A Biblical Response to “Test Case for Libertarian Free Will”

A couple days ago Denny Burk published an interesting essay entitled Test Case for Libertarian Free Will. It is a reflection on YHWH’s commission to Moses (Exod 3:18-19). Burk points out YHWH’s two predictions:

(1) The Israelites will choose to follow Moses. [and] (2) Pharoah will choose to reject Moses’ directives.

With these two predictions Burk discusses the issue of “free will.” He invites readers to think about the following quesitons: “Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what they did?”

I’d like to answer the questions from the teaching of the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach). Richard J. Clifford denotes that one of the main teachings of Sirach is “divine sovereignty and human freedom [my emphasis].” It emphasizes an “obligation to reassert human freedom and responsibility” (Clifford, 130):

Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’; . . . ‘It was he who led me astray’ (15:11-12); ‘Do not say, I am hidden from the Lord, and who from on high has me in mind?’ (16:17).

Ben Sira’s emphasis on human freedom is based on the nature of human beings (15:15) and the character of God (15:11-20). So my answer to Burk’s quesions is simply “yes.” Both the Israelites and Pharoah were free to choose what they would have chosen.

Reference List

Clifford, Richard J. The Wisdom Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

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The Continuum History of Apocalypticism

I’m currently reading the book, The Continuum History of Apocalypticism, edited by Bernard J. McGinn, John J. Collins, and Stephen J. Stein (2003). This book consists of three main parts: (1) 8 article on the origins of apocalypticism in the ancient world; (2) 7 articles on apocalyptic traditions from late antiquity to cs 1800 C.E.; and (3) 10 articles on apocalypticism in the modern age. This book is a condensation of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, 3 vols (1998). As the title of the book indicates, the topic of apocalyptic or apocalyptic movements may be the most continuous literary genre from ancient to modern times.

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Since the word “apocalypticism” is ambiguous, the authors of this book have not attempted to impose a strict definition of apocalypticism, but to include a broad range of materials that may be regarded as apocalyptic in various aspects. For example, Richard J. Clifford traces the roots of apocalypticism in ancient Near Esastern myth, whereas Anders Hultgard provides an exposition of Persian apocalypticism.

In my view, the articles in this book do an excellent work on the variety of the genre “apocalypticism.” Their works invite us to think about the following questions: “How would you define the genre of apocalypticism?” “What do you see in both ancient and modern writings that could be cateorized to the genre?” Like all other encyclopedia contribute to their own fields, this book contributes to the discussion on the literature of apocalypticism.

The editors see that apocalypticism, throughout the history, not only has been the source of hope and courage for the oppressed, but also has given rise to fanaticism and millenialism. The following quotation may explain well their goal for collecting the articles to this book:

The essays in this volume seek neither to apologize for the extravagances of apocalytic thinkers nor to excuse the perverse actions of some of their followers. Rather, they strive to understand a powerful, perhaps even indipensable, element in the history of Western religions that has been the source of both good and evil, and still is today.

 Contents 

Part 1: The Origins of Apocalypticism in the Ancient World

1. The Roots of Apocalypticism in Near Eastern Myth (Richard J. Clifford, S.J.)

2. Persian Apocalypticism (Anders Hultgard)

3. From Prophecy to Apocalypticism: The Expectation of the End (John J. Collins)

4. Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Florentino Garcia Martinez)

5. Messianism and Apocalypticism (James C. VanderKam)

6. The Eschatology of Jesus (Dale C. Allison, Jr.)

7. Paul and Apocalyptic Eschatology (M. C. de Boer)

8. The Book of Revelation (Adela Yarbro Collins)

Part 2: Apocalyptic Traditions from Late Antiquity to ca 1800 C.E.

9. Apocalypticism in Early Christian Theology (Brian E. Daley, S.J.)

10. Byzantine Apocalypses (David Olster)

11. Apocalypticism and Church Reform, 1100-1500 (Bernard McGinn)

12. Radical Apocalyptic Movement in the Late Middle Ages (Gian Luca Potesta)

13. Images of Hope and Despair: Western Apocalypticism ca. 1500-1800 (Robin Barnes)

14. Jewish Apocalypticism, 670-1670 (Mishe Idel)

15. Isalamic Apocalypticism in the Classic Period (Said Amir Arjomand)

Part 3: Apocalypticism in the Modern Ages

16. Apocalypticism in Central and South American Colonialism (Alain Milhou)

17. Apocalypticism in Colonial North America (Reiner Smolinski)

18. Apocalypticism in Mainstream Protestantism, 1800 to the Present (James H. Moorhead)

19.  Apocalypticism Outside the Mainstream in the United States (Stephen J, Stein)

20. The Growth of Fundamentalist Apocalyptic in the United States (Paul Boyer)

21. Apocalyptic Movement in Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Robert M. Levine)

22. The Messianism of Success in Contemporary Judaism (Aviezer Ravitzky)

23. The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Isalm (Abba Amanat)

24. Apocalypticism in Modern Western Europe (Sandra L. Zimdars-Swartz and Paul F. Zimdars-Swartz)

25. Apocalypticism in Eastern Europe (J. Eugene Clay)

Greek and Hebrew Devotional in BibleWorks 8

I recently installed BibleWorks 8 into my computer. Whenever I open the program an annoying pop-up windows shows up. I hate pop-up windows. But I have learned that it is a new tool in BibleWorks 8 callled “Greek and Hebrew Devotional.” I found it is a very helpful tool (not just a pop-up windows) for keeping my reading of Greek and Hebrew everyday. Here is what the BibleWorks Classroom Resources comments on Greek and Hebrew Devotional:

A new tool in BibleWorks 8 is the Daily Light devotional. This new tool can not only provide daily inspiration from the Bible, but can also be used to refresh and enhance knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Click Tip 2.2: Greek and Hebrew Devotional for details.

The Stories of Daniel: Are They Midrashim?

Some scholars have characterized the genre of Daniel 1-6 as a kind of midrash because the stories in Daniel are very similar to that of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Hartman and DiLella, for example, say that the “wise courtier” is a “specific type of midrash” (Hartman and DiLella, 55). If so, we need to ask the question: What does midrash mean? The wikipedia defines Midrash as follows:

The term midrash can also refer to a compilation of homiletic teachings (commentaries) on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in the form of legal and ritual (Halakha) and legendary, moralizing, folkloristic, and anecdotal (Aggadah) parts.”

This definition indicates that midrash can be understood as an interpretation of older scripture. The book of Jubilees would be regarded as an exegetical midrash. John J. Collins states that the reference of the Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27) can be only considered as a midrash on the Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer 25:11-12) in the book of Daniel, and argues that the stories of Daniel 1-6 are not midrash (Collins, 40). Thus, the question is this: Do the stories in Daniel 1-6 reinterpret or retell the Joseph story? 

Collins argues that the stories of Daniel are neither an interpretation nor a retelling of the Joseph story. He concludes that “the influence of Genesis is only one factor among many in the shaping of the tales” (Collins, 40). I agree with Collins’ conclusion that the stories in Daniel 1-6 are NOT an interpretation of the Joseph story, BUT they represent an influence of the Joseph story. This is not same as we can see in the case from the book of Jubilees. It is noteworthy, therefore, to notice the similarities between the two stories with the verbal correspondences which indicate that the author of Daniel was influenced from the story of Joseph. The affinities between the Joseph story and the stories of Daniel can be seen as follows:

  • Both Joseph and Daniel are taken into captivity
  • Both are courtiers of foreign kings
  • Both are good-looking (Gen 39:6; Dan 1:4)
  • Both are siad to have a divine spirit (Gen 41:38; Dan 5:11)
  • The interpretation of dreams rests with God (Gen 40:8; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • God makes known what will come to pass (Gen 41:25; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • Both are decorated with a chain around their neck (Gen 41:42; Dan 5:29)

Reference

Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Hartman, Louis F. and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel AB. 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.