Sunday, September 07, 2008

Doctrine of Creation

Von Rad's essay on Righteousness and Life in the Psalms is quite delightful (From Genesis to Chronicles, chapter 13).

Suppose for a moment that we render Genesis 1:1 as: At the head of all things is God's creating of the heavens and the earth. What if that create verb wasn't qal perfect? What if we didn't take the heavens and the earth for granted? What if we had to create them every day, every moment, every quantized pico-second? Perhaps those 3 or 7 hidden dimensions (depending on what view of string theory you hold) are for God's upholding the universe by the word of his power - keeping perfect reasonable track of every particulate decision of us his images in the world, eyes, hands, feet, and nerve recreating the cosmos with every thought, word, and deed. What terror there is in sin now! The earth might not continue. The heavens might fall. Good thing those 'extra' dimensions are not only directly manipulated by us, eh?

I am just musing about the 'ongoing' nature of the creation implied by the use of the participles of Psalm 136. But one thing is past and unrepeatable - the defeat of Pharaoh and the great kings, though we participate in the wonders through his memory of our low estate (verse 23). We remember in the Eucharist or at Passover - but maybe it is God's remembrance that is the key...

The earth divides into land and sea, mountain and beach, wind, wave, and distant shadow. Down to the sea go the ships. Buoys mark their path and bring them to harbour. Breakwater gives them shelter. Lovers wade in the shallows. The aged read, ensconced among the driftwood and seaweed. What does one read on the earth? Von Rad on Righteousness in the Psalms. This world I believe was here before I came to the beach today - but today, it was created for my reading pleasure. Reading creation into words.

Von Rad starts with a problem about righteousness - how could those psalmists be so righteous! But then he happily abandons the problem with allusion after allusion to the beauty of יְהוָה in the psalms. What a testimony to joy. He confines such joy to the levites - but perhaps he will allow the extension to all flesh that is implied in Psalm 136.

Having started with Psalm 136, which he mentions at the beginning of the first essay, I will, I think, work through the essays again and use them as a stimulus to reworking some of my imaged translations into English. Here I may find help in identifying some of the thematic content of the Psalter.

3 comments:

psalterium said...

I am glad you have found some of the essays to be of interest.

You may wish to have a read of Mowinckel's He that Cometh if you have not yet. He looks at how the concept of Messiah developed in Israel and which may shed light on the canonical shape of the Psalter.

The eschatological idea has been explored by David C. Mitchell.

Bob MacDonald said...

Richard - I too am glad you have opened my eyes to a little more German scholarship. I need to give Mowinckel and Gunkel more time also. That title of Mowinkel's is not available to me at the moment, but Gunkel and Begrich is.

psalterium said...

I have just finished reading Gunkel's Creation and Chaos. It was interesting but I will have to read it again to get a more rounded understanding of his argument. On the Psalms I am impressed by Gunkel's analysis.

I haven't read any of Begrich.