Ep46-Monotheism and the Council of God(s) - Of God and Gods Ch 2

Topics Discussed:

• Of God(s) in Israel
• Elyon and Yahweh in Deuteronomy
• God(s) Prior to the Creation of the Heavens and Earth
• Psalm 82 and the Council of God(s)
• The Denial of Comparability to Other Gods
• Creational Monotheism and God(s)

Mark Heiser's "God's of the Bible:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cS50l31lyI

Show Notes:


“metaphysical monotheism can be defined as follows:
MM: There exists a simple, immaterial substance SS that: (i) is necessarily the sole instance of the kind “divine” and utterly unique in the sense that there are no other members in the class of being occupied by SS; (ii) alone has ontologically necessary actuality; and (iii) everything else that is actual in any way depends upon SS for its actuality.

Given MM, it follows that there is one and only one necessary being that creates all else that exists. It seems to me that this is the assumption almost universally imposed on the concept of “monotheism” regardless of whether it is Israelite thought or Greek metaphysics that is at issue. It is assumed that, if Yahweh is the creator of all that exists, then Yahweh is this metaphysically unique being.”

“I will argue that a coherent view of the Godhead or Trinity that admits of distinct divine persons must reject the assumption of metaphysical monotheism. I have already argued that a coherent Christology must also reject metaphysical monotheism.1 I will also argue that such metaphysical monotheism is not coherent if God is viewed as a personal being who is capable of freely choosing to love others. However, before proceeding to these arguments, it is important to get a handle on just what Israelite thought entails when it asserts that there is “one God.”

“It is this rejection of metaphysical monotheism that distinguishes Mormon thought most prominently from conventional creedal “Christianity,” Judaism, and Islam. In this chapter, I show that the scriptural accounts of “monotheism” are not consistent with MM or metaphysical monotheism. I will also show that the Judeo-Christian scripture does not adopt metaphysical monotheism during any period of its history. For purposes of this discussion, I will adopt the following terminology:
Monotheism: There is only one “God.”
Henotheism: There are many gods who are independently worshipped but only one is preeminent.
Monolatry: There is only one God who is properly worshipped as a matter of political duty or contractual agreement, but there are gods of other nations.
Kingship monotheism: There are many gods, but all of the gods are subordinate to a Most High God to whom the gods give ultimate honor and glory and without whose authority and approval they do not act in relation to the world.”

“Trinitarianism: There are three divine individuals who together constitute but one God.”

Of God(s) in Israel

“It is no secret that the scriptures refer to beings other than the one God as “gods.” Since the emergence of critical scholarship in the nineteenth century, scholars of the Hebrew Bible have produced an impressive array of studies relating to the ancient Israelite view that there was a divine council of gods presided over by Yahweh as the God of Israel.”

“the gods of the Ugaritic pantheon reflect a number of philological epithets for El as the head God presiding over a council of subordinate deities.5 Not only is the name of the Father God, El or Elyon (the “Most High”), reflected in both Israelite and Ugaritic texts, but also the epithets of lesser deities such as Yamm, Mot, Resheph, Deber, Baal, and also the goddess Asherah are present in the Hebrew Bible.”

“It serves to treat pre-exilic and post-exilic or Second Temple Judaism views separately. In addition, it must be noted that the views regarding the gods likely were never monolithic, but always represented a diversity of points of view even though it is very likely that the redactors of the scriptural record have imposed more uniformity than there was in the pre-redacted texts.”

“The divine beings appear to be arranged in a hierarchy having three tiers. The first tier is occupied by the head god El. The second tier is occupied by El’s sons.....The third tier is occupied by the messengers and craftsmen or the Hebrew equivalent of angels.”

“ References to the heavenly council occur in every literary genre of the Hebrew Bible, including narrative (Ex. 24:9–10), historical (1 Kgs. 22:19–23), prophetic (Isa. 6:1–8, Jer. 23:18–22), poetic (Job 1:6–12), liturgical (Ps. 103:19–22), wisdom (Job 15:8), and visionary (1 Kgs. 22:19–23, Ezek. 1, Isa. 6:1–8, Zech 3:1–5); as well as from the earliest (Ex. 15:11, Deut. 32:8, 4QDeut. and Deut. 33:2, Ps. 29:1) to the latest materials written in the Hebrew Bible (Neh. 9:6, Dan. 7:9–14).”

Israelite divine beings have an almost identical hierarchy as the Ugaritic

“So how do we make sense of this correspondence between the Hebrew and Ugaritic texts? The majority position is probably represented by Mark Smith who is among the leading scholars in such research.22 He argues that pre-kingship Israelite religion included a belief in many gods that more or less mirrored the Ugaritic pantheon based upon the model of the patriarchal family. Originally, the Father God El (or <Hebrew script>, Elyon) was the god worshipped in Israel. El united with his consort Athirat to beget sons of God. In a second stage of development, El was the head of the early Israelite pantheon and Yahweh was its warrior god, comparable to Baal in Ugaritic texts.”

“Yahweh was the son of El and among the second tier of gods. However, over time as Israel came to identify its local deity as the dominant God, El merged with Yahweh and only Yahweh remained as Israel’s God. Smith argues that a primitive polytheism gradually gave way to a “pure” form of monotheism in the post-exilic era when the other deities (<Hebrew script>, ’elohim/’elim) in the council of gods were eliminated; then only Yahweh remained as Israel’s God and the gods were reduced to mere angels”

“A “pure” monotheism in which Yahweh alone is recognized as God emerged in the exilic period in the writings ofSecond Isaiah.

Yet the divine council remained....is it at odds with a most high God ruling over other lesser Gods? What biases do the scholars have?

Elyon and Yahweh in Deuteronomy

“El” eventually came to mean merely “god” generically—without a reference to a particular father god. Such a generic meaning made it easy to merge the identity of the Most High God El with Israel’s god Yahweh whom the Israelites regarded as incomparable to gods of other nations.”

God(s) Prior to the Creation of the Heavens and Earth

“So just what kind of beings are the gods in the Hebrew text? Job 38:6 refers to the “morning stars” or gods who were already present at the time that God set about to create: “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who set its measurements . . . or set its cornerstone when the morning stars (kokobe boqer) sang together, and all sons of God <Hebrew script>, bene ’elohim) shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4–7) As W. Randall Garr observed: “Job 38 corroborates that the gods were present at creation. . . . The gods celebrated God’s first creative act.”

“The view that there were primordial gods already in existence at the time of the creation of the heavens and the earth is further established by the “plural references” in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness”

Psalm 82 and the Council of God(s)

“1. Elohim takes his stand in the assembly of El, <Hebrew script>
among the gods (<Hebrew script>, elohim) he pronounces judgment.<Hebrew script>
2. How long will you judge unjustly
and favor the cause of the wicked? Selah
3. Defend the lowly and fatherless;
render justice to the afflicted and needy.
4. Rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5. The gods neither know nor understand,
wandering about in darkness;
all the world’s foundations shake.
6. I declare, though gods (elohim) you may be,<Hebrew script>
and sons of Elyon all of you, <Hebrew script>
7. But you shall die like Adam,56 <Hebrew script>
and fall like one of the beings of light.<Hebrew script>
8. Arise, O Elohim (<Hebrew script>), judge the earth:
for yours are all the nations.”

“this psalm begins with the assumption that the gods have been placed as rulers over the nations. They are summoned by Elohim to a trial in his heavenly court. He charges them with having failed to care for the poor and lowly of the nations over which he placed them so that they would reflect his justice. The entire earth staggers because the gods have failed to reflect Elohim’s justice and care. Thus, Elohim passes judgment and sentences the gods to become mortal and die—the same sentence he had passed on Adam in Genesis.”

“....and the sole rule of Elohim essentially commences from this moment in the history of the world.”

Some argue that these 'gods' are merely human rulers of nations. Why do people make that argument and does it hold up?

The Denial of Comparability to Other Gods

“The final argument against a reading of Psalm 82 as referring to other gods in the divine council is that “gods” cannot be what the Psalmist had in mind, and in fact all of these gods must be false gods who are rejected because Yahweh declares in Second Isaiah that he is the one and only true God and he knows of no other gods. “Is there a god beside me? yea, there is no God, I know not of any”

“As Ulrich Mauser stated: “The Old Testament speaks freely, without any hesitation or embarrassment, of the existence of gods other than the God of Israel. . . . To be sure, the supremacy of Israel’s God over all other gods is everywhere asserted. But the assertion always drives home the dominion of Yahweh over other gods, not the denial of their existence”

“Israel’s monotheism is best articulated as a monotheism of sole political allegiance and a religious commitment, not that Yahweh, incomparably powerful and great among the gods, is the sole creator of the world.”

Michael Heiser... the same language is used to compare Isaiah 47:8 condemning Babylons view of itself: "Now then, listen, you lover of pleasure, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.'

Or Ninevah: Zeph 2:15 " This is the city of revelry that lived in safety. She said to herself, "I am the one! And there is none besides me." What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists."

These are not statements of denial they are boasts of incomparability.

Creational Monotheism and God(s)

“It is often argued that the Hebrew scripture supports a “creational monotheism” in which Yahweh alone is recognized as the creator of all things—and that “all things” must include the gods. However, the gods are already there, already assumed as the context that exists when Yahweh sets about to create heaven and earth.”

“The Hebrew Bible does not support the ontological cosmological distinction between creator and creature that arose only with the development of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo toward the end of the second century after Christ. However, it is really the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo that is at issue between Mormons and others who attempt to appropriate the biblical text to anachronistically support their view of “genuine monotheism.”


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