Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In His Time

While lying in pain from a sprained ankle, I took the opportunity to read a book that has been sitting on a bookshelf untouched for years. It was the Repertorium Columbianum edition and translation of Christopher Columbus’ The Book of Prophecies (not The Libro de las profecias of Christopher Columbus one). It’s a fine edition, providing a lot of historical and textual background for the unfamiliar reader like myself. However, there are only two words to describe Columbus’ actual work: unconvincing and boring. It’s probably just as well that Ferdinand and Isabella likely never saw it.

Not to say that I didn’t get anything out of reading the text.  It provided some food for thought, introducing me to the work of Rabbi Samuel of Fez and unapologetically bringing Psalms into the “end times” discussion. (My general observation is that contemporary interpretations of prophecy, whether preterist or dispensationalist, seem to shy away from mentioning Psalms despite its New Testament use as prophecy.)  One curious passage was an addition made by Columbus’ editor, the monk Gaspar Gorricio, concerning the use of past tense in Old Testament prophecy:

But why are events that have not yet happened described as if they have already taken place? Because those things which are presently in our future have already taken place in God’s eternity. [009.3,4]

Although I found this statement a weak defense for his interpretive method, something else caught my attention. Gorricio seems to describe a God who lies outside of time and can see and access all points in time all at once. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are famous for their claims about God’s timelessness, but this was the first time I had read something from the past that resembled contemporary discussions about God transcending the space-time dimensions of our world.