Is The “Tatsphäre” Always A Sphere? -- By: Robert L. Hubbard

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:3 (Sep 1982)
Article: Is The “Tatsphäre” Always A Sphere?
Author: Robert L. Hubbard

Is The “Tatsphäre” Always A Sphere?

Robert L. Hubbard*

Nearly three decades ago K. Koch proposed that the OT view of retribution be conceived not as a legal act of God imposed from outside the human realm but in terms of “die schicksalwirkender Tatsphäre.”1 According to this view each act surrounds its agent with a lasting power-laden sphere which is of real materiality, just like his physical property. Though the effects of that power-sphere may be delayed in materializing, the outcome is inevitable: A good act will of itself produce prosperity, an evil one misfortune. In support of this specifically spherical conception, Koch cited the consistent presence of the preposition be in statements depicting the act-result connection.

Though this proposal sparked a plethora of scholarly comment,2 no attention has been paid to the adequacy of the spherical formulation of Koch’s view. Evidence from several complaint psalms suggests the following thesis: The act-result connection was understood not only in spherical terms but in linear ones as well. Furthermore, careful consideration of several texts where the Tatsphdre is indeed evident yields some clarification concerning its operation.3

That Ps 7:17a reflects the dynamistic process is obvious.4 It affirms that the

*Robert Hubbard is associate professor of Old Testament at Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Denver.

scheme aimed at the innocent petitioner will land on the schemer himself, just as a catapulted stone falls back on the thrower.5 I have noted elsewhere that this verse functions structurally as a description of the fate of the wicked in support of the speaker’s affirmation of confidence (vv 11–12).6

But what is significant is the verse’s ontological assumption. Taken literally, the phrase assumes that the unjust action (ʾămālô) described earlier (v 15) leaves the agent en route to the victim (and thus does not envelop him) but then changes direction in the course of events and “returns” (yās̆ûb) to strike the perpetrator. The effect is more that of a “boomerang” than of a power-sphere. A linear not spherical ontology is presupposed.

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