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Stephen Geller is professor of bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. He received ordination from the Seminary and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Geller's most recent book is Sacred Enigmas: Literary Religion in the Hebrew Bible (Routledge, 1996).

 

Abstract of paper given at Judaism and Ecology conference:
Nature's Answer: Creation and Theodicy in the Bible

Nature, as creation by God, played a key role in the concept of order promulgated by the wisdom tradition of the ancient Near East. The biblical wisdom tradition, too, used arguments based on nature to establish principles regarding the unity of natural and moral orders. There was a strong connection between arguments rooted in observation of nature and the problem of human suffering and attempts at theodicy. But from the seventh through the fifth centuries BCE the biblical wisdom tradition found itself challenged by the growth of a new, deuteronomic, covenant faith, which based itself solely on divine revelation and relegated nature to insignificance. This paper studies a variety of responses to the challenge of covenant religion found in biblical wisdom and psalmodic literature, and reflects efforts to accommodate ancient wisdom viewpoints to that challenge. These responses ranged from attempts to present a theodicy based on a reaction of awe at the sublimity of created order, found in the Book of Job and such compositions as Psalm 8, to more modest combinations of nature and piety such as Psalms 19 and 139.

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