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The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel


maklelan

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The Society of Biblical Literature's Review of Biblical Literature was just sent out, and an interesting highlight on the list is a review by Gilbert Lozano of Benjamin Sommer's The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel.

This book's been out for a while, and it discusses the concept of embodied deities in the ancient Near East and its implications for interpreting the Hebrew Bible. It's a really good read. The author argues that the fact that YHWH had a body is a clear and important aspect of the biblical text. He posits that YHWH is one of the men in Genesis 18, which is something I agree with, but he tries to present YHWH as transcending corporeality and only taking it upon himself to interact in certain capacities with humanity. This is most clearly argued in his discussion of the "angel of YHWH" as a kind of avatar for YHWH, which is almost identical to the position James Kugel presented a few months ago here at Oxford. I think this approach tries to conceptually harmonize disparate ideologies that most likely weren't meant to be harmonized. Specifically, different names and representations of God probably shouldn't be interpreted as equally valid expositions of different facets of a unified and systematic theology. I don't like most of the conclusions people reach about hypostases and the like this early in the theology of the ancient Near East. I also think it suffers from a bit of presentism in trying to retroject later ideas about the transcendence of God into early texts that probably thought less about God's ontology than about his protection and blessings.

The review is kinda sloppy and doesn't really evaluate the author's approach. It felt like a book report written by a student (and this after I was intimidated away from requesting a book to review for RBL). Charles Halton got pretty much the same impression from the review and points to his own review, which I think is much more helpful (as usual). Note one of the comment at the bottom by Alan Lenzi, an author of another important book dealing with the Divine Council in Mesopotamia and Israel called Secrecy and the Gods.

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Ben Sommers and Alan Lenzi, two excellent Brandeis alumni. Alan and I did course work together years ago (he was a doctoral student when I was working on my MA). He's an outstanding linguist and his dissertation/book on the council is in my estimate quite wonderful. I'm a big fan of Sommer's book on Isaiah, but I believe this new one is problematic.

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If I remember correctly, Justin uses the text to show that appearances of God to humans in the Hebrew Bible was actually the appearance of the premortal Christ.

Thats correct but you also have to remember the other part of his argument, that there are TWO YHWHs refered to in Genesis.

  1. Gen. 19: 24 24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

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EbedErudition.png

Thats correct but you also have to remember the other part of his argument, that there are TWO YHWHs refered to in Genesis.

  1. Gen. 19: 24 24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

OK, in the past I've read that I do not know how many times but this is the first time I've noticed that oddity. Now is that what it actually means - that there are two YHWHs (????)? Or is that just one of those oddities from Hebrew that has managed to winnow its way into the English translation Like that which the Book of Mormon is chock full?

Either way I can use it.

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Some people assert that Jesus was Melchizedek. Based on Hebrews 7: 1-3 What do you all think?

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, apriest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

2 To whom also Abraham gave a atenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of brighteousness, and after that also King of cSalem, which is, King of peace;

3 aWithout father, without mother, without descent, having neither bbeginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a cpriest continually.

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Some people assert that Jesus was Melchizedek. Based on Hebrews 7: 1-3 What do you all think?

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, apriest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

2 To whom also Abraham gave a atenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of brighteousness, and after that also King of cSalem, which is, King of peace;

3 aWithout father, without mother, without descent, having neither bbeginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a cpriest continually.

This was Margaret Barker's thesis at SBL in San Diego, but I think she stretches the sources a little beyond recognition with that one.

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EbedErudition.png

OK, in the past I've read that I do not know how many times but this is the first time I've noticed that oddity. Now is that what it actually means - that there are two YHWHs (????)? Or is that just one of those oddities from Hebrew that has managed to winnow its way into the English translation Like that which the Book of Mormon is chock full?

Either way I can use it.

It's kind of an oddity that scholars either treat as just a jumbled clause or a sign of two YHWH's. I'm skeptical of two YHWH's, though.

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Some people assert that Jesus was Melchizedek. Based on Hebrews 7: 1-3 What do you all think?

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, apriest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

2 To whom also Abraham gave a atenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of brighteousness, and after that also King of cSalem, which is, King of peace;

3 aWithout father, without mother, without descent, having neither bbeginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a cpriest continually.

Was Jesus without a mother? (without mother?) Who was Mary?

Was Jesus without a Father? (without father?) Who was God, the Father?

Did Jesus not die? (nor end of life?) What happened on the cross?

I don't see how this could be a description of Jesus.

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EbedErudition.png

OK, in the past I've read that I do not know how many times but this is the first time I've noticed that oddity. Now is that what it actually means - that there are two YHWHs (????)? Or is that just one of those oddities from Hebrew that has managed to winnow its way into the English translation Like that which the Book of Mormon is chock full?

Either way I can use it.

I'm not so sure it is a fractle of the English translation. All of the early chruch apologists use the verse in the same way.

150 AD Justin Martyr: In this text, Justin the Christian is trying to convince Trypho the Jew that Jesus is God, by showing one of the three men who appeared to Abraham, was Yahweh himself: " I [Justin] inquired. And Trypho said, "Certainly; but you have not proved from this that there is another God besides Him who appeared to Abraham, and who also appeared to the other patriarchs and prophets. You have proved, however, that we [the Jews] were wrong in believing that the three who were in the tent with Abraham were all angels." I [Justin] replied again, "If I could not have proved to you from the Scriptures that one of those three is God, because, as I already said, He brings messages to those to whom God the Maker of all things wishes [messages to be brought], then in regard to Him who appeared to Abraham on earth in human form in like manner as the two angels who came with Him, and who was God even before the creation of the world, it were reasonable for you to entertain the same belief as is entertained by the whole of your nation." "Assuredly," he said, "for up to this moment this has been our [the Jews] belief." ... "And now have you not perceived, my friends, that one of the three, who is both God and Lord, and ministers to Him who is in the heavens, is Lord of the two angels? For when [the angels] proceeded to Sodom, He remained behind, and communed with Abraham in the words recorded by Moses; and when He departed after the conversation, Abraham went back to his place. And when he came [to Sodom], the two angels no longer conversed with Lot, but Himself, as the Scripture makes evident; and He is the Lord who received commission from the Lord who [remains] in the heavens, i.e., the Maker of all things, to inflict upon Sodom and Gomorrah the [judgments] which the Scripture describes in these terms:
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Was Jesus without a mother? (without mother?) Who was Mary?

Was Jesus without a Father? (without father?) Who was God, the Father?

Did Jesus not die? (nor end of life?) What happened on the cross?

I don't see how this could be a description of Jesus.

Good points and yeah I agree. I saw a supposition of such on another website long ago in regards to reincarnation, and found it stretching. Wanted some input as this OP just made my curiosity to go back and argue, but they don't have a discussion forum or contact address. I'm blowing them off.

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EbedFun.png

It's kind of an oddity that scholars either treat as just a jumbled clause or a sign of two YHWH's. I'm skeptical of two YHWH's, though.

I'm not so sure it is a fractle of the English translation. All of the early chruch apologists use the verse in the same way.

Thanks, folks. How interesting. So then this is somewhat akin to Revelation 1:6 which about half the Bibles in my library translate it in such a manner that it purportedly shows that God has a father?

"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5-6 - KJV)

"and made us sovereigns and priests

to Elohim and his Father;

to him be glory and power to the eons of the eons.

Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - ECB)

"and hath made us a priestly kingdom [Malkutho koknoitho, regnum sacerdotale.] unto Aloha and his Father; to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - Etheridge)

"And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."(Revelation 1:6 - EVID)

"And hath made us kings sovereigns and priests unto God Elohim and his Father to him be glory and dominion power for ever and ever unto the eons of the eons. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - ERRB)

"And hath made us kings and kohanim unto Elohim and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."(Revelation 1:6 - IAV)

"and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - JB2000)

"And has made us a kingdom and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - KJ2000)

"and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - KJ21)

"and made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:-6 - MKJV)

"And has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - UKJV)

"and hath made us a kingdom sacerdotal to God and his Father: to whom be glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - Murdock)

"And hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6 - Webster)

"and made vs a kyngdom, and preestis to God and to his fader; to hym be glorie and empire in to worldis of worldis." (Revelation 1:6 - WycliffeNT)

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