A while back I posted on various Ancient Near Eastern sensitivities relating to “creation,” temple, “salvation,” etc., talking about the ways Jon Levenson‘s Creation and the Persistence of Evil. had both radically impacted my understanding of the Bible and had jump-started a new subset of my interests in ANE studies and contextualizing our Bible within its ancient worlds. Though this will probably sound arrogant, I recommend reading the earlier related post if you lack familiarity with what Levenson does in this excellent book…

For now, I want to share one of my favorite quotes from Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence. In part of the 1994 Preface, which itself warrants the price of the book, Levenson explains how and why he conceives of creation-thought, the persistence of evil, and the drama of divine omnipotence together in this exploration of the Hebrew Bible—how he conceives of these as “theodicy” (redefined) issues within the Hebrew Bible. In the midst of this discussion, on p. xvii, Levenson writes,

My failure to address the problem of evil in the philosophical sense, however, rests on more than my own obvious inadequacies. It rests also on a point usually overlooked in discussions of theodicy in a biblical context: the overwhelming tendency of biblical writers as they confront undeserved evil is not to explain it away but to call upon God to blast it away.

When I first read the book this comment struck me deeply, initiating many lengthy periods of reflection, pondering, and discussions with others. It seemed—and still seems—powerful and persuasive, refocusing discussion-about and experiences-of evil around a more biblical and edifying approach (not that the philosophical approach is invalid). This comment fit in perfectly with the numerous other personal paradigm-shifts Levenson’s book initiated—relating exciting historical study of the writings of our Bible to ways such study can (should) result in profoundly practical missional and edifying fruit…

For the rest of the Preface and, indeed, the book…I recommend you obtain a copy and read! It is only about 150 pages, apart from prefaces and endnotes. Though many will find it challenging on numerous levels, most of its challenges bring one to edifying places of exciting encounters with our Lord, especially through how he presents himself and his work in our Bible. Perhaps in the near future I will post more on this.

Apparently you can soon purchase this book from the Westminster Bookstore.

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