Friday, March 27, 2015

Even in Anglican Circles

some of us have heard of Rachel Held Evans. There is quite a kerfuffle about her book Searching for Church which is I understand organized around the sacraments. Yes, Virginia, even the lowly protestant can change their minds about Santa Claus. This latest post from her blog is touching and real. All our upbringings must face real stones and bones. Thank God for such fleshly reality.
The easiest way to alienate your child for good is to make your love and acceptance of them conditional upon what they believe! 

From a note I wrote to some colleagues who have local responsibility for churches: I have not read any of her books, but only a few blog posts. This one is particularly interesting since in Searching for Church, she has approached the faith through the 7 sacraments - quite something for one raised as a fundamentalist and evangelical. http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/going-episcopal.

And Christopher Page has summarized the issue on his blog.

I do find myself with confidence in my own 'folly' - the study of our traditions in the Scripture and the worship with all liturgical drama.

I am sorry the publisher didn't send me a review copy (I didn't try very hard and I am not American) - maybe someday I will see one...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

God's affairs

Bob your glosses are weird. Undoubtedly. Perhaps they will grow in creative weirdness as I continue learning. I am continually struck by words that I have seen many times yet they are invisible and inaudible to me. It's a long journey, and when I return to where I started perhaps I will then know the place for the first time. (Someone famous, T.S. Eliot, already said as much somewhere).

It might be something as simple as wall - and I, Flute, shall play 'wall'. No, it's not a Twitter chink, but when is a wall protective and when is it a barrier. Wall as שׁורה, from שׁור, meaning dubious, i e. no one knows, and both are seldom used, is distinct from wall, חומה, frequently used as um, well, wall. Ordinary plain old generic wall. Should I make sure they don't overlap - of course. God forbid I should remove the dubious from an ancient text.

Or it might be the word work, referring to God's resting from his work on the seventh day. But, surprise, (I had not read this bit of the Bible before) (In Hebrew at least), this work is not the same as God's other regular work, פעל, many times in the psalms. In Genesis is it the word, מאלכה, derived from the word for messenger or angel. There are several words traditionally translated work in the Hebrew Bible and not all of them are equal, just as work, toil, drudgery, affairs, business, doings, and so on are not all equal in English. Toil, אמל, is a favorite for Qohelet. עשה, make, do, construct (my thought) is commonly translated as work also. So my readings attempt to fan out words from Hebrew to English but never confuse two Hebrew words to reduce them to the same English word. So - what sort of 'business affairs' does God have in his Genesis construction process? It is used several times in Genesis 2:1-3 and only once in the Psalms (73, last verse).

But I myself approach God - to me, good
I have set my Lord Yahweh as my refuge
so I will be able to recount all your affairs.

As is typical, the Psalmist switches person in the middle of a sentence. Just take it in stride.

Here's the seventh day section
וַיְכֻלּ֛וּ הַשָּׁמַ֥יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ וְכָל־צְבָאָֽם
1
And the heavens and the earth were finished and all their hosts.
15
22
וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה
וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה
2
And God finished on the seventh day his affairs that he constructed.
And he ceased on the seventh day from all his affairs that he constructed.
18
18
31
30
וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ
כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת פ
3
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
For on it he ceased from all his affairs that God created for construction. P
16
21
29
33

The repetition is really obvious - how could I have a translation that fails to distinguish differing types of work when the original tongue is careful to distinguish them? Or may be it wasn't and I am just over-fastidious in my travail.

Note too, finished, completed, ceased, rest, desist, are all separate words in my world, not to be confused or reduced to the same grunt in English. But at the same time, make, do, construct, are different in English but I use them for the same Hebrew word where I think a little shock is required to get me out of the rut of familiarity. Also of course, make, and even do are also English helping verbs and get used when there is no Hebrew equivalent except in the 'conjugation' of the verb. There is a little bit of tension applying my rules - that's why I am using computer programs to help me along.

Selected Recurring Words (1 to 3)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
ויכלו and were finished
1
כלה
וכל and all
1
כל
ויכל and finished
2
כלה
ביום on day
2
יום
השׁביעי the seventh
2
שׁבע
מלאכתו his affairs
2
מלאך
אשׁר that
2
אשׁר
עשׂה he constructed
2
עשׂה
וישׁבת and he ceased
2
שׁבת
ביום on day
2
יום
השׁביעי the seventh
2
שׁבע
מכל from all
2
כל
מלאכתו his affairs
2
מלאך
אשׁר that
2
אשׁר
עשׂה he constructed
2
עשׂה
יום day
3
יום
השׁביעי the seventh
3
שׁבע
שׁבת he ceased
3
שׁבת
מכל from all
3
כל
מלאכתו his affairs
3
מלאך
אשׁר that
3
אשׁר
לעשׂות for construction
3
עשׂה

Blessing God

Note what Rabbi Rachel writes about creating sacred space. Beautiful.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Always read the footnotes

What is that word Selah?
Lacking a clear consensus from scholars I have felt free to offer the ... suggestion that Selah is a Philistine expletive that David learned during those hard years when he was banished from Saul's court and knocking around with ruffians and outlaws in the wilderness. He used it whenever he broke a string on his harp.
Eugene Peterson, note 1, chapter 7 of Answering God.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Oliver pondering the 2015-2016 Regina Symphony Brochure
A book on my unseen host's shelf.

We are here visiting Regina at the invitation of our son, Simon, to hear his new orchestra. He takes up his position as concertmaster full time in September. And of course we are babysitting Oliver while they house-hunt.

So I finished my book quickly, Acts and Omissions by Catherine Fox. This is a serious exploration of Anglicanism in the spirit of the Barchester Chronicles, a hoot and a severe criticism of policy and polity at one and the same time. Can anyone listen, I wonder, in this time of fear?

My project marks time since I am away from my host of lexicons and dictionaries that distract me necessarily when I am reading Hebrew.

So I have time to explore the books at our host's house. The host family is away and has kindly given us the house for the week, making this extended visit possible.

What do I find? A lot of books by Eugene Peterson including his translations of the Prophets. But what strikes me is this one on the Psalms: Answering God, The Psalms as Tools for Prayer.

So I pick it up and note a chapter that references Psalm 18 - a favorite, a rock. In which he says:
The dominant diction in this theater is metaphor. Metaphor is the witness of language that spirit and matter are congruent. Metaphor uses the language of sense experience to lead us into the world of the unseen: faith, guilt, mind, God. The visible and invisible, put asunder by sin, are joined by metaphor.
Not bad, I think. This is a little book, and I think I will give it a read.

PS I even had to fix a link in Wikepedia! Go read his Psalm 1 - cute also.

Love it - from Psalm 17
Do you want to see something funny?
There's the man
Who went to bed with Wicked
now he's nine-months pregnant with Mischief.
Look! He's having
the baby — a Lie-Baby!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Figuring out the status of my project

There are a large number of words in the Hebrew Bible - somewhere between 300 and 350 thousand. I'll tell you when I get there.

Here are a few higher level stats.
Books  In the Scriptures In my data Drafted sort of Chapters in 'Final' %
Complete
Chapters Verses Chapters Verses Chapters Verses
Torah 187 5853 27 455 23 303 0 5.2% 5.2%
Former Prophets 147 4317 11 82 9 68 0 1.6%
Later Prophets 166 3926 20 212 20 167 0 4.3%
The 12 67 1050 25 399 25 314 8 29.9% 5.9%
Books of Truth 221 4509 193 3624 193 3158 150 70.0%
Scrolls 45 850 39 745 39 628 13 73.9%
Other 102 2979 2 12 2 10 0 0.3% 45.5%
935 23484 317 5529 311 4648 161 19.8%

Notice the division into 7 sections - not too many to remember. And on the bottom right corner, I am 19.8% complete. A few weeks ago this was 19.4 - progress! I should be reading about Sisyphus.

I have 400 workdays planned over the next 5 years to the middle of 2019 - I should last so long. By then, I ask, will I begin to recognize Biblical Hebrew at sight? I tell you this is no slam dunk. The brain, the aged brain, makes some good guesses and knows its limits, but growing new sight reading connections is a slow process. Remember how long you spent learning English or your native tongue or how to read music? It's that long and longer.

And I am retired - I may stop on a dime. I am not bound to futility as Sisyphus even if Camus concludes he was a happy sort of fellow.

There are bits and pieces of 30 books in my data. 9 are in some state of completion: 
  • Psalms, Jonah, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Ruth, (these 5 are all more or less complete - subject to change as more data emerges), 
  • Job, Qohelet (both lacking music and the full interlinear for checking concordance), 
  • Lamentations, Song (both lacking interlinear).
There - now I too know and remember what the status is. Oh - and I am adding punctuation to my Psalms this year. That's the last stage of reading - see below, step 8.

I was going to postpone Isaiah - but we had a lecture at the University yesterday and the book is too attractive to postpone. But like a bee, I can flit from flower to flower as I choose.

This is the process I have for the data:
  1. Add an anchor point to my word table for each new chapter. This step is automated. The anchor will be deleted when the verse is expanded.
  2. Add each verse as verse, my data source is tanach.us as I have noted before. Once the verses are added, I can generate the interpretation of the accents as music.
  3. As I am adding a verse, at a minimum I mark the major cadences, atenach and ole veyored (if one of the three books). They are both easy to see once you get used to it. Then I may also draft a quick reading at sight.
  4. Add each verse word by word to the word table, replacing the anchor. This step is automated. The root, domain and subdomain of each word is guessed by the software. So as each section is added, I do a first scan to correct serious mistakes in guessing.  I drill down the root to the verb that is the base if possible.
  5. Check the grammar by another bit of automation and adjust the routine if useful.
  6. Redraft the translation or retranslate as necessary and produce the interlinear. 
  7. When this is done, another automated routine tells me when I have a conflict in gloss usage. I endeavor to reduce the number of times I cross-link a single English gloss with two distinct Hebrew roots. Obviously this is impossible, so I cut myself some slack. It does not apply to prepositions and such, but I am careful with major nouns and verbs especially over a single chapter or group of chapters. In this way, the recurring sounds of the Hebrew are matched by recurring (but different of course) sounds in English.
  8. Then I look at the whole, and add punctuation.
If you want to help, let me know. Most people though are too busy with their own readings and research, so I understand silence.

Here's where help could be useful and I do have some helpers. 
  • A reader for a chapter or two. Input - a chapter from me, the graph of domain usage, a table of recurring words: feedback - criticism of pulse, gloss, meaning, in English. No Hebrew skills needed, but useful if available. Criticism of theological implications. 
  • A critic of my domains and subdomains - this is a cool and difficult process. I hope to come up with a clever way of doing the software to make the choices easy. Input - domain, subdomain, list of roots, and glosses: feedback - suggested moves or expansions or contractions of the subject lists.
  • Suggestions about underlay of the music. Input form me is the score, feedback - how to sing it, voicing, instruments, accompaniment. 
  • Ideas for a book or a few hundred books?
Volunteer in a comment. Chose your own chapters - I can be directed to a particular chapter.