Sunday, September 10, 2006

What on earth is a Daysman?

In class Sunday, we were studying Job's recognition of his need for an "umpire" between him and God. In looking at the KJV of the passage, the word "daysman" is used instead of mediator, or arbiter, or someother similar phrase. Scott asked me if I knew what a "daysman" was, and, although I was confident it was another word for mediator, I had to admit I was unfamiliar with the origin of the word. As you can imagine, it was a difficult time for me. I have yet to recover from my shame. Nevertheless, I looked into it when I got home that afternoon. Here is what I found.

Consider the different translations of Job 9:33, part of our text in Sunday school last week.

Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. (KJV)
If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, (NIV)
There is no umpire between us, Who may lay his hand upon us both. (NASB)
There is no (or would that there were an) arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. (ESV)
There is no one to judge between us, to lay his hand on both of us. (HCSB)
Daysman is an old English word formed from the Latin diem dicere, i.e., to fix a day for hearing a cause. Diem means "day" (we talk of per diem reimbursements). Dicere means "to judge". A Daysman is empowered by mutual consent to decide the cause, and to "lay his hand", i.e., to impose his authority, on both parties, and enforce his sentence. We use the term arbiter today.

It is important to understand that in the Greek of the New Testament there two major terms for "time." One, chronos, emphasizes the passage of time without any stress on the significance of events in the period; the other, kairos, stresses the special or revelatory significance of time. All life happens between chronos and kairos, so to speak. Or, to put it differently, chronos is one thing after another; kairos is one significant event.

Our word "day" is a word that captures in its various definitions both of the biblical meanings of time. On the one hand is the "chronological" meaning of "day"-- "the time of sunlight," as it is defined in the dictionary. On the other hand we know that "day" can signify a "great day" or an important day. The theological concept of the Judgment Day or "the Day of the Lord", stresses this meaning.

Pushing the research further, "Day" had a rich significance in law that has been lost to our day, and this usage relates to day as a verb. "To day" means "To appoint a day to anyone" or "to cite or summon for an appointed day," such as in the 15th century sentence, "he should be sente fore and dayed ernestly agayn, for to abyde such jugement."

But the second usage of "day" as a verb is "to submit (a matter) to, or decide by, arbitration." We know that the use of "day" in this manner was already obsolete in the 18th century, but an Oxford English Dictionary example from the 16th century is "They have him enforced when all their money was...spent, to have their matter dayed, and ended by arbitrement."

This use of "day" seems to have spawned two nouns, "dayment" and "daysman." "Dayment" is simply defined as "arbitration," such as in the sentence "to spende all..that money and put it to dayment at last." A "daysman" is an "umpire or arbitrator; a mediator" in its archaic usage, according to the OED. From a 16th century legal source we have, "If neighbors were at variance, they ran not straight to law: Daysmen took up the matter, and cost them not a straw." Or, in another case, "They had some common arbitrators, or dayesmen, in every towne, that made a friendly composition between man and man."

The sense from the quotation just given is that arbitration, or dayment, was not only a cheaper procedure than a court trial, but was the principal method to reconcile parties and deliver quicker justice than might be attainable through the King's Bench or Common Pleas or Exchequer. In his magisterial history of English law in the 16th century, Baker points to the popularity of arbitration at any stage of the legal proceedings in this period, even though the surviving records of arbitrations are much more scanty than purely judicial proceedings (Oxford History of the Laws of England, 333-34). Thus daysmen were important in that period, even though the word has long disappeared from our vocabulary.

Yet even though the word is no longer used, its 16th-17th century usage is preserved in a most unlikely place: the Book of Job in the King James translation of the Bible (1611). When Job is expressing his frustration with not being able to know how to approach God in his distress, he expresses a contrary to fact wish (Job 9:33) which the KJV translated as follows: "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both." It is interesting that the KJV translators were following the 1535 English translation of the Bible by Miles Coverdale, who rendered 9:33 as follows: "Nether is there eny dayes man to reprove both the partes, or to laye his honde betwixte us."

A leading commentator on the Book of Job, David Clines, comments on this passage that the author isn't specific as to whether what is in view is a person who has the power to make decisions or just to try to reconcile the parties (Job 1-20, p. 243). He actually translates the Hebrew word (Mochia) as "mediator," which seems to be precisely wrong. What is in view in Job 9:33-34 is an umpire-like figure who can "lay his hand upon us both."

The phrase "lay his hand" only appears in the Hebrew Bible in one other place, Ps. 139 (verse 5). In that context the words "lay his hand upon" suggests the authority of God to make something happen in the Psalmist's life. In law the person who can make decisions by "laying his hand" on both parties is the arbitrator, not the mediator.

A mediator in American law is a person who can get parties together and make suggestions (and even some warnings/threats), but s/he has no authority to force a decision on the parties. Thus, I think the KJV has it right after all--what Job is longing for is not simply a mediator, but an arbitrator, a daysman with all his power. Further, Job might consider a human judge as capable of acting as an umpire upon his own claims, but no man was worthy to question the purposes of Yahweh, or metaphorically, to "lay his hands upon" Him. To that end, I think the English Standard Version is the most correct in that it uses the term "arbiter", which is consistent with the context, rather than "mediator."

Commentator Arthur Walwyn Evans, notes that in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:3, anthropine, hemera) "man's judgment" is literally, "man's day," in the sense of a day fixed for the trial of a case. Both Tyndale and Coverdale so translate. See also 1 Timothy 2:5, where the Saviour is termed the "one mediator .... between God and men." Here the word connotes a pleader, an advocate or lawyer before an umpire, rather than the adjudicator himself (see Job 19:25-27).


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kevin, for your extensive research into this word, and I'm sure your lengthy explanation is sufficient self-redemption for the ignorance you displayed in class on Sunday. With time, I'm sure we can find a way to overlook your folly.

So, all of that was to say that it's an old-fashioned term meaning "arbitrator?"


Kevin Rhyne said...

Well, yes. I think the important thing though is that it is not "mediator" as I thought before. A mediator has no power to decide the matter. Job is looking for someone to judge between him and God on an appointed day.

That has a pretty profound effect on my understaning of that verse. Especially as it anticipates Christ and the way God the Father has glorified the Son.

We know who you are, Joshua. Why don't you register? ;)