Saturday, July 12, 2014

Psalm 138 verse 5

Verse 5 marks the mid-point in this half of Psalm 148, and in it the speaker acknowledges that although God knows everything about him, he cannot know everything about God.

Mirábilis facta est sciéntia tua ex me: * confortáta est, et non pótero ad eam.
Mirabilis nimis facta est scientia tua super me, sublimis, et non attingam eam.
Super me est scientia,et excelsior est : non potero ad eam.

θαυμαστώθη  γνσίς σου ξ μο κραταιώθη ο μ δύνωμαι πρς ατήν

Mirabilis (wonderful/marvellous) facta est (it is made/become) scientia (the knowledge) tua (your) ex (from/for) me (me): confortata est (it is powerful/great) et (and) non (not) potero (I will be able) ad (to/towards) eam (it)

mirabilis, e wonderful, marvelous;  subst., mirabilia, mm, wonders, wonderful works, marvellous things.
scientia, ae, f  knowledge.
conforto, avi, atum, are to strengthen, make strong; to prevail; , to be strengthened, to be powerful, great, mighty.
possum, potui, posse   to be able, to have power

Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.
The knowledge of thee is too wonderful for me; it is very difficult, I cannot attain to it.
Thy knowledge is become to wonderful for me, too high and I cannot reach it
Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me; I cannot attain unto it.
Such wisdom as thine is far beyond my reach, no thought of mine can attain it.
Too wonderful for me this knowledge, too high, beyond my reach.

This verse goes to the limitations of human nature.  The previous verses tell us that God knows everything about us, including all that we have done and thought, and all we will do.  We on the other hand, can only see God as if in a glass darkly.  In our mouth the verse is an acknowledgment of our respective positions in the universe, a counsel against false pride, for, as Bellarmine puts it:

"...lest anyone should suppose that we have, in consequence, come to complete and just notions of God's knowledge, he adds the prevent verse, that we may understand that, however satisfied we may be of God's knowledge being supreme, and extending to all things, still, that we are quite in the dark - that, in fact, we know nothing at all about it in detail; that is to say, that it is perfectly incomprehensible how God can foresee what is to happen...The same applies to the essence and attributes of God.  We know that he exists, that he is powerful, wise, good, just, and merciful; but who knows or who can explain his essence, or how, with so many attributes, he can be essentially one?...

In the mouth of Christ, the verse can be interpreted as a reflection on Christ's mission and two natures, as Cassiodorus explains:

"He speaks of the Father's knowledge which has been proclaimed through Him all over the world.  It was strengthened in human hearts whereas previously men doubted it in the uncertainty of their belief.  This meaning He declares in the gospel: Father, I have manifested thy name to men.  For it was by His revelation that the venerable unity of the holy Trinity could be made plain, and knowledge of the Father became wonderful through Jesus Christ when the mysteries of the sacred law were recounted to those born of earth.  Then, so that the truth of the human condition could be made plain, He added: And I shall not be able to attain it, for the human nature which he deigned to assume could not attain equality with the divine substance.    This what the gospel makes clear with the works: The Father is greater than I, and again: The Son cannot do anything but what he sees the Father doing..."

Psalm 138/1 – Domine probasti me
Vulgate (Numbering follows psalmody)
Douay-Rheims (numbering follows DR)
In finem, psalmus David.
Unto the end, a psalm of David.
Dómine, probásti me, et cognovísti me: * tu cognovísti sessiónem meam, et resurrectiónem meam.
1 Lord, you have proved me, and known me: 2 You have known my sitting down, and my rising up.
2  Intellexísti cogitatiónes meas de longe: * sémitam meam, et funículum meum investigásti.
You have understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line you have searched out.
3  Et omnes vias meas prævidísti: * quia non est sermo in lingua mea.
4 And you have foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.
4  Ecce, Dómine, tu cognovísti ómnia novíssima, et antíqua: * tu formásti me, et posuísti super me manum tuam.
5 Behold, O Lord, you have known all things, the last and those of old: you have formed me, and have laid your hand upon me.
5  Mirábilis facta est sciéntia tua ex me: * confortáta est, et non pótero ad eam.
6 Your knowledge has become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it
6  Quo ibo a spíritu tuo? * et quo a fácie tua fúgiam?
7 Whither shall I go from your spirit? Or whither shall I flee from your face?
7  Si ascéndero in cælum, tu illic es: * si descéndero in inférnum, ades.
8 If I ascend into heaven, you are there: if I descend into hell, you are present.
8  Si súmpsero pennas meas dilúculo, * et habitávero in extrémis maris.
9 If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:
9  Etenim illuc manus tua dedúcet me: * et tenébit me déxtera tua.
10 Even there also shall your hand lead me: and your right hand shall hold me.

And you can find the next set of notes on this psalm here.

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