Sunday 22 December 2013

Can the music interpret the text?

In February I posted on today's passage from Isaiah 7. This morning, as well as reading from the not-so-bad-this-time Revised English Bible, I also sang the snippet on the Almah ha-rah in Hebrew as part of the reading. There is an interesting pair of triplet ornaments around the text (circled in the image). These act as an inclusio for the text.
The Mechon-Mamre cantillation is missing the final ornament. If one is going to see these marks as punctuation, I suppose one might frequently miss the point. The Max Letteris edition clearly has the closing ornament:
לָ֠כֵן יִתֵּ֨ן אֲדֹנָ֥י ה֛וּא לָכֶ֖ם א֑וֹת
הִנֵּ֣ה הָֽעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת בֵּ֔ן
וְקָרָ֥את שְׁמ֖וֹ עִמָּ֥נוּ֩ אֵֽל

(therefore the Lord himself will give you(pl) a sign.
Behold, the young woman is with child and will birth a son,
and she will call his name God-with-us.)

Note how the ornaments (above the letters) and notes (below the letters) are related to the interpretation of the text. Could we, I wonder, do such a thing? Let music interpret the text?  The melody right in the middle of this inclusio under veyelodet ben - and will bear a son, is the same as that for the beginning of David's lament over Absalom in 2 Samuel 19:1 (18:33). This melody also occurs to open the song in Isaiah 26:1 - I wonder if it is a signal, the music recognizing implicitly the sorrow of the death of a child. In Isaiah 26 it is the impending doom over Israel.

This year I hope to read Isaiah in detail, using both Hebrew and Greek texts. I will keep my ears open for these aspects of 'punctuation' in the marks of taste in the Hebrew text.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Hilarious book

I am reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It could have been written by my now deceased brother-in-law, Dr. Gib Allen, chief surgeon at the Belleville General in Ontario, later after his wife, Barbara (my sister, of course) had in 1967 the first all female town council in Canada, reeve of Tweed himself. I will not quote from it, for such scenes as are depicted would not pass my censor. But astonishing writing - fearful, gasp-inducing, 'no, no, no Dr Stone, don't do it' - all clearly the result of the medical training of the 40s and 50s.

There's a sign on it like those in Alice's land - R E A D   M E.

The quest for the historical Bob

For those doing critical studies on the historical Bob, HB for short (Winnie the Pooh fans will get the allusion), annual Christmas letters going back to 1978, with some aporia, are available here on this very old site.

All the Christmas files have had to be moved - should now be accessible here.

These screen captures from the lives of the MacDonald family are necessarily brief. They are selective history in which much of the year's activity is embodied in the typographical spaces between the runes.

Of course the highlight of the year is the birth of Oliver, here seen with Grandpa HB. He (HB that is) is reading 1000 Farewells by Nahlah Ayed, while the future hockey star's Jets sweater (Oliver's that is) hangs behind the nursery chair. The image may be accepted into evidence for HB and indeed for HO also, though the possibility of photo-shopping needs to be considered, especially in the light of fading memories of recent trips to Winnipeg.

The world so encapsulated, is necessarily constrained. In short, the letter is brief and will take but a minute or two of your day.

Monday 16 December 2013

Psalm 119, Part 4, Daleth

My psalms were open at this chapter. I had stopped reading yesterday at part 3. This is a nice coincidence given my last post. Read 2 psalms a day. They are like vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. D of course is the letter for this section of the acrostic. Part 4 is framed by cleaved (a first usage frame) and emphasizes the root for way or its verb direct. The first word is, of course, the title of my blog. Notice that Christian (Pilgrim's Progress) does not run randomly, but, directed, the archetype races. For the rest of my translation, please see Seeing the Psalter.
119 - I note the pathway to the extraordinary space
דָּבְקָה לֶעָפָר נַפְשִׁי
חַיֵּנִי כִּדְבָרֶךָ
25Dust-cleaved is my being
give me life according to your word
דְּרָכַי סִפַּרְתִּי וַתַּעֲנֵנִי
לַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּיךָ
26Declared have I my ways and you answered me
teach me your statutes
דֶּרֶךְ פִּקּוּדֶיךָ הֲבִינֵנִי
וְאָשִׂיחָה בְּנִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ
27Direct my discernment in the way of your precepts
and I will ponder on your wonderful works
דָּלְפָה נַפְשִׁי מִתּוּגָה
קַיְּמֵנִי כִּדְבָרֶךָ
28Drips my being with sadness
raise me according to your word
דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁקֶר הָסֵר מִמֶּנִּי
וְתוֹרָתְךָ חָנֵּנִי
29Deceitful way put aside from me
and with your instruction grace me
דֶּרֶךְ אֱמוּנָה בָחָרְתִּי
מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ שִׁוִּיתִי
30Deliberated have I a way of faith
with your judgments I have agreed
דָּבַקְתִּי בְעֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ
יְהוָה אַל תְּבִישֵׁנִי
31Determined I cleave to your testimonies
יְהוָה do not put me to shame
דֶּרֶךְ מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ אָרוּץ
כִּי תַרְחִיב לִבִּי
32Directed by your commandments I will race
for you enlarge my heart
Hebrew words: 1064. Percentage of Hebrew words that recur in this psalm: 86%. Average keywords per verse: 5.2.
Selected recurring words (25 to 32)
Word and gloss * first usage1234VsRoot
* דבקה cleaved
נפשׁי my being
כדברך according to your word
דרכי my ways
דרך direct in the way of
נפשׁי my being
כדברך according to your word
דרך way
דרך a way of
* דבקתי determined I cleave
דרך directed by
PSALMS 119 - part 4 - Daleth
Last printed on 2013.12.16-10:57
Compare other translations. Greek LXX apparently not available. #bgbg2

The long process of learning

How my education worked - quickly - hah!

My degree is in Mathematics and Physics. What am I doing as an old student of the Bible? Why would I read the Bible? In my teens, my brother and I used to argue on the existence of God. I have to admit, I was not prepared for such an argument. Now, thanks to people like Bertrand Russell and Kurt Gödel, I know the argument is provably not provable either way. Russell's arguments against Christianity have as much clarity today as they did in the 1960's. But these are not arguments against God. Even though Russell wrote before Gödel's incompleteness theorem, he was wise enough to point out inconsistency of practice rather than take on the generic argument. His successors, Hofstader, Dennett, and others, have not always been so wise.

Douglas Hofstader's first book G-E-B, An Eternal Golden Braid is brilliant. As with many authors, his later books fade. (Take Note!) I remember reading it in the middle days of my learning of systems theory. I have been an application developer since I was 22, 45 years as of this writing. Systems let us get things done. They do not provide ultimate or philosophical answers. Just as the mechanical model of humanity was limited as an explanation for our humanity in the 19th century Frankenstein story, so also the systems model is limited today. Notice - I said nothing about God in that sentence. We can certainly not prove or explain God - we have a hard enough time proving and explaining ourselves.

And the problem we have with ourselves is that we hurt - we hurt others, we hurt our fellow creatures, and we hurt ourselves. We are our own contradiction. Not only scientific explanations but also and perhaps especially religious explanations are to be doubted. Without such serious doubt, healing is impossible. We are only healed as we open ourselves to what is not us. We have, in systems terms, a bootstrap problem.

This is not obvious. Like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, my first response to my perceived need was to run. Not that atheism was running. In some ways atheism is a healthier denial than some Christian confessions. Our separateness from God is as important as our ultimate union with God. What is the point of love if there is no 'other' to love? One might say, if one is looking - don't look here as if your looking could understand with no remainder. But one also must say, look here, and know that there is more than you can see.

I ran by myself, to the horror of my family. In so running, the first places I came to were places where fear seeks explanation and puts walls around what is to be believed. We may seek understanding. But understanding is not over-standing. It is not control. Answers and explanation seek control. This is not what the Scripture teaches. But I did read, and read, and read the canonical texts. And I did recognize that I needed more history and more of lots of things that I don't have enough time to study.

As I ran, the evidence mounted through my reading of the Bible, that it cannot be reconciled with itself on a simplistic consistency basis. I was slow of wit to see. Such growth takes time. I ran at the beginning of the Internet age and I was able to interact with many scholars from many universities, perhaps people of a more stable frame than myself. I had to learn also not to form a cult around any one person or approach or 'explanation'. The last 'book' I read was not necessarily the ultimate. In the email interactions (on the Gospels, on the infighting about gender and sex, on the theological discussions, on history and ancient languages) I could see the ax-grinding and the sparks flying. Others growing. Others having their assumptions and control-seeking mechanisms questioned.

These email lists are now mostly dormant, replaced by blogs, twitter, Facebook, and other 'Social' sites. It is too bad. The email lists were often better focused. But there are places on the Internet that will cut the packing-tape on the boxes we have placed ourselves in. We do not have to prepare ourselves for long-distance shipping.

We in the western world are fortunate to have such a wide-ranging communications capacity. Why did we do this and how will it benefit us? We are Compulsive Communicators, as David Attenborough noted in the TV Series, Life on Earth. This is perhaps a bit of the fundamental note of our bootstrap programming. It shows us that we stand or fall together. How we communicate, with truth, or in error, will determine our road. The path, the way, the walk - these represent our life within our culture. The culture will be naturally self-protective, but self-protection is in conflict with the unity that is needed for completeness. Self-giving for the 'other' is the road that is well marked.

I have learned this from a variety of sources, my wife and children not least, my culture also even with its inner contradictions - for the need to 'survive' conflicts with the need to 'give'.  I have learned this also from the canonical texts. Canonical here means a measuring rod. It requires discernment rather than credulity. It requires maturing rather than a childish stasis. But its capacity to teach seems to be unlimited. Therefore it has this canonical status, not for false domination or foolish subservience, but towards the completeness of a full humanity, a humus that cares for its origins, its cultures, and its shared hopes.

In these days, I am using a number of tools to see where I am in relation to the ancient texts. I hope I am continuing to grow. I am understandably cautious of sites that claim to have all the answers and fail to have questions. Blue Letter Bible provides some original language dictionaries online and an algorithm for inverting the text, allowing search by original language word and root with some limitations. I supplement the dictionaries with the old-fashioned book. Scripture4all is a set of grammatical interlinear glossed files. I prefer diglot to interlinear, but this one is quite useful in that grammatical form is sometimes hard to determine. The Bible gateway provides methods of comparing multiple translations by verse. I have recently agreed to take part in the #bgbg2 blogger grid. None of these three English-oriented sites supports Hebrew search. Mechon-Mamre provides considerable text with search capacity for the Hebrew Scriptures. It also has a site with cantillation marks. There are a number of other sites that I use or have used occasionally.

I tend to avoid the devotionals and I do not use any desk-top software. I am particularly cautious of software or devotionals that support only one of many cultures. Perhaps now I fear the self-interest of parochialism more than I need to. I support and encourage the reading of the Bible. These stories, poems, and records point where they must point with a sufficient content. With respect to the undeniable fact that we hurt - we hurt others, we hurt our fellow creatures, and we hurt ourselves, the canonical texts demonstrate a resolution to such violence.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Now here's some fun for Christmas

I have in all humility (!) been reviewing my all-time favorite posts in the blog world. Quite unexpectedly, the all-time favorites on my blog are some of the posts containing my 2010 translation of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet), which I made up in the style of Dr. Seuss. (You know, I think their popularity may be accidental. The automated transcription of the Hebrew may catch the search engines by surprise.)

I am not sure I can still do doggerel, but I remember laughing then and I still do now. Yet do not laugh too much (see verse 6 below).

The thought of Christmas comes from chapter 7 and the Grinch in the text. So as an exercise, I reread my work, the play of my learning, to see if it would get through my translation net today. It didn't. I am sure much more discussion could arise on my choices. Equally, my net may stretch or even tear and require repairing.
Ecclesiastes chapter 7 says that there is a Grinch in heaven?
Heavens! A Grinch - really? In the Bible - O no, not so.

Who says "good is vexation over laughter 
for in a facial grimace the heart is made good
and is not laughing himself in the heaven of heavens?
You can't read chapter 7 without the last verse of chapter 6 - so you know the antecedent of the pronoun that some translations omit. The earthling of the prior chapter is the antecedent of its. And the end is a curious revelation and a curious twist. I have not fathomed it.

(I have just joined the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid #bgbg2 - and there is my first pointer to one of their features - a way of comparing up to 5 translations at a glance.)

Here's my translation, one I struggle with at each twist and turn as I read in the intriguing foreignness of the ancient world. Warning - there is next to no punctuation. I use deliberate repetition where the Hebrew has repetition, and I avoid some words - like better.

The sign ^ shows the rest point in the verse if there is one. (Only verse 4 lacks such a sign.) The rest point is a guard against violating the primary disjunction in the text. This is the subdominant in the music implied in the te'amim. Pause in your reading to slow your spirit.
For who knows what is good for the earthling in these lives, in the tale of the days of the lives of its futility? And as a shadow it makes them, but who will make clear to the earthing what has become after it   --- under the sun?
טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב
וְיוֹם הַמָּוֶת מִיּוֹם הִוָּלְדוֹ
a good name may be compared with good oil^
and the day of death with the day of its birth
טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל
מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה
בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כָּל הָאָדָם
וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ
good it is to walk to a house of lament
compared to walking to a house of feasting
in that itself is the conclusion of every earthling^
and one who lives will take it to heart
טוֹב כַּעַס מִשְּׂחוֹק
כִּי בְרֹעַ פָּנִים יִיטַב לֵב
good is grief compared to laughter^
for in a facial grimace a heart is made good
לֵב חֲכָמִים בְּבֵית אֵבֶל
וְלֵב כְּסִילִים בְּבֵית שִׂמְחָה
the heart of the shrewd is in the house of lament
but the heart of the foolish is in the house of gladness
טוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם 
מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִים
good it is to hear the rebuke of the shrewd^
compared to one's hearing of the song of fools
כִּי כְקוֹל הַסִּירִים תַּחַת הַסִּיר
כֵּן שְׂחֹק הַכְּסִיל
וְגַם זֶה הָבֶל
for as the voice of the thorns under the pot
so is the laughter of the fool^
and even this is futility
כִּי הָעֹשֶׁק יְהוֹלֵל חָכָם
וִיאַבֵּד אֶת לֵב מַתָּנָה
for the oppression maddens the shrewd^
and a gift makes a heart perish
טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ
טוֹב אֶרֶךְ רוּחַ מִגְּבַהּ רוּחַ
good is a thing's end compared to its beginning^
good is a slow spirit 
compared to a proud spirit
אַל תְּבַהֵל בְּרוּחֲךָ לִכְעוֹס
כִּי כַעַס בְּחֵיק כְּסִילִים יָנוּחַ
let not grief vex your spirit^
for grief reposes in the embrace of fools
אַל תֹּאמַר מֶה הָיָה שֶׁהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים
הָיוּ טוֹבִים מֵאֵלֶּה
כִּי לֹא מֵחָכְמָה שָׁאַלְתָּ עַל זֶה
say not - 'how is it that the days of the beginning 
were good compared to these?'^
for it is not from shrewdness that you beg for them
טוֹבָה חָכְמָה עִם נַחֲלָה
וְיֹתֵר לְרֹאֵי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ
good is shrewdness with an inheritance^
when it is left to those that see the sun
כִּי בְּצֵל הַחָכְמָה
בְּצֵל הַכָּסֶף
וְיִתְרוֹן דַּעַת הַחָכְמָה
תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ
for in the shadow of shrewdness,
is in the shadow of silver^
and what is left of knowledge is shrewdness
she keeps her husband alive
רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים 
כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ
See what this God does^
for who can straighten what he subverts?
בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה הֱיֵה בְטוֹב
וּבְיוֹם רָעָה רְאֵה
גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה
עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים עַל דִּבְרַת שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא הָאָדָם
אַחֲרָיו מְאוּמָה
in a good day, be in the good
and in an evil day, see^

even this set against that
this God has made up things that the earthling will not find
--- after him nothing!
אֶת הַכֹּל רָאִיתִי בִּימֵי הֶבְלִי
יֵשׁ צַדִּיק אֹבֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ
וְיֵשׁ רָשָׁע מַאֲרִיךְ בְּרָעָתוֹ
I have seen everything in the days of my futility^
here is a righteous one that perished in his righteousness
and here is a wicked one prolonged in his evil
אַל תְּהִי צַדִּיק הַרְבֵּה
וְאַל תִּתְחַכַּם יוֹתֵר 
לָמָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵם
do not be too much righteous
and do not leave yourself with excess shrewdness^
why make yourself desolate?
אַל תִּרְשַׁע הַרְבֵּה 
וְאַל תְּהִי סָכָל 
לָמָּה תָמוּת בְּלֹא עִתֶּךָ
do not be too wicked
and don't be foolish^
why die when it's not your time?
טוֹב אֲשֶׁר תֶּאֱחֹז בָּזֶה
וְגַם מִזֶּה אַל תַּנַּח אֶת יָדֶךָ 
כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים יֵצֵא אֶת כֻּלָּם
good it is that you should grasp this
and even from that not rest your hand^
for the one who fears God emerges from them all
הַחָכְמָה תָּעֹז לֶחָכָם 
מֵעֲשָׂרָה שַׁלִּיטִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ בָּעִיר
shrewdness strengthens the shrewd^
over ten bullies that are in the city
כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ 
אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא
for there is no righteous earthling in the earth^
that does good and does not sin
גַּם לְכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּרוּ
אַל תִּתֵּן לִבֶּךָ
אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶת עַבְדְּךָ מְקַלְלֶךָ
even of all the things that are spoken
don't take them to your heart^
lest you hear your servant slight you
כִּי גַּם פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת יָדַע לִבֶּךָ 
אֲשֶׁר גַּם אַתָּה קִלַּלְתָּ אֲחֵרִים
for even your rapidly beating heart knows^
that even you have slighted others
כָּל זֹה נִסִּיתִי בַחָכְמָה
אָמַרְתִּי אֶחְכָּמָה וְהִיא רְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנִּי
All this I have proved with shrewdness^
I said 'I will be shrewd' but she was distant from me
רָחוֹק מַה שֶּׁהָיָה
וְעָמֹק עָמֹק מִי יִמְצָאֶנּוּ
What is it that is so distant^
and deeply deep? who will find it?
סַבּוֹתִי אֲנִי וְלִבִּי לָדַעַת
וְלָתוּר וּבַקֵּשׁ חָכְמָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן
וְלָדַעַת רֶשַׁע כֶּסֶל וְהַסִּכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת
I circled, I and my heart, to know
and to explore and seek shrewdness and rationality^
and to know wickedness, folly, and foolhardy madness
וּמוֹצֶא אֲנִי מַר מִמָּוֶת אֶת הָאִשָּׁה
אֲשֶׁר הִיא מְצוֹדִים וַחֲרָמִים
לִבָּהּ אֲסוּרִים יָדֶיהָ
טוֹב לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים יִמָּלֵט מִמֶּנָּה
וְחוֹטֵא יִלָּכֶד בָּהּ
and I, I found the woman more bitter than death
that she is entrapment and devotions^
her heart is the bondage of her hands
one who is good in the presence of this God will escape from her
but the sinner is caught in her
רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת
אַחַת לְאַחַת לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן
'See, this I have found', Qohelet, (preacher), herself said^
one by one to find out rationality
אֲשֶׁר עוֹד בִּקְשָׁה נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא מָצָאתִי 
אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף מָצָאתִי 
וְאִשָּׁה בְכָל אֵלֶּה לֹא מָצָאתִי
that yet I seek and I have not found^
An earthling, one in a thousand, I have found
and a woman among all these, I have not found
לְבַד רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי
אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם יָשָׁר
וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ חִשְּׁבֹנוֹת רַבִּים
see, this alone I have found
that this God has made the earthling upright^
but they have sought many rationalizations
Compare Song 1:3
Note what is almost a palindrome in the Hebrew.
Qohelet is the grinch.
'thing' or word, but word is a round vowel and thing a narrow one, a heavy sound compare to a light one.
cf Eccl 1:15, this God. The noun has an unnecessary definite article attached.
cf Eccl 7:18 bazeh ... mizeh.
cf Eccl 1:17
Seow considers the last line a scribal 'enhancement'. Pity. If this be projection, it is not missing today either. It is not above a man to blame woman for his own weakness. But shrewdness should let each discover its own heart and not impute the cause of trouble to another. Compare Job 31:9-10 for a cultural view from a righteous man in his last defense.