Out of the Mouths of Babes

5peak

Psalm 8:2 gets cited in support of paedobaptism. But what is it actually about? It’s a retelling of the Covenant story, from Egypt to Canaan, from the Nile (bloody waters below) to the Jordan, the river of resurrection (purifying waters above). It moves from circumcision of the firstborn to baptism of the bride, from Covenant Head to Covenant Body. Like the royal screen above, it’s not ungarnished truth, but it’s not fictitious either. It’s facts presented as symbolic art.

I’m using the RSV here, with slight modifications, because it renders verse 2 in a way that has no support for paedobaptism. The literary structure appears to support this translation over the KJV and NASB, which don’t actually make a lot of sense. Although I have to go to the NKJV to get the subtitle:

To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.

Note: The acronym T H E O S  represents the five-fold Covenant pattern, the word spoken that is yet to be “opened” as a seven-fold New Creation.
O is Oath. S is Succession. C D A T M C G  is the matrix (which means Ethics is an ATM!)

CREATION/INITIATION (Day 1) : The Word is sent
O Lord, (T)
…..our Lord, (H)
……….how [honorable] (E)
…..is thy name (O)
in all the [Land]! (S)

DIVISION/DELEGATION (Day 2) : Pass-OVER*
(Israel under the sword – bloody external Law)
[Who (C)
…..have revealed (D)
……….your] glory above (A)
……………the heavens (T)
…..[in] the mouth (Deut 31:21 KJV) (M)
…..of babes (blood and water) (C)
and nursing [infants]. (Shelter) (G)*

ASCENSION (Day 3)
Thou (C)
…..hast founded (D)
……….a bulwark (A)
……………because of thy foes, (T)
……….to still the enemy (M – mouths stopped)
…..and the avenger. (C – Sanctions = Vengeance + Redemption)
(NO SABBATH IN THIS STANZA)

TESTING/PURIFICATION (Day 4)
When I look
…..at thy heavens,
……….the work of thy fingers, (tablets of OC stone)
……………the moon and the stars (fire)
……….which thou hast established; (living, fiery NC stones)
…..what is man that thou art mindful of him, (Adam presented)
and the son of man that thou dost care for him? (Adam’s Heir/Booths=shelter)

MATURITY (Day 5) – The Nazirite’s Crown
Yet thou (T)
…..hast made him (H)
……….little less than God, (E)
…..and dost crown him (O)
with glory and honor. (S)

CONQUEST/VINDICATION  (Day 6) : Pass-THROUGH
(Israel handed the sword – fiery internal Law)
Thou (Light)
…..hast given him dominion (Firmament)
……….over the works of thy hands; (Fruits)
……………thou hast put all things under his feet, (Rulers)
……….all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, (Jew-Gentile body)
…..the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, (Laver/Jordan divided)
whatever passes along the paths of the sea. (Rest in Gentile Lands)

GLORIFICATION/RESTORATION  (Day 7) : The Word returns
O Lord, (T)
…..our Lord, (H)
……….how [honorable] (E)
…..is thy name (O)
in all the [Land]! (S)

Notice that the mouths opened and mouths stopped are both at the “Deuteronomic” step in their respective stanzas. Israel was to teach their children to recite the Law, so when the adults strayed, the rote words of the infants would condemn them. Childish Hosannas condemned the Herods. But their chants were still only words written on stone, not flesh.

*I have edited this stanza to reflect the Hebrew, which is basically seven punches in Tabernacle order, from heaven to fruition to Mary and manger.

_______________________________
Art: Sun, Moon and Five Peaks.
“Traditionally placed behind the thrones of Joseon rulers, the Sun, Moon, and Five Peaks screen was the most crucial signifying element of the king as the nexus between the earthly and heavenly realms. As he sat on the throne, the king became the pivot of a balanced universe. The earliest written evidence for the use of a Sun, Moon, and Five Peaks screen in the Joseon palace dates from the mid-seventeenth century. It could have been used earlier, as the Joseon court tried to distinguish itself from that of the Goryeo court.” (Source: Korean National Heritage Online)

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14 Responses to “Out of the Mouths of Babes”

  • Uri Brito Says:

    Mike, the RSV rendering of Psalm 8 is completely linguistically impossible. There is a reason the vast majority of translations reject it. Do you have enough greek background to consider the LXX reading of Psalm 8:2? If so, take a look at it. You will notice that the “purpose clause” settles the issue.
    Verse 3 can be divided in this manner:
    The infant voices (musical/war-like tools) are sufficient to 1) establish strength and 2) silence/still foe and avenger.
    Hence, Psalm 8 teaches that the music of God is composed of every covenant member. Not that adult voices do not frighten Yahweh’s enemies, but that even the infant voices cause the same affect. The seed and the tree are kingdom (Matthew 13). The seed grows into kingdom maturity, but the seed is already kingdom.
    Naturally, this is also a messianic passage. The God/Man was the ultimate babe who silenced every foe and avenger.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Uri – I’ll check out the LXX (with my limited knowledge). But the structure above does make a good case for the RSV:

    - To maintain the reading of the majority, the first part of the second stanza has to be crammed into the first stanza. Since the first stanza is repeated as the last, we can clearly see the author’s structure. So we are left with linking God’s glory above the heavens with the infants.

    - And this works perfectly, because Division is about “above and below,” the humility of a true Hierarchy. So, yes, Jesus came down from heaven and was born to Mary. Ascension is about a lifting up. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. He defeated the evil one, and the Herods, but not as an infant. The Herods wiped out the infants. Infant voices cried out for vengeance as they did in Egypt, which ties into the Deut. 31 reference. That is what this is all about – condemning Covenant-breakers. It has nothing to do at all with the New Covenant sign.

    - Paedobaptism begins with an assumption and looks to every verse containing “infant” for support. That’s not how to do theology, especially when one has to override the New Testament’s very clear teaching on the requirements for baptism.

    - If the LXX reading actually IS correct (and I doubt this due to the structure) it still offers no support for paedobaptism.

    Thanks for the curve ball.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Uri

    I should add that the Hebrew infants are in the dark near the beginning of the passage, and the baptismal symbols are with full-grown Adam/Joshua/Jeshua near the end.

    You might as well give up now. ; )

  • Mike Bull Says:

    I have edited stanza 2 to reflect the Hebrew, which is basically seven punches in Tabernacle order, from heaven to fruition to Mary and manger:

    WHO (ARK)
    HAVE DISPLAYED YOUR SPLENDOUR (VEIL)
    YOUR SPLENDOR ABOVE (ALTAR & TABLE)
    THE HEAVENS (LAMPSTAND – LAW)
    THE MOUTH (INCENSE ALTAR – PROPHETIC)
    OF BABES (MEDIATORS)
    AND NURSING (REST)

    Now, before John says “See, babies can be mediators,” here it is all helplessness and stone tablets and the sword of the Law. This stanza is a passive mediation, under the knife of the Father, forming not filling. We are dealing with a fractal, after all, so the more mature themes have to be echoed here. As mentioned to Uri, the baptismal symbols come at the end.

  • Uriesou Brito Says:

    Mike, the problem with your hermeneutic is that typology comes before language. But, the word comes first, and then the art. You cannot undo a passage based on what you assume will make for a better piece of art. This is selective and you cannot do that with the text. Let the text be and then structure your hermeneutic on that basis.
    The difficulty with your version of credobaptism is that whatever passage brings forth the unity of God’s covenant serves you another opportunity to fragment that unity.
    One final point. The Hebrews infants are part of the glory of God’s revelation (Light; vs. 1). The infants are part of the LAND in the NEW CREATION. “Revelation” in verse 2 is the Light of the New Creation. Thus, infants are participants in this Re-Creation of the Cosmos; this re-structuring of the world-system the Psalmist envisions. As you mention, the mouth of infants is part of the prophetic dimension of God’s Re-creation. The end does not contain baptismal language, but full maturation language (glorification). This is the ultimate rest of doxological and prophetic infants. The prophetic word begins on day one and finds completion on day seven. Another example where your version of typology is clouding the natural symbolism of the text.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Uri, with all the discussion about this passage, it’s clear that the author’s intention is made clear not by typology so much as literary structure. This is poetry, and we know how people argue about author intention in poetry. It’s not a bunch of bare facts, as I stated. It is a journey through the Creation week as seen in the exodus and journey to Canaan. That is the starting point.

    I’m not fragmenting any unity. Paedobaptism promotes a unity of flesh. We’ve moved beyond that to Spirit-filled flesh, and infants don’t qualify.

    I don’t understand your breakdown. The infants are at Division/Veil. It is glory humbling itself. It is circumcision and death and prostration.

    The strength or “bulwark” is raised at Ascension.

    You’ve missed my point about the prophetic dimension. We are dealing with a fractal, so, yes, there is a prophetic dimension here, but it’s the dinky childhood version, reciting by rote to condemn unfaithful parents who have forgotten the Covenant.

    If infants were to be seen here as the “fruit” of the Land, David would have put them after the “strength,” believe me. He knows his Tabernacle.

    You’ve missed my point about baptism, also. This Psalm follows the same structure as all those baptismal passages in Acts, where the baptism comes just before the end (Day 6), mediators walking on water. And there is plenty of passing through the waters here.

    The infants are at the beginning of the passage. There is not a baby to be seen at the end. Babies do not take dominion. The Adam here is standing upright, with Creation miraculously underfoot. There’s no babies in the resurrection.

    I don’t think I’m clouding the symbols. I can point to hundreds of structures that use the same symbols in the same order. Deep exegesis is not that deep when you are in on the textual “joke.” I don’t think I’ve stretched things here at all, just made sense of it by identifying David’s Covenant-historical allusion.

  • Uri Brito Says:

    Statements like these are what make these conversations difficult: “You’ve missed my point about the prophetic dimension. We are dealing with a fractal, so, yes, there is a prophetic dimension here, but it’s the dinky childhood version, reciting by rote to condemn unfaithful parents who have forgotten the Covenant.”

    If by unfaithful parents you mean apostate parents, then you have a clear case for paedobaptism here. Apostates are enemies of Yahweh. The point of Psalm 8 (or one of them) is that even the smallest, weak, and frail of God’s covenant is sufficient to undo the unfaithfulness and the faithless ones in Israel. Jesus picks up on the same theme in the Gospels.
    Day 6 is a progression. There can be no day 6 without day one, proving then that infants are part of the creation and re-creation story.
    My main point: babies are potent soloists in God’s creational concert.

  • Matt Says:

    Mike,

    You say, “Israel was to teach their children to recite the Law, so when the adults strayed, the rote words of the infants would condemn them.”
    According to this, infants in the Old Covenant (a covenant of flesh/boundaries/stone without the Holy Spirit) had a “mature” role/function (condemning) that the infants of believers in the New Covenant do not and should not have.
    This is strange because you seem to base your credo view on the fact that infants cannot meet the requirements of baptism (maturity).
    How is it that a baby in the Old Cov could do this?

    It seems, according to your view, that O.T. infants in the Old Cov. by circumcision held a greater spiritual position than children of believers in the New Cov.

    You qualify this “maturity” with “But their chants were still only words written on stone, not flesh.”

    I guess you mean by this that there was little or no spiritual significance. I could be wrong but I think one of the differences other than typology and literary structures is the spirituality of the O.T. covenant. Romans 4:3 establishes a strong view of spirituality (with all the same demands of repentence and conversion) in the covenant which extends to infants. As Psalm 8 points out, infants were involved in spiritual activity.

    Do you only recognize the O.T. ritual of washing as the only typology that speaks to Baptism in the N.T.? Maybe I’m missing something.

  • Uriesou Brito Says:

    Matt, with all due respect to Mike whom I consider to be a great gift to the church, even in his sophisticated art of interpreting the Bible–which I largely agree–in the end, he ends up with a “infant” dichotomy that has been largely and historically refuted by covenant theology. Your observation is quite valid. I still think Mike’s problem is a sociological one. But this is something I’d rather address privately. I think my thoughts are as clear as they can be in this format. Thanks again, Mike for the stimulating conversation.

  • Matt Says:

    Rev. Brito,
    I am not familiar with the sociological perspective. I don’t have any theological training and have not read enough. I’m taking my cue’s from Dr. Strawbridge’s chapter in his book ‘the case for infant baptism’. He argues against Jewett that circumcision has a spiritual angle. I see Mike arguing similar to Jewett only in a creative and sophisticated way.
    Mike sure does have my attention though.
    Mike, I’ll keep checking in.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    @Uri

    Each stanza has the same shape as the whole. Stanza two is the humbling of man as God’s delegate. Here it’s a reference to the humbling of God’s delegates by being “ruled over” by the words of God in their children’s mouths. It similar to God speaking to rebellious Israel with the tongues of Gentiles. It really has nothing to do with Covenant membership. The childhood motif here concerns the firstborn in Egypt. And the entire Psalm moves from childhood to maturity, from mediation-to to mediation-by. When Abraham’s sons turn out to be sons of their father the devil, God can raise up stones to praise him. Children reciting Covenant nursery rhymes is not living stones, it’s just an echo of the stone tablets.

    “…even the smallest, weak, and frail of God’s covenant is sufficient to undo the unfaithfulness and the faithless ones in Israel. Jesus picks up on the same theme in the Gospels.”

    Yes, but this is such a stretch that I can’t believe it is even considered as evidence for paedobaptism. It’s like any reference to “infant” gets underlined, and you gents point to it and say “Aha! There we are! Evidence for paedobaptism.” That’s the kind of exegesis JWs do.

    “Day 6 is a progression…infants are part of the creation and re-creation story. My main point: babies are potent soloists in God’s creational concert.”

    Jesus grew in wisdom and stature before He was baptized. He was formed before He was filled. Before you have a concert, you have to have a concert hall.

    @Matt

    As above to Uri, it wasn’t a mature role. It was designed to humble them. Like when I do something wrong and God uses an unbeliever or a child to tell me off! How humbling. Read Deut 31 for context. What the infants recited was only prophetic because God said it. They weren’t knowingly condemning their apostate parents. It’s like me forgetting about God and hearing a gospel song on the radio that brings me under conviction. It doesn’t make Johnny Cash or Elvis a prophet. The point of it being “Deuteronomic” in that stanza is that it is the Law repeated.

    Yes, it is spiritual activity. But there is training and there is qualification. PBs want to put a graduation gown on kids on their first day of school. Baptism is for the “educator” not the educated. It’s for the New Covenant human “angels” who now run the house.

    The washings are secondary. The New Testament seems to tie it mainly to the Laver, which was the “source” of the other washings. Baptism is for those who minister from the Laver, not those who receive its ministry. Believers can touch people and make them clean, like Jesus.

    Once again, circumcision was outward sign to inward reality. It put you into a polity of flesh, a physical nation and heritage. Baptism takes over where circumcision left off. It takes someone who has a circumcised hearts and puts them into a polity of Spirit, a spiritual nation and heritage. Not spiritual in any gnostic sense. I agree with Dr Leithart that baptism actually does something. But it does something because the Father responds to obedience, just as He did at Jesus’ baptism.

    @Uri

    I’ve dealt with the sociological facet in a new post, based on comments at Pastor Wilson’s blog. Well, “dealt with” at least as I see it. Just need to edit it.

    Thanks guys. No offense taken for pointy observations. Bring it on. And none intended, either.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    And Uri – thanks for the kind, encouraging words. But I’m just an FV meme with an embarrassing baptist twitch.

  • Travis Finley Says:

    Mike,
    @ Day 2, who is the subject of the verb. It seems you have it in the plural.