Kent Brandenburg’s Strawman

If you want to see and amazing act of misrepresentation, just look at the this from Kent Brandenburg.

I want to take apart these statements, and show that Brandenburg is erecting a strawman. It would be good to give you the link to my actual post.

To start out, he says:

Adam assumes that we should conclude that “them” does not refer to “words” because the “genders don’t match up”—no other explanation offered to his readers—this issue is settled because of the gender discord. Case closed.

Really, is that what I said? Here is what I wrote:

Now, Psalm 12 is a complicated text, and to quote it glibly like this shows how sloppy Brandenburg is being in his exegesis to try to prove his point. There are real questions about whether the “them” in the phrase “you shall keep them, O Lord” refers to the words. In the first place, the genders don’t match up.

Also, consider my comment in response to Mr. Brandenburg:

Also, Also, I never used the gender disharmony as the “basis” for anything. I do realize that there is such a thing as gender disharmony in Hebrew. However, none of the passages to which you pointed are syntactically relevant, as all the passages you have cited are examples of a common usage of gender disharmony [gender parallelism], which is totally irrelevant to Psalm 12. Part of my my argument is that the gender disharmony in Psalm 12 makes “words” as the antecedent to the masculine suffixes far less likely. I do realize that there is such a thing as gender disharmony in Hebrew. However, none of the passages to which you pointed are syntactically relevant, as all the passages you have cited are examples of a common usage of gender disharmony [gender parallelism], which is totally irrelevant to Psalm 12. Part of my my argument is that the gender disharmony in Psalm 12 makes “words” as the antecedent to the masculine suffixes far less likely.

Notice how I said that “there are real questions” not “case closed.” Also, notice how I even told him that “Also, I never used the gender disharmony as the “basis” for anything. I do realize that there is such a thing as gender disharmony in Hebrew. However, none of the passages to which he pointed are syntactically relevant, as all the passages he cited are examples of a common usage of gender disharmony [gender parallelism], which is totally irrelevant to Psalm 12. Part of my my argument is that the gender disharmony in Psalm 12 makes “words” as the antecedent to the masculine suffixes far less likely.” No self-respecting Hebraist would ever make an argument on that basis alone. That is why I gave exegetical reasons as well. However, he will only touch them briefly. My hope is that people will realize when they read his blog that, because he goes on to quote explainations that I offered *other than* gender disharmony, that thinking people will realize that Brandenburg is being dishonest.

However, as I mentioned, he does address some other things. He tried to run off to examples of gender disharmony in Psalm 119, and I responded by pointing out that they were syntactically different from Psalm 12.

Aha, oh yes, ahem, we’ve got to look at the, um, pattern of the few examples I gave Adam to chew on. Adam is saying that, oh yes, of course, gender discord, yes, that happens, yes, he knew that, of course. But that’s not what he said. All he said was that the genders didn’t match up. He said nothing about a particular pattern in which the genders may be discordant. Nothing. If he knew that in the first place, and then said that gender discord was making a certain grammatical point, then he was misleading his audience. No admission of that, however. If he knew it, then he was misleading his readers. If he didn’t know it, then he should admit it. The latter seems like a better choice.

But he comes back in his comment to say that the syntax is not parallel and he cites “gender parallelism,” so according to him this case in Psalm 12:6-7, the point of gender disharmony rule is not occurring. The implication is that gender disharmony between the pronoun and its antecedent “words” only works with the syntax found in my Psalm 119 examples, but not with Psalm 12. So if that’s true, then every example should be the same syntax as we see in the Psalm 119 examples, his so-called “gender parallelism.” But it isn’t.

Joshua 1:7 doesn’t have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law [feminine], which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it [masculine] to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

Psalm 78:5 doesn’t have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

For he established a testimony [feminine] in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them [masculine] known to their children.

Leviticus 26:3 doesn’t have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

If ye walk in my statutes [feminine], and keep my commandments [feminine], and do them [masculine].

1 Kings 6:12 doesn’t have the same syntax as the Psalm 119 examples.

Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes [feminine], and execute my judgments [feminine], and keep all my commandments [feminine] to walk in them [masculine].

There are more examples than these, but these above blow Adam’s whole syntactical parallel argument to bits. His “gender parallelism” point is nothing more than gobbly-gook.

Now, here is the quote to which I was responding. Let me see if you can pick up what I was saying:

You used the gender agreement as a basis for your criticism of Psalm 12:6-7. That might jump up and bite you on the nose. I’ll just give you a little head start on this. Look for the same kind of disagreement in these passages—Psalm 119:111, 129, 152, and 167. The Hebrew uses purposeful gender disagreement when applying to God’s Words. There are many more examples than those, but those will be easy to look at.

Notice, I was responding to *specific examples* that he gave me to look at. Any Hebraist can see that he did not chose passages that are syntactically parallel, and hence, all of the passages he cited are irrelevant! Yet, he ignores this, and runs off to other passages that any Hebraist would likewise question. He has ran off to prose texts, and has not distinguished between prose and poetry, and has cited a variation of the very phenomenion I pointed out to him in the comments section in Psalm 78! While it is slightly different, it is still a masculine and feminine in parallel in the same strophe!

Now, again, I am not arguing for an open and shut case on the basis of gender discord. However, I can cite far better texts than this to prove that it is not conclusive. Any Hebraist knows you have to consider syntax, and make proper distinctions between prose and poetry. Kent Brandenburg does neither, and all to prove a point that I have never contested.

He continues:

On the other hand, Adam attempts to refer that second pronoun in v. 7 back to the supplied “him” of v. 5. He makes a pronoun refer back to an understood pronoun, and uses his colon argument in order to accomplish that. But if we really do have some pattern there, like he says, then where is the 7c? According to him, there is a 5abc and 6abc in order to make it work, but there is only a 7ab—no c. He is seeing things that aren’t there.

Of course, there is no rule in Hebrew Poetry that says that you must have the exact same number of colons. I would challenge Kent to show us from Adele Berlin, Wilfred Watson, or any other classic study on Hebrew poetics where the strophe with suffixes must have the exact same number of colons as the strophes which contain their antecedent.

Hence, you have a problem for Kent. I pointed out that the structure is much better understood if the “afflicted” are the antecedent, and I pointed out that they match in gender. Kent’s reply is with something that is totally irrelevant, and continues to break up the structure along with the gender discord.

It would be better to see the structure of the psalm as asymmetric, like this.

A. Psalm 12:1
B. Psalm 12:2-4
C. Psalm 12:5
B. Psalm 12:6-7
A. Psalm 12:8

Psalm 12:2-4 speak of the words of the ungodly and Psalm 12:6-7 speak of the Words of God. Both Psalm 12:1 and 12:8 recognize the need of divine help. Psalm 12:5 is the promise of God. And here’s a big tip on this asymmetric structure. V. 1 and v. 8 end with the same exact word in the Hebrew text, the Hebrew word for “man,” adam.

Now, notice that he also has to admit that to read the Psalm in this way also destroys semetrical structure. However, what of the speech itself? He comments:

Kutilek and Adam make the psalm about the poor and needy. The poem is marked by an incredibly strong emphasis on speech—three uses each of “speak” and “lips,” four of “say,” and two of “tongue.” There is also one “groans.” The poet is focused on words. Vv. 2-3 and vv. 6-7 parallel in the structure. The most obvious contrast is between the words of the evildoers and the words of God with the implication that the veracity of words is primarily dependent on the speaker.

Again, Kent is being very selective here. We do have words, but notice how the Psalm starts out with a cry for God to deliver the pious ones because of the “smooth speech” of the sons of men [verses 1-2]. This is commonly used in Hebrew poetry for “deceptive speech.” That is contrasted with the pure words of God [verse 5]. Hence, the text is not about “words” per se, but the truthfulness of those words. God keeps his promises; however, the sons of men speak deceptively.

Hence, as I said, the text is about the *promise* of God to deliver the needy and the afflicted. It is Kent who has to insert something about the doctrine of preservation of manuscripts into discourse about honesty and the affliction of the needy. This, I think, demonstrates very clearly who is reading things into the text.

Simply put, it is no victory to prove that there can be gender discord in a context such as this. If that is the only drum Kent can beat, then he doesn’t know the issues with regards to this Psalm. The issue is contextual. When you have masculine pronouns in the context, it forms a neat structure, and fits with the theme of the rest of the Psalm, you are going to have a hard time overcoming that weight. That is why I think it would be good to discuss relevant issues rather than being selective, and thus erecting a strawman.

Also, listen to this man’s tone, and ask yourself who is being arrogant here. This “Aha, oh yes, ahem, we’ve got to look at the, um, pattern of the few examples I gave Adam to chew on. Adam is saying that, oh yes, of course, gender discord, yes, that happens, yes, he knew that, of course” is just plain disrespectful. I knew about gender disharmony because of many classes in which we studied this particular phenomenon at Trinity. That is why I chose the phrase “real questions” rather than making it certain, and why I then went on to give other exegetical argumentation. Kent needs to come down off of his high horse, and stop being selective so as to erect strawmen. In fact, all I really need to do is link to the article where you can read for yourself. Kent will never win anyone over to his side with this kind of dishonesty.

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