Thursday, January 2, 2014

Psalm 5: Verses 10-12

Today's three verses of Psalm 5, verses 10-12, are used by St Paul in Romans 3 in his explanation of the importance of the Incarnation, for he argues that without Christ, Jews are no better off than pagans with respect to justification:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one."  "Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." (Romans 3:10-14)

Notes on the verses

10. Quóniam non est in ore eórum véritas: * cor eórum vanum est For there is no truth in their mouth: their heart is vain.
Quóniam (for) non (not) est (there/he/she/it is) in ore (in the mouth) eórum (of them) véritas (truth) cor (the heart) eórum (of them) vanum (vain/destructive) est (it is)

The Hebrew Masoretic Text is stronger here, with the second phrase closer to ‘their heart is [bent on] destruction.

quoniam, conj.,  for, because, since, seeing that, whereas.
os, oris, n., the mouth.
veritas, atis,  truth. grace, kindness ,goodness, fidelity to promises, Faithfulness
cor, cordis, n., the heart, regarded as the seat of the faculties, feelings, emotions, passions; the mind, the soul.
vanus, a, um. vain, idle, profitless, deceptive, null, empty as to purpose or result

 11. Sepúlcrum patens est guttur eórum, linguis suis dolóse agébant, júdica illos, Deus.
Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God
 Sepúlcrum (the tomb/grave/sepulcre) patens est (it is open/stands open) guttur (the throat) eórum (of them/their) linguis (the tongues) suis (their) dolóse (deceitfully) agébant (they acted) júdica (judge) illos (them) Deus (God).

The phrase, ‘their throat is like an open grave’ suggests the smell of decay seeping out and betraying the corruption inside.  There is some debate on the second phrase: the Vulgate uses dolose, which Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary defines as meaning crafty, cunning, or deceitful.  The Hebrew Masoretic Text though suggests as slightly different emphasis, which St Jerome's from the Hebrew, renders it as ‘make slippery’ (leuificant), while the Neo-Vulgate changes the verb to mollire, to soften or make pliant. Coverdale and Knox translate this as meaning flattery.

sepulcrum, i. n.  a grave, tomb, sepulcher
pateo, m, ere 2, to be open, to stand or lie open; pres. part., patens, open.
guttur, is, n., the throat
lingua, ae, the tongue; language, speech, tongue; plan, council
suus -a -um of oneself, belonging to oneself, his own, her own, his, her, its, their
dolose, adv.  deceitfully, treacherously
ago, egi, actum, ere 3 to set in motion; of actions in general, to act, do, deal with
judico, avi, atum, are to judge,  rule,  punish,  do justice to, to relieve from wrong.

The previous verse asked for help in the face of enemies; these few verses explain the characteristics of those enemies: as Pope John Paul II explains:

"Four elements mouth, heart, throat and tongue express the radical nature of the inner malice of their choices. Their mouth is full of falsehood, their heart constantly plots perfidy, their throat is like an open tomb, quick to wish only death, their seductive tongue is "full of deadly poison" (Jas 3,8)."

Yet we need to keep in mind that enemies can be internal as well as external, for evil comes not only from the world and the devil but also the flesh!  Some of the Fathers, for example, suggest that the mouth hanging open like a tomb could also refer to gluttony.  In the context of the theme of the Office of the day, on recommitting to our baptismal and religious promises, though, perhaps Chrysostom's interpretation of this verse, as referring to those who live a lie, and attempt to subvert others into their sin, is perhaps the most relevant.

12. Décidant a cogitatiónibus suis, secúndum multitúdinem impietátum eórum expélle eos, quóniam irritavérunt te, Dómine. Let them fall from their devices: according to the multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked you, O Lord.
Décidant (Let them fall/perish) a (from) cogitatiónibus (schemes/designs/evil plans) suis (their)
secúndum (according to/because of/) multitúdinem (the multitude/great number of) impietátum (transgressions/impieties/crimes) eórum (of them) expélle (expel/cast out) eos (them) quóniam (because) irritavérunt (they have provoked/angered) te (you), Dómine (O Lord)

decido, cidi, ere 3 to fall down, to die; to wither; to fail, to fall, i.e., to be overcome, to fall in battle.
cogitatio, onis,  thoughts, plans, designs; evil plans or devices; the deep plans or thoughts of God.
secundus, a, um  following in time or order; the next, the second.
multitudo, inis f,  a large number, multitude. abundance, greatness.  as an adjective, great, mighty
impietas, atis, /. sin, misdeed, transgression; impiety, wickedness.
expello puli pulsum ere 3 to drive out, thrust forth, expel
irrito, avi, atum, are  to excite or rouse to anger, to provoke, anger, annoy.

This verse is omitted from the Novus Ordo version of the Divine Office. Pope John Paul II explained why: 

After such a bitter and realistic picture of the perverse person who attacks the just one, the Psalmist invokes the divine condemnation in a verse which the Christian use of the Psalm omits, since the Church wants to be conformed to the New Testament revelation of merciful love, which offers to the evil one the possibility of conversion." 

Yet the more traditional view, articulated by St Augustine and others, is that such cursing verses, far from precluding the possibility of conversion, but are rather intended to remind us of its necessity, and the importance of doing everything possible, even using tools such as excommunication, to bring sinners to repentance before it is too late.  God's mercy is not unconditional, rather we must respond to grace and repent.

Nor is the modern tolerance of sins against God a Gospel virtue: rather, St John Chrysostom's commentary on reminds us of the importance of holy zeal when it comes to the things of God, including our vows and promises to God:

"This, you see, is the mark of a well-disposed spirit, not to avenge one's own injuries but to take drastic action against insults directed to God. Many people do the opposite to this, ignoring things done to God but taking redress with extreme severity for their own fate. The saints, however, do not behave like this; instead, they are extremely punitive of things done to God but heedless of their own fate.

Psalm 5: Verba mei auribus
Vulgate
Douay-Rheims
In finem, pro ea quæ hæreditatem consequitur. Psalmus David.
Unto the end, for her that obtains the inheritance. A psalm for David.
1 Verba mea áuribus pércipe, Dómine, * intéllege clamórem meum.
Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry
2. Inténde voci oratiónis meæ: * Rex meus et Deus meus
Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God
3  Quóniam ad te orábo: * Dómine, mane exáudies vocem meam.
For to you will I pray: O Lord, in the morning you shall hear my voice
4  Mane astábo tibi et vidébo: * quóniam non Deus volens iniquitátem tu es.
In the morning I will stand before you, and I will see: because you are not a God that wills iniquity.
5  Neque habitábit juxta te malígnus: * neque permanébunt injústi ante óculos tuos.
Neither shall the wicked dwell near you: nor shall the unjust abide before your eyes.
6  Odísti omnes, qui operántur iniquitátem: * perdes omnes, qui loquúntur mendácium.
You hate all the workers of iniquity: you will destroy all that speak a lie
7  Virum sánguinum et dolósum abominábitur Dóminus: * ego autem in multitúdine misericórdiæ tuæ.
The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.  But as for me in the multitude of your mercy,
8  Introíbo in domum tuam: * adorábo ad templum sanctum tuum in timóre tuo.
I will come into your house; I will worship towards your holy temple, in your fear.
9  Dómine, deduc me in justítia tua: * propter inimícos meos dírige in conspéctu tuo viam meam.
Conduct me, O Lord, in your justice: because of my enemies, direct my way in your sight.
10  Quóniam non est in ore eórum véritas: * cor eórum vanum est.
For there is no truth in their mouth: their heart is vain.
11  Sepúlcrum patens est guttur eórum, linguis suis dolóse agébant, * júdica illos, Deus.
Their throat is an open sepulchre: they dealt deceitfully with their tongues: judge them, O God
12  Décidant a cogitatiónibus suis, secúndum multitúdinem impietátum eórum expélle eos, * quóniam irritavérunt te, Dómine.
Let them fall from their devices: according to the   multitude of their wickednesses cast them out: for they have provoked you, O Lord.
13  Et læténtur omnes, qui sperant in te, * in ætérnum exsultábunt: et habitábis in eis.
But let all them be glad that hope in you: they shall rejoice for ever, and you shall dwell in them.
14  Et gloriabúntur in te omnes, qui díligunt nomen tuum: * quóniam tu benedíces justo.
And all they that love your name shall glory in you. For you will bless the just.
15  Dómine, ut scuto bonæ voluntátis tuæ * coronásti nos.
O Lord, you have crowned us, as with a shield of   your good will.

You can find the final set of notes on this psalm here.

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