Kaminsky on Personal Omniscience

Nor is the dynamic of divine interpersonal relations in the primeval history restricted to reward and punishment. Rather, we encounter here a number of intriguing and suggestive instances of rapport between the deity and humankind. Thus, in the garden, the interplay goes far beyond a simple case of human action and divine response. Consider the dramatically calculated questions posed to the man and woman: “Where are you?… Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:9, 11). Of the same kind are YHWH’s leading questions to Cain: “Why are you so irritated and dejected?” and “Where is Abel, your brother?” (Gen 4:6, 9). These questions are intentionally designed to elicit a particular anticipated response, which in turn will be addressed by appropriate instruction or rebuke, as warranted. To me, at least, these stylized verbal interactions speak less of divine omniscience, as a theological tenet, than they do of parental or pedagogical ploys. That is, the questions reveal an intimate rapport with the subjects, and a finely tuned familiarity with their customary thought patterns, evasions, and defenses. Once again, the primeval history serves as prologue to subsequent narratives, especially in terms of similarly rhetorical questions posed, for example, to Elijah (“What prompts your coming here?” 1 Kgs 18:9, 13) and Jonah (“Are you really so very distraught?” 4:4, 9). There is a depth of divine concern in these pointed interrogations, as well as a personal stake and involvement on the part of the deity, that far transcends abstract philosophical categories such as “omniscience.”

Joel Kaminsky, Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures

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