Tag Archives: Divine Council

Mike Heiser’s Book on the Divine Council

Mike announced today that he has a first draft of his book on the divine council available for a limited time on his blog. It’s aimed at a popular audience, and from what little I’ve been able to glean from just scrolling rapidly through the document, it has a lot of words in it. Take note, though, if you do decide to read it, that Mike does not want it distributed through any means other than by linking to his blog.


Psalm 82 in the Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition

I’m making my paper from the LDS and the Bible section available a bit early. It is entitled “Psalm 82 in the Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition.” You can access the PDF here. The paper is in my own presentation format, which means there are minimal references and the paper is written in a less formal voice (contractions, etc.). I’m interested in your thoughts.


SBL Paper Handout – LDS and the Bible

This is an extended bibliography with links to complement the handout distributed during my SBL paper, Psalm 82 in the Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition (which will be available later).

Ackerman, James S. “An Exegetical Study of Psalm 82.” Th.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1966.

————-. “The Rabbinic Interpretation of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John.” Harvard Theological Review 59.2 (1966): 186–91.

Alexander, Philip. “The Targumim and Early Exegesis of ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis 6.” Journal of Jewish Studies 23 (1972): 60–71.

Barlow, Philip. “Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History.” Sunstone 8.5 (1983): 13–19.

Bokovoy, David. “‘Ye Really Are Gods’: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John.” FARMS Review 19.1 (2007): 267–313. (link)

————-. “שמעו והעידו בבית יעקב: Invoking the Council as Witnesses in Amos 3:13.” Journal of Biblical Literature 127.1 (2008): 37–51.

Budde, Karl. “Ps. 82,6f.” Journal of Biblical Literature 40 (1921): 39–42.

Burnett, Joel S. A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 183; Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001.

Chalmers, R. Scott. “Who is the Real El? A Reconstruction of the Prophet’s Polemic in Hosea 12:5a.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68.4 (2006): 611–30.

Cho, Sang Youl. Lesser Deities in the Ugaritic Texts and the Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Study of Their Nature and Roles. Deities and Angels of the Ancient World 2; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2007.

Cole, Robert L. The Shape and Message of Book III (Psalm 73–89). JSOTSup 307; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Collins, John J. “Jewish Monotheism and Christian Theology.” Pages 81–96 in Aspects of Monotheism: How God is One. Edited by Hershel Shanks and Jack Meinhardt; Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1997.

————-. “Powers in Heaven: God, Gods, and Angels in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Pages 9–28 in Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2000.

Collins, John J., and Adela Yarbro. King and Messiah as Son of God. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Diez, Sebastian. “‘Nun sag, wie hast du’s mit den Göttern?’ Eine Forschungsgeschichte zu Ps 82.” Ph.D. dissertation, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, 2009. (link)

Dunn, James D. G. Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence. London: SPCK, 2010.

Eissfeldt, Otto. “El and Yahweh.” Journal of Semitic Studies 1.1 (1956): 1–30.

Emerton, James A. “The Interpretation of Ps lxxxii in John x.” Journal of Theological Studies 11 (1960): 329–32.

Frankel, David. “El as the Speaking Voice in Psalm 82:6–8.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (2010): 2–24. (link)

Gieschen, Charles A. Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

Goulder, Michael D. The Psalms of Asaph and the Pentateuch. Studies in the Psalter, III. JSOTSup 233; Sheffield,: Sheffield Academic Press,1996.

————–. “Asaph’s History of Israel (Elohist Press, 725 BCE).” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 65.1 (1995): 71–81.

Hanson, Anthony. “John’s Citation of Psalm LXXXII Reconsidered.” New Testament Studies 13 (1966): 363–67.

Hadley, Judith M. “The De-deification of Deities in Deuteronomy.” Pages 157–74 in The God of Israel. Robert P. Gordon, ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Handy, Lowell K. “Sounds, Words and Meanings in Psalm 82.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 47.1 (1990): 47–56.

Hannah, Darrell D. “Guardian Angels and Angelic National Patrons in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.” Pages 413–35 in Angels: The Concept of Celestial Beings—Origins, Development and Reception. Edited by Friedrich V. Reiterer, Tobias Niklas, Karin Shöpflin; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007.

Heiser, Michael S. “Deuteronomy 32 and the Sons of God.” Bibliotheca Sacra 158.1 (2001): 52–74. (link)

————-. “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin – Madison, 2004. (link)

————-. “Are Yahweh and El Distinct Deities in Deut. 32:8–9 and Psalm 82?” Hiphil 3 (2006): 3–9. (link)

————-. “You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All: A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82.” FARMS Review 19.1 (2007): 221–66. (link)

————-. “Israel’s Divine Council, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study.” FARMS Review 19.1 (2007): 315–23. (link)

————-. “Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible.” Bulletin of Biblical Research 18.1 (2008): 1–30. (link)

————-. “Jesus’ Quotation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34: A Different View of John’s Theological Strategy.” Paper presented at the Pacific Northwest Regional Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 13 May 2011, Spokane, WA. (link)

Himbaza, Innocent. “Dt 32,8, une correction tardive des scribes Essai d‘interprétation et de datation.” Biblica 83.4 (2002): 527–48. (link)

Hossfeld, Frank-Lothar, and Erich Zenger. “The So-Called Elohistic Psalter: A New Solution for an Old Problem.” Pages 35–51 in A God So Near: Essays on Old Testament Theology in Honor of Patrick D. Miller. Edited by Brent A. Strawn and Nancy R. Bowen; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2003.

————-. Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51–100. Hermeneia Commentary Series; Minneapolis, Min.: Augsburg Fortress, 2005.

Hurtado, Larry. “New Testament Christology: A Critique of Bousset‘s Influence.” Theological Studies 40 (1979): 306–17.

————-. One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, Second Edition. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2003.

————-. “Monotheism, Principal Angels, and the Background of Christology.” In the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2010.

Hwang, Won-Ha and J. G. van der Watt, “The Identity of the Recipients of the Fourth Gospel in the Light of the Purpose of the Gospel.” HTS Theological Studies/Teologiese Studies 63.2 (2007): 683–98. (link)

Jones, Christine. “The Psalms of Asaph: A Study of the Function of a Psalm Collection” (Ph.D. dissertation, Baylor University, 2009).

Joosten, Jan. “Une théologie de la septante? Réflexions méthodologiques sur l‘interpétation de la version grecque.” Revue de théologie et de philosophie 132.1 (2000): 31–46.

————-. “A Note on the Text of Deuteronomy xxxii 8.” Vetus Testamentum 57.4 (2007): 548–55.

Jüngling, Hans-Winfried. Der Tod der Götter: Eine Untersuchung zu Psalm 82. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1969.

Kaminsky, Joel, and Anne Stewart. “God of All the World: Universalism and Developing Monotheism in Isaiah 40–66.” Harvard Theological Review 99.2 (2006): 139–63.

Kee, Min Suc. “The Heavenly Council and Its Type-Scene.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31.3 (2007): 259–73.

Kharlamov, Vladimir. “Theosis in Patristic Thought.” Theology Today 65 (2008): 158–68. (link)

Kirk, Alan. “Social and Cultural Memory.” Pages 1–24 in Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity. Semeia 52; Alan Kirk and Tom Thatcher, eds.; Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.

Klink, Edward W., III, The Sheep of the Fold: The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 141; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Larson, Stan. “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text.” BYU Studies 18.2 (1978): 193–208.

MacDonald, Nathan. “Aniconism in the Old Testament.” Pages 20–37 in The God of Israel. Robert P. Gordon, ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 2007.

————-. Deuteronomy and the Meaning of ‘Monotheism.’ Forschungen Zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 1; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Machinist, Peter. “How Gods Die, Biblically and Otherwise: A Problem of Cosmic Restructuring.” Pages 189–240 in Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism. Edited by Beate Pongratz-Leisten; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011.

McClellan, Daniel O. “What is Deity in LXX Deuteronomy?” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 22 November 2010, Atlanta, GA. (link)

————-. “Monotheism—Still a Misused Word in Jewish Studies?” Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, 29 May 2011, Fredericton, New Brunswick. (link)

Meier, Samuel A. “Angel I מלאך.” Pages 81–90 in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Second Edition, Extensively Revised. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, eds.; Leiden: Brill, 1999.

————-. “Angel of Yahweh מלאך יהוה.” Pages 96–108 in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Second Edition, Extensively Revised. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, eds.; Leiden: Brill, 1999.

Mosser, Carl. “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents, and the Origin of Christian Deification.” Journal of Theological Studies 56 (2005): 30–74.

Neusner, Jacob. “Conversation in Nauvoo about the Corporeality of God.” BYU Studies 36.1 (1996–97): 7–31. (link)

Neyrey, Jerome H. “‘I Said: You Are Gods’: Psalm 82:6 and John 10.” Journal of Biblical Literature 108.4 (1989): 647–63.

Nasuti, Harry P. Tradition History and the Psalms of Asaph. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1988.

Niehr, Herbert. “Götter oder Menschen—eine falsche Alternative. Bemerkungen zu Ps 82.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 99.1 (1987): 94–98.

Nispel, Mark D. “Christian Deification and the Early Testimonia.” Vigiliae Christianae 53 (1999): 289–304.

Oosting, Reinoud. “The Counsellors of the Lord in Isaiah 40–55: A Proposal to Understand their Role in the Literary Composition.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32.3 (2008): 353–82.

Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Parker, Simon B. “The Beginning of the Reign of God—Psalm 82 as Myth and Liturgy.” Revue Biblique 102.4 (1995): 532–59.

Paulsen, David L. “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses.” Harvard Theological Review 83.2 (1990): 105­–16.

Peterson, Daniel C. “‘Ye are Gods’: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind.” Pages 516–53 in The Disciple as Scholar. Edited by Stephen D. Ricks, et al.; Provo: FARMS, 2000. (link)

Porter, Larry C. and Milton V. Backman, Jr. “Doctrine and the Temple in Nauvoo.” BYU Studies 32.1 (1992): 41–56. (link)

Prinsloo, W. S. “Psalm 82: Once Again, Gods or Men?” Biblica 76 (1995): 222–28.

Reimer, Andy M. “Rescuing the Fallen Angels: The Case of the Disappearing Angels at Qumran.” Dead Sea Discoveries 7.3 (2000): 334–53.

Rösel, Martin. “Theologie der Griechischen Bible zur Wiedergabe der Gottesaussagen im LXX-Pentateuch.” Vetus Testamentum 48.1 (1998): 49–62.

———–. “Towards a ‘Theology of the Septuagint.’” Pages 239–52 in Septuagint Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures. Wolfgang Kraus and R. Glenn Wooden, eds.; Septuagint and Cognate Studies 53; Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006.

Sanders, Paul. Provenance of Deuteronomy 32. Leiden: Brill, 1996.

Schneider, Thomas. “The First Documented Occurrence of the God Yahweh? (Book of the Dead Princeton ‘Roll 5’).” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 7.2 (2008): 113–20.

Scott, James M. Adoption as Sons of God. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992.

Segal, Alan F. Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Smith, Mark S. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel‘s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

————-. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities of Early Israel. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2002.

————-. God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

Strawn, Brent A. “The Poetics of Psalm 82: Three Notes (and a Plea for the Poetic).” Unpublished manuscript.

Stuckenbruck, Loren T. “‘Angels’ and ‘God’: Exploring the Limits of Early Jewish Monotheism.” Pages 45–70 in Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism. Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Wendy E. S. North, eds.; London: T&T Clark, 2004.

Tsevat, Matitiahu. “God and the Gods in Assembly, an Interpretation of Psalm 82.” Hebrew Union College Annual 40/41 (1969–70): 123–37.

Tuschling, R. M. M. Angels and Orthodoxy: A Study in their Development in Syria and Palestine from the Qumran Texts to Ephram the Syrian. Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 40; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

Van Winkle, D. W. “The Relationship of the Nations to YHWH and to Israel in Isaiah 40–55.” Vetus Testamentum 35 (1985): 446–58.

Wernick, Nissim. “A Critical Analysis of the Book of Abraham in Light of Extra-Canonical Jewish Writings.” Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1968. (link)

Widtsoe, John A. A Rational Theology: As Taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, 1915.

Zakovitch, Yair. “Psalm 82 and Biblical Exegesis.” Pages 213–28 in Sefer Moshe. The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Qumran, and Post-Biblical Judaism. Edited by Chaim Cohen, Avi Hurvitz, and Shalom M. Paul; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2004.

Zenger, Erich. “Psalm 82 im Kontext der Asaf-Sammlung: Religionsgeschichtliche Implikationen.” Pages 272–92 in Religionsgeschichte Israels. Gütersloh; Gütersloh: Kaiser, 1999.


Eine Forschungsgeschichte zu Ps 82

I recently ran across a very helpful resource while gathering research for my two SBL papers on Psalm 82. The text is a condensed version of a 2009 Würzburg PhD dissertation by Sebastian Diez entitled “‘Nun sag, wie hast du’s mit den Göttern’: Eine Forschungsgeschichte zu Ps 82.” It briefly summarizes over 170 years of the academic interpretation of Psalm 82. There is also a helpful chart at the end that breaks down the way each scholar has dated the psalm. Check it out!


Angels and Demons (and Michael Heiser)

I appreciate Michael taking the time to respond to my paper and to provide a number of helpful insights. For those interested, it can be found here. I was especially happy to have him comment that he felt the writing was clear and concise. That’s something I struggle with sometimes, and it’s great to see that the attention I pay to it is producing results. Michael disagrees with some of the main conclusions I reached, but that was expected. I’m glad to have an informed response, and Michael’s comments will provide great food for thought as I develop this research for presentation at a regional SBL, at CSBS, at SBL in November (although in the latter it’s mainly Psalm 82 I’m discussing), and in my Trinity Western masters thesis.

Michael first has some concerns with the preciseness of my language in a couple places. I’ll reproduce them below. I see where he is coming from, but I also have some reflections to share that will hopefully illuminate my thinking on the issues:

On page 3 we read:

“That the Israelite El had a consort is supported by textual and archaeological evidence.”

This is overstated, but reflects what the consensus would say. To correspond to reality, the statement should say this: “That some Israelites believed Israelite El had a consort is supported by textual and archaeological evidence.” Now it’s accurate.

The facts on this statement are as follows: (1) There are indeed textual and archaeological data for an Israelite El with a consort; (2) There is no way short of omniscience to know from those data that ALL Israelites believed El had a consort — including the biblical writers. All the data show for sure is that someone from the period to which the material dates expressed this belief. That’s it. There is simply no way to make such a sweeping generalization, but many scholars do just that.

The criticism is well taken, and I am happy to provide a more precise description of the Israelite pantheon, although I would point to much more than just Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom as indicating an early Israelite view of Asherah as the consort of El. The Taanach cult stand; the 1000+ Jerusalem pillar figurines; the his and her cult stands, incense altars, and standing stones at Megiddo room 2081 and the Arad temple; and the numerous biblical references to the ubiquity of Asherah worship among the Israelite monarchs and laity point in the same direction. It’s the prohibition of those practices that is far more rare prior to the eighth/seventh centuries, and I would argue that it is not insignificant that the few mentions of that prohibition all come from Deuteronomistic writers. Perhaps that’s a debate for another day, though.

Another example from page 3 (speaking of the divine council):

“All three of these tiers were populated by anthropomorphic deities according to both the Ugaritic literature and the Hebrew Bible.”

This is also worded imprecisely, or perhaps unconsciously reflects Dan’s Mormon theology (and that isn’t a moral evil; we all fall prey to our predispositions at times). What I mean here is that Dan’s wording presumes deities are anthropomorphic. The line should say, to be more accurate (and less theologically stilted): “Deities populating all three of these tiers were anthropomorphized according to both the Ugaritic literature and the Hebrew Bible.”

I understand the potential issue with my particular faith, and I’m sure I can’t entirely erase doubts in this area, but my interest in this topic is as purely academic as I can make it. I stumbled onto research related to anti-anthropomorphism while doing some text-critical work on Exodus 24 after reading a paper by Ted Lewis on the chapter. I noticed a pretty big variant in Exod 24:10 between the Hebrew and the Greek and felt the Greek indicated the variant in the Vorlage. I couldn’t find any discussion on the significance of the variant in the Vorlage and felt it might be a fun research project. It turned into an SBL paper I presented in New Orleans and it ultimately became my Oxford masters thesis. Clearly the broader topic of anti-anthropomorphism intersects with Latter-day Saint ideology, and in a general sense I am more interested in research topics that resonate with my personal background with the Bible, but that resonance does not go any deeper than the broader topic. My thesis arrives at far more conclusions that directly conflict with LDS religious belief (and in more significant areas) than that align with it.

I’m a little hesitant regarding “anthropomorphize,” and here’s why. I understand “anthropomorphize” as “to render anthropomorphic,” and in my mind to say that the biblical texts did this would be to presuppose one of two things: (1) the actual existence of a non-anthropomorphic deity apart from the text, or (2) that the Israelites understood God to be non-anthropomorphic, but anthropomorphized him in their literature for the sake of accommodation to literary conventions or for widespread comprehension or something like that. The former conflicts with my general approach to biblical scholarship (I approach it from an exclusively academic point of view and have no interest in espousing any position about a deity apart from the text), and the latter conflicts with what I believe the evidence supports regarding early Israelite conceptions of deity. We are likely to disagree on what the evidence supports, but again, that may be a debate better saved for another day. If I misunderstand Michael’s use of “anthropomorphize,” however, then I am happy to stand corrected.

Dan’s position assumes that one either must read Deut 32:8-9 as having two deities or, perhaps more importantly, that Israelites would not or could not have seen Yahweh and El/Elyon as the same deity in Deut 32:8-9 before Deut 4 was written. So the question is, could Israelites have read Deut 32 and come out with an identification of El/Elyon with Yahweh? I believe so because of the two preceding verses, Deut 32:6-7.  I have argued this position before in a paper published in the HIPHIL online journal. Readers can download it for free.

In a nutshell, the writer of Deut 32 utilizes several El epithets and familiar El language evident in vv. 6-7 if one reads Hebrew and is familiar with the corresponding Ugaritic vocabulary. What this means is that Israelite readers of Deut 32, prior to Deut 4 being added, who would have been familiar with El descriptions and motifs, would have readily discerned that these descriptions and motifs were being applied to Yahweh in verses 6-7 — because Yahweh is mentioned by name in v. 6. Any Israelite familiar with El/Elyon epithets would not have missed the message that Yahweh and El were the same deity. And Dan cannot argue that Israelites would not have been familiar with El language, because he presumes that Israelites were familiar with El/Elyon as distinct from Yahweh in vv. 8-9.  You can’t say they saw the theological descriptions for keeping El/Elyon and Yahweh separate, but would have missed the same El signage applied to Yahweh two verses earlier. That’s simply inconsistent reasoning.

This is, I believe, the meat of Michael’s disagreement with my paper. This I think is a great topic, and I appreciate his contribution to it. At some other time I would like to dig deeper into the nature of Deut 32:6–7’s use of those terms. Another paper I presented in Atlanta was entirely focused on the meaning of the phrase ’l qn ’rs. In this instance, though, I think Michael may have overlooked what now seems to me to be too subtle a clue as to my position regarding Deut 32. I state the following in the portion he quoted:

This statement is said by the preceding verses to come down from years long past, and points to an archaic distinction between Yhwh and  Elyon, or El.

Later I state this:

Verse 7 may provide a key. In it the author tells Israel to ask their fathers, and to hear from their elders the story of Yhwh‘s acquisition of Israel. What follows is likely a piece of communal memory predating the Song of Moses. This story ends at v. 14, following which the focus shifts to Israel’s negligent behavior vis-à-vis their God.

I believe the author of Deut 32:6–7 could very well have read vv. 8–9 as a reference to Yahweh, but I also think he didn’t originally compose vv. 8–9. He states that they (and the following verses) come down from the fathers, and from years long past. Note also that Deut 32:10 states that Yahweh found his people in the desert. This conflicts with Yahweh as Israel’s begetter and creator, per vv. 6–7. In Deut 4:20 Yahweh took Israel out of Egypt to become his people. This is also a distinct idea. I believe the author of vv. 6–7 is quoting a tradition that has come down to his generation, which has renegotiated its meaning. This, however, isn’t what primarily leads me to conclude that Yahweh was originally distinct from El. A number of other considerations contribute in more fundamental ways to that conclusion, and I guess here is as good a place as any to discuss them.

First, a god named El predates the arrival of the Israelites into Syria-Palestine. Biblical usage shows El was not just a generic noun, but often a proper name for Israel’s God (e.g., Gen 33:20: “El, the God of Israel”). That this deity is analogous to the Syro-Palestinian high god is supported by the numerous epithetic and thematic parallels between biblical and Syro-Palestinian representations of the deity (Gen 14:19, 22, for instance). Yahweh, however, is represented by quite distinct imagery, and is epithetically and thematically analogous to the storm deity Baal. Psalm 29 is a clear Yahwistic version of storm deity literary conventions. Michael has elsewhere appealed to v. 10 in that psalm as indicating Yahweh’s kingship over the flood, a motif ostensibly associated with El, but the word for “flood” there refers to the Noahide deluge, not to the waters of heaven. Additionally, I would suggest the context is better suited to a storm deity reading, which is in fact supported by the wider literary context in light of Rendsburg’s reading “Yahweh sit enthroned since the deluge,” which he asserts is made necessary by the psalm’s northern provenance. The storm deity’s accession to an eternal throne finds an analogy in Kothar-wa-Hasis’ proclamation of Baal’s eternal kingship upon defeat of Yam in the Ugaritic literature. Given the clear association of Yahweh with the storm deity and El with the high god, the relationship of El and Baal in other Syro-Palestinian literature provides an attractive analogy that is only further supported in Deut 32:8’s ostensible reference to Yahweh as one of the “sons of El.” I would reject the rabbinic notion of different epithets and imagery for highlighting different aspects of the Deity.

Second, there is a clear chronological threshold before which Yahwism simply does not appear to have existed in Israel. El was the sole God before that threshold, which is delineated primarily by Exod 6:3 and the onomastic evidence (most clearly in Tigay). Both show that there was a time when the name Yahweh was unknown or insignificant to the nation of Israel. Around the rise of the monarchy Yahwistic names begin to pop up, and by the end of the monarchy they are the predominant theophoric naming convention. Exod 6:3 insists that Yahweh’s name was not known prior to Moses’ revelation at Horeb/Sinai. Another literary tradition places the revelation of Yahweh’s name during the time period of Adam’s grandson. If we divide the creation accounts, the patriarchal genealogies, and the flood accounts according to their clear literary seams, however, we get two different versions of those narrative arcs: one that calls God Yahweh, and one that does not. That an editor has retrojected Yahweh’s name into older traditions is, as far as I am aware, pretty standard among scholars. The revelation of Yahweh’s name at Horeb/Sinai is significant also because several scriptures that appear to be older than Exod 6:3 (like Deut 33:2) associate Yahweh’s origins with those southern regions.

Michael continues:

And so I ask: which is more coherent:

A. That the writer of Deut 32:8-9 distinguished Yahweh and El/Elyon, but fused them in the two prior verses, and let this separation – fusion tension stand (the two are fused and separated back-to-back) … OR

B. Deut 32:6-7 portray Yahweh and El/Elyon as one and vv. 8-9 are to be read in light of that messaging (there is consistency of presentation over these four verses).

The second option is my view. I would therefore suggest that an Israelite didn’t need Deut 4 to see Yahweh and El/Elyon as the same deity.

I would suggest that the change in the beginning of Deut 32:9 from wayehi to ki indicates a contemporary concern for the identification of Yahweh with the sons of God.

Deut 4 simply echoes that point; it doesn’t filter Deut 32 to make that point. This is why I believe Dan’s position, the consensus position, assumes what it seeks to prove. It assumes a separation in 32:8-9 and then uses Deut 4 to prove that separation. But it doesn’t explain why vv. 6-7 refer to Yahweh with El/Elyon language.

I disagree, however, that vv. 6–7 use Elyon language. They seem to me to use El language alone. There’s nothing that I know of in the Hebrew Bible that ties Elyon—independent of El—to that imagery. The Sefire inscription distinguishes El from Elyon, as does Phylo of Biblos’ Phoenician History. In the Ugaritic texts the closest analogue to Elyon is Aliyn, an epithet for Baal.

Michael follows with a lengthy discussion of the term elohim that I think would be valuable freading. I don’t have much to quibble with in that section that isn’t communicated elsewhere in this post, so I’ll move on to some comments closer to the end of his paper.

1. Dan’s note about the Greek wording in Deut 4 and elsewhere for the host of heaven (tov kosmov tou ouranou) proves nothing except that some Jew somewhere would no doubt have seen what Dan sees there — a de-deification. And that would have made his day. But how do we move from that to a neat theological evolution at a nation-wide, cultural level when there is so much data to the contrary (showing diversity)? See below.

If I had the time and space I would have unpacked some of this quite a bit more in my paper. I think there were tow or three different approaches to deities during the post-exilic and Greco-Roman periods. One approach simply sought to demote deities to a lesser divine station, as with Deut 32:43, while another was to de-deify them, as with Deut 4, John 10:34–35, and Psalm 82 in the rabbinic tradition. A third approach might be the Deutero-Isaiah approach of just saying they are impotent and irrelevant. Obviously it cannot in the end be boiled down to such convenient compartmentalizing, but I think this gives us adequate preliminary models.

Michael summarizes another lengthy section with the following:

All of that is a windy way of saying that you just can’t prove a neat evolution from polytheism to monotheism when there is terminological confusion and so much “polytheistic” material in later Jewish periods. The solution is not to bend the data to a prevailing paradigm — it’s to fix the paradigm. Dan would be an asset for rethinking it, too. Otherwise, we end up making assumptions based on data we’re trying to use to prove the assumptions. I think my views are just more reality-based: (1) Israelites and Jews believed different things about God and the spiritual world throughout their history; (2) Many Israelite and Jews were capable of using elohim to speak of a wide variety of spiritual entities, knowing the whole time that Yahweh was species unique among those elohim; and so (3) Reading and writing texts that had multiple elohim in them was no threat to their monotheism, and wasn’t polytheism. They didn’t parseelohim the way we parse G-o-d, and they weren’t stupid, either.

Diversity among believers. Now why does that sound familiar?

I would agree with all of points one and three and the first half of point two, but it is in the arena of species uniqueness that I see the conflict and development between the late pre-exile and the Greco-Roman period. In my first masters thesis I argued in one portion that anti-anthropomorphism developed slowly and in inconsistent steps as a result of ongoing attempts to rhetorically exalt Israel’s God over the gods of the inner- and inter-cultural demographics with which the biblical authors were interacting. Every time an author pushed Yahweh just a bit further away from other deities, a subsequent generation of authors had a modified view of God upon which they also felt compelled to operate. I think here may be a point of departure between our two approaches to the issue. I am treating a lot of Israelite and Jewish beliefs as growing out of literary traditions as much as, and sometimes more than, cultic and other traditions. In my opinion, when authors modified their literary representation of the deity, it modified future conceptualizations of the deity as well, which translated into modified cultic and liturgical perspectives.

Michael ends with a couple notes.

  1. I’m well aware of the proposed “crisis catalysts” for the “movement” toward monotheism. I critiqued them in my dissertation. My view is that there is nothing said in the wake of the presumed crisis that many Israelites would not have said prior to said crisis.
  2. Every time I think of this I think of Carol Newsom’s oxymoronic “angelic elim” term — it shows the desperation to keep the consensus paradigm in the face of all the contrary evidence. The scrolls and their divine plurality language is my regional SBL paper topic this May.

I also don’t like the “crisis” model for the development of monotheism, but I have different reasons. I do think the Dead Sea Scrolls equated the elim with angels. In fact, I think that identification became so widespread that there was no need to conduct much boundary maintenance, and thus no immediate juxtaposition of the two terms at Qumran, as Michael notes elsewhere. As evidence of this, I would point to 11Q10 30:5 (11QtgJob), which replaces “sons of God” with “angels of God,” and to 4Q180, which describes Gen 6:2, 4 as references to angels. Additionally, “Holy Ones,” “Angels,” “Watchers,” and elim are used interchangeably in the scrolls.

I’m sure Michael and I will continue to disagree on many of these points, but this kind of discourse helps me to refine and revise my arguments. For that I’m grateful for Michael’s participation and hope that I can contribute in some small thing to his view of the issue.


Michael Heiser on My SBL Paper

Michael Heiser has been kind enough to take the time to respond to a paper I presented in Atlanta entitled “What is Deity in LXX Deuteronomy?” I appreciated his attendance at my paper and I appreciate his comments on his blog. I’ve got to finish some exams over the next week and finally put a fork in my coursework, so I won’t be able to really engage his thoughts until then, but check out what he has to say in the mean time.


Psalm 82 Paper Online

I recently submitted a term paper on Psalm 82 that I’ve put online here. I hope to further develop the paper (my term papers are usually only half-baked), so I appreciate any feedback. I would point out that I have shifted positions on what I think to be one of the more important aspects of modern study of the psalm, namely the distinction in the psalm between Yhwh and Elyon. I have concluded that the psalm likely comes from the exilic period, which is much too late for Yhwh to be distinguished from Elyon. Rather, I feel the author has drawn his narrative framework from an older northern tradition that likely made the distinction, but understood the two deities to be identical, and organized the content of the psalm accordingly. I also provide what I believe to be a rather unique discussion of the psalm’s genre. I hope you are able to get something useful out of it.


Richard Hess on Monotheism

Richard Hess has an interesting post up on Bible and Interpretation on monotheism in the pre-exilic period. The title of the post is “Did Anyone Believe in One God before the Greeks?” although Hess states in the second paragraph that he is not discussing philosophical monotheism, “such as emerged in the world of Classical Greece,” but the practice of worshipping only one deity. I felt a little duped by the title of his paper, since it was explicitly about belief in one deity and the relationship to the Greeks, but the paper is thought provoking nonetheless.

Hess’ thesis is basically that monotheism should be understood as the worship of a single deity to the exclusion of all others. In that sense, Egypt was monotheistic during the Amarna period, and Israel was monotheistic from the reforms of Josiah and afterward. Simple enough. Interestingly, both Tom Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche come to Hess’ defense in the comments (note also Philip Davies’ and T. S. Verenna’s comments).

I take issue with Hess on a few grounds. First, what, specifically, comprises worship? Sacrifice? Prayer? Any kind of gesture or address? I think this is a crucial issue, but it’s glossed over (granted, it’s a blog post and not a monograph). Moving past that, I cannot agree with his argument about pillared figurines. If pillared figurines are not representative of Asherah, but are votive offerings to a deity, which deity is it? Are we simply to assume it is Yhwh? Does “votive offering” comprise cultic worship? Second, the fact that they are cheap and mass produced hardly indicates they are not intended to represent deities. Poor people wanted images of deities, too, and worship was not the sole purview of the state. Third, what of Anat-Yahu? What of prayers offered to saints? What of the reverence of angels in the Greco-Roman period? What of James Spinti’s mug? (ZING!) I don’t think those issues are aberrant enough to just be dismissed.

Hess states in his article, “The textual evidence from outside the Bible provides a uniform witness that only Yahweh was officially worshiped in Judah and its capital.” I find the notion that the state’s “official” worship is alone determinative for this question quite problematic. John Barton and Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s recent volume, Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah, did an excellent job of breaking down the false dichotomy of “official” vs. “popular” religion. Even within that dichotomy, though, shouldn’t “popular religion” have a say in what a nation collectively believes? If the question is just one of any significant segment of the Israelite demographic adhering to the worship of only one deity, then certainly it goes back further than Josiah.

Next, I am not convinced that monotheism is best defined in terms of worship. The term “monotheism” was coined in reference to belief in a single deity (specifically, as opposed to atheism). Scholarship has been trying for years to nail down a useful way to apply this term to ancient Judaism, but as Peter Hayman’s 1991 JJS article has shown, that attempt has largely failed. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have manifested belief in numerous divine beings since their inception and down to this very day. The notion that monotheism should be viewed as exclusively expressed through worship rather than belief is, in my opinion, an attempt to skirt that fact. In saying this I’m not arguing that monotheism is inapplicable to Judaism and Christianity. I believe it can be applied to ancient Judaism, but I think one shouldn’t be looking only at worship to identify the genesis of a phenomenon that is rather universally understood as a belief first and a practice second (and to mark a distinction between “monotheism” as a practice and “philosophical monotheism” as a belief is to classify the latter as conceptually subordinate).

Lastly, if monotheism finds its genesis in the exclusion of other deities from worship, what shall we call the development of the notion that God is, in a significant sense, the only god that exists? This notion did in very fact develop, just ask any Christian or Jew on the street what monotheism means. What happens if you point out that other entities are called “gods” in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls? “Those are just angels,” or some variation will likely be the response. “They’re only contingent/created/subordinate beings.” See a similar comment from Deuteronomy Rabbah which responds to the fact that angels are called “gods” in the text: “‘Do not go astray after one of these angels who came down with me; they are all my servants. I am the Lord, your God.” See James Spinti’s comment on the matter:

I believe in the gods (and goddesses). Yes, all of them, Ba`al, ‘El, Zeus, Jupiter, Apollo, etc. OK, you can get up off the floor now and let me finish. I believe that they are divine beings, but that they are created ones, under the thumb, so to speak, of YHWH. I suspect I am in the minority in the Western world, bordering on insane, but in the 2/3 world, I would be considered sane and reasonable.

In a recent paper I tried to show that this identification of the gods with angels occurred at a specific point in time, and accomplished a sort of ontological distinction between “the One God” and another group of “gods” to a sufficient degree that subsequent Jews and Christians were (and remain) perfectly happy to insist that only one God exists.

In my opinion, and I welcome comments, this development is far more intimately linked with the common ancient or modern Christian or Jew’s notion of monotheism than the worship of a single deity without necessarily denying the existence of other deities. I think the latter is an important step in the development of monotheism that deserves attention, but since the word “monotheism” was intended to describe a belief, and is most commonly used to describe a belief, I think it more useful to allow it to apply to a significant development in belief, not in religious practice.


Scholarly Hubris, James White, and Psalm 82

I recently commented on Michael Heiser’s posts about ETS, Psalm 82, and James White, and his discussion has catalyzed further posts from others that I thought merited some attention. I’d like to comment more fully on the arguments put forth by the Alpha & Omega Ministries vis-à-vis Psalm 82, as well.

A&O Ministries Responses

I’ll start with James White and Alpha & Omega Ministries. I’ve written a post responding to James’ critique here of Michael’s position regarding deities vs. humans in Psalm 82. It is rather lengthy, and deals point by point with his comments, so I’ve put it in PDF form and posted it online here. I will summarize by stating James’ criticisms fall well short of substantiating his position. Heiser’s thesis, that Psalm 82 refers to gods and not humans, is supported by the literary and grammatical context, and James doesn’t really engage either. I’ve not rehashed Michael’s discussion in the post, but those interested in his argument can find his ETS paper here. I agree with Michael that one would have to address the issues he brings up in order to undermine his reading. Simply asserting a different reading with only token jabs in the direction of his argument will not do the trick.

One of James’ colleagues, going by the moniker Tur8infan, has also posted a response to Michael (here). This post makes a much more concerted effort to respond to the literary context, but also misses the mark with some rather peculiar exegesis. For instance, he states, “God accuses these judges of judging unjustly, and particularly accepting the bribes of the wicked.” I find no mention of bribes anywhere in Psalm 82. Ps 82:2 asks (literally), “How long will you render iniquitous judgment and lift up the faces of the wicked?” To “lift up the face” of someone is to show them favor or partiality. The notion that bribery is compelling this partiality is not found in the text. Why does Tur8infan read it into the text? It’s a lot easier to read the text as a reference to human judges if it references bribery. Gods would have no need of bribery. Whether Tur8infan simply misreads the text or intentionally skews it in favor of his reading is unclear.

Tur8infan then goes on to argue that Michael’s argument regarding Ps 82:6–7 is problematic. Michael argues (as do I) that the combination of אמרתי and אכן in those two verses combine to rhetorically assert a stark and unexpected contrast. Since the first verse highlights the divine nature of the beings in question, and the second highlights the fact that they will die “as humanity,” we must understand the contrast to be between their nature as gods and the fact of their impending deaths (which are never narrated anywhere).  Tur8infan argues, however, that כאדם, “as humanity,” is used elsewhere (Job 31:33; Hos 6:7) in ways that point to identification with humanity and not distinction from it. This is specious reasoning, though. The two examples use the term in drastically different contexts, and the end result is still a reference to behavior characteristic of humanity (or of a particular human). That’s exactly the usage in Ps 82:7, only parallel passage contrasts that behavior with the nature of divinity. He goes on to argue that reading “one of the princes” in the second half of Ps 82:7 supports reading the first half “as a man,” or even “as Adam,” rather than the collective “humanity,” since the former are singular. How this argument undermines Michael’s reading is beyond me, but the collective “humanity” is still morphologically singular in Hebrew, and so his argument has little force. He concludes this section:

The best sense of the text is that God is warning these judges of their impending doom. We might paraphrase God’s comment as: “Everyone dies (both ordinary men and princes), and you won’t be an exception.” Dr. Heiser views the comment from God as a sentence imposed on the judges, and – of course – death is a sentence for sin. It is sufficient, however, to simply view this as a proclamation of the doom that awaits unjust judges. They must die and come before the Judge of judges to answer for their injustice.

This neglects to respond to the problem of the contrast drawn between vv. 6 and 7, and it doesn’t really explain how the two previous arguments support this conclusion. At the conclusion he appears to respond to the question of this contrast, but seems to misunderstand the difference between a “contrast” and a “negative consequence”:

Dr. Heiser’s comment that “This sounds as awkward as sentencing a child to grow up or a dog to bark,” seems to fail to appreciate the very different negative consequences of dying as opposed to growing up (unless one is Peter Pan) or barking. A better comparison would be the comparison in the Proverbs:

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Cautioning the fool that he will return to his folly or a dog to his vomit is not an empty statement devoid of negative connotation. Indeed, the apostle Peter refers us to this very proverb:

2 Peter 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Even so, contrary to Dr. Heiser’s suggestion that “The point of verse 6 is that, in response to their corruption, the [elohim] will be stripped of their immortality at God’s discretion and die as humans die,” the point is that these judges should be aware of their mortality and the impending judgment of God.

Tur8infan then discusses allusions to earlier sections of the Pentateuch. He states,

Dr. White has already addressed more than sufficiently the relationship of this text with the New Testament. That by itself should be a sufficient basis for rejecting Dr. Heiser’s position. Nevertheless, the Old Testament also provides additional light.

First, James White does not hold a recognized doctorate. I don’t know why he is called “Dr.” here. This page lists a “Dr. James White” as a “Critical Consultant for the NASB Update.” If this refers to the same James White, it is also mistaken. Perhaps this has slipped by James, but I wonder if he is willing to offer a correction.

Next, James’ arguments from the New Testament only hold if one presupposes the univocality of the Bible. I do not. In fact, biblical univocality is flatly precluded (see here). There are far too many ideological and factual disagreements between the testaments and books, and even within books, to assert that the Bible is unified from beginning to end. Tur8infan goes on:

The question is, where did God describe these unjust judges as “gods” (elohim)? It seems unlikely that this is simply a reference back to verse 1 of the psalm, though we cannot completely eliminate the possibility.

There are several places where judges are referred to as “elohim” in the Pentateuch:

Exodus 21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges (elohim); he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

Exodus 22:8-9

If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (elohim), to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges (elohim); and whom the judges (elohim) shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

Exodus 22:28 Thou shalt not revile the gods (elohim), nor curse the ruler of thy people.

And beyond the Pentateuch:

1 Samuel 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge (elohim) shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

It should be noted, of course, that although that is the KJV’s translation of the verses, as is so often the case, many of the modern translations disagree, using “God” instead of judges. Probably the strongest of these verses is Exodus 22:28, in that it provides a parallel between “reviling the gods” and “cursing the ruler of thy people,” which serves to demonstrate that the two concepts are analogous.

I’ve dealt with these texts here, and will reiterate that the word elohim simply does not mean “judges” or “rulers.” There is plenty of scholarship on this issue (see pp. 255–58 here, for instance), but Tur8infan does not address it and is likely not aware of it. I’ve come across a single publication from the last 75 years which defends the reading “judges” at Exod 21:6 and 22:8–9. It dismisses reading the text as a reference to deities simply because teraphim are “almost always condemned directly” by the biblical text, and thus, “It is inconceivable that this law, or any of the laws, of which God has said, ‘these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them’ (Ex. 21:1), would contain an injunction to go before the teraphim” (J. Robert Vannoy, “The Use of the Word ha-elohim in Ex 21:6 and 22:7, 8,” in The Law and the Prophets [Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974], 228–29). The author then goes on to list texts from Exodus 20 and 23 which he feels preclude reading “gods” in Exod 21 and 22. Again, univocality is presupposed. That the texts in question might represent older laws which were incorporated verbatim into the Covenant Code (a well established practice) is not addressed. The author rejects the idea that the text refers specifically to Israel’s God (the conclusion favored by most these days) because the verb in Exod 22:8 is plural (which is not unheard of in reference to God), and because bringing someone “before God” sounds vague to the author and might just refer to bringing someone before God’s representatives. See Wright’s book, linked to above, for further discussion of why “judges” is unacceptable.

Scholarly Hubris

James White’s most recent post on A&O Ministries chides Michael Heiser for what James calls “scholarly hubris.” Because Michael would prefer to engage this discussion on an academic level rather than a purely devotional one, James takes issue. He states,

Heiser is basically attempting to “pull rank” based upon some kind of academic authority

Never mind that Michael has provided a rather detailed argument that James’ post manages to never acknowledge. James is also in disagreement because he feels their debate must presuppose the univocality of scripture, and that Michael isn’t playing by the rules:

I do not apologize for calling for an interpretation of sacred scripture that actually takes the entirety of its revelation into consideration.

Can James defend this presupposition on academic grounds? Certainly not. James appears to be criticizing Michael for his academic integrity. For James, such “integrity” is worthless, as it neglects what James believes to be the primary (sole?) purpose of Evangelical scholarship:

Christian scholarship is a practice of SERVANTHOOD, period, end of discussion.

For James, Evangelical scholarship must “edify the body.” He concludes:

We have different audiences, to be sure. But I refuse to give up the middle, balanced ground we have staked out over the decades. On the one side you have the likes of Dave Hunt, who mocks all study of the original languages (except when it suits his purposes). He represents the reprehensible attack upon serious study of the biblical text that is so common in certain elements of evangelicalism. On the other hand you have the attitude expressed by Heiser here, which elevates the academy above the church, makes “peer review” the standard rather than the expression of the mind of the church in the wisdom of those men called as elders whose duty it is to actually teach and preach the Word of God, so that the edification of the body and training in godliness and truth becomes a mere “by-product” of the all-important intellectual activity of the academy. Hebrew and Greek are vital, but if you become so focused upon the languages so as to lose the balance and harmony of all of Scripture, well…you are not helping yourself or anyone else.

In other words, facts are only useful insofar as they support one’s religious dogmas. Once they stop doing that, they’re “unbalanced,” and useless.

A Rarity

Nick Norelli has responded to Michael’s comment by pointing out that he didn’t find James’ original post to be impugning Heiser. After reading over it carefully, I must agree that I don’t see much in the way of impugning (aside from his implication concerning Michael’s “scholarship”). The tone, for the most part, is not unlike the tone of many academic papers, although you do get the sense James feels he is condescending to address these questions, as if his time is much to valuable for those misguided academicians. James’ more recent response, however, appeals with much more regularity to ad hominem to mask its refusal to respond to the points of Michael’s argument. Regarding Nick’s agreement about Psalm 82 referring to humans and not deities, I would point to Michael’s ETS paper and my discussion here and in the short response to James that I put online. I think Psalm 82 is a fascinating text and would love to see more discussion of it on the blogs.

Conclusion

I think Michael is doing an important service to his faith community by bringing these issues to light and trying to help them understand the biblical text better. I have attended universities with Latter-day Saint and Evangelical biases, and a primary concern among students and professors in both is how to help wider lay audiences come to better understand what the Bible really says instead of just letting them perpetuate traditional dogmas, especially where they are at odds with the texts (I’ve also attended a strictly secular university). Michael is taking a big step in that direction, and I appreciate that.


Michael Heiser, SBL, and the Divine Council

Michael Heiser has two new posts up at The Naked Bible which discuss his experience at ETS and SBL last week. One discusses papers he presented at ETS entitled “Should the Plural אלהים of Psalm 82 be Understood as Men or Divine Beings?” and “What is an Elohim?” The papers are available here and here, and are closely related to other papers published previously here and here. Michael (I hope he doesn’t mind if I use his first name for convenience) also addresses an old Alpha & Omega Ministries post critiquing his view of Psalm 82. As Michael points out, James White misses the mark on a number of issues. I may write a response to it myself one day.

Michael’s other post mentions the second Early Jewish Monotheisms section from SBL, which he attended from beginning to end. He had promised to attend the paper I read in that session after a short discussion earlier this year on his blog about Mormonism and the Divine Council. I hope he wasn’t disappointed in my paper.

A bit on that Mormonism discussion, by the way: Michael’s work is often quoted among lay and academic Latter-day Saint crowds as a result of his position on “the gods” in texts like Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32. Someone evidently emailed Dr. Heiser to ask if Mormons were representing his work accurately online. He states,

I answered the above question negatively since the emailer informed me that some Mormons on the web are thinking that I believe Yahweh had a father distinct from Himself. Nope. No idea how anyone who’s read my material could come away with that one.

I agree that it’s hard to imagine that someone could come away from his material thinking he espoused such an idea, which is one of the primary reasons I believe the person who emailed him either misunderstood or misrepresented the LDS position they described. I’ve personally never seen anyone so misrepresent Michael’s position. The Latter-day Saints who participate in online discussions of this nature are well aware of his position.

Anyway, it was nice to meet Michael (taller than I thought), and I’m glad he enjoyed hearing Larry Hurtado. Before the session began I was anticipating a question or comment from Michael on my view of Yhwh and El as originally distinct deities, but the issue was raised several times in the other papers, and my view was reiterated each time. It probably would have been a little tedious to bring it up after all that. Michael’s dissertation was mentioned several times, and both Larry and I made reference in our papers to his phrase “species uniqueness.” On his blog Michael mentions he’d like to return to his dissertation and see it published. I think it would be a great idea. It was nice to see so much interaction on these topics, and I look forward to future sessions. I’m told Mark Smith is interested in the question of monotheism in wisdom literature for next year’s session, which sounds like it could be interesting.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 256 other followers