Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Subdividing Meaning -3

Continuing from my first post on this subject

I am troubled by this foray into a field of semantics and philosophy of thought that is beyond me. It seems, the more I study, the further I get from my goal. But I was at my goal from the beginning of my study whether it was the knockout punches delivered with every psalm I translated - you can see my warnings in this blog - how dangerous the road is. It is not a human enemy I strive with! But an enemy who loves me - so much that he will stay invisible, yet drive me by circumstance and conscience, by apparent coincidence and glory of tenderness - in himself and in those he sends to be with me whether as judges or as companions.

But having begun, I must make the attempt to continue the writing about method. So I have divided interpretation of text into three:
  1. the plain
  2. the figurative
  3. the hidden
I thought I should work one or two examples - and I will start with the first that Neale uses:

טו ומצא בה איש מסכן חכם ומלט-הוא את-העיר בחכמתו ואדם לא זכר את-האיש המסכן ההוא 15 now there was found in her a man poor, wise, and he delivered the city by his wisdom ; yet no human remembered that same poor man.

מסכן is unique to Ecclesiastes - according to my firefox dictionary, it is not a nice word - meaning pipsqueak, a person of no account: poor, miserable, pitiable, wretched, squalid; wretch, pipsqueak. Nice start off to a Christological interpretation which is of course where Neale goes with no pushing.

He cites Scott (without letting me find just who he means) who writes: I would gladly know by what authority any man, ... sets himself by the help of a warm imagination, to discover Gospel mysteries in this passage?

How does Neale interpret? - in his word, Mystically. This is an aspect of the hidden (for Neale) and his Mystical is in this case Christological (as I expect it will be in most cases.)

How does Scott interpret? - plainly. And Scott complains (rightly) that you may prove any doctrine from any text: everything is reduced to uncertainty, as if the Scripture had no determinate meaning, till one was arbitrarily imposed by the imagination of men.

Possibly this is a distinction between the mystical and the plain, but let's see if we can work it further.

Plainly, it is a little parable. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes is just that - don't try and do too much, or deliver the city, because you will be forgotten anyway.

But wait, the word is unique - at least to Ecclesiastes in the Biblical text - and it seems to be derisive. Where else do I read that there is a man of no account, having 'no form or comeliness... or beauty that we should desire him'?

א מי האמין לשמעתנו וזרוע יהוה על-מי נגלתה. 1 'Who would believe our news? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
ב ויעל כיונק לפניו וכשרש מארץ ציה לא-תאר לו ולא הדר ונראהו ולא-מראה ונחמדהו 2 For he will grow up as a sapling before him, and as a root from dry ground; no shape to him, no honour that we should look upon him, no beauty that we should covet him.
It is a stretch, but not much of one for Neale to get to his Christological application.

But is this mystical? Is this the hidden meaning? My subdivision says that the mystical requires a confrontation, and a presence which claims or invites a response, the invitation to love, the claim of obedience through the recognition of the same claim for others. I might want to pick the word זכר remember - and consider how Jew and Christian use this word to make present the formative event of their faith - exodus the one and the death of Jesus for the other. Then we could look at את-העיר the city - note the object marker, an invitation to recognize when more is intended than the object can hold. Perhaps I will light on Psalm 68, that great enigma so loved by the writer of Ephesians and think of the city built on the hill that God covets to live in.

Can I distinguish them? (so far so good)
Can I understand where Christological interpretation fits? (so far so good)
Can I recognize the other subdivisions as part of these three, or as methods that must be applied within and over each of the three.
  1. through concordance of authorities, - may apply to all three

  2. through discussion of words, - applies first to the plain, then to the figurative

  3. through explanation of the properties of things, - all object classes have properties

  4. through a multiplication of senses, - this is what it is about

  5. through analogies and natural truths, - analogy=figure, natural=? who knows

  6. through marking of an opposite, - can apply as method to all three

  7. through comparisons, - can apply as method to all three

  8. through interpretation of a name, - surface then figurative

  9. through multiplication of synonyms. - =2 above

These 9 do not speak to me of more legs for the table.

  1. according to the sensus historicus or literalis, = 1.

  2. according to the sensus tropologicus, = 3. (I subsume this to the confrontation)

  3. according to the sensus allegoricus... a sense other than the literal. = 2.

  4. the sensus anagogicus, used mystically or openly, 'the minds of the listeners are to be stirred and exhorted to the contemplation of heavenly things.'" = 3. (except I don't know much about heaven that I could say - but eternal life - a quality that brings hope and forgiveness and knowledge - here I will rest awhile)
Similarly these four
  • Docet - teaching - from the written letter. 1, 2, and 3
  • Allegory - similarity, metaphor, image, applicability. =2
  • Anagogy - hope =3
  • Tropology - = 3
and these

  1. Peshat -- =1
  2. Remez -- =2
  3. Derash -- a method required for 1 2 and 3
  4. Sod -- =3
and what about these
  1. litteralis, historicus = 1.1, 1.2
  2. allegoricus, parabolicus, = 2.1, 2.2
  3. tropologicus, etymologicus, 3.1, 1.3
  4. anagogicus, analogicus, 3.2, 2.3
  5. typicus, exemplaris, 2.4, 2.5+3.3
  6. anaphoricus, proportionalis, 2.6, 2.7
  7. mysticus, apocolypticus, diuinis atque ineffabilis 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7
  8. boarcademicus, primordialis [help - I have no idea what this is - a misprint?] 1.4
Peace to all who come here.


Iyov said...

Hi Bob -- I apologize since medical issues and preparations for the upcoming holiday have made it hard for me to respond in length, as I hope to. Perhaps later this weekend, I might engage you more full on this. But for now, I wanted to mention that I think you may be missing the point on Derash/Homiletics. The idea is "filling in the stories" -- much like the Jewish Midrash does, or the stories of the Church Father do, or the way Gibson's The Passion (with details added from visions of the Saints), etc. This happens all the time -- for example, if you look at John Hobbins' explication of the Hebrew poetry, he is always adding in details -- that is derash. The classic story of Abraham as a youth in his father's idol shop knocking over all the idols: derash. Every Bible movie you've ever seen: derash. So, it is quite different from the other levels of explication.

A great classic on both Jewish and Christian derash is James Kugel's The Bible as it Was.

I hope to engage you in more dialogue on this soon.

Bob MacDonald said...

Thanks for the warning! It seemed to me also that there was something I am missing. Nevertheless, I wonder if it is separate from the plain and figurative meaning. Of course, to some extent all language is figurative and so creative. Would that mean that the Targumim are considered derash also then? I wonder if some 'filling in' could be in either mode: extending the plain meaning or extending the allegorical meaning.

E.g. the hamantaschen that Rachel mentions today and which she calls drash.

I will look for the Kugel - I have read some of his work before.

Iyov said...

I am not sure how extending the allegorical meaning is different than making an allegory.

Saying that hamentaschen represent Haman's hat is a direct derash: there is nothing in the book of Esther about the shape of Haman's hat -- it is a homily that we add to the story.

It is important to note that in Jewish traditions just because a story is not mentioned in the Bible does not mean it is not considered as "Torah" -- the Midrash is included as part of the "Oral Torah" and is also held to be holy.

Similar statement can be made about Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy or anyone who believes that some statements made by the Saints or Church Fathers. Those who read works that their faith tradition consider apocryphal are also reading a form of derash.

Indeed, although Protestantism nominally takes a view of sola scriptura, it also has its own form of derash. For example, if you have a mental image of a face appear when you think of Jesus -- perhaps taken from an illustrated Bible -- that is a form of derash -- since the New Testament says nothing of Jesus's physical appearance. On a more serious level, if you believe in a particular form of Biblical exegesis -- for example if you are a TULIP Calvinist -- you are also following a form of derash.