Friday, March 22, 2019

Tyndale House ink

This edition of TH ink has a rather fun article on Psalm 37. Peter Williams says of acrostics: "This is a feature which can aid memorisation but which is missing in translation." Let's say it is missing in most translations. It does not need to be missing.

These acrostics, as I have pointed out before, are significant pillars within the Psalter, each one celebrating the psalm that precedes it. These are four key Psalms in Book 1: psalms 8, 24, 33, and 36 in book 1 and three, 110, 118, and 144 in book 5. Psalms 8, 24, and 144 played a part in the creation program that I was just working up.

(How can 8 acrostics in 9 psalms follow and celebrate only 7 psalms?)

We have been reading with the children, Once upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers, an alphabet book that tells a story about each letter and repeats that letter frequently in the story.

Ancient authors played the same children's games. Psalm 37 is one of the 8 acrostic poems in the Psalms. Hear the letter played with, resh ר = R. (Note how resh is the mirror image of lower case r. There's more than one of these letters. See Alef through the Looking Glass by Jonathan Orr-Stav.)

TH ink points out the presence and absence of resh (R) and its significance in the article on Psalms 37. It is no doubt a game with letters. And the magazine is worth a read.

Playing games? Surely the Scriptures are serious stuff, Bob? Of course they are. But can't you play games with serious stuff? Who would bother with the trivial stuff?

Oh, and by the way, the second volume of my translation, volume 1 of the series, The Hebrew Bible and its Music, The Torah, is now available as an e-book. (The first volume available was volume 6 - I recommend not starting with the beginning. Before you read the text that is locked, you need a key. So we began the series with volume 6, The Scrolls.)

It's worth a read. It's worth a study. It's worth commenting on and giving feedback. Serious it is but also fun. (Did you think G-d only wants you to be miserable?)

This is the only published Bible with its music all available. You can sing through every chapter. See the resource pages here.

This is the whole series
  1. The Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (released)
  2. The Former Prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings (March 29, 2019)
  3. The Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (April 12, 2019)
  4. The Twelve, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (April 24, 2019)
  5. The Books of Truth, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, (May 10, 2019)
  6. The Five Scrolls, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, Esther (released)
  7. The Remaining Writings, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles (May 24, 2019)
  8. A Biblical Hebrew to English Concordance (June 7, 2019)
  9. A is for Abandon, An English to Biblical Hebrew Alphabet Book (June 21, 2019)

Preliminary thoughts towards a performance of music related to creation

Humanity does not have a perfect record for caring for the land / earth, but it does have many positives too. The care exhibited e.g. for the local Orca and the cooperation between Washington State and BC is laudable. We should not get too discouraged though it may be too little too late. Even a little done well, e.g. the tiger management in Eastern Russia, will have multiplying effects.

I was looking for some work on ecology and the Scripture. What I saw on the web was pretty trivial and totally dependent on English translations already memorized - and maybe misleading.

I do think we must govern the world with more shrewdness than our nations have currently shown. But how would one read the instruction that shows that the land/earth (same word ארץ in Hebrew) is God's not ours? And what does that imply? That we should be irresponsible? hardly.

The first time we see "the earth/land is Yahweh's" in so many words, is in the story of the Exodus. Pharaoh is to be taught that he is not in charge.
Exodus 9:29 - note in the last three words to whom the land belongs
And Moses said to him, As I go forth from the city, I will spread my palm to Yahweh.
The rumblings will be set aside and there will not be any more hail, so that you may know that the earth is Yahweh's.
(It should be encouraging that everyone is taught knowledge - not just the chosen.)

The second occurrence of this phrase is in Psalm 24. (This is a key psalm).
Psalms 24:1, of David, a psalm.
The earth is Yahweh's and her fullness,
the world and those sitting in her.
Yet the earth has been given to the children of humanity. (Psalm 115 Non-nobis domine, a psalm that is paired with Psalm 114 In exitu Israel. So this theme of creation leads via the psalms to the theme of redemption - but that's a subject for another day, another program.)
Psalms 115:16 The heavens' heavens belong to Yahweh,
but the earth he has given to the children of humanity.
That the earth is not ours to exploit is one thing. But it is ours in that it has been given to us. Israel, on behalf of all, is promised and given a specific land. The Biblical record records the judgment of Israel for polluting the land that they were given and they end up in exile. The metaphor of exile has its generalization also in the experience of everyone. So also we can generalize from the first chapter of Genesis, where the human is created in the image and likeness of God in order to rule:
And God blessed them and God said to them, Be fruitful and increase and fill the earth and control it. And rule among the fish of the sea and among the fowl of the heavens and among every living creeper upon the earth.
What sort of control and rule is implied? The old English versions have "subdue and have dominion". One could still read 'care for' into these words, but it seems more difficult.
Genesis 1:26-27
There is a gap of course between what we should do and what we actually do. But we have also among many, the positive aspects of the Orca and the tiger mentioned above.

So I am looking to design a program for creation in music. I suppose it should also include care.

The first part of the program could be introduced with the opening of Genesis. (One might also divide the presentation by the seven days. Day 1 as an entry, Day 7 as an exit, and the other days as interludes between related presentations.)

The whole of Genesis 1 is performed here. 12 minutes.
Copeland In the beginning. 15-20 minutes.
I am sure there are others.

Also directly related to creation is Job. Contrast, Let there be light, in Genesis 1 with Job 3:3 ff
3 Perish! day when I was born,
and the night promising pregnancy of a valiant child.
4 That day - let it be darkness.
Let God not search for it from above,
nor let a sunbeam on it shine.
Job 3:4-10
Related Psalms to day 6 - a possible theme - Psalms 8, Purcell, Lord, what is man?
What is a mortal? for you remember it.
And a child of humanity? for you visit it,
And you make it a little less than God,
and with glory and honour you crown it.
You give it governance over what your hands make.
All, you put under its feet.
Psalms 8:5-7
and 144,
Yahweh, what is this humanity that you know it,
a mortal child that you devised it?
Humanity is like futility,
its days as a shadow passing away.
Psalms 144:3-4
and Job 7,
What is a mortal that you make him great,
and that you impose on him your heart?
And you visit him in the mornings.
At every moment you test him.
How long till you not look at me,
or desist from me, even as I swallow my spit?
Job 7:17 the words mimicking Psalms 8 and 144
Psalm 19 also
Psalm 19:1
A setting of The Heavens are Telling, e.g. Haydn, could follow.

If anyone reads to the bottom, do you have some more suggestions of 1. Scripture from the OT that fits the theme, or 2. Music from the 13th to the 21st century that fits the theme?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


I have come across a number of posts this month on Leviticus 1:1. (e.g. the Velveteen Rabbi here.)

A point to note from the music.
Leviticus 1:1 showing the separation of verb (first word) from subject (5th word)
There is a great deal of detail on Rabbinic interpretations here (via Jim Davila). Particularly look at the last one, which shows the tetragram spelled out every 8th letter. It is not totally off the wall. A poet could do this.
וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה
וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֵלָ֔יו מֵאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד לֵאמֹֽר

But I wondered if the music tells us anything. First, the verse starts on the tonic, so I would not automatically imagine that the subject of the first verb is necessarily in the prior chapter. But as one reads through it, and hears the implications of the permanence of the presence of glory, cloud, and fire in the sight of all Israel, it is not beyond grammatical imagination that the call has the indeterminate subject, cloud, glory, fire, of the prior 4 verses.

Exodus 40 Fn Min Max Syll
וְלֹא־יָכֹ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה לָבוֹא֙ אֶל־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד כִּֽי־שָׁכַ֥ן עָלָ֖יו הֶעָנָ֑ן
וּכְב֣וֹד יְהוָ֔ה מָלֵ֖א אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן
35 And Moses could not enter into the tent of engagement because the cloud dwelt over it,
and the glory of Yahweh filled the dwelling-place.
3e 4B 19
וּבְהֵעָל֤וֹת הֶֽעָנָן֙ מֵעַ֣ל הַמִּשְׁכָּ֔ן יִסְע֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
בְּכֹ֖ל מַסְעֵיהֶֽם
36 And when the cloud ascended above the dwelling-place, the children of Israel began to migrate,
in all their migrations.
3e 4C 19
וְאִם־לֹ֥א יֵעָלֶ֖ה הֶעָנָ֑ן
וְלֹ֣א יִסְע֔וּ עַד־י֖וֹם הֵעָלֹתֽוֹ
37 And if the cloud did not ascend,
then they did not migrate until the day of its ascent.
3e 4B 9
כִּי֩ עֲנַ֨ן יְהוָ֤ה עַֽל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ יוֹמָ֔ם וְאֵ֕שׁ תִּהְיֶ֥ה לַ֖יְלָה בּ֑וֹ
לְעֵינֵ֥י כָל־בֵּֽית־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּכָל־מַסְעֵיהֶֽם
38 Because the cloud of Yahweh was over the dwelling-place by day, and fire was on it by night,
in the sight of all the house of Israel, in all their migrations.
3e 4C 18
Moses could not enter the tent of engagement. This tent is described in detail in Exodus with respect to its plan and its construction. Then in Leviticus, it is the place of sacrifice. In Numbers the service in the tent is noted. Joshua is presented there in Deuteronomy. The pair of words אהל מועד appears rarely outside of the three middle books of Torah, Exodus (34), Leviticus (43), Numbers (56), twice in Deuteronomy, twice in Joshua, once in Samuel, once in Kings. 7 times in Chronicles.
The music of Exodus 40 verses 35-38

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Reading the Bible with its music

I went to a music class for children last week. The teacher gets 11 out of 10 on every rating, pitch, rhythm, movement, presentation, sensitivity, child management, parent management, spontaneous post song exercises for matching pitch and rhythm, full participation from more people than one could count at a glance, over a dozen parents, each with 1 to 2 children under the age of 3!

One of the phrases that struck me in a song was "I don't sing because I am happy, I am happy because I sing." I recall William Byrd making a similar statement: since singing is so good a thing, I would all men should learn to sing.

So - can we teach the music of the Bible when we read the Bible?

In the volumes that are becoming available, you can, of course, just read the text. No Hebrew required. And you can use also the interspersed music as a resting place, to exercise your ear and the muscles of your vocal fold. And to learn Biblical Hebrew in context.

And you can have fun. Laugh, even. Enjoy the implications for the tone of voice. Note when melodies are similar and different even given the constraints of the notation. And I promise that you will also laugh, not necessarily at my reading. But you might be surprised how some things got into the texts. I am. When I was young, I wasn't sure if goats had sheep or not. But ... (I won't spoil that one). 

Except we become as little children, ...

In my general introduction, I have outlined a suggested method for detailed reading, even by scholars who could write more than I could think of on every word. Detailed reading involves hearing the music. This is an approach that has not been taken in this generation. It is unique, the whole Hebrew Bible transcribed into a musical score, without loss of information.

Religious, scholar and priest alike, will catch up to the children when they begin to sing. You can find the volumes as they appear here.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Translation without commentary

Can you imagine that it is actually harder to write a translation without commentary than it is to write one with commentary?

Your host language has to stand on its own. Without any explanation. Without footnotes. I would allow you an introduction, but not too long.

Today I was working on Jeremiah 15:1. When I read the English alone, I balked at what I had done with אֵ֥ין נַפְשִׁ֖י אֶל־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה

sort of literally it is nothing my soul to this people

of course I don't use that word soul - it would be strange to use it only once and that for Yahweh, who is the speaker in this sentence! I had written I would have no integrity to this people, but that reverses the sense of the God being with the people. And it really requires the word עוד still.

The preposition אל is awkward, the נפשׁ is awkward, and it is so terse.

JB has I would not warm to this people - Now that's sweet, but it disobeys my concordance rules. And creates an artificial hapax for נפשׁ.

I asked my coach. This is his reply,
The word you're looking for in this case is heart—as in "My heart was no longer in it."
The word נפש is often used in the sense of "want"—as when Abraham appeals to the Hittites in Hebron, saying (Gen. 23): im yesh et naphshekhem = "if it is within your hearts"
וַיְדַבֵּר אִתָּם לֵאמֹר אִם יֵשׁ אֶת נַפְשְׁכֶם לִקְבֹּר אֶת מֵתִי מִלְּפָנַי
– an expression that is still used in literary modern Hebrew.

See also: Ezekiel (23:18) for a very common Hebrew expression—naq'ah naphshi –
וַתְּגַל֙ תַּזְנוּתֶ֔יהָ וַתְּגַ֖ל אֶת־עֶרְוָתָ֑הּ וַתֵּ֤קַע נַפְשִׁי֙ מֵעָלֶ֔יהָ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר נָקְעָ֥ה נַפְשִׁ֖י מֵעַ֥ל אֲחוֹתָֽהּ
KJV translates this as:
then my mind was alienated from her.
but it is literally "my will is sprained", i.e. "I am fed up with..."
Now this is interesting - I just have to get it down to 5 words and check out those other places. (But I wasn't balking at those two places.)

Here's my meandering theological thought.

My first thought when I read this note was that Adonai's heart was no longer in 'the project on behalf of the people' or some such construct. Theologically, I could not imagine this. Of course I can't let my guesses on the nature of G-d get in the way of what is written! But one thing we imagine of G-d is steadfastness of purpose - perhaps wrongly of course. And it is generally clear that Israel is a project in which steadfastness is continuing. In other places, even later in Jeremiah, we read of promise and restoration and confirmation of the covenant invoking many names from the past.

What occurred to me yesterday is that there is in the Scriptures a complex intermingling of the human and the divine and the historical record of the ancestors - Moses and the prophets. The problem is to catch this in 5 words or less, without any commentary except for the music.

And of course I cannot use heart לב, לבב, or mind - well actually I could use mind. I have only used mind in the Song 3 times where it has the sense of 'keeping' נטר the vineyard. So I could allow it as an exception on the grounds of English homonym. But mind in this case in Jeremiah would be too abstract from an anthropological point of view - the very thing I don't like about soul.

There is only one other place where נפשׁ is preceded by אין, Proverbs 13:4 - וָ֭אַיִן נַפְשׁ֣וֹ. This is maybe helpful. In effect combining the thought of the two verses, Adonai would consider himself as a sloth if he let the people discourage him.

I was wondering if it might reduce to 'there is no me' an ungrammatical colloquialism I have used a few times for אינני. But I do think G-d 'has a horse in this race'.

Anyway ... I will try to get the idea of discouragement of heart in there without actually saying so. It turns out, I didn't get discouragement in there. I don't think G-d was discouraged in this case. Perhaps I don't think G-d can be discouraged.

Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, it would be nothing for me, against this people.

against is a sometimes rendering of אל - about 1% of the time. And the contrast is consistent, even Moses and Samuel would not save the current generation from the exile. It says nothing of Yahweh's discouragement, and much concerning his determination.

Let's have this as a footnote - and one for every word in every verse. It is not surprising that scholars don't often get around to translating. They would have too much to write. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pondering the unfamiliarity of a concordant translation

What I wrote below about translation made me ask today whether anything is self-evident.

The American constitution begins with the idea that all men are created equal is 'self-evident'. We experience the heat and light of the sun as self-evident, but we no longer think the sun circles the earth. That is no longer self-evident.

I hear the music for the accents as self-evident. The shape and tonality of the music reveals the text like nothing else. But this brilliant recognition of the music behind the signs by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura is almost off the radar since her death and the internet demise of her editor Jonathan Wheeler.

Her analysis meets the operational requirements of the law of requisite variety. It takes variety to absorb variety. This law is the basis for operations research, the principles underlying all that we take for granted in software these days. This law is a consequence of Occam's razor. It is futile to do with much what can be done with less.

How well do we deceive ourselves by our notion of self-evidence?

How important is the nuance of the words that we are used to in the English Bible? We are so used to words made famous from our familiarity with translations derived from the King James that we likely don't think about them.

What about words related to large areas of land devoid of regular vegetation? How many different words can we imagine for them?

How about wilderness, desert, steppe, plain, wasteland, and arid place.

Each of these is glossed in my reading from a separate Hebrew stem without overlap. These are my choices.

These stems are not all 1 to 1 mappings, some are 1 to many, but none is many to many.

ציה arid place (5), wild place (3)
חרב desert (99)
ישׁם wasteland (14)
מדבר wilderness (272)
ערב steppe (65)
שׁרון plain (6)

These glosses are many to many mappings in traditional translations.

ציה desert, wilderness
חרב desert
ישׁם desert, wilderness
מדבר wilderness, desert
ערב plain, desert, wilderness
and several other stems are also used for plain in translations dependent on familiar usage.

When the English words are mapped to multiple Hebrew stems like this, through the free use of English synonyms by traditional translators, it seems to belie the (self-evident?) function of words in a language to have a referent. We also lose information. I have not allowed this kind of freedom in my work. And I have enforced it with software, so it was not dependent on my memory.

If one were to develop a concert program related to fulfillment of promise, Isaiah 35:1 and 40:5 could be a part of it. Old and new music would be quite a contrast.

Wesley - the wilderness:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them,
and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom like the rose.

Ancient music
Isaiah 35:1
Wilderness will sing for joy, and arid place,
and steppe will rejoice and flourish like a crocus.

Handel, Messiah, opening tenor recitative:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the LORD. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Ancient music
Isaiah 40:3
The voice of one calling in the wilderness, Face the way of Yahweh.
Make a level place in the steppe, a highway for our God.

These juxtapositions are strange ...the words no longer resonate with traditional settings in English.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Revised general introduction to my work

Here is a revision of my Introduction.

I am beginning to think of ways of generating presentations of the music both new and old. I will announce them when they are generated. I have 199 sample performances. There is a general link in the intro but it takes a few clicks to find them. I have not yet listened to them all or rated them. Some are better than others. I hope to hire some singers and generate new examples over the next few years. (None of this is done quickly.)
I tried the link inside the pdf on my phone and it would not connect so here is the link directly on the blog. I am working my way through this music and would love to have input from qualified sources as to what choral music might complement it from the 15th to the 21st century. (As you can guess, I am not into much that goes pop, even though one of my sons is a rapper.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Exceptions to my rules of concordance

As I think about this project of reading in Hebrew and writing in English a close translation for the music, I realize a design factor that I must expose to the readers of this translation.

I am a regular user of the English language. It is my native tongue. Hebrew is not. Every one of us has a tongue we take for granted. We don't ask how it works. We just do it. Linguists ask the questions we haven't thought of. One of the reasons learning a language is difficult is that we learn it wrong. We learn its grammar first and then use it. We never did this as children. We knew our language before we learned its grammar. And even then, when we know grammar, we never analyse first and then speak.

And vocabulary? That's even a bigger problem. What is the word for that? we think. Or what does this mean? Or can you remember that word for ..., you know what I mean?  These things never bother us much, except for the natural degeneration of our abilities as we age. But with a tongue that is foreign to us, we are initially lost, and I am not sure we ever find ourselves.

Is fluency in multiple languages possible? Yes, of course. And it is demonstrated by many people we know, especially those who grew up with two or more languages, and by others who 'have the gift' for it. It was not a gift that I have had.

I accept exceptions to glossing rules in my native language. I can spot them, both the apt Malapropism, and the creative use of a term in a new context. I hear puns and humour where I would miss it in a foreign tongue. Our French and Latin teachers were entirely without humour - at least for the boys they taught. So even for those tongues I learned in my youth, the nuance was lacking.

But what I learned from design and programming I can share. And a fundamental principle is that one must identify and press on the weak spots in a design.

So here is my mediated list of significant exceptions, Gloss, Stem, and Semantic domain (always a work in process). The full list will be in the alphabet book when is it published. There are very few that do not cross semantic domains and which are therefore legitimate homonyms in Hebrew. And there are several that are exceptions for a specific reason: they are Aramaic or they are part of an acrostic. Some of them are grammatical, and we know prepositions and conjunctions don't behave according to rules across languages.

I thought I knew of the significant compromises. These involve words like come, go, bring, set, put, and so on. I made no attempt after working the Books of Truth and the Scrolls to make these stems concordant. Some of them may be distinguishable using the preposition.

But the list turns out to be even smaller than I thought it would be. Some stems that are obviously related like לב and לבב I left separate. They are among the insignificant compromises. Some like bring are still well distinguished by the preposition that is part of the verb, bring out, bring up, bring back, etc.

The following are glosses that could be revisited, but when I try now, I am forced into the circle I avoided at first. And the status quo looks reasonable. I have spent a long time combing the hair of glossaries and being horrified at the tangles therein. To have combed them out to this point with just over 25 examples in 305,000+ words should let me leave them in the hair as adornments. (A few in the list below can be deleted since they are doubles in English , like came, come, goes, went, end, ends, which my lemma algorithm does not recognize or they are doubles in Hebrew which I have separated arbitrarily, like לב, לבב, צדיך, צדך.)

I do not know of any other translation project that publishes its list of exceptions to concordance.

many timeרבMEASURE
many timeרבהMEASURE
quietשׁקט QUIET

Monday, March 4, 2019

The five scrolls, volume 6 of Bob's Bible now available

Volume 6 of the new series The Bible for the Music, also known as Bob's Bible, is now available. You can order it here.

Where to begin reading the Bible? In volume 6 of course. This book is less than 100 pages packed with wisdom, aka shrewdness. You can read it in an afternoon, but it will last in you with its dramatic and tragic centre 'for good', as they carelessly say, meaning for ever.

Here are some snippets to whet your appetite.

The first scroll is the Song of Songs. Nowhere better to begin than with this key to Torah.

Song 2:15 catch the foxes
The second of the scrolls is the book of Ruth - a very readable story also about love.

The third scroll is the Lamentations of Jeremiah, 5 chapters, 4 of which are alphabetic acrostics with the sequence of letters deliberately not quite perfect.
Lamentations 2:17

The fourth scroll is Qohelet, the preacher, or Ecclesiastes.
Qohelet 5:17
And the fifth scroll is the book of Esther, the story of the origin of the feast of Purim. This a book about parties, not all of them sweet or happy.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

What did Moses wear over his face

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Traditionally the text read is Exodus 34:29-35. The word in the chapter מסוה occurs only there. It is not the same as other uses of veil פרך in traditional translations (however spelled). I used mask in Exodus 34 so that the English reader knows it is not the same term. Do we not all wear masks?

And what does this say about 2 Corinthians - we are unmasked.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Drawing conclusions from the Bible

Conclusions seem awe-fully final don't they?

We all begin with looking at the sky in wonder. Psalm 8
For I see your heavens that your fingers make,
moon and stars which you have established.
What next? I recall that film, Life is Beautiful. The historical record of the war is a major testament for me of the failure of Christendom in spite of all its watertight theological conclusions from the Bible. One of the first News of the World broadcasts (those old films we would see in the theatres) that I saw was the image of broken bodies in the concentration camps.

Yet we all maintain apart from mental illness that life is beautiful.

My purpose in translating the Hebrew Scriptures is so that I can hear a fresh approach to the palimpsest that is the New Testament. I cannot understand the NT without a full appreciation of the OT. The NT is so imbued with allusion, that it is like a manuscript that has written itself on the backside of the first testimony and even scraped off some of the front side to write more.

As far as I have been taught, and this is not from any particular church or school, we have misread the character of God in both the Old and New Testaments. We have used the Scriptures to control the people, not to free them. We have emphasized fear and punishment, something humans do for their own convenience, and we have failed to see the real form of responsibility that is called from each of us and all of us together. Our unity is therefore fragmented. This is our doing, not God's. Our fragmentation is everywhere, not just in churches, but in cultural isolation, and in political parties. And it has real-life consequences.

Having completed my translation as a base for further thought, I feel I am at the first step towards rethinking the theology I was brought up in. Every question we think we know the answer to needs to be withdrawn so we can rethink it. It is for these reasons that I refused to use some words in my translation. I think it is irresponsible to teach answers as if there were to be no further questions.

How do we read this body of text? I came across today, a day late for the carnival, but still in the month, this note from Mosaic by Hillel Hapkin on a discussion of Alter's translation and motives for translating. I suggested in early February that literature is not an adequate rationale for the way we treat the text of the Bible. I have repeatedly said that 'understand' is sometimes a substitute for 'over-stand' and understanding is used for power by a human. That won't do either as a motivation. Now here is standing under well used:
To read the Bible merely as literature is to read it not so much without faith as in bad faith, although what better faith can be hoped for from the faithless than the faith in literature, which alone holds that every word in the Bible counts even if it is not God’s, would be hard to say.
And for me a comment clarifies this further:
Believing Jews come to the Bible in obedience to it. So do believing Christians. These stand under the Revelation. Others, whether (with identification sets even as Christian or Jewish) take the Scriptures as human literature. The former are already in union. The others are doing something else across a chasm of obedience and faith.
What about drawing conclusions based on standing under the Revelation? I would heighten the tension by not capitalizing that word. No one standing under revelation should shove any words down anyone else's aural canal. I would not even use the word obey as it is commonly used for שׁמע hear. I didn't use it in my translation except for the stem יקח which appears only 3 times in the Bible. I would use the phrase hearing with the voice of God. To hear with is to identify with what we do not intrinsically know. It is in fact the basis for science, the real process of discovery. This is true as much for the scientist as it is for the religious.

Now I can begin to read, reading for the music, and singing as respite for tired eyes - and without commentary. Commentary tells us what we should read. But it often prevents our first requirement which is to actually read the text.

Biblical Studies Carnival 156 February 2019

Welcome to the 156th Biblical Studies Carnival
February 2019 - The Lego Edition


Posts this month heralded a new English translation of the Old Testament announced by the Jewish Telegraphic Society some months ago and in Carnival 153.
when the authorities became aware of the error, most copies of the Wicked Bible were destroyed. Only a few copies survived, and these have become valuable collectors’ items.
Alter’s Hebrew Bible is the only single-author translation by someone who has spent a lifetime studying literary artistry in both Hebrew and English. This is not to say that it is, or could be, beyond criticism.
The first might be described as strictly literary, which is to say, an attempt to find workable English equivalents for the cadences, the expressive syntax, the sound play, the thematic shaping of narrative through strategic word choice, and much else in the Hebrew. The other impetus is an effort to render faithfully the semantic force of the Hebrew words.
The apogee of classical form,
all of them with shield and helmet (Ezekiel 38:5)
Discussion of Alter's translations are not new in the blogosphere. Here is an early mention in the archives of the NY Times from 1996.
Goldingay reports that translating the First Testament consumed an hour of his time daily for five years. (7 days a week?) That would be 7*50*5 = 1750 hours. ... My estimate of what pace I could keep by the end of the project was 10 verses per hour. That would be 2,320 hours. From June 2015, I scheduled 4 hours a day 5 days a week 45 weeks of the year = 900 hours a year or about 3150 hours to November 2018.
  • James Davila posts about an article and responses on Alter's Bible.
To call it the best solo English Bible is, given the competition, not saying much. But one is also tempted to call it the best modern English Bible, period—a judgment with which Alter appears to agree.
Goldingay's First Testament is reviewed here.
The section titles in the FT are fantastic and funny, creative and clever. For example, “How David acquired his grandfather” for Ruth 4:11-22; “How to be the bad guy” for 2 Kings 21:1-12; “Let me tell you a story” for Proverbs 7:1-20. ...the FT forces me to think creatively about how to communicate biblical terms in ways people can more easily comprehend.
Sarah O'Connor via Marg Mowczko on Numbers 5:11ff.
In a world dominated by men, where a man’s honor was often valued above a woman’s life, the Bible stands out in its protection of women. Remember that the next time you read Numbers. If you ever do, I mean.
Marg Mowczko on the household codes.
The so-called household codes in Ephesians chapters 5-6 and Colossians chapters 3-4 are often used to support the idea of “gender roles.” These gender roles usually boil down to “the submission of all women to male-only authority.” But these codes were not primarily about gender roles or even gender. They were about power.
Rachel Barenblatt ponders the light of the world on parashah tetzaveh.
אמּת suitable for ages 4+
includes tool set and box
The Hasidic master known as the Sfat Emet reads this verse in a beautiful way. First he notes the verse from Proverbs, "The candle of God is the soul of a human being." When we are in dark places, we light a candle to help us see.
James McGrath ponders what is in the Bible (or not) considering translation or paraphrase.
“If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.”
Via James Davila, a usage history of Goy.
... a careful tracing of “the genealogy of the goy, from the Hebrew Bible [where “Israel is one goy among many”] to the rabbis and church fathers of the second and third centuries” of the Common Era ...
And again on Ethnic and Cultural Identities in the Rabbinic Goy Discourse.
...the authors offer a most insightful analysis of Paul’s motivations, arguing that the creation of a new model of equal membership of Jews and others within the ekklesia required a new binary language, which would obliterate any particular ethnic identities, and at the same time maintain the separate identity of the gentile qua gentile in the messianic age.
And moving on to Ki Tissa, a question raised about the legitimacy of sacrifice on Mt Carmel.
Clearly, in Elijah’s perception, Yahwistic altars such as the one that he repaired on Mount Carmel were not only legitimate, but their destruction represented an affront to YHWH, indeed a tangible expression of the people’s abandonment of their covenant with YHWH. The contrast between such a perception and the Deuteronomic law reflected in the Book of Kings itself that proscribes sacrificial worship outside of the Jerusalem temple could hardly be greater!
Rachel Adelman writes on atoning for the golden calf with the Kapporet.
Atop the kappōret, the ark’s cover, sat the golden cherubim, which framed the empty space (tokh) where God would speak with Moses. Drawing on the connection between the word kappōret and the root כ.פ.ר (“atone”), and noting how the golden calf episode interrupts the Tabernacle account, the rabbis suggest that the ark cover served as a means of atoning for the Israelites’ collective sin.
Henry Neufeld considers Hezekiah's horrible prayer.
... in 2 Kings 21 we see Manasseh, generally considered the worst king of Judah, took the throne at 12 years of age on the death of his father. His birth would have occurred in those 15 years added to Hezekiah’s life.
and follows up with a counter interpretation from Brevard Childs.
Ackroyd (“An Interpretation of the Babylonian Exile,” Studies, 157ff.) has mounted a persuasive case against interpreting it as a smug response that the judgment will not personally affect him. Rather, it is an acceptance of the divine will in which Isaiah’s form of the response (39:8) emphasizes the certainty of divine blessing at least in his lifetime.
Andrew Perriman rethinks the identity of the servant.
Philip proclaims the crucified and resurrected Jesus as Israel’s Lord and Christ, no doubt drawing out the theological significance of the extraordinary turn of events through the analogy with—but not identification with—Isaiah’s portrayal of Israel as a suffering servant.
And he has a follow-up here.
as things stand, we have to reckon, both historically and canonically, with its current location. It’s an integral part of the story of the exile and the return from exile.
Deane Galbraith argues against the class prejudice of scholars about Tobit.
The class characteristics of the Tobit family are frequently missed by commentators, despite many indications of their wealth and status.
New and Old together


Julia Blum relates issues about Sabbath observance in Matthew.
The gospels are the only first century source that we have, where healing is permitted and performed on Shabbat. Jesus advocates – perhaps even establishes – the same approach that later, slightly modified, will become normative in Rabbinic Judaism.
Also on the parables.
For instance, we find a parable similar to Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Coin in a Jewish commentary on the Song of Songs—Song of Songs Rabbah. Remarkably, here the parable itself is likened to the Lost Coin. “The matter is like a king who lost a coin or a precious pearl in his house. He will find it by the light of a penny-worth wick. Likewise, do not let the parable appear of little worth to you: through the parable, a man can stand on the words of Torah.
Via Brian Small on FB, Report of a symposium on Hays Echos. Response by Rafael Rodriquez, and reply from Richard Hays (more to come in March).
[T]his is a book that offers an account of the narrative representation of Israel, Jesus, and the church in the canonical Gospels, with particular attention to the ways in which the four Evangelists reread Israel’s Scripture—as well as the ways in which Israel’s Scripture prefigures and illuminates the central character in the Gospel stories.
Second response by Eric Barreto and reply from Hays.
...the significance of the New Testament is not to be found on a single literary or historical layer; instead, the Gospels and Paul alike are palimpsests of interpretive activity.
Who will go up for us?
... the chief point of coherence that lies at the center of my [Hays] argument: namely, the christological coherence of the Gospel narratives, all four of which in their distinctive ways proclaim the identity of Jesus as the definitive embodiment of Israel’s God. This was a deeply scandalous claim within the world of ancient Judaism, and it is a point on which the four Gospels converge and agree.
The third tangential response is also available, the fourth still to come in April.

A technical note on pre-existence from Larry Hurtado.
final things are first things ... it was a short (but remarkable) step from belief in Jesus’ eschatological significance to belief in his pre-existence, and likely required very little time to make that step.
He also examines the Christological idea that Jesus was considered angelic noting much detail on the last 120 years of thinking on this subject.
The simple fact is that earliest Jesus-followers had a rich body of angel-speculations available to them and were convinced of the reality of angels, but they never referred to Jesus as an angel (to judge from the NT texts).
Ian Paul asks about sexual boundaries and gospel freedom.
Instead of questioning the meaning of scriptural passages, the bishop appeals to ‘other sources of authority such as reason, scientific evidence and in serious dialogue with other disciplines’. This is not crude rationalistic liberalism, however, as an important step in his argument is that he sets out a biblical justification as to why scripture itself mandates us to go beyond it.
Ian also writes on the miraculous catch of fish (lectionary for February 5th).
We will see the metaphorical boat of the early church filled almost to sinking throughout Acts, as on several occasions thousands come to faith in Jesus at a time, and the structural nets of leadership need expanding and reconsidering, not least when the ‘gentile mission’ takes off under Paul’s ministry.
Bosco Peters has an opinion on these fishy tales too.
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11), fish were perfectly happy, swimming their happy fishy life, and then they are caught in half-cleaned nets, dragged to the shore and left, dead and dying, on abandoned boats in the late afternoon heat. And Jesus seems to say: “follow me – what we did to those fish, that’s what we are going to do to people”!
Airtonyo points to a chapter of Class Struggle in the New Testament available online.
It is not uncommon to find unchecked entrepreneurial assumptions influencing the interpretation of the New Testament world, not only in the popular press but even within the discourse of biblical studies. ... the retrojection of entrepreneurialism demonstrates just how totalizing neoliberal capitalism has become as an implicit hermeneutical frame—a way of seeing and structuring the entire world—in every field and period of human knowledge.
Phillip Long continues his posts on the New Testament, with daily sequential posts on The Acts of the Apostles, e.g. Gamaliel:
Gamaliel urges careful deliberation before acting. ... Why does Gamaliel give this advice to the Council? Is this, as Dunn says, simply “shrewd politics”? Or is there more to this story?
What were they praying for when Peter appeared?
... if they were praying for his release, then their response to Peter’s escape from prison is unusual.
and Herod Agrippa (I)
Agrippa is therefore demonstrating his piousness by pursuing the leaders of the Christian community.
Via FB, James McGrath points out a Zondervan online course with an introduction to Who wrote the Book of Acts.
Together with the Gospel of Luke and the Letter to the Hebrews, the book of Acts contains some of the most cultured Greek writing in the New Testament. On the other hand, roughness of Greek style turns up where Luke appears to be following Semitic sources or imitating the Septuagint.
Wayne Coppins ponders Angelika Reichert pondering the I in Romans 7.
Consequently, it appears sensible to modify how the question is posed, i.e. instead of the question of the meaning of the positive statements about the “I”, to place the question of their function in the flow of vv. 14-23 in the foreground.
James Tabor has a two part post on the 6 greatest ideas in the writings of Paul.
Helmet, repaired in the very place of its failure
in its classical form
/from part 1/... putting “justification by faith” at the center of Paul’s thought throws everything off balance. ... the New Testament gospels are essentially Pauline documents, with underlying elements of the earlier Jesus tradition. .../from part 2/  he, as a Suffering Servant, along with Christ, would also pour out his blood as an offering, and thus “fill up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering”
Ken Schenck has posted a 10 part series on Leadership beginning with Corinth.
At some point around AD49, a Christian couple arrived at the city of Corinth named Priscilla and Aquila. I put the wife's name first because the New Testament typically puts her name first when it is referring to their ministry together. This fact suggests that she generally took the lead in ministry between the two.
Christopher Scott explores soteriology.
For an entire semester we talked about elements of salvation, biblical views on what it means to be saved, historical interpretations of salvation, as well as people that have tried to make salvation something other than what the Bible describes it as.
Airtonyo quotes Moltmann on fundamentalism
O documento divino da revelação não pode estar sujeito à interpretação humana mas, ao contrário, a interpretação humana deve estar sujeita ao documento divino da revelação.
Claude Mariottini posts his fifth study on the explore God Chicago 2019 series. "Is Jesus really God?"
... the writers of the New Testament, as they tried to identify the one who died on the cross and the one who overcame the grave, concluded that the one whom they called “the Christ,” was fully human and fully God.
Larry Hurtado notes the usage of the phrase son of God in early Christian writings.
So, it’s clear that the NT authors vary in their use of the expression “son of God”, with no clear pattern readily apparent to me. The authors of GJohn and 1 John easily out-distance other NT texts in usage of the phrase, and in the confessional significance attached to it.
James McGrath posts on the doctrine of personal infallibility citing Lars Cade.
Many Christians think something like this: “The Bible is True. I believe the Bible. Therefore, everything I believe is true.” This also applies to the morality of actions they may take or motives they may have (see: defending the separation of families by quoting Romans 13). With such a mentality, it simply does not occur to people that they may be wrong.
Peter Gurry examines the textual problems with Hebrews 11:11.
Thus, in one single verse, we must judge between ‘longer’ and ‘shorter’ texts, and not make a fetish of either. There is no royal road or short cut in these matters.
Other notes

Via ETC via Paleojudaica among a clutch of debunkings, Is codex sinaiticus a fake? Short answer, No.
Obviously, the two sets of images were not taken to the level of precision that Daniels’ theory needs. If they were, we would see no difference in colour at all, because those two versions of yellow that you see in this image are the exact same colour in real life.
Also via James Davila, Dating Biblical Texts to the Persian Period.
By grappling with these questions, the essays in this volume evince a greater degree of precision vis-a-vis dating and historical context.
James McGrath interviews Pete Enns about his book How the Bible actually works.

Larry Hurtado points out two new books from Jörg Frey,
One of the most productive NT scholars today is Professor Jörg Frey (University of Zurich), and so it is very good news to have a couple of his major works now available in English.
and on the marginalia review of books, has a review of Paula Fredriksen’s When Christians were Jews.
I have attempted to reimagine the stages by which the earliest Jesus-community would have first come together again, after the crucifixion. To understand how and why, despite the difficulties, these first followers of Jesus would have resettled in Jerusalem. To reconstruct the steps by which they became in some sense the center of a movement that was already fracturing bitterly within two decades of its founder’s death. To see how the seriatim waves of expectation, disappointment, and fresh interpretation would have sustained this astonishing assembly in the long decades framed by Pilate’s troops in 30 and Titus’s in 70.
Phillip Long reviews Douglas Mangum and Josh Westbury, eds. Linguistics & Biblical Exegesis
The second volume of the Lexham Methods series surveys the often difficult field of linguistics. Since the essays in this volume are all aimed at students who are doing exegesis of the whole Bible, examples are given for both the Old and New Testaments.
Amy Erikson reviews the five scrolls. Table of Contents and list of authors is here.
... there are contributions from six scholars working in South Africa, several from the United States, two from scholars based in China, and two based in Australia. ... The volume also contains essays by scholars from Israel, Argentina, and the Netherlands. The result is an eclectic collection of fresh readings that explores not only how a reader’s context might influence one’s reading of the text but also how the Bible might enrich a reader’s understanding of his or her context.
James Pate reviews George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles.
"Imagine Sheldon Cooper in the pulpit, only with the desire to be a poet."
James Davila points to a review by Yitz Landes of The Origins of Midrash.
for much of antiquity, including during the early rabbinic period, the Semitic root referred to teaching—textual or otherwise. Mandel thus overturns the consensus understanding that early uses of the root refer to textual interpretation, and that only later was the root expanded to encompass teaching more generally.
James Hanson reviews According to the Scriptures.
If all you know is the New Testament, you do not know the New Testament” - so the late New Testament scholar Martin Hengel is reputed to have said... Allen has done a great service by compiling a truly comprehensive bibliography on the question of the Jewish Scriptures in the New Testament, both in general and specifically in relation to Jesus’s death.
April DeConick speaks about silenced voices in religion.

Kings of Israel - Todd Bolen links to a board game.
If the players are able to build enough altars before the game ends, they win. If the game ends by either the team running out of sin cubes or idols, or by Assyria destroying Israel, the prophets lose.
A conversation from Michael Langlois: Campus Protestant m’a demandé comment l’archéologie éclaire la Bible.

A note on the Hebrew language from Autumn Light.
So next time you hear Murphy’s Law— If anything can go wrong—it will. remember Goldberg’s Corollary: If anything can go wrong—God forbid—it won’t.
Also from Jonathan Orr-Stav, an answer to a question about ס and פ as parashot markers.
The division into parashot is usually to indicate a contextual change, so there isn’t a consistency in the size or number of verses involved. In the case of the Ten Commandments, for example, each commandment is a parashah in its own right—presumably to underline its importance.
Jim Davila and Drew Longacre both note a new book: The Masora on Scripture and its Methods.
The ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain thousands of Masora comments of two types: Masora Magna and Masora Prava. How does this complex defense mechanism, which contains counting of words and combinations from the Bible, work?
Again via Jim Davila, a new trilingual inscription found near the tomb of Darius the Great.
the most famous trilingual inscription from Iran is the Behistun inscription, which (rather like the Rosetta Stone for Egyptian) was key to the decipherment of Akkadian.
Via Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni an article on the pomegranate from ASOR.
The pomegranate is attested in ancient Elam during the 4th millennium BCE, and then spread to the rest of the Near East, with the original shrub (Punica protopunica L.) reaching Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine by the end of the 3rd millennium. Sumerians appear to have been involved in domestication of the pomegranate (Punica granatum L.), and the fruit quickly became an important symbol.
Call for papers for Medicine in the Bible, Warsaw 2019.
Contributors should aim at offering a comparative perspective by keeping an eye on the embeddedness of medical discourses in their surrounding cultures( ancient Babylonian, Near Eastern, Graeco-Roman, Persian, Byzantine/Syriac or early Islamicate traditions). Such a perspective will allow for assessing Jewish and Talmudic medical knowledge within a broader history of ancient knowledge cultures and helps to determine their distinct epistemologies or particular Jewishness.
Conference announcement on the New Song
the meaning of the Bible's poetry as Jewish and Christian scripture in the 21st century - the difficulties (ambiguity, genre blending/bending, figurative language), the dynamics (poetry as experience relayed and as experience relived, theological explorations of form and content, prosody and parallelism), and the effects and demands on hearers and reading communities.
Liturgy redefines liturgy. Take your pick of three definitions,
[Liturgy] was in ancient Greece a public service established by the city-state whereby its richest members (whether citizens or resident aliens), more or less voluntarily, financed the State with their personal wealth.
Kurk Gayle announces a posthumous book by Suzanne McCarthy Valiant or Virtuous? Gender Bias in Bible Translation.

Ian Paul remembers Michael Green.
Vimoth Ramachandra reflects on grief.
Jim Gordon speaks of loss.

Future carnivals

Please contact Phillip Long @plong42 to volunteer for a carnival. Note that June is currently open.
The dreaded bin of everlasting stor-age.