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Elohim And Heavenly Mother


JasonH

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This is just a rough layout

Period: ---------> Ancient Ugarit -----> Earliest Israelite Religion -----> Later generations -----> Later generations

High God:.............. El...............................El = Yahweh.................................Yahweh ......................... Yahweh

God's wife: .......... Athirat ...................... Asherah

Favored sons: ..Yam, Athtar, Mot etc. .....Yahweh

Ontology:...........Usually a Bull.................Anthropomorphic.....................Anthrop/incoporeal ...........Transcendent

I have noticed the recent trend in LDS apologetics whereby Ugaritic materials are being used to gain support for the restoration, particularly with respect to the LDS doctrine of Godâ??s divine family. While reading apologetic materials you will most likely come across the evidence in a less than balanced manner. This doesnâ??t mean disingenuous is involved. It simply means apologists are likely to share only portions of the evidence that can be used to support Mormon themes. The rest is usually ignored.

I thought some of you might be interested in some of the differences which, in my view, seriously weaken the apologetic weâ??re used to seeing.

First of all, let me make clear that I agree with many of the premises used to create this argument. Yes, it is true that Israelite religion borrowed many concepts from their Canaanite predecessors at Ugarit. This is beyond dispute. The Hebrew Bible contains many phrases, names, places and expressions which made little sense until the Ugaritic texts were discovered. However, this does not automatically mean that when something appears in both, the two mean the same exact thing. The trick is trying to determine which borrowed phrases/names/concepts were intended to carry the same meaning with the Israelites.

Yes, it is true that there is evidence that belief in a Queen of Heaven was popular belief in earliest Israelite religion. But as the evidence suggests, this belief existed only because it was retained from the former tradition at Ugarit. As such, the characteristics of each deity must be analyzed in order to determine if this in any way truly helps the LDS case. Look at the Ugaritic Asherah and ask yourself if you want to be affiliated with any religion that sees her as Godâ??s true wife.

Iâ??ll try to provide a rough taste of the worldview from which this earlier Israelite belief originated.

Asherah was known at Ugarit as Athirat, the consort of El. El was the high God above all other gods. Ahserah gave birth to seventy notable sons of which only a handful were favored as potential successors to the divine throne: Hadad, Yam, Athtar, Mot, etc. Baal was a storm-god outside the family of El (believed to be the son of Dagon) and he was considered a threat to Elâ??s throne. El sends his sons to deal with Baal but they are defeated by him. Asherah, Elâ??s wife, then has sexual relations with Baal. After their intercourse Baal reminds her that he slew her sons. As a result of slaying their sons, Baal moves up in status and is in a sense adopted as one of Elâ??s sons. Baal eventually becomes the divine patron of the Ugaritic dynasty and Elâ??s popularity fades significantly during the advent of Israelite religion. Gradually Elâ??s dominance fades as Baal takes over. In early Israel El is somewhat resuscitated and eventually renamed Yahweh.

The differences between the two religious cultures are notable, and Iâ??ll highlight the more important ones.

Behavior: Ugaritic gods, including El the Most High, were often engaging in unscrupulous human activities such as drunkenness to the point of hallucinations and engaging in sexual orgies. On one occasion El was having sex with two females when his wife Athirat came up upon them. El asked her to join them. By contrast, Israelâ??s God, â??Yahweh is not a sexual maleâ?¦ sexuality was simply not part of the divine order.â? (Origins of Biblical Monotheism, p.92)

Ontology: El at Ugarit was often called and described as a Bull. Incidentally, so was Baal. While they are represented in texts that would suggest anthropomorphism, the evidence is ambiguous as to which form they used most often. Israel initially depicted Yahweh in human terms, but the Bible illustrates how the religious writers eventually moved away from that belief. LDS explain this as an apostasy from a true concept of God. Hellenization is often to blame, but it is clear Israel moved towards a transcendent idea of God before the Hellenic period. While there are allusions to Godâ??s form, there are just as many other verses that suggest transcendence. Of course, these verses are explained as corruptions by LDS. The idea of El as bull is retained in the Hebrew Bible in a couple early verses, and it probably explains much of the otherwise bizarre golden calf incident at Sinai.

Animal sacrifice: Animal sacrifice in Judaism faded away after the destruction of the second temple (70 C.E.). It was the norm in every day ceremony in Solomonâ??s temple. The evidence suggests that Joseph Smith intended to â??restoreâ? this practice at some point, and had in fact dabbled in it himself to some degree. Considering the recent Michael Vick uproar, we can guess why the Church never decided to implement it. Animal sacrifice is not acceptable today nor would it have been acceptable in late19th century America. It is little wonder why apologists do not use this as evidence for Smithâ??s status as prophet. After all, he explicitly claimed that the practice would be restored, and we know this was practiced in First Temple Israel. I wonder if Bokovoy intends to write up a piece on this parallel. Probably not.

Idolatry: LDS apologists point to archeological evidence of Asherah statues with great enthusiasm. It suggests that the First Temple might have worshipped a female figure which gives Mormons fodder for developing a heavenly mother connection. But the problem is, this is idolatry and removing the statues was therefore justified. There is little or no evidence that Yahweh was ever represented with statues, but the sheer volume of Asherah figurines/poles/statues suggests idolatry had run amuck. Consequently, the removal of the Asherah from the temple must be considered a good thing, even if it was King Josiah who initiated it. Josiah is generally painted as a man who was out for his own interests. Mormon apologists generally follow this thesis held by Barker, Mettinger and others, but they also argue that the Book of Deuteronomy was just a creation of the monarchy. If this is true, one must wonder why Joseph Smith didnâ??t also exclude this book from the Bible. After all, Deuteronomy flatly rejects the former tradition of Godâ??s anthropomorphic form. And of course, there is no way this could amount to a correction to a former, primitive way of viewing God, is there? Incidentally, Jesusâ?? citation of Deuteronomy seems to cause problems for any Mormon to follow this argument.

Pet Peeve: Apologists like Kerry Shirts like to present one side and then declare it â??biblical.â? Well, the Bible tells two stories, and it is simply a matter of perspective which side God agrees with. The â??biblicalâ? God is clearly transcendent just as the â??biblicalâ? God is clearly anthropomorphic. However, the biblical God is not a sexual being as Shirts likes to assume. He mangles Mark Smithâ??s book and then produces a pod cast arguing for biblical proof that God has a penis, when all Mark Smith said was that the verse in question refering to the Hand of God, was also a euphemism at Ugarit for Elâ??s penis. It doesnâ??t logically follow that this is how it must have been understood and intended by Isaiah, and it certainly doesn't "prove" God has a penis even if the Bible did say that. In fact, as I have already illustrated, Mark Smith agrees with scholars who argue that Yahweh was not a "sexual being." Contrary to Ugarit, the Bible was not concerned with this at all.

So what does all this mean? In the end we have Mormon doctrine which explicitly states the name of God the Father is Elohim, not El. Elohim in Hebrew is the plural form of El, it means â??godsâ? and it is occasionally and appropriately applied to any divine being, including Yahweh, El, spirits, etc. Eohim in Mromonism is married to a wife whose name is too sacred to be known and whose favored son is Yahweh.

In Israel, the consort's name was common knowledge and she was married to Yahweh, who in Exodus, was said to be El in disguise. He also would have been none other than the Mormon Jesus. Asherah was also discarded through the course of Israelite religion, as a character who threatened Yahwehâ??s popularity. In order for Mormons to connect Asherah with a deity named Elohim, well, as evidenced on recent threads, they simply canâ??t. The next best thing they can do is connect her with El, and then try to argue El and Elohim are essentially the same (well, only in the sense that elohim and Baal/Yamm/Mot are the same). But they cannot connect her with El unless they dig deeper into Ugarit. But as I said, once we reach that point in prehistory we are dealing with a character that is best to ignore.

Mormons would do well to distance themselves from the divine behavior and sexcapades which characterize the Ugaritic deities Asherah and El. If you want to claim a restoration from Ugarit, you cannot pick and choose some aspects you like while ignoring the whole. It isnâ??t enough to say â??look they were a family too just like the Mormon idea of a divine family.â? If Mormonism provides a restoration of the Athirat and El relationship, then apologists have to deal with the licentious baggage that goes along with it.

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JasonH writes,

In early Israel El is somewhat resuscitated and eventually renamed Yahweh.

Just a little nitpicking here, but it is somewhat simplistic to state the El/Elohim was renamed YHWH when in reality it was a process of one god achieving dominance over another. This is made very profound in God talking to Moses out of a burning bush when he declares, "I Am that I Am" or "Ehyeh asher ehyeh" One reading of this could suggest "Ehyeh asher YA" Or "I Am YA" which is more suggestive of the later dominance of Moabite tribal belief over the more dominant and earlier Canaanite/Israelite religion.

In the end we have Mormon doctrine which explicitly states the name of God the Father is Elohim, not El. Elohim in Hebrew is the plural form of El, it means â??godsâ? and it is occasionally and appropriately applied to any divine being, including Yahweh, El, spirits, etc. Eohim in Mromonism is married to a wife whose name is too sacred to be known and whose favored son is Yahweh.

I am not sure that Mormons have such a doctrine? I think we just call him Father. JS did refer to God the Father as Elohim and as you have now admitted, "occasionally and appropriately applied to any divine being, including Yahweh, El, spirits, etc. Eohim in Mromonism". As to the Mormon God being married it is NOT doctrine but speculative doctrine that some have engaged in. I for one think that some form of spiritual "cooperation" exists in the eternities. I wouldn't necessarily call it marriage, but it is obvious, at least in my opinion, that some form of relationship exists in the afterlife between those we love.

In Israel, the consort's name was common knowledge and she was married to Yahweh, who in Exodus, was said to be El in disguise. He also would have been none other than the Mormon Jesus.

This is mighty big jump. Care to elaborate?

Asherah was also discarded through the course of Israelite religion, as a character who threatened Yahwehâ??s popularity.

Discarded? There are still modern Israeli's who give offerings to her today. Despite the best efforts to exorcise her from Hebrew theology it is evident that for the most part her influence still exists.

In order for Mormons to connect Asherah with a deity named Elohim, well, as evidenced on recent threads, they simply canâ??t. The next best thing they can do is connect her with El, and then try to argue El and Elohim are essentially the same (well, only in the sense that elohim and Baal/Yamm/Mot are the same). But they cannot connect her with El unless they dig deeper into Ugarit.

And we gave you many examples where modern non-Mormon scholars have associated her with Elohim including Heiser, Patai, Cross, Smith and Dever to name a few. I, for one, do not necessarily connotate that because God anciently had a consort it means that our present conceptionalization of God also has a consort. It simply suggests that the ancients had this view and helped form a part of their thinking. Since Mormons believe themselves restorationists then this makes perfect sense.

Mormons would do well to distance themselves from the divine behavior and sexcapades which characterize the Ugaritic deities Asherah and El. If you want to claim a restoration from Ugarit, you cannot pick and choose some aspects you like while ignoring the whole. It isnâ??t enough to say â??look they were a family too just like the Mormon idea of a divine family.â? If Mormonism provides a restoration of the Athirat and El relationship, then apologists have to deal with the licentious baggage that goes along with it.

I have to remember this when I gather with my Elder's Quorum so we don't pull out our Playboy magazines (we carry them with us nicely hidden in our Bibles between Exodus and Deuteronomy)and start comparing the prurient behavior of the ancients with that our own beliefs. I have never, ever discussed the the idea of Asherah and any other ancient deity in the context of discussing God in our lives. For most of us, including Kerry, the idea of Asherah is an ancient idea that smacks of reality, at least as Mormons see it.

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Jason H:

However, the biblical God is not a sexual being as Shirts likes to assume. He mangles Mark Smithâ??s book and then produces a pod cast arguing for biblical proof that God has a penis,

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, I have already explained WHY I have used Mark Smith and you continue to hammer it home that you haven't b othered to get it yet. My point is an IRONIC one. Archaeologically we have been told there is NOTHING to account for ANYTHING in Mormonism, especially with the BofM. I am using archaeologically based texts which describe God as having a penis to show that archaeologically there is nothing showing God is a spirit as opposed to having a body. God is anthropomorphic according to the Jewish scholars such as Weingreen, Weinfeld, and others. Patai and others have shown how God has sacred sex with his wife (without a penis, pray tell you tell me how that's done big boy). GOD IS always described as making love with his wife in earlier texts, in the Holy of Holies of Solomon's temple between the cherubim who were pictured as a male God (ther Father), and his wife (the Shekhinah) and they were in a sacred embrace, physically making love. The ultimate secret of the hieros gamos. YOU simply don't get it at all do you? I have NEVER mangled Mark Smith's translation ofGod having a penis, DUH! It's right there in his book. Just because *you* are embarrassed, doesn't mean the rest of us are..........

And Mark Smith is not the only scholar to note this. William F. Albright went so far as to proclaim that anciently the creation was ALWAYS depicted as an outpouring of semen! Now THAT is bold............ that's not my conception ya ding-a-ling, but the archaeoloigcally discovered texts that Bible scholars have translated as background to the Biblical God. I challenge you to read Moshe Weinfeld's electrifying article in the "Vetus Testamentum" (1996) called "Feminine Features in the Imagery of God In Israel: The Sacred Marriage and the Sacred Tree," and you tell me about the sexuality of God. Just what on earth could one such as yourself possibly know about this subject? Weinfeld I know, and Patai I know, but who are you?

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JasonH writes:

Yes, it is true that there is evidence that belief in a Queen of Heaven was popular belief in earliest Israelite religion. But as the evidence suggests, this belief existed only because it was retained from the former tradition at Ugarit.
This is really kind of nonsensical you know. What do you mean by "earliest Israelite religion"? It would seem to me that by simple definition this would have to pre-date the Josian reform, and the earlier Hezekiah's reform. And yet, some time later, as the Israelite's are dragging Jeremiah with them to Egypt following the assasination of Gedaliah (IIRC), the governor of Palestine placed by the Babylonians. On the way to Egypt (this is sometime around 580ish), the people who are hauling Jeremiah around are complaining about the fact that this never would have happened (i.e. the fall of Jerusalem) if they hadn't carried out the eviction of the Queen of Heaven from the temple during the Josian reform. Whether or not we want to talk about the belief of the Queen of Heaven as being a popular belief in earliest Israelite religion, it is a popular belief in Israelite religion following the earliest period. And it seems to have been incorporated into much later Jewish belief in the form of wisdom traditions which provide for salvation apart from the Law of Moses (a notion which was appealing to early Christianity and thus their framing Jesus within a Wisdom Christology). In any case, it is often argued that the goddess figure in early Israelite belief was NOT borrowed from its Canaanite neighbors but was in fact its own tradition that was gradually displaced from within Israelite belief. The evidence does not, as you suggest, favor the idea that it was borrowed from the Canaanites mostly because the evidence isn't really sufficient to draws those kinds of conclusions. And while Israelite prophets tended to draw heavily on imagery similar to that found in the Ugaritic corpus, it doesn't appear to borrowing from it as a basis for theological belief, rather it seems to be contrasting "true" Israelite belief with the "false" Canaanite beliefs present in those narratives.
The Hebrew Bible contains many phrases, names, places and expressions which made little sense until the Ugaritic texts were discovered.
Part of this was due largely to the fact that historically, textual scholars of the Bible have been far more inclined to suggest that otherwise unknown words in the Bible are in fact unique words rather than seeing them as orthographic errors or problems in the text which require emendation (not fabrication). When the Ugaritic texts were discovered, certain similarities in language between the two allowed for biblical textual scholars to start changing this pattern and to start examining the text as having flaws that could be corrected and proper meaning restored. A classic example of course occurs in the prayer of Jabez.

It is interesting to note, though, that YHWH is identified in the Ugaritic texts as a son of El.

But in the end, you are simply way off in terms of what LDS find interesting about all of this. At its very basic level, we find this fascinating because it demonstrates that Israelite belief (and the Old Testmant reflects this) was not a constant - it evolved and changed. As LDS we believe in a religion that is both derived and revealed (and that it can be both at the same time). On another level, we find these texts interesting because at the time that Lehi leaves Jerusalem, these notions are some esoteric acadmia but are close to home in the debates that would have been current with their departure. Our seeing these issues in the text of the Book of Mormon fascinates us because it provides with insight into what the ancient author intended that perhaps is partially recoverable. At the same time, we can quite clearly see the imapct these issues have on reading the Old Testament. When Isaiah declares that there was no God before YHWH, and none after Him, he is doing nothing more than suggesting that YHWH is not Ba'al to achieve his place as chief among the Elohim by dethroning another (as Ba'al did) nor can YHWH be so easily dethroned (the premise for example behind the 'Athtar narratives, and the fall of the shining gods).

The other thing that individuals lie yourself have a hard time coming to grips with is that while we like to see how our theology stacks up against, say, early Israelite religion as described in the Old Testament, our theology didn't develop because of this kind of scholarship. That is to say that if we speak of a Heavenly Mother, it has absolutely nothing to do with Ugaritic texts (and really, judging by the dates - couldn't have anything to do with them). Rather, these beliefs come from revelation and are inspired by God. And then, of course, there is the corollary - despite how negative you want to portray all of this, for nearly all of the existence of the temple which David built in Jerusalm, the Asherah was worshipped in that temple as an agent of salvation. It was the Biblical religion. And the Bible condones some of the traditions that are later viewed as idolatry - the ownership and posession of the teraphim (the household gods) before which certain observances were required in the Old Testament to take place, and so on. Personally, as long as we recognize that past cultures views of deity were filtered by their language, by their culture and society, and so on - and as long as we recognize that our own views of deity are likewise filtered, I don't think that there is anything wrong with comparing and contrasting two different ways to understand God.

Ben

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GOD IS always described as making love with his wife in earlier texts, in the Holy of Holies of Solomon's temple between the cherubim who were pictured as a male God (ther Father), and his wife (the Shekhinah) and they were in a sacred embrace, physically making love.

What are these earlier texts, specifically, that always describe God making love to his wife in the Temple? Do you have quotations you could share? Titles, editions, publishers, page numbers, for all of these earlier texts that always, your words, describe this?

Based on past experience, I really don't expect you actually to document your assertions. But, indeed, I'm more than willing to be surprised. I do, finally, understand that your materials are meant to bolster LDS faith, rather than interact meaningfully with non-LDS thought. But it took me a while.

Otherwise, how to explain the fact that you refuse to go on record about your basic methodological assumptions re: BoA.

Kerry, I asked you personally:

(1) Was there a missing scroll?

(2) Is what is now in the possession of the LDS Church the source document for JS's BoA?

(3) What is the transmission history of BoA?

(4) Where was it for a couple thousand years before it got buried with Hor in AD 12 (or whenever)?

You responded:

These aren't issues nearly as important to me as simply understanding the magnificent Book ofAbraham and its lessons for us, so I probably won't be much help for you.

It appears that you're more than willing to offer up as many parallels and similarities, etc. (in your podcasts and articles), as you can read into the extant materials, but when asked pointed questions, you either remain silent or punt to spiritual explanations devoid of any meaningful interaction with the larger issues. I asked earlier, "Who are you speaking to?" The answer seems to be already-believing LDS. You have refused to answer basic questions about your methodology, your assumptions, and your conclusions. You seem quite content to just throw your interpretations out there, hoping some might stick to the wall, without any need for rationale defense.

As long as we all know the score, that's fine.

Best.

CKS

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And Mark Smith is not the only scholar to note this. William F. Albright went so far as to proclaim that anciently the creation was ALWAYS depicted as an outpouring of semen! Now THAT is bold............ that's not my conception ya ding-a-ling, but the archaeoloigcally discovered texts that Bible scholars have translated as background to the Biblical God. I challenge you to read Moshe Weinfeld's electrifying article in the "Vetus Testamentum" (1996) called "Feminine Features in the Imagery of God In Israel: The Sacred Marriage and the Sacred Tree," and you tell me about the sexuality of God. Just what on earth could one such as yourself possibly know about this subject? Weinfeld I know, and Patai I know, but who are you?

No wonders God got so mad at Onan for spilling *IT* on the floor. So mad that he slew him! :P

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Mormons would do well to distance themselves from the divine behavior and sexcapades which characterize the Ugaritic deities Asherah and El.

I'm currrently working on an article that I will certainly publish in a non-LDS biblical journal that demonstrates that much like El, the biblical God was a sexual being.

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Hello Ace, thanks for bearing with me.

Just a little nitpicking here, but it is somewhat simplistic to state the El/Elohim was renamed YHWH when in reality it was a process of one god achieving dominance over another.

Well naturally, but I was trying to be as brief as possible. Being as simplistic as possible makes posting this more practical.

I am not sure that Mormons have such a doctrine? I think we just call him Father. JS did refer to God the Father as Elohim and as you have now admitted, "occasionally and appropriately applied to any divine being, including Yahweh, El, spirits, etc. Eohim in Mormonism".

Now look who is being simplistic. :P We all know that Elohim is the name of God the Father in Mormonism, so it is pointless to try mitigating this. This teaching is provided to Mormons in the temple where knowledge of the secret things are given, so I suspect this is why LDS refer to him as father in every day prayer. They also refrain from calling Jesus Jehovah in every day life, but we all know that this is his name according to Mormonism. The names of these deities are reiterated over and over again in the temple because of their importance. And as I said, elohim refers to any deity, which explains why it is used to designate everything divine from Baal to human spirits. Thus, it cannot be used as evidence for the LDS understanding of Elohim, which is first and foremost the sacred name of God the Father.

As to the Mormon God being married it is NOT doctrine but speculative doctrine that some have engaged in.

No, it is doctrine. The Proclamation about the Family pretty much set that one in stone. There have been discussions to this effect since, and virtually all LDS here agree it is doctrine. It has been taught onto many occasions to mention. The belief is so popular it is hard to imagine an LDS member suggesting it isnâ??t doctrine. Find me a Mormon who doesnâ??t believe in a Heavenly Mother, and then weâ??ll talk.

This is mighty big jump. Care to elaborate?

Sure. Exodus 6:2-3 tells us that God appeared to Abraham Isaac and Jacob as El (God) but they did not know him by his true name Yahweh (Lord). So it isnâ??t really a big jump for me to say Yahweh was posing as El in the beginning. He said so himself.

Discarded? There are still modern Israeli's who give offerings to her today. Despite the best efforts to exorcise her from Hebrew theology it is evident that for the most part her influence still exists.

Those who venerate her are so few as to be pointless. Where are you talking about anyway, a particular island off of the Egyptian coast?

And we gave you many examples where modern non-Mormon scholars have associated her with Elohim including Heiser, Patai, Cross, Smith and Dever to name a few.

Asherah is not associated with elohim in any text. In the Bible she is always mentioned as a tree or pole. If you believe she is mentioned with elohim, then please produce the text. If you believe she is mentioned as a consort of elohim in any archeological find, then please produce this as well. If you believe she is associated with a god named Elohim in the Ugaritic texts, then produce the source. As for the names you just mentioned, I donâ??t recall anyone providing evidence from these scholars that Asherah was a consort to a deity named Elohim. Is there another thread about this that I missed? As Barker noted, in Israel asherah was always associated with Yahweh. Always.

Now, to say Yahweh is sometimes called Elohim, therefore it is OK to assert Asherah was consort to a god named Elohim, is nothing less than a stroke of equivocation since we both know that in Mormonism Yahweh and Elohim are different deities and elohim is not a proper name. It means gods, and this is why it is used to designate the gods â?? any of them. By your logic, Asherah was also a consort to Moses since elohim also refers to him.

I, for one, do not necessarily connotate that because God anciently had a consort it means that our present conceptionalization of God also has a consort. It simply suggests that the ancients had this view and helped form a part of their thinking. Since Mormons believe themselves restorationists then this makes perfect sense.

But what did they restore?

Again, it isnâ??t enough to say Ancient Israel had a Heavenly Mother and Mormons have a heavenly Mother, therefore Joseph Smith was inspired. We have to ask why the Israelites had a â??Queen of Heaven.â? This makes all the difference in my view. The Ancient Israelites never claimed to have received knowledge of a Heavenly Mother via revelation by one of their prophets. So where did this teaching come from? Its source is clearly alien to the Bible and Israelite religion. The worship of Asherah preexisted Israel by many centuries. The practice of worshipping her was too popular to reject, so Israel merely assimilated it with their religion. It isnâ??t just coincidence that Yahweh had all the attributes of Baal and El. He not only took their attributes, he took their wife. The parallels between them are too numerous.

Further, other gods worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Berith. All have been applied to Yahweh by the Old Testament authors. Clearly, Jewish theologians adopted the titles of the Ugaritic gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an attempt to eradicate them. Naturally, if Yahweh is all of these then there is no need for the previous gods to exist.

Hey Ben

This is really kind of nonsensical you know. What do you mean by "earliest Israelite religion"? It would seem to me that by simple definition this would have to pre-date the Josian reform, and the earlier Hezekiah's reform.

Of course. I was trying to note that worship of Asherah was eventually rejected in Israel.

And yet, some time later, as the Israelite's are dragging Jeremiah with them to Egypt following the assasination of Gedaliah (IIRC), the governor of Palestine placed by the Babylonians. On the way to Egypt (this is sometime around 580ish), the people who are hauling Jeremiah around are complaining about the fact that this never would have happened (i.e. the fall of Jerusalem) if they hadn't carried out the eviction of the Queen of Heaven from the temple during the Josian reform.

Well hindsight is always 20/20, and I suppose this was a natural complaint/assumption to make since none of them would have imagined God allowing the Babylonians to destroy his own Temple. They were probably trying to make sense of it all. But I never said the Israelites all agreed with the removal of asherah. Clearly they didnâ??t, and clearly they adored her. But the Israelites had a documented history of falling away into idolatry and vanity, and the sheer volume of asherah figurines alone testifies to their own apostasy. So I wouldnâ??t use them as qualified judges here. Just because they said the removal of asherah was the cause of all their problems, doesnâ??t make it so. I suspect similar complaints were being made about Moses as he was climbing Mt. Sinai.

Whether or not we want to talk about the belief of the Queen of Heaven as being a popular belief in earliest Israelite religion, it is a popular belief in Israelite religion following the earliest period.

Yes, in popular religion, not official religion. I grant your point that she remained popular, in spite of the religious authorities rejecting her.

And it seems to have been incorporated into much later Jewish belief in the form of wisdom traditions which provide for salvation apart from the Law of Moses (a notion which was appealing to early Christianity and thus their framing Jesus within a Wisdom Christology).

Yes, and has been used as a lynchpin doctrine to support the Trinity.

In any case, it is often argued that the goddess figure in early Israelite belief was NOT borrowed from its Canaanite neighbors but was in fact its own tradition that was gradually displaced from within Israelite belief.

This is argued by whom?

Iâ??m not sure how that could be argued successfully. I mean what do we do with all the pre-Israelite evidence of an Asherah consort to God Most High? Is that just a sheer coincidence? I donâ??t find this plausible at all.

The evidence does not, as you suggest, favor the idea that it was borrowed from the Canaanites mostly because the evidence isn't really sufficient to draws those kinds of conclusions.

Well, Israelite religion began around the first millennium B.C. and Asherah predates this by centuries. What other evidence need there be? Iâ??d be interested in any scholarâ??s argument to the contrary. Can you recommend one for me?

And while Israelite prophets tended to draw heavily on imagery similar to that found in the Ugaritic corpus, it doesn't appear to borrowing from it as a basis for theological belief, rather it seems to be contrasting "true" Israelite belief with the "false" Canaanite beliefs present in those narratives.

Yes, I agree with this, which is why I reject the argument that euphemisms borrowed from Ugarit can be used to show Yahweh has a penis as long as the sea. But Asherah is not just imagery. She is the wife of the Ugarit God El who later became the wife of the Israelite God El-Yahweh, mainly because worship of her was too popular to overcome. She had to be assimilated into the new religious culture in order for it to survive.

It is interesting to note, though, that YHWH is identified in the Ugaritic texts as a son of El.

Indeed. But he was not the favored son of El, and receives relatively little attention. This contrasts with the Mormon Father-Son relationship between Elohim-Yahweh.

But in the end, you are simply way off in terms of what LDS find interesting about all of this. At its very basic level, we find this fascinating because it demonstrates that Israelite belief (and the Old Testmant reflects this) was not a constant - it evolved and changed.

That isnâ??t what I see at all, though I believe you can speak for yourself as can others. I see excitement and irresponsible apologetics based on the â??God has a wifeâ? notion. Just do a search on all of the popular apologetic forums, and see what comes up.

The other thing that individuals lie yourself have a hard time coming to grips with is that while we like to see how our theology stacks up against, say, early Israelite religion as described in the Old Testament, our theology didn't develop because of this kind of scholarship.

Why would you say this? I have no problems understanding that at all, and I never believed otherwise. I never suggested Mormon doctrine was developed through scholarship. Iâ??m fully aware it claims to have come directly from God.

Rather, these beliefs come from revelation and are inspired by God. And then, of course, there is the corollary - despite how negative you want to portray all of this, for nearly all of the existence of the temple which David built in Jerusalm, the Asherah was worshipped in that temple as an agent of salvation.

I am aware of all this, but she was eventually removed. The bible rejects her even is archeology doesnâ??t. Are we a faith based on the Bible or archeology? Her removal and rejection represent a poignant fact that should not go ignored. For Mormons to dismiss this as an act of unrighteous kings is to really dismiss huge chunks of the Bible which overwhelming speaks negatively of Asherah than vice versa. As I said before, if Deuteronomy was a creation of the priests of Josiah, and the rejection of Asherah was not God working through him, then how do we reconcile this with the fact that Jesus cites Deuteronomy as scripture?

It was the Biblical religion.

This is where apologists cross the line. You can use archeology to determine popular religion, OK. But biblical religion is that which is written in the Bible. There is simply no means by which you can twist the adjective â??biblicalâ? to refer to anything else except that which the Bible condones. The Bible vehemently rejects Asherah; one would think this should count for something.

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Idolatry: But the problem is, this is idolatry and removing the statues was therefore justified.

One man's idolatry is another man's religion. I'm not sure where you get the capital to make this moral judgment.

Mormon apologists generally follow this thesis held by Barker, Mettinger and others, but they also argue that the Book of Deuteronomy was just a creation of the monarchy. If this is true, one must wonder why Joseph Smith didnâ??t also exclude this book from the Bible. After all, Deuteronomy flatly rejects the former tradition of Godâ??s anthropomorphic form. And of course, there is no way this could amount to a correction to a former, primitive way of viewing God, is there?

Are there any modern scholars who have argued that the "primitive" form attributed to God by the Hebrews or Canaanites was the omnipresent formless cloud of Greek philosophy?

Incidentally, Jesusâ?? citation of Deuteronomy seems to cause problems for any Mormon to follow this argument.

What problems might those be? Jesus made it clear he was working within the cultural and moral framework the Hebrews created for themselves.

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We all know that Elohim is the name of God the Father in Mormonism, so it is pointless to try mitigating this. This teaching is provided to Mormons in the temple where knowledge of the secret things are given, so I suspect this is why LDS refer to him as father in every day prayer. They also refrain from calling Jesus Jehovah in every day life, but we all know that this is his name according to Mormonism. The names of these deities are reiterated over and over again in the temple because of their importance. And as I said, elohim refers to any deity, which explains why it is used to designate everything divine from Baal to human spirits. Thus, it cannot be used as evidence for the LDS understanding of Elohim, which is first and foremost the sacred name of God the Father.

According to the ever popular Wikipedia:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact a misleading fallacy, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.

Sargon

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One man's idolatry is another man's religion.

No doubt, but that argument didnâ??t seem to work out too well for the Israelites at Sinai.

I'm not sure where you get the capital to make this moral judgment.

The Bible of course. If you want a Mormon authority, then I guess the local Mission President, who tells us that Catholic veneration of idols, is in fact idolatry. I mean if worshipping an idol is not idolatry, then what is?

Are there any modern scholars who have argued that the "primitive" form attributed to God by the Hebrews or Canaanites was the omnipresent formless cloud of Greek philosophy?

The evidence belies the claim that Greek Philosophy is to blame for the Jewish move away from anthropomorphisms. The Hellenic period took place many centuries afterwards.

What problems might those be? Jesus made it clear he was working within the cultural and moral framework the Hebrews created for themselves.

If Jesus cites a book as scripture, this strongly suggests it is scripture, and not the product of unrighteous priests who were corrupting the true nature of God.

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You can use archeology to determine popular religion, OK. But biblical religion is that which is written in the Bible. There is simply no means by which you can twist the adjective â??biblicalâ? to refer to anything else except that which the Bible condones. The Bible vehemently rejects Asherah; one would think this should count for something.

I'm quite sure "The Bible" has never made any such claims for itself; being that it is a collection of mythology, history and political commentary compiled over thousands of years it is quite fathomable that two or more opinions on the same subject may be present.

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I'm quite sure "The Bible" has never made any such claims for itself; being that it is a collection of mythology, history and political commentary compiled over thousands of years it is quite fathomable that two or more opinions on the same subject may be present.

Is there a relevant point somewhere in there?

By that standard, nothing can be called "biblical" at all.

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The Bible of course. If you want a Mormon authority, then I guess the local Mission President, who tells us that Catholic veneration of idols, is in fact idolatry. I mean if worshipping an idol is not idolatry, then what is?

I wouldn't quite care for his opinion, either. Religious expression deserves to be evaluated based on the standards it creates for itself.

The evidence belies the claim that Greek Philosophy is to blame for the Jewish move away from anthropomorphisms. The Hellenic period took place many centuries afterwards.

And yet the highly anthropomorphic "J" tradition wins out in the latest scriptural books.

If Jesus cites a book as scripture, this strongly suggests it is scripture, and not the product of unrighteous priests who were corrupting the true nature of God.

Unrighteous priests? I never said anything to that effect, did I? Different doesn't equal unrighteousness in my book.

As to your earlier claim of an equivalence between El and Yahweh, here is a fully Biblical citation that refutes that:

(Deuteronomy 32:8-9)

When El Elyon apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind,

he fixed the boundaries of he peoples according to the number of the gods(cool.gif;

YHWH's portion was his people,

Jacob allotted his share.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible provides this comment:

Elyon is the title of El, the senior god who sat at the head of the divine council in the Ugaritic literature of ancient Canaan. (cool.gif Gods, the lesser gods who make up the divine council (Ps 82:1l 89:6-7), to each of whom Elyon here assigns a foreign nation.

9. The Lord's own portion; NRSV has added "own" in order to identify Yahweh with Elyon and avoid the impression that Yahweh is merely a member of the pantheon.

Of course, everyone knows the Michael D. Coogan and company are just secret agents for FARMS.

Is there a relevant point somewhere in there?

By that standard, nothing can be called "biblical" at all.

Now you're catching on.

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Archaeologically we have been told there is NOTHING to account for ANYTHING in Mormonism, especially with the BofM. I am using archaeologically based texts which describe God as having a penis to show that archaeologically there is nothing showing God is a spirit as opposed to having a body.

What a lame argument.

God is anthropomorphic according to the Jewish scholars such as Weingreen, Weinfeld, and others.

No, God is anthropomorphic according to the earliest Israelites, so say these scholars. You make it sound like this is their own personal theology. This is what I am talking about. You cannot properly represent people’s positions no matter how hard you try. I have never seen anything like it.

Yahweh remains a non-sexual being according to the Old Testament. Meaning, there are no references to him having sex as there were in Ugaritic texts describing the sexcapades among the various gods, including Yahweh’s wife Asherah.

Patai and others have shown how God has sacred sex with his wife

Shown where? In Jewish Mysticism? In the Ugaritic texts? The DSS? The Gnostic texts? You never say. You just snag whatever you want from a corpus of texts spanning several millennia and without specifying what text you’re talking about, insist, “This text shows God did this” as if it can all be pulled back into the Bible with a tractor beam.

GOD IS always described as making love with his wife in earlier texts

The earlier texts!! What in Sam Hill is that? Hey, God smokes peyote on Tuesday according to the later texts. He drinks Noni juice according to the semi-short texts. You can pretty much say whatever you want based on “texts”but you cannot demonstrate any of it from the biblical texts. What texts are you talking about? If it is truly the Bible – which is what we are talking about - then why can’t you simply cite a scripture?

in the Holy of Holies of Solomon's temple between the cherubim who were pictured as a male God (ther Father), and his wife (the Shekhinah) and they were in a sacred embrace, physically making love.

So it isn’t a text at all, it is a picture? You’re being vague, why? Why not cite the scripture?

YOU simply don't get it at all do you?

I do. I got you a long time ago when JP Holding pummeled you for abusing and misrepresenting textual critics (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nttextcrit.html). But I defended you then even though you never really repented. Try to be more responsible. Less volume and more accuracy.

I remember you said you were learning to "speed read." I think that was a bad idea. Take your time reading what you intend to talk about.

I have NEVER mangled Mark Smith's translation ofGod having a penis, DUH!

I never said you mangled the translation. I said you mangled HIM. You use him to promote Mormon themes even though he doesn’t agree.

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Officer structure, Exodus 6:2-3 is Yahweh telling us that he initially revealed himself to the patriarchs as El.

If you don't see that as an equivalence, then take it up with him.

I'm fully aware of the Deut 32:8. It doesn't cause a problem for anything I have argued.

And no scholars worth his salt is going to agree with the notion that the Bible doesn't suppress anthropomorphisms. Of course it does.

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Officer structure, Exodus 6:2-3 is Yahweh telling us that he initially revealed himself to the patriarchs as El.

Which would be contradicted by Genesis 4:26:

To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of YHWH.

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Ah, so you are the great Kevin Graham. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

I thought it was Kevin Graham as well. :P His arguments run the same way as I remember them earlier when he argued here about child sacrifices in Israel. Small world...different names.

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JasonH writes....again...,

Well naturally, but I was trying to be as brief as possible. Being as simplistic as possible makes posting this more practical.

Fair enough.

We all know that Elohim is the name of God the Father in Mormonism, so it is pointless to try mitigating this. This teaching is provided to Mormons in the temple where knowledge of the secret things are given, so I suspect this is why LDS refer to him as father in every day prayer. They also refrain from calling Jesus Jehovah in every day life, but we all know that this is his name according to Mormonism. The names of these deities are reiterated over and over again in the temple because of their importance. And as I said, Elohim refers to any deity, which explains why it is used to designate everything divine from Baal to human spirits. Thus, it cannot be used as evidence for the LDS understanding of Elohim, which is first and foremost the sacred name of God the Father.

Since the activities in the temple are not canonical I am not sure that we see them as doctrinal. Having said that I can agree that Elohim is used as the proper name for God the Father, but as I have previously stated the name itself has different connotations. It can mean any deity, even sub-deity such as the divine council or the Supreme Deity which Mormons use. We can do this without much acceptance of Ba'al.

No, it is doctrine. The Proclamation about the Family pretty much set that one in stone. There have been discussions to this effect since, and virtually all LDS here agree it is doctrine. It has been taught onto many occasions to mention. The belief is so popular it is hard to imagine an LDS member suggesting it isnâ??t doctrine. Find me a Mormon who doesnâ??t believe in a Heavenly Mother, and then weâ??ll talk.

Although not the best of sources Newsweek stated, "While the official Proclamation on the Family affirms that each human being is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents, there are no teachings about a Heavenly Mother in Latter-day Saint scripture." The P on the F, while official never states that we have a "Heavenly Mother", per se, but Heaven Parents, which I agree with. Using a very earthbound word such as mother or father is probably inappropriate to express the relationship between these two. I have trouble seeing our heavenly parents as Ozzie and Harriet.

Sure. Exodus 6:2-3 tells us that God appeared to Abraham Isaac and Jacob as El (God) but they did not know him by his true name Yahweh (Lord). So it isnâ??t really a big jump for me to say Yahweh was posing as El in the beginning. He said so himself.

I hardly think God is play peekaboo with the prophets. More commonly this is an attempt to answer why there is a sudden shift in worship of southern tribal deity which has usurped authority over the proto-Israelite deity of El aka Elohim, Ba'al. Ea, and Enlil.

Those who venerate her are so few as to be pointless. Where are you talking about anyway, a particular island off of the Egyptian coast?

Nope! Downtown Bethlehem. Women as late as the 1970's were placing offerings at Rachel's Tomb to help them with their desire for children. I will rescind my earlier statement that they were offering to Asherah, but the implication is similar. Rachel has taken on the roll of Asherah in supporting women's cults in modern Israel.

Asherah is not associated with elohim in any text.

She was the mother of the Elohim.

Now, to say Yahweh is sometimes called Elohim, therefore it is OK to assert Asherah was consort to a god named Elohim, is nothing less than a stroke of equivocation since we both know that in Mormonism Yahweh and Elohim are different deities and elohim is not a proper name. It means gods, and this is why it is used to designate the gods â?? any of them. By your logic, Asherah was also a consort to Moses since elohim also refers to him.

Elohim is a proper name although it is usually used alongside other connotations such as El Shadday etc. I posted it before and I'll do so again. Just because it reflects some age doesn't negate its message.

"The conviction that Yahweh is Elohim, God in the absolute sense, is emphasized in the Elohistic (E) narratives of the Pentateuch, so designated because the narrator prefers to use the divine name Elohim, especially for the period before the Mosaic revelation.

The use of Elohim in the priestly creation story, as noted above, is explained not only by the writer's avoidance of the special name Yahweh before the Mosaic period (Exod. 6:2-3), but especially by the attempt to avoid any taint of polytheism, such as was characteristic of ancient mythologies of CREATION. The name Elohim stresses the fact that God, the Creator, is the absolute Lord over his creation and the sovereign of history. Since the priestly scheme articulates history into several dispensations (Creation to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses), each having its special blessing and commandment, and all leading up to the climactic revelation of Sinai, it is apparent that in Gen. 1:1 Elohim is none other than the God whose personal name, Yahweh, was later disclosed. Thus the priestly redactors of the Pentateuch in Gen. 2:1-3 placed Elohim in apposition to Yahweh in the expression "Yahweh Elohim" ("the LORD God"; e.g., 2:4b, 5, 7), the intention being to affirm that Yahweh is Elohim, the God of all times."[/b]

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The Bible of course. If you want a Mormon authority, then I guess the local Mission President, who tells us that Catholic veneration of idols, is in fact idolatry. I mean if worshipping an idol is not idolatry, then what is?

I must vehemently disagree with being a TBM myself. I also happen to have grown up Catholic, and would like to impress upon your mind that simply being called to serve as a Mission President doesn't qualify someone to pass judgement on the customs of others.

Veneration is given and prayer offered to saints who are very real beings and souls, not to the statues and icons of them. Yes, praying to saints is not correct, but it is only so misguided. To call praying to a saint for an intercessory prayer worshipping their image would be like saying I am worshipping the Celestial Room when I pray there after going through a session. Which in a word is innaccurate.

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Jason H:

Again, it isnâ??t enough to say Ancient Israel had a Heavenly Mother and Mormons have a heavenly Mother, therefore Joseph Smith was inspired. We have to ask why the Israelites had a â??Queen of Heaven.â? This makes all the difference in my view. The Ancient Israelites never claimed to have received knowledge of a Heavenly Mother via revelation by one of their prophets.

Kevin, do you really believe that the Bible included everything the ancient Israelites knew? Are you that totally naive about how the Old Testament was put together and what parts of it were and were not included, or even survived? It is MORE than enough to note that the ancient Israelites believed and WORSHIPPED a female deity, and what we Mormons label as a Heavenly Mother is also a female deity. THAT simply is not nor was in Christianity in Joseph Smith's day, nor since even up into our day. THE point is that there IS a female deity period. The Why or where she came from is peripheral to the point that she is. She is in Ancient Israel, and she is in Mormonism. Simply because the Bible is silent about how the Israelites knew about the Mother is not proof they didn't have revelation. Surely one such as learned, logical, and powerfully argumentative knows the fallacy of argument from silence on this point yes?

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