Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Psalm 119/2: Notes on the verses

Stations of the Cross Collected enamel set, Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Avranches

In the previous post on Psalm 119 I gave a general introduction to it; here I want to take a closer look at the individual verses.  

Verse by verse notes

Key to the abbreviations:

V=Vulgate; NV=Neo-Vulgate; JH= St Jerome's translation from the Hebrew; final row of the first block is the Septuagint Greek

DR= Douay-Rheims-Challoner; BR =Brenton's translation  from the Septuagint; MD=Monastic Diurnal; K= Knox; CO=Coverdale; G=Grail Psalter; RSV=Revised Standard Version; NETS=New English Translation from the Septuagint

For further details of translations and sources see the Notes on the Notes post.

Ad Dóminum cum tribulárer clamávi: * et exaudívit me.
Ad Dominum in tribulatione mea clamaui, et exaudiuit me. 

πρὸς κύριον ἐν τῷ θλίβεσθαί με ἐκέκραξα καὶ εἰσήκουσέν μου

Text notes: ‘Ad Dominum’ is emphatic by virtue of its position, ie ‘to the Lord alone'.  St Jerome’s from the Hebrew translation changes the subjunctive verb (tribularer) into a noun, an interpretation followed by both the Douay-Rheims and Diurnal, but rejected by the neo-Vulgate.  Thus a more literal translation of the first phrase would be’ I cried to the Lord when I was harassed/oppressed/afflicted’

Dominus, i, m. a master, lord, ruler, owner, possessor
tribulo, avi, atum, are lit., to press. Fig.:  to oppress, afflict, harass
clamo, avi, atum, are  to call, cry out; to call to or upon for aid.
exaudio, ivi, Itum, ire, to hear, hearken to, listen to, give heed to; to regard, answer

In my trouble I cried to the Lord: and he heard me.
To the Lord I cry in my distress, and he heareth me.
In mine affliction I cried to the Lord, and he hearkened to me.
When I was in trouble, I called upon the Lord, and he heard me.
Not unheeded I cry to the Lord in the hour of my distress.
To the Lord in the hour of my distress I call and he answers me.

Commentary: St John Chrysostom's commentary on this verse suggests that it is a reminder of the value to suffering in calling us back to fidelity to God, and spurring us to start the ascent of the ladder to heaven, which we can only do with God’s aid.  Natural disasters, accidents, illness, the attacks of enemies and temptations should all serve to remind us of our absolute dependence on God, and so when trouble strikes us we call out to God, who is always ready to listen when we truly pray.

Dómine, líbera ánimam meam a lábiis iníquis, * et a lingua dolósa.
Domine, libera animam meam a labiis mendacii, a lingua dolosa.
Domine, libera animam meam a labio mendacii, a lingua dolosa. 

κύριε ῥῦσαι τὴν ψυχήν μου ἀπὸ χειλέων ἀδίκων καὶ ἀπὸ γλώσσης δολίας

Text notes:  The two descriptors here ‘labiis iniquis’ (literally ‘from evil lips’, which the neo-Vulgate turns into ‘lying lips’), and ‘lingua dolosa’ (a deceitful tongue) are a case of the part standing for the whole: the psalmist is asking for deliverance from liars and deceivers; from falsehood and treachery.

libero, avi, atum, are  to free, set free, deliver
anima, ae, life, soul, and heart
labium, li, n., a lip. By metonymy lips frequently stands for language, speech, thought, plan, design.
iniquus, a, um, unjust, godless, wicked; labia iniqua, deceitful lips,
lingua, ae,f.,  the tongue;  language, speech, tongue; plan, council.
dolosus, a, um  full of craft or guile, deceitful, treacherous; deceiving, lying; lingua dolosa, a deceitful tongue

O Lord, deliver my soul from wicked lips, and a deceitful tongue.
O Lord deliver me from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unjust lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Lord, have pity and deliver me from the treacherous lips, the perjured tongue.
"O Lord, save my soul from lying lips, from the tongue of the deceitful."

Commentary: The commentaries of the Fathers and Theologians see this verse as warning us of various dangers: the insidious lure of flattery and promise of earthly honours; the twisting of doctrine in heresy propagated by wolves in sheep’s clothing; and the attacks of enemies upon us through calumny and detraction.  We need to be alert to these dangers, and take what measures we can to counteract them, such as ensuring that we are well instructed in sound doctrine.

Quid detur tibi, aut quid apponátur tibi * ad linguam dolósam?
Quid detur tibi aut quid apponatur tibi, lingua dolosa?
Quid detur tibi, aut quid adponatur tibi  ad linguam dolosam? 

τί δοθείη σοι καὶ τί προστεθείη σοι πρὸς γλῶσσαν δολίαν

Text notes:   The meaning of this and the next verse is highly contested. Detur is the third person present subjunctive passive of do, dare, to give; apponere in this context is to do further/added. So, ‘what may be given to you, and what more done, to the deceitful tongue (deceiver)?  The form of this verse and the next echoes the oath formula of Ruth 1:17:” where you die, I will die…may the Lord do so to me and more if even death parts me from you”.   Accordingly, one interpretation is that the psalmist's enemy has just sworn to give reins to his fury against the psalmist, and has invoked on himself the same destruction (in a more intense form) which he has threatened against the psalmist.  Others argue that the most obvious meaning is that no punishment is too great for a deceitful tongue, while St Augustine suggests that this is a rhetorical question, with the answer coming in the next verse.

Quid…aut – signals a double question.
do, dedi, datum, are, to give,
appono, posiii, positum, ere 3 to add to, put to, put in addition; to care for, apply one's self to;  to do further.

What shall be given to you, or what shall be added to you, to a deceitful tongue?
What shall be done to thee or meted out to thee, thou treacherous tongue?
What should be given to thee, and what should be added to thee, for thy crafty tongue?
What reward shall be given or done unto thee, thou false tongue?
Perjurer, he will give thee all thy deserts and more; 
What shall he repay you in return, O treacherous tongue?

Sagíttæ poténtis acútæ, * cum carbónibus desolatóriis.
Sagittae potentis acutae cum carbonibus iuniperorum.

τὰ βέλη τοῦ δυνατοῦ ἠκονημένα σὺν τοῖς ἄνθραξιν τοῖς ἐρημικοῖς

Text notes: Britt translates this as ‘Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals that lay waste’.  Desolatoriis literally means desert trees – the Hebrew Maseoretic Text is more specific, saying broom, a wild shrub found in the desert.  Bird suggests that St Jerome’s translation of juniper is wrong; the neo-Vulgate translators beg to differ! 

Depending on your interpretation of the previous verse, there are three possible ways of reading this one.  

The simplest explanation is that this is a metaphorical description of the deceitful tongue, shooting out wounding words that destroy.  

Boylan suggests that this is about the punishments deceivers bring down upon themselves – since bitter words are likened to swords and arrows, sharp piercing arrows is what they get.  Similarly, burning coals are the punishment for slander.  

Or it could refer to the punishments that God visits on those who deceive - Ladouceur notes that St Augustine turns this into a positive interpretation: coals destroy carnal thought and worldly attachments in order to prepare a place for Christ.

sagitta, ae, f., an arrow.
potens, entis, p. adj.  powerful, mighty, strong.
acutus, a, um  sharp, pointed.
carbo, onis, m., coal, charcoal; burning or glowing coals.

The sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals that lay waste.
Sharp arrows be thy portion, together with the coals of destruction.
Sharpened weapons of the mighty, with coals of the desert.
A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
The arrows of the powerful ne are sharp, together with desolating coals!
Even mighty and sharp arrows, with hot burning coals.
sharp arrows from a warrior’s bow, blazing faggots of broom.
The warriors arrows sharpened and coals, red-hot, blazing.

Commentary: How terrible a sin it is to lead others astray through false teaching; to destroy their reputation through calumny and detraction; or to seduce them from the correct path through the lure of power and status.  Yet we know that justice will in the end prevail!


Heu mihi, quia incolátus meus prolongátus est: habitávi cum habitántibus cedar: * multum íncola fuit ánima mea.

Heu mihi, quia peregrinatus sum in Mosoch, habitavi ad tabernacula Cedar! Multum incola fuit anima mea

Heu mihi quia peregrinatio mea prolongata est ; babitaui cum tabernaculis Caedar !
Multum peregrinata est anima mea

οἴμμοι ὅτι ἡ παροικία μου ἐμακρύνθη κατεσκήνωσα μετὰ τῶν σκηνωμάτων Κηδαρ 6 πολλὰ παρῴκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου

Text notes: At the literal level, the psalmist here laments his exile (‘incola’ means sojourn or stay as a stranger) amongst strangers - the inhabitants of Cedar (Arabs descended from Ishmael).  The Hebrew (and neo-Vulgate), followed here by the Diurnal also mention Mosoch/Mesek, another hostile barbarous tribe.  The neo-Vulgate notwithstanding, the verse readily lends itself to a more generic interpretation, of someone who has long lived as a foreigner in a far distant land. 

hue woe
incolatus, us, m.  a sojourn or sojourning, a stay or residence as that of a stranger or traveler.
incola, ae, m. (incolo), a stranger, sojourner, one who has but a temporary residence in a place, foreigner
prolongo, avi, atum, are  to prolong, lengthen, draw out.
habito, avi, atum, are  to dwell, abide, live.
Cedar, or Kedar (Heb. tanned, sun-burnt), indecl., the second son of Ismael, who gave his name to the nomadic tribe of which he was the founder, as well as to the place where they dwelt. Their home was in Arabia, south of Palestine. Can simply mean remote barbarians.
multus, a, um, much; many, numerous; much, great

Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar: My soul has been long a sojourner.
Woe to me that I abide in Mesek, that I must dwell in Kedar’s tents.  Too long already have I dwelt.
Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged; I have tabernacled among the tents of Kedar. 6 My soul has long been a sojourner;
Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Meshech, and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt among them that are enemies unto peace.
Unhappy I, that live an exile in Mosoch, or dwell among the tents of Cedar!  Long banished here among the enemies of peace,
(Alas, that I abide a stranger in Meshech, dwell among the tents of Kedar!) Long enough have I been dwelling with those who hate peace.

Commentary:  It is this verse in particular which justifies the psalms use in relation to the Office of the Dead, for it points to the idea that all Christians are called upon to be strangers to the world, until called to our heavenly home.  We too have to resolve in our minds that we have been away from our heavenly home too long, and have to fasten our eyes firmly on heaven, seeking to detach ourselves from the things of this world.

Cum his, qui odérunt pacem, eram pacíficus: * cum loquébar illis, impugnábant me gratis.
cum his, qui oderunt pacem. Ego eram pacificus; cum loquebar, illi impugnabant me.
cum odientibus pacem. Ego pacifica loquebar, et illi bellantia.
μετὰ τῶν μισούντων τὴν εἰρήνην ἤμην εἰρηνικός ὅταν ἐλάλουν αὐτοῖς ἐπολέμουν με δωρεάν

Text notes:  The sense is, when I greeted them peacefully (ie saying peace be with you), they answered by murderously attacking him.  Boylan notes that the wild tribesman and Ishmaelites were characteristically described by the psalmist as ‘haters of peace’ (qui oderunt pacem) – a continuing legacy perhaps?

odi and odivi, odisse; other forms, odirem, odiens; to hate.
pax, pacis,  peace, and that which accompanies peace, friendship; blessings, prosperity, etc.
pacificus, a, um  peaceable, pacific, disposed to peace.
loquor, locutus sum, loqui, to speak, utter, tell
impugno, avi, atum, are to fight against, attack, assail.
gratis – without cause, unjustly

With them that hated peace I was peaceable: when I spoke to them they fought against me without cause.
With them that hate peace I am peace-loving, but when I speak they war without cause.
I was peaceable among them that hated peace; when I spoke to them, they warred against me without a cause.
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war!
Among those who hate peace, I was for peace, when I would speak to them, they would fight me without reason.
I labour for peace; but when I speak unto them thereof, they make them ready to battle.
for peace I plead, and their cry is still for battle.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for fighting.

Commentary:  The world’s response to the peace of Christ!  The verse points to our proper response to the world, namely to seek after peace, and return good for evil.

The next part in this series can be found here.

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