Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Singing the Scriptures - The Song of Solomon (Parts IV and V)

The full text in Hebrew and English with an English and Hebrew underlay and also showing the cantillation symbols as deciphered by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura is now available at the shared location in PDF form. Who would want to sing or to interpret that ancient song?

Better question, who would want to be sung about as in that ancient song? Is Solomon really the lover? Only to the extent that he fills the role assigned to him in Psalm 72. And as historical king, he fails in this role - too many wives, to many horses, too much economic power. Solomon like other rulers then and now ruled by power for his own sake and began his reign with murder. Don't think it is only national sovereigns that do such things. Count the oligarchs and the kleptocrats and all the self-interested of the earth in these roles.

Solomon gets a little word play since his name means peace. It has the sh-l-m sound in it. So also we have the Shulamite, who we identify with the bride, and the foxes - shu-alim, that have the same sound but separated by a guttural. These sounds frame the poem. But the central word-play of the poem is in the animals, the hart and the roe that sound like God and hosts.

The imagery of love is not confined to the Song. It pervades the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. It has its place in the NT also. No one fasts when the Bridegroom is present. (Mark 2:19, Matthew 9:15, Luke 5:34. And of course Revelation 21:2.)

I have tidied up the text quite a bit and changed the translation to match the music somewhat - where feasible. See the text alone with the links to my work in 2010 (updated) on the right hand side of the page beginning here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

More philosophers - Heidegger

It appears that my last post recapitulates Heidegger. If you can see this pdf, it explains the New Hermeneutic on the Psalms at 50. True to say also that my book uses this new hermeneutic. (Hermeneutics involves the way in which God's Word becomes clear to humanity. Paraphrased from Raymond Brown.)

Having not read Heidegger or Brown, it is nice to see that God can work without specific scholars and still get a response in some random human like me without the human having to memorize a spiel. I.e. my faith fits onto the Scriptures regardless of my training by other humans though that might often help. You can see though, that human training can also hinder and provide blinders as Kirk explains here. It appears to me that there is no substitute for letting faith grow in you. Logic won't do the trick. Anyone afraid of being deceived must take heed to their own logic. Provability is unfortunately off the table. (But don't neglect science either.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

To dare to write with few words

I still have a few notes on my memories, reaching back into a distant life that began in earnest in me some 40 years ago in my late twenties. Fearful, confused, yet responsible to my obligations, I began to learn about the one they called 'the' Anointed. It was a closed-table brethren assembly that first converted this Anglican - but I was never 'in' that assembly, nor did they ever fully convince me of their 'logic'. In my previous note on this, I found the article on Plato and the maleness of logic very helpful in seeing how the words of the logic of the assembly fell into a Greek and masculine mold and not into the unity that is in the Anointed as is so powerfully modeled in his prayer of John 17:21-23.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (KJV)
We cannot get by without some words - even religious words. Don't worry if they make little sense for the moment. They will sink in.

There was a germ of truth in that assembly and their doctrines even though they tended to rigidity. This is the germ, perhaps: that there is a tragedy of helplessness in what is broken and that cannot fix itself. The germ gives rise to what anyone might lack, an overwhelming passion such as at the opening of Psalm 18. Now maybe I have always been of that type of person - O well... better to have been a recreated passionate person than a helpless broken one. Here is that bit of passion - and while I am at it, I remind you of the character of the one who is so praised at the beginning of Psalm 18. And the poet said
I am passionate about you Yahweh my courage, Yahweh my cliff and my fortress and my security, my God my rock, I will take refuge in him, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my retreat. (my translation)
In Psalm 146, we have come to know this Yahweh better as one who saves people in trouble - and we know there are plenty of troubles and plenty of peoples in them. So how do we make a difference then?

My memories, even individually passionate as in the above psalm, nonetheless have their grounding in the character of the One who acts on behalf of the distressed as I have so often pointed out from Psalm 146. This is one who
... keeps truth forever, does judgment for the oppressed, gives bread to the hungry, releases prisoners, gives sight to the blind (I will be coming to this with cataract operations soon!), consoles the disturbed, loves the righteous, shelters the guest, restores orphan and widow, and subverts the way of the wicked (paraphrased).
This catalog of Yahweh's actions is a substantial prayer. All this is simply to say that the 'mystical' is not an insubstantial wisp of air but a grounded, action-centered, growth that has content and direction. Another name for faith, hope and love.
There is yet more to say. Perhaps most important is the question: is the analogy of substance, the doctrine, 'derivable' from the text? In a word - No. The word creates. We do not derive as if by our own logic. Do we therefore impose the experience of being created, our experience, onto the text? In part, yes, we do. Where then is the cusp of origin? Is it random, like the sowing of a seed? This is the image used of the word.

Yet more to say.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Singing the Scriptures - The Song of Solomon (Part III)

I find myself assigning the final verse to the chorus whether or not it is in the voice of the chorus. This is because I want no observers, but that all may identify in the unity of Zion, the Bride. For there is no exclusion in the love that is in the Song.

So Part 3 is available here. It is long. To Song 5:8.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Mystic and the Faith, Faithfulness and Mystery, three horses

Behold, I tell you a mystery, ... So begins the great pre-Psalm 2, pre-Hallelujah chorus recitative by the bass in the Messiah by George Frederick Handel.
Well now - isn't that just a contradiction in terms? - I tell you a mystery. If it can be told then it is by definition no longer a mystery. No need to explain this contradiction away - just live with it.

Mystic and Mystery are not the same word of course. But the Mystic also cannot tell that which cannot be told - whether it be impossible to express or unlawful to say - and both these reasons are implied in Paul's writings in the New Testament. Why then do (some) people who read the Bible insist on understanding and insist on completeness, inerrancy, or whatever? Is it perhaps because they have misunderstood? That is too easy an explanation for their error. People are after Faith - and that is trouble too - for I am going to rebel against believing what I know to be untrue. And that is why the next word in my title is faithfulness - this is much more difficult than blind faith or leaping faith or deaf faith. (Never heard that one before have you? - That is perhaps because faith comes by hearing - but let there also be growth into truth and love. No one with plugged ears hears clearly.)

Faithfulness is harder because it is made up of trust, growth, and persistence. And will that get you anywhere? Perhaps. If one persists in error, then perhaps not - until one finds the dead-end and turns around. If the dead-end is not a dead end - but a wall that must be stepped through, a la Hogwarts, then perhaps there is hope even for those who persist in error. (Inerrancy is not a very thick wall.)

Consider three horses: Plato's, Lewis's, and the horse of Psalm 32. Plato's is in the charioteer myth of the Phaedrus (more fully explored in JBL 133, no 1 (2014) p 148, The Passion of Eve and the Ecstasy of Hannah.) In too few words - the horse in this image in Plato prevents the separation of the soul from the body. The horse, representing non-rational or irrational passion, is unruly and must be mastered. Now I caution you, I have no intent with respect to a separation of soul and body. You are your whole self, your whole being. I am not a dualist and this is a dualist image leading to the denigration of the body, completely the opposite of life, faithfulness, and responsibility. But the image is useful since it is used by Lewis in The Great Divorce, where the rat (representing irrational passion, pace negative images of this poor creature) on the soul's shoulder must die that it may be changed into a stallion (representing the power of transformed passion) that will carry the 'soul' to the beatific vision.

Now I am leading up to something - that trumpet that will sound and the raising of the dead - incorruptible - that we shall be changed. Is this mystical, or explanation, or even sensible? How is it known? Sensible and known are helpful terms - but live with them, do not aim for a packaged spiel. Inner dialogue and outer knowledge are not to be packaged. The enfleshment of that faithfulness is not itself to be assumed as controllable as if it were a box of crackers which, to be useful, has to be unwrapped and the package recycled.

What do I not 'believe'? I do not believe that for instance Isaiah was written by one author. (What!) No, this 'book' like most of the books of the Old Testament has a redactional history and is a collection of texts written over many years and more than one lifetime. A recent article on the Bible Gateway blog presumes that Isaiah 'prophesied' Cyrus as Messiah. The writer assumes a single early author and prophecy as prediction. Yes - but just what does he imply? What this kind of reasoning does with the Old Testament, inadvertently, is to destroy its reality.

What do I believe? Yes, there are types and shadows - but the reason for them is not prediction. Try this - the OT reveals the same life (in abundance) as is revealed by the NT but revealed (from our temporal point of view) in advance of an unambiguous demonstration of that life in what Jesus called his 'work' and his 'hour'. There is in this testament from an earlier era, a foretaste of bodily and sensible 'resurrection', just as there is in that testament from the later era. Such life has always been the same, yesterday, today, and for ever. The OT is no more legal nor violent nor primitive nor sophisticated than the NT. They are both testimonies to a life that gives importance to its consequences. This life is given by the word of God, but many words of testimony and searching follow the gift. That testimony and searching for words is what has been 'canonized'.

The canon does not preclude other testimonies equally valid in their experience and searching. But the canon (OT + NT) is sufficient to its task. There are otherwise too many words.

So we come to the third horse, that of Psalm 32. We are not to be like horse or mule that has no understanding - and here 'understanding' is not our own minuscule power of logic, but release from trouble and from the powers that bind us. Psalm 32's music (full score here) is very revealing. Diminished fifths paint the bucking animal.
The desire of the anointed poet is that we should come near to God.

That will do for part 1 - I wrote many notes and I have used only the bit about the horses. Pull my words apart if you like - let me know what you think. In the mystery of the incarnated mystic, I think words are secondary in that they follow experience and gratitude and lead to greater experience and gratitude - such as is, of course, expressed in the Psalms.

So read the Bible #bgbg2 - but do not use your intellect alone as Plato would encourage you to do and as many readers of the Bible inadvertently do, your 'male soul' (logic) ruling over your 'female body' (appetite, passion), to bind the legs and arms of your whole self: body, soul, spirit, desire, passion and life. In this case, the Greeks and the readers, both ancient and modern, have got it wrong. (But Eliot, as usual, is suggestive.)
Were we led all that way for birth or death? ...this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Mystical experience

I have rarely if ever written on the mystical. But perhaps the time is coming and now is when I must try. I have been reading a little on certain traumatic time warps - rather nice article here where he notes:
And ultimately, of course, what religion is really about is nothing, since we are nothing but meaningless, statistically organized matter bouncing around in empty, dead space.
 This materialistic view of all reality will not hold even if one is a scientist. The gaps in our scientific 'knowledge' are great and are greater than our capacity in the mode that science observes. Well - what then?  (Read the response to the review of this article as well).

Why would I pursue the setting of the Song of Solomon to ancient musical form? Answer: so that we don't pursue 'meaning' with our blinkers on and our ears plugged.  If we are to seek 'meaning' without being demeaning, without forcing the reduction of narrative to our limits, then we will have to be entranced into it, immeasurably moved out of our measurable universe.

Thanks to April Deconnick for the links. There are a couple more links on her post but if and when I write, I doubt that I would take any of these avenues of  'explanation'. I did earlier attempts as story - but they don't seem very promising to me any more. I am too ignorant of the story-telling craft and I fear too many possible misreadings.  But it must be important to me because it keeps me going...

By the way - I am not so sure that mystical is a good term for whatever it is I want to move into. There is no lack of incarnation.