Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Psalms - let's read Greek

Louis Sorenson [Psalms GreekStudy Coordinator] psalms at is reading some popular psalms in a group - see here for instructions.

I joined in for psalm 1 - but there is not enough time in the day to do a psalm a week and compare 12 translations and translate Job - a job which is all engaging! Besides Greek is even more of a strain than Hebrew for me.

But Psalm 8 - the results on the list - are intriguing - where would I find the results? They are only on the emails received from the list. I say intriguing since none has taken this division of the text - reading roughly as follows (I think this is due to Fokkelman's influence on me about 2 years ago.)

יְהוָה our Lord
how majestic is your name in all the earth
יְהוָה אֲדֹנֵינוּ
מָה-אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ
your splendor that is chanted
above the heavens by the mouth
of children and nurselings
אֲשֶׁר תּוּנָּה הוֹדְךָ
עַל-הַשָּׁמָיִם מִפִּי
You have set strength for the sake of your foes
that you might rest enemy and vengeance
יִסַּדְתָּ-עֹז לְמַעַן צוֹרְרֶיךָ
לְהַשְׁבִּית אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם

It may be that the Greek versification and reordering of the text does not allow such a reading.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Considering Job and the Psalms

I wondered if the apparently thorough index at the end of J. M. Neale's 4 volume commentary on the Psalms, primitive and medieval writers and from the various office books and hymns of the Roman, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Gallican, Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac Rites. That is indeed the subtitle! I wondered, as I said, if this would provide an insight into relationships between Job and the Psalms - but after a few tests, I think it will not be a quick decision.

This comprehensive index, manually created in a mechanical but pre-electronic time, is a marvel of completeness with respect to the contents of his book. But it is not a companion reading except to the extent that it reflects where Job is referenced in the commentary by those detailed prior authors and rites.

E.g. Job 1:6 Psalm 37:12 - Any relationship at all verbally? None. Job 14:4-5, he notes Psalm 39:5, Job 14:14:19, Psalm 18:3. But no mention of the tree image in Psalm 1 - a possible companion to Job 14. And the Psalm 39 allusion is anticipated by Job 14:13 not verses 4 and 5. Besides this, I must continuously translate Roman numerals to numbers.

There are allusions to the Psalms in Job - some chapters invite a companion reading. I have referenced a few in the translations on Job - but I am not quite ready to try the reverse references. Each allusion needs more than a touch. And each needs a new word in our times.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Parallelism and Grammar

At Narrative and Ontology, Phil Sumpter has asked some close questions on parallelism here, here, and here. There is recognition of parallelism by many writers since Lowth (about whom I will soon read more as background to a study of Hazlitt). Also those I have dabbled in are Kugel, James L., The Idea of Hebrew Poetry, and O'Connor, M., Hebrew Verse Structure.

Many others too, I am sure and most of these allow for positive parallels and negative ones, and some chiastic and some with ellipses (things that the reader must fill in). And some that are not parallels and many times, as does Tur Sinai in his Commentary on Job, it is possible to use the expected parallel to reconstruct or critique some readings. See these articles by John Hobbins here and here.

I just received my copy of the Journal of Biblical Literature and turned to Vertical Grammar of Parallelism in Hebrew Poetry by David Toshio Tsumura. It is well laid out, but I find the spelling out of the meaning of the parallel based on 'vertical' grammar to be disappointing. It reduces the impact of the poem and fractures the meaning of the frame.

He says that parallelism is a device for expressing one thought in two lines. I do not find his reasoning or examples convincing. Every explanation reads flat:
Psalm 47:6 God, the Lord, has gone up with shouts of joy and with the sound of the trumpet.

Psalm 18:12 He made darkness, that is darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies, around him to be his covering, that is, his canopy.

Psalm 24:3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place?
This reduction of a poem to one grammatical meaning is not productive. It substitutes explanation for hearing.

The conversation on Phil's blog noted above is revealing and full of questions well-asked and well-answered by John Hobbins among others. So I say, do not look for explanation - look for pattern - and hear the voice of the poet in conversation with God. The best introductory book on Psalms that I have read is this one: Jonathon Magonet, A Rabbi reads the Psalms 1994 (2004). He would never reduce the meaning. He has heard the command to hear too many times to sink to explanations.

Parallelism is a special case of recurrence as John Hobbins notes in his articles cited above. Recurrence is a frame for meaning. The repetition is not subservient or simply coupled, but its redundancy locks in the meaning of the poem. Recurrence may be distant in the poem. From far away an echo will close a bracket and circles will surround the core. It is these circular structures that Magonet illustrates so well and which I have had so much fun looking for in these past two years. They don't subject themselves to a quick taxonomy. Nor will their meanings be exhausted by an explanation.

Psalm 84 revisted

A brief visit here gives a good resolution to the double ellipsis in Psalm 84.10

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fallow time

The Psalms are lying fallow for the moment while I concentrate on Job. Please do move from the fallow field to follow my plough on Sufficiency.