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CHX.OT - X HUMAN NATURE The OT conception of human nature...

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X. HUMAN NATURE: The OT conception of human nature is, perhaps, one of the greatest contributions and corrections that the Hebrew Scriptures have to offer to Christian Theology 1 . The OT knows nothings about man in isolation -- either from other humans, or more emphatically in isolation from God. Our modern preoccupation with "autonomous man" has no basis in the OT, nor does the earlier theological speculations about whether human nature was better understood in a dichotomous (body, soul) or trichotomous (body, soul, spirit) manner. These are questions which have no foundation in the OT text. Human nature, in the OT conception, is to be understood primarily in terms of our relationship with God, and only secondarily in terms of our connection to the earth and creaturely existence. As the Protestant reformer, John Calvin, saw clearly the knowledge of God and knowledge ourselves is an inseparable, deeply inter-related knowledge (Lat. duplex cognito ); no human being can understand themselves aright, except they would first come to know God. 2 The Divine-Human relationship profoundly shapes the OT understanding of man; yet, this relationship is described in a way that maintains a clear line of demarcation between God and humanity. There are clear and significant parallels between the Divine way of Being and human beings; but now where in the OT are we tempted to think that humans can claim divine descent (as they so often do in other ANE religions of the period). Nor, despite the occasional anthropomorphism, is one tempted to think of YHWH as an oversized rendition of a human being; as "Man writ large." The pivotal point of the OT understanding of the relationship between God and Man is to be found in the injunction: "Ye shall be holy, as I AM Holy" (Lev. 11:44-45). It is this 1 The literature pertinent to this study is voluminous. Among the best over-views are those by N.W. Porteous, "Man, nature of, in the OT," in IDB , III, 242-46; and Alan Richardson, "Adam," in TWBB , 14-15. The definitive monograph is that of Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974); many of my trajectories in this section are dependent upon Wolff's seminal work. Cf. Eichrodt, Theology of the OT , II, 118-150; Heinisch, Theology of the OT , 164-222; Jacob, Theology of the OT , 151-177; Vreizen, An Outline of OT Theology , 404-430. For a theological application of these insights see Emil Brunner's older (but still reliable) Mensch im Widerspruch (1937); ET. Man in Revolt (London: Lutterworth, 1939). 2 John T. McNeill, ed. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion 2 Vol. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), I, ch. 1, 35-39.
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revelation, included and reinforced through Israel's call to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6), that formed the basis of the theology of human nature which was subsequently developed in the Genesis creation accounts. The primordial recollections of Israel share many superficial similarities with those of Babylon (and to a lesser extent of Egypt); but the theological foundations of those accounts are drastically different. The preaching of the
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