Friday, 17 May 2019

Morten Kock Møller: The example of the twins: Rom. 9:10-13 as a proof-text in Augustine’s polemics against Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians

The concept of divine foreknowledge has a rich heritage in The Early Church and is widely discussed in Patristic writings, not least by Origen. The Alexandrian’s contribution to Christian philosophical reflection on the nature of divine foreknowledge can hardly be overestimated. The concept of foreknowledge is frequently used by Origen to explain seemingly deterministic biblical passages that appear to stress divine predestination to the detriment of human freedom. Also the young Augustine employed divine foreknowledge of the “most hidden merits” (occultissima merita) of human beings to explain how God could make a just differentiation between the twins Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:10-13). But with his work Ad Simplicianum, Augustine famously recanted his earlier explanation of the controversial passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans and abandoned the idea of predestination based on foreknowledge. Instead, Augustine henceforth used the example of the twins as an important proof-text against the idea that God chose Jacob over Esau due to the patriarch’s foreseen merits.The aim of my paper is twofold. Firstly, I would like to analyze Augustine’s use of Rom. 9:10-13 as a proof-text in several of his late polemical writings against Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians. Among these works are Contra duas epistolas Pelagianorumand De correptione et gratia. Secondly, I will probe whether Origen’s Commentary on Romans can plausibly be seen as the backdrop of Augustine’s refutation of certain exegetical ideas related to the question of divine foreknowledge and the example of Jacob and Esau.

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