Holy Mutability: Religionsgeschichte and Theological Ontology

In: Horizons in Biblical Theology
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  • 1 Emory University, Atlanta, ga 30322, USA

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The Christian community characteristically confesses the constancy of God. But historians of religion know by contrast that the deity Yhwh evolved over time. How might scholars who belong to both these camps negotiate the disconnect? This essay seeks an answer by staging a moment of complementarity between Religionsgeschichte and ot theology. First it considers two cases in which the discourses of each discipline mirror one another by narrating the same event of deity change: Ps 82 and Yhwh’s greater mercy through exile. Second, it provides a sampler of two theological ontologies that countenance “holy mutability”: the open theism of Terence Fretheim and the evangelical historicism of Eberhard Jüngel.

  • 6

    Langdon Gilkey, “Cosmology, Ontology, and the Travail of Biblical Language,” JR 41 (1961): 194-205, here 197.

  • 11

    Mark S. Smith, Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990), 148.

  • 15

    Reinhard G. Kratz, “Reste hebräischen Heidentums am Beispiel der Psalmen,” NAWG.PH 1 (2004/2): 25-65; Reinhard Müller, “Die frühe Jahweverehrung im Spiegel der ältesten Psalmen,” in Anfänge und Ursprünge der Jahweverehrung, ed. Cilliers Breytenbach et al., BThZ 30 (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2013), 89-119.

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  • 16

    Reinhard G. Kratz, “Chemosh’s Wrath and Yahweh’s No: Ideas of Divine Wrath in Moab and Israel,” in Divine Wrath and Divine Mercy in the World of Antiquity, ed. Reinhard G. Kratz and Hermann Spieckermann, fat ii/33 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 92-121.

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  • 24

    Walter Brueggemann, “A Shattered Transcendence? Exile and Restoration,” in Biblical Theology: Problems and Perspectives, ed. Steven J. Kraftchick, Charles D. Myers, Jr., and Ben C. Ollenburger (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 169-82, here 174.

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  • 30

    Ibid., 17.

  • 34

    Ibid., 35.

  • 36

    Fretheim, Suffering, 42, 43.

  • 37

    Ibid., 58.

  • 39

    Fretheim, “The Repentance of God,” 63.

  • 40

    Terence E. Fretheim, “Commentary on Genesis 9:8-17,” Working Preacher (March 1, 2009), http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=253.

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  • 43

    Fretheim, Suffering, 35, 36. Cf. C. Kavin Rowe: “where our hermeneutics differ from Childs’s, we may reasonably expect to find differences in how we conceive of the doctrine of God” (“The Doctrine of God is a Hermeneutic: The Biblical Theology of Brevard S. Childs,” in The Bible as Christian Scripture: The Work of Brevard S. Childs, ed. Christopher R. Seitz and Kent Harold Richards, sblbsna 25 [Atlanta: sbl Press, 2013], 155-169, here 169 n. 18).

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  • 45

    Jüngel, GMW, 154.

  • 46

    Ibid., 155.

  • 47

    Ibid., 157.

  • 48

    Ibid., 218.

  • 49

    Allen, Justification and the Gospel, 80.

  • 50

    Jüngel, GMW, 221.

  • 51

    Ibid., 188.

  • 52

    Ibid., 188.

  • 53

    Ibid., 327.

  • 58

    McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” 214.

  • 59

    Ibid., 210.

  • 64

    Jüngel, GMW, 219.

  • 65

    McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” 215.

  • 66

    Fretheim, “God (OT View of),” 605.

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