Re: Night and Day

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 08 2000 - 16:21:45 EST

At 12:48 PM -0500 2/8/00, wrote:
>In a message dated 02/08/2000 8:17:18 AM Pacific Standard Time,
> writes:
>At 11:03 AM -0500 2/8/00, wrote:
><< >Thus, I would translate: "Day by day the firmament/sky [TO STEPEWMA] gives
> >forth speech [speech that DIHGOUNTAI DOXAN QEOU], and night by night it [TO
> >STEREWMA] proclaims [His] knowledge."
> The problem with this is that there is a normal way to express "by day" and
> "by night" in Greek, and that is the genitive case without any article:
> simply hHMERAS and NUKTOS; I don't see how a dative of these words,
> PARTICULARLY in a context of a nominative of the same word and a verb for
> "speak" could possibly carry the sense you're suggesting. >>
>I show that this is the only instance in the Psalms where hHMERA is used in
>the dative, without the preposition EN. So there is no other instance of the
>dative to compare, here. Do you have a list of examples that I might
>consider, where the normal way about which you speak, is expressed?

I'm not altogether sure what you mean to say here, Greg; is it that you
think hHMERAi is a locative dative without EN? and that the translator of
the Hebrew into Greek may somehow have understood L'YOM in a locative
sense? Or are you trying to understand hHMERAi in an instrumental
sense--that night cries out aloud "by means of night" and day speaks "by
means of day"? I don't understand what that means. If by the translation
you've offered you mean "day by day" and "night by night" to refer to
rhythmic alternation, I might come closer to agreeing with you, but it
appears you mean to give hHMERAi and NUKTI some locative or instrumental
sense, neither of which seems to me to suit the context.

You're right--this is the only instance of hHMERAi in the dative without a
preposition; does that mean that it really is locative but wanting the
preposition? I don't find but six instances of EREUGOMAI, most of them used
for the roaring of a lion, once of waters roaring (the word does mean
fundamentally come violently forth from the mouth, "belch"--it's the Latin
ERUCTARE). In Matt 13:35 (the only instance in the GNT) it is used of
utterance (ANOIXW TO STOMA ... EREUXOMAI TA KEKRUMMENA ...); but in the
parallel clause about night the verb is ANAGGELLW a verb used more than
250x in the LXXX and regularly with a dative of the person to whom an
announcement or proclamation is spoken.

>I do not believe that we must accept that the LXX of Psalm 19:2 is using the
>terms 'normally,' in any event. The LXX Psalms often uses what might seem to
>be unusual expressions that fit in with the unique concepts and ideas as
>articulated in a particular context.

I will readily grant that there are some strange Greek expressions in the
lyric verse of the LXX, but I don't understand why we should abandon an
understanding based on normal grammar when it will work, and I think that
the poetic notion involved in the verse in question is intelligible enough
once one is willing to attribute to the elements of the creation poetic
license to dialog with each other antiphonally. How relevant this is I
don't know, but I've just re-read the "Prolog im Himmel" at the beginning
of Faust, where the angels are singing to each other about the glory of the
created world; Raphael sings:
        Die Sonne toent nach alter Weise
        in Brudersphaeren Wettgesang,
        Und ihre vorgeschriebene Reise
        Vollendet sie mit Donnergang.
to which Gabriel has a reply, and then Michael ends with:
        ... Doch deine Boten, Herr, verehren
        Das sanfte Wandeln deines Tags.
Are the "messengers" (Boten) the angels who stand in awe of "the gentle
alternation of thy Day"? It seems to me that they are responding to the
message that they hear proclaimed by the chorus of created things. Of
course this is no evidence for what the Psalmist meant by 19:2, but it
shows that the notion of an antiphonal song sung by the elements of God's
creation singing in turn to each other is not really so far-fetched.

In sum, I find it easier to believe that the ordinary syntax of nominative
+ dative + verb of speaking/communicating is what governs the content of
Psalm 19:2 in the LXX.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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