Avoiding a Suffering God; YHWH in the Underworld

Hi everyone! This will be a quick post. My home computer isn’t working, so I’m using one at the public library, and I only have 51 minutes left. So this will be fast! Anon15:5 and Elna: I read your comments, but I may not be able to respond to them today. Good comments, though!

At Latin mass this morning, the topic was Jesus suffering on the cross. Philosopher priest talked about various heresies in the early days of Christianity, and how they tried to avoid God suffering on the cross. Apparently, they had the same problem with the concept that Ken Pulliam talked about: based on Greek philosophy, they believed that God was always happy, so the idea that God could suffer was unthinkable for them! And so some said that the human Jesus suffered on the cross, while the divine “Christ” part of him left by then. Or some maintained that Simon of Syrene suffered on the cross in place of Jesus.

The priest seemed to agree that God could not suffer, for he made clear that the Father didn’t suffer, and also that Jesus as God did not suffer (if I heard him correctly). Yet, he also didn’t believe that Jesus’ human nature suffered while his divine nature did not, for that’s the heresy of Nestorianism, which held that Jesus had two separate natures, divine and human, which didn’t really have much to do with one another.

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about God suffering. The New Testament is clear that suffering produces character. God doesn’t need that, but I’d expect a loving and compassionate God to become sad at many things he sees in this world. Suffering is an indicator of love, sympathy, and empathy. Evangelicals have often prayed, “May my heart break at the things that break yours, Lord.”

So that’s my church write-up. For my Fishbane write-up (on Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking), Fishbane on page 80 refers to an article by Alan Cooper, “PS 24:7-10; Mythology and Exegesis,” which appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature 102 (1983) 37-55. Cooper argues that there are biblical passages that suggest that YHWH entered the netherworld. I find this interesting. It reminds me of the Christian idea that Jesus went to the underworld to preach to the spirits in prison. Off the top of my head (since I don’t have immediate access to BibleWorks), Psalm 139 says that, if the Psalmist goes to Sheol, God is there. For that passage, God is omniscient! Yet, there are other Psalms that suggest that God is absent from Sheol. Why would God go to the underworld? What would he try to accomplish?

I may get back to this, or I may not. Tomorrow, I’ll be covering another Fishbane topic! The HUC library opens in a half hour, so I may read the Cooper article.

Have a blessed Sunday!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to Avoiding a Suffering God; YHWH in the Underworld

  1. Pingback: Book Write-Up: The Crucified God, by Jurgen Moltmann | James' Ramblings

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