Re: Night and Day

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 17:03:51 EST

Although Mary Pendergraft has hit the nail on the head about this I feel
like I need to try one more time. Perhaps the problem is really
hermeneutical, and that you find it impossible to understand what these
verse could mean even in a figurative sense, whereas I can't see any other
way to understand them than in a figurative sense, but perhaps I can
suggest the image I have in mind of something "impersonal" speaking to
something else "impersonal." Surely the problem does not lie in this
instance in the supposition that the Psalms are not to be supposed ever to
be speaking figurative language. But if that IS the problem, then I guess
we had better drop it because we don't discuss hermeneutics on B-Greek.

At 11:47 AM -0500 2/9/00, wrote:
>In a message dated 02/08/2000 1:22:21 PM Pacific Standard Time,
> writes:
. . . . . . . .
>>>>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. <<<
>No, that is not what I had in mind, but I do believe this is a possible
>sense. The "day [firmament]" speaks by means of day, and the "night
>[firmament]" gives forth knowledge by night. The main difference between you
>and I, as I see it, is that I cannot see how one day/night can speak/give
>knowledge to another, successive day/night, which is, as I said before, the
>concept associated with Bart's suggested translation. I am attempting to
>translate the words in accordance with the context to which they belong (as I
>am sure you are, too), which, to me, seems quite clearly to suggest that the
>heavens (both the day and night firmaments) declare God's glory **to

I don't doubt either that the central idea the psalmist wants to convey is
pretty much what has conventionally been called the cosmological argument
for the existence of God, or what Paul offers in Romans 1:20 TA GAR AORATA
AUTOU DUNAMIS KAI QEIOTHS. But the language used here seems patently to say
that (one) day speaks to (another) day and (one) night speaks to (another)
night. But how can the day or the night be thought of in personal terms?
Well, in Hesiod NUX and hHMERA are god and goddess respectively, and NUX
has lots of children that one would rather neither name nor speak of. Let's
just exercise a bit of imagination and think: we may think in terms of our
own cosmology of night and day as alternating periods of light reflecting
the sun and darkness when the sun is on the far side of the earth--but it
would be quite possible to think of creation as brand new each morning, and
if we take it a step further, we might say that each night and each day,
however similar they are to those that have preceded them in our
experience, are nevertheless different--perhaps altogether different and
only apparently similar; now let's imagine that each new day is generated
(fathered/mothered--somehow GENNHQEISA by the preceding day, or perhaps by
the night immediately preceding. Aeschylus has Clytemnestra in the
Agamemnon speak of the day dawning as the child of the night just past.
Although that's not my normal cosmological perspective, I don't find it so
difficult to grasp. But let us suppose that each new day is the child of
the preceding day--that Day 1 is father to Day 2; let's further suppose
that Day 2 is a bit unsure at the outset whether he's going to be up to all
that his father was--just how is that information passed from father to
son? Well, perhaps Day 2 has a full double helix of DNA that is sufficient
to ensure that as he ripens into mid-morning and then noon, he's going to
be a pretty good match to his father. Or let's take yet another image
instead of genetic code; let's say that the father passes a tradition that
he got from his father on to his son--this is how lore gets passed on from
generation to generation, so why can't we understand day speaking to day as
the handing on of lore from father's mouth to son's ear? Another image that
might do even better is from Aeschylus' Agamemnon rather near to the
passage I just referred to: it's the celebrated tale of how the beacon
fires have passed the message of Troy's capture on the very night of the
event all across the Aegean sea so that it reaches the eyes of the sentry
atop the palace of Agamemnon at Argos before the night is over. The beacon
fires are transmitting the message. If it were telegraph or telephone
signals we wouldn't even think of it as a poetic image to say that "The
White House exchanged messages with the Kremlin this evening." Of course,
what's involved is that we understand the metaphor so well that we don't
even think of it as a metaphor. Of course there have to be PERSONS on both
sides exchanging messages and neither the White House nor the Kremlin has
speech organs.

>I had not considered the Hebrew text at all, to this point, per Bart's
>suggestion. It is not necessary to do so, either, for the sense of the LXX
>often differs from that of the MT, as I am sure you well know.

Right, but in this instance it doesn't differ except in the language in
which the text is written. I really am well aware that all too often it's
impossible to tell from the LXX what Hebrew text the translator was
conveying, but in this instance there is no mystery whatsoever about what
the Masoretic text was saying. And even one with as little understanding of
Hebrew as I can tell that here, at least, is a literal word-for-word

And, to reiterate once more, since you said you didn't understand hHMERAi
and NUKTI as locative or as true dative, it would have to bear an
instrumental sense; I am utterly baffled at how you imagine that these
words could possibly bear the sense of "by means of day" or "by means of
night"--if simple dative of indirect object with verbs of speaking didn't
make sense to me, I still would be hard put to understand how these dative
forms could afford a meaningful instrumental sense in the context.

I guess there's not really any point in continuing this because each of
seems to find it impossible to make sense of what the other is saying.

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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