Genesis 6:6 – Two Very Different Views (Calvin & Brueggemann)

YHWH saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.
And YHWH was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.

So YHWH said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of YHWH.
[Genesis 6:5-8]

John Calvin:

The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sake, he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single consideration, that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains for ever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates to our capacity…. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called anthropomorphism.

Walter Brueggemann:

We are confronted in this text not with a flood, but with a heavy, painful crisis in the dealings of God with creation. It is popularly thought that the crisis of the flood is to place the world in jeopardy. But a close reading indicates that it is the heart and person of God which are placed in crisis. The crisis is not the much water, which now has only become a dramatic setting. Rather, the crisis becomes of the resistant character of the world which evokes hurt and grief in the heart of God.  The narrative is centered in the grief of God, whose heart knows about our hearts. This daring assertion about God is problematic in every static theology which wants God always acting the same and predictably. But the text affirms that God is decisively impacted by the suffering, hurt, and circumstance of his creation.  The flood has effected not change in humankind. But it has affected an irreversible change in God, who now will approach his creation with an unlimited patience and forbearance. To be sure, God has been committed to his creation from the beginning. But this narrative traces a new decision on the part of God, clear that such a commitment is intensified. For the first time, it is marked by grief, the hurt of betrayal. It is now clear that such a commitment on God’s part is costly. The God-world relation is not simply that of a strong God and needy world. Now it is a tortured relation between a grieved God and a resistant world. And of the two, the real changes are in God.”

Which interpretation do you resonate with?  Why?

noah57---Vienna-Gen

When God Spoke Greek… Did We Forget Who “God” Was?

I find myself conflicted when it comes to the Septuagint. I’m sympathetic to recent arguments in favor of the Septuagint’s importance, particularly in light of the early Christian community [see Timothy Michael Law’s excellent book When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Hebrew Bible]. However, I don’t know what to make of the ways in which the LXX seemingly whitewashes some of the more robust (read: not-Hellenized) theological descriptions found in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

A few examples:

Genesis 6:6
The LXX usually translates the Hebrew nhm (repent, change one’s mind, regret) with the Greek term metanoeo or metamelomai, but here it avoids both of these verbs and reads “And God considered that he had made man.” As Wevers observes in his Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis, the author “obviously softened the anthropopathic metaphors of the Hebrew and has God, rather than reacting emotionally to man’s evil condition, concentrating on what he will do to rectify the situation.”

Exodus 32:12, 14
A similar phenomenon happens in another classic “divine repentance” text – Exodus 32. Verse 12 changes from the Hebrew “repent of the evil against your people” to the Greek “be merciful concerning this evil” while v. 14 changes from the Hebrew “YHWH repented of the evil which he spoke to do to his people” to the Greek “the Lord was propitiated concerning the evil he said he would do to his people.” (Translations from Victory P. Hamilton in The Book of Genesis, NICOT)

Job 13:15, 14:14
The LXX of Job contains significant interpretive revisions from the Hebrew text (see D. Gard, The Exegetical Method of the Greek Translator of the Book of Job). Job 13:15 transforms from the Hebrew “He may well slay me, I have no hope” (NJPS) to the Greek “Though the Mighty One lay hand on me, since he has already begun, I will speak and plead before him” while Job 14:14 transforms from the Hebrew “If a man dies, will he live again?” to the Greek “If a man dies, he will live again!”

Should Christian theological reflection take the Hebrew texts seriously?
More seriously than the LXX texts?