Sing a new song

Posted in messiah, specific Hebrew words on June 20th, 2010 by yf

Domestic matters have drawn me from this blog for the last couple of weeks, for which my apologies.

Seven times the Hebrew Bible speaks of a “new song”* . It is always sung to the Lord. In modern times, new tunes and, in some branches of Christianity, new religious lyrics, pour out to reflect changes in fashion. That is not what the Bible means.

There, song is not merely a ditty, a tune strung together with some nice words. A song is the deepest expression – the heart cry – of our spiritual being, of our experience of our walk on this earth with God and of who He is. Thus, a new song is a major change to a new experience of the Lord.

This new song is understood in Hebraic thinking as the song that will be sung when Messiah comes. When we find the expression, “sing to the Lord a new song” in the Bible, it refers to the time when King Messiah will come, and when consequently we will be able to sing the praises of the Lord in a whole new way.

The lute or harp of Messianic times will be ten-stringed**, and some Jewish sages teach that there will be a new ten note scale rather than the present widely used eight note scale and that this will release beautiful new music. The Rosh HaShanah Machzor (prayerbook) calls this music “a celebration of the World to Come”.

Thus the new song of the Bible is prophetic and joyous – both momentous and drawing on the deepest wells of spiritual experience. In Exodus 15, Moses and the people sing to the Lord after their passage through the Red Sea.

The two references in the New Testament to a “new song” reflect this Hebrew understanding.** In Revelations 14:3, the 144,000 who stand on Mount Zion sing a new song before the throne. No one but they can learn it – that is, only they have the spritual experience to sing this new song.

So, what will be your new song?

*(Psalm 33:3, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 96:12, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 144:9, Psalm 149:1, Isaiah 42:10)

**Psalm 33:2 and 144:9 refer to the ten stringed lute, as do Psalm 81:2 and 92:3. Ten stringed instruments have been used historically and today, with various possible tunings. In the 1990s there was a ten-string klezmer group.

***Revelations 5:9 and 14:3.

Sci-fi and the Bible

Posted in character of God, creation, science on June 3rd, 2010 by yf

Before time began there was no before: language cannot encompass that first beginning. It is beyond human conception. The awkward opening of Genesis – as we have seen – points to the difficulty of beginning at the very beginning. Elohim becomes knowable only through His action in time to create the universe. The word order of Genesis 1:1 shows this.

The description of creation in that first verse, separates time – the “In the beginning” – from the physical creation of the heavens and the earth. Time is not just another dimension, it provides the grounds for creation.

time and spaceSurprisingly, for those who regard Genesis as necessarily unscientific, this approach is in advance of 20th C scientific thinking. Science in the 21st C is only now arriving at the understanding of the beginning that is set out for the simplest peasant in the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1.

Even the most sophisticated 20thC approaches to cosmology have usually worked on the basis of what is called Euclidean space. In Euclidean space, time is one of a number of dimensions. There are so many physical dimensions (whether 3 or 4 or 10 or n) plus one further dimension, which is time. The underlying assumption here is that fundamentally all the dimensions can be modeled together; theoretically one can move about in the time dimension as in the other dimensions. This is the idea of space-time and of lots of science-fiction

The hidden consequence is that causality – that a causes b and so forth – is lost as a fundamental precondition of the universe. Time’s arrow is lost. As scientists construct their models of the universe, they can reintroduce causality. But it is not part of the warp and whoof, the foundations, of the universe. Time’s arrow is fired late, so to speak. If time is another dimension of space-time, then causality is no longer fundamental, but a secondary phenomenon. If so, what causes it? Stephen Hawking’s famous Brief History of Time is, in part, a struggle with that conundrum.

Recently,* there has been a move away from thinking in terms of Euclidean space to what is called Lorentzian space. Here time is distinguished from the other dimensions of space-time. In Lorentzian space, time cannot be moved about within, in the same way as the other dimensions. It is fundamentally different. Time’s arrow is restored and causality is an initial condition of the universe. This approach seems to be yielding more elegant formulae and solutions than hitherto achieved in tackling the big issues of cosmology.

But, once time is distinguished from space and time’s arrow is restored, one arrives inevitably back at the question of who fired that arrow; what is the first cause or prime mover? This is exactly the discussion that Genesis 1:1 provides.

* See, notably, various articles by J. Ambjørn, J. Jurkiewicz and R. Loll in Physics Review, Nuclear Physics etc.