El Elyon, Begetter of Heaven and Earth

One of my proposals was accepted for presentation in the Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature program unit of this year’s SBL annual meeting:

El Elyon, Begetter of Heaven and Earth

While the procreative nuance of the root qnh/y in contexts related to conception and childbirth is generally recognized, scholarship has been relatively reticent regarding such a reading in Gen 14:19, 22, where Melchizedek blesses Abram by ’ēl ‘elyôn qonēh šāmayim wā’āreṣ. This paper will trace the development of ’ēl ‘elyôn qonēh šāmayim wā’āreṣ from its Syro-Palestinian predecessor, ’l qn ’rṣ, through to its biblical adaptations. Analogous Assyro-Babylonian appellatives, generally marginalized in this discussion, will be incorporated to provide a more comprehensive context within which the semantic range of the phrase may be more fully delineated. A postexilic shift in the understanding of the phrase will be shown to have arisen as a result of the theological sensitivities of later transmitters of the text. This will account for the translation equivalents of the Second Temple Period often appealed to by scholars in an effort to retroject an “orthodox” reading of the phrase into early Israelite theology. Ultimately, a procreative reading of qonēh šāmayim wā’āreṣ (“Begetter of Heaven and Earth”) will be shown to be original and preferable in the case of Gen 14:19, 22.

I think this is a great topic, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for my proposal for the new Early Jewish Monotheisms unit.


2 responses to “El Elyon, Begetter of Heaven and Earth

  • Nick Norelli

    This is completely off topic, but have you read Benjamin Sommers’ The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel and if so, what were your thoughts?

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      I’ve read a bit of it, and what little I’ve read has been pretty interesting, but I think he marginalizes some textual issues and makes more of the idea of fluidity than I think needs to be made. I am looking forward to a close reading over the summer.

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