The Pharaoh Initiative: God’s Middle Knowledge in Action Through A Pauline Perspective -- By: Christian L. Ramsey

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:4 (Dec 2019)
Article: The Pharaoh Initiative: God’s Middle Knowledge in Action Through A Pauline Perspective
Author: Christian L. Ramsey


The Pharaoh Initiative:
God’s Middle Knowledge in Action
Through A Pauline Perspective

Christian L. Ramsey*

* Christian L. Ramsey currently serves as Associate Pastor at New Hope Worship Center, 3513 N. Geraldine Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73112. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: This paper explores the thread of God’s middle knowledge concerning Pharaoh throughout the context of the plagues narrative. Using germane Scripture primarily from Romans and Exodus, the paper presents grammatical, scriptural, and theological support for the thesis that God raised Pharaoh to such preeminence because of his foreknowledge that Pharaoh would respond in the manner necessary for God to achieve his goals. Additional contextual discussion is offered concerning certain theological implications regarding middle knowledge versus determinism, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and the kind of obedience God desires—as indicated in the opening and closing pericopes of Romans—the obedience of faith. In addition, the article provides a brief investigation of the translational choice of “harden” for varying Hebrew terms overwhelmingly translated otherwise elsewhere in Scripture.

Key words: foreknowledge, middle knowledge, obduracy, divine hardening, Pharaoh, Exodus, Romans 9

I. Introduction

1. Why this article. Why did Paul use Pharaoh as an illustration in Romans 9? What did he reveal about God and Israel through what he revealed about Pharaoh? N. T. Wright astutely observes the unfortunate truth that much of Romans is read as though it were “simply about how individual sinners are justified by grace through faith.”1 He also laments a prominent lack of reference to God’s promises to Israel, the covenant, or believers being part of the covenant family through whom God deals with evil.2 In 2004, Witherington and Hyatt noted that since the English Reformation, not one major exegetical study has approached Romans through anything but “Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist readings of Romans.”3 This influence extends into other traditions through authors such as Methodism’s C. K. Barrett, who gives Luther, Calvin, and Barth a special mention of indebtedness in his commentary on Romans.4 Even post-Vatican II, in many Roman Catholic circles “Lutheran and Calvinist reading of Romans has been assumed to be fully representative”

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