Thursday, May 17, 2007

The son, the Son, the field, purity

update: 8 months later - see this (with some refinement of the rough suggestion in this post) as an example of possible resolving of unknowns with structure.
Psalm 2 has given rise to much discussion in the past weeks. See for instance here which links to John Hobbins who references Craigie's translation among others. I have a problem with the whole confusing sense. My brain makes short links among all these concepts - wondering if they are connected. Pure now seems out. Kiss purely? Kiss the bar=son? Kiss the field=ground=grovel? What ironic or sincere twist is appropriate?

Psalm 2 is one of two that govern our interpretation of the whole. The last verse forms an inclusio with the first verse of Psalm 1. The first editor of the 150 presumably is pre-Christendom. Is there a clue here?

Can we take the end of the poem from the beginning? Presumably the kings are being warned - seriously yet also with some mockery - as if to say - who do you think you are fighting against? Also the hint of anger at the end compared to the threat of confrontation at the beginning invite finding the hint to BR at the beginning of the Psalm...

The hint is in the installation of the king on the holy hill of Zion.
a Kings rising -
b God laughing -
c wrath -
d installation -
הַר-קָדְשִׁי HaR-QADSHi
[declaration of the king as son and invitation to rule] -
naSHQU-baR נַשְּׁקוּ-בַר
d' - [unknown translation of BR]
c' - wrath
b' - a little
a' - blessing

Can this structure be supported? Perhaps the poet wanted BR to rhyme with HR - it's all very alliterative.


John said...

Hi Bob,

I applaud your attention to the sounds of Psalm 2. You are definitely on to something. Time does not permit me to more than list the concepts that must be kept in mind when considering sound orchestration in ancient Hebrew poetry.

One has to distinguish carefully between a, i, e, u, and o-class vowels; the original forms of segholate forms must be reconstructed (they were on the way out already in the first centuries of this era, but many still show up in the Hebrew-in-transliteration column of Origen's Hexapla), the helping vowels under gutturals must be eliminated, so-called penultimate stress must be reconstructed in a set of verb forms (cf. DSS Hebrew and MT pausal forms), etc.

On another level, it's important to classify rhymemes with care, and identify intended effects. The essays by Harshav in my bibliography have not been superseded. Sound orchestration at short range, of course, is more likely to be effective than long range orchestration.

To give you a taste of what I mean, here is Psalm 2:12 as it might have sounded in First Temple times:

nash-'shei-ku 'bar pen-yei-'nap
wa-to-'bei-du 'dark

ki-yib-'ar ki-mi-'at ap-'po
ash-'rei kol-'cho-sei 'bo

I mark stress because ancient Hebrew poetry instantiates a strong stress meter. This verse is shot through with rhymes, as is Ps 2 in general.

John Hobbins

Bob MacDonald said...

John - I will study the Harshav and see how he helps. I have changed my transcription algorithm to remove vowels under gutterals - I will also review these ideas with my Hebrew teacher. Thanks for the note.