Polytheism and Ancient Israel’s Canaanite Heritage. Part V

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”

God, Gods, and Sons (and Daughters) of God in the Hebrew Bible. Part III

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”

When Jehovah Was Not the God of the Old Testament. Part II

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.[1] 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[2]), 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”

Does the Old Testament Teach Absolute Monotheism? Part I

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.[1] 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,[2] if not all the way back to the creation of the world in Genesis 1 when God alone created the world by his word.[3] Naturally, this view has been held to be in direct opposition to the Mesopotamian theogonic and cosmogonic myths, such as the infamous Enuma Elish,[4] 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”

Discussion and Implications of the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP)

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 [1]

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)”

The JST and the Hebrew Bible

Hello Faith Promoting Friends,

Well, despite a glorious introduction as a new contributor, I’m afraid I’ve not done much more than put up a few thoughts critiquing the way we, as Latter-day Saints, traditionally use Job 19:26 as a proof text for the resurrection.

Alas, not very exciting,or productive, I know.

Yet friends, it’s the New Year, and time therefore for Yours Truly to repent and set a goal to participate more fully in this worthwhile forum.

So here we go!

Recently, I was especially interested in the December 11th post by my friend G. Wesley who raised some interesting points by drawing our attention to the issue of what to do with the JST and the GNT.  G. Wesley finishes his intriguing post with a question, i.e. “what of [the JST] and the Hebrew Bible”?

I would like to use that question as a springboard to share my conviction that despite my appreciation for the JST, I cannot accept the work as a restoration of an original biblical text.  Whatever we do with the JST, we cannot employ the Book of Moses in an effort to restore the earliest form of Genesis. When all is said and done, the Book of Moses is a 19th century revision of the KJV of the opening chapters of the Bible.

Taking the first two chapters of the book as a guide, Genesis begins with an amalgamation of two separate versions of creation, the second, which commences in Genesis 2:4b, actually predates and appears to have directly influenced the version that now opens the Bible with the famous clause, “In the beginning…”

The Book of Moses attempts to bridge the obvious literary gap between these two disparate sources by identifying the creation story in Genesis 1:-2:4a as purely “spiritual” in nature (see Moses 3:5).  This attempt to reconcile two historically distinct sources reveals that Moses does not predate Genesis 1-2.

End of story.

Yet even adopting a traditional view that ignores the observations of contemporary biblical scholarship, it is clear via the Prophet Joseph himself that whatever the Book of Moses does, it does not restore what Joseph himself identified as the original version of the text.

Towards the end of his ministry, the Prophet Joseph declared that prior to the days of uninspired tampering, the earliest version of Genesis 1:1 read: “The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods” (Teachings, 348).

Now, if we consider Moses 2:1 in light of this teaching, a verse which would, if the Book of Moses contained a restored original text, reproduce the earliest version of Genesis 1:1, we gain the following insight:

“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest” (Moses 2:1)

And there we have it.  No mention of heads, or of gods, or even of councils.  Moses 2:1 revises Genesis 1:1 to simply read as a first person divine narrative.  So clearly even if we ignore the implications of biblical scholarship and simply rely upon the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, when it comes to the Book of Moses, the JST does not restore an original text.

Hence, if we cannot use the JST to recreate the earliest biblical manuscripts, what can believing Latter-day Saints do with the JST?

Well, I don’t pretend to have all of the answers.  Heck, I don’t even assume to hold the best answers.  But I do have a few ideas that have worked for me personally that I’ve gained while pondering the matter.  I’ll share these ideas in part two.

In the meantime,

Happy New Year to all!!

Child Sacrifice, A Traditional Religious Practice in Ancient Israel?

Scholars continue to debate a number of important issues concerning the nature of human (child) sacrifices in the ancient Near East, including the origins of the rite, to whom these sacrifices were intended, and by whom they were performed.  A number of books dedicated to the topic have appeared in recent years,[1] and many scholarly books pertaining to the history of Israelite religions have included discussions of these issues as well.[2] Especially vexing as pertains to the biblical material is the question of whether there was in fact a god named Molech/Molek to whom these sacrifices were being performed, and whether or not the biblical phrase “to make pass through the fire” refers to child sacrifice or simply a ritual of dedication.  Continue reading “Child Sacrifice, A Traditional Religious Practice in Ancient Israel?”

Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark, written c. 65-70 C.E., is the earliest of the four gospels (even being edited and reused as a source text for the Gospels of Luke and Matthew), and offers a unique perspective among the gospels on the meaning of discipleship and following Jesus. [1]  Mark places heavy emphasis on the suffering(s) and death of Jesus, and understands true Christian discipleship in terms of literally following Jesus’ example through experiencing and enduring suffering and persecution for the gospel (Mark 8.34; 10.28). Continue reading “Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark”