Monday, June 14, 2010

The Other Gods of Deuteronomy by Staci Lee

An LDS man who wanted to convince me that the Bible validates the notion of multiple gods used Deuteronomy 32:8 as a proof text. In the RSV (the translation he wanted to use for this verse) it says:
"When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.";
The LDS man made three claims:  that "sons of God" is the more accurate translation; that these sons-of-God are gods themselves; and that these sons-of-God/gods are part of a "heavenly council of gods" to the "Most High God."

To see if the man had a reasonable argument, I first went back to the Book of Deuteronomy and studied it carefully.  As it turns out, Deuteronomy has A LOT to say about other gods. The following is a presentation of what I found. PLEASE take the time to read these verses so you will know that my representations and conclusions are fully supported by the Biblical text.

(And keep in mind that Bible translators use the all-caps word "LORD" for the Hebrew word יְהוָה which means "The Existing One."  "YHWH," "Yahweh," or "Jehovah" are the English renderings of יְהוָה  For this reason, I will substitute "Jehovah" for "LORD" below).

"...Thou shalt have none other gods before me..."

Deuteronomy teaches that:

1 - The LORD God (Jehovah elohim) is the god of the nation of Israel, but other peoples/nations have/worship other gods (Deut 5:6; Deut 29:25-26; Deut 32:12)
2 - The LORD God is adamant that His people not have anything to do with the other gods, nor try to worship Him in the same way as the other people worship their gods (Deut 5:6-8; Deut 6:14; Deut 7:3-5; Deut 8:19; Deut 11:16-17; Deut 11:28; Deut 12:2; Deut 28:14-15; Deut 30:16; Deut 31:16-17)
3 - The god-worship done by the other nations includes “every abomination to the LORD” (one given example is the burning of their children) (Deut 12:31; Deut 20:18; Deut 29:18; Deut 31:18) and
4 - The LORD God is superior to all other "gods" (Deut 3:24; Deut 10:17)

"...These curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee...The LORD shall bring thee... unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone..."

Deuteronomy tells us more about the gods of the other nations.  It goes on to show that:

5 - The other "gods" being worshiped are just wood and stone -- graven images/the work of men’s hands (Deut 28:36; Deut 28:64; Deut 4:25, 27-28; Deut 29:16-18; Deut 12:3)
6 - The other "gods" being worshiped are the sun, moon, and ‘host of heaven’ (Deut 17:2-5; Deut 4:15-16,19) and
7 - The other "gods" being worshiped are demons! (Deut 32:16-17)

Perhaps some of the "gods" are not really gods, but are some real?


“For the LORD shall judge his people... he shall say, 'Where are their gods... let them rise up and help you, and be your protection! See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me...'" Deut 32:36-39

“Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.” Deut 4:35

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is none else.” Deut 4:39

Perhaps, according to Deuteronomy, Jehovah God is the only real god for our heaven and earth; but there are other real gods for other 'heaven and earths'? Is this possible? No, for two reasons.

First, in all of Deuteronomy, and in fact, in all of the Bible, though the issue of "other gods" is brought up many, many, many times, NOT ONE TIME is any mention made of any other REAL god.

Second, should there be any confusion, the "I am the only God" verses in Deuteronomy have been restated and further clarified elsewhere in the Bible (eg., Isaiah 43:10, 44:6,24).

Mormon friend, it boils down to this.  Given what is revealed about Jehovah -- the LORD God, in the Bible -- for you to claim or believe that there are other real gods anywhere (even in other universes, if they exist) you must believe that: 1 - Jehovah conceals the existence of other real gods, 2 - Jehovah is ignorant, or 3 - the Bible is not true (is not reliable/has been mistranslated). Since we were trying to use A BIBLE VERSE to prove the existence of other real gods in the first place, it is pointless to take the position that the Bible is not true/accurate.  Next, throughout the Bible, not only does Jehovah repeatedly state that He is the only God, but He takes great care everywhere else in the Bible to say that the "other gods" are but idols. We cannot get around the fact that Jehovah God has clearly spoken on this issue. Lastly, could Jehovah be ignorant? Dare we assume Jehovah is not great enough to know of His peers? Only if we think we are greater than He is. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

We must conclude that IF the 8th verse of the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy is really talking about "gods," then they are only so-called gods, wrongfully worshiped, to a person's detriment.

And the Most High God? Yeah, that's Jehovah.

"...I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD (Jehovah), the most high God (elyon el), the possessor of heaven and earth..." (Genesis 14:22)

"I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD (Jehovah) most high (elyon)." (Psalm 7:17)
"Know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other." Deut 4:39

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams... saying, Let us go after other gods (elohim)... that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD (Jehovah) your God (elohim)..." Deut 13:1-5

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  1. So, in other words, you didn't address the issue. You assumed that the Bible is univocal and could interpret itself.

    The MT reads "sons of Israel," the LXX reads "angels of God," and the Qumran version reads "sons of God." The term "sons of El" finds parallels in the Ugaritic literature, in which they are depicted as literal sons, literal deities, and literal members of the council of gods. (see Michael Heiser, "Divine Council," The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings, IVP: 2008; Simon Parker, "Sons of (the) God(s)," Dictionary of Deities & Demons in the Bible DDD, 2nd ed., Eerdsman: 1999)

    The point is that in this particular passage, Yahweh is depicted as one of the sons of El Elyon, not El Elyon himself. Mark S. Smith describes Ps. 82 as Yahweh's ascendency to the head of the pantheon in connection to Deut. 32:8-9. (see Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts, Oxford University Press: 2001)

    On top of this, Deut. 32:43 has a number of variants:

    MT: "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants..."

    LXX: "Rejoice, ye heavens, with him and let all the angels of God worship him. Rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him. For he will avenge the blood of his sons…"

    Fragment 4Qdeut(q): "Praise, O heavens, his people, worship him, all you gods! For he will avenge the blood of his children…"

    The final one is similar to Akkadian suilla prayers:

    May the heavens rejoice in you, may the earth be jubilant in you.
    May the whole pantheon bless you.
    May the great gods make your heart content. (Shamash Šuilla prayer, BMS 6:129-132)

    As for Isaiah, Babylon uses the same language. Did Babylon think it was the only city in existence? On top of this, Frank Moore Cross pointed out over 50 years ago that Deutero-Isaiah begins with divine council terminology. (see Cross, “The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (12) 1953; also see Heiser's aforementioned article) The Isaiah "denial" statements are statements of incomparability.

    As for Gen. 14:22: "[Melchizedek] was the priest of El Elyon in Jerusalem who met Abraham and blessed him...When Abram swears the oath the name is changed to Yahweh El Elyon (Gen. 14.22), but this Yahweh is thought to be a later insertion since it does not appear in the LXX, the Peshitta or the Aramaic of the Genesis Apocryphon. In all probability, then, Melchizedek represented the priesthood of El Elyon as distinguished from that of Yahweh." (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God, Westminster John Knox Press: 1992)

    Ironic enough, Melchizedek was originally seen as not only a priest and king, but a god: "[Melchizedek] was a god in the Davidic royal cult and, hence, a god in the Qumran literature and to the early Christian fringe groups, an immortal figure like the Son of God in Hebrews, and Jesus Christ himself in the Gnostic Melchizedek tractate. As a divinized dead king he would have been pictured by the pre-exilic royal cult as an underworld divinity who also had a beatific afterlife, at least in some circumstances...He sentences the wicked divine beings to death in the Qumran Melchizedek text, redeems souls from the underworld in the Coptic Gnostic Pistis Sophia tractate, and causes his enemies to be swallowed up by Hades in the Story of Melchizedek." (James R. Davila, "Melchizedek: Priest, King, and God," The Seductiveness of Jewish Myth: Challenge or Response?, SUNY Press: 1997)

    So, I think the answer is partially #3: the Bible has been mistranslated (though altered would be more accurate). Attempting to maintain a fundamentalist approach of inerrancy and infallibility when it comes to the biblical manuscripts is, frankly, intellectual suicide.

  2. Walker,
    To sum up, you believe that Yahweh is a son of god, just like many others, that Yahweh was only saying "I'm the only one" like Babylon did, that Melchezidek is one of the gods, that Yahweh is not the Most High... and ultimately, that the Bible is "altered". Is that pretty much the gist of it?

    Before going into each one of your arguments to see why you quote the authors you do, can you present an argument as to why/how these "gods" or "sons of God" represents Mormonology? Do you believe a connection can be made? Or is that not what you're trying to do?

  3. Certain scholars have speculated that before the exile into Babylon that certain Hebrews were polytheistic like the Canaanites. This Hebrew polytheism included the worship of various deities given the title “Baal” who were the sons of still another deity named Dagon, who was in turn the son of the highest Canaanite deity named ‘El Elyon” . Among these Sons of Elyon was subordinate son Jehovah who was assigned to be the local God of the Hebrews.

    These scholars claim that the records of this pre-exile religion were destroyed during the exile, to be reworked after Israel returned to Judah about 400 BC. These scholars propose in the immediate post-exile period that the Old Testament was reworked and re-edited to create a monotheist religion of exclusive worship of Jehovah as the only true Elohim.

    Well to a Christian, the bottom line is that Jesus and His New Testament Apostles proclaimed that there is only One God—referring to Him as God with the personal Pronoun “He”.(Mark 12:28). This Personal pronoun does not denote a Godhead of three beings—rather denotes One being. Likewise in the New Testament, Jehovah is declared as the Highest God by the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews.

    Heb 6:13 For when God (Jehovah) made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

    I have also always found it interesting that when Mormons say that the pre-exile Old Testament was actually polytheistic, that the Book of Mormons is monotheistic. Lehi is alleged to have left the holy lands before the exile. So if the Hebrews were polytheistic before that exile, it would seem then that the Book of Mormon would have reflected this. But instead the Book of Mormon is monotheistic.

  4. See Robert Bowman's answer to the Deut. 32:8-9 issue here. Bowman deals there with someone like Walker too.

    Mormons are basically trying to justify their theology using obscure, controversial passages, at the expense of wide themes in scripture, let alone in the particular book their quoting from.

  5. "To sum up, you believe that Yahweh is a son of god [1], just like many others, that Yahweh was only saying "I'm the only one" like Babylon did [2], that Melchezidek is one of the gods [3], that Yahweh is not the Most High...[4] and ultimately, that the Bible is "altered" [5]. Is that pretty much the gist of it?"

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. Mainly making a point, though this concept of a divinized king fits well into the LDS mold of Melchizedek Priesthood.
    4. Yes (Yahweh was eventually conflated with El Elyon)
    5. Most definitely, yes.

    "Well to a Christian, the bottom line is that Jesus and His New Testament Apostles proclaimed that there is only One God"

    And what did "one God" mean in 1st century Judaism(s)? Incomparability once more. Melchizedek, as I mentioned before, was seen as a god and divine mediator, along with Metatron, Yahoel, Logos, Sophia, Wisdom, etc. I would strongly suggest James F. McGrath's The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context (University of Illinois Press: 2009) along with Daniel Boyarin's Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (University of Pennsylvania Press: 2006).

    "I have also always found it interesting that when Mormons say that the pre-exile Old Testament was actually polytheistic, that the Book of Mormons is monotheistic."

    The Book of Mormon opens with a divine council scene:

    "And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day. And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament." (1 Ne. 1:8-10)

    "See Robert Bowman's answer"

    Thanks for linking to Bowman's answers, since Maklelan does a fine job of explaining. Maklelan will be presenting two papers at the Society of Biblical Literature's Annual Meeting this year entitled "El Elyon, Begetter of Heaven and Earth" and "What is Deity in LXX Deuteronomy?". His master's thesis is brilliant.

    "Mormons are basically trying to justify their theology using obscure, controversial passages, at the expense of wide themes in scripture, let alone in the particular book their quoting from."

    That is a lazy way of dismissing it, but be my guest.

  6. Also, Bowman discussed this topic many times on that discussion board with both Maklelan, David Bokovoy, and others. He wasn't very familiar with it the first time around if I recall. They had some great discussions.

  7. Hmmm.

    Yes, I've seen Daniel's (maklelan's) arguments. They're certainly not perfect.

    I agree with Aaron on Mormons and their rabbit trails- I've seen them (you) go to great lengths to find validity for Mormonism, and it is ALWAYS at the expense of belief of the Bible. What's very strange is that you never see them looking in their own back yard for the necessary evidence that Joseph Smith was into the occult.

    Ugaritic texts? Yes, helpful in understanding Hebrew phraseology, etc. But you really want to identify with them? Of course you do. Your church is also pagan - bent on becoming gods, doing your freemasonic rituals and making covenants with Satan, etc.

    More importantly than all of that though, is how you dragged in some good names in this kind of research, and misrepresented their conclusions. Would Michael Heiser agree with you, for example? Not on your life. And yet, you include him as a seemingly agreeing party. That's dishonest, isn't it?

    Walker, how much time have you spent trying to understand the Bible as a whole? Why do you think there are just secret verses like this one that represent the "real truth"? You know, you can take a piece or two of the Bible, and make it say anything you want it to say. But it will get you nowhere. At least, not after this life

  8. So...basically your answer is that I don't believe the Bible because I'm a dishonest, pagan Satan worshipper? How kind of you.

    "They're certainly not perfect."

    And thus you will not even attempt to address it.

    "helpful in understanding Hebrew phraseology"

    Which is exactly what I referenced Michael Heiser for. Yes, he would agree that these "sons of El" are deities. However, he would not agree that they are ontologically the same as the most high God. On this, he parts with other scholars like Simon Parker whom I also referenced (the exchange between Heiser and Bokovoy in FARMS is quite enlightening on this matter. Bokovoy, in my view, does a better job at engaging the ancient Near East culture to interpret the matter.). But in the context of my reference to the Ugaritic literature, I was in no way dishonest, nor did I misrepresent him. Demonstrate how I did so.

    "Walker, how much time have you spent trying to understand the Bible as a whole?"

    A lot, everyday.

    "Why do you think there are just secret verses like this one that represent the "real truth"?"

    What on earth are you talking about? This was the subject of your blog post.

    "You know, you can take a piece or two of the Bible, and make it say anything you want it to say."

    I'm very aware. Reminder: your blog post was on Deut. 32:8-9.

  9. The substance of your response is exactly why I refrain from debating on a regular basis. Instead of addressing the relevant information, you instead questioned my integrity, assumed I don't believe the Bible (I don't believe in fundamentalism is actually what it is), and in Decker fashion called me a Satan worshipper.

    Absolutely appalling.

  10. My blog post, Walker, was on Mormon misuse of Deut 32:8-9. How can you take the entire Bible, which is largely about YHWH calling people AWAY FROM POLYTHEISM and say that the the Bible says that there are MANY REAL GODS? The Bible makes references to "other gods" in a only a few ways - and it NEVER EVER COMES CLOSE to suggesting that there are any beings comparable to YHWH.

    The answer to that question, is that you WANT TO BELIEVE there are many real gods. Because of this, rather than admitting to yourself that your founding prophet was a bad guy (which can be done easily, as it was in the last 180 years), you will take the writings of a drunken-orgy worship type cult, and say the Bible has been altered

  11. "My blog post, Walker, was on Mormon misuse of Deut 32:8-9."

    Exactly, which is why I specifically addressed Deut. 32:8-9. So don't try to paint it as if my whole belief system and views on the Bible and its history hinge on this one passage.

    "How can you take the entire Bible, which is largely about YHWH calling people AWAY FROM POLYTHEISM and say that the the Bible says that there are MANY REAL GODS?"

    YHWH calling people away from worshipping other gods and calling people away from the belief that other gods exist are two completely different things. Don't conflate the two.

    "NEVER EVER COMES CLOSE to suggesting that there are any beings comparable to YHWH"

    Capitalizing doesn't make your point more valid.

    "WANT TO BELIEVE there are many real gods"

    And you apparently want to believe that the theology of the Bible has always taught a strict, neo-Platonic monotheism, which isn't the case.

    "and say the Bible has been altered"

    Well, I did just prove that it has been in at least two places.

    "founding prophet was a bad guy"

    This is rather irrelevant as to whether or not your view on Deut. 32:8-9 and ancient Israelite history/theology is correct. Me possibly being wrong about Mormonism doesn't automatically make your fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible correct.

    Your empty, obnoxious rhetoric means absolutely nothing when it comes to this analysis.

  12. "YHWH calling people away from worshipping other gods and calling people away from the belief that other gods exist are two completely different things. Don't conflate the two"

    Ok, Walker. Firstly, I'll apologize for not taking enough time on my replies tonight. I've been in a hurry.

    Secondly, let's let you explain where, in the Bible, you are getting the idea that the other "gods" are like YHWH. I'm well aware of your Mormon view that God the Father-Elohim is the father of our spirits, that Jehovah is our elder brother, and Lucifer is another brother, and that God the Father-Elohim has only done like his father before him, and so on and so forth, which is to go through a mortal experience, and do it perfectly (or become perfect), and become an ever progressing god, one of many. These gods rule over their own planetary systems and/or universes, and every one of them that has been a god longer than Jehovah should, unless I misunderstand, be more advanced than He is.

    So, please explain to me Deuteronomy 32:8-9, an/or any of the other explanations you have given (or authors you have quoted) support this view.

    Thank you

  13. While I am awaiting your response, I want to take this time to comment on what I will call the "Babylon excuse".

    One - how many times, and in how many ways, did Babylon (whatever human was doing the writing) explain that it was the only one? Was there a second witness?

    In the Old Testament, YHWH takes great pains to say, in my opinion, in every possible conceivable way, that He is the only God. He doesn't JUST say "there's none like me". He says "I'm the only one", "I'm the first and last", "I'm the only one I know of", etc and etc, to thoroughly make clear His point. He is absolutely UNIQUE. He also says that He created everything BY HIMSELF.

    Then, in the NT, we have Jesus doing the same thing. He says there is only one God. He equates Himself with Him, says if you have seen Him you have seen the Father, says they are one, etc and etc. He also gets credit for creating everything BY HIMSELF. He is absolutely UNIQUE.

    So we have the One True God in the OT and His "express image" in the NT as our necessary two witnesses of this matter of fact.

    Now, the NT is much closer to us(time-wise) and easier to figure out if it has been "translated correctly" due to a plethora of documents. And yet, after all the comparisons are finished, we still see that Jesus said:

    "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

    The only true God. Jesus said that.

    Your prophet said otherwise, and as you seem studied up, you should know by now that Joseph was originally a monotheist-modalist. He changed his theology to meet his own needs. He came up with the word Elohim after studying some Hebrew, and on and on.

    The two things (your wanting to believe the Bible does not preach one true God only and your believing Joseph) go hand in hand. You are literally taking Josephs (changing) word over Jesus'.

  14. "So, please explain to me Deuteronomy 32:8-9, an/or any of the other explanations you have given (or authors you have quoted) support this view."

    Your summary is arguably not correct, but I get what you are saying.

    It doesn't necessarily support an exact Mormon view. I wouldn't begin to say that the ancient Israelite theology (as far as we know) was exactly what modern Mormonism is. However, the concept of a divine council of deities headed by a high God (a Father god, no less) is very similar to Mormon theology. On top of this, the council was made up of El Elyon's children or sons (70 sons, to be specific. See: this isn't exactly Mormon theology). These children were born to him by his consort, a mother in heaven.

    As for examples such as Melchizedek or Metatron (which is the name given to Enoch after he is deified and enthroned in the Enochic literature. He was also known as "the little YHWH"), the concept of human deification obviously resonates with Mormon theology.

    The authors I have referenced are obviously not Mormon and wouldn't agree with all concepts. But they do support the notion that modern monotheism is not what is was anciently or even in 1st century Judaism. They do accept a divine council of gods (the ontology of those gods is debated among them) in ancient Israel. How they work that into their worldview and theology, I have no idea. I don't study their personal lives. I study the data and evidences they present.

    A better question is how do these findings fit a fundamentalist view of the Bible? The answer: they don't.

  15. "Babylon excuse"

    Babylon wasn't the only one who said it. Moab and Nineveh did too. The point is that the phrase does not mean "only one in existence." It is a phrase declaring incomparability. You have used the word "unique." I have no argument with that. But that doesn't necessarily mean he is ontologically unique from these other gods.

    On top of this, Deut. 32:21 has God declaring that he has been made jealous a "non-god" and he would return this by making them jealous with a "non-people." This "non-people" was Assyria-Babylon. This does not indicate that Babylon did not exist.

    "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

    Right. Notice "the only true God AND Jesus Christ whom you have sent." I've already mentioned the 1st century Jewish belief in divine mediators. The Jewish agency tradition is especially noticeable in the book of Revelation.

    "You are literally taking Josephs (changing) word over Jesus'."

    Yet I haven't appealed to Joseph Smith at all. I've appealed to modern biblical scholarship. You've brought up Joseph Smith more than I have.

  16. "As far as the belief in God is concerned, Deuteronomy is not concerned with a theoretical monotheism, but rather gives a confession of faith. The monotheism of Deuteronomy emerged from the struggle against idolatry. Moreover, the decline of Israel is attributed to the following other gods. The existence of other gods is not denied, however, only their power and significance for Israel. Deuteronomy stresses the incomparability of YHWH (e.g. 3:24; 4:7-8; 10:17) or the uniqueness of YHWH for Israel." (J.T.A.G.M. Van Ruiten, "The Use of Deuteronomy 32:39 in Monotheistic Controversies in Rabbinic Literature," Studies in Deuteronomy: In Honour of C.J. Labuschagne on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, BRILL: 1994)

    The same article describes the variants in Deut. 32 as "the features of a text in transition from polytheism to the recognition of one god above all others."

  17. Walker, you have not answered a couple of important questions.

    One, YHWH did not leave it at "none like me" but went on and on, and in every possible conceivable way reiterated the idea, so as to leave no "out". No "out" that is, but for you to just ignore Him.

    A fact I'd like to point out, is that in Deuteronomy, when YHWH is speaking, and in Isaiah especially, where YHWH is speaking, He is point blank about it. It is a song Moses sings that alludes to a divine council. Wouldn't it be better to consider YHWH's direct words, over a poem, song, or daydream?

    Also, where, Biblically, do you find support for ontological sameness between YHWH and anyone else? I guess you are aware that "YHWH" means "I am" - the existing one, and the other "elohim" are just "elohim" - mighty ones. And of course, YHWH says He is the only elohim, quite frequently.

    Can you disregard all of this as "plain and precious truths removed"? The Ugaritic worship, which looks to have been a bunch of drunken orgies - are they the right source for information?

    How do these things figure out, in your mind and worldview?

  18. "Your prophet said otherwise, and as you seem studied up, you should know by now that Joseph was originally a monotheist-modalist."

    While I doubt you have very good evidence of this beyond uninformed appeals to the Book of Mormon (especially with the non-modalist Book of Moses coming out soon after the publication of the Book of Mormon), it really wouldn't matter even if it were true. I don't see what would be so shocking about someone coming from a 19th-century Protestant environment having a monotheistic view until receiving revelation otherwise.

  19. Walker,

    Read this to understand how Smith arrived at his beliefs, which were developed over time, (NOT revealed at the beginning of his ministry) which is diametrically opposed to everything taught by Mormonism:!/notes/mormon-lds-facts/the-evolution-of-the-mormon-gods/136086153073476

  20. Gods other than YHWH were worshipped in ancient Israel, and the Old Testament itself is the principal witness to this pluriformity within pre-exilic Israelite religion.1 At the same time, YHWH is rightly described as the God of Israel: he is the national God. Scarcely ever is he described as the God of Jerusalem or of any other of the holy places of Israelite religion: he is pre-eminently the God of the people of Israel.2 The Old Testament is, in a manner of speaking, his biography, and in it he is anthropomorphized and his character is limned to an extent true of no other god in the ancient Near East. It is YHWH, too, who answers the quest, not now pursued as it was a few decades ago, for a ‘theological centre’ to the diverse writings that make up the ‘Hebrew Bible’ or ‘Old Testament’.3 None of the various unifying themes and concepts proposed can so adequately fulfil this integrating role as that of ‘YHWH God of Israel’ – a term more particular in its theological implications than it may at first appear.
    Since, however, it is a point much emphasized nowadays that the religion of Israel and the theology of the Old Testament are distinct entities, representing different worlds of reality, it is important to note that there is evidence from outside the Old Testament, as well as incidental evidence from within it, to show that YHWH was acknowledged as God of Israel throughout the period of the monarchy as well as thereafter. The onomastics of the pre-exilic period, whether biblical or epigraphic, confirm the primacy of YHWH in the national religion.4
    This is not to say, however, that the Old Testament claims YHWH as the name by which the ‘God of the fathers’ was originally known and worshipped. The natural sense of Exod. 6:3 is that God was not known by the name YHWH to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.5 It is by names such as El Elyon and El Shaddai that the God of the patriarchs is worshipped in Genesis.6 That the Israelites’ God was originally known by the name El – the name of the Canaanite high god in the second millennium – is also suggested by its apparent presence in the national name Isra-el/Isra-El, implying some relationship between the people and God as ‘El’ (cf. Gen. 32:28).

  21. The onomastics of Genesis are quite striking in this regard, for there is no instance there of a personal name incorporating any form of the Divine Name as a theophoric element. From Exodus onwards, however, names comprising such elements are commonplace, and the new practice is even flagged in an explanatory note in Numbers 13, at the end of the list of spies sent to reconnoitre Canaan: ‘Moses gave Hoshea the son of Nun the name of Joshua’ (ⅴ. 16). The prefixing of a short version of the Divine Name to produce ‘Joshua’ underlies the change and presumably reflects the tradition of the revelation of YHWH to Moses, as in Exod. 6:3. The Divine Name is, of course, used freely in narrative references to God throughout much of Genesis, and this is commonly explained in terms of underlying sources and their stance on the timing of the self-revelation of God under the name YHWH. It is in any case reasonable that, once the identification of YHWH with El (or El Shaddai, as Exod. 6:3) was made, the distinctive Israelite name for God should be retrojected into the pre-Mosaic traditions of Genesis.7
    The functional, not to say ontological, identity of El and YHWH in the Old Testament is reflected in the interchangeability of the names, this sometimes also involving the El epithet ‘Elyon’, often translated ‘Most High’ (see Gen. 14:18–20, 22; 2 Sam. 22:14; Pss. 7:18; 21:8; 77:11–12; 83:19; 87:5–6; 91:9; 92:2). This also helps to explain the absence of rivalry between El and YHWH in the Old Testament: the relationship between YHWH and Baal illustrates the opposite alternative where deities and what they stand for are truly in conflict. The appellative (or ‘common noun’) function of el and its cognates in Hebrew, Ugaritic and the Semitic languages generally, alongside its proper noun usage, made the transition from El to YHWH still more easy, since references to God as El could be accommodated without calling up unacceptable aspects of the Canaanite El.

  22. Gods other than YHWH were indeed worshipped in ancient Israel. The Deuteronomic–prophetic stance on this polytheistic tendency is that it was a deviation from the pure worship of YHWH which nascent Israel learned at Sinai and pursued, by and large, in the wilderness of wandering. The gods after whom the Israelites strayed are described in the ‘Song of Moses’ as ‘new ones lately come’ (Deut. 32:17) and in the ‘Song of Deborah’ as ‘new gods’ (Judg. 5:8). Both poems have often been classed among the earliest compositions in the Old Testament, which makes their perspective on the non-Yahwistic gods specially interesting. Modern archaeological discovery, and in particular the evidence of the Ras Shamra mythological (and other) texts, has revealed the high degree of similarity between Canaanite religion and culture, insofar as it may be represented by the finds at this Syrian site, and Israelite religious belief and practice as described in the Old Testament and reflected in the archaeology of the biblical period. Since the comparisons, in respect of both terminology and characterization, that may be made between the Canaanite high god El and the Israelite YHWH are extensive, they have inclined a number of scholars to abandon the older model of a ‘Yahwistic revolution’, born in reaction to the perceived faults of ‘Canaanite’ religion, in favour of a more gradualist explanation of the development of Yahwism, which is then reckoned to have accommodated so-called ‘Canaanite’ features during its earlier stages and only later to have sought to slough these off, now on the ground that they were foreign and subversive of the original religion of YHWH.8 There are indeed terminological and conceptual overlaps between Yahwism and the polytheistic religion of Canaan, though it remains a question how much of this should be put down to simple assimilation and how much resulted from a more active form of Israelite cultic imperialism.
    In point of fact, there is a cultic aloofness about YHWH that does not come across as merely a secondary development in the Old Testament or, as it appears, in the history of Israelite religion. In this connection it is important to distinguish between the worship of deities such as El, Baal and Asherah simultaneously with the worship of YHWH and an original YHWH cultus to which these other gods belonged, as in a pantheon. It is the first of these options that tends to be supported by the biblical and extra-biblical evidence.9 The Old Testament itself speaks of YHWH coming from regions to the south of Judah – like his devotees in the biblical tradition, he too is non-autochthonous – and already this distances him from the religion and the deities of Canaan.

  23. The Lord came from Sinai, from Seir he dawned on us, from Mount Paran he shone forth. (Deut. 33:2)
    When you set out from Seir, when you marched from the field of Edom . . . (Judg. 5:4)
    God comes from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.(Hab. 3:3)
    Congruently with this, there is no mention of YHWH in the Ras Shamra texts, most of which predate the period of corporate Israelite identity, according to the usually favoured chronology for early Israel. Nor is this god who happily assumes epithets and attributes belonging to El and Baal integrated into any Near Eastern family of gods or pantheon. Glimpses of an earlier version of Israelite religion, in which YHWH took his place among the nation deities under the presidency of El/Elyon, have been claimed for Deut. 32:8–9 (‘When the Most High [Elyon] gave the nations their inheritance’, ⅴ. 8) and Psalm 82 (‘God takes his stand in the assembly of El [or “divine assembly”]’, ⅴ. 1), but if such is the case the biblical authors have sufficiently obscured the underlying myth as to make the interpretation of the texts moot. In Psalm 82, for example, the gods whom God – probably YHWH, since the psalm belongs to the ‘Elohistic Psalter’ – sentences to death are described as ‘sons of Elyon’ (ⅴ. 6), which may imply God’s (i.e. YHWH’s) own independence of the term and what it signifies. It is often noted in this connection that the Old Testament never refers to ‘sons of YHWH’ when presenting its version of the Near Eastern ‘Divine Council’. Instead, the terms ‘sons of Elohim’ (Gen. 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) and ‘Sons of Elim’ (Pss. 29:1; 89:7(6)), with their Canaanite antecedent, are used for the angel-type attendants who represent the nearest that the Old Testament comes to creating a ‘Divine Council’ around the figure of YHWH. From the beginning, then, the concept of YHWH as the ‘jealous God’, eschewing the bonhomie of the pantheon and refusing to share his prestige or his functions with other gods, finds support in and out of the Old Testament. This is, to be sure, more evidently the religion of the biblical texts than that of ‘historical Israel’; but it is the religion of the texts, and of those who maintained the traditions enshrined in them, that is important for the history of Jewish and Christian faith: Judaism and Christianity are, from their respective standpoints, committed to belief in one only God. A form of Yahwism that was polytheistic and undifferentiated from other pluriform systems of worship would have been an improbable matrix for the world’s monotheistic faiths.

  24. As well as this focussing on the origins of Yahwism, biblical scholarship has in the past couple of decades also renewed its interest in the somewhat broader issue of the origins of Old Testament monotheism.10 The interest may be considered timely now that there is much talk of the monotheistic faiths and their effect upon international politics and the course of world events. The toleration of other gods besides YHWH in the Old Testament period and the claim that earliest Yahwism itself was in some sense pluralistic are seen to conflict with the traditional view that monotheism, no less, came to birth in the time of Moses – the view expounded most influentially in the modern period by W. F. Albright.11 There has been support for the traditional view from outside the ‘Albrightian school’, notably from J. C. de Moor, who develops the idea of a ‘crisis of polytheism’ in the Near East in the Late Bronze period as the background to a Yahwistic revolution in Israel.12
    More often it is asserted that only in the sixth century, with the prophecies of the so-called ‘Deutero-Isaiah’, the prophet of the late exilic period, is the monotheistic idea unequivocally expressed in the Old Testament. And unquestionably it is here that the rhetoric and the ‘theology’ of monotheism come decisively together. The Judaeans’ experience of the Babylonian exile is often credited with having provoked this reformulation of belief. Deprived of statehood and even of the opportunity to live in their ancestral land, and confronted by the apparent might of the Babylonian gods, they began to respond by asserting the incomparability of YHWH and the non-existence of his rivals.
    Although ‘Deutero-Isaiah’ is the great spokesman for monotheistic faith within the Old Testament, the question revolves to some extent on how we define ‘monotheism’, and many scholars are inclined to think that monotheism, at least ‘in bas-relief’, had manifested itself before ‘Deutero-Isaiah’ and the exile.13 It is, moreover, easy to find staging posts along the way to the theology of ‘Deutero-Isaiah’, if the biblical tradition is given some credence. The clash with Baalistic religion in the time of Elijah and the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah – to say nothing of ‘school’ developments such as are represented by the Deuteronomistic phenomenon – offer themselves as potentially significant moments in the fashioning of what in other contexts might be called the Israelite ‘doctrine of God’. To give plausibility to this idea of arrhythmic progress by means of occasional ‘bursts’, Robert Gnuse has borrowed from the biological and palaeontological sciences the analogy of ‘punctuated equilibria’.14

  25. Gnuse contends that, as in biology so also in history, it is not necessarily by gradual, evolutionary process that change comes about. He starts his discussion with some consideration of the differing perspectives on Israelite origins currently being advocated. If the conquest model, involving large-scale invasion by Israelites from outside Canaan, is replaced by a version in which the Israelites emerge from within the Canaanite population, then, as already noted, there would be implications for the understanding of the development of Israelite religion, which would have originated not in a climactic breach with the neighbouring cultures but as a result of a more punctuated disengagement from what were also ancestral beliefs and practices for the Israelites. Like some others, Gnuse draws on Karl Jaspers’ idea of an ‘axial age’ in the first millennium, and follows Max Weber in crediting Israel, as a ‘peripheral’ society, with a greater capacity for major societal and religious change than was possible for some of its more powerful neighbours. The idea of monotheistic development is paramount for Gnuse. He thinks that the monotheistic tendency was at work among the earlier Israelites, even if it came to term only much later. He finds ‘Process Theology’ a useful ally for his understanding of God in relation to the world, for, in his view, monotheistic faith is capable of further development as the implications of the original scriptural texts are worked out in an ‘on-going evolutionary process’ (p. 354).

    Rainer Albertz is another recent contributor on monotheism who acknowledges the evidence for the polytheistic tendency in pre-exilic Israel yet finds the potential for monotheism also present.15 If pre-exilic Israel was ‘polytheistic’, its polytheism was unlike any other. Albertz comments on two factors that predisposed Israel towards monotheism: the solitariness of YHWH, whose ‘council’ scarce develops beyond the anonymous ‘hosts’ of YHWH, and the unique relationship between YHWH and the people of Israel, represented in the title ‘God of Israel’ already found in the ‘old’ Song of Deborah in Judg. 5:3, 5. Outside Israel gods tended to be linked with small groups or dynasties and were essentially territorial deities. In illustration, Albertz cites Chemosh’s anger against his land of Moab in the Mesha Stela in contrast with YHWH’s anger directed against his people in a text such as Num. 11:1, 11. YHWH, Albertz claims, relates first to his people, and then only secondarily to the land of Israel. The claim is large and perhaps vulnerable to contradiction; however, if the issue is refined to include the concept of national covenant, then the bond between YHWH and his people is indeed conceived and developed in the Old Testament in a way that applies nowhere else.16

  26. Liken this to Paul, after he was driven from Thessalonica and Berea in Macedonia, he was taken south by ship to Athens in the province of Achaia. While waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him from Berea, he has the opportunity to address a group of philosophers. They are prepared to listen to him talk about God, but when he comes to Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, Paul is soon brought to a halt:

    Acts 17:22-31 - So Paul got to his feet in the middle of their council (the "Areopagus" where the philosophers of Athens could meet to discuss new ideas), and began, "Gentlemen of Athens, my own eyes tell me that you are in all respects an extremely religious people. For as I made my way here and looked at your shrines I noticed one altar (one of a number in Athens) on which were inscribed the words, TO GOD THE UNKNOWN. It is this God whom you are worshipping in ignorance that I am here to proclaim to you! God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he ministered to by human hands, as though he had need of anything - seeing that he is the one who gives to all men life and breath and everything else. From one forefather (Adam) he has created every race of men to live over the face of the whole earth. He has determined the times of their existence and the limits of their habitation, so that they might search for God, in the hope that they might feel for him and find him - yes, even though he is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is in him that we live and move and have our being. Some of your own poets (... Aratus, Cleanthes and Epimenides speaking about the god Zeus) have endorsed this in the words, 'For we are indeed his children'. If then we are the children of God, we ought not to imagine God in terms of gold or silver or stone, contrived by human art or imagination. Now while it is true that God has overlooked the days of ignorance he now commands all men everywhere to repent (because of the gift of his son Jesus). For he has fixed a day on which he will judge the whole world in justice by the standard of a man whom he has appointed. That this is so he has guaranteed to all men by raising this man (Jesus) from the dead."

    There is a divergence on the History of Israels God in scholarship today Walker. What is surely speculation (by Michael S. Heiser and others) has not been proven at all. It is conjecture, that is all. If you want to buy into the Canaanite and Ugaratic myths as an Origin of the Hebrew God, you must buy into ALL their doctrines. I ascribe to the belief that there was ONE GOD, worshipped by the authors of the Bible, and the 'other gods' were not real, but 'later developments' of other nations. Your statement that they don't 'fit' a fundamentalist view of the Bible is mere opinion, not supported by ALL of the facts.

  27. "it really wouldn't matter even if it were true. I don't see what would be so shocking about someone coming from a 19th-century Protestant environment having a monotheistic view until receiving revelation otherwise"

    Why not? Supposedly the view of the two gods came FIRST, didn't it? (Of course, you are probably well enough studied to know that he also changed his mind about the first vision)

    My point, Walker, in bringing Joe Smith into this picture with us is that you are looking for what he taught you to believe.

    Please take time to answer my questions above.

  28. Sorry that was so long, but there was a lot of material to cover.

  29. "in every possible conceivable way reiterated the idea"

    Using similar language, all dealing with incomparability. Another example, Isa. 40:17: all nations are described as "nothing." Does this mean they don't exist? Or does it mean that they are insignificant? Obviously, the latter.

    "Wouldn't it be better to consider YHWH's direct words, over a poem, song, or daydream?"

    Oh, the irony. Were you not earlier condemning me for not taking the whole Bible into account?

    ""elohim" - mighty ones"

    This is a very poor and outdated translation. 'Elohim' is a concretized abstract plural, similar to others like 'adonim (lordship) or 'abot (fatherhood). The best translation is "divinity" or "deity." See Joel S. Burnett, A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim (SBL: 2001).

    "Can you disregard all of this as "plain and precious truths removed"?"

    I haven't disregarded anything. I've said your interpretation of Hebrew vernacular is wrong.

    "The Ugaritic worship, which looks to have been a bunch of drunken orgies - are they the right source for information?"

    The Ugaritic texts are very helpful sources in discovering the linguistic and cultural context of the Hebrew Bible.

    "How do these things figure out, in your mind and worldview?"

    I assume you mean "drunken orgies" by "these things." I find drunken orgies to be immoral. And?

  30. "My point, Walker, in bringing Joe Smith into this picture with us is that you are looking for what he taught you to believe."

    It is an irrelevant point to you engaging the historical and textual evidence. It has no significance.

  31. "you must buy into ALL their doctrines"

    No, I don't. There is no logical reason to think that.

    "Your statement that they don't 'fit' a fundamentalist view of the Bible is mere opinion, not supported by ALL of the facts."

    And evolution is "only a theory."

  32. Walker,

    What you may not see is this is all speculation and interpretation. There are two scholarly sides to this, yours is a recent development, far from conclusive. I've had the same conversations with Daniel ... who eventually ran from the discussion

  33. What facts should I be taking into consideration? Facts like tomb inscriptions at Khirbet al-Qom that speak of "Yahweh and His Asherah"?

  34. "I've had the same conversations with Daniel ... who eventually ran from the discussion"

    Where? Please don't tell me at CARM.

  35. "What you may not see is this is all speculation and interpretation."

    As is the case with most research and scholarship. Doesn't mean it doesn't have really good evidence.

  36. "Using similar language, all dealing with incomparability. Another example, Isa. 40:17: all nations are described as "nothing." Does this mean they don't exist? Or does it mean that they are insignificant? Obviously, the latter"

    You are ignoring him. This is not a "similar language" issue. Would you like a list of all the ways YHWH says He is the only one?

    Here's a sampling:

    Isaiah 42:5-8 Isaiah 43:10-11 Isaiah 44:6 Isaiah 44:24 Isaiah 45:5-7 Isaiah 45:18-22

    In what way is He being unclear?

    "Oh, the irony. Were you not earlier condemning me for not taking the whole Bible into account? "

    You apparently to not believe in hermeneutics. I do not suggest disregarding the poems, only interpreting the vague in light of the obvious.

    "It is an irrelevant point to you engaging the historical and textual evidence. It has no significance. "

    Actually, it does. As one can find some "scholar" who will support any view they like - it makes a difference. You are only using those scholars who say what you want them to say, and you are disregarding their conclusions at will. Thus, in your "studies", you are biased.

    Please do a better job explaining away the Isaiah verses above, one by one please.

  37. Walker,

    I'll be back with some documentation on that. It is not as cut and dry as you might think. What most of these scholars ascribe to is that Yahweh was developed from the Canaanites. If you want to go down that road, be my guest. I don't.

  38. "In what way is He being unclear?"

    You ignored my reference to Cross and Heiser. Deutero-Isaiah (ch. 40-66) begins with divine council terminology. These statements must be understood within that context. Here is an excerpt from Cross:

    "The symbolism of the council of Yahweh forms the background also of several oracles of Second Isaiah (and related material). These belong to an oracle type (Gattung) which may be described as divine directives to angelic heralds, or the closely related category, the divine proclamation delivered by a herald.

    Isa. 40:1-8 is a parade example of this literary form in Second Isaiah. The passage opens with an unusual series of active imperatives, plural: nahamu, dabberu, qiru, “comfort ye,” “speak ye,” “proclaim ye.” The problem of the identity of the subject of these imperatives has baffled commentators. Traditionally it has been held that Yahweh here directs “prophets in general,” Israel’s priests, or the remnant of the faithful to proclaim the message of consolation. That such interpretation are forced has been recognized by most moderns…..Rather, the setting is the heavenly council in which Yahweh addresses his heralds, nahamu, nahamu, ammi, “comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” That such is the dramatic background of the passage is immediately confirmed by the following verses in which herald voices (introduced qol qore or qol omer) are heard proclaiming the divine message quite as directed in verses 1 and 2. Their proclamation announces the imminence of Yahweh’s appearance in acts of redemption and, more specifically, directs preparations for a “superhighway” on which Yahweh will march through a transformed desert at the head of his people. This herald proclamation in verses 3 and 4, to level hills and raise valleys, is directed to supernatural beings, to the council of Yahweh. This is indicated in the cosmic scale of the preparations for the divine theophany and is substantiated by Malachi’s comment (3:1): “Behold I send my messenger and he shall prepare the way for me.”

    In verses 6-8 an anonymous herald addresses the prophet, announcing to him his inaugural oracle, “All flesh is grass…but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Verse 6a is to read with the versions and the new Dead Sea Isaiah (A), “A (herald) voice said, ‘Proclaim’; and I said, ‘What shall I proclaim?’” The parallel to Isa. 6:1-8 is remarkable.

    It is strange that the full force of the symbolism of Yahweh’s council in the opening verses of chapter 40 has not been recognized." (Cross, “The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (12) 1953)

    "You apparently to not believe in hermeneutics."

    I'm very much a fan of hermeneutics.

    "Actually, it does."

    Joseph Smith has nothing to do with whether or not you can deal with the evidence provided.

    "disregarding their conclusions at will"


    "Thus, in your "studies", you are biased."

    Everyone is biased to some extent. I've actually shifted my paradigms a lot as I've studied. But my supposed bias is irrelevant to you engaging the evidence.

    I can sit here and repeat over and over again that you are biased. But that doesn't answer your arguments. So, quit bringing up these red herrings and deal with the evidence.

  39. "not as cut and dry as you might think"

    When did I ever say it was cut and dry?

  40. And what is up with "studies," Staci? Are my studies somehow not "real" studies because I'm Mormon? Because I actually quote sources that support my position? Because you think I'm a dishonest, pagan Satan worshipper?

    Why the quotations?

  41. That is how I perceive your argument. Thanks for the clarification.

  42. Walker, I don't have a problem with their being other "powerful ones". But I insist their "inferiority" just like YHWH does. He is self-existent. They were created BY HIM. This puts Him at the very top, literally. He can kill them all, if He wants, as indeed He threatens to do.

    Now, please, reply, one by one, to the Isaiah verses, and systematically show how they do not mean what they mean.

  43. "Thanks for the clarification."

    No problem. As I said above, I don't pretend to believe that ancient Israel believed exactly like we do today. I simply find parallels that are fascinating.

  44. sorry for being a little ornery. it's past my bedtime, by quite a ways. in fact- i'm calling it quits for tonight. have fun, guys

  45. "powerful ones"

    'Elohim' is divinity or deity. They are either divine or not. Varying degrees perhaps, but they are divine.

    "Now, please, reply, one by one, to the Isaiah verses"

    Do you not understand the significance of Cross's findings? Second Isaiah begins with divine council terminology; a divine council scene. Therefore, all "none beside me," "know no other," etc. must be understood within the context of the divine council. This is why Heiser writes, "[T]hese phrases express the incomparability of Yahweh among the other elohim, not that the biblical writer contradicts himself, or that he is in the process of discovering monotheism. The situation is the same in Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah 40:1-8 is familiar to scholars (via the plural imperatives in 40:1-2) as a divine council text (Cross, Seitz). Isaiah 40:22-26 affirms the ancient Israelite worldview that described heavenly beings with heavenly host terminology (Heiser, “Divine Council,” 114-118). That Isaiah’s “denial statements” should be understood as statements of incomparability, not as rejections of the existence of other gods, is made clear in Isaiah 47:8, 10, where Babylon boldly claims, “I am, and there is none else beside me.” The claim is not that Babylon is the only city in the world, but that she has no rival." (Heiser, 2008)

  46. Archaeologists in the course of excavations (1975-76) found a remarkable drawing of two human-like figures with arms interlocked on the remains of a large pottery jug labeled "Pithos A," at a caravanserai called Kuntillet `Ajrud, in the Sinai wilderness, on the way from the gulf of Aqabah to the southern Judean border near Ain Qusaima (biblical Azmon [?], near the river of Egypt in Judah's south border, Josh 15:4).

    This drawing is dated to the first half of the 8th century BCE and has generated numerous articles which have been discussed at some length by Keel and Uehlinger. There is no consensus on the imagery. An inscription in Hebrew near the heads of the two individuals, suggests to some scholars that "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" are being portrayed, this association has been challenged by others, most notably, Keel and Uehlinger.

    Remarkable, are the images of "Yahweh and His Asherah" in the "full frontal view." This view is attested in images of goddesses in the Late Bronze Age associated with Syria and Canaan. Egyptian representations of these foreign goddesses show the same full-frontal view (e.g. Anat and Qadesh, as well as numerous representations of full-frontal nude "Fertility goddesses").

    "Since no other major deities are shown in the paintings on the two pithoi, it is much more likely that these simply represent two apotropaic daemons whose powers were to be mobilized, by these depictions, to afford for those who were threatened with many types of dangers as they sojourned in the northern Sinai Desert (see Hadley 1987b, 196)." (pp.222-3)

    Keel and Uehlinger insightfully observe that it is important to look at art symbols and images within as wide a context as possible; they note that several inscriptions on the walls of the caravanserai, although fragmentary, mention Baal and Yahweh:

    "...when Baal bursts forth on...
    ...blessed be Baal on the day of...
    ...the name of El on the day of...
    ...blessed be Baal on the day of the b[attle...
    ...the name of El on the day of the b[attle... (p. 244. Keel & Uehlinger)

    Keel and Uehlinger caution about jumping to conclusions that El is being equated with Baal in these texts because of their fragmentary nature (p. 245)


    “Names give only general information, or none at all, about the essence of the deity addressed and worshipped. They can be attached to a deity much as one affixes a label. The Egyptian tree goddess who can be seen in pictures from the Eighteenth through the Twenty-first Dynasties, next to the grave of the person who has died, either has no name or she can be designated with various names. (Nut, Neith, Isis, Ma’at, etc.) Yet her appearance and function are always the same. A name captures only a small part of the identity of a deity or else provides no information at all. the essence of that identity is expressed in a much more striking way by the functions of the deity and the roles played by that deity. For the most part, the name can offer little more than a kind of etymology of the deity. “Yahweh” may originally meant ‘he blows’ (Knauf,1984). But no one would want to maintain that etymology, itself no longer understood in pre-exilic Israel, expresses the dominant aspect of the God of Israel. What did ‘Asherah’ mean? Did the term always mean the same thing? If so, what: a natural tree, an artificial tree, a pole, an anthropomorphic image? If an anthropomorphic image, what kind: a naked goddess or a clothed, enthroned lady? Or is it not an object or sculpted image at all, but rather the concept of a goddess who is perceived as a heavenly, personal being? Or does it refer not just to one or the other, but to various aspects and forms that are mixed together? It is quite IMPROBABLE that names like ‘Asherah,’ ‘Baal’ or ‘Yahweh’ always referred to the same singular reality or concept.

  47. The one-sided orientation toward the world of hearing (and reading) has led to the situation that the religious history of Palestine (ca. 1800-500) has been reconstructed predominantly on the basis of two lexical corpora: the texts of Ugarit (especially the mythology) and the Hebrew Bible, and this situation continues. Recently discovered Israelite and Judean inscriptions are screened through the symbol system deduced from Ugaritic texts and then interpreted on this basis.

    The problems are inescapable. The main difficulty is the distance, physical and temporal, that separates the texts of Ugarit and Palestine during the period from 1800-500. Ugarit is about 400 km from Jerusalem, about the same distance as Jerusalem is from Memphis, Egypt, an intellectual center of the first order. The production of the Ugaritic texts ended about 1200, this about the mid-point of the period that concerns us here, and at a time when not a single biblical text had yet been written. Therefore, trying to make sense of the symbol system of ninth- or seventh-century Palestine with the aid of texts from Ugarit is EXTREMELY PROBLEMATIC. Frequently,, these can offer nothing more than ‘parallels’ a situation which increases the likelihood that SOMEONE WILL TRY TO USE THEM TO FILL IN DETAILS. They are NOT primary sources for the religious history of Canaan and Israel.

    The nature of the sources (Ugarit and from the Bible) has meant that most reconstructions have BEEN LARGELY CONJECTURAL; the solutions that have been proposed have been filled in imaginatively with evidence from various times and places, arranged like pieces of a mosaic. The procedure is only MARGINALLY HISTORICAL and is generally subject to little critical analysis.” – Gods, goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel, by Othmar Keel & Christopher Uehlinger


    These were fertility cults you are referring to here, and Staci makes a good point. (The drawing that goes with the ‘Yahweh and his Asherah’ you refer to shows all the male genitalia, much like Smith’s hypocephalus piece showing the God Min with an erection) The Bible warned against following the worship of Baal, the Canaanites and all of their practices. How can one ascribe them to the teachings of the authors of the Bible, when there is no provable connection between the two? The God of the Bible has always been one God. That there were ‘other gods’ mentioned is not in dispute, but their being mentioned in the Bible does not mean it is a doctrine espoused by the authors of the Bible.

    Smith seemingly had something in common with these cults, as his frequent adulterous relationships attest. Should we start calling Mormonism a fertility cult? That has nothing in common with what is revealed in the Bible, and it is a long, hard road to try and sort out all of the history of the Palestine era that produced it’s culture. That they had problems with these cults is very evident. Trying to say these cult beliefs were also believed by the authors of the Bible is problematic. I find the efforts of those who wish to make the Israelites ‘polytheists’ forced, to say the least.

    Did the Canaanites and others borrow from the Patriarchs, or was it the other way around? I ascribe to the former, and base my belief on it. There is nothing but conjecture to deduce the latter.

  48. "Isaiah’s “denial statements” should be understood as statements of incomparability"


    Walker, won't don't you understand about Incomparability? :)

    He, YHWH, among the "divine ones" (heavenly beings) is absolutely INCOMPARABLE. There are no other gods like Him. He is the ONLY one who is
    as well as

    Thanks grindael for your terrific research and help!

  49. Some final(?) thoughts...

    1- According to the Bible, man's (speaking generally of humankind) tendency is to reject the ultimate authority and sovereignty of an Almighty Creator God who is in all ways superior to everything, and to whom we must credit the very air we breathe, and the fact that are able to breathe it at all. It is NOT IN OUR NATURE to want YHWH. Thus, down through the course of history, we have always seen men create their own god(s) to worship, from their imagination, and/or adopt other people's creations from their imaginations. Looking around at nations outside of Israel, and even Israel itself (as the Bible attests), will always show worship of "Self" - the desires and lusts of our hearts - in the gods we choose to worship. We create gods that are convenient for us. We worship what we want.
    Worship of YHWH is unlike the worship of any other "god". Because when you worship YHWH, you HAVE TO ADMIT that you are a fallen sinner, incapable of good, and rely solely on His mercy to make you a new creation. The afterlife desire then becomes HIM. You don't want to be a king, you don't want powers, you don't want control. You just want whatever YHWH has for you, because you know who you are in comparison to Him. And you are grateful to be in His all-capable hands.

    2- Though one may not "approve" of drunken orgies as part of the culture that goes with worshiping many gods, the drunken orgies themselves are the fruits of such worship.

    3- We are all subject to seeing what we want to see, when we look at the evidence. "Scholars" exist on each side of every issue; the good thing is that many of them are willing to bring the evidence to light and let us make our own conclusions. However, when we do this, we are still susceptible to error, given that we will still see what we want to see.

    I brought up Joseph Smith a few times, for this reason. Joseph Smith was a liar and a conman. He wanted to be king, president, god. He was into freemasonry, and hoping to "correct" it like he was doing for Christianity. He was into the occult. He wanted to be able to control evil spirits as necessary. These kinds of things ought to give a seeker of truth pause. If Joseph Smith is all of the above, and he is the one separating Jesus from God (and teaching that men can become gods), then when we catch ourselves trying to prove him right, we ought to wonder "why?". Am I interested in the occult? Do I want to follow a liar? Do I honestly think that even though Joseph was a bad man, his poly/heno/whatever theistic views are still good? Why would they be? What is it I NEED so badly, that I would follow a bad man's path?

    YHWH forces you to come to the end of yourself. His is the only glory that is important. Your good deeds are filthy rags. You cannot achieve your own righteousness. He is absolutely unlike any other "god" that people choose to worship.

    And like He says: our thoughts are only evil continually. How in the world do we think we can determine what is truth without Him?

  50. "LOL"

    What a great response. If you notice, I have argued that there is a high God above the others. This doesn't mean the others are not actual gods. YHWH stripping gods of their immortality (ex. Ps. 82) doesn't mean the other gods aren't gods. The dying god motif is found in ancient Near Eastern literature, but these dying gods are not different species from those gods who kill them.

    And you didn't even bother addressing Cross.

    And your last post was absolutely worthless to the conversation at hand. You have lost this debate.

  51. Grindael,

    I have never said the Ugaritic texts are a primary source. But those parallels you brush aside have helped make great advances in biblical studies. As for Asherah, the best book I've read on the subject is Judith M. Hadley, The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess (Cambridge University Press: 2000). You dropped her name, so I assume you are familiar with her work. This book goes beyond her 1987 VT article you referenced. She finds that the inscription "Yahweh and his asherah" demonstrate that asherah was part of Yahwistic worship, but by this time Yahweh had begun to absorb the fertility symbolism originally associated with the goddess. But she doesn't rule out the possibility that the goddess was still known. She reviews other findings, such as "the stands from Taanach [that] portray the clearest picture so far discovered of the worship of both Yahweh and Asherah together." From this she determines that "in the tenth century BCE Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped together." Her conclusion concerning the biblical record of Asherah is that "we can begin to trace how her name 'Ashera' gradually evolved into a designation of merely her cultic pole, as the editors of the text attempted to eliminate the evidence of her former worship among the Israelites."

    So, I'm glad you brought up Hadley. She certainly believes the ancient Israelites worshipped a goddess.

    Daniel C. Peterson has discovered an interesting reference to the mother goddess in the Book of Mormon. See his article "Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8—23" or the shorter "Nephi and His Asherah."

  52. one other note:

    Daniel C. Peterson, aka Maklelan, believes that YHWH required child sacrifices. YHWH, on the other hand, said the thought never came to His mind. Jeremiah 19:5 He's just not like the other "gods".

    Calling me the loser of the argument doesn't make it true, Walker ;)

    Take care

  53. Daniel C. Peterson is not Makelan Staci. Peterson is a Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at BYU, lived in Jerusalem and Egypt for several years, and is a husband and father of three sons. He's also considered to be one of the world's foremost non-Muslim scholars of Islam and the Middle East.

    Daniel McClellan is a husband and father of one daughter and just graduated with a Masters Degree in Biblical Studies through Oxford University in England.

    That Asherah was known and revered in ancient Israel is literally elementary Biblical Hebrew. Her image was featured on the inner-walls of Solomon's Temple, wherein the Israelites worshipped for (traditionally) well-over 400 years. Asherah may very well have been the "queen of heaven" to whom Jeremiah refers in 7:44. Asherah however, soon became equated with Baal worship and no longer has a place among the "orthodox" of Judaism.

  54. Pardon that last post, the references are in chapters 7 and 44 of Jeremiah. My apologies for the confusion!

  55. It is ONLY SPECULATION that the Israelites 'revered' an Asherah that Mormons want to equate with some 'heavenly mother'. Again, if you read the quotes above, there is no direct evidence to tie the worship of a fertility goddess (if that is what she was, "she" could be anything) to the Israelites, except invention by scholars.

    And, it would only have bee Israelites who 'strayed' into idol worship that 'revered' a 'strange' idol which Asherah would have been, because the Israelites only worshiped ONE GOD, who did not share power, was a jealous God, and would not tolerate it.

    I have seen the parallelamania of the Mormons many times, I've met Hugh Nibley, another guy named Einar Erickson, and others who search through obscure texts and heretical writings to find unrelated and unbiblical 'snippets' to compare to Smith's evolved theology of man-god doctrine.

    If you read the link I posted, Smith went from one end of the spectrum to the other, and if he lived, Mormons quite likely would be worshipping Adam, as Brigham Young said Smith taught he was God.

    The bottom line is, this is still pure speculation, not borne out except in tenuous connections from diverse cultures.

  56. Again, the Title of the Book: The CULT of Asherah - the Hebrews had problems with Idol worship. Once again, it is speculation to tie any of these premises to mainstream Judaism, including a council of 'gods'.

  57. From the Conclusion of Hadley’s book:

    “I provided an overview of the different OPINIONS concerning Asherah…

    Chapter 2 examined the Ugaritic materials … and thus HINTS as some sort of…

    It is noted that the precise etymology of asherah remains UNCERTAIN…

    It is POSSIBLE that the goddess came to Ugarit from Amurru..and the name of her servant Qadesh (-and-) Amrur MAY reflect that origin.

    Additionally, many other ancient Near Eastern goddesses … MAY be related to Asherah.

    It is therefore DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE EXACTLY which goddesses sprang from which.

    Chapter 3 was concerned with the biblical material…it has been noted that asherah USUALLY DENOTES SOME SORT OF WOODEN OBJECT, WHICH IS HUMANLY MADE. … This MAY be a wooden image …or MAY be a stylized TREE. However, Some verses APPEAR TO INDICATE a goddess.

    It MAY BE that Yahweh … was forced to take on some of Asherah’s fertility attributes.

    By the time of the Chronicler the term ‘asherah’ had ceased to have any rememberance of the goddess, and the later versions also consider IT to be a TREE.


    Chapter 4 examined Khirbet el-Qom … I have come to the conclusion that Lemaire’s reading IS MOST PROBABLE, ALBEIT WITH MINOR ALTERATIONS… is UNLIKELY that ‘asherah’ in this case refers directly to the goddess…

    Then she makes the statement: shows this CULTIC symbol was part of Yahwistic worship.. (how she can come to this conclusion based on the above is beyond me)

    She then qualifies that statement with this:

    IT MAY BE that at this time Yahweh was absorbing this symbol into his cult… (again the may be’s, the it’s possible, etc)

    Chapter 5 closely examined the finds from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud. I have had to rely to some extent upon photographs, drawings and readings of the inscription BY OTHER SCHOLARS. Here I DISAGREE with the excavators… it MAY be similar to the biblical malon.

    Again she concludes with a MAYBE:


  58. Chapter 6 considered relevant finds from five other sites. The goddess on the gold plaque IS PROBABLY Astarte, and the charred wooden remains could not be CONFIDENTLY IDENTIFIED AS AN ASHERAH.

    The cultic stands from Pella and Taannach MAY BE EVIDENCE for the worship of Asherah.. one depicting stylized TREES and the other … a pair of naked females standing on the heads of lions, MAY SHOW that Asherah was worshipped…

    IF Taylor is right … then we have PROOF that in the tenth century BCE Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped together. Since the stands were discovered in a cistern, IT IS NOT CERTAIN WHETHER THEY WERE A PART OF THE OFFICIAL TEMPLE WORSHIP, or whether the stands were used in a domestic setting. She then concludes: Nevertheless, the INTERPRETATION of the depictions on the stands APPEARS TO BE that Asherah was an intimate part of the Yahwistic CULT.

    Chapter 7 We can trace the goddess FROM HER POSSIBLE ORIGINS in the steppe-lands of Syria … on to Ugarit … her CULT MAY HAVE SPREAD to the region of ancient Israel quite early.

    Here is the essence of her book. Possibly, maybe and speculation. The quote above by Keel & Uehlinger sum it up nicely:

    “The problems are inescapable. The main difficulty is the distance, physical and temporal, that separates the texts of Ugarit and Palestine during the period from 1800-500. Ugarit is about 400 km from Jerusalem, about the same distance as Jerusalem is from Memphis, Egypt, an intellectual center of the first order. The production of the Ugaritic texts ended about 1200, this about the mid-point of the period that concerns us here, and at a time when not a single biblical text had yet been written. Therefore, trying to make sense of the symbol system of ninth- or seventh-century Palestine with the aid of texts from Ugarit is EXTREMELY PROBLEMATIC. Frequently,, these can offer nothing more than ‘parallels’ a situation which increases the likelihood that SOMEONE WILL TRY TO USE THEM TO FILL IN DETAILS. They are NOT primary sources for the religious history of Canaan and Israel.”

    If some want to believe these speculations, one must buy into the premise that asherah was ‘absorbed’ into the religion of Yahweh, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. I for one, will not go there. The God of Israel WAS ONE GOD … and these instances are CULT WORSHIP in Israel … NOT EVEN REMOTELY PROVEN TO BE AN ACCEPTED FORM OF WORSHIP to the ancient Israelites except by TRYING TO FILL IN DETAILS with speculation. This also applies to the ‘council of gods’ and ALL OTHER GODS that intruded upon the mainstream worship of the One God of Israel.

    Staci has the Bible to back up her claims. All other claims are just speculation.

    Sorry if any typos, I had to type this out of my book.

  59. Basically, all you said was "it's speculation." It's a theory that has some very good evidence. And "cult" doesn't carry a negative tone in academia, only among self-proclaimed "counter-cultists."

    "Again she concludes with a MAYBE"

    Most of scholarship is made up with "maybes". This comment alone demonstrates that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    "Staci has the Bible to back up her claims."

    She has an interpretation of the Bible based on Protestant theology to back up here claims. Bald assertions mean very little.

    "I for one, will not go there."

    That is your problem then. But it doesn't do away with the evidence.

  60. And proof and evidence are not the same thing.

  61. "Daniel C. Peterson, aka Maklelan, believes that YHWH required child sacrifices"

    Putting aside the fact that you just made a fool of yourself, this has nothing to do with what we are talking about.

  62. Evidence and SPECULATION is not the same thing either Walker, and your vague answers show that YOU don't know what you are talking about. I have read both sides of the argument. Your comments:

    What facts should I be taking into consideration? Facts like tomb inscriptions at Khirbet al-Qom that speak of "Yahweh and His Asherah"?

    As is the case with most research and scholarship. Doesn't mean it doesn't have really good evidence.

    These comments show your naivety regarding facts and how they are speculated into conclusions that are not borne out by 'really good' 'evidence'.

    I've shown that there is NOT 'really good evidence' to support a conclusion that worship of Asherah, (whatever IT might be) was only pure speculation without any proof that is was linked to mainstream Judaism.

    The FACT is, there is no connection of Asherah to Mainstream Judasim, except in the minds of some scholars that are playing guessing games. It was CULT (Idol) Worship that could have found it's way into Israel at any time. You will have to do better than that to convince anyone who can read and understand both sides, that your argument has any merit.

    Again, You might want to denigrate the Bible, make God out to be some invention of the Hebrews that they culled from other religions, but I won't.

    It doesn't mean, like you make it out to be - that I've closed my mind either. I continue to read and study and will till I die.

    You don't have any "evidence" that proves it, only conclusions from scholars that have to go to great lengths to TRY and make a connection.

    Cult may not carry a negative 'tone' to you or some scholars, but it does IN THE LIGHT OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES. Perhaps you need to read them more, and rely less on the speculation of scholars that probably don't really believe in them.

  63. grindael :“there is no direct evidence to tie the worship of a fertility goddess (if that is what she was, "she" could be anything) to the Israelites, except invention by scholars.”

    The Canaanites it is presumed, started out as worshipers of the One True God then fell into apostasy. Likewise, ancient Israelite concepts of God have developed from monolatry to rigidly yachiyidic monotheism. The functional separate natures of El and Yahweh were compounded around the time Solomon’s Temple was built. Even in the eighth century however, Yahweh and Asherah worship were in fact realities of ancient Israel. Seeking to avoid independent worship of Asherah, the Judaic reformists began to associate Asherah with Baal worship, thus the strict monotheism today.

    The fact that Asherah reverence was a part of Hebrew tradition is one of the major underlying themes of the Old Testament and man’s (and woman’s) identities and children created in the image (Heb. Tselem) of God. The planting of the sacred tree(s) by Abraham (Gen. 21:33) was done at least in part, to acknowledge Asherah. The naming of Asher (Gen. 30:13) signified that Leah was blessed “by the help of Asherah.” The blessings of the womb and breasts (Gen. 49:25) was an Asheritic epithet. Other allegorical references are found in such passages as Proverbs 3:13-18, 8:22-31, Isaiah 16:3, Hosea 14:8, and Ezekiel 8:3.

    You say you’ve met Hugh Nibley. From this (I’m assuming it was once) meeting were you able to ascertain beyond reasonable doubt that Nibley was a fraudulent scholar specifically on this subject? Where did Nibley refer to Asherah worship? We’re not quoting Nibley Grindael. We’re citing some of the most competent and well-recognized Biblical scholars to date, namely Bob Becking, John Betlyon, Tilde Binger, John Day, Judith Hadley, Ze’ev Mishel , Raphael Patai, Saul Olyan, Richard Petty, and Ziony Zevit. These aren’t Latter-day Saints, nor is their work so obscure that only Library dust has touched it.

    grindael: "The FACT is, there is no connection of Asherah to Mainstream Judasim, except in the minds of some scholars that are playing guessing games."

    That should probably be rephrased to "there is no connection between Asherah and CURRENT Judaism. The scholars are and continuing to publish several volumes on this subject as archaeological evidence continues to shed light in its favor."

    grindael: "It was CULT (Idol) Worship that could have found it's way into Israel at any time. You will have to do better than that to convince anyone who can read and understand both sides, that your argument has any merit.

    It was considered a cult between and eighth and sixth centuries B.C.E. when Asherah worship was polemically equated with Baal-worship by reformers, thus removing her image from the Temple of Solomon and a further development of strict monotheism. The Baal worshipers had an uncanny way of using the names of Israelite deity for their own gods.

    grindael:"Again, You might want to denigrate the Bible, make God out to be some invention of the Hebrews that they culled from other religions, but I won't."

    We're not denigrating the Bible, or trying to claim God was invented by the Israelites. The fact that the Canaanites sought to imitate Israelite worship various forms triggered a series of reforms within Judaism to systematically cut themselves off from anything resembling that of Baal worshipers.

    Assuming that the Hebrew scholars we've quoted "probably" don't believe in the scriptures is no greater a strain than Walker's "probabilities" in regards to Asherah in Israelite thought. These are overwhelmingly BELIEVERS in the written word. Just because they choose to read and study the Bible beyond Protestant Fundamentalism does not mean they "don't believe in the Hebrew Scriptures."

  64. Where do you get that 'her image was removed from the Temple of Solomon?' Where is the evidence of that?

    The conclusions of some of these 'scholars' ARE denigrating to the Bible, Tyler. Their conclusions are that Canaanite/Ugarit worship practices were assimilated INTO Yahweh Worship, not the other way around.

    "IT MAY BE that at this time Yahweh was absorbing this symbol into his cult… "

    Unfortunately, there is no archaeological evidence of Bible writings that are as old as the Ugarit Texts, so they are ASSUMING.

    Writing on Cave walls or on potsherds does not convey the INTENT of why it was put there, or WHO did it, or even what some of the pictographs/writings mean. That is ALL CONJECTURE.

    You go on about 'current' Judaism. The fact is, NO ONE KNOWS HOW IT WAS DEVELOPED, except through the BIBLE. So the point you are trying to make is moot. Even your own statement is just conjecture:

    The Canaanites IT IS PRESUMED, started out as worshipers of the One True God then fell into apostasy.

    According to the Bible, this is NOT the case. It is the Smith 'great apostasy' nonsense all over again. It is the only way Mormons can make their claims work, and once again there is no evidence for any of it, only Mormon speculation.

  65. And to clarify, I said:

    ...rely less on the speculation of scholars that PROBABLY don't really believe in them.

  66. So Canaanite worship was not loosely based upon an imitated and corrupted form of what was once Israelite worship of the One True God? This has nothing to do with the "Great Apostasy" after the deaths of Christ and His apostles. I was merely acknowledging that the Canaanites were an apostate group living in ancient Israel. PLEASE do not misunderstand me in that regard.

    You insist that the Bible is the ONLY history of the Israelites, yet it does not mention a hundredth part of what was going on. The Bible in its present form, is regarded even according to the great New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, is abbreviated, abridged, and focusing more on an admonition and promotion of the faith than it is an actual historical document. The oldest O.T. manuscripts aren't even written in Hebrew, and come long after the revisionist movements to rewrite Israelite history.

    I still await your responses regarding the actual POSITIVE references to Asherah worship found within the Old Testament. Thank you for your time Grindael.

  67. I did not say that the Bible is ONLY the history of the Israelites, you are reading into me. I said the ONLY Theological History of the Israelites we have from that period, is in the Bible and anything else is speculation. That is why I said:

    "Unfortunately, there is no archaeological evidence of Bible writings that are as old as the Ugarit Texts, so they are ASSUMING."

    As for Asherah in the Bible, IT (a tree? a goddess? something else?) is always mentioned in a bad way. Only recent scholars, (by speculation) have tried to make IT into a 'goddess' worshipped by the Hebrews.

    Dever says:

    "We do not know for sure what the belief in the god Yahweh meant for the average Israelite. Although the biblical text tells us that most Israelites worshipped Yahweh alone, we know that this is not true... (according to HIM)

    The discoveries of the last fifteen years have given us a great deal of information about the worship of the ancient Israelites. It seems that we have to take the worship of the goddess Asherah more seriously than ever before."


    But John Day says the opposite: "there is nothing in first-millennium BCE texts that singles out Asherah as 'Queen of Heaven' or associates her particularly with the heavens at all."

    The majority of the forty references to Asherah in the Hebrew Bible derive from the Deuteronomist, always in a hostile framework:
    the Deuteronomist judges the kings of Israel and Judah according to how rigorously they uphold Yahwism and suppress the worship of Asherah and other deities. If this was so legitimate why, when King Manasseh placed an Asherah pole in the Holy Temple, was cited as one who "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 21:7)?;

    King Hezekiah "removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah", (2 Kings 18.4), and was numbered among the most righteous of Judah's kings before the coming of the monotheistic reformer Josiah, in whose reign the Deuteronomistic history of the kings was composed.

    This shows that these were CULT (Idolic) symbols, with NO PLACE in the Hebrew Religion. To compare the Genesis quote to asherah is a very great stretch (that dang speculation again).

    As a cult object, the asherah can be "made", "cut down", and "burnt", and Deuteronomy 16:21 prohibits the planting of trees as asherah, implying that a stylised tree or lopped trunk is intended.

    And the name Asher, well, it is a root word that simply means 'happy' or 'blessed', how do you get asherah out of that? Another stretch my friend.

    The problem here Tyler is this is all speculation. There is no positive references to asherah WORSHIP found in the OT. It was a CULT, that found it's way into Israel, and was denounced as such by the authors of the Bible.

  68. Also, thank you for your kind responses. My name is Johnny.

  69. Johnny-

    I will have to disagree with you that there are no positive references to Asherah worship found within the Old Testament. It is clear to me at least, that Abraham's planting of the grove in Beer-sheba (Gen. 21:33) was to honor both God and His Asherah. The literal reading of the text implies that Abraham called on the name of Yahweh El Olam. (The Lord, God, Eternal). It seems odd to me that a planting of trees would occur, unless viewed through the significance that Asherah brings to the table. The planting of the tree was meant to venerate Her position in regards to Abraham.

    Even the great Matriarch Leah, to whom Israel was espoused, rejoiced that be'Asherah (by Asherah, the goddess of fertility) that she was able to bear her son Asher, for after Asherah he was named. (Gen. 30:13) Invoking the name of El or Yahweh was common in ancient Israel, as many names bear the names of God in part. Leah's calling on Asherah in childbirth confirmed the name of her son as Asher, that being the masculine form of the feminine Asherah, as the "ah" was dropped at the ending.

    The blessings of breast and womb in Genesis 49:25 are clear references to Asheritic epithets, that can be seen in images of Asherah found in both Israelite and Canaanite archaeological sites.

    Asherah in ancient Israel, prior to the reformation movement, signified happiness, blessings, and wisdom. Thus she is figuratively referred to in Proverbs 1-9 as the Hebrew "chokmah" or "wisdom." The term "asher" or "happy" is found in Proverbs 3:13, as well as "chokmah" or "wisdom." Proverbs 3:18 in the same block of scripture refers to the "tree of life" which is also a symbolic reference to Asherah.

    Thus within the setting provided by Proverbs, we have Asherah presented through ancient Israelite literature as "Lady Wisdom. The themes of happiness, blessings, wisdom, and creation, are prevalently Asheritic in nature, particularly when we touch on the "tree of life" narratives found in Proverbs 8:22-31, Isaiah 6:13 (RSV).

    Hosea 14:8 I believe bears the most strikingly blatant (positive) Asheritic reference within the text of the Old Testament. The Hebrew reads "ani' aniti wa'ashurennu" or "it is I who answer and look after you." The last word is a reference to Asherah, as well as the word "aniti" which is a reference to another god associated with the Canaanites and borrowed from the Israelites, namely "Anat."

  70. Isaiah 27:9 argues against the Canaanite form of Asherah worship during a Judaic reformation period, however it does so by allowing Yahweh to assume the role of what Asherah would have done.

    Ezekiel 8:3 guides the viewer to an inner-setting within the inner gate of Solomon's Temple. Here, we find the "image of jealousy." Biblical scholars and archaeologists have argued that that image was once Asherah. also:

    Since the "image of jealousy which provoketh jealousy" makes very little sense, it has been argued that this was used summarily as a figurative reference to the esoteric and very much forbidden mentioning of the name Asherah, the creatress.

    I differ from many of the Biblical scholars, who claim a Canaanite origin for the ancient Israelites. My belief is that the Canaanites had a very much corrupted form of what was once true worship of God. Think of the Nehushtan patterned after the brass-serpent pole of Moses, an image later expressly forbidden in Israel because it became corrupted.

    Originally, the Temple of Solomon displayed Asherah commonly. The names of the two Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant were "Asherah" and "Yahweh." The menorah represents an olive tree, wherein olive oil was burned, another symbol of Asherah.

    These responses are not meant to degrade the Bible Johnny. I have a profound love for the Bible, particularly the Old Testament which I currently teach as a Gospel Doctrine instructor, along with my wonderful wife Kacey. I wouldn't say that the eternal truths of Israel changed as worship patterns and methods changed. However I am convinced based on a deeper reading of the text of the Old Testament that the "negative" references to Asherah worship refer specifically to the apostate practices of the Canaanites. Baal in Hebrew literally means "Lord," or "Possessor." Only when the Canaanites corrupted this term did the negative connotation arrive in Judaic thought.

    I believe that is how Satan works Johnny. He takes something that was once beautiful and good, and turns it into something negative. Think of the word "gay" for instance. Up until four or five decades ago, it simply meant "happy" or "joyful." Now it is used to describe one who actively participates within a homosexual lifestyle. This is why God warned against those who would take His name in vain, lest it should fall into misuse or corruption.

    Perhaps my belief in these things brings theological implications and reservations for you. That is expected. Just realize that I base these things on what I have found to be a very deep, meaningful, enlightening, and spiritual JOURNEY through the Old Testament.

  71. Aren't you doing the same thing with the word asherah? (as is done with gay)

    The problem here, is that no one really knows the meaning behind the words. What you are doing is taking the tree symbol, and attaching it to a goddess symbol and then ascribing all the mentioning of trees to a goddess. I totally understand the tree in relation to the goddess and how it is arrived at. The problem is, how can you ascribe the EXACT meaning to the verses you quote? Bottom line, you can't.

    I have been wading through Margaret Baker lately, (the tree and temple symbolism brought her to mind) and I can understand why Mormons like her, but again, she uses a lot of conjecture. But even she says the Trinity is pre-Christian:

    "She concluded that when the Christians declared ‘Jesus is the Lord’ they were affirming that Jesus was the final manifestation of Yahweh, the national God of Israel in the Old Testament. Thus the origins of Trinitarian belief are pre-Christian, and the heir to temple tradition is Christianity." - From Synopsis of the Great Angel, by Author

    ...(which Mormons may ignore), and it is with reservation that I take the words of ANY of these scholars - because they have to invent, use conjecture and speculation to arrive at their conclusions.

    Barker focuses heavily on the Book of Enoch. Have you read the Book of Enoch? It is a mess. It is no wonder it is not cannon, there is everything under the sun in it. There is no coherent picture to it at all and it must be read carefully. And to ascribe what is in it as being pre-Mosaic is another stretch. There may be elements of truth in it, a verse from it was used by Jude, but it does not mean everything in it is to be believed. The Cannon is the Cannon for good reasons.

    These same circular arguments also encompass the 'sons of god' quotations. It can be seen numerous ways. Here, God calls Israel a 'son':

    "When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son."

    Is there such a difference in context that the sons of god can’t really mean the sons of Israel? Understanding the OT gives you the key to why they changed it. Not in opposition to there being other ‘beings’ like angels created by god, but to show the supremacy of Israel and his sons. Are there other beings in heaven besides God. Yes. What are they? Our knowledge is limited. We know from the Bible there are angels. What was the motivation for the denouncement of all idols and asherah in Deuteronomy? Well, they had just come out of the Idol capital of the world, Egypt and were now living among the Canaanites. What more do you need? You see how many ‘faiths’ there are in America. Was Israel any different? We just don’t KNOW.

    It is all well and good to study history and the verification and authentication of the Bible through archeology is an added bonus. But some of these scholars make implications that try to tear down the very thing that I base my faith on. These ideas of Judaism & Fertility Cult symbols and the absorption of them by a ‘lower god’ called Yahweh are among them. Is it so important to make any kind of connection here that the whole picture is not seen?

    That seems to be what some Mormons are doing. I met Nibley twice actually, and have ALL of his books and have read them. Does that qualify me to speak about him? Maybe not. But I know that there are many, just as reputable scholars who do not agree with these conjectures. And Nibley did take a lot of the context out of what he was comparing with Mormonism. Exploit the parallels no matter what the cost.

    I am sure you are a sincere person, and I was not implying that YOU espouse the views of those like Hadley, and I was mildly surprised at your candor and good attitude. I too, have been where you are.

    Some also espouse that Josiah purged references to Asherah out of the Bible - and again, for what reason? Supremacy of the One God? That does not make sense. What does, is the idolatry

  72. associated with the name from the beginning, and that it crept into Israel and Josiah did the only thing he could.

    Asherah, Wisdom, Sophia, all cult names and symbols, used by secret societies, fertility cults, and more recently the Gnostics, who were denounced by John in the Bible because the belief in these things twisted the perspective of the believers and shifted it from GOD to MAN. Jesus could not come in the flesh, they claimed. Jesus was another Jesus…

    They claimed books by Mary, and every other person under the sun, using their names to make it seem more authoritative. All filled with esoteric nonsense that doesn't stack up when you measure it against the simple teachings of Jesus.

    Yes, there may be more to the Old Testament story. Yes, there may be more discoveries. But what you may not realize is that I don’t see Joseph Smith as unique. His views and what he taught and practiced are found in many different forms throughout the ages, and they have always been called heresy and 'fringe teachings' not because they are true and hidden or because they are sacred (as the Gnostics & Mormons claim), but because they are just the vain postulations of men who took it upon themselves to claim to speak for God, make MAN INTO GOD, and they needed to be secret because they are deviant.

    Ultimately, the radicalism of the ideas of these men did not last. Did God have a hand in that, like the shaping of the Bible? I believe HE did. He promised to preserve his WORD. He promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church. I believe it with all my heart.

    Many of Smith's and Young's teachings have already been purged from your own Church. If a mother/fertility figure is so important to Mormons, why is there no revelation on it? Your prophets are strangely silent of late, Tyler. This, I don't understand, and I can no longer wrap my mind around the Mormon concept of continuing revelation that contradicts itself and EVOLVES by debate and a show of hands. This is not TAUGHT by your Church, but it is a FACT of your Church. Mormonism today, is nothing like the Mormonism of yesterday. That is why I left.

    Perhaps there is a lesson in this, for Mormons and Christians have their own ‘lingo’ and not every word means the same thing to different people. To try and go back thousands of years, (with little evidence) and draw conclusions based on speculation is perhaps not much different than what is going on today between the faiths of the world where there is plenty of evidence.

  73. Here is Hosea 14 (NIV) Please read in context:

    “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him:

    "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion."

    "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon. Oh Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me." Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

    He says we will never say OUR GODS TO THINGS WE MADE WITH OUR HANDS...The Lord then says He will bless them, they will blossom like a vine, flourish like grain, Ephriam will have no more to do with IDOLS & IDOL WORSHIP. Fruitfulness comes from HIM (the Lord). He is the fruitful tree that we get our blessings from. I don't see how you get asherah out of this, out of a pine tree, cyprus tree, fruitful tree? Again, you are reading far more into it than is there. But I'll look more into it, I'm not a Hebrew Scholar.

  74. A few quick comments. First, I am not Daniel Peterson. Second, I recognize my arguments are not perfect (no one's arguments are perfect), but that hardly serves as a rebuttal. Third, the discussion grindael referenced is here:

    I can't imagine how anyone could read it and honestly come away with the idea that I was running from anything.

    Lastly, the original post here presupposes a univocal text and demands a synchronic reading. When the several ideological and historical layers of the text are allowed to speak for themselves so much more information about early Israelite belief manifests itself. This undermines the post's attempt to assert that one reference to "gods" must be the same as every other reference to "gods."

    The post also refuses to address the fact that Deut 4:19 and 32:8-9 explicitly state that the gods were set up as gods over the nations by God himself. That hardly harmonizes with the idea that they are demons, abhorred by God, or non-existent.

  75. DM:

    I don’t actually see any attempts in any of the other responses to actually engage any evidence I’ve presented. It’s all naive attempts to paint me into some fundamentalist scriptural corner. I’m not interested in playing those silly apologetic games, so I’ll take my leave.

    We did engage Daniel. This was his response. He painted himself into his own corner and left.

  76. Can any of you say WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that these 'hosts of heaven' are anything more than created beings (angels) of God?

  77. My apologies for confusing two Daniels everyone.

    Tyler, I agree with Grindael. It appears as though you are reading INTO the text what you want to see. I'd suggest just reading the text by itself, to see what it actually says - because it is OPPOSITE from what you are getting out of it by reading into it. I used to be Mormon - I know we did that all that time. However, when I rejected Mormon thought and simply read the Bible, it suddenly got lots easier to read. This "deeper" thing - that's gnostic. The Bible has lots to it, but on the whole, just one main message that will not go away - the fact that there is one God that created everything (including any and all other divine beings), that humankind (and divine beings, as it turns out) are prone to evil, and that God Himself would have to save us. There is no hope, no mention, no chance AT ALL in the Bible that any of us were ever Gods, or that we will be. One God, One Savior, Fallen humanity that must turn back to the One God through the One Savior. Period.

  78. "We did engage Daniel. This was his response. He painted himself into his own corner and left."

    What an absolute lie. Your argumentation was worse there than it is here. You've moved up to saying, "All they said was MAYBE!!!!"

    Congrats. Jesus is lucky to have someone like you defending the Bible...

  79. "There is no hope, no mention, no chance AT ALL in the Bible that any of us were ever Gods, or that we will be."


    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:14-18)

    "[O]ne must not miss the radical implications of Paul’s understanding of the destiny of the elect group. Paul develops his exegesis from Gen. 1:27 and Psa. 8:6 as well. These texts speak of man in the "image" (eikon) of God, having "all things placed under his feet." Paul interprets this in the light of Christ, who is the "image of God" (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) and has been given all rule and authority (1 Cor. 15:24; Phil. 2:10) with "all things" subject to him. So it takes on the vastly expanded meaning of cosmic rule, power, and exaltation. What is said of Jesus as glorified Son of God, is also said of those "many brothers" who follow. In the wider context of Hellenistic religions, it makes little sense to speak of an exalted, heavenly, group of immortals, who are designated "Sons of God," as human beings. The old rubric, "Gods are immortal, humans are mortal" is apt here. Paul’s understanding of salvation involves a particularly Jewish notion of apotheosis, and would have been understood as such by his converts...[T]his idea of heavenly glorification is the core of Paul’s message...Every major aspect of his system is related to this concept. When he speaks of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ, he has in mind a Christological pattern (Phil. 2:5-10) which has the most direct bearing on this heavenly destiny of the elect...Paul is consumed with two great insights--the vision he has had of the exalted and glorified Christ whom he knows to be the crucified man Jesus, whose followers he had once opposed; and his conviction that by grace through faith this same heavenly glorification is the destiny of the elect group. All else falls in between." (James D. Tabor, Things Unutterable: Paul's Ascent to Paradise in its Greco-Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts, University Press of America: 1986)

  80. Sticks and stones Walker. Can any of you say WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that these 'hosts of heaven' are anything more than created beings (angels) of God?

  81. Grindael-

    I provided the link. Others are free to go see how the discussion progressed.

    Regarding your second point, I can say with certainty that the hosts of heaven were not considered angels until the Second Temple Period. Prior to that they were the Sons of God, which were distinguished from messenger deities (angels) until just prior to, or just after, the beginning of the Hellenistic period. The evidence for this is found in the fact that they are very clearly distinguished in the earliest literature, which closely follows the larger Syro-Palestinian pantheon (where they are clearly distinguished), and are not equated until Hellenistic-era literature. I discuss this more fully in these two places:

  82. Tyler, will you answer a question for me? Do you believe that Jesus was/is married?

    Walker, aren't you the one who kept insisting that the "I'm the only God there is" verses just meant "incomparability"?

    Perhaps we need to get something straight. There is only one TRUE GOD. That is, there is only ONE who is
    Creator of everything.

    The other "gods" or "sons of God" or "divine beings" or whatever we want to call them are
    NOT all-powerful,
    NOT all-knowing,
    NOT omni-present,
    able to be destroyed.

    When I say, when the Bible says, that there is ONE TRUE GOD, this is what I/it means.

    I could give a care less for these other beings. YHWH, who said He created the world by Himself, also said He was going to destroy anything else that was worshiped as "god". Let me be perfectly clear again, that when I say "GOD" I'm talking about the true one. Not the others who may be "called" gods. There is only one that is all of the things that we can call "God" by the definition given above.

    GOD, the Most High, the Almighty, YHWH, is



    You, Walker, have yet to address the whole Imcomparability thing, though you brought it up.
    What don't you understand about imcomparability, especially as it pertains to your "religion" of choice, which makes all "gods" comparable, only further or less advanced than others?

    Daniel, thanks for providing the link. And I agree, whoever is reading should go judge for themselves what happened out there. :}

  83. Staci, you said the following:

    "There is no hope, no mention, no chance AT ALL in the Bible that any of us were ever Gods, or that we will be."

    I have to disagree with this statement. In Gen 3:5 the serpent tells Adam and Eve that if they eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil they will become gods (the כ is a kaph veritas, indicating correspondence or identity). Many people insist this is a lie on the part of the serpent, but in Gen 3:22 God himself says, "Look, the man has become one of us, knowing good and evil." The phrase "good and evil" is a merism. That means it is a phrase that points to two extremes and is intended to mean everything in between. What it means, rhetorically, is they know everything--that is, they are omniscient. In the period during which this text was composed, the primary quality of divinity was omniscience, and Adam and Eve possessed that quality, according to Genesis. God himself says that Adam and Eve became gods, according to Genesis.

    I also disagree with the notion that it is Mormon ideologies which lead to the conclusions we espouse. Virtually all biblical scholars, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, or otherwise, recognize that the Hebrew Bible recognizes the existence of numerous other deities, and that humanity not infrequently participated in that taxonomic category.

  84. Walker brings up "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:14-18)"

    Why, first of all, do we need to become "sons of God" if we are already? Because you are not adopted into the family of God, until you are "born again" through belief on Jesus.

    Secondly, why does Jesus say some people are children of the devil? same reason.

    Now, the heredity thing. Do you see talk of becoming a god in that? If you do, it's because you want to. The One True God is offering to bring you in - to Himself, to inherit what He has for you (which, since He is the ONE TRUE GOD- the one who has all power and etc, will be quite a lot, I'm thinkin). He's not offering to make you another God, LIKE Himself. Show me how you get that out of it. Please.

    Daniel, I'm sure glad that you brought up the Garden of Eden.

    If you guys weren't blinded by your desires (namely, to become gods) you'd be able to see the pure and simple gospel of Christ in the Garden.

    God offered up two choices. One - choose to know good from evil. Once you know good from evil, you are then bound to the law. You must be good, because now you know the difference.

    Two - freely take the gift of life.

    Adam, of course, chose the law, and got us all working our butts off, trying to be perfect.

    Jesus came and undid Adam's mess. He was perfect, so that (read the Hebrew sacrifice stuff) our sins could be transferred to HIM, and paid for by HIM, and in return, we get HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    In case you missed my point, Daniel, it's not just Mormons who want to disregard YHWH. And in case you missed my other point, I'm not arguing that there are not others who are "called" gods. Only that there is one TRUE GOD - only ONE who will still be standing and has stood all along - only ONE who has that capacity that He does.

  85. One more thing, for now, and then I need to leave this party for the day.

    In the Bible, a "prophet" was a guy that represented God to men. (Conversely, a "priest" was someone that represented men to God.)

    You guys who are beating down ancient history to look for evidence of your beliefs - are you purposefully or ignorantly ignoring the fact that YHWH continually used his prophets to "slap" the Israel people?

    The Israel people constantly got out of line. You go looking at the archeology and whatever else, and you will see PAGAN WORSHIP in Israelite culture. Why? Because they were doing it? That's why YHWH kept sending His prophets to kick their butts.

    So, if you want to stand around saying Israel was worshiping Asherah or whatever other "gods", just realize that you are putting yourself in line against YHWH and His prophets.

    But who cares about that, right? I mean, you're going to be a god just like him....

  86. sorry, "Because they were doing it" should have ended with a ! rather than a ?

  87. Daniel,

    Are you basically saying there is a corruption in Deut. 32:48, and that PROVES that angels and sons of god are different?

    Can you prove that to me? Without speculation?

    You say:

    "The expanded cola SEEM intended to evade the mention of “all the gods,” but also to provide a key for the interpretation of “sons of God” elsewhere. They are to be identified with the angels of God."

    How does this provide a 'key' to differentiate between angels of god and sons of god? I see - seems to be and may have been, but no real proof.

  88. Sorry, that was Deut 32:43, I missed the typo.

  89. "You, Walker, have yet to address the whole Imcomparability thing, though you brought it up."

    Yes, I have. I've explained several times that a god that is incomparable is not the same as a god that is ontologically unique. Daniel's arguments in the link provided explains this many times as well.

    Another thing: stay on topic. You are starting to go into different subjects, like deification (which I shouldn't have addressed to begin with), prophets, etc. We are discussing Deut. 32:8-9 and the existence of other deities in the Bible. We aren't talking about how it fits with a Mormon or fundamentalist theology. We are talking about what the biblical manuscripts say and what history teaches. Enough with your red herrings.

  90. Staci-

    Your comments do not address the points I brought up, they just assert another perspective without argument. Can you respond to the fact that Gen 3:22 says Adam became a god or not?

    By the way, I don't appreciate the rather ignorant assumption that I'm blinded by anything. My exegesis is not influenced by any dogmatism, Mormon or otherwise. You'd be hard pressed to find any shade of Mormonism in the vast, vast majority of what I write, so skip the bigoted assumptions and definitely don't waste your time trying to talk down at me.


    First, it's Deut 32:43, and no, that's not what I'm saying. That angels were not Sons of God is proven by every text that precedes the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 32. What LXX Deut 32:43 shows is that they were ultimately conflated.

    You've also misunderstood my subsequent comment. It doesn't provide a key for differentiating, it provides a key for understanding their conflation. I don't have proof that they were conflated specifically at the translation of Deut 32:43, but that they were distinct prior to the Hellenistic Period is unquestionable, and my proof is that there is absolutely nothing in any text anywhere prior to the Hellenistic Period that comes close to even suggesting they were the same class of being. On the other hand, every reference to the two makes their distinction perfectly clear.

    I have the distinct impression that my comments are going to be misunderstood again. I hope I am wrong.

  91. "seems to be and may have been, but no real proof."

    More of Grindael's famous argumentation. No rebuttal, no counter-evidence. Just a big, fat "nu uh." Hope you're proud.

  92. You must have missed my clarification on the verse. (I put the correct one below) the first post.

    What I want to know is HOW you are arriving at your conclusion. For example, I know the theories on how Yahweh and Asherah were conflated, (Hadley):

    "IT MAY BE that at this time Yahweh was absorbing this symbol into his cult…"

    She gives examples which are a lot of conjecture, but HOW did angels and sons of god become conflated? What are you basing this on? Your just telling me does not PROVE IT.

  93. Walker,

    To what are you referring? Your attacks are juvenile.

  94. This comment has been removed by the author.

  95. "To what are you referring?"

    Your response to Daniel. The consistent aspect of your argumentation is to label everything as mere speculation as if it had no support whatsoever.

    "Your attacks are juvenile"

    I find nothing juvenile about pointing out that you are dismissing things with a wave of your hand because they use the word "maybe" or "seems." Your demand for so-called "proof" is ridiculous, seeing that you technically cannot "prove" the ancient Israelites were strictly monotheistic. I have little faith that you will move past this line of reasoning.

  96. Walker,

    There are two sides to this as you well know. I'm well read, but Daniel KNOWS a lot more than I do on this subject. YOU have not proven anything to me. I read Hadley's book and it IS speculation. Perhaps Daniel can point me in the right direction with some harder evidence than you provided. I'm only going by the Bible. Daniel READS Hebrew, I do not. I certainly can see what he has to say and compare it with what I know and what other scholars have said. If this is troubling to you, sorry you feel that way.

    I felt at the time Daniel ran away from the discussion on MC. He says he did not. Fine by me. I've gotten over it. I'm willing to dialog. If you are not, then don't. If Daniel feels it is not worth the effort, he won't either.

    The New Bible Dictionary says this:

    This phrase (tzeva' hashamayim) occurs about 15 times, in most cases implying the object of heathen worship (Dt. 4:19, etc.). The two meanings 'celestial bodies' and 'angelic beings' are inextricably intertwined. The LXX translation, using kosmos, stratia, or dynamis, does not help to resolve this. No doubt to the Heb[rew] mind the distinction was superficial, and the celestial bodies were thought to be closely associated with heavenly beings. . . .

    The Bible certainly suggests that ANGELS OF DIFFERENT RANKS have charge of individuals and of nations; no doubt, in the light of modern cosmology this concept, if retained at all (as biblically it must be), ought properly to be extended, as the dual sense of the phrase 'host of heaven' suggests, to the oversight of the elements of the physical universe--planets, stars and nebulae. (p. 495, "Host, Host of Heaven")

    My question was how are the sons of god (beney 'elohim) [I believe that is the term], NOT ANGELS.

  97. Johnny: “Many of Smith's and Young's teachings have already been purged from your own Church. If a mother/fertility figure is so important to Mormons, why is there no revelation on it? Your prophets are strangely silent of late, Tyler.”
    There have been several comments on having both a Mother in heaven and official proclamations declaring that mankind had a pre-existence being born of Heavenly PARENTS, not merely the Father. See for instance, the 1909 First Presidency statements on the Origin of Man, the 1995 Family Proclamation, as well and the late President Hinckley’s affirmation that “Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.” To say that we have a Mother in heaven is very much a taught, doctrine of the Church. I have heard it taught since I was a young child. Conservative members of the Church are cautious to address the issue in depth simply because they know little about it. Liberal members tend to use the doctrine to advance a feminist epistemological agenda that does more to toss aside many doctrines of the Church than embrace them.

    Staci: “Tyler, I agree with Grindael. It appears as though you are reading INTO the text what you want to see. I'd suggest just reading the text by itself, to see what it actually says - because it is OPPOSITE from what you are getting out of it by reading into it.”

    I disagree. As much as you’d like to say that the Bible is simply self-explanatory, it isn’t. Were this the case, we’d all be interpreting it the same way. I base my beliefs on a much broader understanding of the Old Testament through the lenses of what Near Eastern scholarship has brought forth. In this sense, it sheds new light on ancient origins. It does not change the text, but rather the understanding of the text.

  98. Staci: “I used to be Mormon - I know we did that all that time. However, when I rejected Mormon thought and simply read the Bible, it suddenly got lots easier to read. This "deeper" thing - that's gnostic. “

    The Pharisees of the New Testament accused the Christians of “digging deeper” into the meaning of the Old Testament (particularly the Messianic Isaiah passages) and thus rejected the Messiah. To insist that the Bible is “simple” to read and interpret is a stretch in my opinion. There are very deep and hidden meanings all over the text.

    Staci: “The Bible has lots to it, but on the whole, just one main message that will not go away - the fact that there is one God that created everything (including any and all other divine beings), that humankind (and divine beings, as it turns out) are prone to evil, and that God Himself would have to save us. There is no hope, no mention, no chance AT ALL in the Bible that any of us were ever Gods, or that we will be. One God, One Savior, Fallen humanity that must turn back to the One God through the One Savior. Period.”

    I believe there were creator(s) united in all the attributes of power and perfection that created everything, implying the plural unity of “echad” or “ekud” found within the text of the Shema, as well as scores of references within the creation account. I find it somewhat disappointing that you don’t believe we can become joint-heirs with Christ or partakers of the divine nature. It is true that Christ was our Savior from the beginning, that He was Yahweh to whom Israel gave reverence. Latter-day Saint doctrine affirms the centrality of Christ’s Atonement in bridging the gap between God and man wrought by the Fall.

    Whether or not Jesus was married (a question Staci asked me) I don’t find necessarily pertinent to my salvation to know. No scripture affirms the idea, or any official proclamation within the LDS Church. However, these references are not ontological confirmations that Christ was literally not married either. Great volumes of speculatory literature have been offered by Catholics, Protestants, and LDS leaders including Brigham Young and Orson Pratt. Such ideas do not represent “official” LDS doctrine and thus are not affirmative statements confirming or denying the alleged marriage(s) of Jesus. I would suggest the belief is certainly possible, based on the concepts of marriage I hold as a Latter-day Saint. However, at this time I am unwilling to take an affirmative stand on the subject either way. I hope these answer your questions.

  99. grindael-

    You want to know the process that occurred? Ok. The original Syro-Palestinian pantheon consisted of a high god and his consort. In the case of Israel, it was El and Asherah. The state cult explicitly recognized both deities throughout the united and divided monarchies. The second tier was inhabited by the "Sons of El," which, in the literature as it has come down to us, are nameless except for Yhwh. They are described in similar terms as those used in the Ugaritic literature--that is, deities assigned to specific duties vis-a-vis natural phenomena and political entities. Thus Yhwh is a storm god, Rephesh is a deity of pestilence, Mot is a deity of death, etc. The "Sons of El" are also assigned nations as stewardships, as in Deut 32:8-9. The next tier down constitutes the servant deities. They are ontologically deities, but they exist only to serve other higher-tier deities. These were exclusively messenger deities, originally.

    Yhwh and El were conflated around the beginning of the united monarchy in an effort to centralize cultic authority under the single state head when the northern and southern kingdoms came together. Cultic centralization in the late pre-exilic period sought to further consolidate cultic authority by delegitimizing temples and cultic sites outside of Jerusalem. This undermined the local worship of Yhwh, which is attested at Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom (no more "Yhwh of Teman" or "Yhwh of Shomron." This is too close to "Baal of Peor," and "Baal of Gad," "Baal of Hamon," etc. From now on just Yhwh of Jerusalem).

    This consolidating strained localized cultic piety, however, which began to manifest itself literarily. By the time Israel returned from the exile the roles filled by the several deities of the original pantheon were reconfigured and expanded for the new pantheon. Cherubim, Seraphim, the Hosts of Heaven, the Holy Ones, the Adversary, and a number of other offices were developed during the exile.

    This expansion continued into the Hellenistic Period with the explosion of angelological literature like 1 Enoch and texts from Qumran, but developing sectarian concerns catalyzed a push to reconsolidate these roles. The solution which was developed was to corral them all into one taxonomical category. The most convenient category was the angelic, so authors and religious authorities began to treat these disparate characters as different responsibilities or manifestation of angelic beings. The Greek translation of Deut 32:43 represents the first clear attempt to equate the angels with the Sons of God, but it was quickly and completely assimilated into the Jewish worldview.

    Some modern commentators who prioritize a synchronic reading of the Hebrew Bible and don't concern themselves with the scholarship related to the various roles of the early Israelite pantheon accept the tradition that has come down that the two classes are to be identified, which is why you occasionally find it in dictionaries, translations, and more pop biblical literature.

  100. Ok. Thanks. Do you personally believe this is how the Hebrew Religion developed? What about the roles of prophets in the Old Testament? What is your take on the ORIGINAL Hebrew Religion?

    I like your overview, it gives me reference points for study. What I would really like to know is what your belief is on how the Hebrew Religion evolved pre-Mosaic period.

    Is your overview here a consensus of a majority of scholars? What do you think of S. Hermann, Flanders, Crapps & Smith? I also know about Frank Cross, (I read some of his Dead Sea Scrolls Translations in the 70's). Also, what about L. Handy?

    Thanks for your time.

  101. Grindael-

    Yes, I do think that's how it developed. That's the conclusion that the evidence supports.

    The prophets of the 8th and 7th century were largely social critics who condemned the excesses of the priestly aristocracy and the monarchy. Later prophets were more aligned with the interests of the monarchy and preached against poly-Yahwism and things like that.

    The fact that angels were not originally the Sons of God is a consensus, and the general outline is a majority opinion, but some finer points are theories that I am producing. For instance, at this year's SBL I will present a paper entitled "What is Deity in LXX Deuteronomy?" where I will discuss the reasons for the conflation of the Sons of God and the angels.

    Those scholars are largely outdated. Cross was widely influential (far more so than the others), but his era ended long ago. Lowell Handy has some interesting ideas, but I disagree with many of his assumptions. For instance, he simply asserts that the root Q-N-H does not mean "create." Many scholars disagree with this, but it is an assumption that is still occasionally made. The other paper I am presenting at this year's SBL directly confronts his assertion as part of a larger discussion of Gen 14:19, 22.

  102. Daniel,

    Thank you, again. I am not going to debate with you at this time, I have some research to do.

    I'm still not convinced that angels were not originally the sons of God for the reasons that much of the data being accumulated is too conjectural. The same goes for Asherah. But I want to go over that data, and get a more 'rounded' picture, and so I have to go to the library.

    Thanks though, for your time. This subject has become fascinating to me, and I appreciate your responses.

    As you know this was not the subject of our last debate (ours was a side issue of that debate) but I've read a lot more since the last time I found myself involved in this topic. I have a ways to go before I feel comfortable being able to respond to you.

    When I have something put together, I'll post it on this thread.

  103. In the mean time, Helen Hulse has encouraged other Christians to join the debate in your stead Johnny.

    "We could really use some comments on our blog. If you know God's word the Bible. Please consider joining the conversation. -Helen"

  104. I will say this, Mormons love to get you into these conversations like the one above that take the focus off what is true and important and I think it wise to let them reserve that for their quorum meetings and three hour blocks. About all you can do is what Staci did to start with and state what the Bible says. Yes they will eat worm holes through it to keep believing what they want however that is their choice.

  105. grindael-

    I noticed your responses to earlier comments showed much more awareness of the secondary scholarship than in our first interaction. I'm glad you've found it worth pursuing. If you're interested, a very good PhD dissertation by Michael Heiser, an Evangelical scholar, on the divine council is available here:

    We disagree on some specifics, but overall it provides a great deal of information.

  106. and Heiser (thanks for the link again) concludes:

    "The God of Deuteronomy created the other gods"

    This begins the definition of Walker's "imcomparability"

    It's easy for me to see (despite 20+ pages of Bibliography), Daniel, why you reject his conclusions - again, because you WANT TO.

    Why don't you guys try to prove Mormonism right by looking at your own history now?

  107. "Daniel, why you reject his conclusions - again, because you WANT TO."

    I think Daniel is acquainted well enough with the scholarship to have good reasons for rejecting the "species uniqueness" that Heiser advances. Bokovoy (as I've mentioned before) provided excellent reasons for rejecting Heiser's particular view on this.

    The full exchange can be found in this order:

    Daniel C. Peterson, "Ye Are Gods: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind"

    Michael Heiser, "You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82"

    David Bokovoy, ""Ye Really Are Gods": A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John"

    Heiser, "Israel's Divine Council, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study"

    Bokovoy's article addresses the concept of "species uniqueness".

    "Why don't you guys try to prove Mormonism right by looking at your own history now?"

    We aren't discussing Mormon history. We are discussing a multiplicity of deities in the Bible, which is what your OP is about.

  108. Crack Daddy: I will say this, Mormons love to get you into these conversations like the one above that take the focus off what is true and important and I think it wise to let them reserve that for their quorum meetings and three hour blocks."

    Feel free to explain where we've taken this conversation off of what is "true and important." You'd rather have us discussing these things at Church? Are you even aware that quorum meetings are a part of the three hour block or are you just being fescicious?

    Crack Daddy: "About all you can do is what Staci did to start with and state what the Bible says. Yes they will eat worm holes through it to keep believing what they want however that is their choice."

    The Bible says many things. Just because it doesn't fit into your fundamentalist understanding of the Bible doesn't mean we're wrong. If we're really wrong, please tell us where. We'd be glad to give our reasons for believing as we do, for this is what we've been doing all along. If you're going to counter, you're going to have to do it beyond "that's not what the Bible says."

  109. I think at this point there is nothing wrong with using the Bible as an authority. Up to now, the evidence is only conjectural about Asherah & the sons of god issue. There are also two sides to it. I will definately have more to say on this, but I'm not going to right now, because it is a very deep issue, and I was asked into this thread.

    I did not dialog with Daniel about these topics the last time either, it was a different issue I also stepped into.

    I will say this though, I admire Daniel's and Tyler's knowledge and commitment. I don't agree with where they are placing their trust though. I don't agree with Mormonism, (for reasons not pertinent to this thread.)

    This thread is about the gods of Deut. and Tyler and Daniel do have legitimate evidence to back up their side. It is up to us Christians in this case to put up or shut up.

    I will be back though, and look forward to continued dialog on this.

  110. Tyler, thank you for responding to my question about Jesus' wife. I posed it because it looks to me that those of you out here who are trying to prove that YHWH (or Elohim?) was "Heavenly Father" and Asherah was "Heavenly Mother" are neglecting (or ignoring, or otherwise do not accept) the NT.

    Jesus does have a bride. His bride is His true church. The church, His bride, is the group of people that believe that He is God, and have put their trust in Him instead of their own works. They have found "His Righteousness". They come from anywhere, any denomination, and they have been coming to Him since He was here. Individually, as a matter of heart and will, these people have lost their lives to Christ and His gospel, and thus have saved their lives.

    In other words, Jesus has a group - a nation that is not a nation - a "people" that is His bride.

    YHWH also, had a "people". Do you see what I am getting at?

    Let me say it another way. Jesus told the men who were asking whose wife the woman would be who had several husband "ye do err". Why? Because there is no marriage in heaven.

    Jesus did not marry a special woman, or women. He is married to His people. The marriage is symbolic of this - it points to Him. Also, YHWH is not married to a "woman god". He didn't need to be. There is no marriage in heaven, but YHWH is 'married' to His people.

    One way, I believe, to determine whether or not this "asherah" thing is what you want it to be, is to watch what Jesus talks about.

    There's more.

    Does Jesus ever mention a mother (besides Mary, whom He shuns a bit)? What about His parables? Does He speak of a mother figure there? Look at the Prodigal Son story, of Israel and YHWH. No mother there. Look at the story of the vineyard owner, his servants and his son. No mother there. Find me a mother in Jesus' teachings.

    There's more:

    What about the wedding Jesus went to. Why, if LDS temple sealings were important, didn't Jesus stop the proceedings and start handing out some Mel. Priesthood and Freemasonic aprons? Instead, He made wine. These are some questions you ought to ask yourself, shouldn't you? Unless, of course, you have shrugged off the NT as errant etc.

    Just some thoughts for you.

    Jesus Himself said there is ONE TRUE GOD. Do you not believe Him?

    I'm sorry to leave this in haste. I hope I've given you just a speck to think about though.

  111. Here's what happened when Maklelan tried this song and dance elsewhere on the web.

    Suffice it to say it didn't go too well, and instead of discussion all we saw was bluster and ego.

    Oh, and Walker? "Attempting to maintain a fundamentalist approach of inerrancy and infallibility when it comes to the biblical manuscripts is, frankly, intellectual suicide." Poison the well much?

  112. "Poison the well much?"

    Not really, considering I explained why I found this position unsustainable. That was my conclusion following my explanation.


    Quit bringing up other subjects that have nothing to do with the multiplicity of deities in the Bible. Temple marriage is not the subject of this discussion.

  113. Grindael,

    My apologies for earlier posts. I've been a bit tired and stressed lately and have let that influence my posting. I am sorry for my tone.

    I am curious: What is it exactly about the Ugaritic parallels (amongst others) that make you distrust the parallels? Many examples have been given, I'll stress one I believe I made earlier:

    The oldest Deut. 32:43 reads, "Praise, O heavens, his people, worship him, all you gods!"

    It is similar to Akkadian suilla prayers, like the following:

    May the heavens rejoice in you, may the earth be jubilant in you.
    May the whole pantheon bless you.
    May the great gods make your heart content. (Shamash Šuilla prayer, BMS 6:129-132)

    I also find the singling out of the fire god Girra in Maqlu II (76-102) significant. He is described as the "eminent one of the gods." The prayer then states, "You alone are my god, you alone are my lord, you alone are my judge, you alone are my aid, you alone are my champion!"

    This kind of language is quite biblical, but was applied to a singled out god of a pantheon.

    I find things like this rather convincing evidence. What makes you suspicious of it?

  114. Walker,

    Thanks for the link to the BYU site and the Heiser paper. I applaud BYU for posting it, and yes Heiser is right, both Evangelicals and Mormons probably won't agree with him. I found it a fascinating read.

    Here's my thing. I understand very well, (and Daniel can attest at how naive I was about this topic three months ago) that the Old Testament is a very strange book. I understand the revisions that must have taken place. I also understand that no one is ever going to fully comprehend Hebrew History and their thought process fully pre Iron Age I except from the Bible itself.

    I get that what archeologists and scholars are doing is going to other cultures from the same period to cull information and try to understand what exactly the historical background was, so that writings can be interpreted from that point of view.

    What I don't agree with, is how many people are describing these theologies and the altering of Hebrew History and Theology as if they are fact, not theory and speculation. You have cave drawings, for example with Yahweh and His Asherah. Ok, who wrote it? Don't know. How many of these inscriptions like it are there? Don't know. Is it common? Etc. Ect. What exactly IS Asherah, a tree, a goddess what, and how was it understood by the Hebrews?

    It would be like someone coming into our culture and society from the future and looking at graffiti, and trying to interpret a whole culture from it. That was probably not the greatest example, but you get my gist.

    I know scholars are trying to go back in time and figure out what these things mean, and by no means is there enough evidence to get a complete picture. There are also too many opposing views. I initially rejected the divine council, but have re thought it. But I cannot ascribe it to other gods on par with Yahweh or that Yahweh was conflated by scribes or kings, it throws out the whole Bible, and that God (YHWH, Jehovah, Yahweh) worked through prophets that taught His people to LOOK for God to come and Redeem His people. I am more inclined to an angelic hierarchy, but that is a traditional belief.

    You see, I don't think this type of scholarship (Yahweh conflagration) is compatible with Biblical exegesis. We have scholars like Halpern:

    "In 8th-century and later literature, hab-ba`al, "the baal", appears alongside the plural, "the baals", "the gods of the class, baals". Hosea abjures the use of the term, "my baal" as an epithet of Yhwh, and speaks of dedications made to "the baal" (2:10)[15] in the same breath as promising to wipe the name of the baals, plural, from Israel's tongue (2:15,19; 11:2). His complaint about "the days of the baals" seems to be that devotion to them eclipsed the loyalty due Yhwh (2:15)

    Later, Jeremiah speaks of the baals in the plural: in 2:23, he asks, "How can you say 'I am not profaned, I have not gone after the baals?' Look at your way in the Valley," just after denouncing prophets who prophesy "by the baal" (2:8, singular), then accusing his people of abandoning him, the (singular) "source of living waters to cut themselves cisterns [plural], broken cisterns that don't hold the water" (2:13). The cisterns and the baals are identical, and plural, yet the prophets prophesy by the formally singular baal. 2:23 is of special interest in that the prophet presupposes his audience would deny its allegiance to "the baals": the suggestion is that the term, baals, has an expanded semantic range in Jeremiah's rhetoric, including (ancestral?) elements that earlier would not have been covered by the same word.

  115. Tying this polemic to the iconographic tradition in the cult, Jeremiah refers to those -- including people, kings, officials, priests and prophets -- "who say to a tree, 'You are my father,' and to a stone, 'You gave birth to me'" (2:27), where one might take the reference to be to a single pair of icons.[16] Yet in the very next line, Jeremiah complains, "Where are your gods, which you made for yourself; let them rise up, they will not save you in your time of evil, for as numerous as your towns were your gods, Judah" (2:28: G adds: and as many as were the streets of Jerusalem they sacrificed to the baal). The multiple gods are identical to the cisterns and the baals in Jeremiah's rhetoric. Yet the references to the baal, and to the tree and stone, in the singular, accompany those in the plural."

    Are these real gods, or gods made of hands? Halpern’s premise is that yes, these gods came out of Israeli tribal worship and were conflated in Yahweh. As he says:

    "For the Judahites of the late 7th and early 6th century, worship of these "other gods", including the Queen of Heaven, was indeed traditional practice, part of the folk- and traditional state religion of Judah."

    But who were these Judahites? WERE THEY THE LEGITIMATE WORSHIPERS OF THE ONE GOD YAHWEH? Who was who? That is where I feel all of this goes off track. Take this from Halpern again:

    "The equation of "other gods" with "baals" is not restricted to Jeremiah. Thus, in 1 Sam 7:3, Samuel urges the Israelites to remove the "foreign gods...and the ashtorets....So the Israelites removed the baals and the ashtorets." In the book of Judges, more particularly, whatever its editorial history (Halpern 1988:121-143, 220-228 for a Josianic date, with bibliography), a very revealing sequence occurs.

    Israel have failed to supplant the inhabitants of some of the tracts Joshua conquered. Yhwh therefore decrees his unwillingness to evict these peoples -- leaving their gods in place as snares (2:3). The Israelites of the next generation, who had not witnessed the conquest, "did service to the baals". Specifically, "they went after other gods from the gods of the nations which were around them". "They did service to the baal [singular] and to the ashtorets" (2:11-13). Who is the baal Israel served? "The baal" represents the baals, the male gods of the nations of Israel's environs. These are the "other gods" to whom the nation's cultic attentions relapse even when "judges" arise (2:17,19): the other gods are the snares intentionally left by Yhwh. Intermarrying with the surrounding nations, the Israelites "did service to their gods" (3:6). After 2:13, "other gods" alone represents a term inclusive of the baals and ashtorets. Arguably, "baals" in 2:11, and, more certainly, "other gods" in 2:12, are also inclusive of the ashtorets. It is not to be assumed, on the basis of 1 Sam 7:3, that the ashtorets are identified by H(Dtr) as indigenous."

    Were THESE the ones worshiping the fertility goddess? Did they have some influence on culture around them? All there is at this point is speculation. If we don't know all the pieces of the puzzle, we can't put the whole picture together. I think it disingenuous to do so. And I may just still be naive here, There may be a lot I don't grasp. (That is why I wanted to do more study - but your response was so kind I wanted to sincerely reply).

  116. Where do we go with this? From too many scholars I see conclusions like Halpern's:

    "Revolutionaries, like Jeremiah and H(Dtr), lack historical perspective. Whether pretending to be reactionaries, restoring humankind to a primitive Garden of Eden, or whether posing as social engineers, murdering, by the guillotine or by some less violent form of attrition the resistant membership of some former governing class, such world-makers theoretically demonize their opponents' customs, without placing them in a context. This sort of adolescent idealism, unnuanced by an interest in actual observation, invariably breaks down when its adherents achieve power: the result is a Terror concentrated on consolidating the power of the Party. Josiah supplied such a terror, an extended attack on the institutions and regalia of traditional culture in Judah and Samaria. Monotheistic purists, in love with the theory of a unified, rather than multifarious, reality, ultimately had to slay the demons of other divinities than Yhwh. Not ironically, to slay those demons, they had to demonize their own history."

    Wow, this is absolutely chilling to me. This takes away all the wonder of the Bible. What are we to believe then? Are we to take this historical viewpoint and all of it's CULT(IDOL-WORSHIPING) trappings, and say this is from whence the God of Israel sprang? That the political party of the day just won out, and that Moses, Joshua and the Prophets just made it all up?

    I can't buy it. And I can't just pick and choose from the scholarly opinions of these guys. That is the dilemma I face with all this. I feel like it is opening a door a lot of Christians don't want to walk through. But we can do two things, ignore it, or try to come to grips with it. I am choosing the later, and praying for God to enlighten my mind and help me understand it.

  117. One other comment to Tyler. I see your point of view in this, a kind of middle road, that the Patriarchs (like Abraham) had the true Gospel and that it was perverted by such as the Canaanites...But that doesn't really work for me, because if you buy into the many gods theory, it leads to the ba'als, and Idol worship that scholars tie to the legitimate religion of the Hebrews. I honestly don't think you can have it both ways.

    This is where Heisers observations come in, that Jesus was one substance with the gods of the divine council and hence God, which doesn't work out for Mormons or EV's.

    So I don't buy the Asherah references or the conflagration theories as being legitimate. I believe they are ALL from non-jewish cults that found there way in somehow.

    That Asherah is for the most part denounced in the OT is significant to me, as is the fact that there are just so many meanings to the word, taking one verse, like in Hosea and trying to apply a 'heavenly mother' to it, or the planting of a grove of trees, as in Genesis and saying it was tied to a Heavenly Mother is just really conjecture.

    It is putting images and meanings from one culture onto a word used by another culture that may not mean the same thing and surely not really understood by us.

    You can have the same kind of argument (as I have) about chiasmus in the BOM, it is a subtle thing, which some see and some don't. It will never prove anything, because there is just not enough evidence there.

  118. Staci-

    I reject some of his conclusions because I don't believe the evidence supports them. Once again, don't make silly assumption about my motivations.


    You must be joking. None of my well-evidenced points were even acknowledged, much less engaged.


    A theme I see in your concerns is that using the wider Syro-Palestinian literary corpora to contextualize our reading of the Bible assumes a genetic relationship. Would that be an accurate observation?

  119. Tyler said: "Staci: “I used to be Mormon - I know we did that all that time. However, when I rejected Mormon thought and simply read the Bible, it suddenly got lots easier to read. This "deeper" thing - that's gnostic. “

    The Pharisees of the New Testament accused the Christians of “digging deeper” into the meaning of the Old Testament (particularly the Messianic Isaiah passages) and thus rejected the Messiah. To insist that the Bible is “simple” to read and interpret is a stretch in my opinion. There are very deep and hidden meanings all over the text."

    Tyler, I have to point out that this is NOT the same thing.

    Jesus came. He walked around doing miraculous things. He let them take him, in His complete guiltlessness, to the cross. He died, He was buried, and after His promised resurrection, He came back and showed Himself to many people.

    And He showed Himself to the people - He showed them that the Old Testament spoke about Him.

    Do you see how this is different? Jesus' life is, indeed, written all over the OT, JUST LIKE HE SAID. But He also lived among us, and showed us by proof who He was.

    This is, in my opinion, in absolutely NO WAY the same as you looking for Joseph Smith's "Heavenly Mother" in the trees and whatnot of Biblical text.

    The "gospel" (a Grrek word for "good news") is that God Himself took upon Himself the sin-punishment you deserve. To desire a "deeper gospel", one where you become a god yourself, is fine for you... here's hoping then that your Asherah comes to earth and by "many infallible proofs" convinces us that she is part of the Bible.

  120. Staci-

    First, "gospel" is an Old English word meaning "good news." It comes from "godspel," which is literally, "good story/message." There is a Greek word, euangelion, which means, literally, "reward for bringing good news," but the word "gospel" is not Greek.

    Next, you don't seem to know much about Gnosticism or the origins of your exegetical tradition. First, Gnosticism's soteriology is really too inconsistent to be generalized so flippantly. Second, it has little to do with searching for deeper meaning in the text. Gnosticism prioritizes the liberation of the spirit from wicked corporeality (definitely not Mormonism). Most Gnostics believed salvation was only possible for a select few who were born into the correct genealogical lineage. Everyone else is predestined to damnation. Also not Mormonism.

    What you refer to is a completely mistaken pop-gnostic soteriology that is nothing more than a pejorative bit of compartmentalizing used by fundamentalists to draw other soteriological perspectives (often Mormonism) out of their Christian circle.

  121. continued . . .

    Next, finding Christ in the Old Testament began with asserting the fulfillment of prophecy, but early Christians took it a step further in order to assert their proprietorship of the Hebrew Bible. As an outgrowth of Judaism, the Christian tradition developed an elaborate vision of the Old Testament’s genetic relationship to the New that served to polemicize the Jewish understanding of the scriptures and exalt Christian theology and scripture. This tradition begins with Paul, who refers to certain Hebrew Bible pericopes as “types” (Rom 5:14) and “allegories” (Gal 4:24) which point to the new covenant. Justin Martyr, Didymus, Cyril, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa, and others appealed to allegorical readings of the scriptures, but Origen of Alexandria developed the first real theory of Christian exegesis.

    According to Origen, the tripartite division of humans into body, soul, and spirit paralleled the respective historical, moral, and mystical facets of scripture (Princ. 4.2.4). He states in the preface to De principiis that the whole law is spiritual, but that only the bestowal of the Holy Spirit makes possible the perception of the spiritual. Origen’s writings greatly emphasize that spiritual aspect—and not infrequently to the exclusion of the historical and literal. Doing so facilitated the Christian appropriation of Jewish scripture and supported, rhetorically, Christian preeminence.

    An example of Origen’s "deeper" reading of the Bible is found in his anti-anthropomorphism. While he stated that the corporeality of God was not a settled issue (Princ. Preface 9), he opposed it on Middle-Platonic ontological grounds. He brought the Bible into agreement with this ideology by dismissing the literal reading of a number of texts which presented God in corporeal terms. Of Gen 1:26, Origen asserts the words “image and likeness” must be understood as references to the “inner man, invisible, incorporeal, incorruptible, immortal” (Hom. Gen. 1.13). The Stoic idea that spirit and fire were corporeal catalyzed Origen’s allegorical reading of Deut 4:26, which states that God is an all-consuming fire. Origen responded that God does not consume “wood, hay, or stubble,” but “evil thoughts, wicked actions, and sinful desires,” and so is not physical fire (Princ. 1.1.1–2). Another example is found in Origen’s interpretation of the Song of Songs. Like R. Akiva before him, Origen read the Song allegorically. He understood Solomon to be singing in the role of a bride, and seems to have rejected the significance of any literal reading.

    In many ways, allegory and "deeper" interpretations of the texts helped shape early Christian identity. Distinction from Judaism was one of the defining characteristics of Christianity during the Patristic era. The existence of a spiritual counterpart to all things corporeal appealed to many Christians who viewed their religion as existing on a higher spiritual plane than Judaism.

  122. "a correct understanding of the development of Israelite theology clearly does not preclude God having once been a sinner." (Daniel O. McClellan, Walter Martin Boards)

  123. That quote, Daniel, shows ever so clearly how you are "always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

  124. Origen must be read carefully:

    The widely held belief is that Origen was a synthesizer of the teachings that came before him, taking what he learned from Greek philosophy and integrating it with early Christian teaching, building on the foundation created by Clement and under the influence of the Stoics. With this newly formed basis, he became overconfident and made speculations which were not supported by scripture. He did not have strong evidence of these specific teachings and the remaining writings available today do not properly support the teachings. Jean Daniйlou praises Origen as truly great;

    In the course of our investigations, Origen has come before us in several guises, one after another-as an active Christian, as a learned exegete, as a philosophical genius, as a great master of the spiritual life. We may have been inclined to think that every new side of him we discovered was the main one. That is the way of it with really great men: they are equally good at all the possible ways of being great."

    But ... the writer fails to grasp the whole of Origen’s teaching and asks the reader to discard that which is speculative and was declared heretical long after his death:

    "The perishable elements in his theology of the Bible, the things he derived from the culture of his time-the allegorical methods of interpretation he borrowed from Philo and the gnostics-in no way lessen the value of his work as a whole." (J. Daniйlou, Origen. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955. )

    The Anathematisms by the Emperor Justinian in 543 AD and its ratification at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553 AD was done to stop all of the radical sects which had formed on the basis of the ‘speculations’ of Origen, allowing the ‘true’ Christianity to flourish. The teachings that were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council were not actually the teachings of Origen since there is little to no support for them in his remaining works. Rufinus was given the task of translating some of Origen’s works into Latin, but said that he often had to change the texts given to him because they were not the words of Origen. He says in the Preface to his translation of Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans:

    [i] Although I wanted to touch along the coastline of a tranquil shore in my small boat and draw out tiny fish from the pools of the Greeks, you compel me, brother Heraclius, [1] to unfurl the sails for the high seas and, once I had set aside the task I had to translate the homilies [2] Adamantius [3] wrote in his old age, you persuade us to set forth in our language his fifteen books in which he discussed Paul's Letter to the Romans.

  125. In these books, as he pursues the Apostle's thought, he is taken out into such a deep sea that anyone who follows him out there encounters enormous fear lest he be overwhelmed as much by the greatness of his thoughts as by the immensity of the waves. [4] Moreover you do not consider the fact that my breath is too weak to fill up such a magnificent trumpet of eloquence. The greatest difficulty of all, however, was that the books themselves have been tampered with. For some of the volumes of the work are missing from the libraries of nearly everyone-indeed, I am unsure how this came about. To fill in these things and restore complete continuity to the Latin work does not come from my natural talent but, just as you who demand these things believe, probably by God's favor. And yet, lest I be spared any labors, you add that I am supposed to abridge this entire fifteen-volume work, a Greek text which has reached the length of some forty thousand lines or more, and, if possible, compress it to half the space.

    These instructions were hard enough, as if imposed by a man who seems unwilling to appreciate the work load involved. Nevertheless I shall set out in the hope that by your prayers the things which seem to me to be humanly impossible might become possible as God assists me. But now, with your permission, let us listen to Origen himself, as he composes the Preface of the work at hand. [M833]

    By the end of this work Rufinus lets us know how much he actually changed it contents:

    But I, who defer more to my conscience than to my name, even if I seem to add some things and fill in what is missing and abbreviate what is too long, do not think it right, however, to steal the title from him who laid the foundations of the work and supplied the material for the construction of the building. Of course let it be left to the reader's discretion, when he has tested the work, to ascribe the work's merit to whom he wants. For our purpose is not to seek the readers' applause but a harvest of those who make progress.

    Rufinus is seen by many to have been an admirer of Origen, but when you examine his comments closely, it is quite possible that Rufinus did not truly understand Origen’s teaching. From the fragments of writing which we possess from Origen, we know that he does not use superfluous language and it would be hard to imagine condensing his well-thought-out and well-documented commentaries without losing great insight to his philosophy. (See, Origen, Commentry on Romans, Epilogue of Rufinus 4)

    Origen is often referred to as “a humanist”, due to his unusually friendly theology. His humanistic tendency emanate from his personality and his pure spirit; his love for humanity and not through a rigorous study of the scriptures

  126. "That quote, Daniel, shows ever so clearly how you are "always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7)."

    And this serves as an excuse to not engage anything Daniel has presented. Give yourself a big pat on the back.

  127. Aaron-

    That's phenomenal, but it doesn't address a single word of this discussion. It's just emotive rhetoric. It shows that you can't debate at the appropriate level and your only ammunition is accusations of heterodoxy.


    Origen was considered perfectly acceptable until orthodoxy fully developed and suddenly he was outside the circle. Alexandrian exegesis helped shape later Christianity's exegetical framework.

  128. The reason I say view Origen with care is this:

    "I think it necessary, however, to remind you that the principle observed in the former books has been observed also in these, viz., not to translate what appeared contrary to Origen's other opinions, and to our own belief, but to pass by such passages as being interpolated and forged by others." De Principiis III (Preface)

    Origen's 'corporeal' finickiness could be from his former following of Valentius, and his Gnostic backround. I found it interesting that Origen himself affirms the validity of the gospel as taught by the apostles was still with them at that time:

    Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, SEEING THERE ARE MANY WHO THINK THEY HOLD THE OPINIONS OF CHRIST, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, YET AS THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH, TRANSMITTED IN ORDERLY SUCCESSION FROM THE APOSTLES, AND REMAINING IN THE CHURCHES TO THE PRESENT DAY, IS STILL PRESERVED, that alone is to be accepted AS TRUTH WHICH DIFFERS IN NO RESPECT from ecclesiastical and tradition. (De Principiis Preface)

    Whatever Origen's original teachings, it is clear from Rufinus that they had been tampered with, and that Rufinus himself changed some of them.

    I don't think that the case of Origen was quite as simple as you make it out Daniel, but that is just my opinion from reading numerous sources.

  129. Grindael-

    1 - Rufinus hardly constitutes an academic text-critical assessment of Origen's texts. I also don't see how it's relevant to the specific points I made.

    2 - Origen's Gnostic background? Can you support this?

  130. See Origen and the Valentinian Cross by G. Quispel.

  131. The article is actually called "Origen and the Valentinian Gnosis." An interesting article. I would point out that you don't seem to impose the same critical eye on this scholarship as you do on other scholarship. Observe a number of weasel words which you have pointed to as red flags in scholarship we have cited earlier:

    "As a matter of fact, I do believe that in this respect Origen is much more a Gnostic than a Platonist."

    "This, I guess, was the intellectual climate of Origen's father Leonides."

    "This book shows no sign of Christian influence and might have been written in Jewish Alexandrian circles in the first century Before Christ. . . . It would seem that in Alexandria at least some Jewish circles were open to the warm mother religions of the Near East like that of Isis. . ."

    "It would seem that both were familiar with an already existing gnostic myth, very similar to the primitive form of the Apocryphon of John, which they christianised."

    This doesn't mean the scholarship is no good, but I thought I would point out that no biblical scholarship is free from the obstacle of probability. Proof is something that is too rare to be demanded in this field. As to criticisms, the author attempts to isolate Gnostic influence in Origen's teachings while neglecting the fact that many of the texts in which he finds these influence are explicitly opposed to Gnostic ideologies. This conflict is not even addressed in this paper. I don't know any contemporary scholarship that would agree with the thesis of this author. On Origen's relationship to Gnosis, I recommend Trigg's landmark study:

    Another text that specifically addresses Origen's putative Gnosticism is here:

    See also her:

    and references to Origen here:

  132. Daniel,

    Sorry, my typo... did it from memory..

    My point Daniel, is there are other views, and considering a lot of teachings attributed to Origen, I personally see a gnostic influence which is not lost on some scholars...That is why I said his writings were to be read carefully.

    And yes, a lot of this is conjecture, your side as well...

  133. That is why Rufinus is relevant, it is obvious from him that many of Origen's works were tampered with...

  134. grindael-

    I wouldn't call those theories conjecture. I would call them informed conclusions. I recognize that scholarship deals primarily in degrees of probability, and very, very rarely with actual proof. Of the two of us, only one has demanded proof of anything (and multiple times).

    Yes, there are different views, as there are with everything. I oppose a view which sees Origen as a Gnostic, and I don't believe the evidence supports that position. As I've pointed out in a previous post, "gnostic" is a term quite liberally applied by people with little understanding of what really is "gnostic." You say you personally see a gnostic influence. Please point out those portions of Origen in which you see gnostic influence.

    I still don't see how Rufinus' opinion bears on anything I've said.

  135. Daniel,

    I did not say Origen was a Gnostic, I said he had Gnostic influence. I will give examples shortly. As for Rufinus, the connection is obvious to his words. Origen's works were tampered with so, what was really his? I believe he taught Trinity also ... Christ and the Holy Ghost being one substance with the Father ... but that also is debated...

  136. Grindael-

    You referred to his "Gnostic background," and the article you cited explicitly calls him a Gnostic.

    You'll have to be specific about how exactly Rufinus' opinion about the stability of Origen's texts bears on my comments. You keep making statements about what Rufinus thinks, but you have yet to explain to which of my comments it is relevant and why. If it is just to throw general doubt on an appeal to the texts of Origen, you'll have to show reasons why what I've pointed to are specifically to be doubted.


Rocky and Helen Hulse

Rocky and Helen Hulse
Defending Christianity From Mormon Doctrine