Who am I and why do I exist?





Note: This is just a short essay taking a look at Psalm 8.



The answer to the question (Who am I and why do I exist?) lies within Psalm 8 and as each individual exegete studies the passage they will notice that there are numerous textual problems. Therefore he or she may come up with slightly differing answers to the question, but they will probably not in their outcome be that far apart.

The question of who am I, must first be addressed so that when looking at the question "why do I exist" there will be concrete understanding of the role that "I" plays in the creation of Psalm 8:3-8.

Who am I then?

I am, according to Psalm 8:4 a human being or a "son of man". There is a difference here in some translations with the  use of "mortal" (NRSV) and the term "son of man" (RSV,KJV). Am I then just a mere mortal who lives a life of insignificance or am I someone who lives in a special relationship with God. Francis Moloney points out  that I am someone who is "entirely dependent upon the all creating, all glorious and legislating God"[1]. The "son of man" must therefore be someone who through God's gracious hand has come from the utter insignificance of Psalm 8:2, where "I" am compared to the "moon and the stars" and the "work of your fingers" to be in a relationship with God where "I" am told that I was made "a little less than God". The use of mortals (NRSV) tells us that my life span is finite, and the question posed in Psalm 8:4 "what are human beings that you are mindful of them" only emphasises how it is inconceivable to many that God would want to know each mortal as an individual[2]. As a being created a little less than God I have a special place in creation and have a special responsibility with that order[3].

 At this point there is some divergence as many scholars and translators have sided on the use of "a little less than angels". Graigie believes the use of "a little less than angels" is a reflection of modesty by the translators of the time, not wanting to be seen as extravagant[4]. Kraus however is more at home with the use of "angels" and he puts forward that we should translate ""cyla"  " as divine or heavenly beings[5]. To Graigie therefore "I" have a station in God's kingdom of not just a little less that God but a little less than the heavenly beings that surround his throne[6]. The point here becomes not whether one point of view is correct but rather to establish the nature of my relationship with God. And to establish that "I" am created higher than the rest of the earthly realm.

Why do I exist?

It becomes evident that "I" have those responsibilities as mentioned in Psalm 8:6 where "I" am told I have dominion over the works of God's hand, including the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the creatures that pass through the oceans(Psalm 8:7-8). It also becomes evident that it is only by a free decision of God that I was raised from the total insignificance of Psalm 8:4 and given power over his earth. This then displays that it comes as a gift of grace to be wielded at God's will[7]. As a babe God uses me to establish his bulwark or strength against his enemies. Here in Psalm 8:1-2 there is again great discussion over the translation of the words used in the Hebrew. It centres around whether God uses Babes and infants as instruments of praise (NIV) or whether out of their mouths comes his strength (NRSV). Eaton however is comfortable with joining both Psalm 8:1-2 together as a unit and declaring that "a contrast is thus drawn between the mighty choirs of heaven and the singers on earth who by comparison prattle like babes and infants"[8]. In spite of the inadequacy of human worship God has through it founded a bulwark. Again, to arrive at a position that is uncompromising over this issue is almost impossible[9] and as such there is a need to see beyond the disagreement and point out that God does not use the physically strong to do his work but choses the insignificant so that God's name will be glorified[10].

It must therefore be assumed that "I" exist to serve Yahweh through his creation and to do this in such a way that brings glory and praise to the creator himself. This is signified by the very existence of Psalm 8 which is all about praising and glorifying God. Artur Weiser in his commentary sees a comparison between the fear of Yahweh and joy in him[11].  It must then be concluded that I exist at God's will and that I am a mortal being with a finite life span, who has been given a special place and responsibility in the created order even though I am so insignificant that I hardly rate mention in comparison to creation. Also "I" have a creator who has taken a personal interest in me and has giving me dominion over the rest of creation.

No matter what the textual criticisms of this psalm and how much scholars debate of the correct translation of some verses "I" cannot escape the fact that the reason "I" am what I am and "I" exist "to serve Yahweh". 

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Craigie Peter C. Psalms 1-50 Word Biblical Commentary (52 vols; Word Incorporated; Waco, Texas: 1986, Vol 19)

Eaton J.H. "Psalms" The Torch Bible Commentaries. (Scm Press; London: 1967).

Kraus Hans-Joachim, Psalms 1-59 A Commentary. (Augsburg Publishing House; Minneapolis: 1988).

Mays James L. "Psalms" Interpretation (John Knox Press; Louisville, Kentucky: 1989).

Moloney Francis J.  "The Re-Interpretation of Psalm Viii",  New Testament Studies Vol 27, October 1981 p664.

Vangermeren Willem A.  The Expositor's Bible Commentary. (12 vols.; ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids: 1991, Vol 5) 1-882.

Weiser Artur. The Psalms.  (Scm Press; London: 1966).

Footnotes.

[1]Francis J. Moloney  "The Re-Interpretation of Psalm Viii",  New Testament Studies Vol 27, October 1981 p664.

[2]Peter C. Graigie Word Biblical Commentary Psalm 1-50, (Word Incorporated; Waco, Texas; 1986) volumes 19, p108.

[3]James L. Mays Interpretation "Psalms" (John Knox Press; Louisville, Kentucky; 1989) p69. Here Mays states " Everybody is involved in the Kingdom of God. Being human means being ordained and installed in a right and responsibility within the divine sovereignty. God did not just make us; God made us both a representation and representatives of the reign of the Lord to other creatures".

[4]Peter C. Graigie Word Biblical Commentary Psalm 1-50, (Word Incorporated; Waco, Texas; 1986) volumes 19, p108.

[5]Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59 A Commentary. (Augsburg Publishing House; Minneapolis: 1988) p 183.

[6]Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59 A Commentary. (Augsburg Publishing House; Minneapolis: 1988) p 183.

[7]J.H. Eaton  The Torch Bible Commentaries. "Psalms". (Scm Press; London: 1967) p44.

[8]J.H. Eaton  The Torch Bible Commentaries. "Psalms". (Scm Press; London: 1967) p44.

[9]Peter C. Graigie Word Biblical Commentary Psalm 1-50, (Word Incorporated; Waco, Texas; 1986) volume 19, p103. Here Graigie lists some of the difficulties of syntax and translation of these verses.

[10]Willem A. Vangermeren  The Expositor's Bible Commentary. (12 Vol.;Frank E. Gaebelein ed.: Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids: 1991) vol 5, p 111.

[11]Artur Weiser The Psalms. (Scm Press; London: 1965) p 141.

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