Friday, September 25, 2015

Biblical astronomy. Job 38:31-33:

"Pleiades large" by NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar Observatory
The science team consists of: D. Soderblom and E. Nelan (STScI), F. Benedict and B. Arthur (U. Texas), and B. Jones (Lick Obs.) - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

In chapter 38 begins God's first speech to suffering Job "out of the storm". This part of the text gives insight also to the world view of the anonymous writer.

Second century BC Greek translation Septuagint writes in the last chapter that Job was "a ruler of Edom". The original language is not standard Hebrew and often quite difficult to understand. It may present a dialect spoken in East from Jordan probably during the 6th century before Christ.

Three verses refer specifically to the night sky among the many natural wonders that God points out challenging for Job to know and to take control. Both are impossible tasks for Job. (Today we know much more about stars but do not yet control even one of them!)

Job 38:31-33

  הַֽ֭תְקַשֵּׁר מַעֲדַנּ֣וֹת כִּימָ֑ה אֽוֹ־מֹשְׁכ֖וֹת כְּסִ֣יל תְּפַתֵּֽחַ׃
  הֲתֹצִ֣יא מַזָּר֣וֹת בְּעִתּ֑וֹ וְ֝עַ֗יִשׁ עַל־בָּנֶ֥יהָ תַנְחֵֽם׃
  הֲ֭יָדַעְתָּ חֻקּ֣וֹת שָׁמָ֑יִם אִם־תָּשִׂ֖ים מִשְׁטָר֣וֹ בָאָֽרֶץ׃
 Westminster Leningrad Codex WLC

  συνῆκας δὲ δεσμὸν Πλειάδος καὶ φραγμὸν Ὠρίωνος ἤνοιξας;
  ἦ διανοίξεις μαζουρωθ ἐν καιρῷ αὐτοῦ καὶ Ἕσπερον ἐπὶ κόμης αὐτοῦ ἄξεις αὐτά;
  ἐπίστασαι δὲ τροπὰς οὐρανοῦ ἢ τὰ ὑπ᾿ οὐρανὸν ὁμοθυμαδὸν γινόμενα;
Septuagint LXX

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
    or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
Job 38:31-33 NIV

Comment on NIV translation
The New International Version identifies the constellations as Pleiades, Orion's belt and the Bear (alternatively Leo).

Less fortunate is the theological "fixing" of the third verse by adding the word God into the sentence. In the original Hebrew and Septuagint Greek translation "they" have dominion over the earth, that is the laws of heaven.

Can you set up their dominion over the earth?
Job 38:33

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