Saturday, March 11, 2017

Psalm 124 - Trust in the Lord (v1) (Gradual Psalm No 6/2)

1283 Descriptio Terrae Sanctae
Today I want to start looking at Psalm 124 on a verse by verse basis.  Verse 1 of Psalm 124 invites us to put our trust our the eternal and unchanging God.

The translations

It is worth starting by focusing on the words in some detail by looking at the various translation traditions.

The Vulgate translation of the psalms (labelled V below) used in the 1963 Monastic Breviary follows the Septuagint, the official translation of the Old Testament made providentially in the centuries immediately before the Incarnation.  The Douay-Rheims and Brenton's translation from the Septuagint reflect this text also.

This translation and tradition has come under periodic attack by those who argue that since the text was originally composed in Hebrew, the Hebrew version that has come down to us must be closer to the original than a version in any other language.  The argument was really started by St Jerome, but was shouted down in relation to the psalms at least primarily because they are quoted so often in the New Testament from the Septuagint versions, not what is known as the Hebrew Masoretic Text version.

The twentieth century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has rather vindicated the defenders of the Septuagint: they attest to several distinct text variants of Scripture, showing that the Septuagint reflects an ancient tradition.  And although the Dead Sea Scrolls also show a distinct tradition that gave birth to the much later Hebrew Masoretic Text, they arguably do also lend some weight to the early Christian claims of Jewish manipulation of the text to exclude or obfuscate texts that lent support to Christian claims.

It is rather unfortunate, in that light, that most twentieth century translations, including the Neo-Vulgate, follow the Hebrew rather than Vulgate-Septuagint tradition.  In the case of this particular psalm, the differences between the two are relatively minor, but still worth noting.
Qui confídunt in Dómino, sicut mons Sion: * non commovébitur in ætérnum, qui hábitat in Jerúsalem.
Qui confidunt in Domino, sicut mons Sion: non commovebitur, in aeternum manet.
Qui confidunt in Domino quasi mons Sion inmobilis, in aeternum habitabilis.

ο πεποιθότες π κύριον ς ρος Σιων ο σαλευθήσεται ες τν αἰῶνα κατοικν Ιερουσαλημ

[Note: V=Vulgate; nv=Neo-Vulgate of 1979; JH=St Jerome's translation from the Hebrew; final line is Greek Septuagint]

Text notes: The Neo-Vulgate follows the Masoretic Text here in moving the ‘Jerusalem’ at the end of the line to the start of the next verse: it is pretty obvious, however, that the Septuagint/Vulgate rendering is better from a sense point of view.  

Word for word: Qui (who) confídunt (they trust) in Dómino (in the Lord), sicut (like) mons (Mount) Sion: non (not) commovébitur (he will be moved) in ætérnum (forever), qui (who) hábitat (he lives) in Jerúsalem.

Key vocab

confido, fisus sum, ere 3, to trust, to have or place confidence in.
sicut, adv., as, just as, like.
mons, montis, m., a mountain
commoveo, movi, motum, ere 2 to move, shake, agitate, disturb, waver, falter, hesitate, fail; tremble from fear,
aeternus, a, urn eternal. forever
habito, avi, atum, are (freq. of habeo), to dwell, abide, live.

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Sion: he shall not be moved for ever that dwells in Jerusalem.
Brenton Septuagint
They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Sion: he that dwells in Jerusalem shall never be moved.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Sion: it shall not be moved forever, standing in Jerusalem
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
Those who trust in the Lord are strong as mount Sion itself, that stands unmoved for ever.
They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the Mount Sion, which may not be removed, but standeth fast for ever.
Those who put their trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, that cannot be shaken, that stands for ever. Jerusalem!


Mt Sion is repeatedly referred in Scripture as immovable and abiding (non commovebitur in aeternum), more so than other mountains, because it is God’s dwelling place: as several other psalms note, God is our rock, fortress, and shield; our mighty help and stronghold.  St John Chrysostom, for example, notes that: 
What is the force of the addition of Sion? I mean, instead of sim­ply saying like a mountain, why did he make mention of that particular mountain? 
To teach us not to be brought down by misfortune nor drowned in it, but depend on hope in God and bear everything nobly - wars, conflicts, alarms. For this mountain, too, was once deserted and bare of inhabitants, and in turn recov­ered its former prosperity, regaining its ancient popularity with an influx of inhabitants and manifestation of marvels. So, too, the noble man is not brought down, even should he suffer countless troubles.
 ...He said mountain to indicate the irreversible character of hope in God, its stability, its invincibility, its impregnability: just as you would never succeed in toppling or undermining a mountain even if you were to bring countless war machines against it, so the one assaulting the person with hope in God goes off home empty-handed. Hope in God is much more secure than a mountain, after all.
Cassiodorus points to another significance of the reference to Sion, in the meaning of the word as referring to 'watchers', one of the key roles of the Christian, waiting for the second coming, as well as referring to Christ himself:
The prophetic words address all persons in general, for those who remain constant in the true religion here on earth, and set their hope in the Lord's protection as though in Sion, the mountain of Jerusalem, stand most steady and firm. 
Here we must investigate the meaning of the name; Sion means "watching," an apt activity for the Lord Jesus Christ our Shepherd. Such a comparison of an object without sense with so great a Majesty could not be possible unless it had positive significance such as you will often find in the divine Scriptures. Elsewhere is the statement: The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flock? and there are other passages of the same kind. So he says of the man who trusts in the Lord that like mount Sion he shall not be moved for ever, though our belief is that mount Sion like everything else will be changed at the end of the world. But the Sion here is the Lord Christ who shall not be moved; it is He who is denoted here.
It is St Augustine though, who provides the Christological interpretation of the verse that best relates to the hour at which this psalm is said in the Benedictine Office, when Christ ascended the cross:
If we understand this earthly Jerusalem, all who dwelt therein have been excluded by wars and by the destruction of the city: thou now seekest a Jew in the city of Jerusalem, and findest him not. Why then will they that dwell in Jerusalem not be moved for ever, save because there is another Jerusalem, of which you are wont to hear much? She is our mother, for whom we sigh and groan in this pilgrimage, that we may return unto her....
But they who dwelt in that earthly Jerusalem, have been moved; first in heart, afterwards by exile. When they were moved in heart and fell, then they crucified the King of the heavenly Jerusalem herself; they were already spiritually without, and shut out of doors their very King. For they cast Him out without their city, and crucified Him without.  He too cast them out of His city, that is, of the everlasting Jerusalem, the Mother of us all, who is in Heaven.
The key takeout message of the verse is, if we trust firmly in Christ, we too shall ride out the storms of life.  Earthly Sion's can disappear and be destroyed, but, as Cassiodorus instructs:
here too we are to identify Jerusalem as the native land of heaven denoting the vision of peace, from which no-one can in any sense be moved once having attained the merit of being established in its firm foundation.
Pope Benedict XVI noted that:
Even when the believer feels lonely and is surrounded by risks and hostility, his faith must be serene because the Lord is always with us; his power surrounds us and protects us. The Prophet Isaiah also testifies to hearing God speak these words, destined for the faithful: "See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; he who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken" (Is 28: 16).

Canticum graduum.

1 Qui confídunt in Dómino, sicut mons Sion: * non commovébitur in ætérnum, qui hábitat in Jerúsalem.
They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Sion: he shall not be moved for ever that dwells 2 in Jerusalem.
2  Montes in circúitu ejus: * et Dóminus in circúitu pópuli sui, ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
Mountains are round about it: so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth now and for ever.
3  Quia non relínquet Dóminus virgam peccatórum super sortem justórum: * ut non exténdant justi ad iniquitátem manus suas.
3 For the Lord will not leave the rod of sinners upon the lot of the just: that the just may not stretch forth their hands to iniquity.
4  Bénefac, Dómine, bonis, * et rectis corde.
4 Do good, O Lord, to those that are good, and to the upright of heart.
5  Declinántes autem in obligatiónes addúcet Dóminus cum operántibus iniquitátem: * pax super Israël.
5 But such as turn aside into bonds, the Lord shall lead out with the workers of iniquity: peace upon Israel.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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

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