Friday 23 December 2022


Greetings after many weeks of silence. In fact, Advent greetings. I have been meditating a little on the significance of Advent candles. This is probably the only bit of liturgy that is reminding me of my past 70+ years nearly 80 in fact. I looked up in various places the words associated with each of the Advent candles, and I discovered that I have differing thoughts about them, and I use different colors. We traditionally have four equal white candles for the four Sundays in Advent and one red candle for Christmas.

As I thought about them, I considered that Advent itself is a time of expectation. And I agreed with the general consensus, that hope is the name of the first candle. Then I thought surely light is the second candle. Light does not appear in anyone’s list that I could find. Yet light and darkness are clearly an issue related to hope, so I consider my second candle to be light. 

What about the third and the fourth? There are so many possible keywords that it’s hard to choose just two more. Love, joy, faith, peace? And was I right to anticipate light when the entire season of Epiphany might teach more about light? Or should the Christ candle be considered the one that brings light into the world? I think I will stick with the traditional third Sunday interpretation which considers the candle to be for joy. We can’t explain joy, even if we give it the Latin name Gaudete. Siri doesn’t do Latin.

Then I will keep the word peace for the day fourth Sunday. Peace is severely lacking these days. One truly wonders what madness has overcome the human race. 

Peace is the single word of our joined hands at meal time before we begin to eat. There can be very complicated and very simple graces before or during or after a meal, but the single word, peace, is a start. Let the four white candles also stand for innocence. Hope may be lodged in a child’s presence. 

Light, joy, peace, all these words are short, but very large. In this period of expectant hope the light shows us our darkness, joy shows us our inability to trust each other, and peace shows us the immensity of our wars. 

Now, consider this: God has given us himself, his presence, and love to keep us from the ravages of ourselves. Pardon my pronouns. My language is insufficient. But so is yours. God’s self today is cold, bitter, filled with the consequences of our actions. God’s presence and love to keep us must first correct us so that we can all learn to keep ourselves. It is obviously mysterious. That is why my Christ candle is red. Red is for self-giving.

I think I had better stop this dictation. I am still sort of on holiday in the midst of the current storms. I have to return to design and build my new dwelling place. I don’t know if I will succeed but I think the experience will be important for us. Wish us luck in the new year. 

Friday 2 December 2022

Understanding the Masora - example 1

 As I noted last month, I have come across a new downloadable book on the Masoretic texts. I read more slowly Martín-Contreras on the Masora. It is a clear introduction. Verifying the masora is tricky to say the least. The annotator of the codex does not have the advantage of a computer and database. I can see immediately some of the examples in my online concordance. Of course, there may be other constraints that I am not seeing, but counting words of a particular form with accentuation is fully transparent on my concordance. You can see at a glance and I can verify that there is no error or omission from queries on my database,

Here is example 1 - dryness - krb 

/krb/ is a high usage root. It spells Horeb, e.g. בְּחֹרֵ֑ב in the domain of location. It is spelled with a tsere. And it spells sword, dagger, or ruins in the domain of violence. Here it is spelled with segol. E.g. בַּחֶ֔רֶב. In both these, the accent is on the first syllable of the root (excluding the preposition b). The concordance (linked above) gives exact counts for each combination of accents and vowels.

If you go to its next meaning, it is used for the verb to drain. And finally the result of draining, dryness, desert, deserted, etc. Here the accent is on the second syllable of the word and sometimes the third.

The example in the book is Judges 6:37 where the word occurs by itself. 

The masora, he tells me, indicates the word 16. But it's not the traditional 'tz (9+7). It is spelled iv (10+6). This raises another question. 

Is this a count? I wondered if the Masoretes were creating a concordance as they copied, or had such a tool already to hand. I see 9 references to /krb/ without suffix or prefix, three in the passage in Judges, vv 37, 39, 40. Then also Isaiah - twice, 25:5 and 61:4, then Genesis, Haggai, Ezekiel, Job, each having 1 occurrence. Then further down in the list sorted in word form sequence including diacritics, 5 more. Then I go back to Horeb and find the word once in the form without prefix or suffix, and 168 more as sword. Grand total for this root in this word form is 183 spread across several domains of usage and with varied accentuation.

What could '16' mean? Martín-Contreras cites Ginsburg:

According to the list in Ginsburg’s compilation, the sixteen references are: Gen. 31.40 (חֹ֖רֶב); Judg. 6.37, 39, 40; Jer. 36.30; 49.13; 50.38; Ezek. 29.10; Isa. 4.6; 25.4; 25.5, 5; 61.4; Zeph. 2.14; Hag. 1.11; and Job 30.30.

 Some of these are with specific prefixes. There is no solution but to look at these one at a time, and my surmise is that the '16' are too different to be considered as a group. 

M-C's conclusion is that these '16' are different because the tsere distinguishes Horeb from dryness. "those with segol and penultimate stress are cases of the common noun, [krb] drought, parching heat, desolation/dryness (Brown 1952), and those with tsere and stress on the ultima are instances of the proper name [krb] Horeb".

There are many more to ponder.

I have to leave this for a while since I have now moved and will be working from temporary locations for some time to come (3-6 months) as we build a new place to call home - temporarily of course, as is the case with all our places.

Thursday 1 December 2022

The inter-verse and inter-chapter relationships of the te'amim

In 2015, I noted this post (below) that - due to the nature of blog posts - is transient, but deserves to be noted again. Wickes 1881: A treatise on the accentuation of the three so-called poetical books on the Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job.

I have to repeat the note because Wickes is still taught and believed and I have demonstrated repeatedly that some of his claims are materially incorrect. You can even pay to read about his incorrect theories. Why would you want to learn confusion?

The scholars cannot study the accents without the music. How many of them would know that the tifha begins each of the responses to Job and that these verses are in the accents of the 21. We must correct the confusion of history with accurate and complete information. Scholarship is wonderful, but it must be subject to scrutiny. I am an old man now and not a scholar of the guild. I discovered this relationship between the two sets of accents through the computer program I wrote to create the music. The program (2013) 'knew' the difference between the set of accents in the 21 and the set in the 3 -- and it failed on the narrator's part until I noted the presence of an accent from the 21 in that part of the text. Then all was well with the music. No growth is possible until we see what we have done wrong.

From my archives: (lightly edited)
I am testing again the thesis that individual verses of the Bible are unrelated to each other with respect to the music (from Wickes 1881) as noted in an earlier post. Wickes writes the following: "Logically, a verse may be closely connected with the one preceding or following it; but musically and accentually no such connection exists." This a false thesis. Individual verses are clearly "musically and accentually" related over a wide range within the context of stories, books, and sections of the text. Here is another illustration that shows we should read the music of the text from the beginning.

I will give you one example from the book of Job. 

Job is a series of conversations from chapter 3 to 41. Each conversation is introduced by a phrase from the narrator. The music shows that each conversation is a response to Job. It could have been just a repetition of a standard bit of punctuation - but it is not. And the narrator (using the accents from the 21 books right in the midst of all the poetry) has ample scope for singing a suitable tone of voice as each of the three friends responds to Job (the conversations themselves being with the poetic accents of the three books).

I note also that Crowther in Studies on the Masora 2022 has missed the usage of the accents from the 21 books in the narrator's part. His claim (page 301) that the accents of the 21 are used 'up to Job 3:2, and then back at 42.7' is incomplete. All the narrator's parts use the accents of the 21. These include these verses: Job 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, 8:1, 9:1, 11:1, 12:1, 15:1, 16:1, 18:1, 19:1, 20:1, 21:1, 22:1, 23:1, 25:1, 26:1, 29:1.

Have a look. Note too how Job's initial conversation has an elaborate introduction. Yahweh's introduction in chapter 38 is quiet compared to Job's introduction in chapter 3. Then note how the narrator's introduction of Job always goes from tonic to tonic, whereas the introduction to the three friends' response always begins on the third (tifha) and descends to the tonic (silluq). There are no resting points (atnah or ole-veyored) in any of these verses. Also note that Elihu's introductions are exactly equivalent to Job's. Make of it what you will - but this is not an answer beginning on the third, rather it is more like the introduction to an addendum which Job himself might have sung.

All the chapters of Job are here in their musical form.

Elihu warns about inexperience vs experience: Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.