Thursday, 13 August 2009

Creatio and conservatio in Ps 24:2? Hossfeld's grammatical and Biblical arguments.

The future/imperfect/yiqtol verb (take your pick) יְכוֹנְנֶהָ in Ps 24: 2 can be variously translated as "established," "establishing," "establishes," or even "will establish." In other words, just about ever time-point in the English tense spectrum. Whereas some translations don't seem to make too much difference to the meaning ("established," "establishing" and "establishes," understood as the "historical present," would all refer to the past), others have cosmological implications. I have already discussed the first two options here and then here (with some great contributions in the comments from Hobbins and Bekins). I discovered yesterday, however, a new proposition by a contemporary scholar (Hossfeld, who has just retired this semester from Bonn, much to my distress) has opted to follow Bäthgen's suggestion that
Das Perf. יסדה geht auf die Schöpfung, das Imperf. יכוננה auf die Erhaltung. (The perfect יסדה refers creation, the imperfect יכוננה refers to its preservation)
In other words, he translates יְכוֹנְנֶהָ with a present simple ("establishes"), though understood as an actual ongoing activity (="continuing to establish").

Hossfeld interprets the cosmological significance of this verb form as follows:
"Wie ein Architekt hat er die Erde gegründet (creatio) und festigt sie ständig gegen das Chaos der Wasserfluten (conservatio)." (Like an architect he founded the earth (creatio) and stabilizes it continually in the face of the chaos of the floods (conservatio).
And here is the grammatical argument that clinches it for him:
Der tempuswechsel beim MT (abgeschlossenes, vergangenes und duratives Geschehen) ist beabsichtigt und wird durch die nahestehende Parallele Spr 3, 19 (Perfekt-Partizip) bestätigt. Er ziehlt auf die beiden Aspekte der Schöpfung, creatio und conservatio. (The switch in tense in MT [a completed, past and a contiuing event] is intentional and is confirmed by the related parallel in Prov 3:19 [perfect-participle]. It aims at both dimensions of creation: creatio and conservatio).
So you can check for yourself, here's the Prov 3:19 text:
יהוה בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד־אָרֶץ כּוֹנֵן שָׁמַיִם בִּתְבוּנָה׃

So, what do people think? Does the participle here confirm Hossfeld's interpretation? (I should add that Roland Murphy (in WBC) translates the participle as a gerund, and not as a continous present: "The Lord founded the world with wisdom, establishing the heavens with intelligence").

So much for the grammatical argument. Hossfeld goes onto to provide Biblical-theological evidence in the form of citations from other Psalms:
YHWH hat Meere und Ströme anfänglich besiegt und übt seitdem eine dauernde Kontrolle über sie aus. Er garantiert die kosmische Stabilität (vgl. Ps 29, 3.10 93, 1-3 136, 6) auf unbegrenzte Dauer wie in Ps 104, 5 (vgl. Ps 48, 9) [Yhwh originally conquered sea and currents and has since then exercised continual control over them. He guarantees cosmic stability (Ps 29:3, 10; Ps 93:1-3; and Ps 136:6) in perpetuity, as in Ps 104:5 (cf. Ps 48:9)]
My question: are these verses enough to witness to creatio continua (or however you say it in Latin)?

Concerning Ps 93: 1-3, Craigie (who translates the yiqtols as past tense) has the following to say:
the cosmogonic victory of Yahweh should not be treated as a purely past event. The context of acclamation indicates a continuing threat: Why the acclamation of Yahweh as the Victor King if the “floods” have long ceased to be a problem? The pounding, surging, and roaring of the “floods” are never far away. The seas of chaos are tamed, but their mighty roar hangs in the air like an echo ...In a sense the “floods” belong to the distant past, but their primordial roaring is also contemporary.
Update: Chris Tilling has been doing some thinking in a related area. In this post he struggles with the "Biblicality" of the concept of creatio ex nihilo, and in this post he shares some thoughts on creation, chaos, and nothingness by Bauckham.


yhwhmlk said...

Where did the art work come from, I love it!

Phil Sumpter said...

Type in "raging waters" into google images.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Alas, I'm not competent enough to comment on your post, but you are doubtless competent enough to comment on my query, should you be so kind.

A search of "ps 93:1 verb" led me to your post. I'm tracking down some things for a post of my own.

Ps 93:1a is rendered by almost all Bible translations as 'the LORD is reigning or something similar. J. B. Rotherham, however, put it "yahweh hath become king, whereas Young and Douay-Rheim render it hath reigned.

Why the differences? I suspect it has to do with the perfect/imperfect tenses, and perhaps the waw consecutive rules, but I don't know how they all fit together. Do you?

Whether you do or not, thanks for entertaining the thought, which is afield from your post.

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Tom (if I may use the shortened version of your name),

sorry for the late reply, I've been away for a week. I'm sure all the elements you have mentioned apply, as well as syntax and form critical considerations. Due to the wonders of Logos Bible Software, I will simply post Tate's comments from his Word Biblical Commentary (p. 472):
1.b. The expression יהוה מלך has received much attention, especially since S. Mowinckel’s proposal in 1921 to translate it as a cultic affirmation in the celebration of Yahweh’s kingship, with the meaning “Yahweh has become king” (Psalmenstudien, II, 6–8). The expression occurs elsewhere in 96:10; 1 Chr 16:31; Pss 97:1; 99:1. The most significant critique of Mowinckel’s proposal was made by D. Michel, “Studien zu den sogenannten Thronbesteigungspsalmen,” VT 6 (1956) 40–68; also his Tempora und Satzstellung, 215–21; also see H.-J. Kraus, Psalms 1–59, 86–89; and brief treatments with references to the literature in K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1966), 102–6; D. M. Howard, Structure, 39–40. Since the work of Michel, most scholars have translated the expression as “Yahweh reigns” (Michel: “Yahweh, is the one who exercises kingship”) or “Yahweh is king.” Howard (40) notes that no major English Bible version has adopted Mowinckel’s “Yahweh has become king!” The major argument against the formulaic expression “x has become king” is based on 2 Sam 15:10 and 2 Kgs 9:13, where the exclamation “x has become king” is clearly indicated, but where the word order is “x מלך” (see also Isa 52:7). The argument is supposed to be strengthened by 1 Kgs 1:18, where the word order is מלך XXX, but which is commonly read as “x is king” or “x reigns as king” (note the “x מלך in 1 Kgs 1:11, 13).
The argument from 1 Kgs 1:11, 18 does not seem very strong to me. The context is that of Adonijah’s attempt to seize the kingship in view of the impending death of David. The durative aspects of Adonijah’s kingship could hardly be the major subject of Nathan (v 11) and Bathsheba (v 18). They are concerned with the fact that Adonijah has seized power and become king.The context of Ps 47:9 [8] may favor the translation “God has become king” rather than “God is king.”
The placement of subject and verb does not provide very persuasive evidence against the idea of beginning a reign. “The placing of the subject first simply gives added emphasis to it” (J. Day, God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea, 36). In his later work, Mowinckel still defended the meaning of “Yahweh has become king” (PIW, II, 222), but he recognized that the argument for a shout of homage does not depend on the translation: “It is of secondary importance whether we translate ‘reigns as king,’ for in every case the attention is turned toward the ‘ingressive’ element.” He asks why the MT did not vocalize as מֶלֶךְ if the idea of a durative state of being king was intended. Mowinckel (PIW, II, 223) is surely justified in arguing that the treatment of יהוה מלך as a cry of homage in the sense that “Yahweh has become king,” or “Yahweh reigns (anew)” does not destroy the idea that Yahweh always is king. Cultic terminology should not be pushed into such rationalistic modes of thinking. The dramatic nature of worship does not require an exact metaphysical delineation of words in liturgies. Note Rev 11:17, cf. v 15; 19:6 which follow the LXX ;texts. I have adopted “Yahweh reigns” for the Translation, but in an acclamatory sense which celebrates the repeatedly new enthronement of Yahweh.