Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Aristotle Writes Psalm 68

:םיהלאל וידי ץירת שוכ םירצמ ינמ םינמשח ויתאי

ἥξουσιν πρέσβεις ἐξ Αἰγύπτου Αἰθιοπία προφθάσει χεῖρα αὐτῆς τῷ θεῷ

-verse 32

For readers keeping up with the commentary on Psalm 68, Suzanne McCarthy has written her Part 6: The heavens dripped (where she also kindly references the latest posts of others). I want to return to her Part 5: The barren woman, where Suzanne writes that “the psalmist” is a “she.”

We’re raising the question of authoring, of authority. Who wrote and who can (best) read Psalm 68? Let’s hear the Psalm: “the righteous / the just” – of course: “the fatherless,” “the widows,” “the prisoners,” “the women”: “back from Bashon” with “Benjamin, the youngest” in “Judah,” in “Zebulan,” in “Naphatali,” now “at the temple in Jerusalem” and “out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall hasten to stretch out her hands toward God.” (Aside questions: Where are the men? Why are women often classed in the societal margins? See: Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals?)

Now let me suggest how Aristotle wrote the Psalm.

It’s certainly not as he and other men intended. But acknowledge Aristotle’s authorial impact. Aristotle takes the lessons of Plato, who rails against the Hellene poets and their “so called rhetoric.” Aristotle formalizes such, with his unique cold objectivity. Aristotle teaches Alexander. Alexander conquers the world, setting up centers of learning and notably Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria is a crossroads, rhetorically, linguistically, culturally, ethnically, religiously. Polytheistic Egypt hosts polytheistic Hellenes and monotheistic Arabs and monotheistic Jews. For the Israelites living there in this land of former slavery, this is a fantastic place at an incredible moment in history. As Sylvie Honigman suggests, it becomes a second Jerusalem, one in which there is “innovation.” The innovation has the most profound implications for the Greek and the Jew. For the Greek, there are the developments of the Hellenistic movement, away from Aristotle (a kind of post-Aristotelianism if you will). For the Jew, “the form is Greek, but the thematic material is Jewish” (Honigman, p. 16).

Now Aristotle writes Psalm 68 in this way. We track his hand (through Alexander) and those (Greeks-and-Jews) re-forming Aristotle(-with-Moses-back-in-Egypt). In Alexandria, Ptolemy Philadelphus commissions seventy scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. How these post-Aristotelians read verse 32! How Aristotle writes. Had he forgotten Helen? No matter: “out of Egypt” they refuse to include his “eros” and his “rhetoric” translating instead with “agape” and “rhema” and “eulogos.” They (women and men) remember Helen and Hellenism and pave the way for Jew-and-Greek “fatherless” and “widows” to read (to read even more and more of one coming for Jews and Greeks out of “Judah,” “Zebulan,” “Naphatali”). It’s certainly not as Aristotle intended.


1) for Aristotelianism (and likely for Aristotle himself):
- woman is a "botched" man
- rhetoric is "botched" logic
- translation is "botched" authority

but Aristotle cannot get around the rhetorical Helen, Hellenistic rhetoric, or their translation.

2) Is this too much of a stretch?

a) Why do the LXX translators begin Psalm 68 "with the finish" as with the final utterance (by the disciples' Hellenistic translation) on the cross?

b) Why do the LXX translators begin verse 2 with "νασττω" an imperative form of a verb used by Μωυσς (the alleged author of the book of ησος in Joshua 1 verse 2) for Moses and much more often for Joshua (i.e., ησος)? And why do the following disciples writing the New Testament use ναστς of ησος (i.e., resurrection of Jesus)?

c) Why do the LXX translators in Exodus 6:20 reference Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron, when the Masoretic Text omits her altogether? Could that name Μαριαμ hold significance for the later disciples translating into Hellenism the Aramaic Hebrew words of their master and the names of the women he was around, even the one he came from?

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