Saturday, July 26, 2014

Psalm 138/2 verses 9-12

 Verses 9-12 are among those difficult verses that should not be read too literally.  Fortunately the Fathers provide useful guides on how to interpret them.

Si occíderis, Deus, peccatóres: * viri sánguinum, declináte a me.
Utinam occidas, Deus, peccatores; viri sanguinum, declinate a me.
Si occideris, Deus, impium: uiri sanguinum, declinate a me.

ἐὰν ἀποκτείνῃς ἁμαρτωλούς ὁ θεός ἄνδρες αἱμάτων ἐκκλίνατε ἀ{P'} ἐμοῦ

Si (if) occideris (you will kill), Deus (God), peccatores (sinners), viri (the men) sanguinum (of blood), declinate (depart/turn away/turn aside) a (from) me (me): 

occido ere cidi cisum to beat to the ground, kill, slay,
peccator, oris, m.  a sinner, transgressor; the wicked, the godless
vir, viri, m., a man
sanguis, mis, m., blood;  
declino, avi, atum, are,  to bend from the straight path, to turn aside or away, depart from, go astray

If thou wilt kill the wicked, O God: ye men of blood, depart from me: 
Oh that thou wouldest slay the wicked, O God; depart from me, ye men of blood.
Wilt thou not slay the wicked, O God? Depart from me, ye bloodthirsty men.
O God, wouldst thou but make an end of the wicked! Murderers, keep your distance from me!
O God, that you would slay the wicked! Men of blood, keep far away from me!

Cassiodorus explains:

...We must above all be careful not to believe that the Lord Christ is praying for the destruction of sinners, for he had undoubtedly come to save them.  As he himself says in the Gospel: I have not come to call the just, but sinners.  If we analyse this verse in the spiritual sense all our difficulties are removed.  What Christ says is: If thou shouldst kill sinners O Lord; God kills the sinner when he dies to sin so that he may live for the Lord.  As Paul puts it: I am dead to the law that I may live for Christ.  So sinners are killed when they are translated from evil designs to a virtuous attitude....  Since all do not deserve to attain the Catholic faith, the intermediate words are addressed to the unfaithful and obdurate who have refused to believe:...They are men of blood, then, because they live according to the flesh, and perform bloody actions.  They are rightly told to depart because they have not longed to find a place in the Church.

The Navarre commentary notes on this verse that:

All that man can do is appeal to God to deliver him from the violent and the ungodly who defy God...

Quia dícitis in cogitatióne: * accípient in vanitáte civitátes tuas.
Qui loquuntur contra te maligne: exaltantur in vanum contra te.
Qui contradicent tibi scelerate; elati sunt frustra aduersarii tui.

 ὅτι ἐρεῖς εἰς διαλογισμόν λήμψονται εἰς ματαιότητα τὰς πόλεις σου 

quia (for/because) dicitis (you say) in cogitatione (in thought): accipient (they shall take/receive) in vanitate (in vain) civitates (the cities) tuas (your).

The Greek and the MT here diverge sharply (due to different possible interpretations of the underlying Hebrew), but neither version is particularly clear in meaning. 

cogitatio, onis, f. thoughts, plans, designs; evil plans or devices; the deep plans or thoughts of God.
accipio, cepi, ceptum, ere 3  to take; seize, grasp; take away; receive or grasp mentally; receive
vanus, a, um.  vain, idle, profitless, deceptive, null, empty as to purpose or result
civitas, atis, f a city, state, commonwealth; the inhabitants of the city

Because you say in thought: They shall receive thy cities in vain.
For thou wilt say concerning their thought, that they shall take thy cities in vain.
They who speak of Thee deceitfully, who in malice take thy name in vain
For they speak unrighteously against thee; and thine enemies take thy Name in vain.
Treacherously they rebel against thee, faithlessly set thee at defiance.
With deceit they rebel against you and set your designs at naught.

The literal meaning of the reference to cities (or the alternative versions) in the verse is a little obscure, but Bellarmine interprets it as follows:

The just shall receive the cities of God in vain, because they will shortly be deprived of them...that is, widely propagated by the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith, and of sinners to justice; and as in consequence thereof, many cities, that is congregations were rescued from the slavery of demons, and the worship of idols...

Nonne qui odérunt te, Dómine, óderam? * et super inimícos tuos tabescébam?
Nonne, qui oderunt te, Domine, oderam et insurgentes in te abhorrebam?
Nonne odientes te, Domine, odiui, et contra aduersarios tuos distabui ?

οὐχὶ τοὺς μισοῦντάς σε κύριε ἐμίσησα καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς σου ἐξετηκόμην

Nonne (surely/not?) qui (who) oderunt (they hated) te (you), Domine (O Lord), oderam (I have hated), et (and) super (over) inimicos (the enemies) tuos (your) tabescebam (I have pined/wasted away)?

nonne, interrog. adv., not?
odi and odivi, odisse; other forms, odirem, odiens; to hate
inimicus, i, m., a foe, enemy
tabesco, tabui, ere 3  to pine away, waste away, melt away, faint.

Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated thee: and pine away because of thy enemies?
Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hate thee? and wasted away because of thine enemies?
Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
Lord, do I not hate the men who hate thee, am I not sick at heart over their rebellion?
Do I not hate those who hate you, abhor those who rise against you?

How do we reconcile this with the injunctions of the Gospel to love our enemies?  Bellarmine suggests that the answer is to love the sinner, but hate the sin:

It is no wonder that he who has his eyes fixed on God, and who cleaves to him with his whole heart, should avow that he hated them who hated him, and that he should pine away with grief and sadness on beholding him so insulted by the wicked.  And his hatred of them was intense, for it was a perfect hatred, consummate and irreconcilable, but applying to the sin, and not to the sinner...

Cassiodorus provides a more extended treatment of the problem.  First he makes a distinction between our enemies, and those who make themselves God's enemies:

The question why we are bidden to love our enemies seems to be no idle one, whereas to hate God is an accursed act, for there is a great difference between the two.  On occasion our enemies rise against us with justified anger; they are annoyed because we do not render the appropriate service, because we slander them, because we begrudge them their virtuous efforts.  So we are rightly bidden to love our enemies when we happen to offend them through our fault.  But when God's enemies are obdurate, they are condemned with an appropriate and solemn curse, for though created by him and owing their entire life to him, they become arrogant towards their Maker.  So such men are rightly to be regarded with disgust, for they were unmindful of such great kindnesses. 

He also points to Christ's reaction to those who declared themselves to be his enemies publicly:

We must also take into account the verbal distinctions which are made.  First he said...Hidden hatreds can earlier dwell in the malevolent heart, but it is a mark of the most intense wickedness to declare oneself an enemy; this denotes open and inveterate persecutors who with accursed shamelessness ravage God's holy ones.   In his holy devotion he rightly says he is pining away because of them, for while in this life he bears with them longer so that they may accept correction, they attack God's Church with rash onslaughts.  As Scripture says elsewhere, The zeal for thy house has made me pine away, the expression signifies considerable grief.  We say that people pine way when they are afflicted with unending cares, and come close to death's door as their bodies fail.

Perfécto ódio óderam illos: * et inimíci facti sunt mihi.
Perfecto odio oderam illos, et inimici facti sunt mihi.
Perfecto odio oderam illos : inimici facti sunt mihi.

τέλειον μῖσος ἐμίσουν αὐτούς εἰς ἐχθροὺς ἐγένοντό μοι 

Perfecto (perfect) odio (hatred) oderam (I have hated) illos (them), et (and) inimici (the enemies) facti sunt (they have been made/become) mihi (to me). 

perfectus a um perfect, complete
odium ii n hate, hatred

I have hated them with a perfect hatred: and they are become enemies to me.
I have hated them with perfect hatred; they were counted my enemies.
With full hatred will I hate them, they are become my enemies
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Yea, I hate them right sore, even as though they were mine enemies.
Surpassing hatred I bear them, count them my sworn enemies.
I hate them with a perfect hate and they are foes to me.

Cassiodorus takes up the love the sinner, hate the sin theme:

Perfect hatred consists of loving men and always loathing their vices; for in so far as they are God's creation they must undoubtedly be loved, because considered as God's works they are good.  But they are to be loathed for the wickedness with which they have befouled themselves in grisly crimes, for such persons can be pleasing only to those enmeshed in similar deeds.  To demonstrate to you the unity of their divinity, the Son says that they stood opposed to you the unity of their divinity, the Son says that they who stood opposed to the Father's commands have become His enemies..He defines the hatred with which he hates the Father's enemies; it is the perfect hatred begotten not by human rancour or by physical envy, but by the Lord's charity.  Odium gets its name from oris repudium (rejection by mouth).

Bellarmine provides an interpretation applicable to Christ appropriate for our remembrance of Maundy Thursday in the Office:

I was no enemy of theirs - for I merely sought to correct and reform them - but they became enemies to me, by reason of my having so reproved and sought to reform them.

Psalm 138/2 (139) – Et dixi: forsitan 
1  Et dixi: Fórsitan ténebræ conculcábunt me: * et nox illuminátio mea in delíciis meis.
11 And I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures.
2  Quia ténebræ non obscurabúntur a te, et nox sicut dies illuminábitur: * sicut ténebræ ejus, ita et lumen ejus.
12 But darkness shall not be dark to you, and night shall be light all the day: the darkness thereof, and the light thereof are alike to you.
3  Quia tu possedísti renes meos: * suscepísti me de útero matris meæ.
13 For you have possessed my reins: you have protected me from my mother's womb.
4  Confitébor tibi quia terribíliter magnificátus es: * mirabília ópera tua, et ánima mea cognóscit nimis.
14 I will praise you, for you are fearfully magnified: wonderful are your works, and my soul knows right well.
5  Non est occultátum os meum a te, quod fecísti in occúlto: * et substántia mea in inferióribus terræ.
15 My bone is not hidden from you, which you have made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth.
6  Imperféctum meum vidérunt óculi tui, et in libro tuo omnes scribéntur: * dies formabúntur, et nemo in eis.
16 Your eyes did see my imperfect being, and in your book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them.
7  Mihi autem nimis honorificáti sunt amíci tui, Deus: * nimis confortátus est principátus eórum.
17 But to me your friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.
8  Dinumerábo eos, et super arénam multiplicabúntur: * exsurréxi, et adhuc sum tecum.
18 I will number them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand, I rose up and am still with you.
9  Si occíderis, Deus, peccatóres: * viri sánguinum, declináte a me.
19 If you will kill the wicked, O God: you men of blood, depart from me:
10  Quia dícitis in cogitatióne: * Accípient in vanitáte civitátes tuas.
20 Because you say in thought: They shall receive your cities in vain.
11  Nonne qui odérunt te, Dómine, óderam? * et super inimícos tuos tabescébam?
21 Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated you: and pined away because of your enemies?
12  Perfécto ódio óderam illos: * et inimíci facti sunt mihi.
22 I have hated them with a perfect hatred: and they have become enemies to me.
13  Proba me, Deus, et scito cor meum: * intérroga me, et cognósce sémitas meas.
23 Prove me, O God, and know my heart: examine me, and know my paths.
14  Et vide, si via iniquitátis in me est: * et deduc me in via æterna.
24 And see if there be in me the way of iniquity: and lead me in the eternal way

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