Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rioting, Hurricanes, Mushroom-shaped Cloud and the OT

We are approaching 7 or more billion people. We have serious concerns over the climate and the resulting weather. Africa has not fared well since the '60s and the Kingston Trio's song, They're rioting in Africa...

The lyrics are too apt.

Claude Mariottini posts about the dying of the Old Testament here. And I hope he doesn't post any of my comments, for they were driven out of me too soon.

As for the OT, like the Christ, Dying, it will die and must, but living, it will live. (I think now in recurring words sometimes, a Hebraism).

It will not live, however, in the King James rendition. This authorized translation is a severe oversimplification of the language. (You have seen my railing about this and other inheritors of the old Latin and old Greek translations for ages.)

Most of them are focused too much on soul and punishment, neither of which words is required in the translation of this collection of history, poetry, and legal material. They also focus too much on preserving the social status quo of the 17th century. (But don't we want to preserve our status quo? At least some of us do, especially the privileged!)

I know why people do not read the OT – it is very hard to read. It is by no means obvious or perspicuous. It requires historical, cultural, and linguistic awareness. There is no magical God who arrives like the cavalry in a western to save his people. The people must become aware of the consequences of their violent actions and they must learn the painful process of change. God’s work is clear e.g. Psalm 146 in my very stilted English,

I am safer if I just read and avoid my opinions.

5. Happy the one who has the God of Jacob for its help.
Its reliance is on Yahweh its God,
6. who makes heaven and earth, the sea
and all that is in them,
keeping truth forever,
7. doing judgment for the oppressed, giving bread to the hungry,
Yahweh, releasing the prisoners,
8. Yahweh, giving sight to the blind, Yahweh, uplifting the disturbed,
Yahweh, loving the righteous,
9. Yahweh, sheltering the guest. Orphan and widow he relieves,
and the way of the wicked he subverts.

This is how we, the people must learn to behave, together and individually. It is how Jesus behaved. If a Christian is to follow Jesus, it must be done through the way that he learned, from this same set of texts. I regret to say I do not think it is possible to learn without doing some serious exercise in Hebrew. But equally, I am sure that the Most High will mitigate this demand for those who really do hear with God’s voice. (Another Hebraism.) Good actions are greater than right words. I only hope for some good effect.

I have neither license nor degree, but I read. I am about 63% through, 349 chapters to go (not in sequence). There are 929 chapters and none of them is a slam-dunk. I still have about 20 months close work ahead of me. Then I can begin to do some analysis. I began in Hebrew in 2006 – so I am about 11 years old. And as naive as the average 11 year old. I do not yet know all that the work will teach me. The end is known at the end even if the beginning began with promise.

I know a bit of what I don’t know – that is, Will the children of God from all traditions find these texts useful? While the OT (/TNK) is canonical for three religious traditions, it is clear that anyone can learn of it and from it. Will we learn to distinguish what is good from what is not? And how long?

Psalm 13
2 How long please Yahweh will you forget me? perpetually?
How long please will you hide your face from me?
3 How long please must I impose advice on myself, sadness in my heart by day?
How long please will my enemy be exalted over me?
4 Take note – answer me Yahweh my God.
Light my eyes, lest I be dead asleep,
5 lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him.
My foes will rejoice, for I will be moved.
6 But I, I have trusted in your kindness. My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to Yahweh,
for he has matured me.

That set of thoughts was driven out of me by Claude's post, and too quickly, with the odd typo and occasional missing comma.

I do love the old texts because I love the fire that created them, but equally I fume at the justifications for racism, slavery, and isolation that can be read into them.

I just read a sentence in the Neapolitan Quartet, book 4 page 146, a statement by an aged adulterer who was catholic of course as is the tradition in Italy, and the author writes of him circa the ’60s … “He made allusive remarks. Then he began to complain: Nothing is in its place, the Ten Commandments have been abolished, women, who can restrain them, it’s all a whorehouse.”

We cannot preserve the status quo in our silos, political, religious, or social. We are like a dry forest after a wet spring with bracken and grass as kindling just before the lightning strikes.

Can the lessons of the Old Testament provoke us with a solution to our woes? And how will we get such hope to the 7 billion and growing world.

If not this, then what? Fire, flood, and radiation. Just as the Kingston Trio sang about.

And I don't like an-y-bo-dy very much!