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The Religion of Biblical Israel
by W. John Walsh
Would a Mesopotamian living in Jerusalem at the time of David have been comfortable practicing his faith? In what ways would the laws of Israel affect his behavior and what were the penalties associated with disobedience? Would his anthropomorphic, polytheistic belief system be different from that of his Israelite neighbors?
In 1004 BCE (1), the year David established his capital in Jerusalem, it would not be surprising to find a Mesopotamian trader living in the capital city. At this time, there were no major conflicts between Mesopotamia and Israel.(2) Since the land of Palestine "formed a bridge between the two ends of the fertile crescent,"(3) it is very likely that Israel hosted a major trade route between Egypt on the south and Syria and Mesopotamia in the north. Therefore, there were probably many traders among the "resident foreigners, the gerim."(4)
Such a Mesopotamian immigrant would likely find Israelite thought, language, and social structure somewhat comparable to his own. It is universally recognized that "Israel did not arise out of a vacuum."(5) She "was an oriental nation among the great nations of the ancient Orient. Their culture was the matrix in which hers was shaped."(6) Like most of her Mesopotamian neighbors, Israel had a Proto-Semitic language.(7)
However, while resident aliens "were free men, [and] not slaves, they did not possess full civic rights, and so differed from Israelite citizens."(8) "Yahweh elected Israel."(9) A Mesopotamian was not part of "the Covenant between God and Israel."(10) Since participation in the covenant and obedience to the law defined the nation (11), he was effectively shut him out from marriage (12) and other social conventions. "The alien could not normally acquire land, and he is usually classed in Biblical literature, along with the orphan and widow, among the oppressed in society."(13) Since "[o]wnership of a plot of land was essential for the typical agrarian family,"(14) the resident aliens "were reduced to hiring out their services."(15)
In addition to limited civil rights, would a Mesopotamian be restricted in his religious freedom as well? Would such a person have felt comfortable openly practicing his faith? To answer this question, it is necessary to compare the belief systems of Mesopotamia and Israel, especially any critical areas which might create an environment of discomfort or intolerance. It is important to note that while the time of "Josiahs undertaking to eradicate alien cults was radical in the extreme," (16) the time of David, almost 400 years earlier (17), was a far different world.
A Mesopotamian View of Religion
The religions of the various Mesopotamian civilizations were centered on polytheistic pantheons. "The theological views of the [polytheistic] Sumerians set the pattern for the later Akkadians and then the Babylonians and Assyrians."(18) Since "[a]nthropomorphism is a normal phenomenon in all primitive and ancient polytheistic religions,"(19) we can assume a resident alien from Mesopotamia would picture his pantheon with human physical form or psychological characteristics. "Each of the high gods had the [human-like] traits of having a history of being born, of being parents, and some, of having died or repeatedly dying."(20)
The Mesopotamian resident alien probably would have had no ill feelings with the God of his Israelite neighbors. In general, while there were certainly conflicts from time to time, (21) followers of the pagan pantheons tended to be somewhat tolerant of the personal gods of other people. After all, what was one more god among "the plenitude of deities"? (22)
It would seem that Near Eastern polytheists made special accommodations with other religions. When interacting with other cultures, polytheists typically identified their gods "by common traits or by cognate names with gods of the local pantheon. For example, an Amorite moving from northern Mesopotamia to Caanan would have no difficulty identifying Amorite Il and Caananite El, Amorite Dagan and Caananite Dagnu, Amorite Hadad and Caananite Haddu."(23) Therefore, it is safe to assume that a Mesopotamian living in Jerusalem in 1004 BCE would generally have felt no hostility towards the Israelite religion. He simply would have identified Yahweh with a member of his particular pantheon. For example, he could have accepted "the equation Yahweh = El." (24) Certainly, many ancient people took such a view, including providing Yahweh with a "divine consort in preexilic times, in the form of the (Canaanite) goddess Asherah,"(25) "known as the creatress of living things, the mother goddess par excellence." (26)
An Israelite View of Religion
Would the Hebrews have returned the Mesopotamian feeling of tolerance? Before we discuss the specifics of Israelite belief, we must differentiate between the popular religion and the official, institutionalized religion. "It is always easier to assess official or public religion than to learn what people really believe or how they act." (27)Certainly, a great variety of beliefs were to be found among the general population. Undoubtedly, some Hebrews worshipped the pagan gods.(28) Other Hebrews succumbed to "the besetting tendency in Israel to what is sometimes described as practical atheism, the denial that God concerns himself with human affairs, however real he may actually be."(29) Even of those people who nominally supported the official religion, there was likely a wide diversity in their degree of devotion to Yahweh. Somewhere in Jerusalem, a Mesopotamian was sure to find those who shared his beliefs and with whom he could comfortably practice his pagan rites. However, for the purposes of discussion, this paper will focus on "the official version of Israelite religion enshrined in the Hebrew Bible." (30)
What does the Bible reveal about Hebrew attitudes towards the polytheistic pantheons of their neighbors? Regarding the worship of other gods, "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (31) had laid very specific commandments upon the children of Israel:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.(32)
This commandment "clearly and unambiguously mandate[d] the absolute prohibition on polytheism and idolatry for the entire people of Israel." (33) It is important to note that this commandment is not attributed to some lawgiver-sage. "No Biblical law is ever attributed to Moses personally or to any prophet." (34) This commandment is the word of God himself.
"On the ground that it is He who liberated them from Egypt, God demands that Israel recognize as god no other divine beings." (35) Yahweh was not to be a member of a pantheon of Gods. He would have no rivals for his worship. As one scholar put it: "Israels great achievement .was monotheism," (36) a doctrine unique and separate from the beliefs of her polytheistic predecessors and neighbors. Using the Decalogue as a foundation, modern Judaism teaches Yahweh "alone is God, the one and only creator and ultimate cause of all phenomena." (37) He "created all things in pairs. Heaven and earth, man and woman,... but his glory is one and unique."(38) The Pentateuch boldly declares: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD."(39)
Certainly, as noted above, the ten commandments provided hostile rhetoric against worshippers of other gods. But did they encourage actual persecution? The Biblical text tells us that resident aliens were expected to keep the same religious laws as the children of Israel:
Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I [am] the LORD your God. (40)
Specific examples of this expectation are found in a number of places within the Biblical text, including prohibitions against blasphemy (41), Sabbath violation (42), sexual sin (43), Passover observance (44), and dietary restrictions. (45) It should be noted that while resident aliens were expected to keep the same religious laws, they were rarely allowed the same religious privileges. (46)
The story of Phinehas should prove these expectations were taken quite seriously, at least in the literature. When an Israelite man took unto himself a Midianitish woman who worshipped the pagan god Baal-peor, Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron, killed them both. Afterwards, the Lord approved the correctness of the action. (47)
It would appear that a Mesopotamian polytheist who openly practiced his religion might find himself very unwelcome in ancient Jerusalem, at least among those who anciently shared the modern Jewish interpretation of the Torah. However, we cannot authoritatively say that we truly understand how these doctrines were interpreted and implemented anciently. For example, the Biblical record also makes it clear Israelites were to render aliens humanitarian aid (48), avoid maltreating them (49), and "love [them] as [themselves]." (50)
Israelites were instructed to ensure that resident aliens kept the law of Moses, but they were not allowed to abuse them. As actually practiced by the ancient Hebrews, it is impossible for us to know where one law began and the other ended.
As far as interpreting the Law and even the very concept of God, it is possible that our modern views color our understanding of the sparse accounts that have been provided to us in the Bible. In other words, we cannot be certain that the ancient Hebrews interpreted the Bible in the same way as modern Jews do today. The text may not have meant the same thing to them as it means to us. As examples, we shall now discuss two areas in which modern beliefs may not have been held anciently: Anthropomorphism and Polytheism.
"It is the very essence of Hebrew thought that God is a person." (51)The Bible is filled with anthropomorphic images of Deity. (52) While these corporeal images would seem to hearken back to "the manlike God of earlier time." (53) and closely align with the Mesopotamian anthropomorphic ideals summarized above, modern Judaic thought insists that these corporeal representations are not to be taken literally. They are simply "a fresh and vital form of religious awareness resorting to corporeal imagery, or an allegorical expression, in which the anthropomorphism is not merely an aesthetic means for the shaping of a particular perception or utterance, but is rather a conscious method of artificially clothing spiritual contents in concrete imagery." (54) As one writer put it,
There is no creature that can know or understand the nature of the thing called "hand" or "foot" or ear [of God] and the like. And even though we are made in the image and likeness [of God], do not think for a moment that "eye" [of God] is in the form of a real eye, or that "hand" [of God] is in the form of a real hand. . . . Know and understand that between Him and us there is no likeness as to substance and shape, but the forms of the limbs that we have denote that they are made in the likeness of signs that indicate secret, celestial matters, which the mind cannot know except through a kind of reminder. (55)
It is clear that modern Judaism denies the corporeality of God. However, can we be certain this is how the ancient Hebrews saw it? The anthropomorphic passages in the Bible seem inconsistent with this modern theology. Before we draw any firm conclusions, lets examine another possible conflict between ancient and modern belief. In addition to the anthropomorphic images, the Bible has traces of an earlier polytheistic belief system which also seem inconsistent with the modern theology and implies that the modern Judaic concept of God was not held by the ancient Hebrews:
Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (56)
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. (57)
And the LORD said . . . let us go down . . . (58)
Along with the evidences of belief in an anthropomorphic deity, these evidences of polytheism in the Bible make us wonder whether the ancient Israelites shared the same definition of strict monotheism as held by Judaism today. Was Yahweh indeed "a lone warrior, without consort or family," (59) as is commonly believed today? If this is true, then it becomes more likely that worshippers of other gods, like our Mesopotamian trader, would face serious persecution.
However, if in 1004 BCE "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh" (60) was envisioned as part of a "divine assembly," (61) as noted above, it is possible a pagan visitor might have found the same type of welcome in Jerusalem that he would have in Memphis or Tarsus. (62)
The time-honored practice of conservative Christian and Jewish theologians alike has been to "systematiz[e]," (63) "reinterpre[t] and democratiz[e]" (64) these textual inconsistencies as much as possible. For example, one prestigious Christian commentator has tried to clarify the references to multiple gods as follows:
[The beings beside Yahweh] are, in the Hebrew dialect, called gods; the same word is used for these subordinate governors that is used for the sovereign ruler of the world. They are elohim. Angels are so called both because they are great in power and might and because God is pleased to make use of their service in the government of this lower world. (65)
Yet the text offers no support for this conclusion. It seems to come from nowhere. The commentator draws such a baseless conclusion because his belief system uncompromisingly insists that his monotheistic (66) beliefs of today were shared with the ancient Hebrews. " [M]odern apologetes attempt in various ways to lessen [the] sting [of such verses]." (67) But one has to seriously askIs the theology driven from the Biblical text or is the text twisted to match the theology?
It is clear that "[t]endencies in biblical studies sometimes appear to overshadow objectivity in interpretation." (68) Only when we are "freed from the tyranny of Christian [and other types of] inhibitions and preconceptions in matters affecting the investigation of the sources of religious feeling" (69) will we have the opportunity of discovering the real religion of ancient Israel.
Exactly what was the religion of the ancient Hebrews? Monotheistic? Polytheistic? Were they worshipping a corporeal God who shared the same form as man or worshipping someone else? It is possible that the anthropomorphic images of deity were allegorical. However, it is also possible that the ancient Hebrews perceived Yahweh similar to the way the Caananites perceived El: A divine person in the form of a human being who was one member of a divine pantheon, albeit the senior member.
While we can examine the Biblical text for evidence of Israelite belief, we must understand that it is not an entirely reliable document. It is admitted without argument that "[t]he Bible is not a single book, but a collection of volumes composed by different authors living in various countries over a period of more than a millennium. In these circumstances, divergencies of emphasis , outlook , and even of fact are to be expected. These factors have also affected the biblical presentation of the concept of God." (70)
There are many people who believe the scriptures are "the very word of God." (71) To those who believe the Bible is "wholly inspired and infallible," (72) it may seem utter blasphemy to suggest that human scribes took it upon themselves to alter the Biblical text to meet their preconceived notions.
However, it is more than likely that some textual editing of the sacred archive has occurred. "It is clear that the books that make up the Bible cannot possibly have comprised the whole literary production of ancient Israel." (73) Omissions thus are certain, while additions also are evident. In fact, some scribes "felt impelled to expand the thought, paraphrase, explain, and particularly to add to the early oracles" (74) as they deemed appropriate. There may have been more malevolent intentions for editing as well. "[T]here is equally no doubt that the traditions and source materials were shaped and colored by the concerns of the new [political and religious] establishment as well as reused and rewritten to suit the interests of the inheritors and administrators of the legacies of the past." (75) Therefore, instead of finding explicit references of an earlier belief system within the Biblical text itself, we find passages "sufficiently vague or ambiguous to survive the scrutiny of later editors [and] censors." (76)
We have seen such attempts to control the text to meet personal ideologies even in our day. For example, for over 40 years, a small group of internationally renowned scholars made a concerted effort to keep the real contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the rest of the world. (77) Surely such efforts of manipulation are not unique to the modern world. One should never underestimate the lengths a zealot will go to preserve the integrity of his own religion, or the lengths a scholar will go to enhance or preserve his reputation. The ancient world was filled with its share of zealots and scholars as well, for "there is no new thing under the sun." (78)
However, admitting that the Biblical text is not "inerrant and infallible" (79) and contains "some few errors [which are] the interpolations or the mistranslations of men," (80) does not mean that the entire text is uninspired. It does not mean that God did not really appear "unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush." (81) It simply means that the record we have of these events "have come down to us in imperfect form." (82) "Only the faith of the most conservative theological minds would hold that if God revealed to Moses the true religion, it remained identical to the present day, since truth cannot change." (83)
Did the ancient Israelites share the same concept of God as held by Judaism today? As one scholar noted, "[a]s historians, we can hardly assume that the religion of David in 1000 B.C. was similar to that of [later Israelites], unless we disregard historical methods of research." (84) Separated by time and space, it is difficult for us in the modern world to understand the religion of Biblical Israel. (85) Scholars admit, "Prehistoric Israel is to us a closed book." (86) The Bible was written "by people who lived in a premodern world not necessarily sharing our beliefs and sentiments." (87)
From a modern perspective, the Bible gives us seemingly inconsistent information regarding the Hebrew concept of God. At some point, those responsible for what became part of the Hebrew Bible must have felt comfortable with the concept of gods in addition to Yahweh. Other portions of the text declare that Yahweh alone is God and he shall have no other gods before him. To confuse the issue further, anthropomorphic imagery, frequently used in a polytheistic setting, are often used to describe Yahweh. As shown earlier, modern Jewish scholars generally deny any literal anthropomorphism of Yahweh.
Needless to say, this evidence has inspired several different interpretations, especially more recently. As an anonymous person once said, "Put three scholars together and five opinions will emerge." Where once the scholarly consensus held that the monotheistic, non-anthropomorphic theology of today was held anciently, "biblical monotheism is [now] seen by modern biblical scholars as emerging gradually and in a continuous line from the polytheistic thought of paganism." (88) Many can see no other interpretation which fits the text and other various evidences currently available, such as archeological findings. Israels once supposedly unique products, her "[monotheistic] religion and literature," (89) were in fact slowly developed over time. In essence, " Israels God rose out of and transcended the status of nature-god." (90) These conflicting verses are simply "a legacy of [the previous] paganism." (91)
This conclusion by critical scholars has proven troublesome to many people of faith. For if the concept of Yahweh developing slowly over time is true, then does it not stand to reason that God is simply a figment of mans imagination? As one scholar put it:
In the beginning, human beings created a God who was the First Cause of all things and Ruler of heaven and earth. (92)
At the very least, it stands to reason that our conceptions of the Lord are contrived by our desires and hopes, instead of a revealed absolute reality. After all, one of the chief tenets held by many religious people is that God revealed himself to the ancient prophets. This is in fact one of the foundations of their faith. (93) If the critical scholars are right, and God is simply a creation of man, then it is truly "vain to serve [Him]." (94)
A third alternative put forth by some scholars suggests "that there had been a primitive monotheism before men and women had started to worship a number of Gods." (95) If God lives, "all power belongs to YHWH," (96) and "[nothing is] too hard for the LORD," (97) it is possible that God revealed himself "[i]n the beginning" (98) to man. If this happened, the revealed knowledge of God was passed down through the generations. As time and space from the original revelation increased, it would be expected that man would deviate from the original pattern and add his own thoughts, philosophy, and ideas to the original true revelation. After a period of time, one would find a number of religions sharing common elements, but with unique perspectives as well. This matches the Biblical evidence as well as the similarities of the surrounding cultures.
The present state of the Christian world would be an example of how this type of scenario could occur in the ancient Near East. Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish man in his early thirties, walked the earth. Two thousand years later, time and space have created innumerable opinions about the reality of the events of his life. Today, even among Christians, thousands of different sects diverge dramatically on interpreting the original Founders life and teachings. (99) Is this not also the pattern of the ancient Near East as currently recognized? Various Near Eastern religions, including Ancient Israel, share some common elements, but also maintain a unique identity. It is possible that they also started from one common source that has been distorted by time and space.
The evidence for this third view is growing as our knowledge of the ancient world expands. "For some years now a profound transformation has been going on in our knowledge of the ancient Near East..." (100) Accidental key discoveries (e.g., Ugarti, Mari, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) have forced the academic world to reevaluate long-held views on Near Eastern culture. "Recent years have witnessed a new turn in Biblical studies, occasioned by a growing lack of confidence in the assured results of past generations of scholars." (101)
At the moment, for many critical scholars, the evidence still tends to support the view that Israel began with a polytheistic religion similar to her neighbors and slowly evolved into monotheism. However, if we have been forced to drastically change our views once, can we overlook the possibility that new discoveries will force us to do so yet again?
Given our current evidence, it appears that a Mesopotamian polytheist may have felt comfortable practicing his religion in ancient Israel, at least to some degree. Certainly, he would have been required to keep the religious laws of the ancient Hebrews. He may have feared repercussions from strict monotheists but was protected from maltreatment. However, he may have found many of their practices not too different from his own. In addition to a shared thought, language, and social structure, the official or institutional Israelite religion may have shared common elements. Its possible that Israel considered Yahweh to be the head of a pantheon of divine beings. Certainly, there is some evidence that Yahweh and the Caananite God El had been integrated in the minds of many people. In addition, a Mesopotamian may have felt very comfortable with the strong anthropomorphic imagery present in Hebrew doctrine.
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End Notes1. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Timeline," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997. 2. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Mesopotamia -- The Early Iron Age (c. 1200750 B.C.E.)," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997 states: "For several centuries, the political history of Babylonia and Assyria after 1200 had little noticeable impact beyond the borders of Mesopotamia, and cannot, therefore, claim the attention of historians in the same measure as earlier periods, some of which contribute in crucial ways to our understanding of all history."
3. Mazar, A., Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1990, p. 1.
4. de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 74.
5. Dulin, Rachel Z., A Guide to the Study of the Religion of Biblical Israel, p. 3.
6. Irwin, W., "The Hebrews" H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 243.
7. See Pack, M. D., "Appendix C, Two Language Families," BYU Hebrew 131 Course Manual. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1995.
8. de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 74.
9. Ringgren, H., Israelite Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, p. 115.
10. Sarna, N. M., Exploring Exodus. New York: Schocken Books, 1986, p. 140.
11. See Dimont, M. I., Jews, God, and History. New York: Penguin Books, p. 44.
12. A Mesopotamian would be considered a very unattractive marriage partner to an Israelite. For example, Abraham (Genesis 24) and Isaac (Genesis 28:1) both eliminated the pagan Canaanites as possible marriage partners for their children. However, that interfaith marriages did occasionally happen is evidenced by the text itself. For example, Leviticus 22:12 says, "If the priest's daughter also be [married] unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things."
13. Sarna, N. M., Understanding Genesis. New York: Schocken Books, 1966, p. 166. Also see de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 75., Deut. 24:17, 27:19.
14. Blenkinsopp, J., "The Family in First Temple Israel," Families in Ancient Israel, Ed. By Browning D. and Evison I.. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997, p. 54.
15. de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 75.
16. Weinfeld, M., Deuteronomy 1-11. New York: Doubleday Press, 1991, p. 74.
17. Josiah began his reign in 640 BCE. See Weinfeld, M. Deuteronomy 1-11. New York: Doubleday Press, 1991, p. 69.
18. Livingston, G. H., The Pentateuch in its Cultural Environment. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974, p. 103.
19. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Anthropomorphism," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
20. Livingston, G. H., The Pentateuch in its Cultural Environment. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974, p. 129.
21. For example, Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Mesopotamia The Emergence of Assyria (c. 14001200 B.C.E.)", Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997 states: "...a deep-seated respect for the older culture and religion of Babylonia, which [the Assyrians] regarded as ancestral to their own, constrained them from following up on their [military] advantage at first. This restraint was dropped by Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 12441208), one of the few intriguing personalities in the long line of Assyrian kings who were more often so true to form that they are barely distinguishable one from another. So far from respecting the sanctity of Babylon, he took its defeated king into Assyrian captivity together with the statue of Marduk its god, razed the walls of the city, and assumed the rule of all of Babylonia in his own person.
22. Cross, F.M., Caananite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1973, p. 57.
23. Ibid., p. 12.
24. Freedman, D. N., "Who is Like Thee Among the Gods?", Ancient Israelite Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987, p. 334.
25. Keel, O. and Uehlinger, C., Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998, p. 1.
26. Freedman, D. N., "Who is Like Thee Among the Gods?", Ancient Israelite Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987, p. 325.
27. Vos, H. F. Bible Manners and Customs. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, p. 182.
28. Why have laws against worshipping other gods unless someone were actually doing it? See Gen. 35:2, 1 Sam. 7:3, Ex. 12:12, 18:11, 20:3, 34:14, Deut. 4:28, 5:7, etc.
29. Irwin, W., "The Hebrews" H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 240.
30. Dever, W. as cited in J. Berlinerblau, "Preliminary Remarks for the Sociological Study of Israelite Official Religion", Ki Baruch Hu, Winona Lake. Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1999, p. 154.
31. Exodus 3:6, King James Version.
32. Exodus 20:3-6, King James Version.
33. Sarna, N. M., Exploring Exodus. New York: Schocken Books, 1986, p. 144.34. Ibid., p. 141.
35. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Decalogue", Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
36. Irwin, W. "The Hebrews," H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 224.
37. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Monotheism," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
38. Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:31, as quoted in Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Monotheism," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
39. Deuteronomy 6:4, King James Version.
40. Leviticus 24:22, King James Version. Also see Numbers 15:15.41. See Leviticus 24:16.
42. See Exodus 20:10 and Leviticus 25:6.
43. See Leviticus 18:26.
44. See Numbers 9:14.
45. See Leviticus 17:12.
46. Sometimes resident aliens received religious privileges. For example, in Numbers 15:26, the atonement made by the priest covered the resident alien as well. Also, in Numbers 35:15, those resident aliens who committed manslaughter were allowed to flee to a city of refuge. However, at other times they were restricted from religious privileges . For example, in Numbers 1:51 they were not allowed to come near the tabernacle. Also see 3:10, 38.
47. See Numbers 25:11.
48. Leviticus 19:10, 23:22, and 25:35.
49. Exodus 22:21, King James Version.
50. Leviticus 19:33-34, King James Version.
51. Irwin, W. "The Hebrews" H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 231.
52. See Gen. 1:27, 5:1, 9:6, 18:33, 32:30, Ex. 24:10, 31:18, 33:11, 33:23, Num. 12:8, Deut. 9:10.
53. Irwin, W., "The Hebrews" H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 233.
54. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Anthropomorphism," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
55. Cited by William J. Hamblin in "Everything Is Everything": Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah?. Footnote 162 says "Cited by Tishby, Wisdom of the Zohar, 1:286-87; Tishby concludes that for a kabbalist "to take the [anthropomorphic] symbols literally as denoting the actual essence of God is considered to be a form of idolatry" (p. 287). Wolfson, Through a Speculum, provides numerous details and references to the various views of anthropomorphism throughout ancient and medieval Jewish thought, providing evidence that the more archaic Jewish thought was more anthropomorphic (and therefore closer to Joseph Smith's), while later talmudic and medieval Jewish thinkers reinterpreted early Jewish anthropomorphic language metaphorically. For example, Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, trans. Shlomo Pines, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 84-85, maintains that those who believe in divine corporeality "hate" God. They are worse than idolaters; they are infidels.
56. Exodus 15:11, King James Version.
57. Psalms 82:1, King James Version.
58. Genesis 11:6-7, King James Version.
59. Kaufmann, Y., The Religion of Israel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 61.60. Exodus 3:14, Jewish Publication Society Hebrew-English Tanakh. See footnote a on page 117 which states: "Meaning of Heb. uncertain, variously translated: I Am That I Am; I Am Who I Am; I Will Be That I Will Be; etc." 61. Psalms 82:1, Jewish Publication Society Hebrew-English Tanakh.
62. See Map of the Ancient Near East in Mazar, A., Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1990, p. 2.
63. de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 3.
64. Cross, F.M. Caananite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1973, p. 17.
65. Henry, M., Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalms 82.
66. For the purposes of this discussion, we shall not address whether Trinitarian beliefs are truly monotheistic. H. E. Neufeld notes: Some Christian writers would attempt to explain elohim in the plural as an early expression of the Trinity. See Divine Beings in Ancient Israel, footnote 3.67. Kaufmann, Y., The Religion of Israel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 74 68. Mazar, A., Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1990, p. 31.
69. Kirk, G., Myth: Its Meaning and Function in Ancient and Other Cultures. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970, p. 3.
70. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "God in the Bible," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
71. Elwell, W., Ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker House Books, p. vii.
72. The Christadelphians web site at http://users.aol.com/bible2007/index.html.
73. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Bible: Canon, Text, and Editions", Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
74. Pfeiffer, Robert H., Religion in the Old Testament, New York. Harper and Brothers, 1961, p. 64.
75. Freedman, D. N., "Who is Like Thee Among the Gods?", Ancient Israelite Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987, p. 315.
76. Ibid., p. 325.
77. For a good summary of this subject, see Baigent M. and Leigh, R, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception. New York: Summit Books, 1991
78. Ecclesiastes 1:9, King James Version.
79. Elwell, W., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker House Books, p. 142.
80. Penrose, C. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 25, 1883, p.40-41.
81. Exodus 3:2, King James Version
82. Smith, J.F., Answers to Gospel Questions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Vol.1, p.214.
83. Pfeiffer, Robert H., Religion in the Old Testament. New York, Harper and Brothers, 1961, p. 8.
84. Ibid., p. 8.
85. See The Religion of Biblical Israel lecture series by Rachel Z. Dulin, especially Topics 3-5
86. de Vaux, R., Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961, p. 20.
87. Lemche, N. P., The Israelites in History and Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, p. 5.
88. Encyclopaedia Judaica, CD-ROM Edition, "Monotheism," Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
89. Pfeiffer, Robert H., Religion in the Old Testament. New York, Harper and Brothers, 1961, p. 64.
90. Irwin, W., "The Hebrews" H. Frankfort, ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946, p. 244.
91. Kaufmann, Y., The Religion of Israel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 81
92. Armstrong, K., a History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, p. 1.
93. As one devout person said " there can be no true religion among men and women on this earth without revelation and testimony from God. Without revelation from heaven, mankind would not know what kind of being God is, and any ideas about his attributes and perfections could only be guesswork. The God of heaven must reveal himself, or he must remain forever unknown. First, as we have seen, we could not exercise true faith in a God we knew nothing about. True faith cannot take root and thrive in ignorance. Second, our faith would not be strong and unshaken unless we knew by continuing revelation that our lifestyle was pleasing to God. It would simply be impossible for any of us to exercise the kind of pure faith that is described in these lectures in the absence of direct, immediate, and personal revelation." See Robert J. Matthews, The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, Edited by Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate, Jr.. Provo: Deseret Book, p. 249-250.
94. Malachi 3:14, King James Version.
95. Armstrong, K., A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, p. 1.
96. Kaufmann, Y., The Religion of Israel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 79
97. Genesis 18:14, King James Version.
98. Genesis 1:1, King James Version.
99. This paper will not address the issue of whether Jesus of Nazareth actually founded Christianity.
100. Moscati, S., The Face of the Ancient Orient. London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1960, p. 3.
101. Knight, D. A., "Foreward" in N. Lemche, The Israelites in History and Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox
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