Saturday, March 29, 2008

Peter Grimes

We just returned from the HD recording of Peter Grimes - Metropolitan Opera. Moving. Britten must be one of the most gifted composers of the last century.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Interesting News from Sandi Dubowski. on the film Jihad for Love.

Another thing arrived in the mail - an article "My Close Application to the Language" in BC Studies on William Henry Collison (Author of In the Wake of the War Canoe - an amazing book) and Nineteenth Century Haida Linguistics, by Marcus Tomalin. It looks as if it will be very interesting reading.

I beg to enclose a specimen of the two languages Hydah and Tsimshean in which you will see the complete difference in construction, sound, &c. As I am of opinion that the Hydah's are of Chinese or Japanese origin or possibly indirect[ly?] connected with the Ainos of Japan (though from illustrations which lately appeared in the The Gleaner of those people I am led to doubt it) I would like to pursue some work bearing upon the language and customs of those Races in order to ascertain more clearly.
He goes on to present Collison's analysis of the Lord's prayer in the two languages Hydah (Haida) and Sm'algyax (Coast Tsimshian). I will blog more when this percolates to the top of my pile of books - including so many... and when my wife has finished it - for she too will want to read the details of her daughter's husband's work.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

O My People

Today, Duane Smith posted on believing the unbelievable. Today in the weekly Torah commentary from JTS, Rabbi Mark Wolf writes: We exist to follow God’s will and teach others the meaning of righteousness and compassion. It is not what is unbelievable that is important but what we exist for and what we do. (Read Rabbi Wolf - may he have moved the earth with his words.)

Nevertheless, what - yes what - do I believe? I laid out a number of issues related to faith in another place. All the left hand column of links have to do with being drawn into faith - all are plays on words but absolutely what has happened to me - all are to do with love and every difficult thing that goes with it.

I did, but I do not now, subscribe to a system of belief. I probably was so inaccurate about that 'system' that I could not possibly then or now define it. I don't know what my system is today - but it is not anything I come across 'frequently'.

Do I, as Mark Twain writes, have a 'Faith' that 'is believing what I know ain't so.' Does my 'religion consist in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain of'?

It is not so. I don't in fact know much of what is so - so how could I know the infinitely larger set of what ain't so? And my prayers unknown to me are answered. What fortune! What right do I have to speak let alone impose my good fortune on others! Why, tomorrow, I may be wiped out or some other unspeakable misfortune may befall those I love. When I translated the psalms, I wrote of how dangerous they are. And in comments on some poor student's blog, I have written riddles, as one beloved blogger captions me, that perhaps are not as helpful as I think they are.

A principle of general systems thinking that I think I rephrased goes like this - it's not what you know that hurts you, it's what you think you know that ain't so. (A man by the name of Stephen Wineberg wrote an Introduction to General Systems Thinking some years ago - I lost my copy of this rather good little volume but I remember many of the aphorisms.)

Is belief a system, or a set of things we think we know? This much I know of what is so: What I have learned of love and every imaginable thing that goes with it, I learned from a mysterious source that accompanied my trust in the death of Jesus. I could die tomorrow or even today and what I have known, in spite of my potentially incomplete, maybe even false understandings of it, in spite of my inability to sum it up in a few words, in spite of all that comes between us and love: envy, shame, greed, convenience, will to power, in spite of all these things, it would not - could not be taken away from me. It is written into my life, into the warp of the space-time hologram.

Sometimes I wonder at my own potential for self-deception. I wonder at my political limitations, my limited rules of thumb for management, my delayed learning of lessons in language, in ecclesiology, in theology, my all thumbs approach to story-telling, my riddles. How can I have any belief that is communicable if I cannot find words?

In some ways, no words will do. Only engagement. That confrontation that is inescapable - 'like death, our death'.

I can't answer all Duane's questions (like his section on the priest who had to go on believing to support his family) - but let this stand as a note that there may be alternatives. Alternatives even to the dark night of the soul. I knew need. I read Romans and believed the promise that I had already died in the death of Christ. I have had the opportunity to live with that knowledge and I have not been disappointed. I have made plenty of mistakes. I could say I have come close enough to know both negative and positive aspects of fire. My Advocate has said - I will not abandon you. Every sin against the Son will be forgiven.

I can't answer the needs of those who suffer terror. I wrote the above before I finished the commentary. My troubles are small compared to those in Israel. Rabbi Wolf, whom I know only through his words, seems to me as one who fulfills a real priestly role without hypocrisy even in a place where priests no longer have a role. (For me, I slowly learn respect for those who spend their lives in the psychological reality of spiritual care. But in Christendom, there is not supposed to be a hierarchic priesthood either. You might know it in the truth of the faith, but you wouldn't know it for looking.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Story Plan

To show that I have a plan, Beloved, here are the cuttings for the next major section of my translation for you. You can see that I pick and choose from several tables. It shows just how different are the four testimonies - not only in content but also in sequence. I have chosen these pericopae as the continuation of the Initial Public Ministry as we have already seen.

Section Title Mark Luke Matthew John Table

21 Primi discipuli

1.35 1
22 Nuptiae in Cana factae (a Tuesday)

2.1 1
23 In Capharnaum manet (see 22)

2.12 1
33 In Nazareth praedicat

34 Vocatio discipulorum 1.16
35 In synagoga Capharnaum docet 1.21 4.31

36 Daimoniacus in synagoga 1.23 4.33

24 Primum iter in Jerusalem

2.13 1
271 Jesus in Jerusalem, Bethaniam redit 11.11
272 Ficulnea maledicta 11.12
25 Purgatio templi (April 28)

2.14 2
275 Ficulnea arefacta 11.20
276 De potestate Jesu et baptismo Ioannis 11.27 20.1 21.23
26 Ministerium in Jerusalem

2.23 2
27 Colloquium cum Nicodemo

3.1 2
253 Benedictio parvulorum 10.13 18.15 19.13
280 De censu Caesaris 12.13 20.20 22.15
28 Ministerium in Iudaea

3.22 2
29 Testimonium Ioannis Baptistae

3.23 2
17 Ioannes in carcerum mittitur (28-29)

109 Patri confitetur

45 Quaestio ieiunii 2.18 5.33


Nuptiae in Cana factae (a Tuesday)

The death of the grapes provides a new thing. Is it not so? There is still good red wine from Cana. Occasionally I can get it here in Corinth.

On the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. I remind myself, Beloved, that it is my task, for your sake, to render this account in Latin.

Et die tertia nuptiæ factæ sunt in Cana Galilææ, et erat mater Jesu ibi
Render is all I can do. It is not much help to us in finding the meaning of the sign. As surely that it is a sign, we must know that it is meant to signify something. Is it that the tradition is filled and so becomes good wine? But who will fill it? What are we to make of the days which our author points out so clearly? In this section, I have included two of my cuttings: Nuptiae and the next to the last on table 1. These sections, 22 and 23, belong together, for the opening of the one reflects the one sentence in the other. When we originally cut them, the knife slipped and we made two cuttings instead of one.

I think you have heard this story. It begins in Cana Galilææ, and the mother of Jesus is there, as were Jesus and his disciples - and the wine fails. But it is not just a revelry - as we might have thought briefly the first time we heard it. It was not his marriage - I have this information from the sisters' letters. What was he doing, bringing the wine? Does it speak of marriage yet to come?

His mother instructed the servants as if she had expected his rebuke. The servants did all that he told them. If I had been there, he would have shown me the instruction, then I too would know.
- the second three days were as if under a cloud. Under my tutor, the days were of regulation and ordinance: do not touch, do not taste, do not walk here.
- in spite of your tutor's and your own limits, would you consider your life that it was good?
- it was, in the end, not possible for the regulations to be sufficient.
- would it have been for better if your tutor could have followed them himself?
- but then, perhaps, I would never have known my need of the bridegroom of blood, nor would I have appreciated such power, even in the hands of his fragile servants.

In the end, the wine did not fail. The Bridegroom brought wine in abundance. The servants knew where it was from. Beloved, the Bridegroom's friend, the voice crying in the wilderness, has introduced us to him: Ecce, Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccatum mundi. We went to him to see where he dwelt and he invited us to remain with him that day. The day following, he included others. And on the third day, he revealed his glory. It appears that it is not untouchable, nor without taste, and to walk with him is not forbidden. After this first sign, he went to Capernaum, and his mother, and his brothers, and his disciples. It was a full household, an image of a bride in the care of her mother non multis diebus.

- You have seen what I did to the Egyptians how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. You shall be my own treasure.
- all that יהוה has spoken, we will do.
- go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready for the third day, for the third day יהוה will come down in the sight of all the people.
- take heed that you do not touch the mountain. Whoever touches it shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot -- shot untouched.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The crows at their bath

Next to the babbling brook, I sat quietly reading Neale and Littledale.

One by one the crows came down from their perches in the Gary Oaks, up to twenty at once, dipping their black paws into the cool fresh water, framed against a clear blue sea visible over the field, a ship passing lit by the sun, the mountains and their glaciers in the south. The crows were not gossiping as they sometimes do, or cooing to their young, but dipping themselves like ducks into the water, having decided it was not too cold for a real swim.

One climbed the rocks to the head of the brook within 6 feet of my perch and dipped there in a solo pool, flapping his wings to douse himself with water. Another followed him to this private bath. They took turns.

The crows scattered back to the trees. A woman came by, walking her dog.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Glory brewing

Whoever Enlarges on the Telling of the Exodus Is Praiseworthy - so reads the beginning of Rachel's Haggadah for Pesach. This pdf is a full offering for anyone wishing to explore the Jewish tradition of the Passover Seder.

Iyov is challenging me on the meaning of Drash. I have drafted an essay for response soon.

Secundus is scheduled to report on the first sign in John, Nuptiae in Cana factae (a Tuesday), - the Glory of water and wine. He may learn something from what he and his sister Prima wrote many years ago - but I think that Targum will find a new expression in his new story. (But how would I know?)

Here is another link from Dr. Platypus on early liturgical practice.

Must walk now to a Good Friday service...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Some of the most beautiful essays

I have ever read begin here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Creation - 2

Well - I did a second diagram - this time in 10 columns and with some of the regular rows aligned.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Writing is glorifying the One who created the heavens and the earth - all things visible and invisible. The + signs in the diagram are for the invisible and the visible from black holes to suns to dark matter, from process to end product, the ending we are known as but which we ourselves long to know. See my diagram here.

So Genesis is not a psalm - but I have put it with the psalms. I am looking at this diagram spread out on an 11x17 piece of paper (I hate wasting paper so I am looking at an earlier version).

It is in 8 double columns - these are the obvious divisions of the text. The first five columns end with the familiar refrain - and there was evening and morning, ...

Column 6 is split into two since day 6 is so long being so full of words. Column 8 is the seventh day at the beginning of chapter 2. Notice how verse 4 - these are the accounts of the heavens and the earth when they were created - completes the circle from the first verse.

I have coloured each action of God with a roughly square box - green for create, deep red for speaking, bright yellow for seeing, deep blue for distinguishing, burnished gold for calling, maroon for making, sky blue for putting, fine gold for blessing, red for rest.

In this introductory - you know, if you never got farther than the introduction, you would have much of the whole! In this introductory section to the Hebrew Bible, God introduces himself by his works - they are better than newspaper headlines or a Herodian hotel.

You can learn some Hebrew from this diagram - but let it be for fun - and remember, I might be misleading you.

What does God do? He creates (בָּרָא bara') the heavens and the earth - and more, specifically (follow the blue connector to the green squares) , he created (וַיִּבְרָא vayivra) the great sea monsters - whoever wrote this work knew that whales were important. Create - make - is there a difference? Maybe the created are meant to respond. Ultimately and somewhat centrally in the text - he creates - three times it says that - the human.

Notice how the earth brings forth herbage and stuff and animals and creepy-crawlies and stuff. This is evolution, by the way - but I don't really want to go to that conversation. Some things are a real waste of time and energy. Get over it. How many days did it take? One (in the day that God created.) So if you have trouble with 3 in 1 - do the created order 7 in 1. And then rejoice that 'we count 300, but there is but one and that one ever' (borrowed from George Herbert, Easter).

I have been trying to see the structure of this text more clearly - I am not sure I have yet. The 7 are somewhat obvious. The 10 words - and God said - are also potentially a set of discriminatory markers. And so are the 6+ ki-tov - and it was good. And so are the refrains - and it was so וַיְהִי-כֵן vayehi-ken. Are these like level 1 2 and 3 headings or footings - to invite us into the structure?

It has always struck me that light was first - and it has a whole day. Light is so fundamental, the foundation of information. All that we do is dependent on it. Photons - massless, limiting our knowledge by their finite speed, forming time, yet for eons thought if thought at all to be of infinite speed (Aquinas - book 51 I think - not that I have had time to read Aquinas).

Day 2 - the surface. I deliberately chose a child's word - as if seeing the creation from the earth. The surface - which God made, see also: the two great lights, the beast of the earth after its kind, and the human (though also spoken of as created) - and both these latter are living beings - nephesh נֶפֶשׁ xayah חַיָּה. That's for those who have trouble with the soul of the beast. (Like I have trouble lining up letters to go left and right).

The surface plays a role in days 2, 4, and 5. Day 3 is given to the herbage - and it makes its place again in day 6 as food. There are other patterns, shades of meaning in light and darkness, day and night, morning and evening. The 'goods' (I thought of using goods instead of the rather flat 'work' in chapter 2) - the goods of day 3 - herbage, day 5 - fish, and day 6 - beasts and creepy-crawlies, are repeated in the exhortation to rule that is given to the human - and repeated again in the instruction concerning food. (Busy day).

There is much to say - but enough for now. I do not write commentary - too much like work. I only play.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The seven days

I am working on an image of Genesis 1 - away this weekend so can't read the million posts - but tell me what you think. [Update - a few days later - it is finished.]

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Word of God

My Lord has opened the Book at The Central Message.
- Hey - wait a minute, don't let the pages flap in the breeze.
- O - I see. It is coming back one page to the key question.

Is the Qur'an also the word of God for Christians?
This question occurs in Hans Küng's book Islam, Past, Present, and Future at the end of section B. subsection I.

Some weeks ago, Chris Brady posted a question on the What is central to Christianity. He "intentionally allowed only one answer per vote." I complained that my answer, the person of Jesus, the Bridegroom, was not in the list.

Now what would you prefer: the word of God as book or the word of God as flesh? To me that question arises as a very short precis of the distinction Küng makes in his book (pp 57, 59):
The specific characteristic of Judaism is Israel as God's people and land. The specific characteristic of Christianity is God's Messiah and Son. ... The specific character [of Islam] is that the Qur'an is God's word and book.
I am struck by this thesis because the first encounter I had with Christianity was with those who proclaimed the Bible as book as the Word of God. Eventually, I have concluded that these phrases indicate in Christians more of fear than love. In reading Küng, I can see - as with the recitation of Beowulf that Iyov pointed us to - that the recitation of the Qur'an could indeed be very moving - even if one did not understand a word of it.

I have spent some time in Turkey, so I know the call to prayer of the early morning. Recitation goes beyond the written word for it is embodied.

- what is it that constitutes worship?
- it is not merely a question of understanding a definition of terms.

(That reminds me of the recent Jerusalem-Athens question that April DeConick invited answers to.)

In this first major section, Küng outlines how this living, holy book in Arabic functions for a Muslim:
- as book. (al-kitab) Every believer knows where he is. ... One can unequivocally hold on to what God wills. So nothing can be changed here...
- as one book. ... not a collection ... like the Hebrew Bible... not four different Gospels ... contradict one another in many details ... a single book, handed down by one and the same prophet within 22 years...
- an Arabic book. ... the oldest Arabic prose work ... normative in syntax and morphology
- a living book. ... to be read aloud in public time, qur'an comes from the word qara'a, 'read aloud, recite'. ..
- a holy book. ...The Muslim house of God has no pictures - the calligraphy of the Qur'an is enough. ... in Christian terms, the Qur'an is for Muslims word and sacrament in one... directly the word of God.
Quoting Toufic Fahd (p62) ...
It seems to be the last witness to an old Semitic tradition in which the world of images is combined with reality, where the word evokes the magic of the expression and where the physical is transformed by the metaphysical; a discursive thought which is expanded in statements set side by side, often without grammatical supports, without reference to causality, finality, consistency; ideas which repeat themselves, become entangled, permeate one another in a word-whole of the same textual connection; a harmony of monotonous wealth of sound, wearisome in the long run but often beguiling, soothing, forming itself on the rhythm of breathing and effect of emptiness and abstraction: that is how the Qu'ran appears to the reader who is initiated into the subtleties of the Arabic language and sensitive to the poetic rhythm which the Semitic soul bears through all the incarnations of cultures that it has known now for more than five thousand years.
I first read this as praise - but I see on typing it that it is a kind of back-handed praise. This is only the first section after Küng's historical introduction.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The same day I received my polyglot Psalms - English, NETS, Hebrew, and LXX, I also received Hans Küng's latest book on Islam. I will have to blog on this eventually. But first I guess I had better read it. I have really read his other two massive books on Judaism and Christianity. I have never regretted any HK book that I have bought. But still, he did not teach me what I have learned - nor did the HJ folks, nor even the Bible by itself. What I have learned in all its grand ambivalence, I have learned by death and resurrection from the interaction of the Infinite with my own wayward heart.

Religion won't generally cut it. Nor will those who profess certainty in their social or theological systems. Nor will those who subscribe to a school or creed that sits flat on a table somewhere.

Today I have added to my blogs one on religion and the public sphere and one on Islam.

Michael Pahl of the stuff of earth has written a story that could have been by Secundus and Prima in their first volume. I like the recognition of the potential for collaboration in the Pauline circle. Imagine and tell the story - that is where truth resides. It does not reside in creed or propositional theology, especially negative propositional anthropology disguised as religious 'truth'.

You would think that people who profess and teach 'Christianity' would actually know something about death and resurrection. So that those who are baptized whether as infants in the faith of the congregation or as adults would actually know that they are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ. I suppose if they only study, they can be forgiven their ignorance.