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Is The Spirit In 1 Kings 22:19-23 Embodied Or Incorporeal?


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Vance,

You saying I look foolish....

So, you refuse to answer the simple questions.

Got it.

Yes, I understand figurative language, I can also understand literal language, and I am smart enough to tell the difference.

But to claim that man can not build a house for God while ignoring God's claim of ownership of said house, is making you look foolish, arrogant and dogmatic. Now, if that is the way you want to come across, then just continue ignoring the obvious.

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maklelan,

Regarding my taking 1 Kings 8:27 literally but not 22:19-23, you had written:

I had replied:

"Actually, there is such a rule. It is the hermeneutical principle of differentiating between using stock imagery or language of the culture and making a direct affirmation or assertion."

You then asked:

I'm somewhat dissatisfied with the way I worded my response. Let me see if I can clarify my approach.

By “stock imagery” I mean conventional language that in a mundane, earthly context has a literal usage but that can also be used in other contexts in a recognizably figurative way. All good textbooks on biblical hermeneutics discuss the importance of recognizing figurative language and symbolic genres in the Bible. Five criteria should be considered collectively in an integrated fashion to determine whether a statement is literal or figurative. (This is my own analysis. Having taught hermeneutics at the undergraduate and graduate levels numerous times, I make no apology for giving my own take on the matter. But I think you’ll find hermeneutics textbooks making much the same points here and there, and I think you’ll also find that the criteria make sense.)

(1) Does the text takes language normally applicable in one context and transfers its application to another context? For example, “There’s a fire in the attic!” is literal when the context is in reference to one’s house, but “He has the fire in the belly needed to run for President” is figurative because fire is not normally associated with a man’s belly.

(2) Does a literal understanding of the language violate commonplace observations without suggesting that doing so is the intention? The qualification about intention is important lest we misconstrue the principle here to mean that any statement that conflicts with our preconceived beliefs may be explained away as figurative. For example, “I got a million phone calls today” is probably figurative because people normally don’t get a million calls in one day and there is no evidence that the statement is meant to express something so extraordinary. On the other hand, the statement “The Congressional switchboard logged nearly a million calls today due to widespread panic in the nation” is probably literal because the statement includes evidence that the intention is to provide an actual numerical estimate of the number of calls.

(3) Does the text fit a common or easily recognizable type of figure of speech? Most types of non-literal speech are not explicitly figurative, though similes are; “the nations are like a drop in the bucket” (Isa. 40:15) is explicitly a simile, whereas “Surely the people are grass” (Isa. 40:7) is clearly metaphor even though there is nothing about the form of the statement that explicitly requires that understanding. Metaphor is an extremely common type of figure of speech in most if not all cultures, and certainly is common in the Bible. There are, of course, other types of figurative language in the Bible (idiom, euphemism, hyperbole, personification, etc.). There are also types of symbolic forms in which not merely individual words or phrases are figurative but a whole passage is to be understood as symbolic; parables are an easy example. If a statement or passage easily or comfortably fits a specific figure or speech, it is probably figurative rather than literal (particularly if the first or second condition discussed above applies).

(4) Does the passage or whole text (a) fit a conventional form of speech that typically was not to be understood literally as a whole or that (b) typically used a great deal of figurative language? (a) An example of a conventional form of speech that was to be understood symbolically as a whole would be a parable. For example, Jesus’ parable of the woman and the ten coins was not a historical narrative (Luke 15:8-10); it was a story that Jesus told to illustrate his message. Sometimes a parable is not immediately recognized as such; for example, at first David thought that Nathan’s story of the rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb was a literal account, but then Nathan explained that it was really a parable about David’s sin against Uriah and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:1-10). This passage exemplifies the fact that a whole passage can be symbolic or non-literal even though the individual statements within that passage do not use specific figures of speech. Thus, the lack of individual figures of speech in such a passage does not count against the whole passage being a parable or other non-literal speech form or genre. Another category of symbolic genre was apocalyptic prophecies, which commonly included visions that used symbolic imagery to convey their message, such as Daniel’s vision of the gigantic tree (Dan. 4). Ezekiel’s “visions of God” (Ezek. 1:1) is dominated by the symbolism of the four living creatures that are clearly not literal entities matching Ezekiel’s description (1:4-25). (b) Some genres are not necessarily symbolic as whole texts, but texts of those genres are far more likely to use figurative language. For example, a psalm was more likely to use figures of speech than a law code. This criterion must be used cautiously because there are gray areas: not everything in a psalm is figurative, for example.

(5) Does anything in the context of the passage or the book of which it is a part negate a literal understanding? For example, the hyperbolic comment of the Pharisees that “the world has gone after him,” i.e., Jesus (John 12:19), is incoherent if literal because the Pharisees themselves were part of the world and they were opposed to Jesus. Thus, something in the passage itself militates against a literal interpretation. The statement in Joshua 11:23 that “Joshua took the entire land” is evidently hyperbole, because in 13:1 we learn that “a great deal of the land remains to be possessed.” Notice that this criterion is not a subjective appeal to one’s preference for taking one statement literally rather than another. One cannot legitimately assume that 11:23 is literal and then argue that 13:1 is figurative, because no recognizable figure of speech can explain the statement in 13:1. Nor is it hermeneutically sound to assume that both statements must be literal and therefore they are contradictory statements (explained by their coming from different sources, perhaps, or by speculating that the text of one has been garbled).

Let’s apply these criteria, starting with an easy one. “Heaven is your throne and earth is your footstool” (Isa. 66:1a). Is this literal or figurative? I argue that it is clearly metaphor. Let’s apply the five criteria discussed above; I think four of the five raise considerations that make this conclusion certain. (1) “Throne” and “footstool” are stock imagery recognizable in that culture (and in most cultures until recently) as having mundane meanings, referring to familiar items on earth, but here applied in a non-mundane context. (2) Anyone in the ancient world knew that heaven, whatever it is, is not a chair, and that no one had his feet propped up on the earth. (3) There is a standard type of figurative language that easily applies here, namely, metaphor. (4) Isaiah 66:1a appears in poetic language in the context of ancient Israelite prophetic speech, which was permeated by figurative language, making a figurative understanding more likely though not necessary. (5) Nothing in the context of the book that I know of precludes a literal understanding, nor does anything require it so far as I can see; so this criterion appears to yield no insight either way. Based on the first four criteria, however, the intelligent ancient Israelite should have been able to know without any difficulty that this is metaphor (even though he probably didn’t have the word “metaphor” handy).

But what about the next two lines? “What house could you possibly build for me, and what place could be my home?” (Isa. 66:1b). Is this literal or figurative? The form of this part of the text is a rhetorical question calling for a negative answer. We could reword this rhetorical question as a statement, “Human beings cannot build a house for God or provide him with a place to be his home,” and that would be equivalent in meaning to the rhetorical question. I argue that this part of the text is literal, not figurative. (1) It does not apply terms or imagery of mundane realities to a different context than their conventional usage. (2) If taken literally, it does not contradict common observations about the real world. (3) There is no standard type of figurative language that easily or comfortably fits here. (4) The passage uses figurative language, which heightens the likelihood of figurative language but does not by itself prove it for each statement. (5) Nothing in the context precludes a literal interpretation. In conclusion, all but the fourth criterion supports a literal interpretation, and the fourth is not sufficient to overturn the specific evidence. We should therefore understand this statement literally to be a denial that human beings could build a house adequate to accommodate God.

When we put the two halves of Isaiah 66:1 together, we can see that in this text God is denying that an earthly temple can be a place where God could literally reside because, in some sense, he just wouldn’t “fit.” The imagery of the first part of the verse is metaphorical but nevertheless suggests in some sense that God is too “immense” for an earthly building to function as a place where God’s being could be enclosed. There is no attempt in the verse to articulate what the nature of God’s being is, but what it does say tells us something about what God is not: he is not a man-like being that could sit in a literal chair in the Jerusalem temple.

Next, let’s consider Solomon’s statement in 1 Kings 8:27. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1) There are no mundane, familiar objects here to serve as the raw materials for metaphor or simile. (2) Solomon’s statement does not contradict any commonplace or ordinary observations that an ancient Israelite might have made. (3) There is no standard type of figure of speech that will clearly fit his statement. The text is not simile, metaphor, personification, euphemism, or any of the other common figures of speech found numerous times in the OT. Perhaps the only possible figure of speech of relevance is hyperbole; perhaps someone might think that “heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you” is an exaggeration for effect. However, hyperbole depends for its effectiveness on a frame of reference in which ordinary readers might be legitimately expected to understand, without having to be told, that the wording is rhetorical exaggeration. (For example, the statement that the cities were “walled up to heaven” in Deut. 1:28 is one that would in that frame of reference be immediately recognized as hyperbole.) That is, unless the statement meets criteria #2 above, it is probably not hyperbole; and that means 1 Kings 8:27 is probably not hyperbole. (4) Solomon’s statement is part of a prayer, which is not a genre or speech form for which one expects figurative language though it might have some. (5) Nothing in the context of the passage or book precludes taking the statement literally; at most, someone might express a preference for taking (for example) Micaiah’s vision literally but not Solomon’s statement, but this won’t work because we have independent reasons (#1 through #4 just discussed) for understanding Solomon’s statement literally. Taking all of these factors into consideration, I conclude that it is most likely that Solomon’s statement should be taken literally. Thus, the text is best interpreted to mean that God literally cannot be contained or enclosed within an earthly building like the temple, or even within the confines of the universe.

Finally, let’s apply the same criteria to Micaiah’s vision (1 Kings 22:19-23).

(1) The vision takes mundane, earthly language about a king seated on a throne addressing his army and applies it to the non-mundane context of God and the spirits.

(2) Micaiah’s vision does not contradict any commonplace observations an ancient Israelite might have made, but since it deals with spiritual realities that very few people might have observed this criterion goes nowhere.

(3) Micaiah’s description of his vision does not appear to use individual figures of speech such as simile or hyperbole, so if it is non-literal it would have to be a symbolic speech-form or genre as a whole; otherwise, we would need to take the passage literally.

(4) The passage is a vision, and as noted visions, particularly those of prophets, often used symbolic stories or present symbolic scenes to convey their message (Ezekiel’s vision of God, his vision of the valley of the dry bones, Daniel’s vision of the gigantic tree, etc.).

(5) Three contextual considerations, taken together, militate against taking the vision literally.

  • First, in the immediate context, a literal reading would mean that God was trying to deceive Ahab, but the very fact that Micaiah tells Ahab this vision counts against the view that God’s intention was to deceive Ahab.
  • Second, also in the immediate context, the spirit offers to become a lying spirit “in the mouth of all his [Ahab’s] prophets.” Even if we take “in the mouth of” as an individual figure of speech, that figure of speech in the context of prophets inspired by spirits presupposed the idea that a spirit would actually take control of a person’s mind and/or body. Yet the spirit is said to be responsible for inspiring four hundred false prophets simultaneously (cf. 1 Kings 22:6). At this point the notion that a spirit is an anthropomorphic entity breaks down.
  • Third, in the broader context of the whole book, a literal reading of the vision conflicts with the meaning of 1 Kings 8:27 we have previously determined to be literal. For our purposes here it does not matter whether 1 Kings 8:27 is taken to imply that God is an immensely large being greater in size than the whole universe or it is taken to imply that God transcends spatial dimensions altogether. Either way, the picture of God sitting on a throne (chair) with his army of spirits to his left and right doesn’t fit. It is incoherent to picture anthropomorphic spirits (presumably of a size comparable to human beings) flanking or surrounding a being larger than or transcending the universe, or one spirit carrying on a face-to-face conversation with such an immense or transcendent being.

In my judgment, the first, fourth, and fifth criteria combine to make a good case that the vision in the context of 1 Kings does not mean that God and spirits are anthropomorphic beings sitting and standing in a throne-room somewhere. At the very least, these considerations raise serious doubts about using this passage as part of a theological argument for or defense of the doctrine that God and all spirits have something called “spirit bodies”—which the Bible never mentions or discusses.

I wrote a very detailed response to this post, but I could not post it because the system kept telling me the opening and closing quote boxes were uneven. I couldn't find any discrepancy, though, and none of my attempt to fix it were successful, so I will just post some of my main points here:

1) On what grounds do you insist the literary conventions of the divine council type-scene are parallel to those of apocalyptic theophanies? These are two vastly different genres from disparate time periods. I disagree that the use of simile and metaphor in one bears at all on the other.

2) One must prioritize the presupposition of univocality in order for your criteria to hold. There's no hyperbole in Josh 11:23. The "whole land" refer to all the land of the Israelites described in Josh 11:22. The land of the Philistines was not considered a part of that. This is confirmed in v. 16. "Land" can and often does refer to a discreet portion of land in the Hebrew Bible. There's no hyperbole, there's just a different use of the word ארץ.

3) As I've explained before, when I said the verse from Isaiah was literal I meant in the sense that it reflected a physical reality, namely that God is enormous. All the verses in question point to the same idea, and there are numerous other texts from the ancient Near East that point to the notion that a given deity is gargantuan. There exist no indications whatsoever that any of these notions, in the Bible or elsewhere, mean anything else. God was thought to be enormous. He could change his physical constitution when he needed, though. A good book that discusses a lot of this (although I disagree with portions of it) is Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel.

4) The fact that God is depicted as sitting on a throne with other anthropomorphic beings around him in no way precludes the belief in ancient Israel that such a scene depicts an actual event occurring outside the heavens and the earth. There simply exist no grounds to assert that the early Israelites could not have perceived of God actually sitting on a physical throne that was larger than the earth. Such ideas are prominent all over the ancient Near East, and there's simply nothing anywhere in the textual or material history of Israel that indicates they believed anything different.

5) That the heavenly host were thought to operate within a hierarchical system analogous to that of human authority structures is universally acknowledged in biblical scholarship. The notion that that analogous structure is unilaterally figurative has, to my knowledge, never been asserted. See Lowell Handy, Among the Host of Heaven, 3-18; Mark Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 27-66; Thorkild Jacobson, The Treasures of Darkness, chapters 3-5; Patrick Miller, The Religion of Ancient Israel, 23-28.

Regarding your textual considerations:

1) A prophetic warning does not at all complicate understanding the story as real. The king was convinced by the prophets to go to battle and he was killed, exactly according to God's plan. The fact that the prophet warned the king that he was being deceived into his own death undermines nothing.

2) There is nothing in any text in the ancient world that indicates an anthropomorphic being may not inspire multiple humans at the same time. This is an exclusively modern metaphysical notion.

3) It may be incoherent for us to think of God sitting in an enormous throne apart from the heavens and the earth, but in the ancient Near East that's how deities are consistently conceptualized, and there's no indication anywhere that anyone ever took issue with it. Again, this is an exclusively modern notion.

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I, for one, think it reasonable to acknowledge that Rob has made an excellent case for his interpretation. It seems quite reasonable to me in its own right.

However, in order for me to agree with his conclusion, I would have to accept all of his premises and some of his presuppositions, which I don't--not the least of which is, in regard to 1 Kings 22;19-23, Rob's premise that : "The vision takes mundane, earthly language about a king seated on a throne addressing his army and applies it to the non-mundane context of God and the spirits." For those of us, including those living in Solomon's day, who literally view God as King and Ruler over his kingdoms in heaven and on earthly, the notion of a throne in heaven is every bit as mundane as it is on earth.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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maklelan,

You wrote:

I wrote a very detailed response to this post, but I could not post it because the system kept telling me the opening and closing quote boxes were uneven. I couldn't find any discrepancy, though, and none of my attempt to fix it were successful, so I will just post some of my main points here:

I had the same problem for quite a while trying to post the message to which you are responding! I finally realized I had started a bracketed insertion with the word "quotes" and the program evidently took that as an opening quote code.

You wrote:

1) On what grounds do you insist the literary conventions of the divine council type-scene are parallel to those of apocalyptic theophanies? These are two vastly different genres from disparate time periods. I disagree that the use of simile and metaphor in one bears at all on the other.

I wasn't "insisting" on a direct parallel, but rather simply mentioning apocalyptic theophanies as one category of examples (not the only such category) of visions of heaven that are not meant literally.

2) One must prioritize the presupposition of univocality in order for your criteria to hold. There's no hyperbole in Josh 11:23. The "whole land" refer to all the land of the Israelites described in Josh 11:22. The land of the Philistines was not considered a part of that. This is confirmed in v. 16. "Land" can and often does refer to a discreet portion of land in the Hebrew Bible. There's no hyperbole, there's just a different use of the word ארץ.

The textual evidence for hyperbole goes far beyond the two verses I cited. The issue is discussed in several recent studies, including Paul Copan's book Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (IVP), chapters 15-17, and Nicholas Wolterstorff's essay "Reading Joshua" in Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham, ed. Michael Bergmann et. al.(Oxford). Matthew Flannagan also has an essay defending this interpretation in a forthcoming book entitled Come Let Us Reason, ed. William Lane Craig and Paul Copan (B&H). I'll leave you with these references because this is a side issue and I don't wish to get bogged down on it.

3) As I've explained before, when I said the verse from Isaiah was literal I meant in the sense that it reflected a physical reality, namely that God is enormous. All the verses in question point to the same idea, and there are numerous other texts from the ancient Near East that point to the notion that a given deity is gargantuan. There exist no indications whatsoever that any of these notions, in the Bible or elsewhere, mean anything else. God was thought to be enormous. He could change his physical constitution when he needed, though. A good book that discusses a lot of this (although I disagree with portions of it) is Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel.

If this is what the OT passages in question were meant to teach (not just a stock way of speaking about God common in that culture), then it would be just as much a problem for the LDS view as for the orthodox view. But we both agree that Isaiah 66:1a was not meant literally; even if the author really believed God was gargantuan, he did not believe that God had his feet propped up on the earth. Assuming you agree with that much, we are now haggling over the extent to which the text should not be taken figuratively.

4) The fact that God is depicted as sitting on a throne with other anthropomorphic beings around him in no way precludes the belief in ancient Israel that such a scene depicts an actual event occurring outside the heavens and the earth. There simply exist no grounds to assert that the early Israelites could not have perceived of God actually sitting on a physical throne that was larger than the earth. Such ideas are prominent all over the ancient Near East, and there's simply nothing anywhere in the textual or material history of Israel that indicates they believed anything different.

I am not arguing about what the early Israelites could have perceived. They could have held all sorts of views, some of which the OT writers endorsed and some of which they condemned.

Just out of curiosity, though, I'd like to see a couple of examples of ANE texts referring to deities sitting on thrones larger than the earth.

5) That the heavenly host were thought to operate within a hierarchical system analogous to that of human authority structures is universally acknowledged in biblical scholarship. The notion that that analogous structure is unilaterally figurative has, to my knowledge, never been asserted. See Lowell Handy, Among the Host of Heaven, 3-18; Mark Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 27-66; Thorkild Jacobson, The Treasures of Darkness, chapters 3-5; Patrick Miller, The Religion of Ancient Israel, 23-28.

The line between being analogous and being figurative is arguably a blurry line.

1) A prophetic warning does not at all complicate understanding the story as real. The king was convinced by the prophets to go to battle and he was killed, exactly according to God's plan. The fact that the prophet warned the king that he was being deceived into his own death undermines nothing.

I do think the issue is more complicated than that, but we've hashed this out before, if I recall.

2) There is nothing in any text in the ancient world that indicates an anthropomorphic being may not inspire multiple humans at the same time. This is an exclusively modern metaphysical notion.

Your statement presupposes that the spirits were viewed as anthropomorphic beings, which is the point at issue.

3) It may be incoherent for us to think of God sitting in an enormous throne apart from the heavens and the earth, but in the ancient Near East that's how deities are consistently conceptualized, and there's no indication anywhere that anyone ever took issue with it. Again, this is an exclusively modern notion.

I have already expressed some interest in seeing a couple of quotations bearing out this claim.

Dan, as I have stated elsewhere a few minutes ago, the next four months are going to be especially busy. I appreciate your patience if and when I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

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maklelan,

You wrote:

I had the same problem for quite a while trying to post the message to which you are responding! I finally realized I had started a bracketed insertion with the word "quotes" and the program evidently took that as an opening quote code.

You wrote:

I wasn't "insisting" on a direct parallel, but rather simply mentioning apocalyptic theophanies as one category of examples (not the only such category) of visions of heaven that are not meant literally.

But you use that parallel in your application of those criteria to contextualize the interpretation of 1 Kings 22:

The passage is a vision, and as noted visions, particularly those of prophets, often used symbolic stories or present symbolic scenes to convey their message (Ezekiel’s vision of God, his vision of the valley of the dry bones, Daniel’s vision of the gigantic tree, etc.).

Thus, because it's a (1) vision by a (2) prophet, it should be understood as symbolic, as are these other apocalyptic visions. You're erasing the boundaries that separate the divine council type-scene from the apocalyptic genre and redrawing boundaries that unify the two under the quite broad category of "prophetic vision" for the sake of insisting 1 Kings 22 should be understood symbolically and not literally. If you were simply mentioning them as a category that is not understood literally you would not have appealed to them in an effort to directly govern how 1 Kings 22 ought to be interpreted. To do so is to insist they are in the same category, which required the blurring of the lines that distinguish them.

The textual evidence for hyperbole goes far beyond the two verses I cited.

Yes, obviously there is a lot of hyperbole in the Bible, I just don't think this is an example, which leads to my concern: it seems to me you're asserting figurative language where it's not really found so as to defend your own view of scripture's inerrancy.

The issue is discussed in several recent studies, including Paul Copan's book Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (IVP), chapters 15-17, and Nicholas Wolterstorff's essay "Reading Joshua" in Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham, ed. Michael Bergmann et. al.(Oxford). Matthew Flannagan also has an essay defending this interpretation in a forthcoming book entitled Come Let Us Reason, ed. William Lane Craig and Paul Copan (B&H). I'll leave you with these references because this is a side issue and I don't wish to get bogged down on it.

I'll check them out when I have some time.

If this is what the OT passages in question were meant to teach (not just a stock way of speaking about God common in that culture), then it would be just as much a problem for the LDS view as for the orthodox view.

That doesn't really bother me.

But we both agree that Isaiah 66:1a was not meant literally; even if the author really believed God was gargantuan, he did not believe that God had his feet propped up on the earth. Assuming you agree with that much, we are now haggling over the extent to which the text should not be taken figuratively.

Yes, and since (1) numerous other texts fit perfectly into the notion that God is physically larger than the heavens and the earth, and (2) this is how the entire ancient Near East conceived of their high gods, I see no reason to interpret it as meaning anything other than that God is huge.

I am not arguing about what the early Israelites could have perceived. They could have held all sorts of views, some of which the OT writers endorsed and some of which they condemned.

What distinction do you imagine separates Israelites from "the OT writers"?

Just out of curiosity, though, I'd like to see a couple of examples of ANE texts referring to deities sitting on thrones larger than the earth.

In the Enuma Elish Marduk is said to set up a glorious throne after killing Tiamat and splitting her body in two to create the heavens and the earth and creating humanity from Qingu's blood. There's no indication Tiamat was larger than Marduk. In the Ugaritic texts, Athtar is appointed by El to take the place of Baal on his throne after the latter is killed, but finds that he is not large enough to occupy the throne and so descends to earth to rule from there. While Baal's throne was said to be on Mt. Zaphon, it was a heavenly mountain analogous to the earthly one. They knew that the deity Baal did not actually live on the summit of their own Mt. Zaphon. See Isa 14:13-14, where the king wishes to sit on the mount of assembly at the corners of the north, above the stars of God, above the heights of the clouds. Neither that mount of assembly nor Zaphon was considered terrestrial. Those two examples ought to suffice.

The line between being analogous and being figurative is arguably a blurry line.

There is no indication anywhere that this particular analogy is in any way figurative. All indications are that it was understood quite literally.

I do think the issue is more complicated than that, but we've hashed this out before, if I recall.

I don't think the issue is more complicated. The prophet's telling the king he's being deceived doesn't really complicate anything if the king goes ahead anyway and falls for the deception.

Your statement presupposes that the spirits were viewed as anthropomorphic beings, which is the point at issue.

No, I'm not. First, the texts describe the being anthropomorphically. I am not presupposing anything, I'm simply going be the simple reading of the text. Second, I'm pointing out that there is simply no evidence whatsoever for your assertion, namely that an anthropomorphic being cannot simultaneously inspire multiple humans. This was the notion that you said complicated, in part, a simple and literal reading of the text. I'm pointing out that that notion does no such thing.

I have already expressed some interest in seeing a couple of quotations bearing out this claim.

See above.

Dan, as I have stated elsewhere a few minutes ago, the next four months are going to be especially busy. I appreciate your patience if and when I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

Take all the time you need.

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No, I'm not. First, the texts describe the being anthropomorphically. I am not presupposing anything, I'm simply going be the simple reading of the text. Second, I'm pointing out that there is simply no evidence whatsoever for your assertion, namely that an anthropomorphic being cannot simultaneously inspire multiple humans. This was the notion that you said complicated, in part, a simple and literal reading of the text. I'm pointing out that that notion does no such thing.

Take all the time you need.

I've been reading some Bible comentaries lately by John Gill and others. I tried reading the Mathew Henry's but I just had to put it down because he goes on and on repeating pre conceived theology and yammering on about how we have to guard against thinking the plane reading of certian verses mean certian things as to maintain our preconceived Theologies, before he ever gets around to telling us what it does mean. And some of his explanaitions are just totally out there. Why can't we just let the text speak for it's self!

Edited by Zakuska
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maklelan,

Thanks for your replies. I think we've explained our respective views of the passage pretty thoroughly. I would like to respond to a couple of points. You wrote:

Thus, because it's a (1) vision by a (2) prophet, it should be understood as symbolic, as are these other apocalyptic visions. You're erasing the boundaries that separate the divine council type-scene from the apocalyptic genre and redrawing boundaries that unify the two under the quite broad category of "prophetic vision" for the sake of insisting 1 Kings 22 should be understood symbolically and not literally.

My argument was that because it's a vision by a prophet, it may very well be symbolic, not that every element of every prophetic vision is necessarily symbolic. And I'm not aware of any basis for seeing "boundaries" between divine-council visions and apocalyptic visions. Are not the visions in Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7, and several in Revelation both apocalyptic and divine-council visions?

You wrote:

Yes, obviously there is a lot of hyperbole in the Bible, I just don't think this is an example, which leads to my concern: it seems to me you're asserting figurative language where it's not really found so as to defend your own view of scripture's inerrancy.

Inerrancy really has nothing to do with the issue here, as far as I'm concerned. I am simply trying to understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context.

You asked:

What distinction do you imagine separates Israelites from "the OT writers"?

The latter were a subset of the former; and what the latter wrote is authoritative for Christian faith whereas the varying beliefs of the former are not.

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maklelan,

Thanks for your replies. I think we've explained our respective views of the passage pretty thoroughly. I would like to respond to a couple of points. You wrote:

My argument was that because it's a vision by a prophet, it may very well be symbolic, not that every element of every prophetic vision is necessarily symbolic.

But the evidence you marshal in favor of the notion that prophet visions can be symbolic all come from apocalyptic visions.

And I'm not aware of any basis for seeing "boundaries" between divine-council visions and apocalyptic visions.

The divine council type-scene is not apocalyptic, for one. It doesn't refer to the end times. That's a pretty significant one. Divine council scenes deal with the present or the immediate future, and specifically decisions made by God concerning that immediate future. It's also much, much earlier than the latter, literarily, and is a direct borrowing from wider ancient Near Eastern literature. The presence of mystical symbolism is also a pretty significant distinction, especially in light of our discussion.

Are not the visions in Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7, and several in Revelation both apocalyptic and divine-council visions?

Not necessarily. They incorporate motifs taken from the divine council type-scene into apocalyptic visions, with varying degrees of comprehensiveness. Daniel comes the closest to being a divine council scene, but it's primarily an apocalypse, and it's also from the second century CE and is a conflation of very late literary conventions. If you want to talk about texts that sit in the overlap between the divine council and apocalypses then you're talking about texts that were written very late, when those two genres were conflated, and 1 Kings 22 is absolutely not one of them.

You wrote:

Inerrancy really has nothing to do with the issue here, as far as I'm concerned. I am simply trying to understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context.

But you refuse to allow multivocality or heterodoxy to inform that understanding, which means there's an assumption somehow related to inerrancy that is guiding your exegesis. There's simply no way an objective analysis arrives at the conclusion that a consistent and unified worldview is responsible for every text of the Bible. That conclusion is only found when it is presupposed.

You asked:

The latter were a subset of the former; and what the latter wrote is authoritative for Christian faith whereas the varying beliefs of the former are not.

This is a dogmatic statement, not an empirical or exclusively logical one. Your modern religious dogmas are what are governing your attempt to understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context, not objective hermeneutical criteria. What you're really trying to do is understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context filtered through the modern Evangelical worldview. Until you can approach the text without deciding beforehand what it will and will not be allowed to say (and that is what it seems to me you're doing), I don't think you can understand what the vision meant in its literary and historical context. That's something I say to Latter-day Saints all the time, too, so please don't feel like I'm picking on you.

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Dan,

I can only comment on a few points for now.

But the evidence you marshal in favor of the notion that prophet visions can be symbolic all come from apocalyptic visions.

Other examples that are not apocalyptic can be adduced as well. For example, Isaiah's vision of the Lord on his throne in Isaiah 6 is heavy with symbolism (e.g., the train of his robe filling the temple; the coal that was touched to Isaiah's tongue).

Not necessarily. Daniel comes the closest to being a divine council scene, but it's primarily an apocalypse, and it's also from the second century CE and is a conflation of very late literary conventions.

You must mean the second century BCE.

Regarding my view that the OT writers' teachings are authoritative for Christians, you commented:

This is a dogmatic statement, not an empirical or exclusively logical one.

So what?

Your modern religious dogmas are what are governing your attempt to understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context, not objective hermeneutical criteria.

My belief that the OT books are inspired, authoritative texts is not a modern dogma, but an ancient one. Hello? Jews and Christians have traditionally viewed the books of the Hebrew Bible in this way for two millennia.

What you're really trying to do is understand what the vision means in its literary and historical context filtered through the modern Evangelical worldview.

Naw. You could plausibly claim I'm trying to understand it filtered through the ancient, classical theistic worldview, but in any case the position I take dates from well over a millenium before modern evangelicalism.

Edited by Rob Bowman
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For those interested, here is an excellent article that, in part, speaks to the meaning of the phrase "hosts of heaven" in relation to the divine council:

http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Divine-Council

Clearly, the term can reasonably be understood as literally referring to sentient spirit entities (angels, gods, sons of gods, princes, etc.)

Since the term can can reasonably be understood in a literal sense, then the behaviors ascribed to the sentient spirit entities in 1 Kings 22:10-23 (standing and speaking and reasoning), and thus their implied anthropomorphism (legs, body, mind, mouths), may reasonably be understood as literal.

This reasonable interpretation of 1 Kings 22:19-23 as literally implying the anthropomorphism of sentient spirit entities, is consistent with other biblical passages that may also be reasonably interpreted as literally suggesting the anthropomorphism of angels and sons of God, gods, and princes, and other designations for spirit personages, (See the prior thread)

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Edited by wenglund
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If Moses was indeed referencing Yah's separation of the nations according to Noah's offspring (specifically their physical separation at the Tower of Babel), it is important to note that Israel is not listed in the index of the 70 nations found in Genesis 10. The nation of Israel did not yet exist at that time. Therefore, the statement that God "set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the children of Israel" clearly seems out of context here.

Not only out of context but anachronistic.

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Another excellent article on the divine council, and one that highlights the "royalty" aspect of the council, is:

http://lehislibrary.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/divinecouncil-1.pdf

Here is yet another excellent article on the divine council, which focuses in on the notion of "sons of God," which the author says is "is one of the most neglected, misunderstood, side-stepped—and critical—doctrinal areas in the Old Testament. In fact, it is the backdrop for most of New Testament theology."

http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/Introduction%20to%20the%20Divine%20Council%20MTIT.pdf

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Another excellent article on the divine council, and one that highlights the "royalty" aspect of the council, is:

http://lehislibrary....necouncil-1.pdf

Here is yet another excellent article on the divine council, which focuses in on the notion of "sons of God," which the author says is "is one of the most neglected, misunderstood, side-stepped—and critical—doctrinal areas in the Old Testament. In fact, it is the backdrop for most of New Testament theology."

http://www.thedivine...ncil%20MTIT.pdf

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Interestingly enough, Michael Heiser, who wrote the article in the last link, responded to a paper written by Daniel McClellan, and is responded to by Daniels http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/angels-and-demons-and-michael-heiser/]HERE. Fascinating!

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Interestingly enough, Michael Heiser, who wrote the article in the last link, responded to a paper written by Daniel McClellan, and is responded to by Daniels HERE. Fascinating!

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Oh wade... but dontcha know Daniel is just a wannabe greek/hebrew hack who panders to Joseph Smith his puppet master.

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Dan,

I can only comment on a few points for now.

Other examples that are not apocalyptic can be adduced as well. For example, Isaiah's vision of the Lord on his throne in Isaiah 6 is heavy with symbolism (e.g., the train of his robe filling the temple; the coal that was touched to Isaiah's tongue).

That is a Shekinah scene, for the most part. The divine council motif is only found in a few verses that do not contain the symbolism you mention. Isaiah 6 is a conflation of different literary conventions. This is the same problem.

You must mean the second century BCE.

I do. My apologies.

Regarding my view that the OT writers' teachings are authoritative for Christians, you commented:

So what?

So dogmatic assertions are irrelevant in an academic discussion.

My belief that the OT books are inspired, authoritative texts is not a modern dogma, but an ancient one. Hello? Jews and Christians have traditionally viewed the books of the Hebrew Bible in this way for two millennia.

I wasn't referring broadly to the general belief that the OT books are inspired or authoritative, I was referring to the view that spirits are incorporeal and that any references to spirits in the OT must not be literal. That's the notion that compels you to interpret this text toward figurative language. This idea comes to you through your Evangelical tradition, not through independent investigation of ancient sources. Perhaps I'm wrong, though. Did you investigate all these things, come to a conclusion, and then discover that the Evangelical tradition happened to match your conclusions perfectly?

Naw. You could plausibly claim I'm trying to understand it filtered through the ancient, classical theistic worldview, but in any case the position I take dates from well over a millenium before modern evangelicalism.

Broadly speaking, it does, but the particulars are modern. You wouldn't espouse an early Christian interpretation that conflicted with your modern Evangelical worldview, would you? I believe the latter is what is governing here, irrespective of the provenance of the broad ideas.

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