Thy Cup of Intoxication (Psalm 22)

I’ve been going to a Tuesday night Bible study with Mr. D__ and whoever else ends up being able to come. First we looked at Jonah, and are now going through the life of David interspersed with Psalms. It’s usually small, but Mr. D__ is knowledgeable and I like the other people, so it’s generally pretty good. These past few weeks we’ve been looking at Psalm 23 (22) and 34 (33). (Septuagint numbers are in parentheses)

In case you’re not familiar with the Septuagint (S), it was translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria sometime before Christ; a few hundred years, if I recall correctly. There were 70 scholars working on it (hence, sept) and unanimously agreed on the translation. It’s different from the Hebrew texts currently known to us in a couple of ways: it includes what is commonly referred to as the Apocrapha not as something seperate, but as simply a part of the text, and there are a number of (usually) minor differences in word usage, order of passages, content of passages, and so on. Orthodox generally use the S. rather than the Hebrew text because that’s what the apostles and the Church fathers most often quoted from. In other words, they use it because they always have. The Psalm numberings are different because the Hebrew splits up into two Psalms what is combined into one in the S., somewhere around Psalm 9 I think. The Old Testament in the English Orthodox Study Bible, thus, is translated from the S., but often recognizes some obvious differences that result therefrom, such as by having the Hebrew Psalm numbering in parentheses, and sometimes for reasons I don’t understand seems to be actually translated from the Hebrew, as in the case of Psalm 23. More on that in a bit.

So anyway, the impression I have gotten from our study so far is that the Church Fathers had as a common hobby looking for sacraments anywhere a case could possibly be made therefor. That was facetious; I’m not going to argue with Church Fathers on Scripture interpretation, as I’m sure to lose. Here’s an Orthodox (rough, because I’m going my memory of Mr. D__ going from his memory) translation of Psalm 23:

The Lord Shepherds me, I lack for nothing. He encamps me in lush verdure; he leads me beside waters of rest. He converts my soul. He sets my feet on the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall no fear evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who afflict me; you anoint my head with oil; your cup of intoxication, how excellent it is! Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me always, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

So all the stuff that’s always there is still there, obviously. But then the CFs say: we see this as a sacramental psalm! If you, like me, are thinking “huh?” it goes something like this:

The Lord Shepherds me, I lack for nothing. This is pretty obvious, though the active verb is preferable to the inactive of “shepherds,” as is the emphasis on not lacking as opposed to not wanting, as they are not always synonymous.

He encamps me in lush verdure; The Church?

he leads me beside waters of rest. Baptism!

He converts my soul. Yup.

He sets my feet on the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. This is what the soul is converted to.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall no fear evil; Baptism again? A likeness, figure, shadow of death? But in a creative rather than destructive way.

for you are with me, your rod and your staff comfort me. Comfort=paraclete in the S.; comfort or advocate, used in the New Testament to refer to Christ and the Holy Spirit, usually the latter — Holy Spirit reference?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who afflict me; The alter of a temple! Prefers the more active form for “enemy.”

you anoint my head with oil; Obviously, he was a king, but let’s try a different emphasis; when you’ve got the Spirit and oil you have: Christmation!

your cup of intoxication, how excellent it is! I kind of love this translation. Anyway, you’ve probably caught on to where we’re going with this. Communion!

Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me always, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Yay!

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