Monday, 30 July 2012

Dashing Through the Land

In a previous issue of The Journal an article of mine appeared which mentioned Psalm 137, and specifically the final verses which speak of bloody vengeance taken upon the infant children of Babylon.  Uncomfortable stuff.  Apparently Ray Daly agreed, writing the following in response.
This is in regard to Psalm 137:9 as mentioned by Gavin Rumney in his editorial about the Bible canon in the May 31, 2012, JOURNAL.
The word for "dashes" (as in "Happy is the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock" in Psalm 137) can indeed mean exactly what it seems to be saying.
However, "dashes" can also mean "scatters."  The word for "rock" is Strong's No. 5553, celaCela represents the Lord in the cloud who led the children of Israel in the wilderness.
Thus a good rendering would be "Happy is the man who scatters your little ones against the Lord," a very positive meaning.
In OT scriptures, the Lord-Cela, Israel's God, is "loving, faithful, forgiving, patient, long-suffering, desiring good things."
But this is only one believer's opinion.
I appreciate Ray's effort to make sense - and positive sense - of a disturbing passage.  I can only observe that Strong's, despite looking impressive on a bookshelf, has never been a particularly helpful resource.  The strategy used here is to go hunting for a definition that ameliorates the unthinkable, and then appropriating it, however unlikely.  The context - as witnessed by every translation I know - clearly determines otherwise.

The "texts of terror" are unfortunately real.  Our choice is to either explain them away, as Ray does with the finest of motives, or eyeball them without flinching and deal with them honestly. 


  1. This is typical apologetic rationalization. These guys will twist any scripture to make their god come out looking good.

    The major versions of the Bible were interpreted by teams of 100+ experts in ancient languages. Even they disagree on many areas and have to come to agreements. Yet this guy has the arrogance to claim his private interpretation, based on little or no knowledge of ancient Hebrew, is equal or better. I would like to say "unbelievable", but actually this mindset among true believers is actually typical, and very believable.

  2. Well, you see, those people had to kill babies but it was only in self-defense. After all, they were going to grow up to be savage enemies...Anyway, that was the thinking of the good Christians who massacred whole tribes of native Americans just because some renegades from another tribe 700 miles away killed a few squatters on their land. It's the mind-set of the righteous to kill (or convert) the unrighteous and, of course, the righteous are the ones who think that all other people besides them are the unrighteous.

    Nothing has changed, as far as I can tell, there are never any attackers, only defenders. At least that's the thinking of the righteous. The problem is that both sides believe that they are the righteous ones.

  3. yet another instance of "strongnosticism" the number one word i wish i had invented myself.

  4. What does one do? And, this question applies to so many things in life. Assume the best, or assume the worst? And, then there's the third option for those who are not caught up in the whole binary thinking pattern: Realize that there could be something somewhere in between.


  5. I prefer not to assume at all! Or at least not any more than necessary.

    If Bob is saying that people are not all good nor all bad, I agree. We're all somewhere in between. And although WCG taught us that people are basically bad ("the heart is deceitfully wicked, yada, yada, yada"), it has been my experience in life that most people are basically good.

    As far as understanding the Bible, it seems to me the existing bible translations reflect the best understanding of the best experts. While these experts may be somewhat biased by their religious beliefs, their translations are still the best we've got. And the fact that multiple translations over the years have all come up with pretty much the same thing, for most verses, is reassuring evidence that what we read is a pretty good approximation of what the writers intended.