Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Jewish and Christian homily on Psalm 24

The Jewish one is by Rav Kook, the first Ashkenazi Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine. He asks the following questions:
What exactly are these gates and 'entrances of the world' that refuse to open? Why is the request repeated? And why does the psalm describe God first as a mighty warrior in battle, and later as the 'God of Hosts'?
The Christian sermon is by Protestant systematic theologian Eberhard Jüngel (1968), currently head of the Tübingen theological faculty (I believe).

I find it interesting to compare the two sermons. It is clear that the assumptions involved in how one actualizes a text for the community of faith have massive interpretative implications. Jüngel seems to be reading the literal sense of the text while trying to extend that meaning metaphorically in terms of the Psalm's own literary presentation, as it stands on the page (ableit within an existentialistic framework). Rav Kook, on the other hand, is reading the Psalm section (vv. 7-10; there's no reference to the rest of the Psalm as a hermeneutical framework) within the context of Talmudic midrash. The two entities - Scripture and Interpretation - are moulded into one and become the object of another interpretation.

It seems to me that what is at stake here are differing understandings of the substance of Scripture, the reality to which it points and within which it participates. Getting to grips with that may help the two faith groups to understand better where the other is coming from.

(I should add there in addition to Jüngel's interpretation, there are a host of very different Patristic interpretations of the Psalm, which I've summarized here. I intend to soon post on interpretations of Psalm 24 in Jewish tradition. Kook's version above seems to take a different tack to what I've read about the Talmudic interpretation ... ).

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