On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
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26-05-2014, 01:27 AM
On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
As many of you already know, I started reading the entire Bible a couple of days ago. One of the most prevalent questions in my mind so far concerns the numerous passages in which Yahweh refers to himself in the plural form (e.g. Genesis 1:26) and those in which the existence of other, albeit less powerful or significant gods is affirmed (e.g. Pslam 95:3). It has been suggested by some Christians, although this suggestion has not only been rejected by atheists, but by other Christians as well, that God is referring to himself in the majestic plural. The most notable objection to this line of reasoning, perhaps, is that it's highly unbiblical since no ruler, whether king or pharaoh, in the Bible ever uses the majestic plural to refer to himself in the third person. Another interpretation put forth by Christians is that these passages are referring to the doctrine of the Trinity, though this view is disputed as well. Not only is it problematic because it constitutes historical revisionism, it also seems highly implausible when you consider the fact that the authors of these verses couldn't possibly have had any conception of this doctrine because they lived eons before Jesus was even born.

Given the historical context, it seems to me like the most reasonable explanation is that the oldest forms of Judaism were more similar to polytheism and henotheism rather than monotheism and that their beliefs evolved over time.

While doing my research, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon an academic paper from the Institute for Biblical Research which not only challenges both views, but which also affirms my initial assumption that the explanation I find most plausible correlates with the consensus view of historians and Biblical scholars. It's about 30 pages long and I would recommend everyone who is interested in this sort of stuff to check it out.

I'm mostly interested in hearing what TTA's historians and Biblical scholars think about this topic, but everyone else is, of course, also welcome to share his views. Smile

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26-05-2014, 06:21 AM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 01:27 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
As many of you already know, I started reading the entire Bible a couple of days ago. One of the most prevalent questions in my mind so far concerns the numerous passages in which Yahweh refers to himself in the plural form (e.g. Genesis 1:26) and those in which the existence of other, albeit less powerful or significant gods is affirmed (e.g. Pslam 95:3). It has been suggested by some Christians, although this suggestion has not only been rejected by atheists, but by other Christians as well, that God is referring to himself in the majestic plural. The most notable objection to this line of reasoning, perhaps, is that it's highly unbiblical since no ruler, whether king or pharaoh, in the Bible ever uses the majestic plural to refer to himself in the third person. Another interpretation put forth by Christians is that these passages are referring to the doctrine of the Trinity, though this view is disputed as well. Not only is it problematic because it constitutes historical revisionism, it also seems highly implausible when you consider the fact that the authors of these verses couldn't possibly have had any conception of this doctrine because they lived eons before Jesus was even born.

Given the historical context, it seems to me like the most reasonable explanation is that the oldest forms of Judaism were more similar to polytheism and henotheism rather than monotheism and that their beliefs evolved over time.

While doing my research, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon an academic paper from the Institute for Biblical Research which not only challenges both views, but which also affirms my initial assumption that the explanation I find most plausible correlates with the consensus view of historians and Biblical scholars. It's about 30 pages long and I would recommend everyone who is interested in this sort of stuff to check it out.

I'm mostly interested in hearing what TTA's historians and Biblical scholars think about this topic, but everyone else is, of course, also welcome to share his views. Smile

Are you reading a translation or original manuscript?

I not only distrust this kind of parsing of words when looking at translations, I think they are useless and misleading.

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26-05-2014, 06:39 AM (This post was last modified: 26-05-2014 08:50 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 01:27 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
As many of you already know, I started reading the entire Bible a couple of days ago. One of the most prevalent questions in my mind so far concerns the numerous passages in which Yahweh refers to himself in the plural form (e.g. Genesis 1:26) and those in which the existence of other, albeit less powerful or significant gods is affirmed (e.g. Pslam 95:3). It has been suggested by some Christians, although this suggestion has not only been rejected by atheists, but by other Christians as well, that God is referring to himself in the majestic plural. The most notable objection to this line of reasoning, perhaps, is that it's highly unbiblical since no ruler, whether king or pharaoh, in the Bible ever uses the majestic plural to refer to himself in the third person. Another interpretation put forth by Christians is that these passages are referring to the doctrine of the Trinity, though this view is disputed as well. Not only is it problematic because it constitutes historical revisionism, it also seems highly implausible when you consider the fact that the authors of these verses couldn't possibly have had any conception of this doctrine because they lived eons before Jesus was even born.

Given the historical context, it seems to me like the most reasonable explanation is that the oldest forms of Judaism were more similar to polytheism and henotheism rather than monotheism and that their beliefs evolved over time.

While doing my research, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon an academic paper from the Institute for Biblical Research which not only challenges both views, but which also affirms my initial assumption that the explanation I find most plausible correlates with the consensus view of historians and Biblical scholars. It's about 30 pages long and I would recommend everyone who is interested in this sort of stuff to check it out.

I'm mostly interested in hearing what TTA's historians and Biblical scholars think about this topic, but everyone else is, of course, also welcome to share his views. Smile

Haven't read it yet, (I will), but we know for a fact Yahweh had a wife (Ashera or Ashura .. proven by archaeology), and constantly throughout the OT the Hebrews were told to stop worshiping the other gods, (Baal, Sin etc), which were indigenous to the area, so obviously widespread acceptance of their reality was something we can assume. The "covenant" was not that they *believed* in one deity, but agreed to LIMIT their allegiance to one, (the war god, so he would help them in their battles with their neighboring city-states). So that's not even a question. The interesting question is "What did they mean by a *divine* being ?". "Divinity" was not something only a god possessed, (weird as it sounds to us). I'll get some links to some papers about that. Our erstwhile member Maclelan wrote one of his dissertations on the subject. When the Witch of Endor conjures the shade of Samuel for Saul (only she can see it), she is asked what she sees. She says "I see a divine being etc". So what ? Because eventually the meaning of the "resurrection" (in my opinion), can't be 'teased out" without knowing about the cultural milieu, and what it means to be "divine", (or "raised up" ... the passive Greek verb Paul uses to describe the *exaltation* of the "Anointed One", when he claims Jesus was "raised up", which is translated now as "resurrected"). It CERTAINLY was not *equivalent to* or possessing the same nature as Yahweh.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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26-05-2014, 08:34 AM (This post was last modified: 26-05-2014 08:42 AM by Vosur.)
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 06:21 AM)Chas Wrote:  Are you reading a translation or original manuscript?

I not only distrust this kind of parsing of words when looking at translations, I think they are useless and misleading.
I would love to read the original manuscripts, but alas, I don't speak any of the languages they were written in and have to rely on a third party's translation as a consequence.

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26-05-2014, 08:44 AM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 08:34 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(26-05-2014 06:21 AM)Chas Wrote:  Are you reading a translation or original manuscript?

I not only distrust this kind of parsing of words when looking at translations, I think they are useless and misleading.
I would love to read the original manuscripts, but alas, I don't speak any of the languages they were written in and have to rely on a third party's translation as a consequence.

If you are going to parse the wording, then you will need to first verify the accuracy of the translation.

Otherwise, you end up like Ralph Ellis. Facepalm

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26-05-2014, 08:48 AM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
Just out of interest, which translation are you reading?

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26-05-2014, 09:49 AM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 08:48 AM)John Wrote:  Just out of interest, which translation are you reading?
I'm currently using the New International Version (NIV) for three distinct reasons:

a. I've already read the Bible in German.
b. This version of the Bible is popular for offering a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations.
c. Many alternative English Bible versions are either difficult to understand due to the archaic nature of their terminology (e.g. King James Version [KJV]), too literal (e.g. Young's Literal Translation [YLT]) or too liberal (e.g. The Living Bible [TLB]).

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26-05-2014, 12:24 PM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 08:44 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(26-05-2014 08:34 AM)Vosur Wrote:  I would love to read the original manuscripts, but alas, I don't speak any of the languages they were written in and have to rely on a third party's translation as a consequence.

If you are going to parse the wording, then you will need to first verify the accuracy of the translation.

Otherwise, you end up like Ralph Ellis. Facepalm

I don't think this is necessary in every case, but in this one I have to agree. Without understanding the literal significance there is very little to go on. In order to do that you would have to study those passages within the language.

For example, referring to God in the plural might be common place in the ancient hebrew without denoting the existence of any other competing deities. The bible does often describe people as "tearing at their robes" or "tearing their clothes", which probably made sense in the time and place it was written, and likely doesn't literally mean they went all Hulk Hogan.

It is worth noting, as I am sure most of you are aware of, that the ancient israelites were polytheists, and many parts of the bible are a cultural and mythological blends of several peoples. It is possible some of these passages could in reference to this, or in deference to their original source which acknowledged these gods.

Interesting thing to ponder Consider . Do share if you come across any interesting theories.
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26-05-2014, 12:29 PM (This post was last modified: 26-05-2014 12:35 PM by Vosur.)
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 12:24 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  
(26-05-2014 08:44 AM)Chas Wrote:  If you are going to parse the wording, then you will need to first verify the accuracy of the translation.

Otherwise, you end up like Ralph Ellis. Facepalm

I don't think this is necessary in every case, but in this one I have to agree. Without understanding the literal significance there is very little to go on. In order to do that you would have to study those passages within the language.

For example, referring to God in the plural might be common place in the ancient hebrew without denoting the existence of any other competing deities. The bible does often describe people as "tearing at their robes" or "tearing their clothes", which probably made sense in the time and place it was written, and likely doesn't literally mean they went all Hulk Hogan.

It is worth noting, as I am sure most of you are aware of, that the ancient israelites were polytheists, and many parts of the bible are a cultural and mythological blends of several peoples. It is possible some of these passages could in reference to this, or in deference to their original source which acknowledged these gods.

Interesting thing to ponder Consider . Do share if you come across any interesting theories.
It's rather obvious that neither of you has bothered to read the source I provided. Drinking Beverage

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26-05-2014, 12:35 PM
RE: On the Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible
(26-05-2014 12:29 PM)Vosur Wrote:  
(26-05-2014 12:24 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  I don't think this is necessary in every case, but in this one I have to agree. Without understanding the literal significance there is very little to go on. In order to do that you would have to study those passages within the language.

For example, referring to God in the plural might be common place in the ancient hebrew without denoting the existence of any other competing deities. The bible does often describe people as "tearing at their robes" or "tearing their clothes", which probably made sense in the time and place it was written, and likely doesn't literally mean they went all Hulk Hogan.

It is worth noting, as I am sure most of you are aware of, that the ancient israelites were polytheists, and many parts of the bible are a cultural and mythological blends of several peoples. It is possible some of these passages could in reference to this, or in deference to their original source which acknowledged these gods.

Interesting thing to ponder Consider . Do share if you come across any interesting theories.
It's rather obvious that neither of you have bothered to read the source I provided. Drinking Beverage

They are looking at the source language.
You cannot validly pick apart word usage from a translation. It makes no sense to do so.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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