Thursday, February 4, 2010

Psalms 23

I do not suppose that I was required to memorize the whole of the 23rd Psalm in Daily Vacation Bible School, but from the time I was a child, this hymn of Israel was as familiar to me as any passage of scripture. Someone has said that the King James version of the Bible is the greatest literary piece in the English language, the most beautiful ever to have been penned. If that is the case, then Psalms 23 is the gemstone in that literary crown. It is hard to imagine that anything could excel it.

During the last few years of my teaching career, I decided to create a series of Paraphrastic Studies (a term of my own devising) which was intended to be a broad, but accurate, translation from Greek into English, each of the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul. Inasmuch as Greek is a polysemous language (where single words may convey a multitude of meanings), this sort of translation seemed to correct a fault which almost all language translations suffer. Any attempt at word-for-word translation is doomed to failure because of the innumerable nuances that one language has which are difficult to equate in the target language. After completing that particular project, I turned to the Psalms of the Old Testament, creating three volumes of Paraphrastic Studies in the process of time. I cannot speak to their literary value, but I can speak with some authority as to the accuracy of the translation. I include below the Study that was written for Psalms 23, line by line.

1. A Psalm of David.

A mizmor or hymn, of David the King of Israel.

1. The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Lord God of Heaven and of earth is my King, He who watches over me and tenderly attends to me as shepherd cares for His flock. He delights in me, and I in Him; and He holds me to His bosom, and speaks kindly to me. In His arms I will suffer no lack, but shall be in abundance all of my days.

2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

In peace my Shepherd-King brings me into His safe place, to recline in His dwelling, a land of fresh and verdant meadows, grass and tender herbs. The Lord God of Israel sustains me, carefully watching over me, guiding me to gentle streams, deep, cool, and tranquil, the waters of Shiloah.

3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

The Lord God has redeemed me from all ill, and has turned my heart from the ways of the wicked; I am freed from the bondage of death and hell. He has encouraged me, has urged me to follow after the faithful, whose course of life has been clearly marked by their righteous conduct, and my blessings are as theirs, for His path is one eternal round. For the work that He has taken upon Himself, and the glory with which He adorns Himself, brings me back into His presence so that I might dwell with Him forever.

4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Even though I am led through a lowland where the thick darknesses run together as a torrents of fear and tribulation, though pestilence and destruction surround me about, though I pass through the very jaws of hell into the realms of the dead, I will not lose my faith in thee, O Lord God of my fathers, for no inescapable calamity will befall me, for the covenant of thy lips will not let me fail while I am in thy keeping. Thou hast supported me through every difficulty and will continue to do so. The crook of the shepherd who is King will protect and preserve me, bring solace to my soul; the scepter of the King who is shepherd will ward off all oppression, taking revenge upon the wicked and the ungodly.

5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

The altar of thy covenant is set in order, and I am placed in the midst thereof, and make an acceptable sacrifice before thee, while those who would have distressed me look upon me. Thou and I are bound together in the covenant of peace; they are bound over to the day of vengeance. Thou hast blessed me with the good things of the earth, and my joy is uncontainable. Thou hast ordained me to be first among my brethren, and hast made me to be strong, filled with the power of thy arm and hand, having poured upon me the oil of gladness. Thou hast made me to feel welcome in thy habitation, within the confines of thy holy house, and my happiness is full to overflowing.

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I have no doubts, either in my mind or in my heart, that the blessings with which I have been blessed will continue, for my soul is merry forever, all that which is beautiful and pleasant thou hast promised me by thy own voice, therefore it will be my happy lot to enjoy thy benevolence toward me, thy kindness and zealous love that thou bearest for me, for the rest of my life. One day according to thy infinitely compassionate will, I will return into thy presence, O Lord God of Israel, to dwell by thy side for eternity.

1 comment:

  1. I DID post a comment, but apparently it didn't make it. I said, "Beautifully written and interpretetd."
    Keep it comin'. I love hearing what you have to say!