This is an interesting fact in understanding the development of the Israelite concept of God, I admit, but how that correlates to Mosiah 15, as you and Ben explain, seems problematic to me. You have Yahweh, the Son, becoming the √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??son of God,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě whereas in Mosiah 15 it is the Father who becomes the Son. When the pre-mortal Jesus appears to the brother of Jared, he declares that he is √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??the Father and the Son√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě (Ether 3:14). There is no talk of his being the Son of God the Father (El Elyon) as a separate person; nor is there mention of a council of gods.
Some further comments -
The Josian reform occurs at about 622 BC. Presumably well within the lifetime of Lehi. In the Mosiah passage, we are dealing with Abinadi. There is some question as to whether or not Nephi's writings are available to Abinadi (certainly the small plates are not). In Nephi, the evidence for early Israelite traditions is strongest. The Mosiah material in question would come (following the texts chronology) several hundred years later.
Your terminology is a little confused - and I want to correct a few things. Elyon
means "highest". El Elyon
means "higest God" or, as the KJV renders it, "most high God". Elyon
is only used in reference to El
, and Elyon
is used by itself as a reference to El
. Thus, in Psalm 82, the phrase bene Elyon
is used as "sons of the highest [God]." YHWH
is the name of one of the elohim
who are collective considered the bene Elyon
- the "Sons of God". Early Canaanite theology presents seventy elohim
among whom the nations of the earth were divided. Each one receiving one of these nations as an inheritance. Not until the DTRH revision of Jeremiah do we get a condemnation for the foreign nations in their worshipping these other divinities. In Deuteronomy 4, for example, the worship of these others by the foreign nations is divinely appointed by God.
In the Old Testament YHWH is never referred to specificall as a "Son of God" - except in the greater concept of his being one of the bene elyon
. Thus we have the sons of the Most High who are divinities under the Most High within the divine hierarchy, and each one becomes the father of mankind. Where there are overlaps or competing divinities (in the case of Israel, for centuries we have Ba'alism and YHWHism competing), we find declarations that one is greater than the other. YHWH (like Ba'al) established his position (in Israelite theology) as king of the gods (the elohim
) by defeating primordial chaos (represented by Rahab/Tiamat the "dragon" of the abyss). This comes traditionally after an act of sacrifice in which El turns over his son to chaos either to die or as a slave. In Israelite theology this is not as apparent as it is in Canaanite theology where we have the more complete mythological narrative cycles in the Ugaritic texts. El hands Ba'al over to Yaam (the god of primordial chaos). Ba'al, instead of becoming Yaam's slave, defeats Yaam and establishes creation. Levenson argues that this creates the original setting for child sacrifice which culminates in the imagery and setting of the Christian views of Jesus. In any case, YHWHism follows the same pattern largely until the Josain reform, which sees a move towards stricter monotheism which continues after the return from exile.
Within semitic literature, El is never called simply "father".
is typically referred to as YHWH elohim
(LORD God) or variations on the them including YHWH
or "the LORD your God".
In Ether 3:14, we have a chiastic structure in the identification of the terms "father" and "son" relative to the reasoning behind those titles:
Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
A I am the Father
B and the Son
B' In me shall all mankind have life,
A' and they shall become my sons and my daughters
He is the Son because he atones for (becomes the sacrifice) mankind and he is the Father because mankind becomes (adoptively or otherwise) his children.
This fits within the semitic frame of reference. Jesus Christ becomes the Son in his role of sacrifice. It is this role that defines the Sonship of God. But within the semitic context of 7th century B.C., the Son that is sacrificed is the Son of El
. A divinity and not a mere mortal. Only through this sacrifice can death be beaten (see for example the Ugaritic texts dealing with the sacrifice of Ba'al to Mot (Death) and his ensuing resurrection).
Moving out from this a bit, rarely in the Old Testament is the Divine Assembly referred to. The two most visible instances are Psalm 82, and in Job (where, by the way, Satan is referred to as one of the elohim
). In Psalm 82, (which is somewhat generic in its application), we get this statement in verse one. God (elohim
arises in the Assembly of God (El
). He judges among the gods (elohim
). These elohim
have not judged faithfully or maintained the cosmic order. The results of this action are a state of darkness, earthquakes, and the fall of these elohim
(also called the "shining ones" and the bene elyon
) from the heavens. These are the traditional eschatalogical portents of the end of the earth - the "signs of the times". In a plea to end the chaos, the congregation at the end of the Psalm pleads for God (elohim
) to arise - not to judge - but to inherit the whole earth (not just Israel) and thus restore order to the cosmos. The elohim
in question (we presume YHWH
although such a hymn would have worked equally well for those Israelites who worshipped Ba'al elohim
. In any case, the context deals with eschatalogical moment. The Book of Mormon suggests that as a general rule, the Nephite people expected the first appearance of Jesus to be that eschatalogical moment. And going back to the reference, it is in the eschatalogical moment when YHWH elohim
becomes the "Father" of all the peoples of the earth, and not just his own inheritance of Israel. And it is this which is alluded to in Ether. But the lack of reference to the Divine Assembly is not surprising. Particularly if we consider that by the time Lehi departs there is already a movement towards a binitarian system.
You further write:
The situation described in the DSS and Barker seem more in line with later Mormon teaching, where the Father and Son are clearly separate persons in the preexistent council of gods, than it is to Mosiah 15 and other BofM passages. This brings us back to the old debate about JS√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs evolving theology. The BofM equates Jesus with Jehovah, because Jesus is God, and not just √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??a God,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě but the God, the √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??very Eternal Father of heaven and earth.√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě
We are going to get to this in more detail in a moment.
On Deuteronomy 32:8-9: I might be missing something, but isn√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęt the DSS reading problematic for the thesis of Deuteronomic reforms? And how does that mesh with Abraham√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs equating El Elyon with Yahweh in Gen. 14:22?
Scholars have never taken the different MS versions of Deut. 32 to be a hindrance to the thesis of Deuteronomic reforms. There is a fairly large body of literature devoted to the discussion of the Deuteronomist revisions. Much of that discussion hinges around the relationship of the DtrH material to Jeremiah, and the possible later revisions of Jeremiah. There is a firmly established case for a proto-D which revolves significantly around the kingship codes and other core elements of Deuteronomy which are referred to and quoted in other texts - most specifically in Jeremiah. The DtrH may have modified a great deal of material, but quite a bit comes through. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 for example is represented in its original form in the LXX which predates the DSS by a considerable amount of time. The DtrH final redaction would have been exilic or post-exilic in time frame. But the differences between the LXX/DSS and the MT are witness to either late changes, or to multiple manuscript families in circulation.
When you assert so definitely that El Elyon lies behind JS√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs translation √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Most High,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě I wonder on what criteria you question his translation in other situations.
"Most High" would be simply Elyon
. As far as the rest of them, I have lots of criteria. But that's a different discussion. Nor does the text have to be consistent in its presentation (although we would hope that the translation is consistent).
Of course, the NT refers to Jesus as √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??the Son of the most High God√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě (Mk. 5:7; Lk. 8:28). So the BofM, specifically 1 Ne. 11:6, presents no problem that we didn√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęt already have. Yet modalists who read these same passages in the Bible were not troubled.
Of course they weren't troubled. The text becomes largely indifferent to such theological constructs. The model that you approach the text with will generally be found there. But the text itself does not suggest a specific approach. So while Modalists would not have any problems with the passage, it, in and of itself, does not suggest modalism. So now we get to your reconstruction of the text:
And God [Jehovah] himself shall come down among his people. √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬¶ And because he dwelleth in the flesh he shall be called the Son of God, having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father [El Elyon], being the Father [El Elyon] and the Son [Jehovah] --the Father [El Elyon], because he was conceived by the power of God [El Elyon]; and the Son [Jehovah], because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father [El Elyon] and Son [Jehovah] --and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father [El Elyon] of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son [Jehovah] to the Father [El Elyon], being one God ... the will of the Son [Jehovah] being swallowed up in the will of the Father [El Elyon]. (15:1-5, 7)
And I woudn't reconstruct it this way. You seem to have missed my point that "father" in this passage is not a reference to El. And in fact, as you note, reading it this way is largely incoherent. We would have this:
And YHWH himself shall come down among his people. √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬¶ And because he dwelleth in the flesh he shall be called the Son of God, having subjected the flesh to the will of the Most High God, being the Most High God and YHWH --the Most High God, because he was conceived by the power of The Most High God; and YHWH, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Most High God and YHWH --and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Most High God of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or YHWH to the Most High God, being one God ... the will of YHWH being swallowed up in the will of the Most High God. (15:1-5, 7)
Which of course is confusing and has no real meaning.
At the same time, a modalistic reading runs into many of the same problems. It isn't a very coherent text. Yet, if we presume that the role of the Son is that of sacrifice, then the notion of being the Son "because of the flesh" becomes very relevant. And further, Abinadi's comment which is very, very significant from the thoelogical side of things - that it the Son who has "power to make intercession for the children of men√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ě Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and bsatisfied the demands of justice." This is the definition of God as "Son of God". The sacrifice by which mankind is intervened for. And how is he the Father? Abinadai continues:
And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed? Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬ĚI say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
And thus he is the father because he has seed. Not because he is El Elyon
or because he is God the Father. His fatherhood is defined by those who are his sons and duaghters. A notion which is consistent with my reading of Ether 3.
The future tenses of course are generally maintained. "He shall be called ..." Which is to say that "Eternal Father" is as much a future title as is "The Creator of All Things From the Beginning" and "Son of God".
As you can see, the context you propose does not work. It√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs impossible to separate the Father and the Son, other than to say that the spirit is the Father and the flesh is the Son. So something else must be going on in the text and Barker is irrelevant.
And I never tried to separate them in Mosiah 15, where I never argued there was a reference to two separate persons (generally speaking. I might argue that "God" in "Son of God" might refer to an second person).
In general, using the metaphor of father for Jesus, the Messiah, is not a problem. The problem arises when you try to apply that model to Mosiah 15 and associated passages, because √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Father√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě is not being used in a figurative sense, but as an identity.
And this seems to me hard to justify when it is so clearly described as a description of a role created by his actions, and simply as some ontological title.
This puts quite a different context on the Messiah being the √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??everlasting Father√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě or √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??A Father forever,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě than what you and Ben are. Perhaps this interpretation has change with more recent scholarship of which I am unaware. Regardless, the modalists have not trouble with Isaiah.
True. But your continuted insistence that the "modalists have not had trouble" doesn't mean much, since trinitarians haven't "had trouble" either.
Still, you are suggesting that the Son begat himself, which is not what happens in Mosiah. In Mosiah, God the Father comes down and dwells in the flesh as the Son.
No. The text doesn't say this. It says that God comes down. It is you who read this as God [the Father] comes down.
But at the moment the historicist position is far more vulnerable to counterevidence and is heavily laden with ad hoc rationalizations than is the 19th century paradigm.
What you haven't done yet, is to show specifically what kinds of modalistic information and theologies were present for Joseph Smith to digest. You talk about Noetus, about Patripassionims. About Sabellianism. Which of these were present in Joseph's environment, and how does Mosiah 15 fare when compared to the specific models of modalism present in that environment.
... suppose, contrary to legend, that Oedipus, for some dark oedipal reason, was hurrying along the road intent on killing his father, and, finding a surly old man blocking his way, killed him so he could (as he thought) get on with the main job. Then not only did Oedipus want to kill his father, and actually kill him, but his desire caused him to kill his father. Yet we could not say that in killing the old man he intentionally killed his father, nor that his reason in killing the old man was to kill his father. (Davidson)