Hope and have

I read recently that in the original Hebrew, The Book of Ruth is written in all present tense, as if for its readers it is happening... for them... now. They are not just readers but participants. Ruth is gleaning in a field, when Boaz sees her, treats her kindly, makes sure she gets enough to eat, and— through a series of critical present moments, each of which could have ended it all— well, you’ll need to read the book. Other books of the Old Testament are prophecies, and they, too, are sometimes written in present tense— or even past tense, so sure are the prophets of the fulfillment. Even when a prophet is living in a city under siege, he says God is changing things up, or has already done so. One wonders why the translators of these books often thought they needed to “correct” the tenses for their English readers. In all the English translations I see, The Book of Ruth is in past tense, while the prophets speak in future. This is where the tenses “belong,” where shocking supernatural interventions don’t happen as often, presumably, so everyone feels more comfortable. Later, in the New Testament: “Hope does not disappoint.” It goes on to ask, “For who hopes for what (s)he already has?” Hope is about believing, despite not having the promised thing in our hands. If we already had lunch in our hands, we wouldn’t hope for lunch. Hope is to have as pre-dawn is to full daylight. Hope is unseen and future tense but as certain as if it is happening, as if it has already been done. Being so sure of the promised outcome, writers of Old and New testaments spoke of hope not as a flimsy wish but as if the future having is now, in present tense. As poet John Shaw wrote, “Now hope and have may kiss.”
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