Saturday, February 25, 2006

Across the Sea of Stars

vaj wIj tIq ghaH Quchqu', je wIj jat rejoices. wIj porgh DIchDaq je
yIn Daq safety.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall
also dwell in safety. Psalm 16:9

(click for podcast)

Here's news of interest, especially if you've been working on building a starship. In recent weeks, at the American Association for the Advancement of science, researchers published a short list of ten "habstars," stars "where intelligent civilizations might lurk or they can try to actually spot planets like our own in habitable zones..."

The stars - as close as 4.5 light years away are targets for scientists who are developing ways to study extrasolar planets - it's an exciting prospect and an incredible challenge.

Now when we consider what it might mean to communicate with people around such stars - or travel to them - the challenge may seem impossible. That's because there's no known way to travel at the speed of light - let alone faster. So messages or vessels would take decades - probably centuries to travel back and forth. How could we hope to have a meaningful relationship with such worlds?

How? I've got a Klingon word to answer that: qay'be'! No problem! We've been doing it.. well, for centuries.

One of the delights of Bible study - besides the core delight, of enjoying the Word of God - is the way such study brings us into communication with people centuries apart from our time. And even though the communication might seem one way, we still enter into a conversation with believers more than a thousand years ago.

In this verse from Psalm 16 we find these words:

vaj wIj tIq ghaH Quchqu', je wIj jat rejoices. wIj porgh DIchDaq je
yIn Daq safety.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall
also dwell in safety. Psalm 16:9

Now - if you check the King James, or the Jewish Publication translation, you'll see that for "my tongue rejoices" they have "my glory rejoiceth." That isn't surprising - the Hebrew word chabod, glory, is what we find in the Hebrew, not "loshen," tongue. However.... here's where we start having a conversation with believers across the ages.

How was this understood - how does "glory" rejoice? It's an odd sounding idea, and when we look back we discover that in the ancient Greek translation, the Septuagint DIDN'T say glory - it said "tongue." Not only that, in the book of Acts, the apostle Peter, quotes this Psalm and he said, probably quoting from the Septuagint, "my tongue was glad." The Vulgate, the Latin translation, follows this as well.

So when we consider this verse, we have an opportunity to "discuss" across the sea of time - just as we might across the sea of stars with our interstellar neighbors. We can't engage in an immediate conversation, but we can listen to them and weigh their understanding of the passage as we translate it, not only into words, but into our lives.

Modern translations like the New International Version, the New Living Translation and the World English Bible have followed the Septuagint and others in using the word "tongue," some noting the difference in notes.

The progression: "my heart is glad/ my tongue rejoices" echoes for me, the words of Psalm 107 "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so" - that is, when we experience God's saving love - don't keep it secret! TELL someone - much like the Sunday School Song "If you're happy and you know it/ then your face will really show it!" Perhaps this is where the "glory" or "tongue" become synonyms - whether in speech or the joy we express, we rejoice in what God has done!

The Bible is an ancient book - written across centuries. and by people long gone. Yet as we read these words, and enter into a dialog across the ages, God gives us insight, gives us promise and gives us hope.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On the Move?

jIH DIchDaq ghobe' taH vIHta'.

I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8

(click for podcast)

Imagine for a moment that you are travelling in a rocket that goes 30 kilometers per second. This is on the order of 67,000 miles an hour! At that speed, you could reach the moon in 4 hours - not the three days it usually takes.

This isn't really hypothetical - you ARE moving that fast - at least if you are on the planet Earth. Given the Earth's annual path around the sun, over 900 million kilometers, our planet ("spaceship Earth," if you will) and everyone on it is moving that fast. You might think you won't be moved - but you're wrong - you've gone hundreds of kilometers (or miles) while listening to me.

Now when David expresses his confidence in God in Psalm 16, he says

jIH DIchDaq ghobe' taH vIHta'.

I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8

For "moved" he uses the Hebrew word mowt (mote), a word used nearly 40 times in the Bible. It's a primitive root, meaning 'to waver' by implication to slip, shake, fall, be carried, cast, be out of course. For the Klingon I used the word vIH (to move) plus -ta' (is-accomplished) to express "moved"

This word, mowt, shows up over half of those times in the book of Psalms, and it expresses a number of thoughts. Unfortunately, it's even been misunderstood by some to suggest the Earth was the unmoving center of the universe, when Psalm 93 says: The world also is established. It can't be moved. (93:1)

But David knows he'll move - even if he didn't know about the Earth's orbit. Rather, he's expressing trust that his path, his course through life won't be derailed. He can trust God to keep him on track. Better than that, he knows God will set him right if he DOES move off course, as we read in Psalm 94:

When I said, "My foot is slipping!" Your loving kindness, O LORD, held me up. (Psalm 94:18)

[And yes the word translated "slipping" there is mowt.]

We're not immobile, we do move through life. The early believers who followed Jesus spoke of being part of "the Way." They didn't feel like they'd arrived, they were following Jesus as he led them through life.

jIH DIchDaq ghobe' taH vIHta'.

I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8

Putting our trust in God, we can move forward, with a confidence that God WILL keep from being moved off track, providing the mid-course corrections we need, when we need them. Hallelujah!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Down in my.... Kidney?

jIH DichDaq ghurmoH joH'a', 'Iv ghajtaH nobpu' jIH qeS. HIja', wIj tIq instructs jIH Daq the ram seasons.

I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel. Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. Psalm 16:7

(click for podcast)

The problem with translating for aliens is - well, they are just so ALIEN. Imagine people who see the seat of affections and desires as the ... KIDNEY. This isn't an imaginary problem - there is such a people. Those aliens are not some far off race of little green men, but the ancient Hebrews.

The word translated tIq or heart in this verse is really kilyah (kil-yaw') and means a kidney and appears nearly 30 times in the Hebrew scriptures. It is naturally referenced in the legislation for animal sacrifice, but it also appears in a number of places, including this Psalm, as a way of describing "the most secret workings and affections of the heart." (Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible).

In modern English we see this almost exclusively translated as "heart." That is no less medically inaccurate than kidney, but today it is the common way we express the seat of our emotional life (if you don't believe me, take a stroll in any greeting card section right now as we approach Valentine's Day). Honestly, I'm glad that is the prevailing image - I just can't see leading a Sunday School class with "I've got the joy, joy, joy down in my *kidney*.

You'll be happy to know this is also the case for Klingons - that is, that they use the term "heart" to describe the home of their feelings. They express this in expressions like:

tIqlIj Da'angnIS. "You must show your heart."


tIqDaq HoSna' tu'lu'. "Real power is in the heart."

Curious idioms about "the body" are often a problem for language learners as well as tranlators. You can even find a book by May Pare, a Southern California waitress who earned a master's degree from UCLA specializing in English as a second language. The book, Body Idioms and More, deals exclusively with body-part idioms.

One news report mentions that
after all those years of slinging hash and refilling coffee mugs, May Pare found herself "up to her eyeballs" with a collection of sayings that would "blow the mind" of someone trying to learn English.

They were the likes of "pay through the nose," "using elbow grease," "having a hollow leg" and "being lower than a snake's belly." There was "heads will roll," "press the flesh" and "keeping your eyes peeled."

Imagine translating THOSE into Klingon!

jIH DichDaq ghurmoH joH'a', 'Iv ghajtaH nobpu' jIH qeS. HIja', wIj tIq instructs jIH Daq the ram seasons.

I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel. Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. Psalm 16:7

The Life Application Bible notes:

It is human nature to make our own plans and then ask God to bless them. Instead, we should seek God's will first. By constantly thinking about the Lord and his way of living, we will gain insights that will help us make right decisions and live the way God desires. Communicating with God allows him to counsel us and give us wisdom.

Like David, we need to take God's Word deep inside - down in our heart, our kidneys, liver and more. For when we let His thoughts guide every fiber of our being, then like David we can joyfully say

jIH DichDaq ghurmoH joH'a' , 'Iv ghajtaH nobpu' jIH qeS

I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

In Pleasant Places

The tlheghmey ghaj fallen Daq jIH Daq bel Daqmey. HIja', jIH ghaj a QaQ inheritance.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Yes, I have a good inheritance. Psalm 16:6

(Click for Podcast Version)

In the movie "When Harry Met Sally," Billy Crystal's character Harry always reads the last page of a book FIRST because he wants to know how it turns out "in case he dies" before finishing it.

I can understand this wanting to know "how things will turn out" in life or in a book - maybe you do too. Facing our uncertain future it IS easy to worry about outcomes.

That's why Davids faith is attractive - he KNOWS how his story will turn out. He's sure that the "lines have fallen to him in pleasant places." That means, when the boundaries are drawn at last, what is his inheritance will be good - will be bel Daqmey - pleasant places.

PLACE - Daq - is our Klingon word from the word for today. Thinking about "our place" and where we'll end up is an important theme in Scripture - some might say it is THE THEME of the Bible. You may have noticed this word, Daq showing up often in my podcasts. That is the effect of the translate table method I've used for the KLV.

Because Klingon doesn't have prepositions - particularly like "in" or "at" I made the locational suffix "Daq" stand in for them - for quite a lot of words, really: against, at, in, into, on, place, presence, and to. AND the word, Daq, really is the standalone noun for "place". You hear this word at work in a number of Klingon compound words. Bed == QonqDaq (Qong = sleep), Table == SopDaq (Sop = eat), and "where?" == nuqDaq (nuq == what?). If you tell your child to go to to bed, you might add the -Daq suffix and say QongDaqDaq yIQong (in-bed you-sleep!).

As I've noted - the KLV with its word-replacement method for Klingon-izing the WEB is a rough translation at best, so it isn't surprising to find a preponderance of "Daq"s in a passage. And - here's another note - the word "place" isn't really in this passage at all, it is used here as a helper word to complete the thought that the boundary lines will land in - the Hebrew word is naim, pleasant... something - just about every English translation completes the thought with the word pleasant "place" or "land."

Every translation, from the admittedly rough KLV to the majestic KJV and Douay or modern paraphrases like the NLT or Message must make decisions like this. Languages can't be mapped precisely one to another. In fact, think there is a lot of value in using more than one - it's a way of triangulating beyond the work of any one set of translators to the meaning of the underlying text. By the way - if you have a printed copy of the King James, you can see where such interpolated words have been used - the KJV is usually printed with italicized words for the words the translators used to fill in. If you've got access to an online bible - for example the BibleTool at -, or the Blueletter Bible - - you can access electronic versions that let you link back to the original texts, much as I do for these studies.

The place David expects to find as the end of the story is a pleasant one. Maybe "happily ever after" is a paraphrase one could use. This isn't to say his life was an easy one. The Daqmey - places - he had to go through included slaying a giant, fighting for his kingdom, even battling his own children. Yet he found the confidence to say "I have a good inheritance." Not because he was deluded, but because he found through those difficulties he could trust God to help him through them.

We don't know the details of our tomorrows, nor can we turn to the last page of our life's story to discover how it will turn out. But we can take David's example and put our confidence in the one who will at last bring us to bel Daqmey, pleasant places.

As Jesus reminds us:

Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient. Matthew 6:33,34