Notes on Genesis (v)

‘Come, let us go down there and confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ (Gen 11:7) The story of the tower of Babel came easily to people not familiar with the manner in which languages develop, who sought an explanation for there being different tongues spoken around them. But the project of building a tower whose top […]

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Notes on Genesis (iv)

‘The dove returned to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth…’ (Gen 8:11) When this passage is read with the Church, the dove that returned to Noah appears more significant than it may at first apear. The bird’s flying over the waters of the flood recalls the Spirit hovering over the face of the water at […]

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Why do terrible things happen?

The recent disasters in Japan raise again the old issue of theodicy: how could a God who is good and almighty allow such things as earthquakes, tsunamis, and leaks of radioactive material to happen? The notion that those who suffer are being punished for sin is sub-Christian: ‘Do you suppose that these Gallileans were worse sinners…?I tell you no…Or those eighteen […]

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Notes on Genesis (ii)

‘…from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you may not eat; for in whatever day you eat from it, you shall die by death.’ (Gen 2:17) These are hard words, and emphatic; apparently an intensifying Hebrew expression lies behind the inelegant expression ‘die by death’ , which translators have struggled with; cf  ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Authorized Version), ‘you […]

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Notes on Genesis (i)

‘Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”…So God made man; in the image of God he made him; male and female he made them.’ (Gen 1:26f) This is a very dense passage. Among other things that could be said, I’d like to note three matters. The narrative in Genesis places the creation of […]

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‘I believe in one God…’

In what way do we believe in God? The expression at the beginning of the Creed, translated into English as ‘believe in’, occurs a number of times in the New Testament. John the Theologian mentions believing in the name of Christ (1:12; 2:23), and represents Christ as speaking of those who believe in him and his Father (14:1). In other words, ‘believing in’ […]

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‘Eternal life’

In the Divine Liturgy, shortly before the priest commemorates Christ’s actions at the Last Supper, he quotes some words of his occurring in St John’s Gospel, according to which God gave his only-begotten Son so that anyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). How are we to take the words ‘eternal life’ (Greek zoen aionion)? You […]

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Our faces

Despite his belief that the things people spoke, thought or dreamed about could betray deeper and often unpleasant realities, Freud is said to have observed that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar. So too, despite the use of the Greek word for face (prosopon) to signify person (see posting of 12 Jan), sometimes it simply means face. The word frequently occurs in the Bible, […]

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What is a person?

When Orthodox sign themselves they do so with their fingers arranged in a way that commemorates the three persons in one substance of the Trinity and the two natures in one person of Christ. The notion of ‘person’ is obviously basic to the thought of the Church. But what does it mean? A standard definition was given by Boethius, according to whom […]

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