Polytheism in the Book of Daniel, a late second temple religious document

by fulltimestudent 54 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • fulltimestudent

    As Jehovah's witnesses we committed ourselves to a blind belief in a monotheistic Judaism that was automatically transmitted to a new religious organisation, started (we were taught) by Jesus.

    That's the premise which this thread will discuss. I suggest that sufficient evidence is available to throw doubt on both those beliefs. So this thread will argue (over about a week-hopefully) that:

    1. There was evidence of a belief in polytheism in the Judaism of the late second temple period.

    2. That Christianity remained a branch of Judaism for a long period.

  • fulltimestudent

    The theology of the witnesses was defined initially by the beliefs taught by Charles Russell. After his death, Joseph Rutherford obtained control of the legal organs used by Russell to disseminate his theology and later to organise his followers. Rutherford's name was attached as author to many publications disseminated during his presidency, but it is thought, by some at least, that they were ghost-written by Fred Franz. True or not true, it seems clear that by 1940, Franz was installed as the chief theologian of the Watchtower Society and Jehovah's witnesses, and that major beliefs of the witnesses were established during this period.

    To what extent Franz followed scholastic discussion in the academic world is not clear, but it can be suggested that the theological concepts taught by the witnesses are now at variance with the views of most scholars with an interest in both second temple and post second-temple Judaism and early Christianity.

    To be up-front, in the first part of this discussion, the views of Professor Daniel Boyarin (of the University of California at Berkeley will be used. His home page is at: http://nes.berkeley.edu/Web_Boyarin/BoyarinHomePage.html

  • fulltimestudent

    In 2012 Boyarin published a book entitled, The Jewish Gospels: The story of the Jewish Christ. (New York, The New Press).

    Last year (as I recall it) Doug Mason drew this book to our attention, and I'm grateful that he did so.

    If readers here have not yet heard of Boyarin's book, may i quote the Amazon overview:

    "In this powerful, groundbreaking work, Boyarin guides us through a rich tapestry of new discoveries and ancient scriptures to make the powerful case that our conventional understandings of Jesus and of the origins of Christianity are wrong. Boyarin’s scrupulously illustrated account argues that the coming of the Messiah was fully imagined in the ancient Jewish texts. Jesus, moreover, was embraced by many Jews as this person, and his core teachings were not at all a break from Jewish beliefs and teachings. Jesus and his followers, Boyarin shows, were simply Jewish. What came to be known as Christianity came much later, as religious and political leaders sought to impose a new religious orthodoxy that was not present at the time of Jesus’s life."

    What I want to focus on in this thread however is the first chapter, which Boyarin named, "From Son of God to Son of Man, " and in particular his analysis of Daniel 7:9,10, 13, 14.

    “I watched till thrones were put in place,
    And the Ancient of Days was seated;
    His garment was white as snow,
    And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
    His throne was a fiery flame,
    Its wheels a burning fire;
    10 A fiery stream issued
    And came forth from before Him.
    A thousand thousands ministered to Him;
    Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
    The court[b] was seated,
    And the books were opened.


    “I was watching in the night visions,
    And behold, One like the Son of Man,
    Coming with the clouds of heaven!
    He came to the Ancient of Days,
    And they brought Him near before Him.
    14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
    That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
    His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    Which shall not pass away,
    And His kingdom the one
    Which shall not be destroyed.

    I'm sure that nearly everyone here (as I did) read that an uncountable number of times in the field work. But did we read it with open eyes and minds. We shall see.

  • fulltimestudent

    And here's the point that Boyarin makes, that I think we all missed when we read that text.

    Boyarin writes: (pp.32,33)

    "What this text projects is a second divine figure, to whom will be given eternal dominion of the entire world. ...
    it (the text) brings us close to at least some of the crucial characteristics of the figure named later, the Messiah or the Christ.
    What are these characteristics?
    He is divine.
    He is in human form
    He may very well be portrayed as younger-appearing divinity than the Ancient of Days.
    He will be enthroned on high.
    He is given power and dominion, even sovereignty on earth.

    Boyarin then goes on to argue that these are the characteristics applied to Jesus as he will appear in the Gospels,

    The point I want to make is that a second divine figure is not monotheistic. This is plainly, polytheistic.

    The second century Book of Daniel, is therefore plainly, a record of Jewish acceptance of polytheism by the time of the book's writing.

    Further, it is highly suggestive that the early Christians who accepted the divinity of Jesus (and, eventually the trinity) cannot be regarded as 'apostate.'

  • True to the End
    True to the End

    I have not read the book but I can tell you that the book of Daniel is not promoting the worship of more than one God.

    The word God as we understand it today, does not, and, did not, appear in the Bible. The Ancient Words in the Hebrew and the Greek portions of the Bible that are rendered as "god" only mean "a mighty one".

    The Jews were taught to worship only one "Mighty One" - the Almighty mighty one.

    The messiah was / is a mighty one but not on the same level as the Almighty mighty one. So in that sense the Bible teaches that there are many "mighty ones". but there is only one Almighty Mighty one that man should worship.

    In todays language there are 3 types of gods (mighty ones) mentioned in the Bible. There is the one True Almighty God that deserves our worship/service. There are the false gods that people worship/serve that do not deserve it. (Not approved of by the Almighty) And then there are the third party gods. these are the ones approved of by the Almighty to accomplish his purpose. Jesus is one of these, so are the faithful angels as well as some men such as Moses and some of the judges that the Almighty himself called gods.

  • fulltimestudent
    True to the End2 hours ago

    I have not read the book but I can tell you that the book of Daniel is not promoting the worship of more than one God.

    Thank you TTTE, for sharing. I appreciate that what you wrote is likely your cherished opinion. And, I once held a similar opinion, and if it was well argued, it may even be worthy of consideration.

    But as your argument stands, its just a mass of assertions, and to be honest, if I wrote that for any assignment in some of my Judeao-Christian classes, my Supervisor would refuse to mark it and award me a zero. Now, I would not expect you to write at that type of academic level, but at least you could dignify your opinions by making some kind of reference to a proof point.

    Hellenic religious belief is accused (by many Christians, particularly early ones) of being polytheistic. When actually they were moving toward precisely the position you are defending. (i.e. a chief god and minor gods). So what's the difference between your position and the Hellenic position?

  • TheOldHippie
    I think I too will go and buy myself a book, quote from it, and state that "this is the truth, because this professor says so." Stay tuned!
  • fulltimestudent
    TheOldHippiean hour agoI think I too will go and buy myself a book, quote from it, and state that "this is the truth, because this professor says so." Stay tuned!

    That's a bitchy sort of remark, TOH!

    I will wait with interest to see the totally original thought that you are going to reveal to us.
    Near all human ideas are based on previous information in a series of steps,that slowly accrues information particularly via the process called "peer review."

    Boyarin, may be wrong, and you are perfectly at liberty to state with some kind of reference, where you think his arguments fall short.

    Finally, the whole point of the peer review process is to avoid the situation that you describe in your words, "this is the truth, because this professor says so."

    That's the mistake we all made as witnesses, as we accepted Freddy's viewpoint as sacred, albeit subject to alteration by the mysterious process of "new light," for which I never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how "new light' was supposed to work.

  • True to the End
    True to the End

    I researched original Hebrew and Greek meanings of the various words used for God.

    Using the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew dictionary of the first word in the Bible for God
    (Gen 1:1) it tells us that elohim is a plural word that refers to a mighty or powerful ones or majestic one. Often judges and rulers

    Strongs Hebrew dictionary tells us that elohim refers to exceeding, very great, mighty ones.

    The English word God has been applied to elohim as it seems to best fit an exceeding, very great, mighty person.

    The English word for God comes from an ancient Germanic word that means “an invoked one” and is relatively new in the English language.

    Strongs Greek dictionary tells us that the Greek word theo is of an uncertain affinity. That means that scholars are not sure just were this Greek word comes from. In the Bible it used as a corresponding word to el and elohim

    The word Hebrew word el according to strongs has the basic meaning of strength, mighty; especially great, might(-y one), power, strong

    Brown-Driver-Briggs shows the same sort of basic meaning.

    Now using the KJV it is interesting how these words have been rendered into English at different texts besides being used as god

    Take the word “el” In the KJV it is used 245 times. Of those The KJV uses it 213 times as God. This is Strongs Hebrew word number 410. However notice some other ways it is used To save space I only give part renderings

    Ge 31:29 It is in the power <0410> of my hand

    Ne 5:5 neither is it in our power <0410> to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

    Pr 3:27 when it is in the power <0410> of thine hand to do it.

    Mic 2:1 because it is in the power <0410> of their hand.

    Ps 50:1 The mighty <0410> God <0430>, even the LORD,

    Ps 82:1 in the congregation of the mighty <0410>; he judgeth among the gods.

    Ps 89:6 who among the sons of the mighty <0410> can be likened unto the LORD?

    Ps 36:6 Thy righteousness is like the great <0410> mountains;

    De 28:32 and there shall be no might <0410> in thine hand.

    Eze 32:21 The strong <0410> among the mighty

    Elohim (Strongs Hebrew word number 430) is used some 2606 times, It is rendered as God 2346

    On a few occasions it gives the original meanings.

    Ge 23:6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty <0430> prince among us:

    Ex 9:28 that there be no more mighty <0430> thunderings and hail;

    Ge 30:8 With great <0430> wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister,

    1Sa 14:15 so it was a very great <0430> trembling.

    Ex 21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges <0430>; he shall also bring him to the door,

    Ex 22:8 then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges <0430>

    Ex 22:9 which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges <0430>; and whom the judges <0430> shall condemn,

    Jon 3:3 Now Nineveh was an exceeding <0430> great city of three days’ journey.

    Ps 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels <0430>,

    The etymology of the word “el” and “elohim” show that it refers to a might one. The God of the Israelites that they sometimes worshipped and at other times failed to showed himself to be a mighty one. At times they looked to other so called mighty ones to save them or to worship.

    Now Boyarin makes a fundamental mistake as almost all of us do when he said...

    "What this text projects is a second divine figure, to whom will be given eternal dominion of the entire world. .

    There is no second “divine figure” in view here as there is no first “divine figure” in view. He has wrongly used the word divine from our language to try to describe something from ancient Hebrew.

    English generally recoginses the word divine as pertaining to God. That idea did not occur in the Hebrew. Neither does it really occur in the NT either when the words are closely examined.

    The Biblical English word divine is based on the Greek “theios”. Because English has assigned the concept of God to theo, it is assumed that “theios” means like god or godly qualities. The original meaning conveys the idea of like a mighty one or having the qualities of a mighty one.

    The Bible rightly talks about Jesus, Moses and judges as being gods because they were might ones appointed by the ALMIGHTY one for a given purpose.

    So yes the Bible does say that there are many gods. Which one is the ALMIGHTY?

  • fulltimestudent
    True to the End18 hours agoI researched original Hebrew and Greek meanings of the various words used for God.

    Thank you for going to so much trouble. TTTE.

    Could I just change the perspective on that first line (just a little bit).

    Can it be stated this way, that you researched the words, that the authors of the ancient document used, and which are often translated by the English word, 'god.'

    I suggest that perspective, because our language is secondary to the original language.

    I was planning next to post on the expressions, 'son of god' and 'son of man', which are sort of critical to the discussion, but I'll hold that for a few days, while we clear this bit. (Anyway, I must also produce an outline for a 5000 word essay, right now).

    Do you think you could give an opinion on the word 'pelach' often translated 'serve,' but also holding the potential meaning of 'worship?'

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