A Short Paper on Psalm 100

Generally, I try to ensure that everything I post is pretty comprehensible. Recently, though, I wrote a very short paper for my course on Psalms. Feel free to read it. Note, though, that it is substantially more technical than how I usually write on this blog. Also, I had many footnotes; however, they did not transfer when copied and pasted the paper. Finally, note that this is not a perfect paper. There are some issues within the paper. Please don’t hold them against me.


 

This paper will explore the viability of reading the לא in Ps. 100:3 is as an asseverative particle. First, I will consider the comments from various Hebrew grammars. Following, based on the reconsiderations of how לא can function, I will analyze Ps. 100:3. I will do this in order to illustrate the extent to which reading לא as an asseverative particle in the Psalm is justifiable.

In §143e, Gesenius references an argument by P. Haupt that the ל particle should sometimes be understood as an emphasizing particle. Likewise, Koehler-Baumgartner continues in this tradition by including a definition for an emphatic, asseverative function: “II ל: emphatic, vocative.” Both Gesenius and Koehler-Baumgartner root their comments in arguments by Haupt. Furthermore, Waltke-O’Conner comments that “it is strongly possible that the emphatic or asseverative lamed is etymologically distinct from the preposition, though the Masoretes do not distinguish the two.” On this basis, it is reasonable to explore the possibility of reading לא as an asseverative particle instead of following the Qere of לו.

Some scholar push against an asseverative particle. Recently, M. McAffee argued that Hebrew grammarians should abandon the idea of an asseverative particle. Instead, they should “return to where they left off from the earlier explanations proposing a probable development from negative rhetorical question to affirmation.” Likewise, T. Muraoka claims that most cases with a לא may be interpreted as a negative rhetorical question.

The best way to proceed, then, is to analyze the לא in context of Psalm 100:3. In order to demonstrate the viability of reading לא as an asseverative particle, I will first offer a structure for Ps. 100:3. Following, I will lay out my argument for an asseverative particle in Ps. 100:3. Following, I consider consider the viability of reading it as the Qere לו and a negative rheotrical question

1a is the title. The imperatives in 1b, 2a, and 2b begin a chiasmus. They correspond to the imperatives in 4a, 4b, and 4c. The final clause in 5 is a doxology about the preceding chiasmus. In this structure, vs. 3 stands at the center of the chiasmus. Because the imperative דעו stands at the center, everything in the verse should also be understood at the center of the chiasmus. In order to do so, everything following the phrase דעו כי יהוה הוא אלהים is best understood as specifying the dimensions of what it means to know that Yahweh is God. Reading it otherwise would break the chiasmus structure shaped by the use of imperative verbal forms. Thus, we are left with three clauses: First, הוא עשנו ; second, ולא אנחנו עמו ; third, וצאן מרעיתו.

In each clause, the dimensions of knowing that Yahweh is God are detailed. One must know that “he himself created us”, “we (are) his people,” and “his grazing sheep.” Commenting on this passage, Erich Zenger recalls that this is part of the “so-called covenant formula, which traditionally is a general expression of the special position of Israel in contrast to the nations, and now place it also on the lips of the nations as confession of their relationship to YHWH.” In other words, the center of the chiasmus is a covenant formula focused on expressing the social and religious identity of the the psalmist. Consequently, interpretation must draw out the centrality of how the people see themselves as relating to Yahweh. This is expressed through ternary parallelism.

The first clause of this ternary parallelism uses הוא before עשנו emphatically. Structurally, then, we see the following: resumptive pronoun, also functioning as emphatic particle + verb with pronominal suffix. Reading לא as an asseverative particle in the second clause of the ternary parallelism is supported by the first clause. Just as “he himself created us”, so “indeed, we (are) his people.” Understanding the לא as an asseverative particle maintains the structure of the first clause: asseverative particle followed by a pronoun + noun with pronominal suffix. Although the parallelism technically differs, the basic outline is the same. The asseverative, or emphatic, particle is next to the pronoun. This is followed by a word, either noun or verb, with a pronominal suffix.

The third clause of this ternary parallelism is not nearly as consistent in terms of how it is structured. Although it lacks a clear emphatic element grammatically, syntactically the previous two lines suggest to the reader that the first word should be read with an emphatic force. It stresses, then, the sheep rather than the ‘being of his pasture’. The second word in this line fits with the previous patterns, being a noun with a pronominal suffix.. Thus, too a certain degree it, fits within the lines of ternary parallelism.

Naturally, this Psalm could be constructed in various ways; however, in light of the aforementioned structure, we will consider the possibility of the possessive לו and negative לא. Regarding the לו, such an understanding would break the structure of the ternary parallelism. In the structure, the final word of each clause ends with a pronominal suffix. Insertion of a preposition with a 3MS pronominal suffix would break this consistency. Furthermore, the לו would unnecessarily complicate the clause. Already the אנחנו is identified as עמו, an עם with a 3MS pronominal suffix. So, including another 3MS pronominal suffix prior to the pronoun complicates the syntax of the clause. Thus, the Qere reading of לו is the least viable reading.

The לא may also be a negative rhetorical question. As a negative rhetorical question, the translation would be as follows: “he himself created us / are we not his people / the sheep of his pasturage?” In terms of the syntax of the aforementioned structure, this reading works grammatically. However, it fails to consider context and parallel passage. In both Ps. 100:3 and Ps. 95:6-7, a covenant formula is expressed through this language. Ps. 95:6-7 is a declaration: “… Yahweh, the one who created us, for he himself is our god, and we are the people of his pasturage, the sheep of his hand.” Lacking any negative particle, this parallel passage is declarative. It follows that the covenant formula in Ps. 100 is best understood as a declaration, not a negative rhetorical question. In Psalm 100 declaration is a response to the imperative to know that YHWH is God (vs. 3a). By reading the לא as a negative rhetorical question, the declarative nature of the covenant formula is not clearly expressed. Thus, while a negative rhetorical לא is viable on grammatical and syntactic grounds, it is less viable on contextual grounds.

In summary, Psalm 100 is structured as a chiasmus through the use of imperative verbal forms. At the center of the structure is vs. 3. As a unified covenant formula, the ternary parallelism serves to define what it means to know that Yahweh is God. By dividing the parallel lines, it is evident that the first two clauses use a particle which has some sort of emphatic function, thereby suggesting an asseverative לא. Furthermore, understanding the Qere לו or negative לא in Psalm 100 do not hold water on the basis of syntax and grammar, and contextual grounds. Therefore, the best option for translating לא אנחנו עמו recognizes that לא is functioning as an asseverative particle.

 

A Translation of Psalm 93

In this translation of Psalm 93, my goal is not to present a ‘literal’ translation. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate the historical context and understanding of this ancient Judean Psalm through the translation itself. Furthermore, this is primarily an attempt to provide clarity for myself in my understanding and interpretation of this Psalm. That said, some of it may be unclear. I still hope it is enjoyable.

1a. Yahweh is King!
1b. In majestic attire he is clothed,
1c. He is clothed, namely Yahweh, in mighty attire.
1d. He himself is girded [for war].

1e. Moreover, he established the world
1f. It will not be shaken (or it is immovable).

2a. Your throne was established from a time of old
2b. From eternity you are.

3a. The rivers looked up to Yahweh,
3b. The rivers raised their thunders (in the sense of a loud war cry)
3c. The rivers will grow their crashing! (in the sense of more war cries.

4a. Great than the thunders of the sea,
4b. And more majestic than the breakers of the sea,
4c. Is Yahweh, mighty in the high place.

5a. They have greatly confirmed your throne (or testimonies)
5b. Your temple is befitting for the holy ones (or holiness)

5c. Yahweh is for all days!

Although it may be difficult to detect, this Psalm contains much mythical imagery. For example. the idea of a deity girding himself in might is a common idea throughout the ancient Near East. So, Yahweh is not just putting on an idea of might; rather, Yahweh is putting on a physical thing, namely might as armour.

In 1e-f, we see that Yahweh established the world! He established the world in such a way that no other deity is able to come shake it. Importantly, the notion of establishing the world is directly related the kingship. So, when Yahweh establishes the world so that it is immovable, he is also establishing his rule over the world.

Verses 2a-b confirm this. Here, though, somebody is speaking directly to YHWH. Due to this Psalm’s affinities with language from older West Semitic compositions, some have dated this text as far back as the 10th century BCE (cf. Shenkel, 1965). This means the Psalms may have actually been used for worship in the ancient world. Here, then, the people using this Psalm may have been involved. Responding to Yahweh’s status as a divine warrior and establishment of the world, they speak directly to him. They do this by acknowledging the antiquity of Yahweh.

In 3a-c, the myth of the defeat of the sea is told. Throughout ancient myth, the waters are often times the antagonist. We see the same thing in this Psalm. The Psalm begins by recounting the account: the waters looked towards Yahweh, and they raised their thunder! Now, they will make more thunder with their crashing. The question of noise is important because throughout ancient myth, deities often turn against those who make noise. We see this in Enuma Elish and Atrahasis. So, here the waters are the antagonist because they will become louder by crashing more.

In 4a-c, Yahweh is said to be great than all the mighty and majesty of the seas. In light of the idea of noise as a form of rebellion, 4a-c shows that this rebellion of nothing for Yahweh. After all, Yahweh is mightier than the seas. His high place, namely his temple, is so far above the rebellious waters that they pose no threat to him, for he is mightier than them.

Like 2a-b, we see more speech directed towards Yahweh in 5a-b. Here, they first comment that Yahweh’s majesty over and above the waters confirms his status as divine ruler. Regarding the choice of throne as opposed to testimonies, this is a complicated argument which I will not lay out here. If you are interested let me know. Following, the speaker(s) comment that Yahweh’s temple is befitting for the holy ones, or holiness. Again, this is a complicated issue. Even so, the point is that Yahweh’s temple represents the strength of the divine warrior.

Finally, 5c concludes with a declarative statement. It is like putting the cherry on top of the McFlurry.

Pseudepigrapha Saturday: Demetrius the Chronographer

Introduction to the Text:

Demetrius was an ancient historian who wrote about the “inconsistencies and obscurities found in the biblical tradition, especially in matters of chronography” [1]. A chronologist is one who records the order in which things happen. So, Demetrius, as a chronologist writing from a Jewish perspective, attempts to provide a coherent timeline of events within the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

At the moment, we only have six extant (existing) fragments. Each fragment is present via excerpts of Alexander Polyhistor (yet another ancient historian) in Praeparatio Evangélica by Eusibius (and yet, another yet: an ancient, Christian historian). That is to say that we don’t have any full manuscripts, only quotes and citations from other authors.

On the Nature Chronography by Demetrius 

As noted previously, Demetrius was chiefly interested in writing a cogent history of biblical tradition with special regard for chronology. What some have missed, though, is exactly what constitutes “chronology”. In the few extant fragments, what can we learn about how Demetrius, and thereby others in a similar school of thought, conceptualized chronology and decided what was relevant?

Fragment 2 focuses on the chronology from Jacob to Joseph, with specifics about the life cycle of each figure and major geographical movements. Fragment 2 specifically notes that, after Jacob left Laban following a twenty year period, Jacob met and wrestled God. Consequently, his name was changed to Israel.

“And while he was going to Canaan, an angel of the Lord wrestled with him, and touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, and he became numb and went lame; on account of this the tendon of the thigh of cattle is not eaten. And the angel said to him that from that time on he would no longer be called Jacob, but Israel” [2].

Although this could be interpreted as a transition explaining to the reader why Demetrius now briefly refers to Jacob as Israel, and to note that they are the same people, it is important consider the context of this statement. Unlike the original Genesis narrative, Demetrius is primarily providing a chronology. Thus, it is important to read the brief digression as a part of the genealogical chronology [3].

Within Demetrius the Chronographer, the sudden digression into the name change of Jacob is an important part of the genealogy. Surrounding context only focuses on geography and chronology. So, the sudden addition of the name change account must have some purpose and connection to its surrounding context, for it doesn’t serve any explanatory purpose of an inconsistency or incongruity. If we read the name change account as a part of the genealogy, then, it becomes evident that Demetrius understands Jacob’s geographical movement into the land of Canaan and subsequent encounter with God as a new generation.

So, a change in name, and thereby identity, is just as important to Demetrius as the birth of a child or age of a person. Having been written in the 3rd century BCE, it highlights the importance of and relationship between names and identities. When considering the method of Demetrius in constructing a coherent chronology, one must consider that what Demetrius considered to be relevant to chronology is not necessarily what we consider to be relevant to chronology.

[1] J. Hanson.”Demetrius the Chronographer”. James H. Charlesworth (ed.). The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume II, Third Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2013.

[2] Ibid., 849.

[3] Lorenzo DiTommaso, “A Note on Demetrius the Chronographer, Fr 2.11 (=Eusebius, PrEv 9.21.11),” Journal For The Study Of Judaism In The Persian, Hellenistic And Roman Period 29, no. 1 (February 1998): 81-91.

John H. Dobson and Hebrew

“Hebrew is in some ways very different from European languages. Do not try to confine it within the prison of English grammatical terms, or it may laugh and run away from you.” – John H. Dobson in Learn Biblical Hebrew, 2nd Edition, pg. 39.

The picture of little Hebrew letters running away from prison with English grammar guards is now stuck in my mind.

BibleWorks 10 (Part III)

*Click here for Part I and Part II of my BibleWorks 10 review.

This post will focus primarily on text comparison tools within the tools bar, with emphasis on their effectiveness.

The tool bar contains two primary tools for textual comparison: Parallel Versions and Parallel Hebrew/LXX.

First, the Parallel Versions tool is convenient because it permits quick and easy comparison of a wide variety of texts. One can to roll through the parallel versions by clicking the down arrow on the left side, or individually search each version for comparison. This tool is one of the most notable features because it allows for easy textual comparison. Another benefit is that it permits the user to toggle the analysis within the Parallel Versions tool, thus allowing the user to compare more single verse translations next to other translations with full contexts.

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Second, the Parallel Hebrew/LXX tool provides a lens for unique analysis of the Hebrew and LXX bibles. After selecting a verse, six columns in the Hebrew/LXX Alignment tab provide word by word comparisons for the both texts: the word in the verse, Hebrew analysis, Greek analysis, Hebrew lemmas, LXX lemmas, and Hebrew forms. Furthermore, two windows display the Holladay lexical entry and Liddell-Scott lexical entry for each verse selected. All in all, the Parallel Hebrew/LXX allows for quick and efficient textual comparison in a way not accessible in times past.

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Overall, the textual comparison tools especially illustrate the value of BibleWorks 10. Although the Parallel Versions tool is not especially unique, it is an excellent and simple tool. Most outstanding is the Parallel Hebrew/LXX tool, which allows textual comparison to take place fast and for the user to focus more on his or her own analysis and argument.

The next post will focus on the program tools, such as the highlighting capabilities of BibleWorks 10.

 

 

 

BibleWorks 10 (Part II)

*This is Part II of a review of BibleWorks 10. Click here for Part I.

This post will focus on the “Analysis Window” of BibleWorks 10.

The first feature is the UserLexicon. This tab allows the user to roll over a term, English, Hebrew, or Greek, display a window similar to the “Editor”. Unlike the “Editor”, the “UserLex” tab displays a user lexicon in which a personal definition, or copied information, may be entered. I utilized it to enter the LXX equivalent to zar, entered the Holladay and BDB lexical entries for zar, and inserted a list of all occurrences of the root in the WTT. Henceforth, any time I roll over the root zar, my entry in the UserLex will appear. This tool is especially convenient for tracing how terms are used throughout the Bible and supplying definitions with information from personal lexicons and commentaries.

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Additionally, the “Context” tab allows for more efficient use of time because it automatically displays all words within the book, pericope, and chapter. If one disagrees with the various pericope divisions, simply create a new .txt file and place it in the correct location or adjust how the selected outline divides the books. Another convenience is the ability to specifiy what type of words are preset in the “Context” tab, allowing one to cut out any parts of speech to allow for quicker and more efficient analysis. Both of these resources allow for quick and easy analysis of how often terms are utilized.

Last, but definitely not the least, the analysis tab can now be split into two windows, no longer limiting the user to one analysis tab. This is incredibly convenient because it allows the user to focus on, for example, the “Analysis” tab, which displays lexical entries, and the “UserLex”. Of course, any combination of analysis displays are possible by simply dragging one tab to the next window.

Overall, the analysis window is a strength of BibleWorks 10, especially with the “UserLex” tab and ability to display two analysis windows. And while there are many more features in the analysis window, they will be covered in future posts. Overall, the analysis window is one of the many unique aspects of BibleWorks 10, creating opportunity to focus more on analysis of text than preparation for analysis.

Part III will focus on the tools available within the Toolbar.

BibleWorks 10 Review (Part I)

Initial Reactions

*Prior to reviewing BibleWorks 10, I prepared by watching all of the instructional videos on YouTube from BibleWorks 10. Additionally, I’d like to express my gratitude to BibleWorks for providing me with a review copy.

Founded in 1992, BibleWorks has sought to establish students of the Bible with a comprehensive and reliable software resource for Hebrew Bible and New Testament exegesis. And, in contrast to many other companies, BibleWorks is not in the business to profit. Thus, the software is made to be efficient in every which way possible, without necessity for excessive add-ons. Although additional modules are available, the base program contains the basic resources, and really primary resources necessary for sound exegesis of the Hebrew or Greek. With over 200 bible translations, including, though not limited to, the major English translations, over 30 non-English translations, and numerous Hebrew/Greek texts, BibleWorks offers a plethora of resources.

Additionally, BibleWorks 10 includes two new mss images for its manuscript project and high resolution, Leningrad codex images. Conveniently, BibleWorks provides a toggle within the Leningrad codex images to mark where each new verse begins. Such resources are invaluable to text critical scholars and those beginning seeking to be text critical scholars.

As for specific Lexicons, BibleWorks includes standards such as the Holladay lexicon and full BDB.  Far more resources are included for Greek: Friberg Lexicon, Liddell-Scott Lexicon, Louw-Nida Lexicon, Thayer Lexicon, Mouton-Milligan Lexicon, Gingrich Greek Lexicon, and Danker Greek Lexicon. Such inclusion of the Greek Lexicons and exclusion of as many Hebrew Lexicons is problematic in that BibleWorks seems more oriented towards NT exegesis than study of the HB. This is no surprise because BibleWorks explicitly notes that they are oriented towards the Church. Perhaps they did so because they recognize that their audience tends to focus more on the NT than the HB.

Last, but surely not least, BibleWorks has a plethora of tools for analyzing the text. They are easy to use because the Browse Window is directly connected to the Analysis Window. By simply rolling the mouse over a Hebrew term, the Analysis tab in the Analysis Window displays the Holladay definition for the lemma, and the same with Greek. If the mouse rolls over a non-Greek/Hebrew text and it has Strong’s data, the lemma will display. From there it is simple to display the Holladay or BDB definition. For those who do not have experience with Greek or Hebrew, initially it may be difficult to figure out the lexicon entries for the term. Fortunately, after displaying the Strong’s data, moving the mouse to the Strong’s data, and doubling clicking the lemma from the Strong’s definition, initiating a search in the Search Window, the Hebrew text in the Browse Window will highlight the term the user seeks to define.

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Overall, upon my initial use and observations, BibleWorks 10 is like Adobe Photoshop for biblical studies. Figuring out how to utilize the plethora of tools and resources may be a challenge, but tools are surely worth the challenge. For the sake of the user, BibleWorks, as I noted at the beginning of the post, provides free How-To videos on YouTube so user can fully utilize the tools. The resources are excellent for biblical exegesis, though they do lack classical Greek lexicons and Hebrew lexicons that potentially could vastly improve the quality of biblical exegesis.

In the next post, I will focus on the Analysis Window, especially new features to BibleWorks 10.