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Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Third Category

The Third Category

Richard Bacukham claims[1] that the predominate[2] worldview of Second Temple Judaism divided all reality into two categories, YHWH alone, is in the first category and all other reality is in a second category. More than one of Bacukham's critics have found fault with this representation of Second Temple Judaism.

The second category, all that is outside the divine identity is equated with anything and everything that was created. At this point it seems that Bacukham's runs into some difficulty. There seems to be a third category lurking in the shadows. Something which is outside outside the divine identity but not specified in the biblical creation accounts among the things created. We don't have to go any further than Genesis 1:2 to discover a reference to the third category.

‏ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו   Gen. 1:2
I do not intend to review the history exegesis from Hermann Gunkel, W. F. Albright, U. Cassuto, F. M. Cross, C. Westermann,  B. W. Waltke, P. E. Enns  ... and so forth. I will just suggest — not affirm, not conclude, only suggest — that there seems to be third category represented by תהו ובהו tohu wa-bohu. What this third category represents has been the source of endless controversy in the secondary literature.  

If we understand the Genesis account of creation in the Hebrew Bible as limited in scope to the things that can be observed[3], then the realm of spiritual reality outside the divine identity is another aspect of Bauckham's second category. The existence of the spiritual realm doesn't require a third category since the spiritual realm is a part of the created realm.

The third category, if there is one, includes not only tohu wa-bohu but also the primeval waters, the sea Yam in the Psalms, Job, Isaiah. It appears to me that Bauckham's two categories proposal runs the risk of oversimplification when it is measured against the textual evidence.    

[1]  Bauckam restates this over and over again, but here is a concise example:

These characteristics make a clear and absolute distinction between the true God and all other reality. God alone created all things; all other things, including beings worshipped as gods by Gentiles, are created by him.
 Richard Bauckam, Jesus and the God of Israel, p. 183. This citation is from  Chapter 6 - Paul's Christology of Divine Identity  which is also found as a separate article here.

[2] I struggled to find a word here, predominate is probably the wrong word.

[3] ... observed, not by the human eye, but things that are there in a physical sense; open to observation by some means.


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