“Genesis: The Missing Chapters” from Exploring Our Matrix

James McGrath asks an important question on his blog. He wonders what happened to Israel’s theogonies. Specifically, he wants to know why they seemed to have vanished without a trace, rather than being the object of vehement polemics:

The thought struck me as I was thinking about the plurals in Genesis 1-3, where God is speaking but we are never told whom he is addressing. It seems to me surprising that we are never given an account of the creation or of the begetting of intermediary beings, “gods” or “angels”. Given the controversies surrounding the topic, we might have expected at least a polemical account that sought to combat assumptions others had about them and their origins, much as the author of some of the Genesis material polemicizes against the idea that the sun, moon and stars are deities. Why do we instead get nothing?

I made a comment on his blog, but I thought I would pontificate a little more here. I believe we get nothing because there were several layers of theological development following the disappearance of Israelite theogony. In other words, by the time of the later redactions of the texts that now appear in the Hebrew Bible, the idea of an origin of the gods had long been ignored. The only remnants of that theogony survived in select cultic formulae and literary type-scenes. For example, Gen 14:19,22’s use of the participle קנה survives, in my opinion, because it was not associated with Yahweh, and no red flags popped up when the Syro-Palestinian qn ‘rs wšmm was edited to read עשה שמים וארץ. This wasn’t an issue because of theogony, though. I believe it was an issue because of the procreative nuance of the root qny in such formulae. Theogony was not an issue by that time as  a result of the collapsing of the tiers of the Israelite pantheon sometime during the ninth or eighth centuries BCE. Thus we’re left with a stack of ideologies scrubbed clean by the last contributors, but with older themes creeping through in places.

That’s just my off-the-cuff opinion, but I’d appreciate your thoughts.


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