Maranatha as a hermeneutical key to reinterpreting the imprecatory Psalms

Slabbert, Sarel Johannes Petrus (2018-11)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Certain Psalms, known as Imprecatory Psalms, cause problems for both academic and devotional readers. They contain curses and prayers asking for vengeance, judgment, and vindication. These Psalms are part of the Bible, creating the question if Christians today can read and study them. Through the years various attempts, ranging from ignoring, censoring, and defending these curses, have been attempted. However, no single methodology can effectively alleviate the problems and questions caused by the Imprecatory Psalms. This thesis looks at the Aramaic cry, Μαράνα θά, in 1 Corinthians 16 as a possible key to help understand the Imprecatory Psalms. Therefore three Imprecatory Psalms are studied to determine the motivations and context behind the vengeful prayers. Psalms 7, 35, and 59 were studied within their cultural and canonical settings according to the Three Dimensional Reading Methodology. The focus is on the inter-, intra-, and extra-textual aspects. It was determined that the psalmists did not curse for vengeful or personal reasons. The curses were expressed in a time of dire need when enemies were out to destroy the psalmists. Within the covenantal relationship between God and the psalmist, the only option left for the psalmist was to call on God to come to their aid: judging the enemies and vindicating the righteous. Studying the curse within the context of the Ancient Near East it became evident that the curse was commonly used in both Old and New Testament times. In the case of Biblical curses it also becomes clear that executing the curse or not was the sole prerogative of God; the psalmist could not enact vengeance himself. Curses are not only found in the Psalms, but also other books in the Old and New Testament. Μαράνα θά is found next to a curse in the New Testament. Although considered by some as separate, reading ἀνάθεμα Μαράνα θά as a unit echoes a similar essence than the imprecatory prayers: the desire that God will come and act. In the Psalms the desire is that God would come and judge the enemies and vindicate the righteous. Μαράνα θά should be read as an imperative, calling on the Lord to come and act. In the New Testament Μαράνα θά has the παρουσία in mind. Analogous to the Imprecatory Psalms, the παρουσία focuses on judgment of the enemies of God and the vindication of his people. Μαράνα θά can become a prayer that offer an analogy between the hopes and desires of the psalmists and the hopes and desires of those calling on the Lord to return.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sommige Psalms, bekend as Vloekpsalms, veroorsaak probleme vir beide akademiese en gewone lesers. Dit bevat vloeke en gebede van wraak, oordeel en vergelding. Hierdie Psalms vorm deel van die Bybel en skep die vraag of Christene hierdie gebede mag lees en bestudeer. Deur die jare is verskeie pogings, wat wissel vanaf ignorering, sensuur en verdediging van die vloeke, voorgestel. Daar is egter nie een metode wat die probleme en vraagstukke wat deur die Vloekpsalms veroorsaak word voldoende kan antwoord nie. Hierdie proefskrif kyk na die Aramese kreet Μαράνα θά in 1 Korintiërs 16 as ʼn moontlike sleutel wat kan bydrae tot die verstaan van die Vloekpsalms. Daarom is drie Vloekpsalms bestudeer om die motiverings en die konteks agter die wraakgierige vloeke te ontleed. Psalms 7, 35 en 59 is binne hulle kulturele en kanonieke kontekste bestudeer volgens die Drie-Dimensionele leesmetode. Die fokus is op die inter-, intra- en ekstra-tekstuele aspekte. Daar is ontdek dat die psalmdigters nie vanuit wraakgierige of persoonlike motiewe die vloeke uitgespreek het nie. Dit is uitgespreek in ʼn tyd van diepe nood toe die vyande daarop uit was om die psalmdigters te vernietig. Binne die verbondsverhouding tussen God en die digters was die laaste uitweg om tot God te roep om hulp; om die vyande te oordeel en die regverdige vry te spreek. Binne die konteks van die Ou Nabye Ooste was vloeke algemeen, ook binne die Ou Testamentiese en Nuwe Testamentiese tye. In die geval van Bybelse vloeke het dit ook duidelik geword dat die uitvoering van die vloeke was God se mandaat alleen; die psalmdigter kon nie self wraak neem nie. Vloeke kom nie net in die Psalms voor nie, maar ook in ander Ou en Nuwe Testamentiese boeke. Μαράνα θά word direk na ʼn vloek in die Nuwe Testament gevind. Alhoewel baie die twee apart lees, eggo ἀνάθεμα Μαράνα θά ʼn ooreenkomstige begeerte as die Vloekpsalms: die begeerte dat God sal kom en handel. Die begeerte in die Psalms is dat God die vyande sal oordeel en die regverdiges sal vryspreek. In die Nuwe Testament is die παρουσία die fokus van Μαράνα θά. Die παρουσία se fokus op oordeel van die vyande van God en die vryspraak van sy volgelinge is analogies tot die Vloekpsalms. Μαράνα θά kan ʼn gebed word wat ʼn analogie verwoord tussen die hoop en begeertes van die psalmdigters en die hoop en begeertes van hulle wat uitroep dat die Here kom.

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