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The following is from the Christian text Hebrews 10:15-17: [my emphasis]

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.

This conception of God allows Him to forget what He knows.

What I am looking for is a reference-request from a philosophy of religion perspective that addresses God's omniscience and this selective forgetfulness regarding evil.


Hebrews 10:15-18. New International Version. Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from Bible Gateway at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+10%3A15-18&version=NIV

  • When he recalls what he has forgotten, does he know that he already knew it before? if so : then he knows, to some extent, even if he forgot it. One may forget how a thief looks like, but once they see him for the second time, they may recall and identify his face, so, in a sense : there is some level of unconscious knowledge about the thief, which implies that forgetting X does not necessarily imply complete ignorance about X (not-knowing X). – SmootQ Jul 17 at 16:59
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    I think "I will remember no more" is meant in a sense of forgiveness, not forgetfulness. – Eliran Jul 17 at 17:01
  • I am not sure if you are being a stickler for words, but the interpretation of what is being expressed is weak. What is being expressed is GOD will not act on the sins if the conditions are met. We take omniscience to be knowledge of all things. So forgetting is impossible if omniscient is present. You cant have it both ways. Thus the EXPRESSION or interpretation is not the best possible case. Is it possible to present a stronger case then evaluate it? – Logikal Jul 17 at 17:01
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    @Gordon Yes, it is also in Jeremiah 31:34: biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jer.+31%3A34&version=NIV I also don't trust how the word "omniscience" is used. I am kind of hoping to be surprised with what turns up. – Frank Hubeny Jul 19 at 1:44
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    Frank you got me curious. I did find this book by doing internet searches. Ethical and Unethical in the Old Trstament: God and humans in Dialogue. books.google.com/… All I have read is what I could squeak out online. – Gordon Jul 19 at 4:59
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Regarding N. Berdyaev and J. Boehme's Ungrund: "In an early period of his [Berdyaev's] life, he was searching for a solution of the problem of evil, and was attracted by Boehme's mystical speculation. Boehme's philosophical thinking, particularly his theories that an irrational principle lies at the basis of being, and that freedom is uncreated and is derived from the "Ungrund", seemed to meet Berdyaev's immediate philosophical needs."

Nucho quoting Berdyaev: "Freedom is not created by God: it is rooted in the Nothing, in the Ungrund... God the creator cannot be held responsible for freedom which gave rise to evil. ".

This is suggestive post, rather than answering your question. Boheme was not the ordinary mystic, he had a rather profound effect on German philosophy before N. Berdyaev, a Russian, came along.

Cite P. 40, Fuad Nucho "Berdyaev's Philosophy: The Existential Paradox of Freedom &Necessity". Doubleday Anchor Original (1966). ; He brings in Jacob Boehme's "Ungrund", separate study by Berdyaev here: http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1930_349.html

It is rather frustrating at first to get a grip on Berdyaev's philosophy. They say he is not systematic, but with enough study, I think we have an important philosopher who returns to certain central themes.

Really I am not doing him justice here, and if it is possible to get Fuad Nucho's book on Berdyaev from a library, I think you might find him interesting.

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    What's this got to do with omniscience, remembering, or forgetting? – curiousdannii Jul 19 at 22:43
  • Just doesn't seem relevant to me whatsoever. Would make much more sense on a question about freedom of will or God's responsibility for evil. – curiousdannii Jul 20 at 3:35
  • The Ungrund would be directly contrary to Aristotle who sought the ultimate (logical) ground with the unmoved mover. We have to ask ourselves where such words as "omniscience" even come from? Berdyaev is killing at least two birds with one stone. Of course Aristotle knew nothing of Christianity, which came later. Berdyeav addresses Aristotle in the plain of Logic, but he also has in mind a contemporary of his, own time, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, the "Sacred Monster of Thomism". And a monster of over-rationalization he truly was. – Gordon Jul 20 at 14:44
  • When I say kills two birds with one stone, I mean on the Biblical plain, before he even turns to then eliminate Aristotle and particularly the Lagrange-type philosopher. Here is a link to an article by Richard Cocks, unfortunately it is very long winded. google.com/amp/s/orthosphere.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/… Faud Nucho does a better job with much fewer words. – Gordon Jul 20 at 14:58
  • Well if you could draw out further quotes from these people which actually concern knowledge that would be better. I still can't see anything relevant here, even with that explanation. – curiousdannii Jul 20 at 23:00
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Heb 10:17 (ESV): then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

The key verb in question here is μνησθήσομαι, lexical form μιμνῄσκομαι.

BDAG defines it as

  1. to recall information from memory, remember, recollect, remind oneself
  2. to think of and call attention to someth. or someone, make mention of someone
  3. give careful consideration to, remember, think of, care for, be concerned about, keep in mind

But there are other verbs in the μνεία 'memory, mention' word family.

μνημονεύω

  1. remember, keep in mind, think of, also—w. focus on dramatic aspect of remembrance—mention.
  2. retain in one’s memory

μνησικακέω

to remember some injury with resentment, remember evil, bear malice, bear a grudge

Maybe this is reading too much into definitions from dictionaries compiled almost two thousand years after the text was written, but could it be that the author of Hebrews deliberately chose a verb with the sense of consciously recalling rather than just retaining information?

Of course that's a rather human view of memory, with a mind (and brain) storing facts away but not consciously "remembering" them at all times. We couldn't assume that the mind of God operates similarly. Traditionally Christianity has taught that God is omniscient: there are no bounds on his knowledge, and all things that could be known are known by God. With this view of the knowledge of God, I think senses 2 and 3 of μιμνῄσκομαι are what the author intended: the covenant of God is not to somehow forget the sins of his people, but to not call attention to them, not be concerned about them. BDAG itself lists this verse as an example of sense 3.

  • Could one say that the material difference is "choice"? I.e. instead of the involuntary loss of memory (forgetting), rather the choice to recall is not made. – christo183 Aug 8 at 5:34
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    @christo183 I'm no Greek expert, but I don't think so. I'm not sure a divine mind would work that way. I think it's more about the importance given to these memories, namely that these memories won't be brought up in God's assessment of a person as relevant any more. – curiousdannii Aug 8 at 5:41

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