Next Thursday at 4 PM EST (2 PM MST), I will join Debra Scoggins Ballentine, Mark McEntire, Brian Rainey, and Jen Singletary over Zoom to discuss my doctoral dissertation, “Deity and Divine Agency in the Hebrew Bible: Cognitive Perspectives.” To see more info, register to attend, and to get a pre-circulated paper outlining my dissertation, visit this link.
Thanks so much to Eva Mroczek and the rest of the folks at the BRANE Collective for this amazing opportunity!
“My Name is In Him”: The Messenger of YHWH and Distributed Agency in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
This paper examines the nature and function of the Hebrew Bible’s “messenger of YHWH,” focusing particularly on the blending of the messenger’s identity with that of YHWH. It will argue that the earliest appearances of the messenger in the biblical narratives arise from the textual interpolation of the word malak in the interest of obscuring YHWH’s physical presence and activity among the Israelites. These interpolations will be shown to have predated other narrative traditions within the Hebrew Bible, but as a result of cognitive mechanisms related to the conceptualization of divine agency and its communicability that had long been in place within Israelite and Assyro-Babylonian cult practices, later authors were equipped to seamlessly adopt the notion of the mediation of a semi-autonomous divine agent who could speak and act in the very name of the God of Israel. This distributable divine agency would become conceptualized in one influential iteration as YHWH’s “name,” which could indwell architecture as well as anthropomorphic agents, extending the deity’s presence well beyond the conceptual confines of earlier tradition and cult. The implications of this understanding of the Israelite conceptualization of divine agency are far reaching.