OT Writers attributing anthromophisms to God


#1

"But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it,
the LORD regretted the calamity
and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people,
“Enough now! Stay your hand.” "

(2 Samuel 24: 13-15)


A jealous and avenging God is the LORD, an avenger is the LORD, and angry; The LORD brings vengeance on his adversaries, and lays up wrath for his enemies;”

(Nahum 1:2)

My question involves the passages above and the many similar passages in the Old Testament.

None of the above descriptions seem theologically justified; we are taught certain fundamental aspects of the nature of God, a compilation of which stresses His perfection in every trait. He is all loving and the source of all goodness, and therefore has need of nothing more and cannot be jealous.

Hatred, anger, jealousy, and some of the traits the prophets ascribe to Him are inconsistent with teachings about His very nature.

This speech about wrath, anger, jealousy, and the Lord “regretting” actions seem to reflect not God’s actual will or characteristics, but the opinions or personal standpoints of the writers of the Holy Writ.

What does the Church say about attributing negative anthromorphisms to a perfect Lord incapable of any of these traits?


#2

If you read the Bible from the beginning you’ll notice that there’s a consistent gradual improvement in out understanding of God. The passages you cited were written when before the final revelation and tried to explain things as best they understood.

That beings said, the Lord does take pity on us when evil or unfortunate events occur. He also doles out justice as is his right.


#3

No question about this.

But “anger” and “wrath”? “Regret”? The Lord is immutable; in what way is that quality compatible with “regretting” something, when He knows what has happened and what will happen, and all that occurs is permitted or expressly enacted by His will?

“Jealousy”? He cannot be both a God that has all and is perfect in all and yet is jealous (which is one of the 7 deadly sins).

But I think your explanation about an incomplete understanding is well said.


#4

[quote=Mike O](2 Samuel 24: 13-15)

(Nahum 1:2)

My question involves the passages above and the many similar passages in the Old Testament.

None of the above descriptions seem theologically justified; we are taught certain fundamental aspects of the nature of God, a compilation of which stresses His perfection in every trait. He is all loving and the source of all goodness, and therefore has need of nothing more and cannot be jealous.

Hatred, anger, jealousy, and some of the traits the prophets ascribe to Him are inconsistent with teachings about His very nature.

This speech about wrath, anger, jealousy, and the Lord “regretting” actions seem to reflect not God’s actual will or characteristics, but the opinions or personal standpoints of the writers of the Holy Writ.

What does the Church say about attributing negative anthromorphisms to a perfect Lord incapable of any of these traits?
[/quote]

Passages like the ones you mentioned are part of the reason why I find it very difficult to believe that the Old Testament is the word of God.

I don’t know too much about how the Church justifies them (or for that matter brutal punishments such as stoning for breaking the commandments, the simultaneous lack of an explicit condemnation of polygamy, slavery, and oppression of women which were practiced back then, the whole idea of the flood, of plagues sent upon the Egyptian population etc.). Catholics I know have said that people back then were too backward and too severe to receive the full law, that God had to gradually guide them and get them ready, and that initially the only way to do this was with harsh punishments. The whole point was to prepare the Jews to receive the fullness of God’s revelation: Jesus.

As I see it, it is also possible that the Old Testament was not revealed by God, but that it was an attempt of a primitive people to organize their society and to get people to behave in an orderly manner.


#5

[quote=Mike O](2 Samuel 24: 13-15)

(Nahum 1:2)

My question involves the passages above and the many similar passages in the Old Testament.

None of the above descriptions seem theologically justified; we are taught certain fundamental aspects of the nature of God, a compilation of which stresses His perfection in every trait. He is all loving and the source of all goodness, and therefore has need of nothing more and cannot be jealous.

Hatred, anger, jealousy, and some of the traits the prophets ascribe to Him are inconsistent with teachings about His very nature.

This speech about wrath, anger, jealousy, and the Lord “regretting” actions seem to reflect not God’s actual will or characteristics, but the opinions or personal standpoints of the writers of the Holy Writ.

What does the Church say about attributing negative anthromorphisms to a perfect Lord incapable of any of these traits?
[/quote]

God is God. Which means that God is not man. Man, if he is to speak of God at all, cannot avoid using language which is inadequate.

We can only speak of some things - namely, creatures: and not of all of them. God is not a creature, nor is God an object in the world. God is God, and only that - nothing else, nothing less.

What is more, abstract language about God is as inadequate as anthropomorphic language - perhaps even more so. Talk of the “Holy Ghost” is liable to conjure up an idea of…nothing very much, or of a gas, or something similar to alcohol. But God is none of these - so it is a very unhelpful term for many people. A God who is a warrior, or a king, or a rock, is being described far more vividly - such a God won’t be liable to seem a “Holy nothing-very-much”.

Further, we have to look at the OT in its cultural context. Gods were described in vivid terms - go to:

etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi

and type lion or leopard or bull or stag in “Simple Search”

Therefore, so was this god.

Abstract and anthropomorphic terms for God, correct each other -* no* representation of God is adequate, by words or pictures or otherwise, except for God Himself, as He Really Is. ##


#6

As GoG said, when the Bible describes God it is for OUR understanding or instruction so us creatures can have something to relate to when describing the ineffable.

It seems to me that in your case when God is described as “jealous” and “avenging” it is a lesson from our perspective of our failings towards Him. When we see God getting “angry” that means WE did something bad and recognize that it is not right for us to do evil. When God “regrets” something, that doesnt mean He didnt know the people would do evil, it is talking to us so that we might recognize our failure to maintain the promise we made with Him.

Also “Hatred, anger, jealousy” dont mean what they mean to us fallible creatures, our hatred anger and jealousy are rooted in evil intentions while His is very different hatred/anger, a perfect anger rooted in His perfection that we cant fully recognize.


#7

Hatred, anger, jealousy

the word for “hate” is sane, which simply means “unwilling to put up with” or “does not wish to hang out with”

As for God displaying anger or Jealousy, I see no problem.

“In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” ( Eph. 4:26).

So, it is possible to be angry withou sin.

One must look at the texts where people are Jealous vs those where God is jealous to determine what behavior related to being Jealous is sin.


#8

The OT does say that 'the Lord your God is a jealous God.'
Remember that the ancient Israelites lived in a world dominated by polygamy. The OT scriptures weren’t written in language that might have made sense to such as Aquinas or Erasmus, or Peter Kreeft, or even Aristotle. They were not written for a philosophical people. But God did want to emphasize that Yahweh was not one among many, or even chief among many, thus the emphasis on a ‘jealous’ God, and the absolute prohibition on images (even of Yahweh.)

It’s like teaching students. You have to start with where they are.
When you teach elementary school children about God, you don’t start with reflections from Aquinas.


#9

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