Chapter 2 – “Monotheism and the Council of God(s)”
I have been sick but not very sleepy – perfect timing to finish reading last night chapter 2 of the third volume in Blake’s series. But the chapter did not make me feel any better. I read the chapter and all the end notes.
From the ill spud in Idaho, here are some quick, initial highlights and questions:
1. “In addition, it must be noted that the views regarding the gods likely were never monolithic, but always represented a diversity of points of view even though it is very likely that the redactors of the scriptural record have imposed more uniformity than there was in the pre-redacted texts” (44)
Which fundamental idea do you all like better? A Bible of uniformity about God or a Bible with all kinds of diverse views about God? Which view do you think Christ and the apostles taught? And how do you consider the KJV? More uniform (monolithic) or more diverse in portrayals of God(s)?
2. On Ugaritic texts: “El is pictured as a white-bearded father of the gods. He sits on a throne in the midst of the divine council consisting of his sons. These sons are offspring of El and his queen Asherah or Athirat. It appears that there is a divine council of El and his sons and also a more general council that included gods who were not sons of El (pchr ‘ilm). The divine beings appear to be arranged in a hierarchy having three tiers. The first tier is occupied by the head god El. The second tier is occupied by El’s sons. The chief god of the second tier is Baal, who is El’s chief or vizier. . . . The third tier is occupied by the messengers and craftsmen or the Hebrew equivalent of angels” (45).
If you were Canaanite, which tier would you strive for?
3. “I am Yahweh. To Abraham and Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai. I did not make myself known to them by the name of Yahweh” (Ex. 6:31)  (p. 50).
So go to endnote #31 on page 78 – “However, this statement that Abraham did not know Yahweh conflicts with Abraham 2:8 where God introduces himself to Abraham: “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand is over thee.” Of course the divine name Yahweh also appears in the text of Genesis before Abraham is introduced–with the apparent intent that the name Yahweh that is used in the text represents a later expansion of the text by those who knew Yahweh” (78n31)
Do you all believe in the expansion theories presented by Blake? It is easily seen what Joseph Smith did to the O.T.
4. Here is an infamous quote by Gregory Boyd: “Do such passages imply that [Jeremiah and Isaiah] believe that there literally are no gods besides Yahweh? I think not. Elsewhere both Jeremiah and Isaiah depict a heavenly council of gods surrounding Yahweh (Jer. 23:18, 22; Isa. 6:2-8). Moreover, as Ulrich Mauser has argued, Isaiah speaks in this same hyperbolic fashion about nations, princes, and armies being literally nothing before God (Isa. 40:17, 23; 41:12). Yet Isaiah was clearly not literally denying the existence of these realities.”
And Blake follows on the heels of Boyd: “Isaiah and Jeremiah share the view that there are in fact gods other than Yahweh–though they are not comparable to Yahweh in might or creative power. They do not adopt monotheism. If Isaiah and Jeremiah deny the existence of these other gods in the divine council, then they adopt a view at odds with the earlier beliefs expressed in the Psalms and Deuteronomy and even at odds with their own statements” (65).
5. Do you think the word elohim can be used for human idols?
6. “All things that are created in heaven and earth are created by Yahweh; but the gods are “above” the heavens” (70).
I think this statement is cheesy.
7. “Although there is no trace in the extant (heavily redacted) Hebrew Bible that Yahweh had a consort or wife by whom such sons were begotten, references to the consort Asherah may reflect an earlier belief that was redacted from the text” (71)
So Blake does entertain the idea. And if true, logically, some of the prophets’ messages should be considered screwed up for coming against Asherah.
8. “It appears to me that Owen has fallen into the precise trap that Larry Hurtado has recently warned against . . . “a tendency to proceed deductively from a priori presumptions of what monotheism must mean, instead of building up inductively from evidence of how monotheism actually operated in the thought and practive of ancient Jews. There seems to be an implicit agreement . . . that more than one transcendent being of any significance constitutes a weakening or threat to monotheism” (75).
First, I tip my hat to Paul Owen. In this chapter, Blake always has the last say in the argument. It would be nice to see more of Paul’s interaction. Secondly, who would be these other transcendent beings who Hurtado might be implying? The Spirit of Yahweh? Yahweh’s Servant? Or all the other gods, too? Thirdly, I wish more LDS would do inductive study each week in the Corridor.
9. “These gods are not so much different in kind as they are subordinate in power and authority to Yahweh who alone merits worship and praise. Yet that is precisely the Mormon view” (76, my emphasis).
What a way to end the chapter! But wait a minute. I thought some LDS do claim to worship equally Jesus as they worship the Father. So perhaps this isn’t precisely the Mormon view. I did notice the disclaimer at the beginning: “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Greg Kofford Books, Inc., or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Very challenging chapter and I have much more to read.
Todd, what are you doing reading one of Blake’s books for something to cheer you up?
I don’t think even I would read them for that sort of purpose.
Oh Seth, you’re just not seeing the big picture.
Todd: “who would be these other transcendent beings who Hurtado might be implying? The Spirit of Yahweh? Yahweh’s Servant? Or all the other gods, too?”
The sons of God, the divine ones or elim, Yaoel, the Word of God, Enoch/Metraton, Adam, the little Yahweh, Moses, the word (logos/memra/dabar Yahweh), Melchizedek, the angel of Yahweh, the people at Qumran in their deified state among the council of gods, Moses, the Son of Man, the Righteous One, the Elect One, and Jesus — among others. Read the next chapter for a more complete answer.
Are you serious, Blake?? Hurtado identifies all this group as transcendent. Now, I need to read the next chapter.
I’m not sure I follow from the post what comes from Blake and what comes from Todd. The superposition of the two gives me a headache. But you have inspired me to request the book via interlibrary loan so I can read it. Maybe then I’ll be able to intelligently contribute to your conversation.