The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

When a normal person hears the “cow jumped over the moon” he laughs.  Why?  Because he is imagining a literal cow leaping over the moon.  When a scholar interprets it, he thinks of the heifer being sacrificed to Diana (cf. The Everlasting Man, pg. 65).

Psalm 104 asks the reader to use his imagination:

  1. You strétch out the héavens like a tént.    Above the ráins you búild your dwélling.
  2. You máke the clóuds your cháriot,
  3. You wálk on the wíngs of the wínd,
  4. You máke the wínds your méssengers and fláshing fíre your sérvant.
  5. You fóunded the éarth on its báse, to stand fírm from áge to áge.
  6. You wrápped it with the ócean like a clóak: the wáters stood hígher than the móuntains.  At your thréat they tóok to flíght;
    at the vóice of your thúnder they fléd. They róse over the móuntains and flowed dówn  to the pláce which yóu had appóinted.
  7. You set límits they míght not páss  lest they retúrn to cóver the éarth.
  8. You make spríngs gush fórth in the válleys;  they flów in betwéen the hílls.  They give drínk to all the béasts of the fíeld; *
    the wíld-asses quénch their thírst.  On their bánks dwell the bírds of héaven;  from the bránches they síng their sóng.

The normal person reads the Psalm and thinks, “My God is a great God. He is the source of all good things.  God made creation for man to enjoy its bread and wine. The God of creation promises to make me a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17)

When a scholar reads Psalm 104, he/she thinks of “a wall of a 14th century BCE tomb of Pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336) who lived in an era when everyone believed in many gods, but chose to believe in only one, Aten.” (cf Amy-Jill Levine, The Meaning of the Bible ).  A scholar asks “why are the words to this Egyptian god so similar to Psalm 104?” 

The Bible should come with a warning sign:  Read only on your Knees!

Scholarship is a good thing but the best interpreters read their Bibles on their knees.  

That’s why the best interpreters of the Bible are Saints (cf. Thomas Dubay’s, “A Closer Look at the Saints.” A prime example of this is St. Clement’s interpretation of Psalm 104.  In a letter to the Corinthians to do four things:

  1. Fix our gaze on the Father and Creator of the whole world, and
  2. Hold on to his peace and blessings, his splendid and surpassing gifts.
  3. Contemplate him in our thoughts and with our mind’s eye reflect upon the peaceful and restrained unfolding of his plan;
  4. Consider the care with which he provides for the whole of his creation.  

St. Clement asks the believer to see creation as a pointer to the unseen world.   Unlike fictionalmythologies that make use of man’s imagination, God asks man to use his imagination to think about the truth of God’s eternal creation   Paul writes this to the Corinthians: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”- the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (cf 1:Cor. 2:9).

Author: Karen Epp

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