To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
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.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
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 recently looked at Eugene Peterson’s rendering of Psalm 8 with the idea of writing about its very obvious New Age character that reflects Hindu, Gnostic, and occult beliefs. After a little reflection it occurred to me that it might be better to discuss the heretical attack presented in Peterson’s creation in the next essay in this series, and begin here by discussing its literary merit. Since Psalm 23 is quoted just as much, if not more, than Psalm 8, it is also worth examining. Both of these psalms have always been seen as two of the great literary masterpieces of the English language, even by skeptics, atheists, and other heathen. I memorized these psalms in both English and Hebrew back in the 80’s. Psalm 8 was the first thing that I ever memorized in Hebrew, and is still the only full psalm that I can recite from memory without faltering, or without having to review it. I still hear it in Hebrew in the back of my head whenever I read the Psalm from the KJV, aloud or silently. It bothers me a lot to hear either of these psalms being read from any new version. It is not just an attack against the Holy Bible, but is an attack against the literary heritage of our language.
The importance of our language’s literary heritage should not be overlooked. The English-speaking world did not excel in any other field in comparison to other non-English-speaking cultures to the extent that it did in regard to the written word. For example, the English culture did not excel greatly in most arts. Until Elgar, Delius and Vaughn Williams, one virtually must go back to Henry Purcell to find a decent English composer of music, and England had to import Handel. None of these composers reached the level of many other European cultures. On the other hand, the English did excel greatly in writing. This includes the writing of prose, fiction and non-fiction, poetry, and drama. The content of much of the great English literati, poets, philosophers, and scientists may be questionable, but no language exceeds the level of eloquence or technical wordsmithing achieved by writers of the English language, including British, Scottish, Irish, and American writers. I would go so far as to say no language has ever come close to matching English in this respect. English has by far the largest lexicon of any language on earth, and far more pages of the world’s libraries are made up of English writings than any other language. Again, whatever we feel about the content of what they have written, no one can question the literary eloquence of Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Keats, Samuel Johnson, or Melville, just to name a very few. These were among the authors once respected by those who appreciated the English language. America’s founding fathers were not only well read in the King James, Geneva Bible in some cases, but in literary, philosophical, theological, and historical texts that go way over the heads of the modern American who reads at fifth grade level. Considering that modern fifth graders probably read at the level that educated 18th century people read in the first grade, the contrast is even greater.
Today we have a culture where as little as 3% of the population read anything beyond the sports page in a newspaper, a NASCAR program, or a TV Guide. We live in a culture that quotes TV ads of shoe companies (just do it), hamburger companies (where’s the beef?), or wear tee-shirts that announce that excrement happens, that they have a thing for some guy named Tommy Hilfigger or Calvin Kline , that advertise being a lush, or express some unexplained desire to be a billboard for Budweiser, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, or a bar. Americans are exposed to at least 2,000 advertisements every single day and many of them are stuck on the bodies of their fellow citizens. One would think that half the country owned stock in a company that makes shoes or clothing. Tiger Woods gets paid 10 million per year to be a Nike billboard, but tens of millions pay them to be their billboards, and they do so thinking that they are making a statement that says something good about themselves. Everywhere we see stickers on cars that make profound statements for us to ponder, such as: no fear, fear this, I love my cat, your cat is under my tire, I worship guys who play a kid’s game, I’ve been to Wall Drugs or some other silly tourist trap, my kid is a government indoctrination center honor student, I voted for the Republican Skull & Bones New World Order lackey, I voted for the Democratic Skull & Bones New World Order lackey, if you don’t like the fact that I drive like a retarded cow on crack you can eat excrement, or pictures of little boys urinating on Ford or Chevi logos. Most of America uses swear words without shame or embarrassment, and a great many manage to fit one or two swear words into every sentence. Judging by the American mouth, this has become a country obsessed with excrement, urine, sexual acts, and genitalia, since these subjects appear frequently in the conversations of tens millions, and in virtually every sentence in millions more. Even “Christians” are selling and wearing tee-shirts that include references to a sexual act, such as a tee-shirt that I’ve seen that reads Abortion Sucks. What does abortion have to do with oral sex, and why would a Christian want to equate the two? I have received letters and seen numerous letters that others have received from “Christian” Rock fans that include many obscene expletives. Literary eloquence is not just dead in America, it is long ago buried.
There are some out there who will entirely fail to understand my point. These are the types who don’t understand the purpose of turn signals on cars, the double door concept, or how to merge into traffic. The types that listen to top 40 radio hour after hour. The types that used to watch Three’s Company and Laverne and Shirley and laugh. The types that watch Oprah, Montel, Maury Povich, and Dr. Philth, and think that they are expanding their minds. The types that get banged on the head in church and fall down wailing nonsense words while twitching and jerking like epileptics having fits. The types that think that “Christian” Rock is Christian. The types that think that “Christian” Rock is music. The types that look to the major media and politicians for their information. These types will not understand why I have ended a discussion about the destruction of the English language with these two renderings of psalms taken from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, or why no further comment is necessary.
1 God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.
2 Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs That drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps.
9 God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world.
A David Psalm
1-3 God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
4 Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
5 You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
6 Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.