Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14, KJV)
Isaiah 7.14 is one of three prophetic sign-acts in Isaiah chapters 7-8 in which Isaiah of Jerusalem associates or gives an ambiguous or multivalent ominous name to a child as a means of sharing the divine message to his contemporaries. The historical context of these chapters is the Syrio-Ephraimite War. At this time Israel (the northern kingdom), Aram, and others, joined in an alliance to combat the rising Assyrian threat headed by king Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 BCE). The kingdom of Judah (the southern kingdom) would not join the alliance and so Israel and Aram sought to remove the new Judean king, Ahaz (r. ca. 734-715), from power in order to install a more politically favorable king (referred to by Isaiah as the son of Tabeel; Isa. 7.6) who would join the alliance to stop Assyria. Ahaz, however, appealed to Tiglath-pileser III for help against Israel and Aram and submitted to Assyria as vassal to suzerain, stripping the temple in the process in order to pay the necessary tribute (2 Kgs. 16:17-18). Assyria would go on to conquer Aram and reduce Israel to vassal status before Israel’s ﬁnal destruction in 722/721 BCE by Sargon II. Continue reading “Isaiah 7:14 and Scriptural Hermeneutics”
The Bible often privileges men as normative for what it means to be human, frequently considers women as inferior to men, and presents God in overwhelmingly male terms. For the contemporary believer who is committed to the full equality of men and women the problem is not simply one of reconciling isolated patriarchal, sexist, or misogynistic biblical passages with an egalitarian or feminist perspective, but the revelatory nature of the biblical text itself. “How can a text that contains so much that is damaging to women function authoritatively in the Christian community as normative of faith and life?” (36). A theology of Scripture that takes this problem seriously must reject the traditional understanding of Scripture as divinely revealed in verbal form to its ancient authors lest the pervasive androcentrism, patriarchalism, and sexism of the biblical text be understood as divinely revealed. 1) What then does it mean for Scripture to be the “Word of God”? 2) How can the Bible function authoritatively for the Church? 3) And is the Bible materially normative for modern faith and practice? Continue reading “Scriptural Authority, Normativity, and Hermeneutics: Women and the Priesthood”
The New Testament writers and early Church Fathers used the Septuagint (LXX) for proof texts and for personal and communal worship. The LXX is based on the Old Greek translations of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures Continue reading “(Re)writing the Bible in Antiquity and Today”
Although YHWH clearly was perceived by biblical authors in anthropomorphic terms, YHWH’s body was still different from regular human bodies. For YHWH, like many other deities of the ancient Near East, possessed massive size. Continue reading “My God Is Bigger Than Your God–Literally. Part VI”
Of course, much of this [i.e., that Israel worshiped El and Asherah alongside YHWH] is really to be expected given that recent syntheses of the archaeological, cultural, and literary data pertaining to the emergence of the nation of Israel in the Levant show that most of the people who would eventually compose this group were originally Canaanite. Continue reading “Polytheism and Ancient Israel’s Canaanite Heritage. Part V”
One of the most important deities that many, if not most, ancient Israelites worshiped was YHWH’s heavenly spouse or consort, the goddess Asherah (the Hebrew linguistic equivalent of Ugaritic Athirat, the wife of El). Continue reading “Asherah, God’s Wife in Ancient Israel. Part IV”
This historical reconstruction [that El was originally Israel’s chief deity, and YHWH was originally his son and the patron deity of Israel], in turn, helps to make sense of certain biblical texts which seem to indicate most naturally that El was originally the chief god of Israel and that YHWH was the patron deity of Israel. For example, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 reads:
|When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the sons of Israel. For YHWH’s portion, his people; Jacob, his allotted share.
||בְּהַנְחֵל עֶלְיוֹן גּוֹיִם בְּהַפְרִידוֹ בְּנֵי אָדָם יַצֵּב גְּבֻלֹת עַמִּים לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ כִּי חֵלֶק יְהֹוָה עַמּוֹ יַעֲקֹב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתֽוֹ
Continue reading “God, Gods, and Sons (and Daughters) of God in the Hebrew Bible. Part III”
As the very name Israel might indicate on account of its theophoric element el (אל), it appears that the chief god worshiped in earliest Israel was El, the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon in the Late Bronze Age. The god El has been revealed most clearly to the modern inquirer through the discovery of the Ugaritic texts at Tel Ras Shamra in 1929, a flourishing kingdom-city-state on the Syrian coast during the second half of the second millennium B.C.E. As biblical tradition affirms as represented by the E and P sources (probably to be dated to the eighth and seventh/ sixth centuries B.C.E., respectively), throughout the book of Genesis the ancient forbears of Israel worshiped the god El. For example, Exodus 6:2-3 (P), recounting the divine theophany of YHWH to Moses at Sinai, states: Continue reading “When Jehovah Was Not the God of the Old Testament. Part II”
Introduction: Was Ancient Israel Monotheistic?
Western Society is perhaps more indebted to the Hebrew Bible than to any other book, and arguably the most famous teaching associated with the Hebrew Bible is that of absolute monotheism. This position famously affirms that there is only one god in existence and no other(s). For example, Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, has often been cited since antiquity as supporting this understanding of monotheism. It declares, “Listen, O Israel, YHWH is our god, YHWH alone [lit. YHWH (is) one]” (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד). This understanding of ancient Israelite faith, found in both popular and scholarly circles, purportedly traces itself in the biblical narrative to at least the time when YHWH revealed himself at Sinai to Moses and Israel, if not all the way back to the creation of the world in Genesis 1 when God alone created the world by his word. Naturally, this view has been held to be in direct opposition to the Mesopotamian theogonic and cosmogonic myths, such as the infamous Enuma Elish, which recounts the creation of the gods and the world through fierce battles and rivalries between the personified primal elements of nature and the many gods who eventually tame them. Continue reading “Does the Old Testament Teach Absolute Monotheism? Part I”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is God’s power for salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, as well as the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith(fullness) for faith(fullness), as it has been written, ‘(and) the Righteous One/righteous will live through faith(fullness).’ -Romans 1.16-17 
Few passages in the New Testament have elicited more debate throughout the centuries than Romans 1.16-17 and its explanatory corollary passages in Romans 3 and 5. Continue reading “Discussion and Implications of the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP)”