Thursday 27 June 2024

Names - Genesis 46

This short passage from verses 8 to 27 again illustrates what I nicknamed the backward colon, i.e. any note that starts a verse other than the tonic. The thesis is that any verse that does not start on the tonic is referring back to some earlier part of the canon. In this case each subsection of the song closes with a verse that begins with a note other than the tonic -- verse 15 [dominant, 5th note of the scale, B, munah] and verses 18, 22, 25 [sub-median, 6th note of the scale, C, mahpakh]. I have not yet found any verse that stands as a counter example to this thesis. It is this kind of result of my research that convinces me that Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura is on the right track in her deciphering of the te'amim, the cantillation symbols or accents in the Hebrew Bible. What is in the music is so much easier to hear than to see when reading.

  • Besides these sectional backward references which illustrate forms such as this section of Genesis 46, and the strophic structure of Psalms like psalm 96,
  • there are very short backward references - e.g. the attacca note beginning Psalm 115 indicating that the In exitu Israel, Psalm 114 is to be immediately followed by Psalm 115 -- Non nobis Domine. For obvious reasons -- deliverance is by grace.
  • And there are distanced backward references, like the paired narrator parts (using the prose accents) in the poetic sections of Job.
  • And there are extra long distanced references, like the books that begin with a note that is not the tonic. There are five -- Deuteronomy, commenting on the first four books of Torah, Each of the books of truth, The Psalms, David's Torah, Proverbs, and Job, mimicking Genesis, and The Song of Songs, another key to Torah.
In short, for the study of Scripture, the music is a significant aid to understanding.

Bk-Ch-Vs Getting to the Subdominant Returning to the Tonic
Gen 46:8 e pas,c e d f g# B ^A f g# e
Gen 46:9 e g# ^A f g# f e
Gen 46:10 e B rev,c d g# B ^A g# e
Gen 46:11 e g# ^A z-g,g# e
Gen 46:12 e B rev,c d g# B ^A pas,C qad,B z-q,f g# f e
Gen 46:13 e g# ^A f g# f e
Gen 46:14 e g# ^A f g# e
Gen 46:15 B B rev,pas,e C qad,B z-q,g# B ^A c d g# f e
Gen 46:16 e B z-q,f g# B ^A f e g# e
Gen 46:17 e B rev,c d f g# B ^A B z-q,g# e
Gen 46:18 C B z-q,f g# B ^A C qad,qad,z-q,f g# e
Gen 46:19 e C qad,B e z-q,g# e (no rest)
Gen 46:20 e B zar,B seg,C e qad,e z-q,f g# B ^A g# e
Gen 46:21 e B rev,C qad,qad,z-q,f g# B ^A f g# e
Gen 46:22 C B z-q,f g# ^A g# f e
Gen 46:23 e g# e (no rest)
Gen 46:24 e g# ^A f g# f e
Gen 46:25 C B z-q,f g# B ^A c d g# f e
Gen 46:26 e t-g,pas,C qad,qad,B z-q,g# B ^A g# f e
Gen 46:27 e f d f g# B ^A c e d f g# e

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Successions - Genesis 36

Genesis 36 is the next set of births. What does the music tell me? It appears that Esau found rest in Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite. I find it curious that the recitation stays so long on the subdominant. Ahalivamah is more low key, as is Basmat. The first five verses show little in the way of pattern.

Verse 6 is not genealogy but story. Here the music is more ornamented - the recitation is very long -- 40 syllables on the dominant. The story ends with verse 8 where the music repeats the short phrase from verse 1: he is Edom.

Verse 9 begins a repeat of the successions. Esau's children are all recited on the rest note of the subdominant. The grandchildren do not get this treatment. If there is a rest, it is very briefly sung and Amalek in particular is relegated to a recitation on the tonic.

Verse 15 refers back to the list, noting the grandchildren with the title of אַלּ֣וּף which I have rendered as captain. It's quite a celebratory read of the names.

Verse 19, again beginning on the low c rather than the tonic refers back to the lists and concludes with the same short phrase from verse 1: he is Edom.

Then there is a section on the children of the Chorites - or Horites or kori in SimHebrew for הַחֹרִ֔י, the k being used for the strong aspirate chet, ח. Which to be fair to the simulation should be spelled ket. (Aside: Changing a paradigm is no small task. aleph, bet, gimel, dalet, he, vav, zayin, ket, Tet, iod, caf, lamed, mem, nun, samec, ayin, peh, xade, qof, rew, win, taf -- no one spells the letters this way. It might solve my problem with translating / transliterating names if I used SimHebrew there also.)

אֵ֤לֶּה בְנֵֽי־שֵׂעִיר֙ הַחֹרִ֔י יֹשְׁבֵ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ
לוֹטָ֥ן וְשׁוֹבָ֖ל וְצִבְע֥וֹן וַעֲנָֽה
20 ♪C These are the children of Seir, the Chorite who inhabited the land:
Lotan and Shoval and Tsivon and Anah,
c alh bni-wyir hkori iowbi harx
loTn vwobl vxbyon vynh
alh bn\i wyir h/kri iwb\i h/arx
lvTn v/wvbl v/xbyvn v/ynh

The music of this section is an addendum to the successions of Esau since he moved to Seir. This connection to the prior verses is signified by its beginning on the sub-median, the sixth note of the scale.

After Seir, the list of kings begins. Each of these is of the form, And when X had died, Y child of Z reigned in his stead. But the music varies, even forming a chiasm -- the middle (vs 35-36) recalls an incident.

Bk-Ch-Vs Getting to the Subdominant Returning to the Tonic
Gen 36:33 e g# ^A B z-q,f g# e
Gen 36:34 e g# ^A B z-q,g# f e
Gen 36:35 e g# ^A pas,ger,B rev,C qad,B z-q,f g# e
Gen 36:36 e g# ^A B z-q,g# e
Gen 36:37 e g# ^A B z-q,g# f e
Gen 36:38 e g# ^A B z-q,f g# e

Verse 39 is even more complex. Verses 40 to the end celebrate the final set of captains. The last phrase returning to the tonic repeats an elaboration of the short phrase - he is Edom: It is Esau the father of Edom -- so we won't forget.

Here is the whole chapter -- over 380 bars of music.

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Successions - Genesis 25

 Getting back to the genealogies. The music of Genesis 25 is different from the lists that have gone before.

This is a large chunk of music to work through. Most of the chapter is about births:
  • Qeturah - a host of children and grandchildren but Isaac is isolated.
  • Ishmael - a dozen tribes.
  • Isaac - Esau and Jacob
A few observations. 
  • Verses 1 (21 similar verses with this shape) and 5 (4 similar verses) have no rest point. 
  • The descent to the tonic on הַפִּֽילַגְשִׁים֙ is in the Aleppo codex. The music here is elaborate - a story telling moment.
  • There are no refrains in the chapter. The description of death for Abraham (verse 8 bar 60) and Ishmael (verse 17 bar 141) is threefold: expired, died, and was gathered to his people. But there is no significant musical imitation apart from the last 5 notes.
  • The somewhat rare ornament tarsin (109 in Genesis) is used 5 times in the chapter verse 6, 9, 16, 26, 34 -- These are all significant turns in the story:
    • sending away the children of the courtesans, 
    • the entombment of Abraham, 
    • celebrating the children of Ishmael, 
    • Jacob grasping Esau by the heel, 
    • and Jacob feeding Esau the lentil stew. 

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Cantillation creep over a thousand years of copying

 Comparing Psalm 26 as a whole in the Aleppo codex and the Leningrad codex reveals a couple of differences in the cantillation signs, among them two spurious methegs in the WLC that are not in the Aleppo. My program eliminated only one of these. 

Here is an image of the Aleppo transcription with the two differences that I noted circled in red. two differences in 100 years?

Psalm 26 -- sight sing this bit of the Aleppo codex

Comparing the psalm with Haïk-Vantoura's rendition of the Letteris edition, shows a larger set of differences. 
Letteris edition of Psalm 26 -- showing about 15 differences with the Aleppo codex

The images show the differences in the accents. For instance, in line 1, שָׁפְטֵ֤נִי in the Aleppo and WLC has a clear mapakh below the text and no short vertical bar (metheg) below the last syllable of this word. Nonetheless, Haïk-Vantoura's version reads as if there were a munah under the second syllable and a silluq under the third, or as if there were an illuy over the second syllable. A glance at the Letteris edition of the psalms (available here) shows an illuy. I.e., over time, an ornament above the text has replaced the reciting note below the text.

Her music is below. If you compare this with the music created from the WLC here, it is easier to see the differences. It's an accumulation of copying errors and inventions. Though it doesn't eliminate the use of the deciphering key, it certainly changes the music, sometimes for the worse. A thousand years of copying have produced several spurious returns to the tonic, a confusion of ornaments, and a proliferation of additional zarqas. There is no performance of this psalm. I wonder if Haïk-Vantoura had noted the spurious methegs and decided not to chose to have this psalm performed. 

Monday 17 June 2024

Manuscript differences in accentuation

Even a cursory look at one psalm reveals differences in the te'amim written in the text over the centuries. I have been verifying the presence of the metheg in a few verses. So far my program's fuzzy logic (to avoid the premature return to the tonic that it causes in the music) is performing very well. Most methegs I have seen are on the first syllable of a word -- generally unaccented. And my program correctly ignores them.

Psalm 26:12 is an example. The first image is the Aleppo codex as reconstructed on the site. Here is the clear text for Psalm 26:12 -- the first two words. It is clear from the text that it begins on the third degree of the scale (g = tifha = median) and moves to the fifth degree (B = munah = dominant) on the last syllable. Do you see how easy this is to sight read?

The first two words of Psalm 26:12 -- no metheg

The music as derived by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura from the Letteris Edition (19th century) is in the image below. 

Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura handwritten Psalm 26:12.

In the image above, the little stroke under the a (ayin is carrying the a) is a metheg -- not a musical instruction. It should be ignored. It is not a silluq -- signifying a return to the tonic. It is not an accent. It gives a false emphasis to an 'upbeat' in the music. The metheg is an aid to pronunciation of the vowel. This particular error is of little significance since it is immediately followed by a change of reciting note.

The first two words of Psalm 26:12 Westminster Leningrad Codex

The output of my program correctly ignores the metheg in the WLC (seen in the Hebrew above). It produces the music as for the Aleppo Codex text above.

An observation of the Letteris shows other differences in accentuation from the Aleppo Codex and the WLC. Maybe one day some official site will write the programming to do the music from their textual versions. You can compare the text at the links. And report your observations in a comment -- love to hear from you :).

Saturday 15 June 2024

Can a bot answer this question?

Prompt: You are a Unicode expert -- please reference Unicode values in decimal.

You cannot distinguish metheg from silluq in Unicode. This is a severe problem for the music. A metheg will force the reciting note to the tonic (for convenience I name this note as e). But a metheg is a rather vague marking on a vowel. It has nothing to do with music.

Recently I identified about 20 errors in the Westminster Leningrad codex, all of them in the Hebrew word formed by this string אֵֽשֶׁת for the word for wife / woman aleph-shin-taf in its construct form. This string should not contain the code ֽ . This is not in the Aleppo codex in the Genesis 11 verse 29. And without checking I am sure all the others I have found are not in the Aleppo codex either.

I would like to know how to identify a metheg from its sequence in Unicode so I can correct the copyist errors that were made in the Westminster Leningrad Codex. I have corrected the error אֵֽשֶׁת to אֵשֶׁת in 20 verses.

One clue that the 'accent' is wrong is that it occurs on an unaccented syllable. How would a blind program know the grammar (construct) or that the 'accent' is on the wrong syllable. <End Prompt>

This was a long question. The bot went into a long loop trying to answer this prompt.

We then conversed through the several errors in the response. The bot may have been trained on errors, like confusing the sof pasuk with silluq and not realizing the failure of Unicode to distinguish silluq from metheg. But at the end of our conversation, perhaps when I finally asked the 'right' question, it came up with several reasons why a metheg might be included in a word. Rather good guesses I think, but all of them needing confirmation. Interestingly enough, I reread the paragraph in Lambdin, and contrary to my confused memory, it is actually quite clear and gives several specific examples. I wonder if I check them out in the data, will I see a spurious drop to the tonic, and will I see that they are lacking in the Aleppo codex? 

My final clarification: I just noted that your response is incorrect. The sof pasuq is 1475. This is not the silluq. Silluq is not a synonym for sof pasuq. The silluq is code 1469 -- it is confused in the Unicode system with metheg. Metheg is for pronunciation and silluq is for music -- pronunciation and music are non-overlapping domains. So perhaps my question should be - what are the conditions under which a linguist copying the Hebrew text would add a metheg to a syllable? We have seen one example in that word for wife / woman. <End Prompt>

This was a long question. The bot went into a long loop trying to answer this prompt.

ChatGPT's response follows. Note the underline -- my emphasis. The use of this symbol for silluq, a musical symbol, as an aid to phonetics is a contradiction. I need to run the guesses by an authority to see if the suggested uses are legitimate. But I'm not much closer to finding a way to eliminate them.

ChatGPT: The metheg (מֶתֶג) in Hebrew manuscripts is a cantillation mark used primarily for phonetic purposes, to ensure proper pronunciation and rhythm in recitation. It can indicate various linguistic features such as a secondary stress, a slight pause, or the elongation of a vowel. Here are some conditions under which a metheg might be added:

  1. Phonetic Emphasis:

    • To provide a secondary stress within a word, especially when a syllable needs to be pronounced distinctly. This helps in clear and proper articulation.
  2. Distinguishing Between Similar Words:

    • To differentiate between words that are spelled similarly but have different meanings or grammatical forms. For example, it may be used to distinguish between homographs.
  3. Preventing Mispronunciation:

    • To prevent the reduction or elision of a vowel sound, ensuring that it is pronounced fully and clearly, especially in liturgical or formal recitation.
  4. Syllabic Structure:

    • To mark a syllable that should be pronounced separately from the preceding syllable, particularly in complex or less familiar words.
  5. Morpheme Boundaries:

    • To indicate the boundaries between morphemes, helping to clarify the grammatical structure of a word.

Specific Examples and Rules

  1. In Certain Consonant-Vowel Combinations:

    • Metheg is often found in words with long vowels (qamatz, tsere, etc.) to ensure they are pronounced as long vowels rather than being shortened.
  2. In Construct States:

    • When two nouns are in a construct state (smikhut), the first noun might receive a metheg to maintain its phonetic integrity despite the close connection with the second noun.
  3. In Certain Grammatical Forms:

    • In some verb forms, particularly in the imperfect tense, a metheg might be added to emphasize the vowel sound in the prefix or in the root of the verb.

Besides this response, it outlined a program that I probably could make work in PL/SQL that would scan the text for methegs to see what the linguistic context is and whether there are patterns. Possible idea, perhaps? Not appealing to me at present -- too much uncertainty. I won't pursue the conversation because these statements lack a specific example. But I may follow up Lambdin -- even though it is a bit of a distraction from the music. I do have some code to eliminate spurious methegs from the music, but it is not specific enough. I'm not sure I can follow my own logic 12 years later!

Friday 14 June 2024

Successions of Shem continued -- Genesis 11

 It's curious that we have a second recital of the children of Shem. And this part of the song has a pattern like the one in chapter 5, but a little different. The genealogy of Shem begins at verse 10. The genealogy of Terah begins at verse 27 and continues to the end of the chapter.

Verse 10, as we noted in a prior post links to something that has gone before--in this case to the genealogy in chapter 10. The dependency on the prior pattern in chapter 5 is to be heard in the phrase, 'and he had sons and daughters', 'viold bnim ubnot' a phrase of music that repeats exactly as in chapter 5, here in chapter 11, verses 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 25.

The refrain every two verses from 11 to 25 in chapter 11 of Genesis reflecting the same words and music from chapter 5.

It's not that the same words would necessarily have the same music -- this can be widely illustrated. Music is not like punctuation and the accents are not punctuation. Accents are music and music phrases the words, forwards and backwards, and provides refrains and other structural forms, but primarily, melodies expressing story and emotion and highlights. In this case, the setting of the number of years of each of the patriarchs is a varied musical phrase. Not too varied, as can be seen from the shapes. Verses 15 and 17 have the same shape. The first four, 11, 15, 17, 19, lack a B immediately preceding the subdominant ^A (atnah).

Verse Approach to the rest
on the 4th degree of the scale
11 e rev,e qad,B z-q,f g# ^A
13 e B rev,e qad,B z-q,B z-q,f g# ^A
15 e rev,qad,B z-q,B z-q,f g# ^A
17 e rev,qad,B z-q,B z-q,f g# ^A
19 e rev,qad,B z-q,f g# B ^A
21 e B rev,qad,B z-q,f g# B ^A
23 e B rev,d f g# B ^A
25 e B rev,qad,B z-q,e f g# B ^A

Yet this piecemeal approach to the music will limit the potential aural impact of the minstrel. The four sections with the lower timbre will be sung perhaps with a different emphasis -- more mysterious than proclamation. One of the even verses (18 Peleg) hase the same shape as the opening of Genesis 1:1 -- perhaps this indicates a new beginning for the families described. This true for Terah also (verse 26).

Verse 27 focusses on Lot. Then we hear that his father died before his grandfather. This prepares us for the complex relationship of Abram and his nephew Lot.

The music of verse 29 strikingly highlights the word wife, each time on a high C with an immediate descent of a sixth to the tonic. I have noted the accents above the text highlighting similar words and concepts in a passage. I had not seen an accent under the text highlighting paired words until this example. In fact the return to the tonic is an error in the text. The Aleppo codex does not have it in either name (wm / vwm). This kind of decision must be reviewed for all the spurious methegs that have entered the text through copying over the years. As even an introductory text like Lambdin will tell you, the use of metheg (same Unicode as silluq) is a problem. Metheg is an aid to some pronunciation issues (and not a very useful one), but it is not a silluq. My program makes a guess as to whether the silluq should be observed. In this case, it makes the wrong guess. I will now change the database to the Aleppo marking. So the tone of the verse is joyful rather than subdued.
Genesis 11:29 with the text of awt corrected to remove the spurious methegs.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Successions -- Genesis 10

We have something to see from Genesis 10 that will confirm the thesis of the role of the opening note of a verse.

Genesis is about births -- and here are a host of them to populate the storied earth. What sort of music does it make. It's odd to be describing music. These are not my favorite sections of the Bible. I don't know the stories or the names or what memories they might have carried for the people who wrote them. But if I was around a fire, listening to the minstrel, and hearing the recitation, I expect I might have been enthralled.

We have already heard some of this music. We began with toldot, which I have rendered as 'successions', now we are seeing a synonym, mwpkot, [in SimHebrew, w is sh, k is a strong h] which I have rendered as 'families'. But neither is 'generations', the word used in the KJV -- these are dorot, the plural of dor, as in the phrase ldor vdor - from generation to generation. 

This song is at times, a concatenation of names. So verses 2-4. Then verse 5 beginning with the qarne ornament explains what the prior list accomplished. verses 6-7 and a slight variation on Nimrod verse 8-10. Verses 5 and 10 each close a section and each one rises to a recitation on the 6th degree of the scale. Perhaps 11-12 would also be included by the minstrel in that section, a temporary culmination of the impact of Nimrod.

Let Nimrod, the mighty hunter,
Bind a leopard to the altar
And consecrate his spear to the Lord. (Christopher Smart liked this passage).

The list of tribes and children continues through verses 13-18 on low reciting notes c, d, e. In verse 19 we again hear the high C, bringing to an end the list of Ham's children. Verse 20 concludes the section with its backward looking colon (a role that can be played by any ta'am saying to us: remember what we have sung about). Opening on a proclamation on the dominant, it announces that you have heard the catalogue of the children of Ham. JB uses a past tense verb here "These were the generation of ..." -- reasonable but definitely biased to a reading sequence rather than a wholistic memory of the sound of the song. And the past tense in this translation is applicable to the act of reading, not the issue of the history or the form of the verb which remains present even though it refers to past times.

The text deals with the list of the three sons of Noah in reverse order. Shem is the last beginning in verse 21 and continuing to the end of the chapter. The high C on verse 25 highlights the children of Eber, Peleg and Joktan.

וּלְעֵ֥בֶר יֻלַּ֖ד שְׁנֵ֣י בָנִ֑ים
שֵׁ֣ם הָֽאֶחָ֞ד פֶּ֗לֶג כִּ֤י בְיָמָיו֙ נִפְלְגָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ וְשֵׁ֥ם אָחִ֖יו יָקְטָֽן
25 And to Eiver were born two sons,
the name of the first Peleg, because in his days the earth was entangled, and the name of his brother, Joktan.
ch ulybr iuld wni bnim
wm hakd plg ci bimiv nplgh harx vwm akiv ioqTn
vl/ybr ild wn\i bn\im
wm h/akd plg ci b/im\iv n/plg\h h/arx v/wm ak\iv iqTn

The closing explanation of this section is a matter-of-fact low verse 30. Where the musical phrase sequence e f g# B ^A B e tar,rev,C qad,B z-q,f g# e is unique for verse 25, the phrase, e f g# ^A f g# f e, in verse 30 occurs 42 times in the Scripture. I doubt that there is a real significance to this count apart from the use of a lower timbre of the tone of voice. Verses 31 and 32 both begin on the dominant B, thus connecting themselves to the prior verses. Check out the comments on verse 32 in the earlier post of this series on the song of the genealogies in Genesis.

Monday 10 June 2024

Successions - Genesis chapter 5

 This chapter has a patterned form -- does the music imitate the pattern? Probably but to what extent?

The first 2 verses recapitulate creation. See the post on Noah for the first verse. Verse 3 then begins the pattern. 3-5 Adam, 6-8 Seth, 9-11 Enosh, 12-14 Cainan, 15-17 Mahalaleel, 18-20 Jared, 21-24 Enoch -- the exception,  25-27 Methuselah, 28-31 Lamech, another exception, -- and we have caught up to where we started.

If I presented this all at once, it would be hard to see for the non-musician and hard to hear for the musician. I know this because, even as a musician, I have to work to hear the text and its music, and it's a work of the ear, like poetry -- and demands something I don't easily give, a kind of energy that takes the music off the page and makes something of it.

And what is to be made of a history of births? Here is the first. 

Genesis 5:3-5

This first section has several phrases that are unique. It's preamble is longer. It is the only one that sings of image and likeness. The later groups truncate the opening statement. Several patterns recur. The first section to the atnah, the rest point, of each group of 3 (or 4) verses, always begins on the tonic and has varying reciting notes. Each of the these verses beginning with verse 6 and following the rest point is brief and identical throughout in its quick return to the tonic - saying, 'and he had xxx', on the notes A g# e, the name of the son. The second verse movement to the rest point is again variable for each section, but the return to the tonic, A f g# e is identical to the phrase above, bars 13-16. The third verse of each group exhibits additional variation for each story, but every group except that of Enoch, ends with the same three notes as in bar 21-22 above. 

So in effect, the ear of the listener would easily identify the variable verse parts, and also the repetitive ones. The result will be as if each group of verses had three refrains. Perhaps the listeners would join in by the end. -- and sometimes with a smile. Enoch and Noah stand out as different. Whole chapter is here.

Friday 7 June 2024

Successions - Genesis chapter 4

The opening poem of Genesis reveals the successions of the heavens and the earth. This the terraforming of the gods. It is the first full succession passage. We have heard the music of Genesis 1 - beautifully sung by the French soprano, Esther Lamandier.

I now need to examine the music for each of these genealogies. I was going to start with chapter 5 but it threw me back to chapter 4.

Genesis 5 begins with a phrase starting on the dominant. So if you are translating, the opening is not something new that indicates what comes afterwards, as if the verse is to be followed by a colon. There needs to be a colon pointing both forward and backward - not a practice in a literary culture, but certainly one in an aural culture. The phrase completes something in the prior chapter. The clear break is between verses 24 and 25 of chapter 4.

Look aside for a moment at the end of the song about Cain's descendants.

Verses 23 and 24 complete the list of the descendants of Cain. These verses are sometimes formatted as if they were a poem. Does the music support this? It is certainly 3 couplets with an intro.

Genesis 4:23-24 Lamech's vengeance snippet

There's an argument for a poetic understanding of the phrases -- even if only from the parallelism, with the inner phrases divided by the zaqef-qatan and a revia. -- but only some of these. Verse 24 has similar syllable counts to a psalm verse. 

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לֶ֜מֶךְ לְנָשָׁ֗יו עָדָ֤ה וְצִלָּה֙
שְׁמַ֣עַן קוֹלִ֔י נְשֵׁ֣י לֶ֔מֶךְ
הַאְזֵ֖נָּה אִמְרָתִ֑י
כִּ֣י אִ֤ישׁ הָרַ֙גְתִּי֙ לְפִצְעִ֔י
וְיֶ֖לֶד לְחַבֻּרָתִֽי
23 and said Lamech to his wives Adah and Zillah,
Hear my voice, wives of Lamech,
give ear to what I say,
for I have slain someone for inflicting wounds on me,
a juvenile for my stripes.
cg viamr lmç lnwiv ydh vxilh
wmyn qoli nwi lmç
haznh amrti
ci aiw hrgti lpxyi
vild lkburti
vi/amr lmc ln/w\iv ydh v/xlh
wmy\n qvl\i n/w\i lmc
h/azn\h amr\ti
ci aiw hrg\ti l/pxy\i
v/ild l/kbr\ti
כִּ֥י שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקַּם־קָ֑יִן
וְלֶ֖מֶךְ שִׁבְעִ֥ים וְשִׁבְעָֽה
24 ♪f For seven times vengeance for Cain,
and Lamech seventy and seven.
cd ci wbytiim iuqm-qin
vlmç wbyim vwbyh
ci wby\tim i/qm qin
v/lmc wby\im v/wby\h

I had wondered if my program to create the music should interpret some of these accents as breaths. The difficulty is that not all of them behave this way.

Verse 25 then begins a new line from Adam via Seth, It is this line that Genesis 5:1 connects with by beginning on the dominant. We should also consider the verses from verse 4:17 - 22, the bulk of the genealogy.
The births of the children of Cain from Enoch to the children of Lamech.
The first two verses begin with high recitation, a note I have sometimes associated with pleading or grief. Each is followed by a long recitation on the subdominant, the note that is called 'resting'. So contrary to whatever we might think of this line of humanity, there appear to be periods of rest in their lives, though how building a city is rest escapes me! I can barely build an extension, let alone deal with the bureaucracy of a whole city. Verse 18 also includes a recitation on the dominant after the recitation on the subdominant. I think of the dominant as proclamation, perhaps telling us to pay attention to what follows: the first instance of multiple wives. So chapter 5 led me to chapter 4 and I didn't look at these in the first pass since they didn't include the word toldot.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Patterns in the music? The genealogy of Esau and Jacob

I note that we are considering these phrases related to genealogy in isolation from their immediate context. What type of recitation is the section that these verses are a part of? What characterizes these parts of Genesis as song? I hope to come back to this question.

So following up with my selection of verses for the genealogies, is there any additional information in the remaining verses: Gen 36:1, 9, and 37:2?

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְד֥וֹת עֵשָׂ֖ו ה֥וּא אֱדֽוֹם And these are the successions of Esau. He is Edom.
a valh toldot ywiv hua adom 10
v/alh t/ld\vt ywv hva advm

Genesis 36:1 valh toldot ywiv

Within these verses that I have extracted from the genealogies, this is the first verse that has no internal rest point. There are times when such verses are significant. I have noted two extended passages, the impatience of the lovers in the Song of Songs, chapter 1,10-17 and the absence of rest in Lamentations chapter 3 with the exception of verse 56.

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְד֥וֹת עֵשָׂ֖ו אֲבִ֣י אֱד֑וֹם
בְּהַ֖ר שֵׂעִֽיר
And these are the successions of Esau, the father of Edom,
in mount Seir.
T valh toldot ywiv abi adom
bhr wyir
v/alh t/ld\vt ywv ab\i advm
b/hr wyir
Genesis 36:9

Another matter of fact phrase. Nine verses share this shape.

אֵ֣לֶּה ׀ תֹּלְד֣וֹת יַעֲקֹ֗ב יוֹסֵ֞ף בֶּן־שְׁבַֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ הָיָ֨ה רֹעֶ֤ה אֶת־אֶחָיו֙ בַּצֹּ֔אן וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י בִלְהָ֛ה וְאֶת־בְּנֵ֥י זִלְפָּ֖ה נְשֵׁ֣י אָבִ֑יו
וַיָּבֵ֥א יוֹסֵ֛ף אֶת־דִּבָּתָ֥ם רָעָ֖ה אֶל־אֲבִיהֶֽם
2 ♪B These are the successions of Jacob. Joseph, a child of seventeen years, was shepherding with his brothers among the sheep, and he, a youth, was with the children of Bilhah and the children of Zilpah, wives of his father.
And Joseph brought their evil defamation to their father.
b alh toldot iyqob iosf bn-wby-ywrh wnh hih royh at-akiv bxan vhua nyr at-bni blhh vat-bni zlph nwi abiv
viba iosf at-dibtm ryh al-abihm
alh t/ld\vt iyqb iv/sp bn wby ywr\h wnh hih ryh at ak\iv b/xan v/hva nyr at bn\i blhh v/at bn\i zlph n/w\i ab\iv
vi/ba iv/sp at db\tm ry\h al ab\ihm

Genesis 37:2 alh toldot iyqob

This is a remarkable segue. The 'succession' is interrupted by a focus on Joseph. It's a very long interruption. The Jerusalem Bible simply translates it as if it was spr iosf, story or record of Joseph. Jacob doesn't rate a mention. Rewriting the Hebrew certainly makes for smoother reading..

The remainder of the analysis of Genesis music will have to have a different approach. Maybe someone should perform the whole book - It would be quite a long performance I think -- around 8 hours+.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Patterns in the music? The genealogy of Terah, Ishmael, and Isaac

One might object that I have found nothing so far. After all, how many shapes of musical line are there and who would hear them if they were similar? 

It's a legitimate concern. But let me give you some examples: 

  1. I can imagine Job as a stage play and I can see and hear the narrator using the prose accentuation carefully introducing each pair of poetic speeches.
  2. I can clearly hear aurally a sound scape like that in Psalm 96 (performance here). There's no guessing as to what the strophic structure is.
  3. Genesis 1 - sung here has an obvious refrain whether said or sung.
But would Genesis be performed in its entirety? Perhaps it would in an aural culture. Would it be performed in its sections? I have taken the verses out of their context. Another question we need to ask is whether there are units that stand alone as a song? 

But first we are still looking for distant patterns. Several of the verses we have looked at so far this month have a unique musical phrase. But snippets of vocal lines are similar - there are, for instance, 8 verses that start with the notes B c d g#. And strangely, Isaiah 38:11 has identical music to Genesis 10:1. These are the only two incidences of this complete phrase in the whole of the Tanach. Perhaps it is coincidence. I suppose that in 23,197 verses, it would not be surprising that there were a few coincidences, and to be fair, we have only just begun to think about musical sequences as an organizing aural component of the Hebrew Scripture.

So following up with my selection of verses for the genealogies that contain the variations on toldot, in this post we look at the father and children of Abraham, Terah, Ishmael, and Isaac. In the next post, we will look at Esau and Jacob: Gen 36:1, 9, and 37:2.

וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת תֶּ֔רַח תֶּ֚רַח הוֹלִ֣יד אֶת־אַבְרָ֔ם אֶת־נָח֖וֹר וְאֶת־הָרָ֑ן
וְהָרָ֖ן הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־לֽוֹט
27 And these are the successions of Terah. Terah had Abram Nahor and Haran,
and Haran had Lot.
cz valh toldot trk trk holid at-abrm at-nkor vat-hrn
vhrn holid at-loT
v/alh tv/ld\t trk trk hv/ld at abrm at nkvr v/at hrn
v/hrn hv/ld at lvT

Genesis 11:27 valh toldot trk

The first two bars of this music are identical to the first two of Gen 10:1. So there is some relationship to the successions of the children of Noah. This beginning is not uncommon. It occurs 11 more times in other verses of Genesis. The final four note sequence is common in the prose books, occurring 972 times.

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְדֹ֥ת יִשְׁמָעֵ֖אל בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם
אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָלְדָ֜ה הָגָ֧ר הַמִּצְרִ֛ית שִׁפְחַ֥ת שָׂרָ֖ה לְאַבְרָהָֽם
12 And these are the successions of Yishmaeil child of Abraham,
that Hagar gave birth to, the Egyptian handmaid of Sarah, for Abraham.
ib valh toldot iwmyal bn-abrhm
awr ildh hgr hmxrit wpkt wrh labrhm
v/alh t/ld\t iwmyal bn abrhm
awr ild\h hgr hm/xr\it wpk\t wrh l/abrhm
Genesis 25:12 valh toldot iwmyal

This is a new pattern in my selection of verses. The whole verse is unique. The phrase in the second part of the verse -- after the atnah -- is shared with Genesis 3:21. And the phrase leading to the atnah is shared with 190 other verses of Scripture. Perhaps the action is matter of fact, but the second half has to cover it.

וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָ֑ם
אַבְרָהָ֖ם הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק
19 And these are the successions of Yitschaq child of Abraham.
Abraham had Yitschaq.
iT valh toldot ixkq bn-abrhm
abrhm holid at-ixkq
v/alh tv/ld\t ixkq bn abrhm
abrhm hv/ld at ixkq
Genesis 25:19 valh toldot ixkq

You will recognize the first half -- the shape is identical to the verse for Ishmael. As you might expect, the return to the tonic is very common. It is shared by 8,094 other verses. The shape of this verse as a whole is shared by 7 additional verses. The 8 verses with equal shape do not seem to have anything particular in common.

Genesis is a book about birth (ild). Genesis uses the root for birth 218 times, at roughly 10 times the volume of any other book of the Bible apart from  the recap in 1 Chronicles (108).

Monday 3 June 2024

Patterns in the music - the genealogy of Noah

In the previous post, I looked at Genesis 2:4, the first of ten times that the phrase 'These are the successions of" occurs in Genesis.

There are many patterns in the music for verses that define structure. In Genesis 1 the phrase 'and it was evening and it was morning', is clearly a musical refrain. Each one is of the form e f e g# f e. 

Genesis 1 verse 5 vihi-yrb vihi-boqr iom akd

But would there be musical motifs that operate over a book the size of Genesis? 

Here are the next 3 verses in the form alh toldot, Genesis 6:9, 10:1 and 11:10 -- Noah (nok) and his children.

אֵ֚לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו
אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִֽתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ
9 ♪C These are the successions of Noah. Noah, a righteous man, was complete in his generations.
With this God walked Noah.
T alh toldot nok nok aiw xdiq tmim hih bdorotiv
at-halohim hthlç-nok
alh tv/ld\t nk nk aiw xdiq tmm hih b/dr\tiv
at h/alh\im ht/hlc nk

Genesis 6:9 alh toldot nok

This experiment is a bit of a shot in the dark. At first glance, there is no obvious musical connection of these distant parts of Genesis. So perhaps the question needs refining or the net needs to be widened. 

According to my thesis, this verse is connected to what precedes it. In this case we could say it is connected to the prior verse where Noah is introduced. The music is, however, not similar to Genesis 2:4, nor is it similar to the next instance below, where the phrase begins a new section.

The reason is that my filter included the pair of words and chapter 5 has uniquely, the word spr preceding toldot. It doesn't quite follow the pattern I set up for the search. Chapter 5 states a genealogy and so chapter 6:9 is referring back, this sentence in chapter 6 being the completion of the genealogy begun there. 

זֶ֣ה סֵ֔פֶר תּוֹלְדֹ֖ת אָדָ֑ם
בְּי֗וֹם בְּרֹ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אָדָ֔ם בִּדְמ֥וּת אֱלֹהִ֖ים עָשָׂ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ
1 ♪B This is the record of the successions of Adam,
in the day of God's creating Adam in the likeness of God's constructing him.
a zh spr toldot adm
biom broa alohim adm bdmut alohim ywh aoto
zh spr tv/ld\t adm
b/ivm bra alh\im adm b/dm\vt alh\im ywh at\v
Genesis 5:1 zh spr toldot adm

So my net was too narrow to catch the book. The opening verse of chapter 5 also begins on a B showing it is connected to the prior chapter -- this is confirmed by the story -- the whole being the successions of Adam -- but ultimately leading to Noah. (I will examine these patterns in relation to others in a later post -- but think of the story and song for now and not the dryer statistics.)

וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת בְּנֵי־נֹ֔חַ שֵׁ֖ם חָ֣ם וָיָ֑פֶת
וַיִּוָּלְד֥וּ לָהֶ֛ם בָּנִ֖ים אַחַ֥ר הַמַּבּֽוּל
1 And these are the successions of the children of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet.
And there were born to them children after the deluge.
a valh toldot bni-nok wm km vipt
viivvldu lhm bnim akr hmbul
v/alh tv/ld\t bn\i nk wm km v/ipt
viv/ld\v l/hm bn\im akr h/mbvl
Genesis 10:1 valh toldot bni-nok wm km vipt 

Genesis 11:10 ends the genealogies from Noah. Sandwiched between them, however, is the tower of Babel. So the opening note continues chapter 10:31-32. If you check out the full PDF of Genesis, you will find that chapter 10 ends with two verses beginning on the dominant. Was the musician aware of the sandwich structure? It is likely. The first half of verse 32 is identical in shape to Genesis 2:4 that we looked at in the previous post: B c d g# ^A.

אֵ֣לֶּה בְנֵי־שֵׁ֔ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לִלְשֹׁנֹתָ֑ם
בְּאַרְצֹתָ֖ם לְגוֹיֵהֶֽם
31 ♪B These are the children of Shem in their families, in their tongues,
in their lands, in their nations.
la alh bni-wm lmwpkotm llwonotm
barxotm lgoiihm
alh bn\i wm l/mwpk\tm l/lwn\tm
b/arx\tm l/gvi\hm
אֵ֣לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֧ת בְּנֵי־נֹ֛חַ לְתוֹלְדֹתָ֖ם בְּגוֹיֵהֶ֑ם
וּמֵאֵ֜לֶּה נִפְרְד֧וּ הַגּוֹיִ֛ם בָּאָ֖רֶץ אַחַ֥ר הַמַּבּֽוּל פ
32 ♪B These are the families of the children of Noah in their successions, in their nations,
and from these the nations were separated in the earth after the deluge.
lb alh mwpkot bni-nok ltoldotm bgoiihm
umalh nprdu hgoiim barx akr hmbul p
alh mwpk\t bn\i nk ltv/ld\tm b/gvi\hm
vm/alh n/prd\v h/gvi\m b/arx akr h/mbvl

So we have here a recognizing in the music that there is more to the successions of Noah after the insertion of the Babel story in Genesis 11:1-9. And my shot in the dark with a little extension of the net seems to have hit a target.

אֵ֚לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת שֵׁ֔ם שֵׁ֚ם בֶּן־מְאַ֣ת שָׁנָ֔ה וַיּ֖וֹלֶד אֶת־אַרְפַּכְשָׁ֑ד
שְׁנָתַ֖יִם אַחַ֥ר הַמַּבּֽוּל
10 ♪C These are the successions of Shem. Shem was a child of a hundred years and he had Arphaxad,
two years after the deluge.
i alh toldot wm wm bn-mat wnh viold at-arpcwd
wntiim akr hmbul
alh tv/ld\t wm wm bn ma\t wnh viv/ld at arpcwd
wn\tim akr h/mbvl
Genesis 11:10 alh toldot wm 

If you are unfamiliar with the accents and the music, please see the explanatory introductory chapter using Lamentations 1:1 here or the aural introduction here.

Sunday 2 June 2024

What is the genre of the Book of Genesis

This question of the genre of Genesis was raised at the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars in their zoom meeting May 23/24 from New Zealand. In this video, Don Moffat suggested it was to be decided around the concept of generations. To analyse this, we can't use the 'authorized' version, KJV and its derivatives, since the word for generations is confused - used for both successions, תוֹלְד֧וֹת from ילד, to give birth, and דור, generation. This sort of practice -- glossing different roots with the same English gloss, is very common in KJV. 

Genesis is then a record of giving birth. I suggested that the genre might also be a song -- of course you would expect that from me -- a song of successions (ild) and perhaps for the generations (dor). Word counting for the root ild, to give birth (650 total occurrences) gives us the following counts where I used succession in my glosses: GENESIS(16), EXODUS(2), NUMBERS(15), 1 SAMUEL(2), 2 SAMUEL(2), ISAIAH(3), HOSEA(1), RUTH(1), 1 CHRONICLES(11).

Each of these is a word form of ild used as a noun, singular or plural in various forms: mostly like toldot. This itself is variously spelled in the Leningrad codex, e.g. Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, sometimes missing one or other vav, sometimes with other affixes, like ltoldotm, Genesis 10:32, 25:13 etc. Clearly, from the numbers, Genesis, Numbers and 1 Chronicles lead the pack with only scattered usage in other books. But further if I restrict it to the formulaic, "these are the toldot of.".. I see 10 in Genesis and 1 each in Numbers (for Moses and Aaron), Ruth, and Chronicles.

In contrast, counts for generation (dor -- 197 total occurrences) are distributed as follows: Gn(7), Ex(19), Lv(14), Nb(10), Dt(11), Josh(2), Jdg(3), Is(19), Je(4), Joel(5), Psalms(53), Pr(6), Job(2), Lam(2), Qoh(2), Est(2), Dan(6), 1 Chr(1). It's a different pattern with broad emphasis in Torah as a whole and David's Torah, the Psalms, and little usage in Chronicles.

If indeed the music will make these into a song, I wondered what it would show us. You might say that my job in this deaf age is to make the ancient music visible in the hope that it might also be heard. Most readers jump over the begats in the text.

So for each verse I will make a page like this. You have seen this before.
  • The left top quadrant is the square text-- also called the 'deficient' text because of the variations in spelling such as those I pointed out above. This text includes vowel pointing and cantillation -- hand signals.
  • The top right quadrant is my translation, a translation produced with computerized help to prevent the type of error I noted above where a single English gloss obscures the distinctiveness of the Hebrew word usage.
  • The lower left quadrant is the SimHebrew, a form of the text that allows a non-Hebrew reader to read the Hebrew text accurately. The SimHebrew content was done by hand by Jonathan Orr-Stav, and verified with a computer program I wrote that converts the Biblical WLC text to the fully-spelled (plene) text used in modern Hebrew. 

[plene scriptum (יתר, yater, 'excess'), sometimes simply described in Hebrew as מלא (malé, 'full'), is often used in contrast with defective scriptum (חסר, ḥaser, 'deficient'), the latter implying a word in which a letter that is normally present has been omitted.]

Finally, the lower right quadrant is an automated parsing of the text -- not in SimHebrew -- but showing prefixes and suffixes that form the word. E.g. tv/ld\vt - the root is ild, the i is dropped or converted to a vav (i being a weak letter), and the taf prefix is added converting the verb to a noun, the vt is a standard feminine plural. 

The left quadrants are computationally verified and verify each other. The right quadrants are assists to the non Hebrew reader to be taken with care. The numbers between the two lower quadrants are syllable counts.

The music is produced automatically by the transformation of the Unicode into MusicXML according to the specs I published in 2022 beginning here. I don't see how to reproduce the te'amim successfully without resorting to the image of a traditional music staff. I did an experiment here using only ascii characters -- but I don't find it helpful.

The music program uses an anglicized transliteration for the lyrics that corresponds to what a singer untrained in Hebrew might be able to read in the Latin character set with the music. It is possible that I could make a switch or two mapping ts to x, k to c, het to k, sh to w, y to i to free y for ayin and by doing so make the lyrics correspond more to SimHebrew, but it would not be complete or easier for the singer because SimHebrew is too sparse with its vowels to allow the singer to form a musical line. (Besides, I know what a hornet's nest the 12 year old program is.) There seems to be no shortcut to these multiple transcriptions. So we switch from one to the other uneasily.

This is where I'm at -- more to come...

אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם
בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם
4 ♪B These are the successions of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
on the day Yahweh God constructed earth and heaven,
d alh toldot hwmiim vharx bhibram
biom ywot ihvh alohim arx vwmiim
alh tv/ld\vt h/wmim vh/arx bh/bra\m
b/ivm yw\vt ihvh alh\im arx v/wmim

Genesis 2:4 alh toldot hwmiim vharx bhibram

The music, beginning as it does on the fifth note of the scale, clearly points us back to the prior verses. I have observed a principle of the music embedded in the Bible that when the opening note is not the tonic, that the music is continuing what has gone before. Will this expression turn out to be a refrain? 

 [You might notice a silluq in Gen 2:4 if you look very closely. This is a spurious one according to my programming. It's one of those confusions of metheg and silluq -- so the program ignores it.]

Saturday 1 June 2024

Biblical Studies Carnival 218

Who knew that
ChatGPT did birthday cakes
for Pentecost (via James McGrath)


Phillip Long is, as always, looking for volunteers to compile a monthly Biblical Studies Carnival. If you would like to host a carnival, please contact Phil on Twitter (@Plong42) or via email (

Compiling a carnival is really fun. I had forgotten how much fun it is. As the month progresses, themes emerge. There are surprises. Who knows what it will be in advance? 

Thanks for tips via James McGrath @ReligionProf on Twitter, and Jim Davila on and the many scholars writing for

"The solution, then, is rupture with the in-between time and rescue of the long lost past, despite the human folly that has nearly destroyed everything in between." [spelling corrected]

Images - AI? - via Jennifer Guo

Hebrew Bible

מכלל לאו אתה שומע הן: Out of a “no” you hear a “yes.”? Idan Dershowitz on Leviticus 18. Martti Nissinen adds further suggestions for interpretive context as does Julia Rhyder.

Theodore Lewis on Piercing the name as attempted deicide.

The Hebrew language detective explores halva'ah and livui and the potential meanings of the name of Levi.

[Addendum] I should have included this record of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars. Don Moffat's question of learning in context is: What is the Genre of the Book of Genesis. The lecture is from New Zealand, May 23/24 2024.

Guy Darshan explores the post-destruction editing of the text of Kings.

Daniel Vainstub writes "Jeremiah excoriates the Judahites for sacrificing babies to Baʿal at the Tophet, in a valley near Jerusalem." Read all about child sacrifice here -- from Canaan to Carthage.

Exodus 2:28 -- a "statute that is not good"?

James Tabor's word of the month is not. Not is here, Not is there, Not is nearly everywhere.

A linocut project by
Gabriel Oakes on 
Amos 8.
Note also the eggsegesis here.
Richard Beck on Psalm 48, warns the political faction of self-deception. He ends the month with Psalm 52 - under the rubric "you love evil instead of good".

Ian Paul takes apart the liturgical use of Psalms 95 and 100 among other canticles. "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." (G.K. Chesterton)

Drew Longacre is calling for volunteer transcribers for the Psalms

A long shadow
Selwyn College Chapel.
Photo Thomas Allen.
Jerome Van Kuiken on Mother's Day and the Ascension explained by Psalm 113.

John Hobbins posted in the Scriptura forum, a group of scholars in the midst of detailed study of the psalms, "bridging the gap between scholars and translators". Elizabeth Robar outlines the process in their May newsletter.

For Psalms Images and AI - Click through to see Stephen Cook's psalms class final project. (I am waiting for ChatGPT to write the music too. The bot reads and interprets MusicXML in a flash - without emotion, nuance or expressivity.)

The intertextual Bible, comparing psalms 2 and 59, notes there is no humor, no joyous laughter echoing from the heavens but rather laughter in derision. Unkind or real?

And here via David Koyzis you can hear Psalm 121. The Kodaly arrangement is worth the click too.

Douglas O'Donnell asks whether Job is historical

Was there really a man named Job?
Did he live in a land called Uz?
Was he perfectly righteous with a perfectly blessed life?
Did he in one day lose everything but his troublesome, unnamed wife?

Job 1:1 -- mimicking the music of Genesis 1:1

Bob MacDonald offers an introduction to the music of Lamentations 1:1 to display the theory of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura's decoding of the te'amim. A little history of her own experience is linked here. His hope is that her work will cast a long shadow.

New Testament

Met Gala meets Biblical Studies
Bosco Peters continues his series on Mark in Slow Motion. He also critiques the latest NRSV for rendering θάλασσαν as either sea or lake.

Ian Paul welcomes the return to Mark "after being seduced by the beloved disciple".

Bill Heroman complains on Facebook that HJ scholars fail to engage narratology... 

Michael Kok notes that the Gospels are formally Anonymous: i.e. "the author is not named in any of the texts and the Synoptic Gospels are not presented as written from any character’s particular vantage point, and that they continued to circulate anonymously in some quarters in the first half of the second century."

Ian Paul offers some structural analysis of the Lord's Prayer.

Kurk Gayle and his students ponder art with AI and the last supper
What do you see? - check out the conversation on FaceBook.

James McGrath shares some photos of his visits to the places from when he was working on his book: Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist. ChatGPT finds James's scholarship innovative.

Andrew Perriman commenting on Acts 17, searches for a different sort of missional theology.

Steve Walton published his slides from a lecture in Alberta on Church planting in Acts.

Andrew Perriman is not convinced by the argument of Jacob Mortenson and Matthew Novenson that Romans 2 is addressed to a gentile.

Images via Jennifer Guo
Heather Thiessen on Romans 4 and Genesis 17 and Colossians 1:24-2:3.

Marg Mowczko: Submission & the Saviour in Ephesians 5 on Paul's paradoxical use of hypotassō.

Marg Mowczko on Lois and Eunice, Timothy's mother and grandmother.

Brian Small introduces a new commentary on Hebrews by Amy Peeler and posts Hebrews Highlights for April and May 2024

Jennifer Wright responds to Lynn Huber and Gail O'Day's Commentary on Revelation. "Where apocalyptic eschatology looks to the future to address a misperceived present, biblical commentary has looked to the past to correct a misperceived text."

Henry Neufeld asks about Beastly attributes.

Books and Reviews

Jacob J. Prahlow reviews Rebecca Idestrom's Show me Your Glory.

Via Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica- 

Ayrton posts on Candida Moss's Os escritores fantasmas de Deus. Also on Stefano Salemi's A Linguistic-Theological Exegesis of Ezekiel as Môphēt.

AWOL posts on an open access book on the Apocalypse of Peter.

Clint Burnett reviews Adela Yarbro Collins. Paul Transformed: Reception of the Person and Letters of Paul in Antiquity.

Phillip Long reviews James D. Nogalski, The Book of Micah (NICOT). "Nogalski begins his forty-three-page introduction by observing that Micah originated in the eighth century B.C. but reflects editorial activity after 586 BC to clarify the blame for the destruction of Jerusalem."


Nicola Denzey Lewis asks if the Gospel of Thomas is gnostic. Michael Kok has more questions about Secret Mark. James Tabor posts a lecture by Michael Stone on Armenian Apocryphal Texts. Oliver Parkes reviews Xavier Lafontaine, Hellénisme et prophétie. Les Oracles sibyllins juifs et chrétiens.

Brent Niedergall posts on the benefits of studying Ostraca. Marg Mowczko on Cerula and Bitalia in Catacomb Art

Jim Davila points us to the Hebrew Bible and its ruins -- how ruins have been viewed through history. Brent Nongbri reports on the length of papyrus sheets and dating of codices. James McGrath points out The borderscape project, "a multidisciplinary endeavor that investigates how the rise of the Egyptian state at the end of the 4th millennium BCE impacted and transformed the socio-spatial landscape of the First Nile Cataract region."

Peter Head asks if we should trust textual reconstructions. Ross McKenzie posts slides and a video on Science and Christianity - can we trust both?

Matt Page is starting a series on Noah films.

Michael Wilder speaks on the importance of music: To be human is to be musical.

Richard Beck shares some posts on mysterious soft enchantments. He also channels Jaques Ellul and his book Money and Power in several posts beginning here.

And Claude Mariottini, quoting the Terminator, promises "I'll be back". May he speak for the carnival also.

So -- are you ready to host a carnival? Contact Phil on Twitter (@Plong42) or via email (

My first question to ChatGPT-4o (May 25 -- too late for any last minute preparations!) was to ask for some suggestions for a BS carnival. I wonder if carnival composers will be replaced by AI. The first answer I got didn't include any links - but it sounded very intelligent. So I asked for some links and it searched four sites -- unfortunately they were not for May 2024 and several were behind a paywall. I asked it to try again - but the posts were still outside the date bounds that I gave it. O well, at least I am not being replaced this month. I guess I could work on my AI prompting skills. Copilot will report on random carnivals if you are searching.

James McGrath goes the distance with his ChatGPreachT module.