Saturday, October 28, 2006


vaD SoH ghaj chenmoHta' ghaH a mach lower than joH'a', je crowned ghaH tlhej batlh je quv.

For you have made him a little lower than God, And crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5

(click for podcast)

It will be no surprise to discover that, among the words we know of Klingon vocabulary, "patlh" is one of them. This is the Klingon word for "rank," as in position in the military or government. There are words for every position from lagh (ensign) to 'aj (admiral) - and no doubt Klingons use them very precisely. For in a military society it is important to be able to, as Webster puts it:

... range in a particular class, order, or division; to
class; also, to dispose methodically; to place in suitable
classes or order; to classify.

This word, and these terms have NOT been included in the KLV, simply because I've not found a place where such vocabulary is needed - but that is not to say matters of patlh, rank, don't matter. This is the subject of today's verse.

vaD SoH ghaj chenmoHta' ghaH a mach lower than joH'a

For you have made him a little lower than God

Having considered the marvels of God and his creation, David in the previous verse marvels that God considers mere humans *at* ALL - and now in this verse, he describes our patlh, or rank: A LITTLE LOWER THAN GOD.

It is interesting to me to note that the precision of this ranking is a little fuzzy. If you were to read this in the King James version, you'd find we are "a little lower than the angels." That's not an impossible reading (though almost every other translation disagrees) - the Hebrew word is elohim, a plural form of "El," God. That word is used throughout the Hebrew scriptures, and usually translated as "God," but it could also be the plural 'gods' - as in angelic beings. The epistle to the Hebrews quotes this psalm, and the Greek very clearly says "angels," because the writer was quoting the LXX, which translated the Bible into Greek, and rendered "elohim" as "angelous," angels.

It is good to know this, because I think it is mistake to get caught up in the precision of this ranking - as if there is some hierachy of creation, an "org chart" that we need to memorize. The points that David developed are important:
  • God is great, his creation is awe-inspiring,
  • and YET he does not overlook us -
  • better yet, despite all expectations to the contrary, he has moved us from mere laghpu', to the 'aj, to the admirals of creation!

Reading the news, of war, or human cruelty and disaster, it is not hard to feel humanity has no hope; God should scrap this world and start again.

But he doesn't.

He's made us, he remembers us, and he's given us what seems an utterly undeserved rank. If he considers me so highly - maybe with his help, we can live like this is true.

In the movie "To Sir, with Love," Sidney Poiter plays a teacher who, faced with utterly incorrigible students, begins to make a difference in their lives when he treats them not as children, but adults. And when he raises his expectation of them, they begin to rise up to it, and become adults, just as he has treated them.

God made you. Not as a cog, a thing or just another animal on a backwater planet. He's given you a rank just short of divine. Now's the time to give thanks, and seek his help to live up to it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

nuq 'oH jubbe'wI'pu''e'

nuq ghaH loD, vetlh SoH think vo' ghaH? nuq ghaH the puqloD vo' loD, vetlh SoH care vaD ghaH?

What is man, that you think of him? The son of man, that you care for him? Psalm 8:4

(click for podcast)

Looking deep into the cosmos, David now looks back at himself, his people - to realize just how small and frail we are. Here in Psalm 8, contemplating all of creation makes him realize how insignificant we are - much like The Total Perspective Vortex,

in the fictional world of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected. Located on Frogstar World B, it shows its victim the entire unimaginable infinity of the universe with a very tiny marker that says "You Are Here" which points to a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot. {

nuq ghaH loD - What is man

asks David, and it's a good question. But first, we need to untangle some of the language.

The Hebrew here is "ma' enosh" what mortal? - the word enosh isn't "MAN" as in male - it is more properly "a mortal." That is how the New Living Translation renders the phrase: "what are mortals that you should think of us," and that isn't simply an exercise in inclusive language. "Enosh" is derived from the word 'anash: "to be frail, feeble, (figuratively) melancholy."

Our Klingon rendering "nuq ghaH loD" is a simple rendering of the English "what is man?" and while it might be made more correct (albeit clipped) Klingon as "nuq loD" - the word "loD" (man) incorrectly focusses on "man/male" - only correct if the Hebrew word were the literal one for man, ISH - and it isn't. Even the second phrase "son of man" or "ben adam" is not about sons, or men, but offspring, the descendants of humanity. In this vast Cosmos, should we truly meet other races like Klingons, this question should be presented in a more universal way.

nuq 'oH jubbe'wI'pu' 'e' Daqaw' 'ej qatlh ghot puqpu' Daqel?

what are mortals that you should think of us,
mere children that you should care for us? Psalm 8:4

What an incredible God! Look up tonight into the night sky, marvel at how this may make you feel small - yet God has not overlooked you, he remembers and cares for you today. And this IS the message of the Bible - that God DOES think of us, he does remember us and our plight. As little as we may deserve it, God cares for us, provides for us, and watches over us. Hallelujah!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


ghorgh jIH qel lIj chal, the vum vo' lIj nItlhDu', the maS je the Hovmey, nuq SoH ghaj ordained

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, The moon
and the stars, wich you have ordained (Psalm 8:3)

(click for podcast)

Spacecraft from planet Earth have fanned out, to study stars, planets, as well as the land and weather on planet Earth. Among the various targets of these robotic explorers, at least one of them was used to uncover "the fingerprints of God." At least, that is how George Smoot, one of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in physics described the results of the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite that he worked to develop. He and his colleagues used these results to demonstrate how the Big Bang yielded a Universe full of diverse structures. And by calling this "the fingerprints of God" he proved at least, that the Bible is not alone in using poetic language in describing the Universe.

But what's clear here is that the Psalmist declares that the heavens - all we can see is a "work" SOMEbody MADE it - no question.

We can see in the poetry of this verse that we're not given literal blueprints in the Bible - no one would think the Psalm speaks of literal "fingers of God" molding the stars and planets - rather there is the assertion of intention and plan; craftsmanship, if you will.

Some cosmologists will speak of this craftsmanship in scientific terms, referring to the anthropic principle - the fact that this Universe appears to be deliberatly crafted for occupation, as one writer notes

More specifically, the values of the various forces of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life. The world is conditioned principally by the values of the fundamental constants .... When one mentally assigns different values to these constants or forces, one discovers that in fact the number of observable universes, that is to say, universes capable of supporting intelligent life, is very small. Just a slight variation in any one of these values would render life impossible.

There is a Klingon sort of directness in the Bible: This directness is evident in the fact that the Bible never presents us with "proofs of the existence of God." The ways we moderns analyze such arguments never appears in the text. God simply IS. The scriptures don't present a case, or evidence, as much as they start with the axiom that God IS, and proceed to present us in history, poetry and more, what that means to our lives.

So it is with creation - it is understood from the start that God is the author of our Universe, and the Word moves forward from there to consider what that means. In this third verse of Psalm 8, David begins quite simply

jIH qel lIj chal, the vum vo' lIj nItlhDu'

I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers

The Hebrew word for work here is ma-aseh. It is what's called a mem-formation noun, and it comes from the Hebrew verb asah, with the letter mem prefixed. Asah means to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application. It appears over 2000 times in Scripture, and is seen first in Genesis 1:7 "And God made the firmament."

For "work" I've used the Klingon verb meaning "to work": vum. We don't know whether it CAN be a noun, though some Klingon verbs may be used as their counterpart noun. The alternative would be to construct a noun, as Klingon has something like mem-formation, a -ghach suffix, that marks a verb as a noun. Maybe "vumtaHghach," thing-of-on-going-work could be used here? That's a little awkward, and the dual noun/verb nature of the English word "work" led me to simply make the verb fit the purpose for the KLV's rough process.

In another Psalm we read:

The chal declare the batlh vo' joH'a'. The expanse shows Daj handiwork.

The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows his handiwork Psalm 19:1

Beginning from this premise in no way precludes our investigation into the mechanics of this creation. Rather such study it should become a delight to believers - for we have the opportunity in searching the marvels of the cosmos, to see the vast creative riches God has spread before us. As we'll see in the next verse, this is a source of great awe to David - and gives him pause to consider his place in it all.

No, you're not going to find literal fingerprints in the sky, or deep in you DNA - yet to the heart of faith, we can look on God's handiwork, rejoice and give thanks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh Baby!

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a

(click for podcast)

Klingons, like humans, include in their language onomatopoeia - the process where a figure of speech or word employs a word, or words that sound like the thing they represent. Think of "bang" or "click". And not just in English. In Latin, "tuxtax" was like "bam" or "whack" and meant to imitate the sound of blows landing. Or in Japanese, "doki doki" is used to indicate the (speeding up of the) beating of a heart (and thus excitement).

So it's natural that the word here for "babes" (owlel in Hebrew) comes from the Klingon word "ghu" - baby.

There is nothing particularly STRONG about babies. Klingons, or humans, or anyone hearing David's declaration here in Psalm 8 will doubt the sense of it.

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a

Even given the alternate reading "from the lips of babes.. you have established praise," it sounds unlikely. Babies, infants, may be MANY things, but they are neither strong or intelligible.

Here - as is often true - Scripture makes us stop to consider - WHAT does this mean?

Anyone familiar with Klingon culture would expect this claim - strength from the weak - to fall on deaf ears. It would as well for those of us who are human - who expect power and strength to come from the mighty, not infants.

Yet this is an important theme through the Bible. We may trust in POWER but God uses the weak, the helpless to accomplish his goals.

"My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12.9) God told Paul - and it is well that Paul reminds us. For it isn't by force that God accomplishes his goals. As Paul writes elsewhere:

God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong (1 Cor 1.27)

If we HAVE accomplished much, and have GREAT power or wealth - the Bible should give us pause. God looks instead to the utterly dependant - ghupu', babies, to show his power. And it is true, for in each new life God begins the world again - it is wonderful beyond any power we have.

And those who are WEAK, who feel they don't measure up - take heart! You are truly God's building blocks. What you do, whatever you struggle to do - this is God's victory, and in you he will bring about something worthy of praise - take heart!

Klingons or humans, we all give ourselves far too much credit for our deeds, our power and abilities, when we forget that all we HAVE or ARE is God's gift, as much of a gift as the new life of one infant.

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a