SBL Proposal Accepted

I just received word that my proposed paper to the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures session was accepted. That means, I believe, that my other proposal will be automatically pulled from the system, given the new rules about student participants. The paper will be entitled “YHWH and El: The Conceptual Blending of Their Divine Profiles.” Below is the abstract.

The point of departure for this paper is the theory that the patriarchal and exodus traditions represent originally independent traditions of Israel’s ethnogenesis. The most explicit—and perhaps original—attempt to link the two traditions and their concepts of God (Exod 6:3) acknowledges distinct divine names associated with the two traditions, namely YHWH and El Shaddai. Quite different theological profiles emerge from the disentangling of the traditions most closely connected with those names, but by the time of the composition of Exod 6:3, those profiles were fusing. Within the resulting composite view of Israel’s God, certain concepts associated with the earlier profiles were emphasized while others were marginalized. New concepts also developed out of the process and the socio-religious exigencies of the authors and editors. The complex and tensile conceptualization of YHWH found in the Hebrew Bible’s final form represents several centuries of conceptual blending and innovation against the backdrop of Israel’s scriptural heritage.

Scholars of early Israelite religion have dedicated a great deal of attention to the socio-religious impetuses for and results of the conflation of YHWH and El, but there is little that examines the cognitive processes that may have attended and influenced that conflation. This study seeks to fill that need. It will first isolate and schematize each tradition’s conceptualizations of its central deity, paying close attention to the centrality of the imagery to that deity’s representation. It will then evaluate the conceptual blending of the two schemas, highlighting the analogous and complementary concepts that facilitated that blending, as well as the conditions that contributed to the development of new divine conceptualizations. The fundamental goal is insight into why God was represented in the texts the way he was.

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3 responses to “SBL Proposal Accepted

  • Russ Brown

    Is there not evidence to suggest the merging of ideas was intentional and intended to change the theological beliefs of the opposition, atleast metaphorically (the Genesis creation account is a parody in the literal sense of the Babylonian creation myth), alteast in structure.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Hi Russ, thanks for commenting. Yes, I do believe there’s plenty of evidence that certain texts were composed specifically to combat or reinterpret opposing ideologies, whether other Israelite ideas or foreign ideas. I don’t think, however, that the merging of YHWH and El was an intentionally orchestrated event that was accomplished at once and then held together by nothing more than propaganda. Deities merged all the time in the ancient world, and while there was often a hand on the wheel trying to do what it could to influence public opinion, the mergers that were durative and successful were the ones that had an intuitive component to them. As a cognitive theorist named Justin Barrett has written, “when it comes to thinking about a divine agent, not just anything goes.”

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