This article deals with the limits of divine power in the Old Testament. The aim is to show how one of the traditional attributes from ancient philosophical metaphysics, namely, omnipotence, does not fit the depiction of YHWH in the Hebrew Bible. The biblical traditions know of several limitations of divine power that must be reconciled to regional and functional limits, and the one must difficult to overcome, that is, the border of the realm of death. Those limits were not absolute but the OT has preserved those traditions were they are at hand, and they are not without influence. There are, however, also limits of a still more severe kind: in YHWH’s relation to creation, to Israel, and to the world, we see more limitations than can be healthy to an omnipotent god. In YHWH’s dealing with evil we find anything but a static perspective: life is threatened continually by hostile realms. YHWH’s love history with Israel reveals a divine pathos that, at the same time, limits his attitude and actions and opens up new dimensions in the mystery YHWH. In Jonah, the Creator extends his love relation to the hated Assyrians: since YHWH is attached to his creation he is restricted by his steadfast love. The dynamic and relational perspectives in the biblical texts should prevent us from limiting their theological panorama by traditional word-studies of e.g. holiness and covenant, as well as by traditional philosophical categories, such as omnipotence, omniscience, and apatheia.
Bibliographical noteThe information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Religious Studies