Saturday, November 22, 2008

Numeric architecture of the Psalms

This is a curious coincidence for me. I am not really interested in arbitrary mathematical analysis, but it is a plausible literary technique. I am not really interested but I did colour every verset and every psalm and every group of psalms - every part and even the whole - in my colorful portrait using colour values derived by gematria (calculated by an expression in the diagram at publishing time and mapped to the 16 million colours available for display.)

Casper Labuschagne, the writer of this introduction and the linked pdf's writes about things that are not difficult to verify by observation. He writes about
  • observable words, using the same working definition that I independently incorporated into my keyword algorithms.
  • the meaningful centre of the text - an idea that others confirm though they do not always arrive at the same centre.
  • the observed architecture as 'a reminiscence of a compositional technique'.
Poets typically do have a compositional technique - except in the 20th century. They set challenges for themselves to form their message into a frame that speaks in its own way - and in some senses is a poetic signature. Why not so much more those poets who have to form the Word of God to them on behalf of others - the generation yet to come?

- Why not discipline yourself, Bob! and stop blathering on with formless abandon. Did I not give you something to say?

- Yes Love, but I must find words, as you commanded.

Seriously, Beloved, I have no intention of counting words, as if that would help my limited expressiveness.

Here for example are some testable (but not without effort) claims:
In order to draw attention to the meaningful arithmetic centre of a poem, the authors used a number of clever scribal devices to highlight and emphasize that centre.
1) In a great number of psalms it appears that they did so by means of a sudden switch from one form of address to another, usually from the 2nd to the 3rd person or vice versa. In other words, they positioned the arithmetic centre at the boundary of two forms of address. For examples, see Ps. 6, 7, 12, 16, 21-23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 34, 40.
2) Another highlighting device used was the exceptional form of the arithmetic centre, e.g. its relatively shortness, as in the case of Psalm 92 (for which see my Numerical Secrets of the Bible, p. 134), or its unique syntactical structure, as in Psalm 58 – see Observation 2 in my Analysis of Psalm 58 - or the centre being a refrain, as in the case of Psalms 56 and 59 – see my Analyses of these psalms.
3) Another significant highlighting technique was to structure a series of occurrences of the name YHWH in such a way that the middle instance falls precisely within the centre of the text. See, e.g., Observation 3 in the Analysis of Psalms 11, Observation 4 in the Analyses of Psalm 12 and 13 respectively, Observation 1 in that of Psalm 30, Observation 2 in that of Psalm 40.
4) As in the case of the divine name, I have detected a considerable number of instances of an important key-word in the text being positioned exactly within the arithmetic centre, obviously in order to highlight and emphasize its significance. See e.g. Ps. 33, 35, 37, 51, 52, and 57.
5) A very popular technique was to let the arithmetic centre on word level coincide with the middle colon, bicolon or entire verseline. For a clear example - which can easily be multiplied - see my Analysis of Psalm 37, "Specific features of Psalm 37", and Observation 1, where several highlighting techniques are used simultaneously.
6) Some psalms, divide into two arithmetically equal halves: Psalms 6, 12, 20, 35, 79, 90, 91, 121, and 139. In these cases, the meaningful centre is situated either at the end of the first half, or at the beginning of the second half, as is clearly the case in the alphabetic acrostics. Psalm 92 is a special case: it has its meaningful centre in a separate verse between the two equal halves of 7 verselines and 52 words each.
It is intriguing to note that in four of these psalms the two halves have identical compositional formulae in terms of the atnach (Psalms 6, 20, 79 and 121 – compare also Psalms 12 and 90!).
I will hold my fire - but I think some experiments within the database are called for.

Regrettably, the very first test fails. There are by my count 28 occurrences of אַשְׁרֵי, not 26 as his article claims (but 3 are translated steps rather than happy - leaving us one short!).

They are:

Psalm --1 א Happy the man who אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר
Psalm --2 יב Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -17 ה my steps אֲשֻׁרַי
Psalm -32 א happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -32 ב happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -33 יב happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -34 ט happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -40 ג my steps אֲשֻׁרָי
Psalm -40 ה happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -41 ב happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -65 ה Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -73 ב my steps אֲשֻׁרָי
Psalm -84 ה Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -84 יג happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -84 ו Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -89 יד Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm -94 יב Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 106 ג happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 112 א a happy man אַשְׁרֵי אִישׁ
Psalm 119-A-H א All joy for אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 119-A-H ב All joy for אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 127 ה happy is אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 128 א Happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 137 ח happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 137 ט happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 144 יד happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 144 יד happy אַשְׁרֵי
Psalm 146 ה happy who has the God אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁאֵל

Another test: Psalm 144: the important key-word אַשְׁרֵי ‘happy’, occurs twice at the end of the psalm (vs. 15a and 15b). Its numerical value (52) determines the number of words in vs. 3-9.

And what is the word count between verses 3 to 9? - Yes it is 52. But why these verses?

Psalm 144 ג LORD what is this humus יְהוָה מָה אָדָם
that you know it וַתֵּדָעֵהוּ
the children of humanity בֶּן אֱנוֹשׁ
that you value them וַתְּחַשְּׁבֵהוּ
ד the human אָדָם
like a wind לַהֶבֶל
it is דָּמָה
its days יָמָיו
as a shadow כְּצֵל
passing away עוֹבֵר
ה LORD יְהוָה
spread out the heavens הַט שָׁמֶיךָ
and you will come down וְתֵרֵד
Touch גַּע
hills בֶּהָרִים
and they will smoke וְיֶעֱשָׁנוּ
ו Strike בְּרוֹק
lightning בָּרָק
and you will scatter them וּתְפִיצֵם
let loose שְׁלַח
your arrows חִצֶּיךָ
and you will trouble them וּתְהֻמֵּם
ז let loose שְׁלַח
your hands יָדֶיךָ
from above מִמָּרוֹם
Set me free פְּצֵנִי
and rescue me וְהַצִּילֵנִי
from the great seas מִמַּיִם רַבִּים
from the hand of מִיַּד
the children of בְּנֵי
the alien נֵכָר
ח whose אֲשֶׁר
mouths פִּיהֶם
speak emptiness דִּבֶּר שָׁוְא
and their right hand וִימִינָם
a right hand of יְמִין
falsehood שָׁקֶר
ט O God a song אֱלֹהִים שִׁיר
that is new חָדָשׁ
I will sing אָשִׁירָה
to you לָּךְ
on lute בְּנֵבֶל
a ten-stringed harp עָשׂוֹר
I will make music to you אֲזַמְּרָה לָּךְ

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