Monday, November 30, 2009

The Job Digest continued: chapters 20-42

This is part 2 of the cycle of speeches following Job’s de-creation of himself in his speech of chapter 3.  We continue with Chapter 20 to the end of the chapter 41.

The warning goes unheeded that we are in the presence of the sword. I wonder what the second half of the book might reveal about the sword. (The word חֶרֶב does not appear again till the final speeches of YHWH.)


 Mentoring of my insult I hear
and the spirit of my understanding makes me answer
do you know this from old
from the setting of the human on earth?
for the joyful cry of the wicked is near-term
and the gladness of the hypocrite but a moment
though his rising ascend to heaven
and his head touch the cloud
like his own dung, in perpetuity he perishes
they who saw him say - where is he?
For what purpose do the wicked live
and are removed - though great in wealth?
their seed is prepared before their faces and with them
and their offspring in their eyes
their houses are at peace from dread
and the staff of God is not on them

his ox makes pass and it does not fall
his cow delivers and is not bereaved
they bring forth like sheep their unweaned
and their children skip

they lift up tambourine and harp
and rejoice at the voice of the pipes
they decay in the good of their days
and in a moment to Sheol, they are broken

and they say to the One, turn from us
and the knowledge of your ways we do not desire
who is Sufficient that we should serve him
and what is the benefit that we should meet him?
So why do you comfort me in vain
when your answers retain offense?
is not your wickedness great
and is there no termination to your iniquities?
If you return to the Sufficient you will be built
let injustice be far from your tents
and fix treasure as dust
And the Sufficient will become your treasure
and silver from great effort will be yours
for then in the Sufficient is your delight
and you will lift up your face to God
Even today bitter is my complaint
my hand heavy on my sighing
O that it was given me to know
and I would find him
will he in great strength contend against me?
no - but he himself would set me out
there the upright could reason with him
and I would be delivered in perpetuity from my judge
but he is in one and who will turn him?
and his being longs
so he does
therefore from his face I am dismayed
I am understanding - and I have dread from him
for the One makes tender my heart
and the Sufficient dismays me
for I did not vanish from the face of darkness
and from my face he covered gloom
And how can a mortal be just with the One
or how clean is one born of woman
the mortal worm and the maggot child of humus
how you help one of no strength!
you have saved the arm of no might
how you have counseled one of no wisdom
and the success of many you have made known!
A curse on me if I justify you
till I expire I will not turn away my completeness from me

The three friends - all speaking together
if his children are multiplied for the sword
and his offspring not satisfied with bread
what's left of him in death will be buried
and his widows will not weep

if he piles up silver like dust
and like clay prepares clothing
he prepares but the just one will be clothed
and silver the innocent will apportion

he builds as a moth his house
and as a booth the keeper makes
the rich lies down and is not gathered
his eyes he opens and he is not

destructions take hold of him like water
storm steals him by night
the east wind lifts him up and he goes
and he is whirled from his place

but that wisdom - from where is she found?
and where is this place of understanding?
mortal does not know her proportion
and she is not found in the earth of the living
depth says - not in me is she
and sea says - there is none in me
Abaddon and death say
with our ears we have heard her hearing
God understands her way
and he - he knows specifically her place
and he said to the human
lo - the fear of the Lord - that is wisdom
and to turn away from evil is understanding
Job's Defense
Who will give to me the months of old
like the days when God watched (over) me
when the Sufficient was still with me
round about me my lads
Brother I have become to a sea-monster
and friend to the daughters of an ostrich
my skin is black upon me
and my bones scorched from dryness
and my harp has become 'of lament'
and my pipes 'of the voice of those who weep'

if I have walked - if in emptiness
and hasted to deceit my foot
let me be weighed in a just balance
that God may know my completeness
if my paces have stretched the way
and after my eyes my heart has walked
and in my open palm clings a blemish
let me sow and another eat
and my offspring be uprooted
if my heart is enticed
and at the opening of my friend I take advantage
this is iniquity for intercessors
if I refuse the judgment of my servant
or my maid in their contention against me
then what will I do when the One rises
for when he visits - how will I turn to him?
has not he that made me from the belly also made him
and established us in the womb as one?
if I have brandished my hand against the orphan
when I saw in the gate my help
let my shoulder from her back fall
and my arm as a reed be maimed
for the burden of the One was dread to me
and from his height I have no power
if I have set gold as my confidence
or to the fine gold have said - my trust
if I rejoice because my wealth is great
or because my hand found much
if I see light shining
of the precious moon walking
and my heart enticed in concealment
or my mouth had kissed my hand
indeed this is iniquity for an intercessor
for I would deny the One above
if I rejoice in the burden of one hating me
or roused myself when evil found him
if I cover as Adam my transgression
and bury in my bosom my iniquity
for I was worried by a great crowd
who will give me a hearing?
lo - my mark
if against me my ground would call for help
and as one her furrows weeping
if fruits I have eaten without silver
and the beings of the owners I blew away
under wheat let thorns come forth
and under barley bindweed

Complete are the words of Job
So they rested - these three mortals from answering Job,
for he was justified in his eyes.
And it burned - the wrath of Elihu the son of Barkael the Buzite of the tribe of Ram
- at Job burned his wrath against his justifying himself over God.
I will answer - indeed I myself my portion
I will declare my knowledge - indeed I myself
for I am full of speeches
I am constrained by the spirit of my belly
behold my belly is as wine without opening
ready to burst as fresh skins

the spirit of God has made me
and the breath of the Sufficient has given me life
if you have power to turn me
order before my face - present yourself

from clay I am pinched - even I myself
behold my horror will not terrify you
and my open palm upon you will not be too heavy

lo this - you are not just - I answer you
for greater is God than a mortal
for what purpose against him do you contend
for all his speakings he does not answer

if there is for him a messenger
interpreting, one among a thousand
to tell a human his uprightness
and he makes supplication for him saying
ransom him from his descent to the pit
I have found a price

his flesh will be fresher than a lad's
he will return to the days of his youth
he will make supplication to God and he will accept him
and he will see his face with a shout of joy
for he will return to a mortal his righteousness

attend Job hear me
keep silence and I myself will speak
if you have a speech, turn it to me
speak for I desire to justify you
if there is no you, listen to me
keep silence and I will teach you wisdom

who is a warrior like Job
drinking derision like water
who takes a path cobbled together with workers of iniquity
and walks with mortals of wickedness
for he said there is no profit for a mortal
that he find acceptance with God

therefore mortals with heart hear me
a curse on the One from wickedness
and on the Sufficient from iniquity
for the work of a human will be repayed to him
and as a path of a man so let him find

indeed truly the One does not do wickedness
nor the Sufficient subvert judgment
who visits him of earth
and who sets out the whole world?

if he sets on him his heart
his spirit and his breath to him he gathers
all flesh will expire as one
and a human to dust will return
a curse on the One from wickedness
and on the Sufficient from iniquity
for the work of a human will be repayed to him
and as a path of a man so let him find
mortal of heart will say to me
and a man of wisdom hears me
Job without knowledge speaks
and his words are not with insight

my father he will be scrutinized in perpetuity
to the turnings in mortals of iniquity
for he continues to add to his sin transgression
among us he claps and he multiplies his words to the One

To the one whose work I am I will give justice
for in truth my speech is not a lie
give ear to this Job
stand and understand the wonders of the One
do you know God's setting of them
and the light of his mist he made shine?
do you know about the balancing of cloud
from the wonders of the perfect in knowledge?
how your garments warm
when he quiets earth from the south?
have you hammered out the sky with him
mighty as a poured mirror?

Make known to us what we will say to him
we cannot array in order in the face of darkness
will one recount to him that I will speak?
if a man speaks will he be swallowed?
and now they do not see the brilliant light
this is in the sky
but the wind passes over and purifies them

from the north gold comes
with God a fearful splendor
The Sufficient we do not find out
great of power and judgment
and much righteousness - he does not afflict
therefore mortals fear him
he does not see all the wise of heart

YHWH (sorry - I had to condense you too)
 Who is this darkening counsel
in speeches without knowledge?
gird please as a warrior your loins
and I will ask you and you make known to me
where were you when I founded earth?
or screened in the sea with doors
when he rushed breaking forth from the womb?

from your days have you commanded the morning?
have the gates of death been revealed to you?
where is this? the way of the dwelling of light?
and darkness - where is this - his place?
have you come to the storehouses of snow?
or the storehouses of hail have you seen?
which I have spared for the time of trouble
has the rain a father?
do you know the decrees of the heavens?
who puts wisdom in the inward parts?
or who gives to the sense understanding?

will you hunt prey for the lion parent
and fill the life of the whelps?
the writhing of the hart can you preserve?
you number the months they fulfill
and you know the time of their birthing
who sends the wild ass free?
will a wild bull consent to serve you?
or lodge at your manger?

Did you give to the horse power?
did you clothe his neck with silken vibration?
by your understanding does a hawk fly?
if by your mouth the eagle rises high
on the tooth of a rock and stronghold
from there he seeks food
and his eaglets suck up blood
and where the slain are, there is he

Will he who contends with the Sufficient be the mentor?
God's referee - let him answer
Lo I am slight, what will I return to you?
my hand I set over my mouth
once I have spoken and I will not answer
and twice - and I will add no more
Indeed will you frustrate my judgment?
will you make me wicked so you are righteous?
behold please Behemoth which I made with you
behold please his strength in his loins
and the vigor in the navel of his belly
he desires his tail - like a cedar
the sinews of his testicles are intertwined
his bones are a stream of brass
his reserve like bars of iron

he is the beginning of the ways of the One
the one who made him can approach his sword
lo he oppresses a river and is in no hurry
he trusts that the Jordan will break in his mouth
with his eyes he takes it
in snares his nose curses

You will drag Leviathan with a hook?
or with rope sink his tongue
Will he make many supplications to you?
if he will speak to you tenderly
will he cut a covenant with you
Will you take him for servant for ever
the doors of his face who will open?
his surrounding teeth horrible
a growing stream of shields
shutting up the impress of trouble
one to one they approach
and spirit cannot come between them
each to its other clings
they are captured and not dispersed
his sneezing shines a light
and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn
from his mouth lamps walk
and a striking of fire escapes
he snorts forth smoke
as the beloved blows the bullrushes

From his height the pillars shrink
from the breaking they make themselves clean from sin
a sword taking hold of him is not set
shaft dart and javelin
he counts iron straw
as a rotten tree brass
the child of the bow does not make him flee
and he laughs at the quake of a spear

his underparts are sharp potsherds
he spreads cuttings in the dirt
he makes the ocean deep boil like a pot
the sea he sets as spices
after him is an enlightened track
he counts the depth gray-haired
in all dust is his parable
the one who is made without fear
all the exalted he sees
he is king over all the children of pride

I know that you have all power
and thought is not withheld from you
therefore I told and I had not understood
things too wonderful for me and I did not know

hear please and I myself will speak
of the hearing of an ear I had heard of you
and now my eye sees you
therefore I refuse
and I am comforted in dust and ashes

Now you can safely reread the epilogue

The conversations in Job - a condensed version of chapters 4-19

Let's have 6 actors and see if we can put the cycle of speeches into a 20 minute reading! Assume chapter 1-3 have been read. YHWH's hand through the mediation of the accuser, a role that any competent religious judge could play, has been applied. Job has responded with a denial of the value of creation. To do this, of course, we must take terrible liberties with the poetry :(

Eliphaz: (2 chapters and some lovely metaphors reduced to 18 lines)

You would not stop anyone from speaking to you
and who would have the power to withhold speeches!
We know you have mentored many
and made weak hands to prevail
for now it comes to you and you stop at nothing!
Is it not your fear your confidence?
is a warrior more pure than his maker?
I myself have seen the obstinate angry
his children are far from safety and they are crushed in the gate
and there is no one to rescue
for iniquity doesn't come from dust

Nevertheless for me, I would seek to the One
and to God I would set up my case
my words are a gasp
for the arrows of the Sufficient are against me
where their poison drinks my spirit

Does it bray - a wild ass with tender herbs
or does an ox low over its corn?
to one in despair from his friend there should be loving-kindness
and the fear of the Sufficient when he is abandoned
so humor me and be present to me
for it is in your presence if I lie
Can my taste not understand calamity?

Is it not the press-gang for a mortal on earth
like the days of a mercenary, his days?
So there is to me a torrent of empty months
and nights of misery are set for me
when I lie down, I say when shall I arise
and I am sated with tossing till twilight

Remember that but a breath is my life
my eye will not return back to see good
the eye of my seer will not look on me
your eyes on me and there is no me

so as for me I will not spare my mouth
I will complain in the bitterness of my being

Am I the sea or a sea monster that you put a watch on me?
When I say my bed will comfort me
and my couch will lift my complaint
then you break me with dreams
and with visions terrify me
Enough! - I will not live for ever
Cease from me - for my days are vanity
What is a mortal that you make him great
and that you fix on him your heart
and that you visit him every morning
and every moment scrutinize him?
How long till you not stare at me
or let me be till I swallow my spit?
And why not lift up my transgression
and pass over my iniquity?
for now in the dust I will lie down
and early you will seek me and there is no me
How long will you give speech to such things!
a great wind are the words of your mouth
does the One subvert judgment
and does the Sufficient subvert justice?
If your children sinned against him
then he sent them away by the hand of their transgressions
As for you, if you would seek the One early
and ingratiate yourself to the Sufficient
if you yourself are clean and upright
he will rouse himself for you
to make whole the home of your justice
Can rush grow lacking a swamp
reed increase without water?
yet in its tenderness and unplucked
in the face of any grass it dries up
So are the paths of all who forget the One
And how can a mortal be just with the One!
If one desires to contend with him
one cannot answer him once in a thousand
Wise of heart or courageous of strength
who hardens against him and remains whole?
Lo - he passes over me and I don't see him
he passes quickly and I don't understand him
Lo - he seizes, who can hinder him
who will say to him - what are you doing?
One thing therefore I said
complete or wicked he consumes
There is not between us a referee
that might fix his hand on the two of us

your hands shaped me and made me
together on every side yet you swallow me
Remember please that as clay you made me
and to the dust you will bring me
I abandon for me my complaint
I speak in the misery of my being

I say to God - do not condemn me
Let me know why you contend with me
Is it good to you that you oppress
that you refuse the labour of your open palms
Have you not as milk poured me out
and as cheese curdled me?
skin and flesh - you clothed me
and with bones and sinews you hedged me
life and loving-kindness- you made for me
and your visit - you watch my spirit
and these things you treasured in your heart
I know this is with you
Cease your fixation from me and let me smile a little
before I go and not return
to the land of darkness and obscurity
Will many words not be answered
as if man with lips will be justified?
nevertheless let it be given that God will speak
and open his lips against you
and tell you secret wisdom
High as heaven, what will you do?
Deep as Sheol, what do you know?
If he passes or shuts
or gathers, who can turn him?
and a hollow man will be heartened
when a wild ass's foal is born a human

If for you, you establish your heart
and stretch out to him your open palms
for then you will lift up your face without blemish
and you will be poured firm and will not fear
For you, you will forget misery
and at noon transience will rise and fly away
as morning you will become

but the eyes of the wicked will be consumed
and flight perishes from them
their hope is to lose their lives
"Nevertheless for me, to the Sufficient I would speak"
but I desire to reason with the One
And nevertheless for you, smearers of lies
worthless physicians the lot of you
If only you were given silence and you kept silent
it would be wisdom to you
Reason? he will reason with you
if you secretly prefer your own faces
Should not his height terrify you
and his dread fall on you

Your memorials are a parable of dust
bodies of clay your bodies
Be silent - back off
and I myself will speak
and he will pass over me
on whatever
I will lift up my flesh by my teeth
and my life place in my open palm

Lo - he will kill me
I do not wait

But two things do not do against me
then from your faces I will not conceal myself
Your open palm put far from me
and your horror - let it not terrify me
then call and I myself will answer
or I will speak and you will turn to me

For what are my iniquities and my sins
my transgressions and my sins make me to know
and why do you conceal your faces
and count me as your enemy?
a scattered leaf will worry you?
and dry stubble will you hound?

for you write against me bitter things
and you cast in me the iniquities of my youth
You put my feet in the stocks
and watch all my paths
you pierce the roots of my feet
and this as rot decays
as a moth-eaten cloak

Human born of woman
is few of days and sated of trouble
As flower it comes forth and is cut off
and it flees as shadow and does not stand
Indeed on such you open your eyes
and me you bring to judgment with you

For there is for a tree hope if it is cut down
that again it will sprout
but a warrior dies vanquished
a human expires and where is he?

If only you would treasure me in Sheol
and conceal me till your wrath is turned
Fix me a decree and remember me
If a warrior will die will he live?
All the days of my pressed service I will wait
till my change comes

You will call and I, I will answer you
you will desire the work of your hands
for then you will number my steps
and not watch over my sin
My transgression sealed in a bundle
and you will smear over my iniquity
But water wears stones
you overflow the abundance of the dust of the earth
and the hope of a mortal you destroy
you prevail in perpetuity and he goes
Eliphaz (2nd reply)
Should one who is wise answer windy knowledge
and fill his belly with the east wind?
For your mouth teaches iniquity
and you chose the tongue of the subtle
your own mouth condemns you and not I
and your own lips answer you
Why does your heart take you away
and why do your eyes scowl
that you turn against the One your wind
and let forth from your mouth such speeches?
Let not the wanderer have faith in emptiness
for emptiness will be the recompense
not in his day will it be filled
and his branch will not be green
he will expel like the vine his sour grape
and he will cast off as the olive his blossom
I have heard many such things
miserable comforters - all of you
If I speak my pain is not spared
it grinds its teeth at me
my trouble sharpens its eyes on me
They gape on me with their mouths
with reproach they strike my cheek
as one against me they are filled
the One has shut me up with injustice
and to the hand of the wicked he has surrendered me

Earth cover not my blood
and let there be no end of place for my outcry
to God my eye tears
that a warrior might reason with God
and a child of a human with his friend
for numbered years are come upon me
and the path of no return I will go

He has exhibited me as a parable of the peoples
and spittle in the face I am become
weak from grief is my eye
and my features as a shadow - all of them
To the pit I called - my father are you
my mother and my sister - to the worm
and where now is my hope?
and my hope - who will look on it?
in the solitude of Sheol they will descend
in unity
in the dust
For what purpose are we counted as the beast
Impure in your eyes?
He tears his being in his anger
On account of you should earth be abandoned
And the rock be removed from its place?

Even the light of the wicked will be extinguished
and the spark of his fire will not shine
light is darkness in his tent
and his candle with him will be extinguished
the steps of his vigor will be shortened
and his own counsel will cast him down
Such are the dwellings of injustice
And this is the place without knowledge of the One
How long will you grieve me and crush me with speeches?
Lo! I cry out - violence! and I am not answered
I shout and there is no judgment
My path he has shut off and I pass not
and in my tracks he puts darkness
To my skin and to my flesh my bones cling
and I am stuck in the skin of my teeth
Be gracious, be gracious, you my friends
for the hand of God has touched me

If only it was now my sayings were written
if only it was in a book they were inscribed
With a pen of iron and lead
for ever in the rock engraved
And I - I know my vindicating of life
and at the last on dust it will rise
and after this my skin stricken
and from my flesh I will discern God
whom I - I will discern for myself
and my eyes will see and not a stranger
fired my own fires within me

For you should say - why do we hound him?
For the root of the thing is determined in me
Take care, for you are in the presence of the sword
Well - I think that's enough for one day - chapters 20-41 will have to wait.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pictures of an old friend, Chris Holm

Kris Holm was the first young person I heard to play Bach on the violin with authority. (It was a transcription from the suite for solo cello in Suzuki book III.) He inspired my middle son, Simon, to take up violin. Check out Kris's pictures - he is an extreme unicyclist. The Holm's lived behind the house of my parents-in-law here in Victoria. We knew them well in the 80s. My last in person memory of Kris was his borrowing my youngest son's violin, a fiddle made by John Bradford in the Eastern Townships c 1880 and playing the opening of the Mendelssohn violin concerto at our front door.

Reductionist memes

Doug at the Ker's instigation but up a meme to summarize the message of the canon in 5 phrases from one word to 5 words in length - starting at one word and continuing to 5 words.

This is an intriguing question. When one awakes, and the spirit is meditating in the early morning, there is a theme that may run from the accumulated love and lore of the land that may find expression in a thought. Perhaps the thought could be poetically morphed into a 1 x 5 triangle. The word I have chosen to begin is


as in the French désolé? perhaps - but I chose it from Psalm 46 - what desolations he has wrought in the earth. אֲשֶׁר־שָׂם שַׁמֹּות בָּאַרֶץ This word is also rendered astonishment and will be found in a related form in Isaiah 52:14. כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁמְמוּ עָלֶיךָ - so it encompasses both creation and redemption.

The two word follow on is in Song 2:15

Let-us-catch foxes

- some words don't count - as shown in the Hebrew  אֶחֱזוּ־לָנוּ שׁוּעָלִים  This word was my tag line for ages. What foxes are there in your life?

For three words I was going to choose Romans 16:16 but it will be misunderstood by all - so forget it. What is must fall before it can rise. So I choose Job 42:5 morphing from desolation to hearing. לְשֵׁמַע אֹזֶן שְׁמַעְתִּיךָ

of-the-hearing of-an-ear I-had-heard-of-you

Surely hearing is good - and its consequences.

Four words are in Psalm 67 - of the harvest: The earth shall bring forth her increase - but this is only three words so I will chose the last verse where three, four and five words can be had depending on where you put your hyphens: וְיִירְאוּ אֹתֹו כָּל־אַפְסֵי־אַרֶץ

and they-will-fear him - all-the-extremities-of earth

taking earth as including all her inhabitants in all spheres of sentience of all forms in their joy and astonishment at the mercy of God who brings such fruit from the dust of the created order. Earth cannot be a narrow strip of land in the context of this psalm.

And for the five words? - Deuteronomy 6:4 - if you add 6 to 4 and divide by two you get 5. And one word is repeated so it counts only once.

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד

There is no contradiction in the unity of the unnameable. This also has the advantage of ending with one.

In summary

אֶחֱזוּ־לָנוּ שׁוּעָלִים
לְשֵׁמַע אֹזֶן שְׁמַעְתִּיךָ
וְיִירְאוּ אֹתֹו כָּל־אַפְסֵי־אַרֶץ
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One
and-they-will-fear him - all-the-extremities-of earth
of-the-hearing of-an-ear I-had-heard-of-you
Let-us-catch foxes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving day special

Og the Terrible found his way into my house today courtesy of Karyn at Boulders2bits.

This looks delightful and will be a great aid in teaching.

My hat's off to Karyn and her contest - how lucky I am to have won!

More information on this and related products can be found here.

Thanks Karyn - on this thanksgiving day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reading with feeling

I have been listening to a bit of Ruth read on I have heard how venerable these readings are, but I hear them as formal, accurate - but loud and with rough angular edges. I would not expect a story teller to read so. There is no modulation or feeling in the voice for my ear. I am very appreciative of the accuracy but lament that the story sounds wooden. Of course - modulation would imply motive and perhaps motive is not to be revealed.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Negotiating extremes

Part of the stimulus for this post is from the creative writer, David Ker, and his short quizzical article on Zen and Christian habit. He entitles this Christian Zen - and right away I see red flags. Christian as adjective is working against itself. Zen is Zen whatever it is and its Christian-or-not-nature is not relevant. Here I think David has not escaped some commonplace, less-than-creative words and habits. I used habit above because the clothes we wear are critical to the wholeness we share - even, perhaps especially, when we are not in verbal agreement.

Extremes are front and center in the story of Cain. How will I read this on the fly without checking a dozen commentaries?

הֲלֹוא אִם־תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת
"If you do well"? No - the first word indicates a negative - And if you do not - seem to do well with respect to a lifting up - what is that "lifting up" - an offering? Anyway, regardless of how I translate it, it is clear in the story that there is an extreme here and it shows as Cain's anger. Is his anger because he has been rejected? Or is a comparative anger at someone else's acceptance? Whatever the cause, the anger is real and requires a resolution. Does the resolution lie in Cain's own power? The traditional translation might think so - but he fails, so his power was insufficient. A better "lifting up" is required.

Can a human technique really deal with anger? Not in my experience. Technique is important and useful but ultimately insufficient. We should have good poetry in our liturgy, beautiful buildings, and a well rehearsed and gifted choir - because beauty is good. But by themselves, these are not the power that does the job of dealing with our anger. I should deal with my anger - but just suppressing it doesn't work.

You will notice that I am not talking about appeasement of an angry God. I am considering only human anger. God's jealousy is for us so that we might know his own healing of our anger and defensiveness, such healing as devours the whole earth (to paraphrase Zephaniah 3:8). But that is a religious turn of phrase and even the religious turn of phrase is not sufficient. It too can amount to nothing more than technique. Technique can provide a little discipline and can also be holy but it does not do the job of dealing with our anger. Even knowing the right answer in terms of words (faith, Spirit, etc) is not sufficient.

Now to easier extremes and divisions in the commonplaces of David's post: secular vs sacred, individual vs corporate. Well only partly easier. When the veil of the temple is torn from the top to the bottom, the world can no longer be divided between the secular and the sacred. God is in all things no matter how mundane.
I take the wings of the morning
I live in the farthest part of the sea
also there your hand leads me
and holds me
your right hand

and I say surely darkness will crush me
and the night be light about me
even darkness is not darkness with you
and night like day shines
as darkness as light
Without the veil, there is nothing separating us from Glory whatever our profession or placement.

One can find the same lesson in Job of course: (chapter 7)
What is a mortal that you make him great
and that you fix on him your heart
and that you visit him every morning
and every moment scrutinize him?
How long till you not stare at me
or let me be till I swallow my spit?

Job is unhappily in the Presence. Should our experience be an improvement over Cain and Job?

Corporate vs individual, the personal and private. Hey - there is no private in God. All things are open...(Hebrews 4:13) Every secret thing will be shouted from the housetops (Matthew 10:26-27 and Lukan parallel). Yet there is the private - "go into your closet and shut the door". The Father sees in secret and will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6 no parallel).

And he says in Matthew, what I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. How, my Love? You have told me that I am not separated from you anywhere or at any time - why then should I gather? And what is the corporate where I should gather which so divides itself from itself and from the world you have loved?

How has he told me this in secret? The Zen master will appreciate the extremes in these verses. The Biblical Student whether pro or amateur will find excuses to talk about the talk rather than do it and will complain about the ultimate in subjectivity. There is no understanding without doing. It will be evident whether the bodily offering is accepted. It will be known as a repayment of a debt is known. It will be known in the body both individual and corporate in the manifestation of gifts that benefit both individual and all severally and together. Nothing will be lacking and cups will overflow. But some anger will continue.

I find no resolution of the individual and corporate extremes that I can put into words - except to appeal to the vine imagery. There is a wholeness in the vine and its branches even though the vine itself be destroyed and her fences broken down (Psalm 80). My suspicion is that if anyone will be still, there is room for the voice that heals.
Be still and know that I am God
I will be lifted up in the nations
I will be lifted up in the earth
יְהוָה of hosts is with us
our high tower the God of Jacob
Update: Bishop Alan's musings on corporate unity are revealing in the terms of clothing (habit) and doing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Writing about writing about writing - bones without meat

Scholars who write well and footnote well still can write lots that is not very informative. Geoffrey Khan can say that the early eastern traditions of Hebrew grammar are important: "The discovery of the Karaite grammatical texts now makes it clear that Hebrew grammatical thought was far more widespread and developed in the east than scholars had previously thought." While this may be true, it is quite uninformative. It is talk about talk. To be informative there must be examples given that drill down to the data - what is the data? It is examples of language and rule, not lists of people who wrote about language and rule.

True, this essay by Geoffrey Khan in Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World is over my head, but there were some intriguing passages that read like today's solutions to the same problem - searching for the meaning of words in their usage.

On many occasions in  Ibn Nuh's DiqDuq, a variety of different opinions are cited [O for an example] The proponents are always left anonymous [no footnotes!] Very frequently he presents divergent opinions without asserting any preference of his own. The issue as to why a word has one form rather than another is sometimes referred to by the term mas'ala ('question', pl masa'il) ... His method was to attempt to reach the truth by exploring many possible paths.
To reach the truth - and many paths - it sounds like those who read many translations to see what might be happening. O for just one example of what he is referring to.

And this also intriguing thought: - Saadya apparently divided "the letters of the Hebrew alphabet into eleven base letters which occur only as root letters, and eleven servile letters, i.e letters that, in the formation of words, are attached to the fundamental root letters." How can you make a statement like this and leave out the obvious - which letters did he put in which list? Clearly vav the connector is in the second list. Aleph and Yod perhaps also - but the thesis is only a throw-away line and there is no reference given. There are a number of other throw-away lines that sound promising - but these are bones without meat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The content of the characters in Job

What do these characters say about Job, about each other, about God, and about their various sources of authority for their views? Answering these questions helped me form an opinion about each character. I cannot agree with the three comforters and their assessment of Job. Nor do I think their sources of authority are adequate in themselves. You will of course recognize that tradition and Scripture are among their sources. Their problem is that they cite them as authoritative in themselves. They speak at a distance from their authority and from their God, always in the third person, almost 'hearsay'. Their truth stands on its own and as a result is without foundation in their citing of it.

Job in contrast observes and complains. To God he speaks - often switching mid-speech to direct confrontational lament (See chapters 7, 9, 10, 13). Of God he speaks, reflecting, as the frame story notes, those words that were prepared for him and therefore right for him to say, and intimating as I have noted before those characteristics of God that are required for us to live (e.g. start at chapter 23 and work backwards). In contrast, Bildad concludes chapter 25 and the last noted words of the comforters with humans as maggots and worms, a far cry from the words that are prepared that we know for instance from Psalm 8.

How can we then 'rightly' speak of God? We cannot remain at a distance from our sources of authority. What a terrifying risk - what if our authorities are not trustworthy? Imagine you are made to acknowledge a structure of tradition or Scripture that you do not trust in? You might find yourself on the outside. So you conform but for your own integrity's sake you must be at a distance. Does Job succeed in getting around this problem? And if so how?

We get a clue - a very important one - from the last human character to speak, Elihu. Elihu has some very bad press as I reported earlier.

The narrator takes a long time to introduce Elihu in contrast to the brevity we have become accustomed to. But Elihu takes a whole chapter (so far) - filled with meta-talk, before he gets to any point. You are allowed to laugh. It is a comedy after all. (But who gives himself as answer?)
Edwin Good (In Turns of Tempest, A Reading of Job) has nothing good to say about Elihu and though Crenshaw (Defending God) does say there is some insight from Elihu, he reports that the opinions of Elihu among the scholars are not generally positive. Here is Good as reported against chapter 37
Elihu's theology is depressingly conventional, adding nothing except detail to what the friends have given us in quite sufficient detail. His style is more than depressingly opaque, uttering sentence after sentence in which the words make sense one by one but defy comprehension in combination. It is wordy, convoluted, often scarcely intelligible. The speeches contain some nuggets of semiprecious metal, but embedded in such thick clods of ordinary dirt as to weary the miner beyond reason. Dealing with good poetry is hard and exhilarating, Dealing with Elihu is just hard.
This will not do as a final opinion. The pinions of God fall more fully around Elihu in ways that are unique in the poem. He speaks of his maker as One who 'soon will lift me up' and he says,
the spirit of God has made me
and the breath of the Sufficient has given me life
He intimates that he is among those in the assembly
if you have power to turn me
order before my face - present yourself
He alone finds the ransom for the lost
ransom him from his descent to the pit
I have found a price
And he defines himself as of the work of God - similar to the wisdom of chapter 28
and to the one whose work I am I will give justice
There are too many clues here to ignore. The poet has done something unique creating this character. No one responds to him in the poem and he it is who brings on the speeches of YHWH. Even if this character is an addition to the poem, it is a brilliant one, not without reward.

Crenshaw attributes cruelty to Elihu for the words at the end of chapter 34. But what is he making of that verse? Is Job to suffer for ever? Or is Job as parable-man to suffer on behalf of all till all turn from their distance, solitude, and third party knowledge of God? So Elihu can criticize Job's speeches as without knowledge and still himself survive the commendation of Job's words about God in the frame story.

Of the human characters, Elihu and Job both survive through closeness to their sources. (The comforters survive through Job's intercession.) Can we also survive? To be close to our canon of scripture requires diligent slow reading. To be close to our tradition requires care and feeding of liturgy without compromise. To be close to our God requires mystery and obedience. What great difficulty - hearing the invisible, critiquing sloppy performance and poor poetry, and escaping somehow from the distorted lenses of history, ecclesiastical policy, and confessional abbreviations of theology.

Online resources

John has highlighted some online resources here that are quite timely for me. I was just beginning to do phrase recognition and morphology with my older student last night. It is very difficult to begin without memorizing paradigms in advance. But I think it is important to have examples that are recognized in context before imposing a pattern - i.e. the pattern should emerge. It is helpful to have the division into word and affixes as is done in the presentation of morphology e.g. for Ruth here. This presentation gives a different context than just 'explaining' the placement of prepositions. Also John points out the online dictionary accessible with a Google search for Kautzsch-Cowley + the verse you are interested in. I tried this and it works sometimes. Eventually I will find my way around better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Job presented

As I do on the Sunday school blog, I report my experience presenting Job. The class is 'engaged' as one senior attendee noted and wants more - good! One who had previously written off the book said he was interested now and willing to pursue the reading. Another said 'I am beginning to really like the Old Testament'. How's that for a positive result!

So in my backward reading of Defending God (I started at the end), I discover that Crenshaw summarizes the characters of the three comforters. I will look forward to his analysis as the page numbers decrease. I began to prepare next week's lesson. Chapter 3 looks so short compared with chapters 1 and 2, but the whole book is a response to chapter 3, even Job's elaborations and self-defence which I think he rightly refuses as ultimate in the end.

I think that the story is a parable, a mashal, is very helpful to people's desire to enter into it.

Tonight I go to read some more Ruth with my 13-year-old student. Our exercise today is to begin to recognize phrases and sentences in the Hebrew. He missed Sunday school so I will get him to do the alef-bet exercise which I predict he will find too easy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A method for approaching Job

The first step in my approach is to be tried tonight and is roughly sketched here. If we continue with further sessions, I think this is how I might approach the whole epic.

  1. Read the frame story.
  2. Read and compare chapter 3 and chapters 38-41.
  3. Develop a portrayal of each of the human characters in the poem: Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu
  4. What meaning emerges: what relationships to the rest of the Bible (Deuteronomy 28 - direct, the NT rare).
  5. What additional threads would one develop (e.g. like the thread on reproof/reason/referee).
  6. Does Job intimate a necessary character of God?
  7. How do we read Job's prayers/confession and distinguish them from the words of the religious?
  8. Is chapter 28 reflecting the Narrator's view?
  9. Elihu as a lead up to the speeches of YHWH.
42 chapters - minimum 10 weeks of study. Of course we could perform the whole thing with 7 or 8 speakers and really get into a shouting match as the third cycle degenerates. It would take about 2.5 hours - a stretch for an evening Bible study.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The last chapter of Job

I was unable to sleep last night so I got up and read the end of James Crenshaw Defending God where he deals with Job 42:6 and gives 5 choices:

  1. Therefore I despise myself and repent upon dust and ashes
  2. Therefore I retract my words and repent of dust and ashes
  3. Therefore I reject and forswear dust and ashes
  4. Therefore I retract my words and have changed my mind concerning dust and ashes
  5. Therefore I retract my words and I am comforted concerning dust and ashes.
My stark translation is
therefore I refuse and I am comforted in dust and ashes

Refuse what? How about refuse the role of being his own referee? At least that is what I take as one 'meaning' where we have a verb with a missing direct object. In a sense that is refusing 'his words' - but not really for he has spoken what was prepared for him to speak (this is expressed negatively in verse 8).

for you have not spoken of me what is prepared as has my servant Job

I am pleased to see that my passive turn of phrase is acceptable at least by some. If not the passive "I am comforted" then the active "I sigh" in dust and ashes, groaning inwardly, as it were, for the ultimate consummation of the love of God which Job so accurately intimates in several of his speeches. In this Job uses God's word for repentance in full human terms. Here he anticipates the Incarnation. Wei Heisen in a rare post reflects on the words at Jesus' baptism. This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:13 and parallels) Here is an act for which Hashem has no cause for sighing or repentance. Henceforth the word for repentance 'nacham' will be translated into the Greek as Comforter who will do the work of the Spirit where God's jealous love devouring all the earth (to paraphrase Zephaniah 3:8) will have been and will be accomplished and where this temple builder (whom the second temple builder, Nehemiah, anticipates) will have built and builds us now as living stones into a holy temple.

Joel Hoffman of God Didn't Say That has a lovely phrase about translation in his recent post here.
At any rate, my suggestion is to pick a phrase that’s likely to be accurate, capitalize it, and hope for the best.
I don't need capitals here but I can capitalize on what I have already done with the words. The Micawber approach to translation wins again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Presenting Job

How to present Job in one hour and leave room for reflection!

Here's what may become a handout.[update I added the text of Job 1 and 2 - must start at the beginning]

The overall structure of Job.

Job is clearly divisible in two: the frame story and the framed poem.

The framed poem is divisible in three: a series of conversations, a poem on wisdom, and three monologues.

The series of conversations is divisible in three cycles after Job’s opening speech. The first two cycles are complete with each speaker carefully introduced by the narrator. The third cycle degenerates such that one cannot tell who is speaking.

The wisdom poem is not ‘attributed’ to Job and feels like the Narrator’s comment.

The three monologues are introduced: 1 by Job – three chapters, 2 Elihu – six chapters, and 3 Yhwh – four+ chapters with one or two sentences by Job.

The characters in Job

Leaving aside the animals - all of whom are potential characters in Job, and leaving aside the obvious 16 noted humans and all the other lads who tended the farm - it's a large cast! and leaving aside the 5 or 6 designations of the Most High - El, Eloah, Elohim, יְהוָה, El Shaddai, and possibly one instance of the Holy One; leaving aside the cosmos and the children of God who are present and who shout for joy, (and the enemies whom I forgot: Sabeans, fire, Chaldeans, and a great wind) what other characters are implied in the story?

There are several remaining characters or possibly only roles: God's witnesses, Job's trouble itself as witness against him, Job's witness in heaven, (in parallel with Job's testimony).

10:17 you renew your witnesses before me and increase your indignation against me; changes and a host are upon me

16:8 You have seized me - it becomes witness; rising in me is my lie - answering in my face

16:19 even now behold in heaven is my witness and my testimony is in the heights

My conclusion on this witness in heaven is that it is Job's 'case' - not a separate character. Similarly God's witness is Job's trouble - by Job's own admission.
Then there is the redeemer. Redeem occurs only twice in the poem.

3:5 let darkness and obscurity redeem it; let a cloud dwell on it; let blackness of day terrify it

19:25 And I - I knew [qal perfect] my redeemer is living and at the last on dust he will rise

There is dispute over what this means to say the least. It is not a proof text in the NT. That would make it seem for me that it is a recognition that God lives and that God must ultimately play this role and that Job knew this before his trouble from the Deuternomic covenant.

Also there are the mysterious intercessors in Job's final monologue. I do not see this unknown word as implying an obvious or specialized indictable offense. Some things are only overcome through prayer - as Jesus notes (pace the perseveration of some of the hopeless state of others).

31:11 or this plan – [the thought is interrupted] and this is iniquity for intercessors

31:28 indeed this is iniquity for an intercessor, for I would deny the One above
(You will recall that Jesus says some spirits can only be cast out by prayer)
Note that ultimately Job mediates (intercedes) for the three friends. He plays the role that he alludes to in these two verses – and that at God’s command.

The referee

But it is in the theme of reasoning (the word groups around a word meaning  - to prove, decide, judge, rebuke, reprove, correct, be right and so on) that runs through the poem and is seen in the following verses - that there arises the special role or character of referee. The friends fail, Elihu is indeterminate, God invites Job to be his own referee and he accepts with his hand over his mouth, and Ticciati puts God in this role also. I have sometimes used two words in English to connect the reproof-reason axis since all of the words are translating words from the same root. Here we see the word in many forms noun, verb, singular, plural, with or without prepositions and other connectors. (Italics show the subject of the verb if I could see it).

The following list includes all the verses in which this word in various grammatical forms appears. Notice how the conversation involving the 'reproof' word is only on the lips of Job and Eliphaz in the dialogues, but is picked up by Elihu and Yhwh in the monologues.

Behold happy is the mortal whom God reproves
the mentoring of the Sufficient do not refuse
how grievous are words of uprightness
so what does your reproof  prove?

And to reprove speeches - do you count
as wind the words of one who is desperate?
there is not between us a referee
that might fix his hand on the two of us
"nevertheless for me, to the Sufficient I would speak"
but I desire to reason with the One

[you] Hear please my reasons
and to the contentions of my lips attend

Reason? he will reason reproof with you
if you concealed lift up faces

Lo - he will kill me
I do not wait
Surely my ways before his faces I will reasoning prove
To 'reason' with a word without profit
and from speeches where he will not benefit
that a warrior might reason with God
and a child of a human with his friend
If truly against me you gloat
and reason my reproach reproof against me
will he from your fear reprove you
will he come with you to judgment?
I would order before his face my judgment
and fill my mouth with reasons

there the upright could reason with him
and I would be delivered in perpetuity from my judge
you I understood
and behold there is for Job no referee -
one answering to his words among you

and he is reproved in being marred on his couch
and the contention of his bones is perennial
will he who contends with the Sufficient be the mentor?
God's referee - let him answer


What are your initial reactions to the Book of Job?
How do the characters fit into your response to Job's situation?
Which character do you identify with?
How would Jesus identify with or relate to the different characters? Job? the referee? Leviathan? One of the three friends? The mediator? Elihu?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The word is noised abroad

Tim has a site for Hebrew vocabulary here. HT Karyn. Sorry I won't be at SBL.

Ruth - a 16th century view by Lavater

The 16th century set of 28 sermons is only available to me at the library in an imaged form - we couldn't find the microform. The writing is delightful. Apparently it was translated by an 11 year old from the Latin.

Book of Ruth expounded in twenty eight sermons, by Levves Lauaterus of Tygurine, and by hym published in Latine, and now translated into Englishe by Ephraim Pagitt, a childe of eleuen yeares of age [microform]

Here are some touches (copied from pencil notes so missing all those s's writ as f's and much of the strange spellings)  - from sermon 1

This whole history seemeth especially to consist of two partes: the first in the rehearsal of the miseries of Naomi and Ruth, the next in the change the the estate of these women namely how God made them rich again whom he had thrown down into great poverty.
In sermon 2 he asks which Judge this story happened under:
Some do report this historie to be under Ehud. Some are of the opinion that it was done in the time of Deborah and Barack. Some in the time of Iehpte.
He states the Moabites were sore oppressed during this time but then
It nothing availeth to our salvation to know the particular time wherein these were done otherwise the Holy Ghost would not have let it pass.
He asks whether Elimelech was guilty of abandoning his responsibilities. 'Pestilence, famine, warre and cruel beasts [were] for the punishment of men' (or he adds 'for the proving of the Godly') but he says we do not know
where the Scriptures do not accuse men let us not accuse them
from sermon 13: 'Boaz [was] delighted with the modesty of this woman' and he notes that Boaz' generosity was for Naomi - and he knew the sheaves would get to her.

This will be worth a day at UVIC - expensive to print up there - I wonder why Google books or the like has not yet got to this early English book.

The prophets - posted at the Sunday School site

Thanks to those who commented on what I should do with the prophets. You will find here a record of what happened. It is too early to say if this is a successful approach - but it was fun and the scrolls tasted good.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review of Ticciati

Well at least there is a review. I think I will have to say it is a bit short.

The fall or not

I wrote about this over 40 years ago when studying time and space in Milton's Paradise Lost.

There is no fall. That first disobedience opened their eyes. Till then they were like puppies, blind. The Scripture does not use the word 'fall' anyway. I note too that the creation in Job is red in tooth and claw just like the real thing.

That disobedience was a necessary part of creation. Perhaps it fills in the missing 'likeness' to God. (Genesis 5:1)

Matthew blog posting again

I am not sure why I am doing this since I am lousy at filing. But I have divided my blogs up - there are four active ones: St Barnabas Sunday School - a few focused posts a month, Bob's Log, the original one - dedicated to the psalms, this one which is a hodgepodge but does include some focus - Job and Ruth (coming) and the Song, and Matthew - where I hope to find a way to reread the NT starting with Matthew. I did a post there on Isaiah 35 (really on concordance in translation) and I hope to do one on 'mind' to see if I can get to the Hebrew 'mind' approaching the Greek 'mind'. (Repent - change your mind?)

New Books

I am alone this weekend so for the first time since August I have retrieved 8 new books from the library. Here they are.

Ruth - Kirsten Nielsen, translated from the Danish. There are few commentaries on Ruth at the library so I got most of them. This one has a serious weakness in chapter 1. I hope it improves.
The Five Scrolls commentary by Wesley Fuerst, Cambridge University Press 1975
Ruth - Vol 7 in The Anchor Bible by Edward Campbell, also 1975
Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World, Ed. de Lange, as recommended by my son-in-law Marcus Tomalin
History of Linguistics, Giulio Lepschy - I bet John Hobbins has this one because most of his work is in Italian. This is another of Marcus's recommendations.

I watched a few of the philosophy lectures that John Anderson recommended. Crenshaw's response to Hare impressed me (Hare didn't) so I braved the amazing population of rabbits at UVIC and got two of James Crenshaw's books out - Defending God (who needs to?) and his ABC commentary on Joel. Too bad I can't read it before morning when I have to teach on the prophets for an hour. (I think I liked what I heard of Curley but Louise Antony was not up my street.)

I also found a commentary on Judges by Marc Zvi Brettler - I liked his grammar book (Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew, 2002). And he responds to Lemche, Thompson and others - so it looked like a good educative read. We'll see.

I have prepared a bunch of scrolls (I hope to find a recipe for edible scrolls) and also a selection of verses from the prophets - but which I will discuss I do not yet know!  I think I will begin with Ticciati's suggestion of the prophet as mediator between God and Israel in that period. I will also look at Moses and Jesus as prophets. If the mediator role is the definition of prophet whether for warning (Ezekiel), rebuke (Nathan), sarcasm (Micaiah), hope (Isaiah), promise (Jeremiah), intercession (Moses), etc etc - no footnotes, then it is clear why no further prophets are required from the point of view of those who are in Christ - for he is the mediator risen from the dead who ever lives for us if speaking to us or on our behalf.

Friday, November 6, 2009

To be immaculate or not

It's hard to miss the intense discussion that Clayboy has initiated on De-Christian beliefs. I looked where John Hobbins pointed in a comment, and I note also that I have stayed away from the subject of Mary in the same way I have stayed away from Evolution / Creation. But here goes anyway. The referenced "Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together" has this sentence

The typological reading of Mary, and of Christ, in the Old Testament is at the heart of the Christian understanding of the relation of continuity and fulfillment between the Old Covenant and the New.
 It is quite a mouthful. I have an immediate gut reaction that a typological reading cannot be a foundation for anything. I think a typological reading is a response to a foundation, not the foundation itself. But the typological image is worth considering. Paul says somewhere that he labours that Christ should be born in us. What would that mean? That we are Mary? or that Mary is the reality that we are to be in ourselves as anointed? If so, then it is vital that her state be immaculate - not because she is any different as a human in herself but because we in Christ or with Christ in us, also are declared immaculate. Such a cleansing is not to be scoffed at but to be desired.

Earlier in the same document:
Mary is the long-awaited daughter of Israel, in fulfillment of biblical prophecy. She stands strikingly between the Old Covenant and the New, her child being recognized by Simeon in the Temple as the long awaited “consolation of Israel.”
I find this a bit confusing - am I to search the Old Testament for the prophecy of Mary? No. Daughter of Zion is a synonym for Israel. Does anyone need to stand between the Old and the New? The same Spirit teaches from both and in both.

Consolation is also to be desired, and it is found through the same Spirit whether by Simeon in the Temple or by us in the temple of our bodies. This is literally the making of sense and the creation of the world. As Paul writes: if anyone is in Christ - there is, this is, she is, he is a new creation. That is immaculate. Reserved, incorruptible, as Peter says in his first letter. It is not confined to Mary, archetype though she be. It is shared by the psalmist (Psalm 32) and by all those called in all nations to praise (Psalm 117).

If this is what is implied by the doctrine of the immaculate conception - then I am all for it. But it has a wholeness that must be shared. Its application to Mary is unique, but not exclusive - nor is it between but all-encompassing. Must I conclude that each of us is to be a mother of God, a bearer of Christ?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Carping on the Creativity of Morton Smith

I have just laughed my way through the latest issue or BAR on the Secret Gospel of Mark. Mark Goodacre has an original video which is a suitable watching experience in spite of the dumb label.

Now - for the serious matter at hand. I am not writing in my story teller's voice, that first century character Secundus, who has written so much about the mystery of the ages (stories here), but I will try in my own voice to say what this Secret Gospel obscures or reveals or runs the risk of obscuring.(Anything in double-quotes below may be the story teller emerging.)

If the subject is serious why was I laughing? The distortion of the good, the sin of the world is not a laughing matter. But one might almost say that love is impossible. I can hear the chorus of 'how can you trust a magazine like BAR?' Well I am as skeptical as anyone about truth claims.But I enjoy the occasional BAR article. Its 200th issue was worth it just for the personal essays by Herschel Shanks.

So his concluding article in this issue of BAR is that this find by Morton Smith is not a hoax. I am laughing because the scholars and lawyers are so intent on proving something and the magazine editor gets the last word. If it is a hoax, it is brilliant and the deception is the work of an acting genius who would take such a play to his death.

If my perception of the facts on the ground is distorted, how can I come to a sound conclusion? (You may vary the pronouns in the prior sentence to suit your own situation.)

It doesn't matter to me whether it is a hoax or not. There is enough evidence for this true tradition in the canon whether your canon ends with Chronicles or with the Apocalypse. (The rest is unnecessary but may not be misleading.) If I read that God is love do I believe it? Or do I hedge it about with moral advice? "Yes, love - of course, obvious, but God is light too - and you aren't. So watch out!"

Why would I believe words when I can, like the Samaritan woman, find out for myself. "If you try and tell people what you think you know from you-know-whom, not only will they not believe you but they will tear you limb from limb and you-know-who will cut you off." "Nonsense! - There is another whose body was broken for me. You-know-who can't cut me off - we have a deal sealed with blood, his blood. I wouldn't have a clue if it weren't for this. If I had not managed to enter into this deal, I would be totally self-serving. Maybe I would have been smart enough to be a clever swindler and get rich quick or something."

If I am to prove God's good will, it is a consequence of having met my beloved at a well. It is not something anyone else can do for me. Running away naked in the garden is not an option. All things are open and naked before the one with whom I have to deal. Having died with Jesus, if God then raises me from the dust and makes me young again - is that not just what is recorded in Psalm 103? And what about in 1 Samuel 2 - Hannah's song? If God then gives me a linen garment for a covering, this does not relieve me of responsibility but it changes the way I read and look at everything - even the Scripture itself, (even tradition, even reason!).

Just about everywhere I look in Scripture, if I slow down long enough to listen, and I demolish, by the Anointing of that same Jesus, those patterns of thought in me that seek power, then it stops being a 'Bible' to be thumped or desperately studied and becomes the word of one who loves, and who then becomes one with the one who is loved. This is a growth pattern day by  day as I learn to pay attention to all the stimuli around me. There is no lack of confidence in the gift or the giver. It is hearing and doing that lead to understanding.

The Gospel (secret or otherwise) reveals that no area of life must be thought of as out of bounds for God. Such thought is just another human ordinance. But I may obscure the cost or fail to approach and enter - let it not be so. Salted sacrifice that I am, you-know-who will deliver me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A dialogue with the Song

The Song has arisen again in my thoughts - how I move around the Scripture is a mystery even to me. It just happens. So I came across a bit of dialogue I wrote some time ago - so long ago it is on my old personal web page, as cob-webbed a place as many.

A dialogue with the Song of Solomon

Those sitting in gardens; 
companions paying attention, 
to your voice make me hear
You are famous, beloved, highly-rated
I will sing of your works
Do they need an adjective?
No - works is sufficient
These are the works you were given to do
I sleep, my heart aroused 
the voice of my beloved knocking, 
    open to me, my sister, my companion, 
    my dove, my undefiled: 
    for my head is filled with dew, 
    my locks with the drops of the night. 
I have put off my coat; how then shall I put it on? 
I have washed my feet; how then shall I soil them? 
My beloved put in his hand by the hole, and my belly moved for him. 
rose up I did to open to my love; my hands dropped myrrh, 
and my fingers myrrh sweet smelling upon the handles of the lock. 
opened I to my beloved and my beloved turned away, passed on; 
my life went out to speak to him; 
I sought him and did not find him 
I called him and nothing did he answer;
found me the keepers going about the city; 
they struck me; they wounded me 
they took away My veil from me; 
keepers of the walls 
I charge You daughters of Jerusalem 
if you will find this my beloved, 
you will announce to him 
Sick of love am I
You were to awaken me - with a knock
You reveal your passion
I opened to you
You declared me undefiled - this was your work
I delayed; but you stirred me; and I rose up
You were invisible; had you turned away?
Was I to follow?
What was my life without you?
I sought you
The keepers of the city were jealous
Their power threatened, they struck me
They abused me
Can I share this accusation?
If my sisters are awake
Let them tell you of my heartsick desire
How could you not know?
On my bed in the nights 
I sought the one who is love of my life; 
I sought him and did not find him 
I will rise now and turn about the city, 
in the streets and in the plazas, 
I will seek that love of my life. 
I sought him but I did not find him 
they found me, the watchmen going around the city, 
the love of my life, did you see him? 
Scarcely had I passed and I found the love of my life; 
I held him and would not let him go 
until I had brought him to the house of my mother 
and to the chamber of her conceiving me 
I have charged You, daughters of Jerusalem, 
by the hosts of roe or by the hearted dear hart of the field, 
if you awaken or if you disturb this my love till it please
You are my life's delight, there is no other
I sought you
The keepers of the city were ignorant
When I had passed them, I found you
I held you and would not let you go
Until we had come to the place
Where I had become your child
You have cut me an eternal covenant
I am both son and daughter
You are my bridegroom of blood
If my sisters are awake
By all that is eternal, of power, of love
Let them leave us be
Until the day dawns
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; 
let us spend the night under a covering 
we will go early to the vineyards, 
we will see if budded is the vine, 
opened the blossom, flowered the pomegranates; 
there I will give my love to you 
The mandrakes give scent and at our gates 
all excellence new and old, beloved, I have hidden for you.
I am hidden in you
You are my covering
I am your vineyard
I knew you early in the morning
My life is preserved for me
There is no lack in either the New or the Old
If my sisters are awake
Let us hear each other's voice