Jump to content

Monotheistic Declarations in the ANE


volgadon

Recommended Posts

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

-Deutoronomy 6:4.

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

-Isaiah 43:9-10.

The above are two oft-used prooftexts for monotheism.

Before concluding that they are absolutes, it is worth taking a look at similar statements from the ancient world. As these come from avowed polytheistic sourcs they make for most interesting reading indeed.

From the Sumerian world.

From the mountain of sunrise to the mountain of sunset,

There is no (other) lord in the land, you alone are king,

Enlil, in all the lands there is no queen, your wife alone is queen.

-Hymn to Enlil as the Ruling Deity of the Universe. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), 3rd ed. with supplement, pg. 576.

Heaven - he [Enlil] alone is its prince, earth - he alone is its great one,

The Anunna - he is their exalted god,

When in his awesomeness he decrees the fates, no god dares look at him...

-Hymn to Enlil, the All-Beneficent. ANET, pg. 575.

From the Ugaritic corpus.

I alone am the one who can be king over the gods,

Who can fatten gods and men,

Who can satisfy the multitudes of the earth!

-Baal IV. vii 50-53.

From the Egyptian Magical Papyrii.

This is the Consecration for All Purposes: Spell to Helios

"I invoke You, the Greatest God, Eternal Lord, World Ruler, who are over the World and under the World, Mighty Ruler of the Sea, rising at Dawn, shining from the East for the Whole World, setting in the West. Come to me, Thou who risest from the Four Winds, benevolent and lucky Agathos Daimon, for whom Heaven has become the Processional Way. I call upon Your Holy and Great and Hidden Names which You rejoice to hear. The Earth flourished when You shone forth, and the Plants became fruitful when you laughed; the Animals begat their Young when You permitted. Give Glory and Honor and Favor and Fortune and Power to this, NN, Stone which I consecrate today (or to the Phylactery [charm] being consecrated) for [or in relation to] NN. I invoke You, the greatest in Heaven, E'I LANCHYCH AKARE'N BAL MISTHRE'N MARTA MATHATH LAILAM MOUSOUTHI SIETHO' BATHABATHI IATMO'N ALEI IABATH ABAO'TH SABAO'TH ADO'NAI, the Great God, ORSENOPHRE' ORGEATE'S TOTHORNATE'SA KRITHI BIO'THI IADMO' IATMO'MI METHIE'I LONCHOO' AKARE' BAL MINTHRE' BANE BAI(N)CHCHYCHCH OUPHRI NOTHEOUSI THRAI ARSIOUTH ERO'NERTHER, the Shining Helios, giving Light throughout the Whole World. You are the Great Serpent, Leader of all the Gods, who control the Beginning of Egypt and the End of the Whole Inhabited World, who mate in the Ocean, PSOI PHNOUTHI NINTHE'R. You are He who becomes Visible each Day and Sets in the Northwest of Heaven, and Rises in the Southeast.

In the 1st Hour You have the Form of a Cat; Your Name is PHARAKOUNE'TH. Give Glory and Favor to this Phylactery.

In the 2nd Hour You have the Form of a Dog; Your Name is SOUPHI. Give Strength and Honor to this Phylactery, or to this Stone, and to NN.

In the 3rd Hour You have the Form of a Serpent; Your Name is AMEKRANEBECHEO THO'YTH. Give Honor to the God NN.

In the 4th Hour You have the Form of a Scarab; Your Name is SENTHENIPS. Mightily strengthen this Phylactery in this Night, for the Work for which it is consecrated.

In the 5th Hour You have the Form of a Donkey; Your Name is ENPHANCHOUPH. Give Strength and Courage and Power to the God, NN.

In the 6th Hour You have the Form of a Lion; Your Name is BAI SOLBAI, the Ruler of Time. Give Success to this Phylactery and Glorious Victory.

In the 7th Hour You have the Form of a Goat; Your Name is OUMESTHO'TH. Give Sexual Charm to this Ring (or to this Phylactery, or to this Engraving).

In the 8th Hour You have the Form of a Bull; Your Name is DIATIPHE', who becomes visible everywhere. Let all Things done by the use of this Stone be accomplished.

In the 9th Hour You have the Form of a Falcon; Your Name is PHE'OUS PHO'OUTH, the Lotus Emerged From the Abyss. Give Success and Good Luck to this Phylactery.

In the 10th Hour You have the Form of a Baboon; Your Name is BESBYKI. [Prayer for gift omitted?]

In the 11th Hour You have the Form of an Ibis; Your Name is MOU RO'PH. Protect this great Phylactery for Lucky Use by NN, from this Present Day for All Time.

In the 12th Hour You have the Form of a Crocodile; Your Name is AERTHOE'. [Prayer for gift omitted?]

You who have set at Evening as an Old Man, who are over the World and under the World, Mighty Ruler of the Sea, hear my Voice in this Present Day, in this Night, in these Holy Hours, and let all done by this Stone, or for this Phylactery, be brought to fulfillment, and especially NN matter for which I consecrate It. Please, Lord KME'PH LOUTHEOUTH ORPHOICHE ORTILIBECHOUCH IERCHE ROUM IPERITAO' YAI! I conjure Earth and Heaven and Light and Darkness and the Great God who created All, SAROUSIN, You, Agathon Daimonion the Helper, to accomplish for me everything done by the Use of this Ring or Stone!"

When you complete the Consecration, say, "The one Zeus is Serapis!"

-PGM IV.1596-1715

Moshe Weinfeld, in his book The Decalogue and the Recitation of "Shema": The Development of the Confessions, points out (pg. 128) that all these texts are hymnodal-liturgical, and that the Shema is confessional-liturgical.

On page 130 Weinfeld states that "there appears to be a deep connection between the definition of God as 'one'and the obligation to love him." He provides two passages from the Hebrew Bible which make the connection obvious.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest...

-Genesis 22:2.

My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her...

-Song of Solomon 6:9.

If people know of other, similar statements, please share!

Link to comment

The above are two oft-used prooftexts for monotheism....

Then again, religious partisans who argue back and forth

using proof-texts are much like political proponents who

argue back and forth using media sound-bites.

There are a great many learned people on the earth today

who profess that the biblical religion became more and

more monotheistic with the passing of time -- that there

was an unfolding of this precept to Israel and to its

prophets over a lengthy period.

So, if we admit that Moses, David and even Elijah may

have been polytheists, henotheists, monolatrists, etc.,

we are still left with the fact that late second temple

Judaism was monotheistic -- consigning "lesser" supernatural

entities to the status of angels, demons, ghosts. etc.

Can that development be explained as an apostasy? Has

Judaism devolved downwards from a previous profession

of there being many gods who are all essentially the

same, except in terms of "power?"

If that is some modern readers' conclusion, they will

have to argue it in something other than sound-bites,

if they expect millions of modern Christians and Jews

to convert over to this decidedly minority opinion.

Who was the first monotheist? Ezra? John the Baptist?

Augustin? Luther? some writer of the Mishna?

Chart out the development of monotheism as a precept

within ancient Judaism, and then we can work backwards

to understand what it has meant to successive generations,

to profess God as One -- to articulate Divine encounter

and spiritual experience as testifying to that fact.

UD

Link to comment
So, if we admit that Moses, David and even Elijah may

have been polytheists, henotheists, monolatrists, etc.,

we are still left with the fact that late second temple

Judaism was monotheistic -- consigning "lesser" supernatural

entities to the status of angels, demons, ghosts. etc.

Yet another piece of common wisdom which is being challenged. For starters, I recommend Daniel Boyarin's Border Lines. Goes into divine agents and the two powers in heaven.

If that is some modern readers' conclusion, they will

have to argue it in something other than sound-bites,

if they expect millions of modern Christians and Jews

to convert over to this decidedly minority opinion.

I expect you to have the courtesy to remain on topic.

Link to comment

...

I recommend Daniel Boyarin's Border Lines.

Goes into divine agents and the two powers in heaven.

...

Does he state that any Israelite worshiped more than one

God after the reign of wicked King Manasseh?

When Antiochus installed the Syrian god in the Temple,

there may indeed have been a few worshipers who saw

no problem -- the Joshua-turned-Jason high priest, for

example.

But, leaving aside such Hellenistic perversions, did

the Jew of Jesus' day truly acknowledge more than one

God? Was Philo's "logos" or the rabbis' Metatron truly

a Deity seated on a throne beside the God of Israel?

I don't buy it. But if you do, then let's move the

question forward of 70 C.E.

Who was the first monotheist? Who was the first to

read Deuteronomy as something other than what you suggest?

Like I said, arguments in sound-bites lead us nowhere.

That is the way schoolboys argue religion on the playground.

UD

Link to comment
I expect you to have the courtesy to remain on topic.

My expectations appear to have let me down.

This is getting tedious. Tell you what, you open a new topic with your last questions and I'll respond there.

Link to comment

...

This is getting tedious.

...

Let me get this straight, then.

The only responses you are now soliciting, are ancient Near Eastern

pagan examples of a supreme god being associated some lesser god,

in order... in order for what? To demonstrate biblical orthodoxy?

Would it then be within the parameters of your topic, if I were

to reproduce a stela from early in the reign of Amenhotep IV,

whereupon he decrees worship of the Aten as the one true God,

(but also employs hieroglyphic signs typical of Amun or Horus)?

Is that the sort of thing you are seeking?

If so, for what purpose?

UD

Link to comment

Let me get this straight, then.

The only responses you are now soliciting, are ancient Near Eastern

pagan examples of a supreme god being associated some lesser god,

in order... in order for what? To demonstrate biblical orthodoxy?

Or examples from the Bible, or a discussion of what I posted. Why pagan examples? Because of their similar formulations and functions, they show that the Shema was not a declaration of monotheism. Seeing what a text is not helps us see better what it is.

Would it then be within the parameters of your topic, if I were

to reproduce a stela from early in the reign of Amenhotep IV,

whereupon he decrees worship of the Aten as the one true God,

(but also employs hieroglyphic signs typical of Amun or Horus)?

By all means do.

Is that the sort of thing you are seeking?

If so, for what purpose?

UD

For what purpose? For the purpose of exploring the ANE, and what declarations like the Shema meant.

Link to comment
I don't buy it.

And this means absolutely nothing and is the entire heart of your post. This is the way, how did you put it, schoolboys argue religion on the playground.

the rabbis' Metatron truly a Deity seated on a throne beside the God of Israel?

To a degree, yes. Hence, volgadon's reference to Boyarin's work, which discusses this subject in depth. I would also strongly recommend the following:

Paula Fredriksen, "Gods and the One God: In Antiquity, All Monotheists Were Polytheists," Bible Review (Feb. 2003)

Peter Hayman, "Monotheism-A Misused Word In Jewish Studies?" Journal of Jewish Studies 42:1 (Spring 1991)

James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context (University of Illinois Press: 2009)

Daniel Abram, "The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead," Harvard Theological Review 87:3 (1994)

Andrei Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (Mohr Siebeck: 2005)

Link to comment

And this means absolutely nothing and is the entire heart of your post. This is the way, how did you put it, schoolboys argue religion on the playground.

To a degree, yes. Hence, volgadon's reference to Boyarin's work, which discusses this subject in depth. I would also strongly recommend the following:

Paula Fredriksen, "Gods and the One God: In Antiquity, All Monotheists Were Polytheists," Bible Review (Feb. 2003)

Peter Hayman, "Monotheism-A Misused Word In Jewish Studies?" Journal of Jewish Studies 42:1 (Spring 1991)

James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context (University of Illinois Press: 2009)

Daniel Abram, "The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead," Harvard Theological Review 87:3 (1994)

Andrei Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (Mohr Siebeck: 2005)

I would also add Mark Smith's The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, one that most in this thread have probably already read.

Link to comment

volgadon,

I would point out to you that although you can find some statements in ANE literature that at least superficially resemble some of the "monotheistic" language of the OT, there remains a huge worldview gap between the two. For example, the worshipers of Enlil did not insist that the use of idols was an abomination to Enlil, or that it was a violation of the first commandment (or any commandment) to worship any god other than Enlil.

Link to comment
at least superficially resemble some of the "monotheistic" language of the OT,

Or just resemble it. There isn't anything superficial about it.

a huge worldview gap between the two

The question is if the Israelite worldview excluded the existence of other deities.

For example, the worshipers of Enlil did not insist that the use of idols was an abomination to Enlil, or that it was a violation of the first commandment (or any commandment) to worship any god other than Enlil.

How does this show that Israelites denied the existence of other deities?

Link to comment

Here is another (as I noted on your blog):

To the fire god Girra in Maqlu II (76-102). He is described as the "eminent one of the gods." The prayer then states, "You alone are my god, you alone are my lord, you alone are my judge, you alone are my aid, you alone are my champion!" (from Tzvi Abusch, "The Promise to Praise the God in

Link to comment

...

a huge worldview gap between the two.

...

As I mentioned earlier in this thread, one place to look would be

in texts from the Amarna period. Akhenaten evidently became co-ruler

with his father for a period, and elevated his father to living god status,

symbolized by the Aten. At some point the identification with Amenhotep III

became less pronounced (probably after the death of the latter) and the

Aten assumed a unique importance in Egyptian religion.

To whatever extent Osiris, Hat-hor, Horus, etc. were still venerated away

from the king's immediate scrutiny, retention of the old religion remains

problematic for any attempt at defining Atenism as true monotheism. Still,

in the royal court, I suppose that the One God reigned supreme, and that

is where the literature of the period comes from.

If anybody is looking for a narrowing of "the gap," this would be the

logical time and place to go looking. Hat-hor was already viewed as a

world-wide Deity, potent outside of the Nile Valley. To the extent that

her Horus became identified with the Aten, the Sun God also was on the

verge of becoming a universal God -- God of the world, and not just of

the Egyptian homeland.

I don't have my ANE text translations handy, but some of this stuff

must be on the web by now -->

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Hymn_to_the_Aten

etc.

UD

Link to comment

WalkerW,

Let's try to get to the point here. You want to argue that the Israelites believed in "the existence of other deities" because you think this will somehow help to vindicate LDS theology, right? If so, please help me understand your argument. Which beings, in LDS theology, correspond to these other "deities" that the Israelites acknowledged?

Link to comment

WalkerW,

Let's try to get to the point here. You want to argue that the Israelites believed in "the existence of other deities" because you think this will somehow help to vindicate LDS theology, right? If so, please help me understand your argument. Which beings, in LDS theology, correspond to these other "deities" that the Israelites acknowledged?

Lucifer -- in post-exilic Judaism, (and perhaps even earlier).

If not an "el," then I know not how else to describe him.

UD

Link to comment
Let's try to get to the point here.

The point is the OP. Try sticking to it.

You want to argue that the Israelites believed in "the existence of other deities" because you think this will somehow help to vindicate LDS theology, right?

You don't want the ancient Israelites to believe in the existence of other deities because that would undermine your modern view of monotheism, right?

If so, please help me understand your argument.

Appealing to the "monotheistic" language of the Bible in an attempt to vindicate a modern version of monotheism makes no sense considering the same language used by surrounding polytheistic cultures of the ancient Near East. That is the gist of the argument. I thought the OP was quite clear.

Which beings, in LDS theology, correspond to these other "deities" that the Israelites acknowledged?

Have no idea (though Lucifer is a good one). Why would that matter? And what does this have to do with the OP?

Scholarship about Israel's monolatrous background doesn't fit exactly with LDS theology. Some concepts do. Others don't. And?

Link to comment

WalkerW,

Let's try to get to the point here. You want to argue that the Israelites believed in "the existence of other deities" because you think this will somehow help to vindicate LDS theology, right? If so, please help me understand your argument. Which beings, in LDS theology, correspond to these other "deities" that the Israelites acknowledged?

I think you have set up a straw man. No one argued that these other beings that the Israelites acknowledged the LDS acknowledge.

Link to comment

You don't want the ancient Israelites to believe in the existence of other deities because that would undermine your modern view of monotheism, right?

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Don't you just hate it when your arguments against those whom you opposed are thrown back up you. I wonder how and if Rob is going to reply on this point.

Link to comment

volgadon,

I would point out to you that although you can find some statements in ANE literature that at least superficially resemble some of the "monotheistic" language of the OT,

Superficially? Hardly. The similarities between wordings are even more striking when looking at the originals. Add to that their function and we are left with much more than superficialities.

there remains a huge worldview gap between the two.

I'm not convinced it was that huge of a gap. See below.

For example, the worshipers of Enlil did not insist that the use of idols was an abomination to Enlil, or that it was a violation of the first commandment (or any commandment) to worship any god other than Enlil.

Yet a major cultic symbol of YHWH was the nehushtan.

As Walker noted, these things do not mean a denial of the existence of other divine beings. Inherently implied in the first commandment is that there are other gods from which to choose. The Shema as I've been arguing is not a declaration of monotheism, but a declaration of fealty to YHWH. Same could be said of the Decalogue.

Also, how does worshipping Enlil break any commadments other than the first two?

Link to comment

Found another one.

Thanks. I also found this.

THOU ART the sole one, WHO MADE [ALL] THAT IS,

[The] solitary sole [one], who made what exists,

From whose eyes mankind came forth,

And upon whose mouth the gods came into being.

-Hymn to Amon-Re, ANET pg. 366.

Link to comment

WalkerW,

You wrote:

You don't want the ancient Israelites to believe in the existence of other deities because that would undermine your modern view of monotheism, right?

No. I don't base my theology on what ancient Israelites believed. Some of them were idolaters, and some of them were not. Some of them were polytheists, and some of them were not. I base my theology on what the Bible as a whole actually teaches. The two are not the same.

I asked what beings in LDS theology correspond to the "deities" that the ancient Israelites acknowledged. You replied:

Have no idea (though Lucifer is a good one). Why would that matter? And what does this have to do with the OP?

The OP was posted on the "Mormon Apologetic & Discussion Board," and so in context is utilizing the quotations from ANE sources to rebut monotheistic objections to LDS theology. As for why it matters, the fact is that biblical statements expressing the uniqueness of YHWH simply cannot be accommodated to the theologies of the surrounding ANE religions. Drawing comparisons between isolated statements in the Bible and isolated statements in ANE religious texts is a facile exercise. You wrote:

Scholarship about Israel's monolatrous background doesn't fit exactly with LDS theology. Some concepts do. Others don't. And?

The ANE background to ancient Israelite religion and to the Bible does not, on close examination in context, support the LDS claim to teach a theology that was once the revealed teaching of ancient Israel but later corrupted when "plain and precious" truths were supposedly lost or removed from the Bible.

Link to comment

No. I don't base my theology on what ancient Israelites believed. Some of them were idolaters, and some of them were not. Some of them were polytheists, and some of them were not. I base my theology on what the Bible as a whole actually teaches. The two are not the same.

Hmmm, false conclusion. Do you base your theology on what the Bible as a whole actually teaches or upon your interpretation on what the Bible teaches?

Link to comment

urroner,

An irrelevant distinction, and therefore merely a distraction from the point I was making. The distinction between Israelite religion and biblical theology is the point, and it is a valid distinction. I could ask you similar questions; e.g., do you base your theology on what the LDS scriptures and living prophet say, or on your interpretation of what the scriptures and the living prophet say? But unless you are going to deny that you play any interpretive role in your own theology, such a question would be irrelevant.

Hmmm, false conclusion. Do you base your theology on what the Bible as a whole actually teaches or upon your interpretation on what the Bible teaches?
Link to comment

urroner,

An irrelevant distinction, and therefore merely a distraction from the point I was making. The distinction between Israelite religion and biblical theology is the point, and it is a valid distinction. I could ask you similar questions; e.g., do you base your theology on what the LDS scriptures and living prophet say, or on your interpretation of what the scriptures and the living prophet say? But unless you are going to deny that you play any interpretive role in your own theology, such a question would be irrelevant.

It isn't irrelevant. Other than your own interpretation of the Bible and the history taught in it, how do you know that your own interpretation is actually what is taught in the Bible AND what was practiced by those following God in the times of the OT? You stated that your faith is based of the absolute truth. I'm just asking is how do you know it's the absolute truth?

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...