June 29, 2012

Too Much Lawyer

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

The whole point is … not that our Judges have a personal power, but that the whole world around them, the newspapers, the tone of opinion, encourage them to use it in a very personal way. In our legal method there is too much lawyer and too little law. For we must never forget one fact, which we tend to forget nevertheless: that a fixed rule is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men — who are the natural enemies of humanity. A dogma is the only safeguard of democracy. The law is our only barrier against lawyers. — G. K. Chesterton, Collected Works 27: The Illustrated London News 1905-1907, p. 290.

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Posted by John Barach @ 2:06 pm | Discuss (1)
June 28, 2012

Psalm 68

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
By David.
A psalm.
A song.

Let God arise; let his enemies scatter;
And let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is blown away,
May you blow them away.
As wax melts before fire,
May the wicked perish before God.
And the righteous — may they rejoice;
May they exult before God;
And may they be glad with rejoicing.

Sing to God; psalm his name;
Prepare a way for the Rider in the Deserts
By Yah, his name —
And exult before him.
Father of orphans and judge of widows
Is God in his holy abode.
God makes the solitary dwell in a house;
He brings forth the prisoners into prosperity;
But the rebellious inhabit a parched land.

God, when you went forth before your people,
When you marched through the wilderness (Selah),
The earth shook;
The heavens too dripped before God,
This Sinai
Before God, the God of Israel.
A rain of gifts you showered, God;
Your inheritance — and it is weary — you yourself establish.
Your host dwelled in it;
You prepared it in your goodness for the lowly, God.

My Master gives the word;
The messengers are a great army.
The kings of armies flee; they flee;
And she who abides in the house divides the spoil.
If you lie down between the sheepfolds,
The wings of a dove are covered with silver,
And her pinions with the yellow of gold.
When the Almighty scattered the kings there,
It snowed in Zalmon.

Mountain of God, Mount Bashan,
Mountain of ridges, Mount Bashan,
Why do you look with hostility, mountains of ridges?
The mountain God desired for his dwelling,
Yes, Yahweh will settle there lastingly.

The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
Thousands repeatedly;
My Master among them;
Sinai, in the holy place!
You ascended on high;
You captured a captivity;
You took gifts among men —
And even rebels —
In order that Yah, God, would abide.

Blessed be my Master, day after day!
He bears burdens for us — the Mighty One of our salvation. Selah.
The Mighty One is for us a Mighty One of salvations,
And to Yahweh belong escapes from death.
Yes, God will crush the head of his enemies,
The hairy crown of the one who walk in his guilt.

My Master said, “From Bashan I will bring back,
I will bring back from the depths of the sea,
That you may crush, with your foot in blood,
That the tongue of your dogs from your enemies may have its portion.

They saw your processions, God,
My Mighty One’s processions, my King into the holy place.
The singers went first; the string-players after;
In the midst, maidens playing timbrels.
In assemblies, bless God,
Yahweh, from the fountain of Israel.
There is Benjamin, the little one, who dominates them;
The princes of Judah, who stoned them;
The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

Your God has ordained your strength;
Be strong, God, who works for us.
Because of your temple, over Jerusalem,
To you the kings will bring tribute.

Rebuke the beast of the reeds,
The congregation of strong ones among the calves, the peoples,
Prostrating himself with pieces of silver;
He dispersed peoples that delighted in wars.
Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cush will make its hands hasten to God.

Kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
Psalm to my Master, (Selah)
To the rider in the heavens of heavens of old;
Look! He utters with his voice, a voice of strength.
Ascribe strength to God;
Over Israel is his loftiness,
And his strength in the clouds.
Fearful are you, God, from your holy places!
The Mighty One of Israel — He gives strength and powers to a people.
Blessed be God.

Many, many, many comments about this psalm, and I could multiply them. Of this psalm, Spurgeon says, “The Psalm is at once surpassingly excellent and difficult. Its darkness in some stanzas is utterly impenetrable.” Adam Clarke writes:

I know not how to undertake a comment on this Psalm: it is the most difficult in the whole Psalter; and I cannot help adopting the opinion of Simon De Muis: “In this Psalm there are as many precipices and labyrinths as there are verses or words. It may not be improperly termed, the torture of critics, and the reproach of commentators.” To attempt any thing new on it would be dangerous; and to say what has been so often said would be unsatisfactory. I am truly afraid to fall over one of those precipices, or be endlessly entangled and lost in one of these labyrinths. There are customs here referred to which I do not fully understand; there are words whose meaning I cannot, to my own satisfaction, ascertain; and allusions which are to me inexplicable. Yet of the composition itself I have the highest opinion: it is sublime beyond all comparison; it is constructed with an art truly admirable; it possesses all the dignity of the sacred language; none but David could have composed it; and, at this lapse of time, it would require no small influence of the Spirit that was upon him, to give its true interpretation.

So here are a few comments:

Line 11: The verb here is often rendered “extol,” but there is little support for that interpretation.  It is used in exactly this form in Isaiah 57:14 and 62:10 to refer to the preparation of a highway (cf. Alter: “Pave the way”).  Granted, in both of these passages in Isaiah, the word for a path or way appears in the context, so the verb itself may refer only to heaping or lifting something up (a highway in the desert being higher than the rest of the land around it).  In Prov 4:9, a different form of the verb seems to mean “exalt,” and elsewhere the verb simply refers to raising something up (e.g., Job 19:12; 30:12).  But that still doesn’t justify taking it to mean “extol.”  “Exalt” might be sufficient, but it doesn’t take into account the l– prefix on what follows: This is not exalting God but exalting/lifting up for God.   Preparing a way in connection with the deserts seems most fitting here.

Line 11: The word translated “deserts” here is the normal word for a desert or a wilderness (arabah), and later on in the psalm we hear about God leading Israel through the wilderness and providing for her there.  Several commentaries, however, suggest that this phrase might be parallel to the Ugaritic rkb ‘rpt, “Rider of Clouds,” an epithet applied to Baal.  On this suggestion, arab(h)ot(h) would be a variant form of arap(h)ot(h), with the substitution of b for p, which is possible, and arap(h)ot(h) would be an otherwise unattested Hebrew word cognate with the Ugaritic ‘rpt, “clouds.”  Well, maybe.  But that seems pretty tenuous to me, and given the desert context in this psalm I’m going to stick with what it looks like.

Line 12: I am not sure what to do with the b– prefix here, which makes it look as if it should read “In Yah” or perhaps “By Yah.”  Hengstenberg, following Ewald, seems to think that this could just be “Yah is his name.”

Line 17: The last word, here translated “into prosperity,” appears only here in Hebrew.  The usual suggestion is that it is a form of ks(h)r, which has to do with pleasure or success or prosperity.   “He brings forth the prisoners in(to) prosperity” also maintains a parallel with the preceding line: From a bad situation to a good situation.  Tate, drawing on what he thinks is a parallel in Ugaritic, suggests “with music.”

Hirsch, on the other hand, draws on the parallel between ks(h)r and qs(h)r, the latter of which means “bonds.”  (See also Hirsch’s commentary on Gen 2:7 for a fascinating discussion of gs(h)r, ys(h)r, ks(h)r, and qs(h)r).  The idea, he says, is that at the time the prisoners were brought out, they were still “in bonds; they hadn’t freed themselves, but owed their freedom entirely to God.

Line 25: A rain of gifts: The word translated “gifts” here normally refers to freewill offerings or to one’s free inclination (e.g., Ps 54:8).  This phrase is often rendered “a bountiful rain” (Alter) or “a good rain” (Tate) or something like that, but here I’m following Hirsch, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, and Alexander in taking it more metaphorically, as a rain consisting of generous, gracious gifts.  After all, what “rained” from heaven on Israel in the wilderness was manna and quail, not water.  Perhaps, retaining the sense of freedom here and noting that the word translated “rain” is not in construct with the word for freewill offerings, we ought to render the latter adverbially: “Rain you freely showered….”

Line 27: Literally “your creature(s),” but this term is used for a troop or army in 2 Sam 23:11, 13 (cf. Hengstenberg).

Line 33: Like line 32, this is perhaps an allusion to Judges 5 (as Alter and others suggest).  “Sheepfolds” is a guess.  Its appearance in a similar phrase — lying between these things — in Gen 49:14 and Judges 5:16 doesn’t make things much clearer, nor does its appearance in Ezek 40:43.  Holliday suggests “saddlebags” — but why? — and Tate thinks that, since Genesis presents Issachar as a donkey “lying down between the whatnots,” the phrase refers to being lazy.  When Reuben “lies down between the thingamagigs” in Judges 5:16, then, he is being lazy and not going out to battle as he should.  And so, Tate says, this verse refers to the men of Israel who were too lazy to go to battle.  I’m not persuaded.  It seems to me that it could be an image of peace.  Why take Genesis 49:14 as a negative image? Why not take Judges 5:16 as saying that Reuben preferred peace to (necessary) war?  Why not take Psalm 68 as referring to the peace Israel has after battle, lying down between the whatnots again to divide the spoil?

Line 35: The last two words are particularly obscure.  The word rendered “yellow” is used for the greenish/yellowish spots associated with the skin affliction we often (wrongly) call “leprosy” in Leviticus, and here probably refers to a greenish or yellowish tint of the gold.  Tate has “green-gold” which may be okay, but sounds odd.  The last word has to do with sharpness (cf. Hirsch) but is also used for gold (Zech 9:3).  BDB thinks the root has to do with being yellow.

Line 40: The word rendered “look with hostility” occurs only here, and no analogous form appears elsewhere in the Bible. Alexander and Delitzsch point out that the cognate word in Arabic refers to a beast lying in wait and to watching someone with hostile intent.  It is often translated “look with envy” and perhaps that’s the sense here, but I wonder whether the Arabic parallel really justifies importing the idea of envy: the beast lying in wait is hostile toward his prey but not envious.

Line 43: “thousands repeatedly” is clunky.  The word does seem to have to with repetition (from s(h)nh, “to do again, repeat”: Alexander, Delitzsch; cf. s(h)nn, “repeat, say again and again” [Deut 6:7); cf. also s(h)ny: “second,” i.e., something repeated). But Holliday suggests “archers” (see Tate for grounds, though Tate goes with “warriors”).  Hirsch thinks that s(h)n’n is “probably tantamount” to s(h)’nn and also compares it to ts(h)’n, concluding that it has to do with splendor and “blessed exaltation.”

Line 45: “Sinai, in the holy place” is pretty obscure.  It could be “in holiness,” but that isn’t clearer.  Alter takes it as an address to Sinai (“O Sinai in holiness!”).  It’s possible that “Sinai” is short for “The God of Sinai” (cf. earlier in the psalm), who is now in the Holy Place.  But it’s also possible that it should be a declaration that Mount Sinai is now in some sense in the Holy Place (cf. Hirsch, who notes that Ezek 43:15 calls the upper part of the altar “the Mountain of God”).  Dunno.

Line 52: The verb here can be used for imposing a burden or for carrying one.  In the former case, the preposition is ‘al (“upon”), but here it’s l- (“to, for, with reference to”) and probably refers to carrying a burden.   The word for a burden isn’t in the original, but I supplied it because it’s implied and “He carries/bears for us” doesn’t communicate well.  Sometimes it’s taken as meaning that God loads us (with blessings, but that’s not in the text) or that other people burden us but God is still our salvation.

Line 60: Very obscure.  “The tongue of your dogs” is clear enough, as is “from your enemies.”  But there’s no verb, and the last word is especially hard to reckon with.  It could be “from him,” and that’s certainly what it looks like.  So Alexander renders it is “from your enemies, [especially] from him [i.e., the wicked man referred to earlier in the psalm].” But usually people guess that the word comes from mn, “portion,” and that’s what I’ve gone with for now.  Perhaps, more or less following Hengstenberg and retaining the sense of “from him/it,” we could understand it this way: “The tongue of your dogs [drinks] from you enemies, from it [= the blood].”

Line 67: The verb here is obscure. It looks like a Qal participle from rdm, except rdm appears only in the Niphal and means “enter deep-sleep” (cf. tardema, “deep sleep,” in Gen 2, 15, etc., where it refers to a coma state close to — and in some passages identical with — death). Maybe, just maybe, it could refer to putting others into deep-sleep (= death), but that’s unattested elsewhere and no one but me has ever suggested it.

Usually, it’s taken as rdh + 3p suffix: “To tread/rule/subdue/govern/have dominion over them.”  Then there are two questions: What is the nature of this rule? And who is them? The answers range from “Benjamin is keeping the people in the procession in order” (which requires us to believe that, for some reason, Benjamin is leading this procession) to “Benjamin is subduing the enemies” (Alexander).  I’m inclined toward the latter, given that rdh is often used for suppressing and ruling over enemies and hostile forces; see the discussion below.

Line 68: The noun rigmatam here appears to be a feminine noun, rigmah, with a 3p suffix of possession (“their”), derived from rgm, which means … “to stone.”  Most commentators immediately reject that reading and either emend the text (so that some end up with a reference to clothing: “The princes of Judah in their raiment,” Alter) or  suggest that the noun here refers to a heap of stones and then, by extension, to a crowd of people, yielding the translation “The princes of Judah and their throngs.”  There is, however, no evidence of this usage elsewhere.  The LXX, by the way, thinks this word has something to do with leaders: “The princes of Judah with their leaders.” Tate jumps to the Ugaritic rgm, which means “to speak,” and the Akkadian ragamu, which means “to shout,” and suggests that the phrase identifies Judah’s princes as “their noisy leaders.”

But why not “to stone”? It is true that this verb is always used in the context of judgment and punishment (i.e., stoning the criminal) and not in the context of slingers in battle, but I don’t know that that’s a strong objection. My translation follows Alexander and Hengstenberg, who alone (it seems) maintain that rdm refers to dominion in line 67 and rgm to stoning in line 68. (Note that Hirsch takes rdm in line 67 to mean “to overcome,” which may be a stretch, and then thinks that verb is implied in line 69, too, so that it should be understood as follows: “Little Benjamin overcomes them; the princes of Judah [overcome] their stonings” — that is, the stones thrown at them by the enemy.  That’s possible, I guess, but it seems more likely to me to see Israel as the one stoning the wicked and not the other way around.)

Benjamin’s dominion, it seems to me, is not a reference to him being the leader of the procession.  Why would he be?  In fact, what procession is this?  It seems most likely that it is the ascension of the Ark to Mount Zion.  After all, it opens with the words Moses said when the Ark set forth in Numbers, it has to do with one mountain being chosen and not others, and it culminates in this procession into that place.  In that procession, Benjamin certainly wasn’t having dominion over all the other tribes.  Rather, it seems to me, the reference is to Saul (from Benjamin) leading Israel to defeat the enemies.  And it’s Saul, after all, who points out to Samuel how little Benjamin is.

Then comes David (Judah) who defeats the Philistines, thereby bringing about the peace which makes possible the moving of the Ark to its resting place on Zion.  And how did David initiate that conquest which led to peace?  By killing Goliath.  Specifically, by stoning him (and it does seem to me that we ought to connect the judicial stoning prescribed in the law to the stoning of Goliath).

Perhaps the references to the princes of Zebulun and Naphtali here are related to the story of Deborah and Barak, which is alluded to so often in this psalm. But if so, that would suggest that the idea here is not dominion in a procession or fine garments worn in the procession but victory in battle. The ones in the procession are the victors.

Line 75: “the calves, the peoples”: these two terms are probably in apposition and epexegetical.  It is not “the calves of the peoples” — that is, belonging to the peoples — but “the calves, [namely] the peoples.”

Line 78: “Envoys” is a guess.  This is a hapax legomenon.  One more in a psalm filled with them.

Line 79: “Make its hands hasten” is an awkward expression. But it is not “lift up hands” (in prayer), nor is it “stretch out hands” (toward God, asking for assistance) or something like that.  Rather, it refers to hurrying to God with hands full of gifts (Hengstenberg).

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Posted by John Barach @ 1:31 pm | Discuss (0)
June 22, 2012

Jesus vs. Sectarianism

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology :: Permalink

Was there ever anyone with more integrity, and who made greater demands, than Jesus Christ?  Yet look at the catholicity of His practice: He ate with publicans, harlots, and sinners, and He took nursing infants into His arms and thus to Himself. Who complained about all this? The Pharisees.

How could Jesus, the spotless Son of God associate with such evil people? Simple: They were (a) members of the visible church, even though that church was borderline apostate (run by Sadducees and Pharisees).  They were (b) not excommunicate from that visible church.  They were (c) willing to listen to what He had to say.

Now, of course, after they listened for a while, most of them departed, not willing to persevere.  They excommunicated themselves. But initially, they were welcomed according to the catholic principle we have outlined.  Notice that Jesus ate and drank with them.  It requires a clever bit of nominalism to miss the sacramental implications of this.  Pharisees, beware! — James B. Jordan, The Sociology of the Church, 15.

In a footnote, Jordan adds:

Beware indeed! Jesus reserved His most ferocious threats of hellfire for those who refuse to recognize other Christians. See Mark 9:38-50 and also Numbers 11:27-29. Jesus articulates an important principle of catholicity in Mark 9:49-50. The man who has salt in himself — the fire of self-preservation and humility — will be a peaceful man, esteeming others better than himself, and with that attitude he can correct the wayward (15n9).

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Posted by John Barach @ 12:14 pm | Discuss (0)
June 18, 2012

Psalm 67

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
With stringed instruments.
A psalm.
A song.

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause his face to shine upon us (Selah),
To make known on earth your way,
Among all nations your salvation.

Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let the peoples — all of them — praise you.

Let the peoples rejoice and shout joyfully,
Because you judge peoples with uprightness,
And peoples on the earth you guide. Selah.

Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let the peoples — all of them — praise you.

Earth has given her produce;
God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
And they will fear him — all the ends of earth.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:23 pm | Discuss (0)
June 14, 2012

Erling’s Word

Category: Literature :: Permalink

I can’t recall how I discovered him, but I recently read Lars Walker’s first novel, Erling’s Word with great enjoyment.  It’s a fantasy novel that comes close to historical fiction: some of the characters were real, including the ruler Erling Skjalgsson, but there are also elements from Norse mythology including the very real (and false) gods. But what I found particularly gripping was not just the twists of the plot but its presentation of the spread of the gospel among the Norse.

Erling's WorldPerhaps it doesn’t surprise us that Vikings became Christians, but surely it ought to.  Or perhaps we’ve never thought about what that transformation must have involved, not only personally but also socially and politically.  Lars Walker has.  What he describes ought to remind us that history, including the history of the church, is often very messy.  But at the same time, the messiness doesn’t mean that Christ wasn’t at work or that the people involved in that messiness were not, in their own flawed way, striving to be faithful to him.

As with Constantine or Charlemagne or Alfred the Great or Brian Boru, so with the Vikings.  Rulers who become Christians do not suddenly do everything right.  They do not hear the gospel, believe, and then immediately make all the right changes in their public policies and their country’s laws.  Nor do they immediately stop their own personal immoralities.  We can look back at them and see their flaws and their on-going corruption.  But at the same time, we ought to be struck by the courage of, for instance, a ruler who risks the murderous rage of most of his subjects by refusing to dedicate a meeting to the old gods but opens it instead in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In a time of darkness, Jesus reminds us, “he who is not against you is for you.”

Here’s one passage to whet your appetite, though there are several others that I appreciated so much I had to stop and read them to my wife.  In it, the main character, the priest Ailing, who is plagued by doubts (to put it mildly), is speaking to Erling:

“How did you become a Christian, my lord? What keeps you firm?  I’ve heard of your king Haakon the Good.  He tried to live as a Christian, but the lords made him sacrifice and he was buried as a heathen, they say.”

“We went a-viking in Ireland,” said Erling, “my father and I.  I saw a man — a priest — die for Christ.  We were holding him and others for ransom, and some of the lads were having a lark and thought it would be sport to make him eat horseflesh. He refused, and the lads took offense at his manner. They tied him to a tree and shot him full of arrows.  He died singing a hymn. I thought he was as brave as Hogni, who laughed while Atli cut his heart out. My father said not to talk rot, that a man who dies over what food he’ll eat dies for less than nothing.”

“I’ve never seen a true martyrdom,” I said. “I’ll wager it wasn’t like the pictures.”

“No,” said Erling.  “It looked nothing like the pictures in the churches. Martyrs die like other men, bloody and sweaty and pale, and loosening their bowels at the end.”

“So I’d feared.”

“What of it? The pictures are no cheat. Just because I saw no angels, why should I think there were no angels there? Because I didn’t see Christ opening Heaven to receive the priest, how can I say Christ was not there? If someone painted a picture of that priest’s death, and left out the angels and Christ and Heaven opening, he’d not have painted truly. The priest sang as he died. Only he knows what he saw in that hour, but what he saw made him strong.

“I saw a human sacrifice once too, in Sweden. When it was done, and my father had explained how the gods need to see our pain, so they’ll know we aren’t getting above ourselves, I decided I was on the Irish priest’s side.”

“And you’re sure our God doesn’t need to see our pain?”

“Not in the same way. I serve a God who will not have human sacrifice. You’ve never believed in human sacrifice, but I did once, so I can tell you it makes no little difference.”

This is a first novel and there are some flaws, but I highly recommend it, though I’ll add that it doesn’t soft-pedal the sins of its characters, let alone sugarcoat the sins of pagan Norse culture.  Erling’s Word has been revised slightly and is now included, together with a second novel that I’m itching to read, in the volume The Year of the Warrior.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:17 pm | Discuss (2)
June 13, 2012

Psalm 66

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
A song.
A psalm.

Shout to God, all the earth;
Psalm the glory of his name;
Make glorious his praise.
Say to God, “How fearful are your deeds.
Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies cringe before you.”
All the earth bows to you
And psalms to you;
They psalm to your name.  Selah.

Come, see the works of God,
Fearful acts unto the sons of Adam.
He turned the sea into dry land;
Through the river they passed on foot.
There let us rejoice in him,
Ruling in his might forever.
His eyes over the nations keep watch;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.  Selah.

Bless, O peoples, our God!
Make heard the sound of his praise,
Who places our soul among the living,
And does not give our feet to stumbling.

Indeed, you tested us, God;
You refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You put an oppressive burden on our hips.
You made a man ride over our head;
We came through fire and through water,
And you brought us forth to abundance.

I will come to your house with Ascensions;
I will pay to you my vows,
Which my lips uttered,
And my mouth spoke in my oppression.
Ascensions of fatlings I will ascend to you with the smoke of rams;
I will offer cattle with male goats.  Selah.

Come, hear, and I will proclaim — all who fear God —
What he has done for my soul.
To him with my mouth I called,
And extolling was under my tongue.
Iniquity — if I had seen it in my heart,
My Master would not have heard.
But truly God has heard;
He has been attentive to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor his loyalty from me.

Some comments on the translation:

Line 3: More literally, perhaps, “Make glory his praise,” where “his praise” is the thing being made into “glory.”  But to get the point across and maintain the word order as much as possible, I’ve rendered “glory” as an adjective.

Line 4: The word I’ve rendered “fearful” (following Alexander) is often translated “awesome,” and that translation does capture the meaning.  But I’ve retained “fearful” to keep the link with the root word, which has to do with fear.  Hirsch suggests that the line should be rendered “What a tremendous thing are your acts.”  Cf. also line 10.

Line 5: I’ve translated a word as “cringe” which has, as one of its basic meanings, “lie, speak falsely.”  It’s possible that it means “feign submission,” as some translations render it (and as Holladay’s lexicon suggests for Deut 33:29; Ps 18:45; 2 Sam 22:45).  The idea is not that these enemies are now true and genuine servants of the king, but that they are making a show of obedience (cf. BDB); the point is not to deceive or trick the ruler — as “feign submission” — might suggest, but rather to escape from punishment as rebels.

Line 24: The word translated “oppressive burden” here comes from a root that has to do with pressure.  This form of the word seems to refer to something that causes pressure, in this case pressure upon the hips and small of the back (“loins”).  Perhaps we could use the word “weight,” but I’m afraid that “weight on our hips” makes us think of someone who is putting on the pounds, getting overweight, which isn’t the idea at all.

Line 25 is hard to understand.  The word for “man” (enosh) is often used for frail man, mortal man, mere man in contrast to God.  The phrase “over our heads” is possible, since the prefix l- can be used for on or over.  Tate thinks the verse is referring to Moses: In spite of what is mentioned in the previous line, God made Moses ride out of Egypt at the head of Israel’s host. That seems like a stretch to me.  It may suggest that God made a weak man lead Israel, but I’m not sure that “at our head” is attested in this sense anywhere else.

Line 33 uses a word that could be rendered “make.”  I’ve translated it as “offer.”  It appears to be a technical term for offerings (cf. Ex 29:36; Lev 9:7; also Judg 6:19; 1 Kgs 18:23, 26).

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:17 pm | Discuss (2)
June 6, 2012

Cultivate Originality

Category: Theology :: Permalink

Norman Shepherd was ordained as a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in June 1963. John Murray preached the sermon, and Cornelius Van Til gave the charge to the new minister. In his autobiographical essay “Growing in Covenant Consciousness,” Norman Shepherd quotes from that charge:

You will not think of yourself as an individual theologian bringing to men the thoughts of your heart. You will not even think of yourself first of all as carrying on some tradition, notably the Reformed tradition, as you teach and preach. The world does not need your wisdom, and the world does not need Reformed theology except in so far as your theology and the Reformed tradition in which you labor expound the wisdom of Christ. You must not be a slave to tradition. You must not merely carry on what you yourself have learned from teachers. You must by all means cultivate originality. You must be yourself as you teach biblical and systematic theology. Only if you cultivate your independence of judgment will you make a genuine contribution to theology. But such originality cannot be attained otherwise than by ever going back of all the theology you have learned to the Christ who ever speaks to you in his Word.

The charge concluded with these words:

You need not snatch into the void for something new to say. You build upon the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets. You stand in the Reformed tradition as it stands on Christ. Labor with diligence! Need I tell you this? But labor also with composure of mind. Make no false pretense but have confidence in the promises of Christ.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:23 pm | Discuss (0)
June 5, 2012

Psalm 65

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
A psalm.
By David.
A song.

To you silence is praise, God in Zion,
And to you will be performed a vow.
Hearer of prayer,
Unto you all flesh will come.
Deeds of liability prevail over me;
Our rebellions — you yourself will cover them.
Most happy is the one you choose and bring near:
He lives in your courts.
We are filled with the goodness of your house,
Your holy temple.

Awesomely, in righteousness you will answer us,
God of our salvation —
The trust of all the ends of the earth
And of the farthest sea —
Establishing the mountains by his power,
Girded with strength,
Quieting the uproar of the seas,
The uproar of their waves,
Even the tumult of the peoples.
Those who dwell at the ends fear your signs;
The outgoings of the morning and the evening you make shout for joy.

You visit the earth
And make it overflow;
You make it very rich.
God’s river is full of water.
You prepare their grain.
Indeed, in this way you prepare it:
Its furrows you drench;
You level its ridges.
With showers you soften it;
Its growth you bless.
You crown the year with your goodness,
And your cart tracks drip fat.
The grasslands of the wilderness drip,
And with joy the hills gird themselves.
The meadows are clothed with the flocks,
And the valleys are dressed with grain.
They shout for joy;
Yes, they sing!

Some comments on the translation:

Line 1: The word translated silence here is often emended, resulting in the translation “praise waits for you.”  But the word is the word for silence (cf., e.g., Alexander, Alter, Delitzsch, Jordan, Kidner).  What this phrase means, I’m not entirely certain.

Lines 2ff.: The Hebrew is broken up here, so that it appears as if the first part of verse 3 (Hebrew) is actually the second stich of the line that ends verse 2, so that it should be

To you silence is praise,
God in Zion.
And to you will be paid a vow,
Hearer of prayer.
Unto you all flesh will come.
Words/Things/Deeds of iniquity….

Line 5: The word translated “deeds” often means “words” but can also mean “things, matters.”  I’ve rendered this “deeds/works” (e.g., Alter, Jordan, Tate), but there are more obvious Hebrew words that could have been chosen for deeds or actions.  Hirsch thinks these are the “products of iniquity,” but because the word I’ve rendered “liability” has to do with guilt, I suspect that these are deeds/words   Still, Alexander may be right in thinking that these are the words associated with liability/guilt, that is, that they are charges and accusations which are overwhelming to David.   Such charges are a major theme of many psalms.

In line 20 (“Those who dwell at the ends…”), “ends” refers to the farthest reaches of the earth, it seems.


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Posted by John Barach @ 1:50 pm | Discuss (0)