Daily Gleanings (22 April 2019)

Recently, I’ve worked through part of Augustine’s Enarrations [Expositions] on the Psalms. There’s much that’s of interest in this work in terms of Augustine’s theological exegesis.

But one of the minor features that repeatedly struck me was Augustine’s repeated discussion of “reins.”

In this reading, I used the English version from the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series. So, it’s an older translation, and I’d though it was for this reason that the word “reins” appears in what I thought to be some odd cases.

In any event, several instances made tolerable sense when interpreting “reins” as being like those for a horse. But then I came across a case where it was a bit too much of a stretch (27.14).

So I finally cracked a dictionary and noticed that “reins” actually has three meanings in English:1

  1. As a noun (either singular or plural) indicating some kind of tension mechanism,
  2. As a verb indicating the use of something like the noun form of the word,

These two uses I was familiar with, but the third was the surprise that made much better sense out of the NPNF translation of Augustine’s Enarrations:

  1. As a noun (plural only) indicating the kidneys, loins, or this area of the body as the seat of emotion.

In the end, the lesson is that it’s never a bad time to be open to broadening your English vocabulary. And especially when reading an older English text or translation, it’s often a good idea not to assume a particular meaning if something strikes you as odd. It never hurts to double check a dictionary for an older meaning(s) you might not previously have been aware of.

Logos 8.4 releases with a small host of updates and improvements.

There has been some difficulty getting accurate results from searching notes for Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic text in v.8.

It could be that I simply overlooked the mention of this fix among the descriptions of the changes included in this update. But this release does seem to have remedied these challenges as well.

  1. These entries are paraphrased from the 11th ed. of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Faith, demonstration, and friendship

Fathers of the Church book coverIn his On the Advantage of Believing, Augustine reflects on the necessity of belief but also on the danger of being overly credulous. He comments, in part,

But now consider, you will say, whether in religion we ought to believe. For even if we concede that it is one thing to believe, another to be credulous, it does not follow that there is no fault in believing in religious matters. What if it be a fault to believe and to be credulous, as it is to be drunk and to be a drunkard? One who holds this view as certain, it seems to me, could have no friend. For, if it is base to believe anything, either he acts basely who believes a friend, or, in not believing a friend at all, I do not see how he can call either him or himself a friend…. For there is also no friendship at all unless something is believed which cannot be demonstrated by positive reasoning. (Util. cred. 10.23–24)

To be sure, reasons are important, but reasons have force within the context of some kind of faith toward the source from which the reasons derive.

Bates, “Salvation by allegiance alone” and some theological forebears

Bates, "Salvation by allegiance alone" coverOne of the new titles in the recent Baker catalog (due for release this month) is Matthew Bates’s Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. According to Michael Bird’s blurb,

Matthew Bates argues that faith or believing is not mere assent, not easy believism, but covenantal loyalty to the God who saves his people through the Lord Jesus Christ. Bates forces us to rethink the meaning of faith, the gospel, and works with a view to demonstrating their significance for true Christian discipleship. This will be a controversial book, but perhaps it is the controversy we need!

I haven’t read the volume yet, and the book’s apparent thesis will doubtless be controversial in some quarters as Bird suggests. But, this thesis is also something that definitely resembles prior thinking.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had the formulation “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes”—because believing is a response to an announcement that has the nature of a command (Cost of Discipleship, 69–70). Or,  as Augustine suggested, the notion of faith may have two aspects:

We use the word in one sense when we say, “He had no faith in me,” and in another sense when we say, “He did not keep faith with me.” The one phrase means, “He did not believe what I said;” the other, “He did not do what he promised.” (On the Spirit and the Letter 31.54)

Or, indeed, in Romans, as sometimes is bypassed all too easily, part of Paul’s portrait of Abraham is precisely that his faith was also obedient: Abraham becomes the father not only of individuals within the scope of his biological descendants, but to all “those follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was uncircumcised” (Rom 4:12; τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ; cf. Rom 1:5, 3:31; Dunn, Romans, 211–12).

Praying with Jesus

To demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice to those previously offered under the Torah, the writer to the Hebrews quotes a version of Ps 40:6–8 (Eng; 40:7–9 HB; 39:7–9 OG; Heb 10:5–9).1 In so doing, Hebrews fairly clearly situates its rendition of this psalm’s words as Jesus’ own (cf. Heb 10:10).2 If one were to read the entire psalm in this direction however,3 problems would seemingly arise (e.g., vv. 12–17 Eng).4

Nevertheless, in looking at the whole psalm from the perspective of Hebrews’ reading, one might well consider that Jesus “sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members.”5 In this way, initially problematic elements (e.g., v. 12 Eng) would follow not with respect to him who is the head but with respect to those who are his members.6 Moreover,

Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled because He is “the Truth” who speaks them, and requires of us to be as “faithful,” as He Himself speaks faithfully.7

Thus, it befits the church too to join in praying this psalm alongside her Lord.8

1. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 488; Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 106–7; B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (3rd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1906), 311. On Hebrews’ quotation and its relationship to the OG, see GS, Ps 39:7–9; Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 302; Geoffrey Grogan, Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2001), 273; Karen H. Jobes, “The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” TrinJ 13, no. 2 (1992): 182, 184; see also Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 48–51.

2. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 499; Jobes, “Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” 186; Delitzsch, Psalms, 299; Westcott, Hebrews, 311; cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:120–21); see also Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 14:451). Unless εἰσερχόμενος (Heb 10:5; entering) is both substantival and anarthrous, the text omits an explicit an explicit subject for the verb λέγει (says; Westcott, Hebrews, 311).

3. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 451); Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 107.

4. Delitzsch, Psalms, 299.

5. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:121).

6. E.g., Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.22 (NPNF1, 8:126).

7. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.1 (NPNF1, 8:119).

8. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.2, 5 (NPNF1, 8:119–21); cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980): 3–32; Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 101–18; Jerry Eugene Shepherd, “The Book of Psalms as the Book of Christ: A Christo-Canonical Approach to the Book of Psalms” (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995).

My Glory

David between Wisdom and Prophecy
David between Wisdom and Prophecy (Paris Psalter [BnF MS Grec 139], folio 7v; photo credit: Wikipedia)
Psalm 7 is an individual lament,1 and the superscript situates it as “concerning the words of Cush, the Benjaminite” (Ps 7:1 HB; על־דברי־כושׁ בן־ימיני‎).2 This situation is rather difficult to pinpoint precisely in the biblical narratives of David’s life.3 The OG reading Χουσί is reflected in Augustine’s text and leads him to relate Ps 7 to 2 Sam 15:32–37.4 Yet, this rendering seems as though it may suggest a different Vorlage than is available in the MT.5

In connection with the Ps 7’s individual perspective and taking ל roughly as “by” (Ps 7:1 HB), the psalm is ostensibly “by David.” Within Ps 7’s larger lament, vv. 3–5, 8 (Eng) particularly profess David’s innocence concerning the accusations (cf. דברים; Ps 7:1 HB) leveled against him.6 As a unit, the contribution that vv. 3–5 (Eng) makes toward this profession entails some textual difficulties.7 To demonstrate his innocence, however, one of the appeals David makes is that, if his profession should prove false, his “glory” should be set in the dust (Ps 7:5 HB; כבודי לעפר ישׁכן‎; 7:6 Eng).

Within the life of David, the setting of David’s glory “in the dust” doubtless refers to the denigration of his “personal and official dignity.”8 Even so, Yahweh’s own dignity is, to some extent, at stake in David’s experience of oppression despite his innocence.9 Yahweh is righteous, and in his righteousness, he saves the upright (Ps 7:11–12, 18 HB; 7:10–11, 17 Eng). Indeed, in delivering David, Yahweh himself becomes David’s glory (Ps 3:4 HB; 3:3 Eng),10 and failing to deliver David would lay in the dust also Yahweh’s promise to David of a perpetual kingdom (e.g., 2 Sam 7:16). Yet, in faithfulness to his servant, Yahweh is he who lifts David’s head (Ps 3:4 HB; מרים ראשׁי‎; 3:3 Eng). In so doing, he has raised David’s countenance to be sure, but still more has he raised from the dust he who is both David’s son and the perpetual head of the house from which he comes (e.g., Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:41–44; Acts 2:22–36).

1. Jeffrey H. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5 and Ancient Near Eastern Treaties,” JBL 89, no. 2 (1970): 178; see also David G. Firth and Philip Johnston, Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2005), 295–300, for a survey of form-critical categorizations for the traditional Psalter.

2. The Psalms targum reads this portion of the superscript as “concerning the slaughter of Saul, the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin” (Tg. Ket. Ps 7:1; על תברא דשאול בר קיש דמן שבט בנימן).

3. Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 84; see also S. E. Gillingham, “The Messiah in the Psalms: A Question of Reception History and the Psalter,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East (ed. John Day; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 270; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1998), 226–27.

4. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.1 (NPNF 1, 8:20).

5. Cf. Delitzsch, Psalms, 84.

6. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5,” 178.

7. For a discussion, see Jacob Leveen, “Textual Problems of Psalm 7,” VT 16, no. 4 (1966): 440; Tigay, “Psalm 7:5.”

8. Delitzsch, Psalms, 86.

9. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.4 (NPNF 1, 8:21–22).

10. On reading the Psalter as a unified collection, see Jamie A. Grant, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy’s Kingship Law in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms (Academica Biblica; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), 11–19.

David, the Man of God

In contemporary English parlance, to call someone a “man” or “woman of God” substantially means that individual is “godly” or “pious.” As such, the phrase is a descriptor of a person’s moral or religious standing in relation to some perceived measure.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, אישׁ (ה)אלהים ([the] man of God) regularly designates a “prophet.” To be sure, these prophets were often “godly” or “pious,” but even here, there were occasional exceptions to this behavior (e.g., 1 Kgs 13). Rather, when the Hebrew Bible applies this same phrase to David, it fits him into the framework of the broader tradition of the prophet as Yahweh’s representative (Neh 12:24, 36; 2 Chron 8:14). In these particular texts, David’s status as an אישׁ אלהים (man of God) revolves around his plans for the temple’s administration. Even so, scarcely can at least the Davidic psalms be separated from vocation as a royal אישׁ אלהים (man of God).1

1. Cf. 11QPsalmsa 27; Augustine, Civ., 17.14 (NPNF1, 2:352–53).