Friday, August 21, 2015

"Many men are said to be merciful, | but how often do we find one who is faithful to his duty? | The great quality of a steward is to be faithful to his duty."

Multi homines misericordes vocantur, virum autem fidelem quis inveniet?

     Responsory to the first reading for a priest, Office of readings, Common of pastors, Liturgy of the hours, vol. 4, p. 1753.
     I find this striking when read as follows:
Many men are called merciful, but who meets with a faithful man?
But it could also be read in this way:
Many men are called merciful, but who [ever actually] meets with a faithful man?
The Latin isless the question markan exact quotation of the Vulgate of Prov 20:6:
multi homines misericordes vocantur virum autem fidelem quis inveniet
Or, in the Douay translation,
Many men are called merciful:  but who shall find a faithful man?
The Septuagint is close:
Humankind is something great, and a compassionate man something precious, | but to find a faithful man is a chore.
μέγα ἄνθρωπος καὶ τίμιον ἀνὴρ ἐλεήμων, ἄνδρα δὲ πιστὸν ἔργον εὑρεῖν.
But the Hebrew that lies behind the RSV is not:
Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, | but a faithful man who can find?
רָב־אָדָ֗ם יִ֭קְרָא אִ֣ישׁ חַסְדֹּ֑ו וְאִ֥ישׁ אֱ֝מוּנִ֗ים מִ֣י יִמְצָֽא  
     I must therefore conclude that the responsory should really be read in the second way, with an emphasis on the distinction between claim and reality rather than on the idea that fidelity is harder to come by than mercy (since the noun אֱמוּנָה "is closely associated with the divine חֶסֶד" (BDB, sv אֱמוּנָה)).  And that despite the fact that it does seem to be easier to find a "merciful" man (so-called) than one who is faithful to his duty regardless of what (in our time, at least) the world calls "mercy"!
    (But why is אֱ֝מוּנִ֗ים (a passive participle) plural?)

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