Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book Of Life

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Summer type images: Soon to end here in the Lower Mainland.:)

I was surprised to view within my Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, from author Robert Hillary Kane from the University of Texas, the entry 'book of life'. This would be something I would expect to find in one of my Biblical commentaries, dictionaries or texts, or theology textbooks, but I would have not expected it from that particular philosophical source.

The entry states that 'book of life' is an expression found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Kane (1996: 82). Therefore, this would be within the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

It signified the record kept by God for those destined for 'eternal happiness'. Kane (1996: 82).

Not how I would describe it philosophically or theologically. I would state rather, everlasting life. That is finite life that has a beginning but no ending, whereas God is infinite and has no beginning and no end, therefore having eternal life.

The concept of happiness in regard to everlasting life would be a result of the life in the presence of God being maintained by God and in the New Testament concept, in Christ.

The text does mention several key verses where 'Book of Life' is mentioned, notably Philippians 4: 3 and Revelation 3:5:

Philippians 4:2-3

English Standard Version (ESV)

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion,[a] help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Revelation 3:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

Kane explains that medieval philosophers often referred to the book of life when discussing issues of predestination, divine omniscience, foreknowledge and freewill. Kane (1996: 82).

There were philosophical and theological debates on whether Biblical texts rendered actually allowed for the concept of God adding or deleting names from the book. Kane (1996: 82).

Some modern philosophers view it at as a record of the events in a person's life. Kane (1996: 82). 

A.F. Johnson states that in the ancient world of the Hebrew Bible citizens names were kept in book until their deaths as a book of the living. Johnson (1996: 171).

Implied is the connection between that book of the living and the book of life in the Scripture.

Johnson writes that from Jesus Christ's words in Revelation 3:5 that he will not blot out the name of his followers, the overcomer's, from the book of life is the 'strongest affirmation that death can never separate us from Christ and his life.' Johnson (1996: 171).

Revelation scholar Mounce writes that Walvoord was troubled that some observers may take this meaning that some in Christ could lose their salvation. Mounce (1990: 113). It is not explicitly stated and Revelation elsewhere mentions the fate of those not in the book of life. Mounce (1990: 113). Those persons are not in Christ (Revelation 20: 15). The point being I reason from Mounce that the distinction between those in the book of life and those not in the book has Biblically been made and there is not another Biblical sub-group. Mounce further states, and wisely so, that it is 'hermeneutically unsound to base theological doctrine solely on either parables or apocalyptic imagery. Better to allows the text, even when difficult. to present its own picture'. Mounce (1990: 114).

Johnson's concludes that Revelation 3: 5 'implies that failure of appropriate human response may remove one's name from the book of life'. Johnson (1996: 171).

My views are in line with Mounce.

From Revelation the concept that those in Christ remain in the book of life is prevalent.

No more should theologically and philosophically be read into the text by theologians and philosophers as tempting as this may be...

Biblical concepts presented do not work against a compatibilist idea in favour of an incompatibilist concept.

JOHNSON A.F. (1996) 'Book of Life’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

KANE, ROBERT HILLARY (1996) ‘Book of Life’, in Robert Audi (ed.), The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

MOUNCE, ROBERT H. (1990) The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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