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Maurice Lewis wrote:

Dear CPATS Apologists,

I'm doing a little private research and would be grateful if you could ask one of your eminent staff to explain, as clear as possible, the meaning of the following verse and suggest what relevance it might have in today's world.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come.

Lamentations 3:38

I'm assuming Lamentations was written by Jeremiah, following the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and was probably concerned with the importance of covenant faithfulness to God.

Maurice Lewis
United Kingdom

  { Can you explain, as clear as possible, the meaning of Lamentations 3:38 and its relevance today? }

Perry Turchi replied:

Maurice —

Lamentations 3:38 is a similar passage to the following:

I make weal and create woe;
I the Lord do all these things.

(Isaiah 45:7)

Does disaster befall a city,
unless the Lord has done it?

(Amos 3:6)

Essentially, the principle is one of God's sovereignty. It is an atypical Semitic manner of speaking, which ascribes to God's sovereign will all that happens in the world. The ancient Israelite often did not make any kind of distinction between God's permissive will, and His active will. One could say, in these types of passages, God initiates the good by way of His active will, and initiates the evil by way of his permissive will. It is a way of speaking, peculiar to some of the ancient Biblical authors.

Of course, here, we begin to get into some of the controversies that came to a head during the Reformation period, especially as exhibited by the writings of Calvin, but that is a discussion for another day.

Perry Turchi

Maurice replied:

Perry —

I'm still greatly confused, but I get the gist of what you are saying. I would be very interested in hearing what the Pope, himself, thought of this interpretation in view of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many thanks for your reply.


Perry Turchi replied:

Dear Maurice,

Your concern seems to imply that the Pope or the Catholic Church has some definitive interpretation on this, or most other passages in Scripture. The Church does not have an official interpretation on this or any other passage in Scripture, except for possibly six or seven of them. Of course, I don't presume to know what Pope John Paul II is thinking; I'm almost certain that this verse from Lamentations is not foremost, if at all, in his thoughts concerning the events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If one wants to know what a particular passage of Scripture means, then one could consult a good Biblical commentary on it for beginners. Consulting a variety of them would even be better.
If they all seem to converge on a particular interpretation, then the proper interpretation of the verse(s) should be resolved, at least it would in my mind, unless of course, the interpretation were to contradict some article of Faith.

Perry Turchi

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