Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 19 (Usury)

This is hilarious - to conjoin this psalm's (15) rare word with a time like this where everyone wants leverage and the sub-prime mortgages (defined as bait - with initial interest below prime, then subsequent interest usurious) are in their full extent causing the whole human-enterprise-trust relationship to crash into a wall. Talk about a self-inflicted curse!

Psalm 15:5 (-->) uses נשך (neshek interest) just the once. It is not mentioned again in the psalter; and its parallel שחד (shachad bribe) is used just twice, here and in Psalm 26:10. (-->)

In spite of this linkage, I did not classify these psalms together. Psalms 15 and 24 are clearly a pair. Psalm 26 could be seen as a personal answer to Psalm 1 (and 15 and 24).

How do we do with respect to usury and bribery? When I read the financial pages of the Globe and Mail and consider my own investments, paltry as they are, I wonder who is not implicated in the general problem space. Where is the real solution? And who gets it?

Do I have to, in responsibility for keeping my family, consider how we will survive if I ever retire? Maybe I will never retire!

From Neale in his 4 volume collection of the history of comments on the Psalms (A commentary on the psalms from Primitive and Medieval Writers...) he cites Innocent III:
Only this must be remembered: that there has been great error on the one side or on the other; either in the present practice of allowing, without a scruple, funds, debentures, and the like ; or in the early prohibition to a priest to buy a field in which the seed has just been sown, with the intention of selling the crop, because in so doing he sold time, God's free gift to every one.
Well, we sure are invested in the buying and selling of time. I searched for this quote and found a bunch more, not all of which medieval or romantic age thoughts I would suffer today! From the Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan - 1835 here.
Of all the vices that defile and deprave the human heart, avarice, the root of all evils, is the most abhorrent and difficult of cure ; whilst all others wither and cool in his declining years, this gains more strength and fury ; and what renders the prospect of amendment still more remote and arduous, almost all ranks and stations, the young and the old, the male and the female, the bond and the freeman, are more or less infected ; all aiming, though by different rentes, at the temple of Mammon. When vice thus spreads through the community, assuming the garb of virtue, who could think of resisting it ? That usury would ever be adopted, in any Christian country, as the means of making riches, puzzles all people that have not lost, or never received the light of faith : they are for "ever discussing the question in public and in private ; in the school and at table ; never finding any balm or palliative for it in the Sacred Rules Scripture and Tradition."
Ah - the origin of many of the left-winged middle class of today I see here. Here is a bit from the same book quoting Innocent III.
We received your questions regarding the usurers, who make their debtors take an oath not to remand the usury, and raise no question about the usury they might have paid them. We do therefore reply, that you are to compel these usurers by Church censures, without appeal, to desist, prior to the payment of the usury, from exacting it, or to restore it after the payment be made, for fear it would happen that they would reap benefit from their fraud and deceit.' Innocent III. to the Bishop Mutin, An. 1213.
I wonder if the deposed Chairman of the Bank of Scotland will repay anything of his £650,000 per year pension for his collaboration in the greatest loss of the century. See Bishop Alan's blog here. (The video is not bad, though they got the definition of sub-prime wrong in my opinion. The second video is hilarious.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 18

February has been a slow month. I turn my computer off frequently. And I have been waiting for some new tools to be signed in for testing. I have come across a few rare words since my 17th post on the subject at the end of January. Here are a pair from Psalm 12: זלות glossed as 'vile' used once only in this form from זלל used 8 times in the rest of the Bible. It is curious that spellings vary even for such a rare word. זלות is listed in my Hebrew Latin concordance as זלת and זלל as זולל. All the vowels are -u- with or without the mater.

The general tone of this word is vile. In Latin: vilitas, ignominia. In its purer form: prodigum abiectum vilum esse, Niphal concuti, contremere. Don't they all sound ugly - real Dark Arts stuff. (Oh and I have been reading Harry Potter).

Another rarity in this psalm:
זקק - purify - variously rendered in the KJV in the 7 other places it is used outside the psalter: refined, fine, pour, purify, purge. The Latin concordance gives percolare, liquare, purgare, fundere, solvere. Makes one think more about how fire purifies. (Yes this is the one in Malachi 3:3 that Handel set to those singing exercises.)

The other cool word in Psalm 12 is
גמר, used 5 times in the Psalter and nowhere else. KJV renders it 5 different ways: cease 1, fail 1, come to an end 1, perfect 1, perform 1.

How did I do with this word? Is it structurally significant in the Psalms? I note another unique word used in the parallel - This one shows there are two hapax words פסס unique in Bible see also Psalm 72:16 פסה (and a touch of corn in the earth).

I was equally variable - and I ponder what to do here:

Psalm 7:9
Mature the fruits of wickedness
and steady the righteous
and test hearts and vital centres
O God of righteousness
My shield is of God delivering the upright of heart
God judges right and God is indignant every day
Psalm 12:1
Save יְהוָה, for ceased are the merciful
for vanished are the faithful
among the children of dust
Psalm 57:2
I will call to God Most High
to God who fulfills all for me
Psalm 77:8
in the ages to come will the Lord reject?
will he never again be favorable?
has his mercy ceased in perpetuity?
a word from generation to generation ended?
has the One forgotten grace?
as if his tender mercies were shut up in anger?
Psalm 138:8
יְהוָה will complete his work for my sake
יְהוָה your mercy is forever
do not forsake the work of your hands

There is a certain irony in the 'mature' of Psalm 7, resigned lament in psalm 12, a similar lament in psalm 77, and hope expressed by this word in psalms 57 and 138. Most of these English nuances can be contained in the ambiguous 'bring to an end' - the question is 'what end?'. The answer in Christ is to the death that is in his cross - a unique destruction for the wicked and the hope of all. For whatever is conformed to his death awakens to new life now and in the age to come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Psalm 139 - aporia in verse 16

לֹא-נִכְחַד עָצְמִי, מִמֶּךָּ: אֲשֶׁר-עֻשֵּׂיתִי בַסֵּתֶר; רֻקַּמְתִּי, בְּתַחְתִּיּוֹת אָרֶץ. 15 My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
גָּלְמִי, רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ, וְעַל-סִפְרְךָ, כֻּלָּם יִכָּתֵבוּ: יָמִים יֻצָּרוּ; ולא (וְלוֹ) אֶחָד בָּהֶם. 16 Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, and in Thy book they were all written-- even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
וְלִי--מַה-יָּקְרוּ רֵעֶיךָ אֵל; מֶה עָצְמוּ, רָאשֵׁיהֶם. 17 How weighty also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
I can barely phrase this question but will let this post go in case someone sees it - how to approach this passage - the above copied from the referenced site, with its sudden shift from singular to plural?

Here is the LXX NETS
My frame was not hidden from you, which you made in secret
and my substance was made in the deepest parts of the earth
Your eyes beheld my unwrought state
In your book all people shall be written
in a day they will be formed, and no one is among them
But your friends are very precious to me, O God
Their beginnings were much strengthened

And this is what I have so far.

not hid were my bones from you
that were when I was made in secret
embroidered in the lowest parts of earth
your eyes saw my embryo
and in your book all of them were written
days were fashioned when not one was of them
to me how precious your thoughts, O God
how numerous their source

J. M. Neale cites the Syriac 'In thy books shall all these things be written, days shall be formed, and there is no one in them' and the Chaldee paraphrases 'All my days are written in the book of thy memory, in the day when the world was created, from the beginning were all creatures created, and as yet there was not one of them'.

How do you handle the shift from singular to plural? And what about the different reading of 'thoughts' which balances the beginning of the psalm and 'friends' which changes the focus entirely? Is רע friend the easier reading? If so that leaves Psalm 139:2 as a hapax in the whole Hebrew Bible. BDB glosses רע as purpose or aim.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Psalms in Chronicles

For all you for whom I live still here is an article on Psalms in Chronicles (ht Richard). Such merits more attention than I can give it at the moment.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Error correction ongoing

I am going to present a psalm to our Bible study - it is a challenge to make it devotional and participatory when I tend to dump so much into one psalm. We are doing Psalm 19 - and I have corrected a few glaring errors in my translation. I did say 6 years for this exercise - not 2, so I am not too surprised that I have refinement to do especially including any posts that are internally linked on the right hand sidebar. This blog is not meant to be transient comments but a means to understanding the question: how did the New Testament authors use their psalter and why?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

About this blog

The writing here is about my learning of Hebrew by translating the psalms. I still am a long way from fluency. I began this process in August 2006. At the time, - following the Hebrews conference at St Andrew's - I had determined to learn the psalms since the psalms are so important in the New Testament - particularly in the book of Hebrews where they provide the text of most of the dialogue between the Father and the Son. By such learning, I hope to improve my hearing of the words of the New Testament.

I had played at learning Hebrew for years but had taken no serious steps though I had tried to read Lambdin several times without success. A little every day - diving straight in - proved to be the approach that got me well and truly started. At present there is
  1. a full visual display of my earliest diagrams - all 150 psalms with the words arranged vertically and many of them in colour to show how the psalmist formed the verses. Colourful portrait of the Psalter
  2. a full set of second draft translations in English - links are in the right hand column
  3. the first draft of a structural portrait Structural thematic map
Learning the psalms is a cure for the tendency to parochialism. The inclusiveness in the psalms is exhibited in Psalm 118 among many.
Give thanks to יְהוָה for good
כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ for his mercy is forever
Let Israel then say for his mercy is forever
Let the house of Aaron then say for his mercy is forever
Let all who fear יְהוָה then say for his mercy is forever
Let all you who read and write - let all say
for his mercy is forever

If you want to learn Hebrew and are just beginning, I am teaching a letter a week in Sunday School to children aged 4 to 12. It is just plain fun and the blog record is here: St Barnabas Sunday School

On Sufficiency - a companion blog, I am beginning to explore Ruth - to learn grammar better, and Job is a possible next project. There are also a few posts and diagrams on Genesis and the Song, personal opinions, reviews and stories.

I believed therefore I have spoken.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Blog links gone again

The Blog links gadget was producing spurious links to this post all over the place. I have removed it again.