The Divine Council and its Doctrinal Implications: an EV-Mormon Discussion

Several months ago, I mentioned Mike Heiser’s paper, “ You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82 .” Heiser wrote his dissertation on the topic of the Divine Council, and runs a website entitled The Divine Council which is aimed somewhat at Evangelicals, who tend to misunderstand the Old Testament text on this topic. He also works for Logos, which provides excellent Bible resources and study tools.
Heiser, an Evangelical, “feel[s] more strongly than ever that there is not a single doctrine that is untouched by the subject.”

He presented 8 ideas that Mormons would probably agree with, but Evangelicals would not, such as “The term monotheism is inadequate to describe what it is
Israel believed about God and the members of his council.”

He then presented 8 ideas that Evangelicals would probably agree with, but Mormons would not, such as “Corporeal appearances of deity are not evidence that God the Father has a corporeal nature.” I don’t disagree with a few of his eight listed here, but it’s a thoughtful list.

Heiser agreed to allow FARMS to distribute his paper, with a follow-up by LDS student/author/good guy David Bokovoy (Hebrew Bible, Brandeis), and a final word by Heiser.

The whole thing is well worth reading, and a model of LDS-Evangelical scholarly interaction.

Special bonus: On his website, my blogname  Nitsav is the second Hebrew word from the right.

8 Replies to “The Divine Council and its Doctrinal Implications: an EV-Mormon Discussion”

  1. Just a quick comment before I actually read the article…

    “Corporeal appearances of deity are not evidence that God the Father has a corporeal nature.”

    On its face that’s true… the god of the Old Testament is Christ — who didn’t have a body. Just a thought.

  2. Nitsav, Thanks for the interesting links, but I have to admit that I’m out of my league. (If anyone thinks to post a summary, I’d be anxious to read it….)

    There was one of his “8 points that Mormons would disagree with” that I didn’t understand why I should disagree:

    4. The notion of a godhead does not derive from Hellenistic philosophy. Its antecedents are Israelite and Jewish.

    Why should this bother me as a Mormon?

    Also, points 6 and 7 could be boiled down to “Psalm 82 doesn’t support or deny X.” Assuming that I believe X, why would this silence bother me?

    6. Corporeal appearances of deity are not evidence that God the Father has a corporeal nature.

    7. The concept of the image of God does not advance the idea that there is a genus equation of God and humankind or that God was once a man.

  3. I’m just reading it.

    For his points Mormons would disagree with.

    1. I have a very difficult time seeing the OT as discussing anything ontologically. So I’ll certainly disagree there. However clearly the idea of some level of an ontological gap between God and man is compatible with Mormonism even if it is a very minority view as compared to the rest of us who embrace the KFD. (grin)

    3. Saying that El and YHWH are indistinguishable in Israelite religion seems difficult to sustain from the scholars I’ve read. That they may be blended at times is not to say they are indistinguishable.

    4. I don’t understand why he thinks Mormons believe the godhead comes from Hellenism. I think he’s conflating the notion of a certain kind of ontological unity, which I think does make sense only in a Hellenistic context, from the notion of a more vague Godhead which I see Mormonism as demanding.

    5. The issue of YHWH’s birth is complex – even for Mormons, since technically while Mormons typically designate YHWH as Christ (who is therefore birthed) we recognize I think that it isn’t always so used. (And of course there is the interesting merkabah literature relative to Mosiah 15 and the notion of Metatron as the lesser YHWH)

    6. As I said logically corporeal appearances of deity need not imply God has a body.

    8. I’m not sure I buy his claim that Jesus wasn’t using Psalms 82 to talk about people. So I definitely do disagree with him there.

  4. Corporeal appearances of deity are not evidence that God the Father has a corporeal nature.

    But we don’t really rely on this to establish that God has a body, we go to the D&C…

  5. Matt, I suspect he’s thinking of various “debates” where Mormon apologists will often run to Ps 82 to defend our beliefs. I agree that this is ultimately silly since it’s not why we believe them at all. And to Biblical passages we need only show how our interpretation works and is consistent with the texts.

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