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Nephi and His Asherah


Daniel Peterson

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I gave two talks at BYU Education Week this morning. One of them was pretty good. The other was fairly bad.

There's a Mormon Times article about one of them. (Fortunately, it's about the pretty good one.) I thought maybe somebody here might find it (and the link that is supplied to my actual article) at least slightly interesting.

http://www.mormontimes.com/studies_doctrine/doctrine_discussion/?id=10285

I'm biased, of course, but I think that the subject is interesting.

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I'm biased, of course, but I think that the subject is interesting.

I'm just glad there was not actually any goddess veneration going on. I wasn't sure from the topic title....

.

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Interesting topic. I'm curious Dr. Peterson - do you think the original religion of Abraham included the knowledge of the name of a Mother in Heaven? or do you see in this tradition the corruption of a more pure religious concept of there being one?

I'm also curious on your views of the progression of Hebrew theology. Is there a paper you have written that is available online?

Thanks in advance.

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I found this very interesting: "El was probably also the original god of Israel. In the earliest Israelite conception, father El had a divine son named Yahweh or Jehovah. That ought to sound very Mormon to you, this increasing understanding of Old Testament scholars. But gradually the Israelite conception of Yahweh â?¦ absorbed the functions of El. By the 10th century B.C., King Solomon's day, Yahweh and El had come to be identified as the same person."

"...Yahweh and El had come to be identified as the same person." (That sounds very Catholic/Protestant to us....)

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Interesting topic. I'm curious Dr. Peterson - do you think the original religion of Abraham included the knowledge of the name of a Mother in Heaven? or do you see in this tradition the corruption of a more pure religious concept of there being one?

I think it's pretty clear that the "Hebrew" religion of Abraham wasn't monotheistic in anything like our modern sense of the term, and, though I can't prove it, I expect that his religion included a "divine Mother."

I'm also curious on your views of the progression of Hebrew theology. Is there a paper you have written that is available online?

I've never written a paper focused on that topic. But I think that the original, longer, version of my paper on Asherah gives a fairly clear picture of the general direction of my thinking about it:

http://mi.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=13&chapid=94

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I think it's pretty clear that the "Hebrew" religion of Abraham wasn't monotheistic in anything like our modern sense of the term, and, though I can't prove it, I expect that his religion included a "divine Mother."

I would say the modern conceptualization of monotheism didn't exist until into the Common Era, and even then it was simply an appropriation of the term by a theological tradition that is more henotheistic than monotheistic. From a technical standpoint, monotheism is an impossibility in Judaism and Christianity. Angels and seraphim and cherubim and all that jazz preclude strict monotheism.

I've never written a paper focused on that topic. But I think that the original, longer, version of my paper on Asherah gives a fairly clear picture of the general direction of my thinking about it:

http://mi.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=13&chapid=94

I'm working on a paper right now on the early procreative aspects of Israelite deity and its manifestation in divine council imagery. I'm also dealing specifically with the verb qnh and its use in procreative divine epithets (qoneh 'ars weshamayim, 'abika qoneka, etc.).

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I'm working on a paper right now on the early procreative aspects of Israelite deity and its manifestation in divine council imagery. I'm also dealing specifically with the verb qnh and its use in procreative divine epithets (qoneh 'ars weshamayim, 'abika qoneka, etc.).

What do you plan to do with it?

I look forward to reading it, if possible.

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What do you plan to do with it?

I look forward to reading it, if possible.

It may turn into my masters thesis, but my masters program is more geared toward Second Temple stuff, so I may save it for the dissertation. At the moment I've got three different papers focusing on three different aspects of the question that I'm working on. The one I'm furthest along on is the epithet קנה שמם וארץ from Gen 14:19, 22. I'm arguing it's an allusion to a Syro-Palestinian view of El as begetter of second tier deities ('rs wsmm are deities which receive sacrifices in the Ugaritic literature). There's a great deal of conservative Christian scholarship out there that doesn't like the idea of the verb קנה referring to procreation because of the implications with Prov 8:22 and Christ/Wisdom being "begotten."

In another paper I'm trying to expound on Smith and Handy's idea of a four tiered Syro-Palestinian pantheon. I'm investigating the collapsing of the tiers and the ideological conflation of angels with the "sons of God" and how this conflation is manifested in Second Temple literature. As soon as I get some loose ends tied together with either of these papers I'll be happy to send them along. I am always looking for a fresh pair of eyes, especially when they've worked with this topic.

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Interesting but wrong. It's a beautiful passage in the BOM, but to screw it up with Mary being a focus misses the beauty entirely.

Love of God = the tree = Jesus Christ

Like a good film director, the angel doesn't start the scene with the main character, he backs it up just a little and shows Mary about to deliver. The birth of the baby Jesus is the focus. The condescension of God to earth is the manifestation of the love of God--John 3:16.

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Interesting but wrong. It's a beautiful passage in the BOM, but to screw it up with Mary being a focus misses the beauty entirely.

Love of God = the tree = Jesus Christ

Like a good film director, the angel doesn't start the scene with the main character, he backs it up just a little and shows Mary about to deliver. The birth of the baby Jesus is the focus. The condescension of God to earth is the manifestation of the love of God--John 3:16.

I like this better: Love of G-d = the tree; Fruit of the tree = the Master, being the most profound expression of that love.

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Is there a source I could refer to on this?

Well, Mark Smith talks about this in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 47-49. You can also see Simon B. Parker, "The Beginning of the Reign of God - Psalm 82 as Myth and Liturgy," Revue Biblique 102.4 (1995): 549-50, and G. Cooke, "The Sons of (the) God(s)," Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 76 (1964): 22-47 (33).

The best place to look, however, is in the Bible itself. In Deut 32:8-9 and in Psalm 82 Yahweh is presented as a member of the divine council, and not as its head. Since the members were all the sons of El, it follows that Yahweh was a son of El. In Deuteronomy we also see the nations being apportioned by El Elyon to the individual sons of God. Yahweh is one of those who receives a portion (namely, Israel). For the best reconstruction of Deut 32:8 see Jan Joosten, "A Note on the Text of Deuteronomy xxxii 8," Vetus Testamentum 57 (2007): 548-55. For a good reason to reject Heiser's appeal to the conjunction ki in Deut 32:9 (in an attempt to equate El Elyon with Yahweh), see here.

In the earliest poetry of the Hebrew Bible Yahweh is distinct from El, and held a role that would make him El's son. Much editorial work on the part of ancient scribes has suppressed most of those theological manifestations, but some have slipped through. This is a generally accepted interpretation of early Israelite theology.

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Well, Mark Smith talks about this in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 47-49. You can also see Simon B. Parker, "The Beginning of the Reign of God - Psalm 82 as Myth and Liturgy," Revue Biblique 102.4 (1995): 549-50, and G. Cooke, "The Sons of (the) God(s)," Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 76 (1964): 22-47 (33).

The best place to look, however, is in the Bible itself. In Deut 32:8-9 and in Psalm 82 Yahweh is presented as a member of the divine council, and not as its head. Since the members were all the sons of El, it follows that Yahweh was a son of El. In Deuteronomy we also see the nations being apportioned by El Elyon to the individual sons of God. Yahweh is one of those who receives a portion (namely, Israel). For the best reconstruction of Deut 32:8 see Jan Joosten, "A Note on the Text of Deuteronomy xxxii 8," Vetus Testamentum 57 (2007): 548-55. For a good reason to reject Heiser's appeal to the conjunction ki in Deut 32:9 (in an attempt to equate El Elyon with Yahweh), see here.

In the earliest poetry of the Hebrew Bible Yahweh is distinct from El, and held a role that would make him El's son. Much editorial work on the part of ancient scribes has suppressed most of those theological manifestations, but some have slipped through. This is a generally accepted interpretation of early Israelite theology.

Awesome, thanks. It's been a while since I read Origins but my memory seems to say that Baal was more explicitly El's son, and that Yahweh took up most of his characteristics, but I could definitely be remembering incorrectly.

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Awesome, thanks. It's been a while since I read Origins but my memory seems to say that Baal was more explicitly El's son, and that Yahweh took up most of his characteristics, but I could definitely be remembering incorrectly.

In the Syro-Palestinian pantheon Ba'al was referred to as a son of El, but he is more often referred to as the offspring of Dagan. Yahweh originally appropriated Ba'al's storm god imagery and kind of acted as an Israelite analog to Ba'al, but the two pantheons were separate, and only El is consistent unilaterally.

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In the Syro-Palestinian pantheon Ba'al was referred to as a son of El, but he is more often referred to as the offspring of Dagan. Yahweh originally appropriated Ba'al's storm god imagery and kind of acted as an Israelite analog to Ba'al, but the two pantheons were separate, and only El is consistent unilaterally.

Roger.

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'maklelan' writes,

I would say the modern conceptualization of monotheism didn't exist until into the Common Era, and even then it was simply an appropriation of the term by a theological tradition that is more henotheistic than monotheistic. From a technical standpoint, monotheism is an impossibility in Judaism and Christianity. Angels and seraphim and cherubim and all that jazz preclude strict monotheism.

While monotheism as a modern ideal didn't reach understanding until early Christianity and maybe even post-exilic Israel the concept of a "mother" in heaven aside from the speculations offered in LDS hymns and prophets seems out of place in the realm of ancient thinking. I do not believe that the ancient Jew or even most ANE peoples saw Asherah as a mother figure, but as a being of some creative (hokma) powers along the line of Inanna and Astarte. In some ways she assumes her role alongside the other members of the divine council like the rephilim, angels/messengers, bene ha elohim, etc.

I'm working on a paper right now on the early procreative aspects of Israelite deity and its manifestation in divine council imagery. I'm also dealing specifically with the verb qnh and its use in procreative divine epithets (qoneh 'ars weshamayim, 'abika qoneka, etc.).

Show off. :P

Sounds interesting.

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I gave two talks at BYU Education Week this morning. One of them was pretty good. The other was fairly bad.

There's a Mormon Times article about one of them. (Fortunately, it's about the pretty good one.) I thought maybe somebody here might find it (and the link that is supplied to my actual article) at least slightly interesting.

http://www.mormontimes.com/studies_doctrine/doctrine_discussion/?id=10285

I'm biased, of course, but I think that the subject is interesting.

What was the "fairly bad" one about?

I'm curious, because I've never heard/read a bad talk by you.

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