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Isaiah 45.7: 'I make peace, and create evil'


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#1 Edward Henderson

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 11:01 PM

A friend, who is a non-believer, quoted this from Isaiah 45:7, to indicate that God is the creator of Evil.

The standard English translation is: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

Here are some other texts:

Greek Septuagint:
ego o kataskevasas fos kai poiisas skotos o poion eipivin kai ktison kaka ego kyrios o Theos o poiov tauta panta

Latin Vulgate:
formans lucem et creans tenebras faciens pacem et creans malum ego Dominus faciens omnia haec

What does this mean?

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 02:40 PM

Dear Edward,

When you go to Bible.org (many thanks to the person who provided the link!) it has this translation for Isaiah 45:7

I am the one who forms light and creates darkness; the one who brings about peace and creates calamity. I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things.


There is a translation note for "creates calamity"

This verse affirms that God is ultimately sovereign over his world, including mankind and nations. In accordance with his sovereign will, he can cause wars to cease and peace to predominate (as he was about to do for his exiled people through Cyrus), or he can bring disaster and judgment on nations (as he was about to do to Babylon through Cyrus).


The RSV has, "create woe."

Whatever the original said- be it Hebrew or Septuagint- or the translation- it is a principle of Patristic exegesis that both the intent of the composer of Scripture and of interpreting what is written must always be consistent with the basic theology of the Church. Thus even if the words seem to be inconsistent with this this is so only apparently and not really. Thus the words above would mean that God allows or even in a sense causes or 'creates' calamity. But He is not the creator of evil in itself. These particular words also are found within the context of chap 45 where it is explained how God's providence will work though Cyrus to "subdue nations." Consistent with this in vs 6 & 7 we see how God's providence is all pervading.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Owen Jones

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 03:21 PM

The problem of evil is a paradox that cannot be resolved, but through faith we have confidence in God's victory.


#4 Guest_Timothy Richardson

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:28 PM

You friend would like to draw a line with only one data point. Unfortunately, that kind of approach doesn’t work in any system: mathematical, scientific or religious. Ask him to go back and read the whole book, and then the whole bible, and come to church, and pray, and fast, etc.


#5 Eugene

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 12:33 AM

Dear Edward,

Just to clarify the linguistic side of the issue. The Hebrew word "Ra" has quite a number of meanings in the Bible, according to BDB Biblical Hebrew Dictionary:

- evil (Gn.6.5)
- unpleasant, giving pain, misery (like in Gn.47.9 "days of trial and hardship", or Pr.15.15)
- distess, misery, calamity (Nu.11.1, Ex.5.19, Gn.48,16)
- sad, unhappy (Pr.25.20)
- vicious, unkind (Pr.26.23)
- wicked (Ec.12.14)
etc., etc

So the translation of Isaiah 45:7 really depends on exegesis and, like Fr. Raphael said, should be based on the Church tradition of interpretation of the Scriptures. Traditionally in the Eastern Church it was interpreted as "calamity" (this is how it was translated in Russian Sinodal Translation of the Bible). Interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate translation as "evil" later caused a Catholic theologian Meister Eckhart to claim that God is indeed the creator of evil, and this was one of his erroneous claims for which he was pronounced a heretic by Roman Pontificat.

In Christ,
Evgeny

#6 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 02:04 PM

I forgot about looking in the Septuagint until Evgeny pointed this out above.

I'm not sure if Cyrillic font comes through on monachos so I'll try to put into western letters what Is 45:7 is in the Russian Synodal Version:

Ya obrazuiu svet i tvoriu t'mu, delayiu mir i proizvozhu bedstviya; Ya Gospod', delayiu vse eto.

Edward's Russian is far better than mine so he probably better understands the verb "proizvozhu". The choice of this word among all the others in vs 7 which basically mean to create perhaps suggests some sort of contrast to creating. As Evgeny says though, "bedstviya" clearly means, "calamity" or "distress" and not "evil" as some other versions in English have it.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#7 Eugene

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:53 PM

Dear Fr. Raphael,

You are right, the meaning of the Russian word "proizvozhu" is closer to the verb "cause" or "make" than "create", it suggests the pre-existence of something it was made from (literally "iz-vodit'" means lead out of something). As opposed to the Russian verb "tvorit'" ("create"), which is used mostly when the verb BaRa is used in Hebrew Bible, which means "create out of nothing" (like in Gn.1.1). However, the Hebrew original of Is.45:7 actually uses the word BaRa in front of Ra: "oSe ShaLoM u BaRa Ra" - literally "make peace and create disaster/calamity". Of course, the verb BaRa has a variety of slightly different meanings depending on the context and interpretation. Actually, the only way we can know the exact meanings of ancient Hebrew words is through their actual usage and context in the Bible and with the help of Septuagint translation, there are no dictionaries or language tutorials left from Old Testament ages :0)

In Christ,
Evgeny


#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 09:41 PM

Thanks for the Russian explanation Evgeny. It helped a lot.

It could very well be that the Septuagint is in a sense a theological translation. I have often heard of it referred to in this way.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#9 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 02:00 AM

Dear Fr. Raphael,

You are right, the meaning of the Russian word "proizvozhu" is closer to the verb "cause" or "make" than "create", it suggests the pre-existence of something it was made from (literally "iz-vodit'" means lead out of something). As opposed to the Russian verb "tvorit'" ("create"), which is used mostly when the verb BaRa is used in Hebrew Bible, which means "create out of nothing" (like in Gn.1.1). However, the Hebrew original of Is.45:7 actually uses the word BaRa in front of Ra: "oSe ShaLoM u BaRa Ra" - literally "make peace and create disaster/calamity". Of course, the verb BaRa has a variety of slightly different meanings depending on the context and interpretation. Actually, the only way we can know the exact meanings of ancient Hebrew words is through their actual usage and context in the Bible and with the help of Septuagint translation, there are no dictionaries or language tutorials left from Old Testament ages :0)

In Christ,
Evgeny


What I dont understand is the usage "Hebrew Original". My understanding [based on Dr. Jeannie Constantinou's series "Search the Scriptures"] is that the oldest copy of the Hebrew OT (in books) is infact a translation from the LXX Septuagint! So, in essence, the only truly original copy of the OT, that we have, is the Septuagint (even though it is not the original form of the OT).

So, should the emphasis with understanding scripture not lie with the Septuagint first and be complimented with the Hebrew (given we have no way to know the true original Hebrew that was used to create the Septuaging translation)?

I hope I asked my question in the right way to be understood.

#10 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:57 AM

Dear Vasiliki, you wrote:

What I dont understand is the usage "Hebrew Original". My understanding [based on Dr. Jeannie Constantinou's series "Search the Scriptures"] is that the oldest copy of the Hebrew OT (in books) is infact a translation from the LXX Septuagint! So, in essence, the only truly original copy of the OT, that we have, is the Septuagint (even though it is not the original form of the OT).

This is true for some books of the Old Testament, but not all. There are two interconnected issues here: (a) which version is to be looked to for the Old Testament's authoritative meaning; (b) and which version is to be looked to for the earliest wording. With regard to the first, the answer is straightforward: the Church believes the Septuagint to be the divinely-inspired edition that bears the marks of the Spirit to offer the fullest, clearest conveyance of God's self-revelation in these scriptures. But the Church has never done this because it believes the LXX is the closest possible version to the original documents, to the earliest wording. It is, rather, part of the progress of the scriptures' formation; and we know, for example, of places where the LXX translators deliberately changed passages from the Hebrew, so as to bring out their clearer meaning. This is understood by the Church to be the work of the Holy Spirit, this giving the LXX version its ultimate authority.

But as to where one might look to find the earliest version of a passage: this is not a simple question. Sometimes it is the Hebrew, since some of our Hebrew MSS go back before the LXX; other times is the LXX, since the Hebrew versions of some books we now possess date from the Masoretic editing project that took place centuries after the translation of the LXX, and at times made recourse to it to clarify passages where the Hebrew was not clear (I know of no evidence to show that the Masoretes ever used the LXX as a translation source for any whole book; only specific verses/passages, lacunae, etc.). Sometimes we look externally to either the LXX or Masoretic volumes for evidence of earliest Hebrew wordings: e.g. the MSS found at Qumran - which in some cases give evidence of pre-LXX Hebrew editions; though there are other considerations one has to take into account here.

So one can certainly not make a sweeping statement that the LXX is the earliest version, and earlier than the Hebrew. That is true in some places, in some ways; but by no means everywhere. But it brings one back to the principal point in terms of the Orthodox approach to scriptural authority: namely, that it is not the early form of a text that bears authority, but the divinely-inspired final form -- and the Church considers this unequivocally to be the Septuagint.

INXC, Deacon Matthew

#11 Seda S.

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 03:28 PM

Dear Fr Matthew

Your post made me think about the 'fate' of the Septuagint translated by the help of the Holy Spirit. As we know, the original translation was revised, changed later, during centuries, and there are differences between the texts of different codices that have reached us. So now we don't have exactly that which was done by the LXX translators. Which edition of the Septuagint is usually used by the Eastern Orthodox Church and in case you use (or some prefer to use) one of the printed critical editions, how do you deal with the problem of various readings? I'm asking this because there is a similar problem with the text of the Old Armenian translation of the Bible.

#12 Theophrastus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:39 PM

Interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate translation as "evil" later caused a Catholic theologian Meister Eckhart to claim that God is indeed the creator of evil, and this was one of his erroneous claims for which he was pronounced a heretic by Roman Pontificat.

In Christ,
Evgeny


Could you provide a source for this claim?

#13 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:45 PM

Dear Vasiliki, you wrote:

INXC, Deacon Matthew


All this information was very useful to know and have clarified. For the record, I want to highlight that I may have misunderstood what Dr Jeannie has said on her podcasts. She has a Doctor in Theology so I am certain she knows all of this information and also does not have the time to elaborate to this depth.

Is their an online resource that provides a comparison table?

#14 Joshua G.

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 02:21 PM

Wow, this is far more complicated than I had ever imagined!.

The content of this thread can only work to further convict one of the reality that Sola Scriptura is a scary proposition at best. If Christ hadn't given us the Church as the Rock up which to rest and depend and understand the Scriptures... I'm not sure where I would be today. I'm not sure how many threads like these I would ahve been able to take without having a major crisis of faith.

Having the Church to guide me, however, makes this thread simply interesting rather than threatening.

#15 Μιχάλης Βρ

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 03:39 PM

Dear Vasiliki, you wrote:
But as to where one might look to find the earliest version of a passage: this is not a simple question. Sometimes it is the Hebrew, since some of our Hebrew MSS go back before the LXX; other times is the LXX, since the Hebrew versions of some books we now possess date from the Masoretic editing project that took place centuries after the translation of the LXX, and at times made recourse to it to clarify passages where the Hebrew was not clear (I know of no evidence to show that the Masoretes ever used the LXX as a translation source for any whole book; only specific verses/passages, lacunae, etc.). Sometimes we look externally to either the LXX or Masoretic volumes for evidence of earliest Hebrew wordings: e.g. the MSS found at Qumran - which in some cases give evidence of pre-LXX Hebrew editions; though there are other considerations one has to take into account here.
INXC, Deacon Matthew


Unfortunately, the only early parts of the Hebrew Old Testament available to us are mostly parts of the Pentateuch. I'm sure you are aware of this, but Christ Himself used the Septuagint in His teaching and the Septuagint quickly became the official Christian texts. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (including the destruction of the Temple and the Original Hebrew manuscripts therein) those of Jewish persuasion had plenty of room to employ "Midrashic" changes to the few Hebrew copies they had available. Especially in the case of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Minor Prophets, several books went under intense scrutiny and anti-Christian editing. Variations were extant by the time Jerome decided to use Hebrew texts for his Vulgate. In fact, the Vulgate was rejected for centuries because Latin Christians understood the anti-Christian nature of the texts upon which it was based, and they continued to use the Old Latin, a Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint. But these anti-Christian-edited texts were so wildly multiplied that in the 600s, a Jewish group known as the Masoretes determined to undergo a standardization of such texts to finally have a unified textual tradition. The Masoretic Texts were completed by 800 AD and are the Hebrew texts Protestants base their Old Testaments upon wholly. It is amazing that these even slightly resemble the Septuagint, an unbiased translation, let alone the Original Hebrew.

As for the Qum'ran texts, most of these give more authority to the Septuagint, despite their anti-Greek nature inherited by the more pious Jews during the time of the Seleucid Empire and the Maccabean Revolt.

But textual history aside, here is the Greek of the Septuagint:

Ἐγὼ ἡ κατασκευάσας φῶς, καὶ ποιήσας σκότος, ὁ ποιῶν εἰρήνην, καὶ κτίζων κακά· ἐγὼ Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς, ὁ ποιῶν πάντα ταῦτα.

The Greek word κακά is more distinctly "evil," in which "calamity" would be χάος, but I doubt it refers to evil in the simplistic sense that has developed today. It could simply mean "I cause evil things to occur," in the same sense in which He causes harmony. But the most important statement one can draw from this is that He is declaring the fullness of His omnipotence. We are incapable of saying what God can or cannot do, since to say either would be to presume a limitation. I cannot explain this better than St Dionysios the Areopagite in his writings on Apophatic Theology:

But these things are not to be disclosed to the uninitiated,
by whom I mean those attached to the objects of human thought,
and who believe there is no superessential Reality beyond,
and who imagine that by their own understanding they know it
that has made Darkness Its secret place.
And if the principles of the divine Mysteries are beyond the understanding of these,
what is to be said of others still more incapable thereof,
who describe the transcendental First Cause of all by characteristics drawn from the lowest order of beings,
while they deny that it is in any way above the images which they fashion after various designs;
whereas they should affirm that,
while it possesses all the positive attributes of the universe (being the Universal Cause)
yet, in a more strict sense, it does not possess them, since it transcends them all;
wherefore there is no contradiction between the affirmations and the negations,
inasmuch as it infinitely precedes all conceptions of deprivation,
being beyond all positive and negative distinctions.

Edited by Michael O., 03 December 2009 - 04:21 PM.


#16 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 05:04 PM

The problem of evil is so boring. I have never had a problem with evil. My problem has always been more vexing. The existence of good. There should not be good, yet there is.

I never lay awake at night wondering how God permits/creates/handles evil. Whether the scriptures say something about God that sounds evil, or report Him doing things I judge to be evil, or all that.

I wonder at His goodness and how, in Christ, the evil of this world (ultimately death) is cured by it. Scientifically speaking I contemplate the defeat of entropy. And when I read the scriptures I marvel that He does good.

Forgive me if this seems a bit off track for the thread, but the purpose of my comment is to assuage the agitating effects that discussions of the problem of evil, particularly in scriptures, can have on others.

#17 Μιχάλης Βρ

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 04:47 AM

The presence of good should not be so vexing, for God created the cosmos and saw that it was good. However it is marvelous that He would so choose for there to remain "good" among the sinful of the world. It is marvelous that He chooses to show mercy on those who are already so incredibly in debt to Him. It is not so much as in a fatherly fashion, for a father owes the existence of his child to what has been provided to him by the Lord, and the father must take responsibility of the child, while God is not bound by any such responsibilities. He is more like the General of an army full of treacherous men who commit treason with such high frequency that they are beyond deserving immediate execution, yet the General in His Mercy chooses to grant them life and even chooses to reward some...

#18 Ben Johnson

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 06:34 AM

Indeed, the Hebrew reads, "Making (or maker of) light, and creating darkness; making peace and creating ra'. I am the LORD who makes all these." I agree with Eugene, for if the LORD was referring to sin, just 2 verses later He is pronouncing woe on those who argue with Him.


--Ben

#19 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 02:07 AM

The presence of good should not be so vexing, for God created the cosmos and saw that it was good. However it is marvelous that He would so choose for there to remain "good" among the sinful of the world. It is marvelous that He chooses to show mercy on those who are already so incredibly in debt to Him. It is not so much as in a fatherly fashion, for a father owes the existence of his child to what has been provided to him by the Lord, and the father must take responsibility of the child, while God is not bound by any such responsibilities. He is more like the General of an army full of treacherous men who commit treason with such high frequency that they are beyond deserving immediate execution, yet the General in His Mercy chooses to grant them life and even chooses to reward some...


You misunderstand the problem of good. You are assuming the goodness of God. I was speaking as though I was making no such assumption. That one would know God as good, or even have a frame of reference to contemplate what sort of goodness God is, is a much more vexing problem than explaining the existence of evil.

#20 Μιχάλης Βρ

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Posted 07 August 2015 - 12:16 AM

My apologies for the lateness of this post, as, predictably, life got in the way of participation on this forum. I would argue that the goodness of God is hardly an assumption but rather a necessity for the very existence of the cosmos. As St Athanasius is so keen to point out in his On the Incarnation, it is strictly through love that the universe was created and as the universe is powerless to support itself, it is through love that God maintains it, and evil is nothingness, the absence of love, just as darkness is the absence of light. And as man was created from nothing, nothingness is our natural state which can only be avoided through God's love.




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