Curses, Moriarty

Here’s a thought that would have gone into my book, had I thought of it earlier. One of my minor theses there is that the “curse on the ground,” usually invoked to support the “fallen creation” teaching, actually applied only to Adam’s immediate descendants, and was abrogated in Noah’s covenant. I’m pleased to find overt support for that in Brian Curry’s chapter in the book I’m helping review at Peaceful Science, Christ and the Created Order, where he writes:

But even within Genesis this curse lasts only until the end of the flood and is later canceled by God (Gen 8:21). Further, it exercises no systematic relevance within the rest of Scripture. (p.89, n.39)

“But,” a friend challenged me yesterday,”what about Rev 22, where after describing the river and the tree of life, it says, ‘There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve him’?”

I’ve previously come across that assumed scriptural link between the lifting of the curse in the new creation, and its imposition in the old creation in Gen 3:17, but I’ve not addressed it directly. The key lies in remembering that Revelation takes it OT intertextuality very seriously. The passage in question alludes directly to Zec 14, an eschatological prophecy in which a number of the features in Revelation 21-22, such as the change in the cycle of day and night, the river of life flowing out of Jerusalem, and the unopposed kingship of Yahweh are also mentioned.

Then in v11, the re-population of (exiled) Jerusalem is foretold:

“People will live in it, and there will no longer be any curse [Heb wecherem = utter destruction, tr. “anathema” in LXX], for Jerusalem will dwell in security.”

The Greek version is identical to Revelation exept that the latter uses katathema, a stronger variation, rather than anathema. The Septuagint word used in Gen 3:7 is different: epikataratos, the word used of Jesus becoming a curse for us in Gal 3:13, where however it is derived from Deut 21:23, saying that he who is hanged on a tree is “accursed.”

Zechariah’s use finds further clarification back in Zec 8:13:

“It will come to pass that just as you were a curse [katara] among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing.”

So the curse in question is actually the curse of exile on apostate Jerusalem (representative of both houses of Israel), to which the revelation of the new Jerusalem in Revelation is the answer, ending Israel’s long exile from God and so cancelling the curse.

Now, there is a connection to Eden in this, in that the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden, which begins the exile of the whole human race from God and the curse of death, is directly parallel to the history of Israel. But the parallel running from Genesis, through Zechariah, to the end of Revelation, is that of exile for sin, not the curse on the soil, still less of nature as a whole, that it is taken to be in the understanding my friend expressed. Brian Curry is quite right in his claim that the “curse on the ground” is not mentioned in the Bible after it is lifted in Genesis 8.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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