Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Not to Read the Bible, Part 9

God himself has an equally murky personal history. At the start of the Bible, God is often viewed as just one of many gods. Only later in the book does he become the sole deity. More confusingly, he doesn’t even seem to be the same god throughout the book. Mostly, God is called YHWH, but sometimes, especially in the earlier books, he’s known as El. According to Kugel, these are probably two different deities fused into one: El may have been a god in the Canaanite pantheon, while YHWH may have been a Midianite god imported, via nomads, to the early Israelites, who made him their only god.

This is the conjecture of the Documentary Hypothesis. "El" may be from the Canaanite. God's personal name may be from the Midianites.

Why is all this conjecture taken as established? The only thing I can gather is the author of the book wants it to be the case.

Furthermore, is there not allowed to be progressive revelation? God reveals more and more as we get a clearer picture. Even the Torah shows that God's personal name was a revelation to Moses.

And while Scripture may talk about God being one of many gods in some places, I haven't read any portion of Scripture which describes any of those gods as real. Those gods don't do anything except provide a foil to the living God. And since the Bible is addressing a people in the midst of rampant polytheism, that makes sense.

Just think of that term "living God." (Deut. 5:26) What does that imply? The other gods are dead, i.e. not real.

This theory seems to be based more on prejudice than a careful reflection of the facts.

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