Question 79:

Genesis 11:5: The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built. Is your Lord shortsighted, so that he cannot see from Heaven and has to climb down from it?


There are two comments to make here:

(1) The first eleven chapters of Genesis must be considered separately. They give a description in popular style of the origin of the human race; in a simple, pictorial way suited to the mentality of the unsophisticated people, they declare the fundamental truths on which the plan of salvation rests. These truths are: the creation by God at the beginning of time, Gods special intervention in the making of man and woman, the unity of the human race, the sin of our first parents, the fall from divine favour and the penalties which their descendants would inherit in consequence of sin. All these are truths which have their bearing on theological doctrine and which are guaranteed by the authority of Scripture; but they are also facts, although we cannot know their nature, as they are presented to us in a mythological form consistent with the mentality of their time and place of origin." (“The New Jerusalem Bible”, p. 11.)

(2) The bold anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament language of God, of which the verse quoted here (Genesis 11:5) is only one of many, are often confusing for the modern reader, even shocking. They can, however, be decoded and understood as Yahweh’s living, pro-active dealings with mankind. These anthropomorphisms illuminate Gods liveliness, that which we now call personality. The seemingly humanized form of speaking of God and faith is protected from obvious misunderstandings on the one hand by the confession that Yahweh transcends space and time. On the other hand, its core and centrality are protected by the way the Hebrews (who had not reflected thoroughly on the terms "spirit and "personality) never describe Yahweh as „He, I or Being as such. A. Deissler comments: “This gives expression to the original characteristics of personhood, such as Knowledge and Wisdom, Will and Freedom, and this not only in the subject matter of the speech, but also in the fact of the Speaking One Himself. In this fact, the Old Testament includes everything that relates to "Gods acting towards the outside, and which thus proclaims the cosmic-creative word, the word that changes history, and the specific-revelatory Word of Yahweh.(“Die Grundbotschaft des Alten Testaments”, in B. Dreher u.a. (hg.), Handbuch der Verkündigung 1, Freiburg 1970, S. 162.)” See: Theodor Schneider, “Was wir glauben”. Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1988, p. 97.

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