Israelities so easily influenced by foreign Gods, Why.

by jam 43 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Mebaqqer2

    Oh man,

    I just saw the link referenced by still thinking and see that Leolaia already covers most of the stuff I said concerning the connection between Canaanite religion and Israelite religion (She even recommends the same book I did!). I swear I had not read Leolaia's post before I posted and it appears that we are just on a similar wavelength. I guess I will have to check the archives and try harder to come up with something original .

    Reading the post on that thread from Leolaia, I note she mentions Heiser's research and writes "I disagree however with his conclusion which appears to mitigate the polytheistic import of the text and which attempts to harmonize its theology with other much later OT passages. The problem is that the OT was written over a period of several centuries and the different texts referring to Yahweh and El reflect different theological stages between polytheism and post-exilic monotheism." For those who don't know, Heiser's research presents Israelite religion as monolatrous where Yahweh is stated to be "incomparable" to all other gods and this view is presented to hold for pretty much all of the period covered by Biblical writers and even well into the Second-Temple period.

    For Leolaia, if you see this post, I also appreciate Heiser's research, which of course follows upon that of Mark Smith, John Day, Lowell Handy as well as others, yet I too saw some problems. Whereas your comment focused on his glossing over indications of polytheism in the Jewish Scriptures, my main concern focused on his downplaying of monotheism in Deutro-Isaiah. To quote myself, in a footnote that was obscenely long for a paper I wrote for school (I make many of my side arguments in footnotes), I state the following after referencing the texts from Deuteronomy mentioned in my post in this thread (which were cited in my paper as well):

    The passages cited here from Deuteronomy are dated by Richard Elliott Friedman between the time of Josiah (late 7th cent. BCE) to the time of the Exile (early 6th cent. BCE) (see Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: HarperCollins, 1989) 146, 254-55, 260). Many scholars see monotheism expressed in certain passages such as "Yahweh is God (ha-'Elohîm); there is no other besides him" (Deu 4:35), "Yahweh is God (ha-'Elohîm) ... there is no other" (Deu 4:39); "I, even I, am he, and there is no 'elohîm beside me" (Deu 32:39) through a comparison with Deutero-Isaiah (late 6th cent. BCE). Such passages are thought to be redactions which date from the Persian period (6th-4th cent. BCE) (see for example Juha Pakkala, "The Monotheism of the Deuteronomic History" Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 21, no. 2 (2007) 159-178). Mark S. Smith argues more subtly in stating that the monotheistic statements in the Deuteronomistic History should be seen as "Yahwistic monolatry expressed in its rhetoric of monotheism," but that Deutero-Isaiah goes beyond this to the point where "the existence of other gods is denied" so that "Yahweh is not just the god of Israel (both as land and people) but of all lands and nations" (Smith (2001) 154, 171). Michael S. Heiser's dissertation inverts this logic in light of the larger monolatristic context to argue that such statements in the Deuteronomic History as well as those in Deutero-Isaiah only speak of Yahweh's incomparability and uniqueness so that each "very likely speaks only to the continuity of the monolatrous pre-exilic worldview that embraced a divine council" (see Heiser (2004) 90-122). Heiser's criticism of the consensus view which argues that texts were interpolated into the Deuteronomistic History to support monotheism all while leaving explicit mentions of other deities surely shows that the consensus must be reconsidered more carefully on this point. Similarly, his citations of similar phraseology at Isa 47:8, 10 and Zep 2:15 with reference to the claimed incomparable status of Babylon and Assyria to show that the statements from the Deuteronomic History need not be taken as evidence for the denial of other deities are also well taken. However, Heiser's attempts to overcome the consensus view for Deutero-Isaiah's monotheism are ultimately not persuasive for even he is forced to acknowledge the "shadowy activity of the divine council in Deutero-Isaiah" due to the lack of its explicit utilization in this section of Isaiah (Heiser (2004) 106). Heiser's criticism, while dealing with such phrases in Deutero-Isaiah, appears to not to have fully wrestled with the overall force and degree with which Deutero-Isaiah utilizes previous monolatrous statements as well as newer terminology to articulate its view of Yahweh which does indeed appear to give evidence for incipient monotheism (Heiser (2004) 98-113; cf. Isa 43:10; 45:5, 6, 14, 18, 21, 22; 46:9). What is clear from all of this is that one should not simply view Israelite religion as expressing monolatrism in the pre-Exilic period and monotheism in the post-Exilic period. In fact, one should consider that both monolatristic and monotheistic trends continued on into the Second-Temple period.

    There is another part of Heiser's research that I have found to be somewhat problematic, but was the original reason why I was drawn to read his writings in the first place: the "messenger (mal'ak) of Yahweh" serving as the hypostatic manifestation of Yahweh himself. I would very much like Heiser's thesis to hold as it would go a long ways to explaining the appearance of a singular angelic being, under various names, that uniquely acts as the divine mediator in seveal Second-Temple texts to the point that they are mistaken for Yahweh himself and provides the basis for the later "two power" heresies discussed by Alan Segal. As you no doubt know, Heiser's thesis is that with Yahweh's usurption of El's position that Baal's position is also taken over by Yahweh in the form of the singular figure of the messenger of Yahweh who is but a hypostatis for Yahweh himself. Heiser of course draws on the appearances of the "messenger of Yahweh" in the Jewish Scriptures where this figure is conflated with Yahweh himself (admittedly it is ambiguous as to whether one should see a singular figure in these appearances or various figures under the same designation, but Heiser takes the former view). However, Heiser also attempts to ground this hypostatic representation of deity in the texts from Ugarit. He focuses on a section of the Baal Cycle (KTU 2.1) where the sea god Yam, who has been told that he will be defeated by magical weapons, sends unnamed messengers to El and his children on the divine assembly to demand that they turn over Baal. Upon seeing the messengers, the gods of the divine assembly become afraid and prostrate themselves to the messengers which act causes Baal to rebuke them. At this point the messengers deliver the message of Yam exactly as they had been instructed to which El responds to the messengers "Baal is your servant, O Yam! ... The son of Dagan your prisoner." Baal then attempts to attack the messengers whereupon he is restrained by Anat and Asherah. Heiser focuses not only the fact that the messengers reinterate Yam's words exactly, but on the frightful reaction and homage paid by the second tier divinities to these messengers from a lower tier. Heiser maintains that the reason for this reaction, as well as Baal's attempt to attack them, is that the individualized character of the messengers has been wholly subsumed by Yam so that their presence indicates the very presence of Yam himself. In this way, these messengers of Yam are said to serve as hypostastic manifestations of Yam.

    While there is clearly continuity between how the figure(s?) of the "messenger of Yahweh" is/are presented in the Jewish Scriptures and the messengers in the Baal Cycle, I wonder if the claim of hypostatic manifestation is not somewhat overstated. My reason for this is that immediately following what I recounted from the Baal Cycle above, Asherah states, in an admittedly fragmented text, that "A messenger ... a messenger between [his] shoulders is the word of his lord" (KTU 2.1.41-42). Although fragmented, the text appears to show Asherah reasoning with Baal as to why his anger at the messengers is misplaced. Asherah's argument appears to be that messengers only transmit the words of those whom they serve so are not to be attacked for the message they convey. To me this would appear to contradict Heiser's thesis that the messengers serve as hypostatic manifestations and that they actually maintain a minimal degree of individuality, though admittedly the total evidence regarding messengers from Ugarit shows them to be wholly subserviant to the will of those whom they serve without exercising any personal autonomy or demonstrating any volition of their own. This is where I presently stand with regards to Heiser on this part of his research. Leolaia, I would like to hear your thoughts if you see this post either here or by message since this thread is getting old.


  • Azazel

    The fact that a few very intelligent persons have concluded similar things on the forum is actually comforting in a knowledge sense,

    thankyou all so much


  • still thinking
    still thinking

    LOL Mebaqqer2....I wasn't referring to your info...I was referring to Randys cut and paste double post...

    Your info is great...and written in a different style to Leolaia. Similar info, different author. All good. ...And if you both recommend the same book, it's probably worth a read.

  • Midget-Sasquatch

    Enjoyed this thread very much.

    I've only come back sporadically but I think I'll be looking forward to any future posts on early christianity.

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