Subordinate “Gods” – Part 11

Blake Ostler writes in his book, Exploring Mormon Thought:  The Attributes of God (2001):

In the Hebrew scripture, a member of El’s court, angels and possibly gods of foreign nations are called gods in this sense.  The various mediating principles and half-personified divine attributes found in the Hebrew writings such as debar or the divine word or Wisdom, would belong to this class.  In the New Testament, “the Word,” and “the Mediator,” are also used in this sense in the Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of John.  In such passages, Christ is viewed as a subordinate being even though he is considered as divine and meriting worship (p. 8).

Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.  Great.  We get to worship Jesus, but He is just a derivative or lesser of God.

As I skip over several sentences discussing LDS texts (D&C 121:32, Abraham 4:1) on gods, Blake carries on:

This use of the word “gods” is essentially equivalent to the Old Testament usage that refers to Yahweh or to Yahweh Elohim planning with and ruling over a council of gods who are subordinate to him.  As Hans-Joachim Kraus observed:

In the heavenly world Yahweh, enthroned as God and king, is surrounded by powers who honor, praise and serve him.  Israel borrowed from the Canaanite-Syrian world the well-attested concept of a pantheon of gods and godlike beings who surround the supreme God, the ruler and monarch.  In Psalm 29:1-2 the bene elohim (“sons of God”) give honor to Yahweh.  They are subordinate heavenly beings stripped of their power, who are totally dependent on Yahweh and no longer possess any independent divine nature.  In Job and the Psalter, power of this sort are called bene elohim, elim, or qedushim(“sons of God,” “gods,” and “holy ones,” Job I:6ff; Ps. 58:I; 8:5; 86:8).  But Yahweh alone is the highest God (‘Elyon) and king. . . . In Psalm 82 we have a clear example of the idea of a “council of gods.” . . . “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.”  The “highest god” is the judge.  The gods (elohim) are his attendants.  They are witnesses in the forum which Yahweh rules alone, and in which he possesses judicial authority.  We might term the cheduth-el  “Yahweh’s heavenly court.”  All the gods and powers of the people are in his service.[3] (p. 9)

But wait a minute.  Hold on a second.  Did Blake back in 2001, see Yahweh as the head of the council in Psalm 82?  I am confused.


  1. Todd: Read my book. In most of the Old Testament Yahweh is used synonymously with Elohim. There are simply texts where that isn’t the case. No all writers of the OT see eye to eye on such issues and even within texts there are strata of older views that are not quite consistent with more recent views of a redactor. I still see Yahweh as the head God of the council. He gave his name to his Son, like a Father gives a Son a name.

    Do you or do you not admit that there are senses in which Christ is subordinate to the Father. If you do, then it isn’t a bone of contention. If you don’t then there are a number of biblical texts that you cannot explain like: “the Father is greater than I,” or the fact that the Son always gives glory to the Father.

    Finally, Christ is not just a derivative or lesser deity. Those are your words, not mine. The notion that Christ is a mediator does not entail that he is less in his deity. That is a non-sequitur that follows from your incipient metaphysical monotheism which assumes that one and only one being can be really divine. Yet if the Father is fully divine, and the Son is fully divine, and if the Father and the Son are not identical, as every Christian of every stripe must affirm, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.

  2. In regards to your first paragraph: Yahweh Elohim – I worship this God, not two Gods, Yahweh and Elohim.

    In answer to the first question in your second paragraph: yes.

    Thirdly, you are asking of me? the ignorant little spud in Ammon, Idaho to explain all Who God is? There is a lot that I don’t fully grasp, Blake . . . and the Triune God is at the very top of the list. In the midst of the Divine Council, I humbly bow. I am engulfed in love. I am in the deepest of awe to the point of trembling.

  3. I have a hard time seeing how I am supposed to accept something I cannot even begin to grasp and I am stunned beyond words that anyone would suggest that I have to believe a I cannot even know what and be able to mouth the right formulas to be saved. On the other hand, simply knowing God is quite enough but it is also quite necessary. I would immediately agree that one doesn’t have to be able to explain the Trinity (who could?) to know God in a way that leads to salvation and exaltation.

    However, it won’t do to run and hid every time a real problem is pointed out with one’s belief commitments.

  4. 1. The Father is fully divine.
    2. The Son is fully divine.
    3. The Father and Son are not identical.
    4. There is one God (metaphysical monotheism).

    I believe the Bible teaches these four propositions. I see no problem. I see the most mysterious and attractive truths that I have ever encountered. You reject them because you believe that the Bible is not in agreement on Christology, therefore higher criticism and more data should be a proper and necessary ingredient to sort out the incoherent biblical puzzle. I embrace the biblical data in all its glorious paradox.

    And I am not going to “run and hide”, Blake. I can’t. Jesus tells me “that ye may know (aorist tense), and believe (present tense).”

    First, I need to decide to believe these truths about the Father and the Son. It’s a done decision. Secondly, I need to grow, progress, advance in my understanding of who God is – the deep, interpenetrating union of Father and Son. This is the crowning adventure of my path in Christianity and relationship with God, Blake.

    And this is the same call that Jesus gives to the whole I-15 corridor.

  5. Todd: What is the difference between a person that is fully divine and being (a) God? It seems to me that we can translate your four propositions into this:

    (1) Any person that is fully divine is God.
    (2) The Father if fully divine.
    (3) The Son is fully divine.
    (4) The Father and the Son are not identical.
    (5) There is only one God (metaphysical monotheism)

    Now it is fairly clear to anyone who can count to two that (5) is inconsistent with (1) – (4). I want to know what you mean by these claims since virtually no one can see how they could possibly fit together. You of course can refuse to think about, ignore it or just dodge the issue, but it won’t do to run and hide from the issue when you make it a matter of salvation to affirm these propositions.

  6. Well, what kind of person is the Father? or the Son? or the Spirit?

    Are the Father, Son, and Spirit to be considered and framed exactly by what we consider human persons to be? Logic can seek to prove anything. But we need to agree on your proposition #1.

    And I would agree with the Jews in John 10, for someone to make themselves a God, that would be blasphemy. I think they had OT Scripture to prove such a serious charge.

    But you know how the KJV leaves out that very important indefinite article – (a). Tyndale had a powerful O.T. chapter noted by the John 10 verse.

  7. Todd: I agree that someone who makes themselves a god in the sense that the Jews claimed that Christ made himself a god would be inappropriate. They charged that he was not really God, not really the Son of God, he merely made that claim for himself. That is why Christ responded by asserting that his Father also confirmed his deity and so did scripture.

    However, to side with the Jews in this argument is a serious failure to see what Christ is asserting. After all, Christ and not the Jews had the better argument.

    BTW premises (1) and (5) are not equivalent. While we both affirm (1), you affirm and I reject (5). In fact, (5) cannot be accepted by anyone who accepts (1) – (4). Your statement that logic can prove anything is just false. It cannot prove that if all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, then there is some way that Socrates is not mortal. Nor is there any way to affirm that the Father is not identical to the Son and yet metaphysical monotheism is true.

  8. Blake, Jesus is not asserting himself as a God. To believe this is a “serious failure” in understanding Jesus’ words, the whole of John’s Gospel, and O.T. Scripture.

    I would say this to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, LDS, or Muslims.

  9. Jesus is Sovereign LORD. He is not in the same category as the subordinate gods of Ps. 82. (I need to explore and question this more with LDS in a new post.)

  10. Todd: You just ducked the import of what I said in #8. Metaphysical monotheism is logically incoherent not to mention contrascriptural.

    Whoa!! You’re claiming that Jesus isn’t claiming to be a God? Are you claiming that he claimed to just be God simpliciter? Are you claiming that he wasn’t claiming complete and full divine status somehow?

    I suggest that your reading of the text (if I have properly grasped what you are saying) makes little sense of the text.

  11. Blake, He is claiming to be completely and fully God, but not an additional God. The Jews are understanding his claims partly (hence the violent reaction) but not fully. Jesus is not breaking O.T. scripture.

  12. Correction Todd,

    He is claiming to completely and fully God, and using the teaching of humans becoming gods to show the Jews why this should not bother them.

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