Friday, January 26, 2024

Biblical Concept of Time by Prof. Goswin N. M. Habets


I. The Hebrew Concept of Time and HistoryA. Israel had a concept of time very different from ours.The Western concept of time and history cannot be applied adequately to Israel.1. Our concept is linear: past - present - futureThe Western concept is also absolute and abstract.This is an a priori to every event; there is already time before the events.We can put any events on the time line.

Israel’s concept of time was not linear, absolute, abstract. No word exists in the Bible to express this. Some examples follow:

  • Jer. 50:16 time of harvest
  • Jer. 8:15 time of healing
  • Gen. 38:27, Mic. 5:2 time of giving birth
  • Gen. 29:7 time to gather animals
  • Ruth 2:14 time of a meal
  • Ps. 1:3 time for giving fruit
  • Ps. 104:27 time to give food
et = “time” - not a line, but punctum temporis, a point of time that is a determinate moment, a period of time. It is relative, always in connection with other words which always indicate an event. The event is not possible without its time; time is not without its event. Time in Israel is not abstract, but concrete. Time is identified with its content. Time is never empty time, but concrete, filled time.

'yom = “day” - from dawn to sunset (as distinct from 'laylah, “night”); unity of the calendar; same value as ‘et.

  • Gen. 2:4 day in sense of occasion, event of creation
  • Dt. 4:32 day that God created man on the earth
  • Dt. 9:7 the day when you came from Egypt - the occasion of Exodus.

This coincidence of time and event was not only valid for events of nature, but also for all human events, even internal movements of the soul.

  • Qoheleth 3:1-8 time imposed on every circumstance. Every event is determined by the time assigned to this event.
  • Ps. 31:16 “My times are in Your hands.”

Western concept of time is eschatological. Humanity is directed toward a final fulfillment.

  • Gen. 8:22 “all the times of the earth.”

Contrasts - two contrary concepts indicate totality. Succession of times rhythmic - cyclical vision of time. This conception of cyclical, anti-eschatological time of Archaic Yahwism did not remain so. Israel gradually elaborated an eschatological concept of time. The point of departure was the Feasts: Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, In gathering.

  • Passover: pastoral origin; rite practiced by nomadic or semi-nomadic shepherds.
  • Sacrifice of first fruits of the flock. Rite known before stay in Egypt.
  • Unleavened Bread: feast of sedentary people, Canaanite origin; an agricultural feast.
  • Periodic cycle of nature; beginning of Spring. Thanksgiving.

The Hebrew Concept of Time and History SummaryWestern Biblical1. Linear Punctum temporisAbsolute RelativeAbstract Concrete
2. Eschatological Non-eschatological in Archaic YahwismCyclical (Gen. 8:22)(Feasts) LinearEschatological (Dt. 16:1)

Passover given historical meaning: journey of Exodus a definitive journey.

Ex. 23:15 Feast of Unleavened Bread: symbolized Birth of People of Israel.

Passover and Unleavened Bread joined
a. Chronological coincidence:Nomads (1st full moon of Spring);
Unleavened Bread - (1st Gathering of grain)
b. Eating Unleavened Bread part of both rites.
c. Symbolism: strictly related
Passover - 1st event of Exodus
Unleavened Bread - Last event
Together - whole event

Israel’s Feasts:

Gilgal - conquest of the Promised LandSchechem - Covenant on SinaiFeast of Booths - Providence in the desertPassover - Exodus celebrated in familiesBethel - Patriarchs

Israel recognized these events as successive, as a “becoming” as history that was intelligible. Gestalt: each part takes its significance from being in relation with each other part and the whole.
Short biography: Born in the Netherlands in 1938, Fr. Goswin N.M. Habets became lecturer (professore incaricato) of Biblical theology within the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum (APRA) in 1977. He was highly esteemed by his students. One of his most interesting courses was the one on prophets. For decades, Fr. Goswin would go to the back entrance of the sacristy at 07:00 to celebrate Mass on the Altar of St. Pius X in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. The Dutch priest travelled a lot and Malta was one of his favourite places. Here he had several friends, including former altar boys who had served at St. Peter's Basilica over the years.

When he fell ill, Fr. Goswin asked a young American priest if he would be able to keep the Altar of St. Pius X “warm” for him. Afterwards, one morning, Fr. Goswin came by the sacristy to ask the sacristan and some of the senior altar servers to be ready for the American priest with vestments and cruets as soon as he entered — the trick that the more experienced priests in and around the Vatican had perfected.

Fr. Goswin died on 7 March 2005. A few hours after his death, a person who had attended his lectures stated that, after teaching the Old Testament throughout his life, Fr. Goswin was now ready to be examined on the New Testament. 

No comments:

Post a Comment