Thursday, June 10, 2021

Pathos and prophecy

After a hiatus of several weeks, let's get back to Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays:

The knowledge about the inner state of the divine in its relationship to Israel determined the inner life of the prophets, engendering a passion for God, a sympathy for the divine pathos in their hearts. They loved Israel because God loved Israel, and they frowned upon Israel when they knew that such was the attitude of God. Thus the marriage of Hosea was an act of sympathy; the prophet had to go through the experience of being betrayed as Israel had betrayed God. He had to experience in his own life what it meant to be betrayed by a person whom he loved in order to gain an understanding of the inner life of God. In a similar way the sympathy for God was in the heart of Jeremiah like a “burning fire, shut up in my bones and I weary myself to hold it in, but cannot” (20:9).

The main doctrine of the prophets can be called pathetic theology. Their attitude toward what they knew about God can be described as religion of sympathy. The divine pathos, or as it was later called, the Middot, stood in the center of their consciousness. The life of the prophet revolved around the life of God. The prophets were not indifferent to whether God was in a state of anger or a state of mercy. They were most sensitive to what was going on in God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 183–84 (emphasis original)

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