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Patrick Mefford

Reminds me of the Avot of Rabbi Natan.

רבן יוחנן בן זכאי... אם היתה נטיעה בתוך יד
ויאמרו לך הרי לך המשיח. בוא ונטע את הנטיעה [ואח"כ צא והקבילו].

Patrick Mefford

"if you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah."

--Forogt to add.

JohnFH

Hi Patrick,

Very good. Except that the Hebrew you cite and the translation you offer do not match. On the basis of your translation, the Hebrew ought to read (but I don't have a manuscript handy or even an edition to verify):

יוחנן בן-זכאי אומר
אם היתה נטיעה בתוך ידך
ואמרו לך הרי משיח בא
נטע את הנטיעה
ואחר-כך צא והקבילהו

(אבות דרבי נתן)

[Rabban] Yochanan ben-Zakkai says:
If there is a sapling in your hand,
and someone tells you,
"Move it, the Messiah has come,"
plant the sapling;
afterwards, go out and greet him.

I'm not sure, however, that the point of the saying attributed to the great Sage is the same as the point of the quote attributed to Luther.

Patrick Mefford

I no doubt have John, and I’m very open for correction, but I took Luther and the Rabbi to be telling us not to worry so much about the eschaton, and to focus on what is in front of us. God brings about events on his own accord, and we are to endure and keep occupied until the end.

And thank you for the correction, I am very much the neophyte when it comes to biblical languages.

JohnFH

Patrick,

Keep working on those languages! Knowing them well and knowing them poorly is the difference between a well-equipped and a poorly-equipped scholar.

I looked into it a little more, and discovered that the Hebrew as you gave it is from chapter 31 of "Recension B" of Solomon Schecter's edition of this work, page 34, published in 1897, reprinted by Georg Olms Verlag in 1979. To this should be compared the reissue of that edition, with an introduction by Menahem Kister, published by Schocken in 1997:

http://www.schocken-jts.org.il/english/bookstore/prodview.asp?idProduct=192

Recension B is NOT the version of this work that is widely available; I'm not sure a translation of "B" exists. Recension A is incorporated into many editions of the Bavli. Both recensions function as a sort of proto-gemara to Pirqei Avot.

Brian Mitchell

Wow, what a fun post! Hebrew poetry, apocalyptic themes, international news, and economics!

Here are two Poems I selected from the anthology called: The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, that I believe address two different possible ways to think or deal with situation in which the end might might be fatal.

בעתות עצבך חזק לבבך
ואם תעמד עלי שער הרגה
לגר מאור בטרם הדעיכה
ולכפירים מדקרים שאגה

שמואל הנגיד

לקראת מקוֹר חי אתן מגמתי
תרם ישׁיבוני ימים לאדמתי
לוּ חכמה נפשׁ רוּח מרדפת
כי היא לבדה מתבל תרוּמתי
ויהי לבבי עד מבין לאחריתי
כי יוֹם תנוּמתי תהיה תקוּמתי
יוֹם יעמיד מעשה ידי לעמתי
יוֹם יאסף אליו רוּחי ונשׁמתי

לוי אבן- אלתבאן

The following isn't a poem but it is related to the topic:
אַךְ עֶת־בּוֹא הַיּוֹם הַהוּא וְהַשָּׁעָה
הַהִיא אֵין אִישׁ יוֹדֵעַ גַּם־לֹא
מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם גַּם־לֹא הַבֵּן מִבַּלְעֲדֵי הָאָב
רְאוּ שִׁקְדוּ וְהִתְפַּלֵּלוּ כִּי לֹא יְדַעְתֶּם מָתַי הָעֵת
וְהָיָה כְּאִישׁ הוֹלֵךְ לַמֶּרְחָק אֲשֶׁר עָזַב אֶת־בֵּיתוֹ וַיִּתֵּן רָשׁוּת לַעֲבָדָיו וּלְאִישׁ אֶת־מְלַאכְתּוֹ וְאֶת־הַשּׁוֹעֵר צִוָּה לִשְׁקֹד
לָכֵן שִׁקְדוּ כִּי לֹא יְדַעְתֶּם מָתַי יָבוֹא בַּעַל הַבָּיִת אִם־בָּעֶרֶב אוֹ־בַחֲצוֹת הַלַּיְלָה אִם־בְּעֵת קְרִיאַת הַתַּרְנְגוֹל אוֹ בַבֹּקֶר
פֶּן־יָבוֹא פִתְאֹם וּמָצָא אֶתְכֶם יְשֵׁנִים
וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְתִּי לָכֶם הִנְנִי אֹמֵר לַכֹּל שְׁקֹדוּ
יֵשׁוּעַ בֶּן־מרְיָם



Jim / Random Arrow

Talk about manipulative prayers, John! :)

John, did I miss your response to my request asking a review of my professional bio? If I botched that post, or if you didn’t publish it because it was off-topic, that’s fine. I just don’t want to miss your response if you made one (maybe I mis-posted it under some lost thread?).

“That makes sense if one is a classical theist in the Jewish or Christian sense; I’m not sure how so much counter-factual hope can be grounded outside of that framework.”

Tough one for me. My respect for atheism and agnosticism owes not to analytic arguments (Dawkins, Dennet, Harris - and whatever other apocalyptic horse riders anyone adds). I respect atheism and agnosticism because they are a vivid and robust personal memory from my growing-up days. Despite the more robust and more vivid Love that came to me while reading the Gospel of John all alone in my room without any preachers, teachers, or church authorities (now you know why I’m messed up!). Anyway, I’d like to see the data – hard data - cross-comparing theists and atheists on their confidence levels about our recent downgrade. Krugman is shooting the messenger (S&P) in his econometric midrash. I think he’s wrong. The messenger shot him. And everyone else. For good reasons. I’d just like to see the data on differences between theist/atheist hopes and responses. Maybe the atheists for Jesus have a better skew? That’s all.


Jim

JohnFH

Hi Jim,

You will have to provide me with a link to your "request asking for a review of my professional bio." I missed that somehow.

Hard data, per the usual, is hard to come by. Even when someone offers it, it often turns out to be something else, a particular selection of data that predetermines the results.

In any case, I didn't mean to make a statistical statement. It's more of an honest question: on what grounds is an atheist or agnostic hopeful if the facts on the ground do not point in a hopeful direction?

Jim / Random Arrow

John, that’s the problem. I cannot find the link here at your blog! I thought that I posted my request under your Liverani thread. I do have a link in my word processor to that thread. I must have messed up my post and not posted it properly. The dog ate my homework. I do have a link to my “professional bio” on my blog – just above my profile. Click on my name here. Or click below (if this one goes through):

http://randomarrow.blogspot.com/2011/08/professional-bio-little-bit.html

Also, I thanked you (in the lost post) for your excellent 50-page summary on canon. A keeper. Dense. Packed. A lot of “careful, very careful” (Deut 2:4) love went into that summary. Thanks.

John, it’s no biggie about the bio. I know you have many irons in the fire.


Jim

Brian Mitchell

Hello Jim,

Your translation of the idiomatic phrase found in Deuteronomy 2:4 is interesting.
וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם מְאֹֽד

2nd person masculine plural Niphal prefect, with a Waw consecutive(actually it is an We-Qatal).

We know that a We-Qatal really denotes a state of being rather than an imperative one might expect to be behind most translations of this verse which often read like a direct order. But, apparently, you were able to deduce that.

Jim / Random Arrow

Brian, thanks for the breakdown. For John too –

I’m jealous of you guys. I took one year of Hebrew at Chicago. I had a second year planned with Michael Fox at Wisconsin (I lived closer by then). It was not to be. I moved. So I’m in this state of Hebrew knowledge between wake and sleep. I don’t use it. I could pick up the Niphal. Not the We-Qatal. I made a lucky guess about the state of being rather than just an imperative (I see a confusion of the two) based on induction and because of the fancy narrative story I paint in my mind about the necessary ecological state of being of ambient carefulness and ambient fear that I induct must have been necessary for survival (my biological bias - alas). So I am both jealous and quite thankful for your breakdown of (Deut 2:4).

Brian and John – dig this. I receive referrals from clergy to do legal and ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and counseling for parishioners or for people who clergy know. Take domestic cases for example: say child custody and child visitation cases when the clients (say I am mediating between dad and mom) are both religious (go the church).

I use (Deut 2:4) as a sort of axiom to work as a psychological prime to help the mediation – “be careful, very careful” – because we want to discern what’s in the best interests of the children in these cases. A fair number of parents get it. A fair number of parents will pray this prayer (Deut 2:4) along with me and together. Clergy love it. I want and pray for an ambient and abiding – state of being – rather than an ad hoc moment of an imperative in using this text! So there you go, Brian!

I must settle for an ad hoc imperative-feeling in some cases. I’m sure you know the drill.

My little two-cents back to you guys (eggheads!) about how some of these verses apply in practical and concrete cases in real life (see my professional bio).

Brian and John – I’m lost, really. I feel (feeling - not an analytic judgment) that there exists a huge and yawning gap between higher critical and academic studies and the ways non-expert readers like my clients (some are not literate) hear and feel the bible. I do have a little education. And I too get confused!

I do thank you guys sincerely for your labors of love with the texts. I meant what I said about my application of Deut 2:4 – “careful, very careful” – to the volumes of love waxed into higher critical studies that I see you guys do.

I’m jealous and blessed by your work.

Thanks again for the breakdown.


Jim

Patrick Mefford

John, I would argue that hope has no place within a worldview, theist or otherwise. Hope is never a proper response for any calamity, while courage or love are the type of responses that enrich life and infuse the present with full bodied meaning, hope can only embellish expectations and quickly wither afterwards. How many hopes does one have in a lifetime, only to be forgotten within days?

Face uncertainty with stoicism, and never store up treasures in heaven where neither moth or rust corrupt.

Angela Erisman

"That makes sense if one is a classical theist in the Jewish or Christian sense; I’m not sure how so much counter-factual hope can be grounded outside of that framework."

It can. It is a simple, yet profound expression of hope. While hope of course makes sense in a worldview in which someone or something is ultimately in control, that's not required. The simple belief that tomorrow will be another day, full of potential is enough to affect one's actions in the way the quote from pseudo-Luther suggests it ought. I doubt there's anyone on the planet (theist or not) who hasn't had a day or two when tipping the seesaw from despair to even blind hope has allowed us to get out of bed in the morning.

Jim / Random Arrow

John, on topic. This one’s tough!

I’m thinking David Tracy. I studied some with David. See the title of his (theological?) book, “Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope.”

I’ve argued with Tracy because of his improper and summary dismissal of positivism (he’s wrong about it, and, his version of positivism is a caricature). Also disagree about calling this a theological book – since David mentions God only once. Other critics agree.

Tracy is an exceptional listener. A promiscuous auditor. Of plural academic conversations outside ‘religion.’ Tracy voluminously hears non-religious voices. Full spectrum. He calls them to hope! That’s where I do agree with him. For the call – to hope.

My opinion is that hope is hard-wired into us as an emergent. But fragile. Quite fragile even if recurrent (myth of the eternal return). So hard-wired emergent hope meets socialization – like through Ancient Hebrew Poetry. Praxis - I often must discern and discover the ambient felt-hope inside despairing poor clients before I can know how to solicit such ambient hope into conscious and full-texted-hope (texted: say court orders).

I’m done with my professional bio (link above). Glad to put it to rest.

Thanks for the provocative thread.


Jim

JohnFH

Hi everyone,

I was away on a mission trip to the predominantly African American neighborhood of Garfield Park in Chicago. We were working with Bethel New Life, whose motto is, in the midst of a neighborhood with grave needs, "investing in hope."

I continue to think of the absence of hope as a luxury item only the very well-off can afford. I agree that hope, like paranoia, is hard-wired into us. From the point of view of an atheist, nonetheless, that might well be a reason to shun it. Only Jews, Christians, and Muslims necessarily believe in a version of natural law; atheists and agnostics are free to see life as fundamentally about transcending natural law.

Brian and Jim,

The we-qatal which ends Deut 2:4 qualifies the al-tiqtol expression in 2:5. "you must be very careful not to provoke them" is the meaning. However, at some point tradition, as is evidenced by the verse division, understood "You must be very careful" apart from what follows, thereby according it a sense unto itself.

Brian,

Nice cites.

Jim,

Thanks for the link. Your bio is fascinating. My understanding of law and gospel would not permit me to operate under the Uniform Arbitration Act. I think those who do are literally asking for trouble.

Brian Mitchell

Patrick Mefford:
I have been living in Tohoku Japan for about 10 years, and whenever earthquakes or tsunamis threaten and kill, people do in fact turn to hope turning to recite shinto or in my en-laws case shingonshu Buddhist prayers. Their prayers and hopes are not divorced from kind acts and compassionate acts to others after all it is because they hoped/believed they could make a difference that they helped others. So, as hope can be forgotten, so can benevolent acts, yet does it really follow that either one should be dispersed with? But, please come to Iwate, Miyagi, and the coast of Aomori and share your 'western' stoicism.

BUT, as for me and my house we shall continue to say:
がんばろう東北!
Ganbarou Tohoku (KEEP THE HOPE TOHOKU!)
http://www.plus-blog.sportsnavi.com/bbakita/article/356


John:
Experience has taught me that your statement "My opinion is that hope is hard-wired into us as an emergent" is probably correct.

Jim:
Your work sounds fascinating.


Brian Mitchell

Just be accurate I should note that although がんばる is used somewhat like 'good luck' and 'keep the faith' in English it literally means to work/persevere. However, the usually words for work or Hataraku (働く) the verb, and then the noun Shigoto (仕事). The real Japanese word for hope is Kibou (希望) The first Kanji in this Kanji combination means 希 means to strive or try for, the 2nd one means expect/wish for.

Patrick Mefford

Brian Mitchell,

If I were to come to Japan, what else could I do? Play the role of soothsayer and prophet and tell my fellow human beings that all will be well, when I have no real idea that it will be? Am I to insult their suffering by telling them natural disasters are all part of Heavenly Father’s plan? Or that the Mighty God is pouring out his wrath against the nation of Japan? I don’t think so, nor would I pontificate my pet philosophies to them either. All that one can really do for another human who is suffering beyond your help, is to be present to them, and that requires zero transcendence.

If it is one thing I’ve learned in my life, is that I shouldn’t project my first world concerns on to third world problems. Asking someone to turn their eyes to heaven in times of want and woe, seems akin to my first world concerns, which are distant to those in the third world. How much more distant is the eschaton? I cannot play the role of Dr. Pangloss.

I think a purposeful act of courage, love, or charity preformed in the present, does much more for the world and it’s inhabitants than anytime spent longing for a salvation that may never come, and that is what cheapens a life spent in hope.

Brian Mitchell

Patrick Mefford,

What, are you talking about?

Why bring the western concept of 'heaven' or into this? both the secular and the Buddhist here do not have any concept of heaven.

Yes, "purposeful act of courage, love, or charity preformed in the present" is what hope means in Japanese! The word kibo = Hope is an action word not a faith word.

"I shouldn’t project my first world concerns on to third world problems"
Japan is not a 3rd world country! And, I wasn't aware that problems could be classified this way.

Brian Mitchell

Hello Patrick Mefford,

The following terms are new to me would you mind defining them?

(1)eschaton (spanish?)
(2)Dr. Pangloss
(3)pet philosophies
(4)transcendence
(5)soothsayer
(6)turn their eyes

I haven't studied theology or philosophy academically. My interest are mainly linguistic and anything to do classical Hebrew and modern Japanese.

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  • Observatório Bíblico
    Blog sobre estudos acadêmicos da Bíblia, para Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica / Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, SP.
  • Occasional Publications
    excellent blogging by Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs' scholar extraordinaire
  • old testament passion
    Great stuff from Anthony Loke, a Methodist pastor and Old Testament lecturer in the Seminari Theoloji, Malaysia
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog
    A weblog created for a course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, by James Davila (archive)
  • On the Main Line
    Mississippi Fred MacDowell's musings on Hebraica and Judaica. With a name like that you can't go wrong.
  • p.ost an evangelical theology for the age to come
    seeking to retell the biblical story in the difficult transition from the centre to the margins following the collapse of Western Christendom, by Andrew Perriman, independent New Testament scholar, currently located in Dubai
  • PaleoJudaica
    by James Davila, professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. Judaism and the Bible in the news; tidbits about ancient Judaism and its context
  • Pastoral Epistles
    by Rick Brannan and friends, a conceptually unique Bible blog
  • Pen and Parchment
    Michael Patton and company don't just think outside the box. They are tearing down its walls.
  • Pisteuomen
    by Michael Halcomb, pastor-scholar from the Bluegrass State
  • Pseudo-Polymath
    by Mark Olson, an Orthodox view on things
  • Purging my soul . . . one blog at a time
    great theoblog by Sam Nunnally
  • Qumranica
    weblog for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, taught by James R. Davila (archive)
  • Ralph the Sacred River
    by Edward Cook, a superb Aramaist
  • Random Bloggings
    by Calvin Park, M. Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton MA
  • Resident aliens
    reflections of one not at home in this world
  • Revelation is Real
    Strong-minded comment from Tony Siew, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore
  • Ricoblog
    by Rick Brannan, it's the baby pictures I like the most
  • Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
    Nick Norelli's fabulous blog on Bible and theology
  • SansBlogue
    by Tim Bulkeley, lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College (New Zealand). His Hypertext Commentary on Amos is an interesting experiment
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages
    texts and files to help people learn some ancient languages in self study, by Mike Heiser
  • Midrash, etc.
    A fine Hebrew-to-English blog on Midrash, by Carl Kinbar, Director of the New School for Jewish Studies and a facultm member at MJTI School of Jewish Studies.
  • Phil Lembo what I'm thinking
    a recovering lawyer, now in IT, with a passion for a faith worth living
  • Roses and Razorwire
    a top-notch Levantine archaeology blog, by Owen Chesnut, a doctoral student at Andrews University (MI)
  • Scripture & Theology
    a communal weblog dedicated to the intersection of biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine, by Daniel Driver, Phil Sumpter, and others
  • Scripture Zealot
    by Jeff Contrast
  • Serving the Word
    incisive comment on the Hebrew Bible and related ancient matters, with special attention to problems of philology and linguistic anthropology, by Seth L. Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Religion Department of Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Singing in the Reign
    NT blog by Michael Barber (JP University) and Brad Pitre (Our Lady Holy Cross)
  • Stay Curious
    excellent comment on Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language topics, by Karyn Traphagen, graduate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia PA (archive)
  • Sufficiency
    A personal take on the faith delivered to the saints, by Bob MacDonald, whose parallel blog on the Psalms in Hebrew is a colorful and innovative experiment
  • The Sundry Times
    Gary Zimmerli's place, with comment on Bible translations and church renewal
  • Sunestauromai: living the crucified life
    by a scholar-pastor based in the Grand Canyon National Park
  • ta biblia
    blog dedicated to the New Testament and the history of Christian origins, by Giovanni Bazzana
  • Targuman
    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.