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Heaven And Earth:


David Bokovoy

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Within the Bible, the invocation of natural forces in the context of prophetic judgment has led to a series of distinct interpretations.

Statements such as, â??I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you,â? in Deuteronomy 4:26 seem, at first glance, to suggest that the natural forces may function in the capacity of witnesses, summoned to give testimony concerning the violation of religious obligations. However, in 1959 G. Ernest Wright provided an intriguing suggestion concerning these types of invocations.

Wright argued that readers should â??interpret such passages in the light of the Divine Assembly, the members of which constitute the host of heaven and of earth.â? G.E. Wright, The Old Testament Against Itâ??s Environment (London:SCM Press LTD, 1950), 36.

For Wright, therefore, the summoning of heaven and earth provides a merism or â??polar expressionâ? whereby the speaker addresses all of the gods of the council through the antithetical word pair. The discovery and subsequent analysis of two small plagues inscribed with Phoenician incantations, uncovered near Arslan Tash seems to sustain Wrightâ??s suggestion. The incantation states:

"Assur has established an eternal covenant with us

All the sons of the gods have established with us

And the leader of the council of the holy ones (has established with us)

A covenant of heaven and earth, forever."

In the incantation, â??heaven and earthâ? provides a summary description concerning the type of covenant created with Assur, the sons of the gods, and the leader of the council of the holy ones, the deities who would appear to inhabit â??heaven and earth.â?

This apparent use of â??heaven and earthâ? as a reference to all of the members of the assembly both â??high and lowâ? parallels the use of â??heaven and earthâ? in Muwatalliâ??s Prayer excavated at Bogazkoy

â??Let the divine lords listen to these words (and) plea,â? states the Hittite prayer, â??the divine lords of heaven and earth!â?

Perhaps of even greater significance for the biblical use of â??heaven and earthâ? includes the Assyrian Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon, which commence with a lengthy list of the Mesopotamian deities invoked as witnesses for the treaty. The record of theophoric names appears with two divisions that creates a sense of literary closure:

"All the gods dwelling in heaven and earth, the gods of Assyria, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, the gods of every (foreign) country."

"You are adjured by all the gods of Sumer and Akkad, adjured by the gods of heaven and earth."

In both divisions, the word pair heaven and earth parallels the terms Sumer and Akkad, i.e., â??south and northâ? as a reference to â??all the godsâ? of the assembly. Heaven and earth denotes the gods of Assyria, the gods of Summer and Akkad, the gods of every foreign country. This use of heaven and earth as an invocation addressed to all the gods of the assembly may parallel the Deuteronomic use of â??heaven and earthâ? as witnesses.

As recent critical analysis has shown, the book of Deuteronomy owes a tremendous debt to the Assyrian Vassal Treaty. Ultimately, Deuteronomy presents an Israelite religious transformation of an Assyrian political document. The direct connections between Deuteronomy and the VTE include the imprecations presented in Deuteronomy 28.

Whereas the curses appear without any specific thematic order in Deuteronomy, the structure corresponds to traditional groupings of the gods in Mesopotamian texts. Deuteronomy, therefore, shows evidence of an intentional effort to suppress the deities featured in VTE.

The author(s) who adopted the genre clearly felt a need to emphasize the supremacy of Israelâ??s deity. The author(s), in part, accomplished this agenda through breaking from the standard practice in providing a detailed list of divine names representing the deities who served as witnesses to Israelâ??s treaty with the divine suzerain. The author has, however, preserved the tradition of invoking heaven and earth as witnesses to the treaty.

In view of the fact that both Deuteronomy 4 and 32 present a depiction in which Israelâ??s deity serves as the head God of the council who allotted to the various people their respective minor deities, the preservation of the polar expression in Deuteronomy appears not to serve as a direct replacement of the gods themselves, both simply an opportunity to preserve the tradition of invoking council deities as witnesses without mentioning any of the divine beings by name.

The biblical invocation appears to simply serve a similar purpose to the function associated with heaven and earth in a variety in Near Eastern texts, including the VTE. Clearly by avoiding specific references to any divine being by name, the author of texts such Deuteronomy 4:26 advocates a type of religious monotheism, but in view of the information concerning the existence and function of divine beings in Deuteronomy 4 and 32, it makes sense that the author simply incorporated the treaty language familiar to his audience as a summation of the council witnesses.

Perhaps of even greater import for understanding the expression" heaven and earth" as a reference to the Gods who comprise the council, include the biblical references to "heaven and earth" as the location where Israelâ??s deity resides:

"When we heard about it, we lost heart, and no man had any more spirit left because of you; for Yahweh your God he is a God in heaven above and on earth below" (see also Deut. 4:29; 1 Kings 8:23; Eccl. 5:1; 2 Chr. 6:14; 20:6)

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David,

Its late, so please forgive if I misunderstand.

If a plea to heaven and earth is a plea to

All the gods dwelling in heaven and earth, the gods of Assyria, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, the gods of every (foreign) country.

You are adjured by all the gods of Sumer and Akkad, adjured by the gods of heaven and earth.

In both divisions, the word pair heaven and earth parallels the terms Sumer and Akkad, i.e., â??south and northâ? as a reference to â??all the godsâ? of the assembly.

Is this a plea to idols?

How can we be sure this terminology is adapted and not simply adopted?

Thanks for bringing so much info about the divine council to the MB, without it I would know very little about the divine council.

As I said please forgive me if I have grossly misunderstood, its late and I've been drinking since noon in a previous life.

Shalom

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Is this a plea to idols?

How can we be sure this terminology is adapted and not simply adopted?

Hello Warship,

Thanks so much for taking an interest in the issue. This is the exact question that we must ask ourselves when comparing biblical texts with other Near Eastern writings. Excellent!

Simply because the Bible adopts the language of a particular text doesnâ??t mean that the author would have automatically interpreted the expression in the same way it appears in the source.

On this particular issue, however, we have a number of biblical texts that allude to the fact that the gods of the heavenly assembly served as witnesses in the decision and covenant making processes featured in the Bible. So it would only make sense that when heaven and earth appear invoked as witnesses that the phrase would hold this same Near Eastern connotation.

Also, we need to ask the question, why would the author have used this expression that would have for his audience invoked an allusion to the gods of the council acting as witnesses if the author did not want to intentionally create this image.

If an ancient Near Eastern person heard heaven and earth invoked as witnesses, he or she would have naturally thought of the gods of the assembly who occupied heaven and earth. Why would the author have used the motif if he or she did not want the audience to assume this notion.

Clearly the biblical author did not care that his audience would have assumed that the divine council had been invoked, just as it was in other Near Eastern legal and religious texts when the same word pair appears.

Based upon the fact that unlike the Near Eastern treaties, the biblical summoning of heaven and earth avoids naming any of these other gods, we can see that the author(s) had no problem invoking the image of the council, they simply wanted their audience to avoid focusing upon any God from the assembly other than Israelâ??s deity.

Thanks again.

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I believe it would not be about idols but about real gods , as well.

This part brings up a very interesting question to my mind:

"Assur has established an eternal covenant with us

All the sons of the gods have established with us

And the leader of the council of the holy ones (has established with us)

A covenant of heaven and earth, forever."

We know from the OT that the nations of the earth were divided among the gods of the Heavenly Council , with the Lord's portion being Israel. (Deut. 32:8-9) So , each god was given a people , who were on earth , to rule over and each nation worshipped its assigned god. From the quote above , it appears that each god may have made covenants unique to the people over which he presided. It appears that there were three covenants established :

1. With Assur

2. With all the sons of god (Heavenly Council)

3. With the leader of the gods (Jehovah)

David , do you think that these three covenants that were made were all the same covenant , but reaffirmed with the Father , the heavenly council and the Lord or were they three unique covenants made with each nation , one with the Father (Assur) one with the gods of the Heavenly Council and one with Jehovah?

Then there appears to be a point where the gods mess up and lose their inheritances , which are given to the Lord.

Psa 82:6 I have said, Ye [are] gods; and all of you [are] children of the most High.

Psa 82:7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

Psa 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

It appears that the gods of the heavenly council didn't do a good job judging or presiding over the nations that were their inheritances. The Most High removes them from their presidencies and tells them , essentially , that they will become mortal and die like the rest of man. Jehovah , apparently judging his portion righteously , is given presidency over all nations.

If they were three separate covenants , each unique to each nation , would those covenants have been established anew as one broad covenant , as pertaining to all the nations as a whole , at the time the Most High declared that the Lord would inherit all nations , not just Jacob?

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If an ancient Near Eastern person heard heaven and earth invoked as witnesses, he or she would have naturally thought of the gods of the assembly who occupied heaven and earth. Why would the author have used the motif if he or she did not want the audience to assume this notion.

Hi David ,

Since this is invoking those who witnessed the covenants made , could it be that the invoking heaven part calls the heavenly council as witnesses but the invoking earth part calls as witnesses those mortals on earth who witnessed the covenant being entered into?

BTW , thanks for the explanation of plural form of Elah in Aramaic , as it related to the Daniel 4 subject on the other thread. It helps a bit , but I'm still not sure whether it is properly rendered "holy god" or "holy gods"

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It appears that the gods of the heavenly council didn't do a good job judging or presiding over the nations that were their inheritances. The Most High removes them from their presidencies and tells them , essentially , that they will become mortal and die like the rest of man. Jehovah , apparently judging his portion righteously , is given presidency over all nations.

It is interesting to think about this implication, that perhaps all those crazy pagan gods that so many think were silly superstitions might've actually been real beings, who were later deposed. I mean think of how so many are characterized, as jealous, arrogant, how they abuse their power, and so forth. It fits in with what is said, in how they have reigned unjustly, and lose their estate.

And if you also look at the shift in religious practice in the world, it seems to reflect the same. The worship of local deities is now very much the minority in the world, vs those who attest to follow the God of Abraham (Christians & Muslims).

All of that said, it borders on irrelevant. None of this knowledge will aid in my salvation. But it is fun to theorize.

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It is interesting to think about this implication, that perhaps all those crazy pagan gods that so many think were silly superstitions might've actually been real beings, who were later deposed. I mean think of how so many are characterized, as jealous, arrogant, how they abuse their power, and so forth. It fits in with what is said, in how they have reigned unjustly, and lose their estate.

And if you also look at the shift in religious practice in the world, it seems to reflect the same. The worship of local deities is now very much the minority in the world, vs those who attest to follow the God of Abraham (Christians & Muslims).

All of that said, it borders on irrelevant. None of this knowledge will aid in my salvation. But it is fun to theorize.

That would make sense about the local deities. When the gods had reign over each nation given them the people rightly gave them homage. When they were deposed and the Lord inherited their former nations the people came under condemnation for worshipping the idols which represented their former gods.

Like you said , it is fun to speculate and theorize.

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When they were deposed and the Lord inherited their former nations the people came under condemnation for worshipping the idols which represented their former gods.

Like you said , it is fun to speculate and theorize.

But no one worships "idols". That is a pejorative. It is done today when Catholics are accused of worshipping iconography. It may appear that way to outsiders but Catholics are worshipping the God that is represented by an object...not the object itself. I think using the word idols is a distraction.

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But no one worships "idols". That is a pejorative. It is done today when Catholics are accused of worshipping iconography. It may appear that way to outsiders but Catholics are worshipping the God that is represented by an object...not the object itself. I think using the word idols is a distraction.

ok , fair enough. They were worshipping the deposed gods who once reigned over their nation , as represented by their idols instead of worshipping God , who had inherited all nations. Again , this is all theorizing from reading the scriptures , it's not set in stone.

However , people are rebuked for actually worshipping idols in the scriptures , not just keeping them as a visual reminder of the god they worship:

Isa 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:

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Isa 2:20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made [each one] for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

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Rev 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

2Ki 21:21 And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them

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Hi David,

I have always rather assumed that when "heaven and earth" are invoked as witnesses, this includes not only all the angels/powers/principalities of heaven but also all the peoples, creatures, and perhaps even stones of the earth. (Consider, for example, the personification of stones in Habakkuk 2:11.) Forgive me if I have misunderstood your first quotation, but it actually seems to present a dichotomy of divine beings (in heaven) and mortals (on earth):

"Assur has established an eternal covenant with us

All the sons of the gods have established with us

And the leader of the council of the holy ones (has established with us)

A covenant of heaven and earth, forever."

Here gods/us is repeatedly parallel to heaven/earth.

-CK

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David ,

Had you mentioned Psalms 97 already , as relating to the heavenly council?

Psa 97:7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all [ye] gods.

8 Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD.

9 For thou, LORD, [art] high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.

This seems to connect in with Psalms 82 , where the gods lose their inheritance because of their unrighteous judgments and the Lord , because of His righteous judgments over Jacob , inherits all nations. Now , the people of the nations who were under the reign of the gods of the heavenly council are told not to worship the idols which represent the deposed gods , but they and all gods are to worship the Lord.

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David,

I try to read every thread you start, I don't always have time to chime in though.

I'm sorry...I should have been more clear in what I was aking for last post. I am not doubting your premise that these are related...I agree with this...

On this particular issue, however, we have a number of biblical texts that allude to the fact that the gods of the heavenly assembly served as witnesses in the decision and covenant making processes featured in the Bible. So it would only make sense that when heaven and earth appear invoked as witnesses that the phrase would hold this same Near Eastern connotation.

But I assumed this phrase was adapted from its use in context of the idols of Sumer and Akkad to reflect the biblical authors idea of the actual divine council (actual as in not comprised of the false gods of Akkad and Sumer). So the language would invoke a familiar image but the members of and the council itself would not literally be the same.

If the above is not the case...then are biblical authors simply adopting the terminology bc the gods of Akkad and Sumer were actually considered to be true gods in the divine council?

Thanks David.

Shalom

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Hello Ed2276,

David , do you think that these three covenants that were made were all the same covenant , but reaffirmed with the Father , the heavenly council and the Lord or were they three unique covenants made with each nation , one with the Father (Assur) one with the gods of the Heavenly Council and one with Jehovah?

Then there appears to be a point where the gods mess up and lose their inheritances , which are given to the Lord.

Thanks for taking an interest.

Of course it's possible. Personally, though Iâ??m fascinated by the accounts, I donâ??t regard any of these ancient statements concerning the council as literally true.

I believe that all of this Near Eastern imageryâ??including Deuteronomy 32:8 which states â??when the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the godsâ? (Deut. 32:8; NRSV) â??simply reflects what the Lord has revealed through modern revelation:

"And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born" (Abraham 3:23).

I also donâ??t take Psalm 82 as expressing a literal reality. I agree with Daniel Peterson who wrote:

"We need not take Psalm 82â??s portrayal of judgment and condemnation within the divine council as literally accurate, as representing an actual historical event (although, obviously, it might), any more than we are obliged to take as literally true the depiction of Satan in Job 1-2, freely coming and going within the heavenly court and even placing wagers with God; Daniel Peterson, â??â??Ye Are Godsâ??: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind,â? The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, pg. 536.

I would highly recommend Dan's article for anyone who is interested in this subject.

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Hello CK,

I have always rather assumed that when "heaven and earth" are invoked as witnesses, this includes not only all the angels/powers/principalities of heaven but also all the peoples, creatures, and perhaps even stones of the earth. (Consider, for example, the personification of stones in Habakkuk 2:11.)

Habakkuk 2:11 isnâ??t really a very strong example to support this reading. Perhaps a better text to sustain the idea that stones could be invoked as witnesses would be Gen. 31:46-48:

â??And Jacob said to his kinsmen, â??Gather stones.â?? So they took stones and made a mound; and they partook of a meal there by the moundâ?¦ And Laban declared, â??This mound is a witness between you and me this day.â?? That is why it was named Gal-ed.â?

Of course stones appear to serve an important cultic role in certain biblical texts:

â??And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of itâ? (Gen. 28:17-18)

I believe, however, that the biblical use of stones in ritual simply reflects the employment of huwashis stones in Hittite temples. Last week, we enjoyed a lecture given at Brandeis by Dr. Gernot Wilhelm of the University of Wurzburg on Hittite temples.

http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~semitic/hsm/Events.html

Dr. Wilhelm is one of the most important Hittitologists working in the field. During the lecture, Wilhem stated that each of the huwashis stones represented an individual deity.

I believe that the use of stones in covenant making ceremonies provided a physical representation of the gods who serve as witnesses.

Forgive me if I have misunderstood your first quotation, but it actually seems to present a dichotomy of divine beings (in heaven) and mortals (on earth):

"Assur has established an eternal covenant with us

All the sons of the gods have established with us

And the leader of the council of the holy ones (has established with us)

A covenant of heaven and earth, forever."

Here gods/us is repeatedly parallel to heaven/earth.

This is a great question. I can see how the Arslan Tash inscription could lead to this reading.

To my knowledge, the first suggestion in print that heaven could refer to the gods and earth could refer to humans appeared in 1950 in R. B. Y. Scottâ??s â??The Literary Structure of Isaiahâ??s Oracles,â? Studies in Old Testament Prophecy; ed. H.H. Rowley (New York: Charles Scribnerâ??s Sons, 1950): 79.

Scott argued that the invocation of â??heaven and earthâ? as witnesses â??derived from the manner of the adjudication of disputes and the hearing of complaints â??in the gates.â?? â??Hear ye,â?¦ Give earâ?¦,â?? introducing a complaint, calls for the attention of witnessesâ? (Ibid).

For Scott, the reference to heaven and earth did not invoke elements of the natural worlds as witnesses for deityâ??s complaint. Instead, heaven and earth were called upon as population areasâ??the heavenly hosts and the people of earth respectively.

Scottâ??s suggestion, however, is problematic in so far as it does not consider the manner in which the invocation of natural forces in judiciary settings operated in the ancient Near East (much of this information had not been considered in detail prior to 1959).

Though we encounter the word pair â??heaven and earthâ? in a variety of Near Eastern covenant making texts, the expression never functions as a reference to divine and human witnesses. In addition to the examples I cited in the opening post, the invocation of divine witnesses via heaven and earth appears at the conclusion of the Hittite treaties.

As is typified in the Treaty of Tudhaliya IV with Kurunta of Tarhuntassa on the Bronze tablet found in Hattusa, the Hittite treaty includes a summons to members of the divine council to act as witnesses to the treaty:

"The Thousand Gods have now been called to assembly for (attesting the contests of) this treaty tablet that I have just executed for you. Let them see, hear, and be witnesses thereto..."

The treaty then provides an exhaustive list of divine names, which include both the deities of the vassal and suzerain followed by the summation:

"(All) the male and female deities, heaven and earth, the great sea, the mountains, rivers and springs, of the land of Hatti and of the land of Tarhuntassa."

As seen through this example, the expression â??heaven and earthâ? (together with the other natural phenomena) appear at the conclusion of the list, suggesting a terminal summation of the divine beings who act as witnesses. In the Hittite cosmological view, a ridged distinction between the natural phenomena and the gods themselves is not attested.

Following the summoning of the divine witnesses by name in the Treaty Between Suppiluliuma and Aziru, the list concludes with the summation:

"Mountains, rivers, springs, great [sea, heaven and earth, winds and clouds]. Let them be witnesses to this treaty [and to the oath]!"

These types of text, together with Assyrian Vassal treaties which had a direct impact upon Deuteronomy would negate the suggestion that â??heaven and earthâ? invokes the divine population in heaven and the human population on earth.

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Hello Warship,

I try to read every thread you start, I don't always have time to chime in though.

Thanks, I'm glad somebody does. :P

I'm sorry...I should have been more clear in what I was aking for last post. I am not doubting your premise that these are related...I agree with this..

You raised a very important question. Itâ??s the exact question that I asked myself when I began to seriously consider this tradition in Near Eastern texts, so I really was pleased that you raised it. We must think critically when evaluating our theories.

But I assumed this phrase was adapted from its use in context of the idols of Sumer and Akkad to reflect the biblical authors idea of the actual divine council (actual as in not comprised of the false gods of Akkad and Sumer). So the language would invoke a familiar image but the members of and the council itself would not literally be the same.

You are correct in suggesting that Deuteronomy adapted the phrase from the Assyrian Vassal Treaties of Esharhaddon. However, I agree with Juliannâ??s post on this thread which states:

â??No one worships â??idolsâ??. That is a pejorative. It is done today when Catholics are accused of worshipping iconography. It may appear that way to outsiders but Catholics are worshipping the God that is represented by an object...not the object itself. I think using the word idols is a distraction.â?

Assyrian statues, like Hittite huwashis stones and even the Israelite Arc of the Covenant, simply served as physical representations of the god.

If the above is not the case...then are biblical authors simply adopting the terminology bc the gods of Akkad and Sumer were actually considered to be true gods in the divine council?

Like the Assyrians, biblical authors believed in a literal council of gods that governed the affairs of the universe and served as witnesses for covenants and treaties.

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So David, do you mind if I ask a few summary questions of you with respect to your views about the divine council in Israelite thought?

1. Do you agree that the Israelites probably borrowed their ideas about the divine council from other (I would say pagan) cultures? If yes, do you believe that those other cultures had accurate information about the gods to share?

2. Do you believe that when Israelites set up stones, they considered them representative of nature-spirits rather like an animistic religion?

3. Do you believe that the Israelites ever considered "the great sea, the mountains, rivers and springs," the stars, the sun and moon, etc. to be gods or to have animistic spirits?

If so, then in what sense do you believe this "simply reflects what the Lord has revealed through modern revelation?" Does modern revelation support any of these ideas?

Also, you have already stated that you believe the Israelites believed that the nations were apportioned among the various gods. You seem to think that this ancient belief is literally true, as reflected in the following passage:

"And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born" (Abraham 3:23).

I needn't point out to you that this passage needn't be interpreted the way you suggest we interpret it. I also needn't point out that if we do interpret it that way, then the implications for LDS cosmology could potentially be enormous. My thought, however, is that we have to have some kind of consistent standard as to what ancient beliefs we accept as true. Do we accept as true any ancient belief that can somehow be wrested to fit within the LDS paradigm? If we take the oldest Israelite beliefs as most normative, then where do we stop? Why not go back to the Israelites' immediate religious ancestors and start worshipping El, Baal, Tiamat? Why not go all the way back to Neanderthal religion and start carrying around fat little statues of the earth mother goddess? It seems to me that anyone who really believes in progressive revelation, as indeed I do, cannot take the oldest forms of Israelite religion as normative. They are the most likely forms to have been corrupted and contaminated by pagan ideas. I doubt, in fact, that there's much in the books of Leviticus or Numbers that you would be very interested in returning to.

-CK

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'David Bokovoy' writes,

I donâ??t regard any of these ancient statements concerning the council as literally true.

I also cannot support the fact that they are literally true. However, since so many OT vignettes of Cain/Abel, Adam and Eve, Divine Council scenarios, etc., all seem to be derivative of other Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures then how much veracity does the OT accounts have for LDS? The only evidence we have for literal truth is JS's comments in the DandC.

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Hello CK,

Do you agree that the Israelites probably borrowed their ideas about the divine council from other (I would say pagan) cultures?

I believe that the Israelites borrowed some of their ideas about the divine council from other cultures.

If yes, do you believe that those other cultures had accurate information about the gods to share?

Well, yes and no. I donâ??t believe that the picture concerning the council in any of the Near Eastern texts that have been preserved, including the Bible, presents as full a picture as the view provided via modern revelation.

Do you believe that when Israelites set up stones, they considered them representative of nature-spirits rather like an animistic religion?

Itâ??s tough to say what individuals may or may not have believed. I would assume that ancient Israel included a multiplicity of distinct views concerning the meaning of ritual performances.

Do you believe that the Israelites ever considered "the great sea, the mountains, rivers and springs," the stars, the sun and moon, etc. to be gods or to have animistic spirits?

No doubt some did.

If so, then in what sense do you believe this "simply reflects what the Lord has revealed through modern revelation?" Does modern revelation support any of these ideas?

Through the Book of Abraham, modern revelation presents the stars, sun, and moon as symbols directly associated with the council of the gods.

Also, you have already stated that you believe the Israelites believed that the nations were apportioned among the various gods. You seem to think that this ancient belief is literally true, as reflected in the following passage:

"And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born" (Abraham 3:23).

I needn't point out to you that this passage needn't be interpreted the way you suggest we interpret it.

How would you interpret this passage?

I also needn't point out that if we do interpret it that way, then the implications for LDS cosmology could potentially be enormous.

I believe it is.

My thought, however, is that we have to have some kind of consistent standard as to what ancient beliefs we accept as true.

Not necessarily. Iâ??m interested in knowingâ??as far as possibleâ??what ancient Near Eastern authors believed regarding Gods, humanity, and the universe. The extent to which these beliefs reflect my own religious convictions is exciting, but Iâ??m also just as interested in understanding those views which I do not personally accept.

Itâ??s no secret that for me, the standard as to what ancient beliefs should be accepted as true depends upon the doctrines revealed through Joseph Smith and his prophetic successors.

I doubt, in fact, that there's much in the books of Leviticus or Numbers that you would be very interested in returning to.

Simply because I would have no interest in returning to the practices proscribed in the Priestly writings does not mean that I feel that those rituals did not have real spiritual value.

I have serious questions regarding the efficacy of evolving theology. Then again, the Hittite view of deities appears to have evolved from divine non-corporal deities to gods who posses a physical nature. :P

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I also cannot support the fact that they are literally true. However, since so many OT vignettes of Cain/Abel, Adam and Eve, Divine Council scenarios, etc., all seem to be derivative of other Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures then how much veracity does the OT accounts have for LDS? The only evidence we have for literal truth is JS's comments in the DandC.

Is it possible that perhaps the Mesopotamians and the OT authors were all actually telling the truth, and were not a bunch of primitive, superstitious cavemen living in complete darkness, without any knowledge of truly divine beings.

That said, I don't think anyone here (myself included) would suggest that any of this influence or alter our practices or faith. I will still be praying only to the Father in the name of the Son, and look to receive witness from the Holy Spirit.

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>>How would you interpret this passage?

That Abraham is one of the spirits who was designated to be a "ruler" suggests that this referred to the role he would play in world history during his mortal life, not to his having been appointed as god over a particular nation or region.

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>>How would you interpret this passage?

That Abraham is one of the spirits who was designated to be a "ruler" suggests that this referred to the role he would play in world history during his mortal life, not to his having been appointed as god over a particular nation or region.

Yeah , this can go either way for me , man. What is certain is that Abraham was chosen as a ruler in Heaven and that he was given an earthly mission. Jehovah was at first given , in the heavenly council , Jacob as his inheritance among the nations and then given all the nations , according to the OT. David and others have brought up that his might not necessarily be looked at in a literal way.But , Jehovah also gave Abraham an inheritance in the land of that nation of Jacob. So , does that make Abraham a co-god ruler over that nation? I don't know , so I just have to stick with the plain part of it , which is that Abraham was a ruler chosen from among the others in Heaven.

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Is it possible that perhaps the Mesopotamians and the OT authors were all actually telling the truth, and were not a bunch of primitive, superstitious cavemen living in complete darkness, without any knowledge of truly divine beings.

That said, I don't think anyone here (myself included) would suggest that any of this influence or alter our practices or faith. I will still be praying only to the Father in the name of the Son, and look to receive witness from the Holy Spirit.

I think, and this is my opinion only, is that the ancients took what they felt to be the truth according to the knowledge whether divine or secular and conveyed it in ideas that was analogous to the truth as they felt it to be. Ancient writings could have been a result of divination or a mystical connection to God and the metaphysical. The ancient Jews, also a people who were essentially influenced by the ecstasies of their prophet/diviners were equally influenced by the peoples they came across, e.g. the Canaanites, Babylonians and the Egyptians. Consequently the world for the Hebrew nomad and later the Israelite was primarily one of mystic wonder where the practice of divination was a normal part of life. Divination afforded the ancient prophet the opportunity to gain a grasp on the unknown world that surrounded him. J. Jaynes has commented, â??To divine was to be aware of the deeper significance which an apparently random phenomenon might have.â? (Jaynes, p. 195) From this came an explanation for the mystical world around them and consequently it developed from equally mystical symbols, motifs, and legends from other cultures.

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You make much more of my question than there is. All I am asking/pondering is IF it could be the case that when all these neighboring nations developed all their religious practices and "myths" that they were telling real stories. That at least a majority of what was believed (there were so-and-so gods, etc) could actually have been true.

One doesn't have to deny this possibility to accept the Bible or the BoM. One need only remember that this makes no difference.

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