Friday, 30 December 2016

Psalm 2

Psalm 2 is interesting for a number of reasons.  In the Latin of the Clementine Vulgate the first line is given as Quare fremuerunt gentes, which in Archbishop Parker's Psalter is rendered as Why fumeth in fight: the Gentils spite.  Thomas Tallis set the English of Parker's Psalter to his ineffable 'Third Mode Melody', which is the theme in Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

The Psalm is one that appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggesting that from earliest times it has captured the imagination of the religiously minded.  I need to investigate further the numbering of the psalms, to find out if there is any significance in this fine piece being early in the sequence.

At many points the traditional Hebrew, Masoretic text is corrupt, and emendation has led to differences between Christian and  Jewish interpretations, particularly around Ps 2:7 and the references to the Son. Christian translations link the  reference not just to David but to Jesus.  It would be interesting to find out more about the scope for various interpretations of the Hebrew.  Readings of a couple of words of the Psalm are also affected by revocalisation, the re-interpretation of vowel signs added to the original Hebrew.

The Psalm is about governance and kingship but also the need for politicians to serve the Lord, which in contemporary terms might mean to have regard to the well-being of all, not just their own constituency, and to their own limited power.  It may be read as an attack on faction and on rulers bickering amongst themselves on short-term issues in the face of the demands of wisdom, love and truth.  The call to obey the Son may read metaphorically as a call to follow the kingdom of God not of Man.

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