Textual criticism

Note: This is a prologue of sorts to an upcoming series of posts regarding my synthesis of Hebrew language studies and the Budge-Nuzzard. Next Friday i will post an announcement regarding this series.


A brief (well, sort of) lecture on the importance of textual criticism, with an example from the Budge-Nuzzard:

i’m currently translating 2 Samuel 11, and in verse 24 there are two variants known as ketiv-qere. This means that what is written (ketiv) and what is to be read aloud (qere) are slightly different. There can be a variety of reasons for this. The most common, which occurs so frequently that scribes do not even bother noting it in the margin, is the Name of G-d (the vowels have been swapped out so that no-one will accidentally pronounce the Name and risk using it in vain). There are other kinds of ketiv-qere differences, including spelling. And there are other types of variants besides ketiv-qere. One non-ketiv-qere difference occurs in verse 4, where the Hebrew text says Bathsheba came to David, and the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) says she was brought to him. This difference opens up the question of her culpability. Textual scholars and translators work to understand these variants and give them the appropriate weight. i will have to do some of this work in the chapter i’m translating.

In my Budge-Nuzzard editing i have adopted the ketiv-qere terminology to describe differences between the written (blog) and oral (podcast) traditions of the text. Unlike the OT, where there are hundreds of scrolls which can be compared, i have only one example of each tradition, so weighting the variants requires more subjective judgment calls. But here is a very interesting example of a ketiv-qere in the Budge-Nuzzard.

In the entry titled “Jouncey,” dated April 26, 2006, there are three ketiv-qeres. Two of them are insignificant, but one stands out as an important interpretive difference.

In the ketiv (written/blog): “Then did i learn of terrible things. The Budge-Nuzzard has laid foul plans upon the Pan Dimension (and all the innocent Pans within), and the Hegemony of Pan….”

In the qere (oral/podcast): “Then did i learn of terrible things. The Budge-Nuzzard has laid foul plans upon the Pan Dimension, and the Hegemony of Pan….”

The written tradition stresses the lives of the Pans, and names them innocent. Part of the scandal of the Budge-Nuzzard’s foul plans is thus its threat against vulnerable and innocent noncombatants. But the oral tradition omits this parenthetical entirely. (By the way, parentheticals in Hebrew, called waw-disjunctives, provide contrast, or background or interpretive asides, for the reader. One example is in 2 Samuel 11:4, where the reader is led to understand that Bathsheba was fertile at the time of her encounter with David, and thus is led to anticipate that something is about to go wrong—which does in fact happen in the next verse. This is true in the Budge-Nuzzard as well—this parenthetical increases the tension in the story and creates interpretive suggestions in the mind of the reader.)

Does the oral tradition devalue the lives of innocent Pans, showing concern only for the larger container? Does the notable omission of the natural and expected assertion of the civilians’ innocence instead suggest to the hearer that the Pans may not be innocent? Does the written tradition rightly or exploitatively prejudice the reader against the Budge-Nuzzard by using inflammatory images of suffering innocents to arouse sympathy?

Textual criticism is important.

Again

Second semester starts tomorrow. i stand on the stairtop and look out over the flight to come. There will be a breaking, and there will be a soaring. i know this, and i embrace them both.

i have turned my back on my turning back.

Finals, finally

This morning i intended to wake at 6:30 (and be coiffied and preened), spend time with Scripture and prayer and coffee after showering, and then dive into writing and reading. Instead, i hit snooze twice, made tea instead of coffee, and at 9:am, i am just about to begin today’s work. i have a whole book to read and internalize before the end of the week, when i hope to test out of one seminary class. Classes begin next Monday. i feel overwhelmed, and i know i did this to myself.

But in the mail this morning was my Molehill and a note from a Rabbit. That Molehill moved me to intercession, and the Rabbit-note moved me to tears and gave me the courage i needed to finally open an envelope i received before Christmas. i feared it—it lurked in the corner of my mind and whispered failure to me. It was the final exam for the class that broke me last semester. But after that note, i went to it. i held it in my hands. i poked my finger under the flap and tore it, then slipped the blue book from the envelope.

When i saw the grade, i laughed. When i saw the note at the end of my essay, i laughed again.

Then, a month and a half after the end of my first semester, i checked my grades online: An A in each class.

Grace. Hope. Resurrection.

End-of-semester gratitude

My first semester’s finals were yesterday. Oh, i am tired—and so, so grateful.

All last week i had reminders written all over my hands. Not reminders of things i’d need for the tests, but reminders that i would survive the process. Around my thumb and forefinger i wrote, “i have turned my back on my turning back.” Last night after my Hebrew final i collapsed into a chair and curled my fingers and saw how the words made a circle, turning back, then turning back again. And i had been telling myself over and over that i must not turn back, that as weary as i was i would reap a harvest if i did not give up. At that moment the words became true. i had turned my back on my turning back. It was accomplished. i knew that i had come far and could begin to gloan upon it. As we drove home afterwards, i could feel the semester receding behind me as if time was a place.

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i am grateful for:

  • Jonathan. Oh, Jonathan. He was on call all last week, and had finals and papers of his own (he has one final yet), but he took care of all our dinners (and the dishes) all week long so that i could study. He planned our Geek family night, too. Every time i cried that i could not, could not, could not, he told me i could. He prayed for me and pastored me and served me, my priest. Every day, he preaches to me the way of Christ to the church.
  • My beautiful Hebrew family, my classroom table-mates. Asher and i had an uproarious time studying together yesterday afternoon (we were both sleep-deprived and deliriously hilarious). Atarah brought us chocolate and little hand-written cards of appreciation last night. Gadi lets me mother him. i could not have asked for a better group of people. i never expected them. They are a gift of grace.
  • Dr. Dallaire, my Hebrew professor, has been an endless source of encouragement all semester long. Last night she gave me a hug i could live in and told me i’d better write to her in Hebrew while she’s on sabbatical. 🙂 She graded our finals before leaving last night and i had an email waiting for me when i got home. For the midterm and the final both she brought us food. And one of the questions was, “True or False? Dr. Dallaire loves chocolate!” 🙂 Again, i could never have expected her. i’m so grateful for her. Just knowing her (not to mention learning from her!) this semester was the best way to begin seminary i could imagine. She taught me that seminary is not scary, but an exhilarating, encouraging, enlarging adventure. i am keeping her forever.
  • Dr. Hess, my Pentateuch and Wisdom Lit professor. i learned so much in his class, and much of it was about myself. His style of teaching and grading stretched me, and is stretching me, and i am better for it, and i will be better yet. He was an instrument of sanctification in G-d’s hands. Again, it was grace that placed me in his class this first semester.
  • My darling amanuensis Rachel. i texted her crying so many times this last week. She prayed for me and brought me ice cream and ginger soda and hugs the night before finals. She wrote me haikus to keep me going. She shares my heart.
  • Andrew Peterson‘s song “Day By Day,” and Josh Garrels‘ “White Owl,” both of which tethered my heart and my mind as i studied. i played them for hours. Hours.
  • Pete Peterson and the Budge-Nuzzard. Pete’s witness that faith does not always end in despair gave me the courage to begin seminary. The Budge-Nuzzard, in ways known only to Divine Grace, became my own story as i struggled to finish my first semester well. The fact that the story is yet unfinished may itself have been a grace, as i was able to see myself in it without the distraction of pressure or fear regarding where the story was going. The first time i read Hind’s Feet on High Places, i was too afraid of resolution to finish. In the Budge-Nuzzard, uncertainty came alongside my uncertainty and helped me along. i know that a story this weird (but i am so weird!) is an unlikely candidate for spiritual direction and courage. But—
  • My merciful Abba loves me so well. He’s close to me when i struggle. He hides me in His heart. He rejoices over me with singing. He stoops down to make me great. i so often seek life everywhere but in Him. He is gracious, and He grows me in grace. He’s teaching me to rest in Him. And He knows that i am made to respond to stories; He made me that way. So when i cry out for stories to help me along, He never shames me for needing them but instead He provides grace upon grace, and gives me stories to enlarge my heart.

This sounds like an Oscars speech. But seriously—i am so deeply grateful.

My list of things to do today includes “read a poem,” “take a walk,” and “blat at someone.” i am eager to dive back into fiction-reading (and writing). i might take a nap. i need to buy groceries. Facebook will wait until tomorrow. Short-story-writing will wait until Friday or even next week (yeah, i never did any writing in November, and i am not really sorry). For today, the theme is gratitude and peace.

The term is over. The holidays have begun. (Yes, that’s a Lewis reference, although this semester break is only a foretaste.)

Baruch atah, Adonai.

Tomorrow, the end

Now, however, having squeezed from within me all that was happy and glad, I am left with my task at hand and the troubling knowledge that my wicked progeny is yet abroad. I can tarry here no longer, and lo, indeed does the road call to me now. I step upon it, and though I cannot see its end, I know that the Enthoovian, all arumpled and bescroached, awaits me whence it leads.”

“Tse el HaEnthuvi!”
— “Forth to the Enthoovian!” (my translation into Hebrew of this gleeful, if blearily confusing, encouragement from dear Jouncey most sage)

All this to say, my first semester’s finals are tomorrow. i wish for a Sha-Una of my own, salty taste or no. The Leapers Wee are gathering and i have no spiny pods to stay their menace.

Practice resurrection.
Practice resurrection.
Practice resurrection.

The Budge-Nuzzard and the coming resurrection

It hurts to die but each time I’m raised again and I’m something new, something I don’t recognize, something I never expected. I’ve gotten no better at avoiding the pain, but maybe, just maybe I’m getting better at trusting in the coming resurrection.”

I have indeed gone to action. That sweet abode of my arrival is now but a dollop of memory within my upper head. I must confess that in my weaker moments, I have longed for it and three times now have turned back to seek my solace within. But at length I have turned my back on my turning back and hence have come far and now gloan upon it.”

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the L-RD forever,
for the L-RD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

Finals are on Tuesday. i am tired. i am struggling to focus. i can’t remember why i began this journey, one which terrified me and thrilled me only three months ago and now just makes me bone-weary. How did the first half of the semester, full of excitement and voorish glee, turn into this slog? i wonder: Can i make it? i wonder: Do i want to?

“i hope it’s good for your soul.”

Well, you weren’t kidding. i wasn’t thinking at all of my soul when i started; that exhortation took me by surprise. i didn’t even burn everything i own, but it is hard anyway. And one of the most remarvelant surprises of this journey has been discovering what a source of strength and spiritual formation lurks in the ludicrous lobidiousness of The Budge-Nuzzard.

i do want to turn back. That sweet abode of my arrival seems so homely and comforting. But i will keep turning my back on my turning back. If there is a resurrection at the end of this, i want it. G-d is an everlasting rock and i can trust Him to help calm my mind and tempt it not to wander. And maybe, just maybe, one death at a time, i’ll learn to trust the coming resurrection.

Next week, i will have come far enough to begin the gloaning.

First death

This week i had my first opportunity to truly practice resurrection.

My first attempt at writing this post sounded much too heroically tragic. i came face to face with the wretchedness of my own pride on Tuesday, and it unraveled me. i knew i needed to write about it—to be honest. But my first instinct when i began typing was to glorify myself even in failure.

i am smarter than anyone i know. Call it perfectionism; say i am a high achiever and have high standards for myself, but the truth is that i am prideful. Tuesday my mental image of my perfect self was fractured by a grade i did not expect. It felt unfair. It felt surreal. Surely, it was a mistake. It was not. i failed to earn a grade worthy of myself, and in so doing i was forced to face what was in my heart that i should consider certain grades worthy of me, rather than humbling myself to make my work worthy of such grades.

When i began seminary—even as i was applying—i held clutched in my hands the hope of resurrection. i reminded myself that resurrection requires death. The first time i missed a single point on a quiz i told myself this. It is okay to die. Dying is a prerequisite for the remaking you desire. But even while saying this, i was working against myself. i had flung myself down the steep steps of seminary (see how noble that sounds?), but rather than allowing G-d’s grace to tandem jump with me, or to catch me at the bottom, or even to let me crash that i may be resurrected, i was blowing frantically at the ground as if i could keep myself aloft through my own effort.

To be blindsided by this grade was a grace. It sent me to my face, wracked with shame, and it forced me to acknowledge my pride. i wanted to be resurrected? to be remade? My redeemer (baruch atah, Adonai!) is so eager to redeem me that He will not wait even a whole semester before beginning the process.

As i lay on my face in the chapel, weeping into the carpet, i knew i had a choice. i could feel sorry for myself, even paint myself as a victim of unfairness. Or i could own my sin, celebrate this first death, and look forward to resurrection.

On my hands i wrote truth, truth that after repeated washings has not yet faded.

It hurts to die but each time i’m raised again and i’m something new, something i don’t recognize, something i never expected.”

Practice resurrection.”

Go now with me and define my becoming.”

“Love.”

Today i was listening to Sixpence None the Richer—the album which came out as i was beginning my undergraduate, the most beautiful album i’ve ever heard, an album soaked through with despair and grief and pain and, yes, hope of healing—and was met again by grace.

The Harvester is near. His blade is on your skin
To plant a new beginning: Well then, let the cut begin.”

Resurrection requires death. But death, if i trust His good intentions more than my own sufficiency, will always result in resurrection.

Let the cut begin.

The first round of short stories begins

This summer, i set myself a goal of writing a short story for every class i take during my graduate studies career. Now is the time to start making that happen. Midterms are over and November is upon me. The plan is to write both shorts this month, taking advantage of the community and momentum that NaNoWriMo provides, although as long as they’re finished before next semester starts i’ll call it good. It took me awhile to come up with my projects, but here they are.

For Hebrew, i am actually going to write a story in Hebrew. i’m pretty excited about this. ‘Round about week three of class, when all of my vocab words started sounding alike, i realized how much opportunity there is here for wordplay. Asher (the name) sounds exactly like asher (a pronoun meaning who, which, or that), and shares sounds with yashar (upright/straight) and rasha (wicked) and ashir (rich) and asah (to make or do). That week i had to make sentences just to help me keep all the words straight. Asher yashar; Asher lo rasha. “Asher is upright; Asher is not wicked.” Asher asah kesef; Asher ashir. “Asher made money; Asher is rich.” (i love saying Asher ashir.) Jonathan said my sentences sounded like a Dr. Seuss book, so that’s exactly what i’m going to do—write a picture book full of wordplay in Hebrew. To make all this even better, one of my tablemates (we’re divided into groups of four) goes by the Hebrew name Asher, and has a two-year-old daughter. So fictional Asher will learn numbers and colours and other words, and have adventures, and render my readers tongue-tied in the process.

For Pentanteuch and Wisdom, i had a much harder time coming up with a story idea. All the ideas that were presenting themselves were based directly on the stories we were reading, but i am not interested in writing Biblical fiction. i wanted to write a story inspired by the class, not simply drawn from the reading. My exegetical paper was on one of the Lady Wisdom passages in Proverbs, though, and she fascinates me—but i didn’t know what to do with that. The solution turned out to be both simple and unexpected, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ve spent a fair amount of time so far this semester talking about how Israel adapted the literary traditions of neighbouring nations in writing their own history, creation myth/account, and even legal codes. Our professor broached the question of how far a Christian can go in engaging and adapting cultural forms in our own setting. And so i’m going to try something i’ve never thought to do before—intentionally adapt a cultural storytelling form towards which i would not naturally gravitate. i’m going to write a superhero story. i’ll seek to conform to the genre’s conventions, while inverting some of the themes and cliches. So far, my protagonist is about half-created. Her name is Hélène Hokma, named for my Hebrew professor (Hélène Dallaire—the name Hélène means “light”) and Lady Wisdom (Hokma, or Hokmot, in Proverbs). i’m still stuck on a nom de guerre and a concrete array of powers, although i do have some ideas and the beginnings of a costume. As for setting and theme, she’s going to live into a dark place like Gotham and do what Batman wishes he could do but can’t: Inspire hope and actual transformation of the city. Oh, i have ideas. You’ll just have to wait.

A poem for the journey

i found this tonight while looking through a file of story ideas. i wrote it before school started, and i meant to come back to it but never did. The peace in it is striking when i remember what turmoil i was feeling when i wrote it.

“i hope it’s good for your soul.” O remind me, Adonai, to keep my eyes ever on You.

At the edge of graduate studies

i begin now a long journey.
And who shall i be when i arrive?
Go now with me
and define my becoming.
You, my soul’s hope,
my beloved,
my joy,
be for me my only goal
as You make and remake me
as You desire.
Build me as a cairn,
year by year,
class by class,
stone by stone,
and make me a sign-post.
When i arrive,
i will look out across the summit
and wonder at Your majesty,
and glory in Your creativity,
and marvel at what You have made me,
and open wide my arms
and laugh
and set my feet upon the path
of our next great journey.

Shielot

i’m two weeks into Hebrew. Last week, vowel markings kicked my butt. This week, i am too busy forgetting plural pronouns to worry about vowels, which mostly work now anyway. (Maybe the key to learning is to just keep moving forward, whether things make sense or not.)

At Denver Seminary, Hebrew is taught as a second language. Classes are partially immersive. A friend told me before i started that the thing about immersive language acquisition is that i’ll feel like i’m failing. Every day, i’ll feel like i’m failing. And every day, i’ll fail a little less.

Practice resurrection.

But it is coming. i can feel it taking root, even if the shoots are slow to appear. The sounds wind their way around my mind, making new places to grow.

Yesh li shielah.

“i have a question.” That phrase is printed on the back of my name plaque, so that i can find answers when i am puzzled in class. But that phrase is insufficient. i had to teach myself some new ones.

Yesh li shielot.

i have questions.

Yesh li shielot ravot.

i have many questions.

Yesh li kol-shielot.

i have every question, all the questions.

But look—i know how to make a sentence, to ask for help, to laugh at my own ignorance.

Practice resurrection.

i’m getting there.

Practice resurrection.