Re: Night and Day

Date: Thu Feb 10 2000 - 12:01:03 EST

In a message dated 02/09/2000 2:05:51 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

<< 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. <<<

I am not sure why my objection to Bart's translation has been so difficult to
understand, especially since I have explained it several times. I have no
problem at all with figurative language in the Psalms; I have no problem even
with something impersonal speaking to some other impersonal thing. This is,
in fact, quite normal in Semitic languages.

My objections are, simply, that one day/night cannot speak/give knowledge to
a day/night that is not present, and that the context shows that the
speech/knowledge are directed to those on the earth. THAT requires much more
than a figurative sense, which is well illustrated by your comments
concerning this issue, below (please, see below). Is what you say possible?
Of course. But when the context so clearly speaks against such a view why
force what is perceived to be a normal sense of the grammar, examples of
which still have not been given, when we can obtain a contextually satisfying
sense from the grammar, even if we consider it unusual (which I do not, at

>>>>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
>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. <<<

My point really has nothing to do with what Paul or some other Bible writer
believes about the cosmos. I am staying with the text as presented in 1
Clement, and as quoted from the LXX of Psalm 19, which is precisely what Bart
wanted. Also, what the language seems to say is the very point under
consideration. I have explained my view of at least two possibilities, and
you have given the basis for yours. I believe either of my suggestions are
far more in line with the context, particularly verses 3-4, than what you are
suggesting. It does not seem to me that the context of our subject text, as
important as it is, matters much to you on this point. I have a different
view, believing it is only important, but that it pretty much (though not
definitely) rules out the meaning associated with your suggested
translation, and hence the translation itself. This is a pragmatic concern,
but one that directly relates to the possible translations of the text.

>>> 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: <<<<

That is not a problem, for I have not categorically ruled out your view, as
improbable as it may be. But, does Hesiod present a view such that one NUX
speaks to another NUX, not yet present? How about for hHMERA? Also, unless
you are going to demonstrate some affinities between Hesiod's cosmology and
that of the LXX Psalms, or 1 Clement, there is nothing to be gained by
further considering his concepts of NUX and hHMERA, is there? Well, I suppose
we should:

>>> 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 appreciate your attempt to explain your view, Carl, and I understand
exactly what you are saying. But the above does not in any way fit the
context of Psalm 19. If you believe it does, by all means, elaborate.
Frankly, I believe the above underscores how unlikely such a view really is,
in our subject text.

>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.<<<<

Again, that is the issue under consideration.

>>> 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

Who said there is any difficulty in understanding the MT? I merely said it
was not a consideration, at this point. However, after looking at the text in
MT I don't see anything that suggests a direct conversation between nights
and days. If anything, it seems to suggest the original meaning I offered,
namely, "the regularity/consistency with which the created heavens make known
the glory and wisdom of God." Hebrew has no range of datival uses, so I am
not sure how you can say, "here, at least, is a literal word-for-word
equivalence," if you mean to suggest that such a word-for-word equivalence
necessarily involves a meaning-for-meaning equivalence. Indeed, the temporal
use of the prefixed preposition can be understood in a sense very similar to
one of my suggested views, namely, "The day [firmament] speaks during the day
and the night [firmament] gives forth knowledge by night."

So, if you want to involve the MT, that is fine with me.

>>> 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.<<<

Well, I have already explained how it can make perfect sense in this context:
The "day [firmament]" speaks by means of day, and the "night [firmament]"
gives forth knowledge by night. This view is supported by the co(n)text,
starting from verse one and extending through to verse 4, which seems quite
clearly to present the speech/knowledge as coming from the day and night
"heavens," to those on the earth.


>>> 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 <<<

I understand and respect what you are saying, Carl, I just don't agree with
it, for reasons given above.

Best Regards,

Greg Stafford

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