Comments: O Clavis David : O Key of David

The meditations on the O Antiphons are lovely, although they sometimes make me squirm, and rightly so.

Posted by Grandmère Mimi at Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 2:27am GMT


You say that the picture of David given to us by the Bible is that of a flawed and passionate man "totally removed from hagiography", This is given as evidence that the narratives of David might be "believable", which I take to mean historically true.

But isn't there another type of narrative to consider - myth. The Homeric myths of Achilles and Odysseus are about flawed and passionate men. And I would put into the same category the stories of King Arthur.

Interestingly the Homeric and Arthurian myths are about people (or, at least, events) that may have actually existed, but the myths were were written down and fixed into canon five or six hundred years later, and the texts reflect the values of that later time, after much editorial input by bards and musicians.

Similarly I would argue that King David may actually have existed in historical time, but texts we inherit should be seen as myth, as "believable" as Homeric and Arthurian legend. That is to say that they are not "historical" truth. They are created stories of human striving and emotion, and of mankind's relationship with his or her core identity, and with God. In other words, much, much more valuable that mere "historical" truth.

Best wishes


Posted by Simon Dawson at Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 9:50am GMT

'It is not my period' as every historian says to cop-out. But Ulysses is a stock figure - a sub type of wily trickster who is sometimes tricked. Achilles is a far more fabulous and less nuanced figure than David - Arthur is closer, though less interesting. Actually I think Lancelot du Lac would be a better comparison. I am not sure there is any real distinction between myth and fiction when it comes to getting in touch with vivid characters - is Elizabeth Bennet mythical or fictional? If you found yourself on a train with Shakespeare's Beatrice and Benedict, would you not know them at once? However, my main point was to draw a link between the very real figure of David (whether real in a fictional or a historic sense) and ourselves - David's triumphs and his miseries are not a thousand miles from our own.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 5:41pm GMT

Am enjoying this conversation, Simon and Rosemary: thanks---and Merry Christmas!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 9:11pm GMT


You described "the very real figure of David (whether real in a fictional or a historic sense)" and that captures it for me perfectly.

In some spheres of life, truth is not built on whether it actually happened. And fiction (or myth) can be real.

Thank you.


Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 12:14pm GMT

I think that is true - nevertheless, my best sober judgement, not as an expert in the field but as one who has read something about it, and who works in areas with some similarities, my sober judgement would be that the succession narrative is propaganda designed to explain, or explain away, facts which the listeners knew to be true. But as you say, illumination from the stories does not depend on if, and how far, they are historical.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 10:28pm GMT

The other difference between heroic literature and the David stories of course is that the Succession Narrative clearly has two strands. The first is an account of a passionate man in search of power. The second is a whitewash of this search for power. A whitewash that does not quite succeed - and in this the story is unlike the others. One has to imagine a creator of fiction who is interested in creating and maintaining this. It is not impossible (bloke A creates heroic myth, later chap B undermines heroic myth) Not impossible, but unlikely.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 1:41pm GMT
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