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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.49 n.4 Pretoria  2009


'n Literêre en himnologiese blik op Psalm 23


A literary and hymnological glance at Psalm 23



Cas J A Vos

Dekaan, Fakulteit Teologie, Universiteit van Pretoria e-pos:




In hierdie artikel word daar gefokus op die literêre en himnologiese aspekte van Psalm 23. Hierdie psalm word in al sy taalgeledinge ontleed. Die sintaktiese en semantiese fasette van die psalm word ondersoek. Daar word gelet op poëtiese patrone. Sekere stylfigure, soos metafore, word ondersoek. Daar word ook aandag gegee aan die resepsiegeskiedenis van die psalm. In dié opsig word die interpretasie daarvan in die Nuwe Testament en in die kerkgeskiedenis nagegaan. Hierdie ondersoek is noodsaaklik omdat die omdigting van 'n psalm op die verstaan van die grondteks berus.
T T Cloete het al 150 psalms vir die Liedboek van die Kerk omdig. 'n Omdigter moet self 'n digter van hoë kwaliteit wees om sy hand aan omdigtings te waag. Cloete voldoen by uitnemendheid aan dié vereiste. In die artikel word sy omdigting op struktuur- en taalvlak ontleed. Daar word ook na die poëtiese gehalte daarvan gekyk. Verder word die musikologiese eise wat die lied stel ook in ag geneem.
Die gevolgtrekking waartoe daar in die artikel gekom word, is dat die omdigting van Cloete voortreflik is. Hy slaag uitmuntend daarin om aan die lied 'n teologiese stem te gee wat singend in harte en monde weerklink.

Trefwoorde: Digkuns, himnologie, Psalm 23, Nuwe Testament, kerkgeskiedenis, T T Cloete (1924-), Liedboek van die Kerk.


In this article, the focus is on the literary and hymnological aspects of Psalm 23. This psalm is analyzed in terms of all its linguistic nuances. A network of metaphors is woven around the motif of the shepherd in Psalm 23. This psalm can be divided into four stanzas which are arranged chiastically - verses 1b-3: confession/testimony (He-I), verse 4: a prayer of trust (I-You), verse 5: a prayer of trust (You-I) and verse 6: confession/testimony (I-He).
The syntactic and semantic aspects of the Psalm are investigated, while poetic patterns are also considered. Some figures of speech, for instance, metaphors, are scrutinised. Especially the shepherd metaphor captures the attention. The title "shepherd" which is attributed to the ruling king, is often encountered in the court terminology of the Ancient Near East. In the prologue of the Codex of Hammurabi the king is described as a shepherd who is called by Enlil. This Codex mentions that the gods installed the king's office as shepherd and that they visited him. The motif of shepherd frequently appears in the Old Testament. However, the title "shepherd" is not conferred on the ruling king as was the case in Egypt and Mesopotamia. This title is sometimes ascribed to David (2 Samuel 5:2; 7:7; 24:17), however, it is often used when leaders are accused of neglecting their duties (Ezekiel 34:4 foll.). The metaphor of the host is also illuminated. Yahweh is emphasized as a host. Yahweh is the subject of the verbs in these verses. The result is that Yahweh's deeds are emphasized. The expression "Yahweh prepares a table before me" refers to the fact that Yahweh presents his hospitality to the psalmist. The meal is the proof of Yahweh's protecting and caring nature. Also the literary genre of the psalm is investigated. The psalm is not only a psalm of trust or only one of thanksgiving, because features of both these Gattungen are displayed. The text of Psalm 23 gives us comfort. The psalmist's experiences of comfort, protection and support are expressed. One of the functions of the psalm is to encourage the reader/hearer in difficult times. Thus the psalm is also a psalm of trust.
Attention is furthermore paid to the reception history of the psalm. In this regard, the interpretation of Psalm 23 is traced in the New Testament and in the history of the church. This investigation is necessary, since one relies on one's understanding of the original text when versifying poetry. The Messianic interpretation of Psalm 23 has an important bearing on the liturgy of baptism and the service of Eucharist. During the fourth and fifth centuries and especially in the catechesis of baptism, every verse of Psalm 23 was connected to Christ and to those who met Christ through baptism. The "green pastures" were the supportive words of the Holy Scriptures as embodied by the catechesis of baptism. The "quiet waters" indicated the water with which someone was bapitised. The "paths of righteousness" evoked associations with catechesis of baptism; more specifically the ethical principles of behaviour which were connected to these catechesis.
T T Cloete has versified all 150 Psalms for the "Liedboek van die Kerk" (Hymn book of the Church). Cloete's versification of the psalms is based on the interpretation and understanding of the Hebrew text. All the fabrics of the text are followed and versified in Afrikaans. The versification of a text poses its own challenges. These pertain to matters like rhyme patterns, metaphors, the contemporary nature of the versification and the musical requirements (such as, for example, the word/tone relationship) which hang like a sword above the text.
Anyone who dares to versify poetry has to be himself a poet of high quality. Cloete is more than qualified for this task. In this article, his versified poem is analyzed on the level of structure and language. The poetical quality of his work is also considered. Furthermore, the musicological demand of Psalm 23 as a song is taken into consideration. The hand of the poet is restricted by musicological demands. These influence the rhyming words, the syntax, the word order, and even the appropriation of metaphors.
The conclusion reached in this article is that Cloete's versification of Psalm 23 is outstanding indeed. He succeeds splendidly in giving the psalm a theological voice which resounds, as a song, in both mouth and heart.

Key concepts: Poetry, hymnology, Psalm 23, New Testament, church history, T T Cloete (1924-), Liedboek van die Kerk.


Full text available only in PDF format.



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1 Vergelyk Psalm 80:2; Jesaja 40:11; 63:14; Jeremia 23:3; Esegiël 34:10; vgl. ook Psalms 74:1; 79:13 en Hosea 4:16 (Janowski 2006:229-230).
2 Vergelyk Miller (1986:113); Mittmann (1980:7); Schuman (2002:32).
3 Vergelyk Prinsloo (1991:37); Schuman (2002:31, 47); Vos (2005:118).
4 Vergelyk Van Uchelen (1971); Jüngling (20012:924); Schuman (2002:47).
5 Vergelyk Gunkel (1926:98); Kraus (1978:336); Deissler (1966:92); Zenger (1993:152); Schuman (2008:29).
6 Vergelyk Schuman (2002:63-64); Maier (1996:108-120); Dohmen (1998:53-55); Rouwhorst (2004:152-155).
7 Vergelyk Reemts (2000:12-13, 16-20); Schuman (1998:165-175); Schumann (2002:67).



Cas J A Vos is sedert 2000 Dekaan van die Fakulteit Teologie aan die Universiteit van Pretoria. Hy is 'n predikant van die Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk. In 1984 kry hy die graad DD (Sistematiese Teologie) van die Universiteit van Pretoria en in 1990 word hy aangestel as professor in Praktiese Teologie aan die Fakulteit Teologie (Afdeling B). Professor Vos is 'n lid van die internasionale werksgemeenskap, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Homiletik en word in 2004 gekies tot president van die internasionale Societas Homi-letica. Hy ontvang die Andrew Murray Toekenning en die Van Drimmelen Toekenning van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. Hy het reeds 110 vakwetenskaplike artikels gepubliseer en is die outeur van verskeie internasionale akademiese boeke waarvan die jongste Theopoetry ofthe Psalms (2005) is. Professor Vos is 'n bekende digter en het reeds etlike digbundels uitgegee, soos Vuurtong (1999), Gode van papier (2001), Enkeldiep (2003), Die afdruk van ons hande (2007) en Intieme afwesige (2009).

Cas J A Vos has been Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria since 2000. He is a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. He obtained the degree DD (Systematic Theology) from the University of Pretoria in 1984 and was appointed professor in Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology (Section B) in 1990. Professor Vos is a member of the international society, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Homiletik and was elected president of the international Societas Homiletica in 2004. He received the Andrew Murray Award and the Van Drimmelen Award from the South African Academy for Science and Arts. He is the author of 110 scholarly articles and author of various international academic books, the latest of which is Theopoetry of the Psalms (2005). Professor Vos is a renowned poet and the composer of anthologies such as Vuurtong (1999), Gode van papier (2001), Enkeldiep (2003), Die afdruk van ons hande (2007) and Intieme afwesige (2009).

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