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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Nature

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NATURE. The term ‘nature’ is not used in the OT. nor was the conception current in Hebrew thought, as God alone is seen in all, through all, and over all. The idea came from the word physis from Hellenism. Swine’s flesh is commended for food as a gift of nature in 4Ma 5:7 . In the NT the term is used in various senses: (1) the forces, laws, and order of the world, including man ( Romans 1:26; Romans 11:21; Romans 11:24 , Galatians 4:8 ); (2) the inborn sense of propriety or morality ( 1 Corinthians 11:14 , Romans 2:14 ); (3) birth or physical origin ( Galatians 2:15 , Romans 2:27 ); (4) the sum of characteristics of a species or person, human ( James 3:7 ), or Divine ( 2 Peter 1:4 ); (5) a condition acquired or inherited ( Ephesians 2:3 , ‘by nature children of wrath’). What is contrary to nature is condemned. While the term is not found or the conception made explicit in the OT, Schultz ( OT Theol . ii. 74) finds in the Law ‘the general rule that nothing is to be permitted contrary to the delicate sense of the inviolable proprieties of nature,’ and gives a number of instances ( Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26 , Leviticus 22:28; Leviticus 19:19 , Deuteronomy 22:9-11 , Leviticus 10:9; Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Leviticus 22:24 , Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 23:2 ). The beauty and the order of the world are recognized as evidences of Divine wisdom and power ( Psalms 8:1; Psalms 19:1; Psalms 33:6-7; Psalms 90:2; Psalms 104:1-35; Psalms 136:6 ff., Psalms 147:1-20 , Proverbs 8:22-30 , Job 38:1-41; Job 39:1-30 ); but the sum of created things is not hypostatized and personified apart from God, as in much current modern thinking. God is Creator, Preserver, and Ruler: He makes all ( Isaiah 44:24 , Amos 4:13 ), and is in all ( Psalms 139:1-24 ). His immanence is by His Spirit ( Genesis 1:2 ). Jesus recognizes God’s bounty and care in the flowers of the field and the birds of the air ( Matthew 6:26; Matthew 6:28 ); He uses natural processes to illustrate spiritual, in salt ( Matthew 5:13 ), seed and soil ( Matthew 13:3-9 ), and leaven ( Matthew 13:33 ). The growth of the seed is also used as an illustration by Paul ( 1 Corinthians 15:37-38 ). There is in the Bible no interest in nature apart from God, and the problem of the relation of God to nature has not yet risen on the horizon of the thought of the writers.

Alfred E. Garvie.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Nature'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/n/nature.html. 1909.

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