Archive for August 9, 2017

Psalms 41-43   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Psalm 41

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XVI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Reading the Book of Psalms from the beginning leads one to notice certain recurring themes.  In Psalms 41, 42, and 43, taken together, I notice certain motifs on which I have commented in previous posts.  They include the following:

  1. Being seriously ill and calling out to God for deliverance,
  2. Being the victim of malicious gossip,
  3. Seeking divine vindication,
  4. Wishing the worst for one’s enemies, and
  5. Trusting in God while wondering why God has permitted one to suffer so badly.

My previous comments on those themes stand.

I prefer instead to focus on the question of the translation of the opening of Psalm 41.  The rendering of the opening of that text in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is typical of most English-language translations:

Happy are they who consider the poor and the needy!

the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.

–Verse 1

In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) we read of one who is

thoughtful of the wretched.

The pious person in The Revised English Bible (1989)

has a concern for the helpless.

However, as Mitchell J. Dahood writes, slander, not helping the poor and needy/the wretched/the helpless, is a major concern in Psalm 41.  Therefore the Dahood translation of that verse reads

How blest the man prudent in speech,

in time of danger may Yahweh deliver him.

–Verse 2

One can read Dahood’s full case for this translation in Psalms I:  1-50 (1966), page 249.

Prudence in speech and writing is a virtue, is it not?  Indeed, one need not apologize for oratorical and written prudence.  Furthermore, the lack of prudence leads to troubles one could have avoided easily.  Yet a lack of prudence in speech and writing becomes (temporarily, at least) a political asset for some; it is allegedly plain spokenness.  The Dahood translation prompts me to think of James 3:1-12, a passage about the power of speech for positive and negative purposes.  That text needs no commentary, for it explains itself.

The slanderers of Psalm 41 are of the same ilk as the enemies of Psalm 42, the treacherous men of Psalm 43.  One temptation is, to use an old expression, fight fire with fire.  Although that strategy is effective in fighting literal fires sometimes, it is probably not the best spiritual practice most of the time.  How about trusting in God instead?  How about fighting fire with fire extinguisher instead?  How about, in the style of Jesus, forgiving one’s enemies?

This is difficult, of course.  Yet we need not operate under the delusion that we ought to be able to do it under our own power.  No, we rely on grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

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Posted August 9, 2017 by neatnik2009 in James 3, Psalm 42, Psalm 43, Psalms I: 1-76

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Psalms 38-40   1 comment

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POST XV OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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The themes of illness and of trusting in God recur.  The author of Psalm 38 understands his sins to be the causes of his suffering.  Life is short, Psalm 39 reminds us.  That author, sounding very much like Koheleth, tells us that, since we humans live amid futility, only God is trustworthy.  The author of Psalm 40 cites what God has done and what he anticipates God will do and thanks God for the contents of both categories.

The imagery of Sheol an old concept of the afterlife, includes the sense that the underworld, or pit, is slimy, muddy, filthy, and slippery.  The author of Psalm 40 describes Sheol as

the pit of destruction

and

the miry bog

–Verse 3, Mitchell J. Dahood translation.

He thanks God for delivering him from that fate–for the time being.  The immediate context is a serious illness; the Psalmist is glad still to be alive.

Fear of death and dying are commonplace.  A fear of dying is certainly understandable, given the plethora of ways to shuffle off this mortal coil painfully and in a prolonged manner.  A fear of death itself depends largely on one’s concept of the afterlife, one’s evaluation of one’s life, and of one’s God concept.  These fears, regardless of how reasonable they might be, ought not to lead us into a transactional relationship with God.  Not falling into that error can be difficult, of course.  Among the theological errors of the alleged friends of the Book of Job is their understanding of relationship with God as being transactional.  They imagine themselves to be orthodox, but they are  not even close to the truth of the situation, as the book, in its final, composite form, tells the story.

The traditional term “fear of God” bothers me, for it does not convey the meaning of the concept.  No, “awe of God” is better.  God is God; we are not.  That is enough.  We should fall back in astonishment on our heels, even as we, true to our Judeo-Christian heritage, feel free to argue faithfully with God, as in the style of Job himself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

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Posted August 9, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 38, Psalm 40, Psalms I: 1-76

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