all the earth your glory
(from psalm 58)

Must must must find this book

Polyglot by KATÓ LOMB - available here as a PDF.  How I learn Languages.
Though I had not yet studied Latin, I spelled out each beautifully ringing sentence and their approximate Hungarian equivalents with great delight: Juventus ventus… (Youth is folly…), Per angusta ad augusta (All beginnings are difficult). Could it be possible to build with such diamond bricks the thought bridge that spans the space between minds? I fell in love with languages over a few proverbs—folk wisdom crystallized into laconic figures of speech.
Hey - just do it!
By the time I was able to move on to more quality reading, it was 1943 and carpet bombings were upon us. As a result of hours spent in the bomb shelter, I was able to progress faster. All I had to do was camouflage my book. I purchased a thick Hungarian encyclopedia and had a bookbinder acquaintance sew the pages of Gogol’s Dead Souls in place of every second sheet. During air raids, I would wade through entire chapters of it. This was the time I worked out my technique of boldly skipping over unfamiliar words, for it would have been dangerous to consult a Russian dictionary in the bomb shelter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Psalm 42 and 43 together

You probably knew I wouldn't stop till I had done another one. Psalm 9-10 produce too large a table to see. But Psalms 42-43 were reasonably easy to put together. besides the 'chorus', verse 10 of psalm 42 and verse 2 of psalm 43 are strongly related.

Ch VsRootRecurring words in sequence over psalm 42-43
42.2ערג תערג
42.2נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.2ערג תערג
42.3נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.3חי חי
42.3בוא אבוא
42.4אמר באמר
42.4איה איה
42.5זכר אזכרה
42.5נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.5עבר אעבר
42.5קול בקול
42.6שׁחח תשׁתוחחי
42.6נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.6המה ותהמי
42.6יחל הוחלי
42.6עוד עוד
42.6אוד אודנו
42.6ישׁע ישׁועות
42.7נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.7שׁחח תשׁתוחח
42.7זכר אזכרך
42.8קול לקול
42.8עבר עברו
42.9חסד חסדו
42.9חי חיי
42.10אמר אומרה
42.10למה ,למה למה
42.10קדר קדר
42.10איב אויב
42.11אמר באמרם
42.11איה איה
42.12שׁחח תשׁתוחחי
42.12נפשׁ נפשׁי
42.12המה תהמי
42.12יחל הוחילי
42.12עוד עוד
42.12אוד אודנו
42.12ישׁע ישׁועת
43.1ריב ,ריב
43.1חסד חסיד
43.2למה ,למה למה
43.2קדר קדר
43.2איב אויב
43.3המה המה
43.3בוא יביאוני
43.4בוא ואבואה
43.4אוד ואודך
43.5שׁחח תשׁתוחחי
43.5נפשׁ נפשׁי
43.5המה תהמי
43.5יחל הוחילי
43.5עוד עוד
43.5אוד אודנו
43.5ישׁע ישׁועת

Psalm 1 and 2 as if they were one psalm

What if, I thought, one wanted to see if two poems were really one - what would a table show?  So I tried psalms 1 and 2. I would expect different results for psalms 9-10 and psalms 42-43 and the table might be too big to see comfortably.

You can immediately see below the words that recur when looking at both psalms but that would not show as recurring in one or the other psalm or both if looked at one at a time.

ChVsRootWord in relative sequence in the two poems considered as one
1.1אשׁר אשׁרי
1.1אשׁר אשׁר
1.1רשׁע רשׁעים
1.1חטא חטאים
1.1ישׁב ישׁב
1.2תורה בתורת
1.2תורה ובתורתו
1.3אשׁר אשׁר
1.4רשׁע הרשׁעים
1.4אשׁר אשׁר
1.5רשׁע רשׁעים
1.5שׁפט במשׁפט
1.5חטא וחטאים
1.6רשׁע רשׁעים
1.6אבד תאבד
2.1גוי גוים
2.3את את
2.4ישׁב יושׁב
2.6אני ואני
2.7אני אני
2.8גוי גוים
2.10שׁפט שׁפטי
2.11את את
2.12אבד ותאבדו
2.12אשׁר אשׁרי

Showing a psalm and its recurrence structure in a table

Magné, Répétitions de mots et exegèse dans quelques psaumes et le pater (ISSN 0006-0887) suggested to me an experiment. Instead of  my complex diagrams of psalm 51 (text here), see if I can express the structure by isolating the keywords in their sequence and relative position by verse.  After a week of cogitating, I came up with a semi-automated approach.

In the table below, (omitting the 6 Elohim and one Adonai)
  • the first cell of the poem defined around מחה, and with a ring structure of verbs in verses 3 to 11, 
  • the second cell bounded by לב and רוח in verses 12 to 19, 
  • and the short third cell defined by אז verses 20-21, 
  • the binding of the central word of God's righteousness, 
  • and the sevenfold repetition of sin
 are all clearly visible.

VsRootWord in relative sequence in the poem
3מחה מחה
3פשׁע פשׁעי
4כבס כבסני
4חטא ומחטאתי
4טהר טהרני
5פשׁע פשׁעי
5חטא וחטאתי
6חטא חטאתי
6צדק תצדק
7חטא ובחטא
9חטא תחטאני
9טהר ואטהר
9כבס תכבסני
10שׂשׂ שׂשׂון
11חטא מחטאי
11מחה מחה
12לב לב
12טהר טהור
12רוח ורוח
13רוח ורוח
14שׂשׂ שׂשׂון
14רוח ורוח
15פשׁע פשׁעים
15חטא וחטאים
16צדק צדקתך
18זבח זבח
18עול עולה
19זבח זבחי
19רוח רוח
19שׁבר נשׁברה
19לב לב
19שׁבר נשׁבר
21אז אז
21זבח זבחי
21צדק צדק
21עול עולה
21אז אז
21זבח מזבחך

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pondering the psalms

The psalms are the largest book in the Bible. Only 150 hymns, I once thought. I grew up with a hymn book that had over 800 hymns and though I don't use that book any more (more's the pity) I can still identify its shape and many hymns both number and words from memory. 800 hymns and their content was memorable - even though some were deservedly forgettable.  I knew little then of theological party and even less about theological poetry. One sensed that there were differences in style between 16th century communion hymns and evangelistic mission hymns from the 19th century. And at that innocent time, I did not know what detritus of colonialism and Christendom would fall into my hapless life. (To be fair, there have been some lovely things from Christendom fall my way too.)

The macro-structure of Job
Why are 150 poems so much harder to assimilate than 800? I am 1/3 complete (working on psalm 51 - there are 6,430 words from psalms 1-51 inclusive in the psalter) on a first draft of my planned 'book'. At 19,578 words, the psalms are only 2.5 times longer than Job (8,344 words), the largest single chunk of poetry I have ever taken on. But somehow Job fits into a pattern and the patterns in the psalter are much less easy to see. (Verbal summary from September here. Emerging comments and links to translations under constant refinement here.)
Fathoming the Psalter

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Idries Shah - thinkers of the East

As I was organizing my books - impossible - and in the middle of some mechanical preparation of the 150 chapters - the 100 remaining - of my current writing, I came across this lovely quote in a book which I have inherited from Murray Adaskin.
Scholars desire to study mystics but mystics never need to study scholars
I am not sure I am eager to agree - for I do study scholars, but whether I am a mystic I do not know nor particularly care. Mystic needs to be incarnational, so that its grounding does not fly away into evanescence. This is a book on Sufi knowledge so I will probably read a bit of it. Sufi is known for stretching to incarnational language and being criticized for it, sometimes severely.

Speaking of incarnational thinking - see Rachel's latest post, God's afterimage.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Escher Lego

Here's an ascending-descending. Link here. With thanks to my daughter who is always finding things of interest on the web.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Around the world

In metaphysics (on naturalism from the Everyday Thomist)

In theology here (previously noted re impassibility) and here (conversation worth reading including the links) and here (on atonement - posts to come...)

In Egypt (a passionate interview all worth watching to hear an inner voice from a Google employee Wa'el Ghonim) HT TheraP

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The teacher becomes the teaching

in certain essential respects, the contemporary of Jesus has no advantages over those of us who live two thousand years later. It offended then as it does now that God should come to speech not as a philosophical teaching but through a man executed for blasphemy and sedition. It offends the moral sense that human redemption should come as sheer gift in so unattractive a packaging.
Colin Gunton's summary of Kirkegaard in contrast to Kant, Schliermacher, and Hegel The Actuality of Atonement. (p 24)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Psalm 8 and 144

Clearly psalms 144 and 8 are a pair. They are linked by at least two unique things in the Psalter. The first is the question what is humanity. It is phrased slightly differently in the 2 psalms. And the second is a nice touch, the use of fingers. (Only used twice in the Psalter - like the eyelids of dawn in Job, also clearly a poetic frame.)

How does יְהוָה our Lord (8) whose fingers touch the winter sky, teach our fingers to war (144)? Does the Bible encourage violence with these images? At a recent discussion at the Center for Studies in Religion and Society concerning the place of religion in the courts, besides the tension between externally visible signs of religious belief and the inner frame of sincerity, the real issue that came up was the potential for harm and the willingness of a society to pay the cost of institutional protection of citizens from harm.

While there are a few questions begged, and I expect my own wit to be honed in this environment, I am struck that the psalms which are formative of those who know the covenant of mercy (psalm 149) should use this image of war which clearly does tend to the harm of others, (like the 30,000 soldiers killed in the rout of Israel by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4 or thereabouts.)  What is the teaching about harm implied in the psalms?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reading Hebrew poetry online

There is a very simple trick to actually colouring the psalms as you look at them. Highlight a recurring sound in the Hebrew characters, then ctrl-c, ctrl-f, ctrl-v - copy find and paste and some browsers will find the words for you. Chrome and IE both search independently of the vowel markings. Then you can see the frames easily. I find it revealing when reading.

New year's and earlier resolutions

I am still on track in my resolve to publish three verses a day with my commentary on the psalms. The relevant posts are all at the Poetry of Christ, a blog I am keeping clear of flowers (pace Christopher Smart). I also am maintaining my resolve not to publish anything there that I have not let sit for a week or more and that I do not review carefully on publication (with some reservations!). As I publish there, I link here to a reformatted prosodic version of the psalm under study at this blog (see the page The Psalter kata Bob and bear in mind that I am revising all these translations and formats over the next year. As of this date, the reformatting is complete up to psalm 44.)

So it has taken me three months to complete a first draft of Book 1 (psalms 1-41). I am beginning to work on Book 2 and also will be reviewing Book 1 as I publish 3 verses or so a day, i.e. 2 to 3 psalms a week or thereabouts. The story in the psalter is emerging as I write. It is more complex than I thought. Everywhere there is emerging a sense of one person standing for the whole and absorbing the troubles of the world.  I cannot quite put my finger on how this is - but it is. And I know it will immediately be evident in Book 2 in the first three psalms because the 'I' of psalms 42 and 43 clearly becomes the 'we' of psalm 44. And it is evident in other places - e.g. the 3rd chapter of Lamentations, perhaps the most obvious.

Highs and lows aside, I continue to learn. Fishbane and now the SBL Winter 2010 journal are both teaching me about inner-Biblical exegesis. How curious. I am also having to read Samuel. And I discover I can skim in my Tanakh (Hebrew only) while others are reading in English - cool!