Alvin Plantinga’s Epistemology and the Anthropology of the Old Yestament Writers

The Old Testament’s primary anthropological claim, albeit implicit, is that the human person is designed to know God with its whole being (e.g., spirit and body). This is evident through the anthropological terms the Old Testament writers use to describe the person. It is also evident throughout the Old Testament concepts of knowledge, fear of the Lord, image of God, the shema, the Holy Spirit, and several Old Testament accounts of those who gained knowledge about God through an encounter with him (e.g., Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, and Ezekiel). It is Alvin Plantinga’s biblically based epistemological models that allow one to extract this implicit theological anthropological claim from the Old Testament. Plantinga’s epistemological models, supported by the New Testament, are sufficient and effective in extracting this implicit Old Testament anthropological claim. His understanding of the image of God, knowledge, and the Holy Spirit illuminate the Old Testament, and thereby the New Testament writers’, primary anthropological understanding that the person is created by God to know Him with its spirit and body.

What this claim contributes to the field of theological anthropology is a theological anthropological claim that is developed by the Old Testament rather than a non-biblical anthropological belief system. Bringing this claim to light in the ongoing theological anthropological conversation is significant because many theological anthropological claims are based on the intricacies of ancient Greek philosophy’s anthropological categories (i.e., dichotomous, trichotomous, monist) which has resulted in the notion that Scripture’s primary anthropological claim consists of the human person’s composition. While Scripture does contain statements regarding the human person having a body, spirit, and/or soul, ancient Greek philosophy’s anthropological categories are not sufficient for understanding or explaining the details of what the biblical writers meant to communicate regarding their anthropological understanding. The intricacies of ancient Greek philosophy’s anthropology that are not in alignment with Scripture’s anthropology include notions such as the person being a compartmentalized being with a hierarchical structure and the person being composed of divine particles. Evaluating Scripture, with a biblical belief system such as Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological models, effectively demonstrates how such notions do not coincide with the biblical writers’ anthropology. It demonstrates that, contrary to ancient Greek philosophy’s anthropological categories, the biblical writers did not perceive the person as a compartmentalized being whose mind was its superior compartment (i.e., trichotomy). It also demonstrates that they did not believe the person was composed of divine particles (i.e., monism). Instead, they perceived that the person was spirit and body both of which were designed by God to know Him.

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