An Attempt at a Master Diagram of Interesting Features of the Psalms

I’m not entirely happy with this yet, and in fact it isn’t complete, but it’s at a stage of “proof of concept”. It’s a master diagram of Psalms in Prezi arranged like one of those broken-up-world globe map projections:

https://prezi.com/gr8muwf70jel/psalms-master-diagram/
Psalms Master Prezi Screenshot

For those interested in technical production details, I produced the world template in one Inkscape document and the coloured content in another. Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics program. But Prezi doesn’t recognise the normal vector graphics (SVG) format, so I had to open the finished product in Adobe Illustrator (very new for me, and maybe not permanent, though a better-known vector graphics program, probably the best-known of all). Then I exported it in Adobe Flash format (SWF), which Prezi recognizes, and opened the file from within a new prezi, adding nothing else bar the title. The convoluted process is thanks to Inkscape’s usefulness as a graphics editor, whereas Prezi is very limited that way, and the fact that vector graphics do not lose resolution no matter how far you zoom into them, and are ideally suited to a zooming interface like Prezi.

But, if the result doesn’t help anyone comprehend (in this case) Psalms, all the playing around is in vain. So critical feedback is welcome!

A Sermon on Music in Worship: “Worshipping in Song”

Some of this is more suggestive than detailed text, but it will give you some idea of what I spoke about at my home church, Kilsyth South Baptist Church in eastern Melbourne, this morning.

I feel I need to add a caveat. Speaking in church about worship is a bit like speaking in church about prayer. You’re normally going to have a sense of your own shortcomings in the same area. Certainly true for me on this occasion!

The link for the prezi online is: https://prezi.com/czzhib-lcf3_/worshipping-in-song/

If you’d like a downloaded form, the pdf may be found at http://1drv.ms/1e8GR9V. Here’s the embedded form:

I haven’t forgotten the creation book series…more to come on that.

A Stable and a Shaken World: A Sermon Outline and Study of the Hebrew Word ‘mwt’

I spoke on this ‘shaking’ idea in the Psalms recently, focusing on occurrences of the Hebrew verb ‘מוט (e.g. Psa 46:3)’.  Some of the folk present have asked for access to the PowerPoint resource, so here ’tis.

Notes:

  1. The second slide acts as a master, with each of the nine boxes linked to more specific content centred around a relevant passage from the Psalms or Isaiah.  Every slide has a small icon to permit navigation back to this master slide.
  2. The screen concerning Psalm 104 and comparing it to verse 1 contains a link to a Word document which outlines the full text of Psalm 104.  I will include this separately, below.

Here is the Word file of Psalm 104:

Mini-Book Review: F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic

Okay, so it’s really old, published in 1973. This is one of those scholarly books that sits on the shelf of nearly every theological institution on the planet, but that is beginning to get a little dusty from disuse. It’s one of those books that any budding biblical scholar ought to have read, but some of us were like Linus in 1973, with our shorts nearly reaching the ground, and weren’t quite ready to read the works of scholars like Frank Moore Cross. So it has taken me a while to get to this.

But you ought to know that this is one of those books you ought to read if you want to understand the course of Old Testament scholarship in the last fifty years – one of Cross’s defining works, and thus a milestone for one of the leading scholars of the twentieth-century Albright school. It is a classic, a period piece, an effective marker of the state of anglophone thought on numerous Old Testament topics from Pentateuchal criticism and the Deuteronomistic History to the speciality of the Albright school, antique Hebrew poetry.

But remember…it is from 1973! It shouldn’t be read as contemporary research. But for the serious OT student with some introduction to critical issues, it should be read.

The Rage Against God

I’m borrowing the title of the Peter Hitchens book to highlight an interesting connection between a psalm and Daniel.  Having recently picked up some Aramaic, I was reading Daniel 6 in the wee hours (see my insomnia post!) and discovered a word in the Daniel-in-the-lions’-den story that also turns up, just once, in the Psalms in Hebrew.  The word is the verb ‘ragash‘, which appears in Psalm 2:1, in the gripping opening line, “Why do the nations rage?”  Being the only occurrence of this verb, its meaning is debated, but it seems to connote a crowd in tumult (see the cognate noun, used positively, in 55:15 (Eng. 14), to indicate a happy, noisy, chaotic crowd headed for worship at the temple.)

Well, the verb turns up three times in the lions’ den story, and in an interesting pattern.  In 6:7 (Eng. 6:6), the group that envies Daniel goes to the king, Darius, urging him to issue a decree that there be no worship for thirty days, except that directed to Darius himself.  We are led to understand this as an appeal to his ego.  Daniel learns of this, but maintains his three-time daily prayer routine towards Jerusalem (we are reminded of the programmatic, and possibly exilic, prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8), which makes him a sitting duck for the set-up, and his opponents in v. 12 (Eng. 11) come in in ‘ragash‘ fashion to catch him red-kneed.  When Darius learns of this development, he looks for a way to excuse Daniel, but now Daniel’s rivals in v. 16 (Eng. 15) ‘ragash‘ back into the king to remind him of his obligations to keep the irrevocable law of the Medes and Persians.  Into the lions’ den goes Daniel.

The third encounter in particular gives the reader the sense that the king is not in a strong negotiating position.  These plotting officials have the king pinned with his own strong piece, the legal force of his own edict.  He, like Daniel, is boxed in by them.  Thus the rhetorical force of this part of the story gives us a possible insight into the still-debated meaning of this elusive word.  In the English versions of Daniel 6, we are offered many alternative translations for ‘ragash’: ‘to come by agreement’ (ESV); ‘to go as a group’ (NIV); ‘[the conspirators] came’, says NRSV, giving the noun, ‘conspirators’, a little borrowed connotation from the verb, which may carry this sense in Psalm 2:1.  Somewhere I think I read, ‘stormed in’.  Perhaps that is the closest so far.  My sense is that it connotes the noisy, unruly approach of a group of persons with hostile, though hidden, intentions in this passage, though I don’t claim this with any dogmatism.  This seems to be the sense of the story, which justifies Daniel as courageously devout, and interestingly, absolves the Persian emperor Darius from any responsibility for Daniel’s plight, at the cost of making him seem disempowered.  Such an apologetic might have a real function in a Jewish community still living under Persian power.

So as in Psalm 2, not to mention in Esther, Daniel 6 finds “the nations raging” against the LORD still, and as in Psalm 2, this plotting and rebellion proves ultimately futile.  An interesting instance of how a rare Hebrew OT word lines up in meaning with its rare Aramaic counterpart.