Tough Questions Answered

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YHWH and Mormonism

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 43: 10-11. It reads:

“You are my witnesses” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed , nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”

This scripture helped me when I was struggling with my belief in Mormonism.  Reading and pondering upon it pretty much solidified for me that Mormonism is false.  Let me explain why.

In these verses “The Lord” is actually the modern translation for YHWH or Yahweh.  The Israelites were told by God that this was His name.  In fact, the Israelites considered this name so sacred that they refused to speak it out loud. 

In modern English Yahweh has been translated as Jehovah.  When Mormons go to the temple they learn that God the Father’s name is Elohim and Jesus’ name is Jehovah/Yahweh.  So, why is this a big deal?  Well, this teaching CONTRADICTS Isaiah 43: 10 -11.  Let’s look at these verses again…

Verse 10:  “Before me no god was formed , nor will there be one after me.”

This verse tells us 3 important things about God.

1)  That God is the one speaking

2)  There are no Gods before Him

3)  There will be no Gods after Him

 So, the next logical question might be, “Who is this God?”  Verse 11 answers that question…

“I, even I am YAHWEH , and apart from me there is no savior.” 

Here we learn two more things about this God.

1)  His name is Yahweh/Jehovah.

2)  He is our Savior.

This knowledge creates a few problems for Mormons. 

1)  Contrary to verse 11 Mormonism teaches that God the Father’s name is Elohim not Yahweh.    

2)  Contrary to verse 10 Mormonism teaches that Yahweh is NOT the only God.  He is actually the spirit born son of another God, Elohim.

3)  In Mormonism since Yahweh is a spiritually born God there was a God prior to Him… Elohim.  This violates verse 10.

4)  Contrary to verse 10 Mormonism teaches that there will be God’s after Yahweh.   Mormonism teaches that men can progress to godhood.

5)  Verse 11 teaches us that our God, Yahweh/Jehovah, is also our  Savior.  Under Mormonism, Elohim is God the Father but Yahweh/Jehovah, his spirit born son, a separate God, is our Savior.  BIG DIFFERENCE!!

These points show that the Mormon teaching on the nature of God does not match the teachings of the Bible.  Mormonism teaches “another Jesus” and is “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galations 1:6-9).  It has been so liberating for me to learn that my God is Yahweh, Jesus Christ, and that He is the One and Only true God!!  He is my Savior and I will praise Him forever.

Darrell


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  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Darrell,

    You have oversimplified the issues and the Mormon religious tradition yet again. The Mormon tradition is simply more broad, rich, and complex than you acknowledge. For instance, D&C 109 (a canonical Mormon text)–the dedicatory prayer that Joseph Smith offered for the Kirtland temple–addresses God the Father as Jehovah (YHWH) several times (see, for instance, verses 34, 42, 56, and 68)! Moreover, there have been articles in the Ensign (a Mormon publication) which have pointed out that in at least several instances the name “Jehovah” in the biblical texts most likely refers to God the Father, as well as that there are likely many other such texts. See, for example, Keith H. Meservy, “Lord = Jehovah,” Ensign, June 2002, 29. Moreover, it has been discussed in several publications that Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders used Jehovah to refer both to the Father and the Son. The distinctions between “Elohim” and “Jehovah” among Mormons currently is not a doctrinal distinction that is to be systematically projected back throughout the scriptural texts, but rather was a means of standardizing discourse in late 19th and early 20th century Mormonism. There are several articles that have discussed these issues. I simply don’t know how you missed such discussions, especially since you previously referenced to Michael Heiser’s exchange with David Bokovoy (who is currently pursuing his PhD at Brandeis under noted Jewish scholar Marc Brettler) in the FARMS Review. As David remarks:

    “Though Latter-day Saints view God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate divine beings, for the Saints, the biblical titles associated with these deities are clearly interchangeable. Latter-day Saints have no problem, therefore, in associating God the Father with the title Yahweh…The 1916 official declaration presented by the First Presidency of the church states “God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title Elohim, is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race.” Clearly, however, the First Presidency’s move toward designating God the Father as Elohim and Jesus, the Son, as Jehovah was primarily a move by church leaders to create uniformity in Latter-day Saint expression. In a recent Ensign article, Keith Meservy observed that “in at least three Old Testament passages it appears that LORD [i.e., Jehovah] applies to Heavenly Father, not Jesus Christ: Ps. 110:1; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 53:10.” No doubt, for many Latter-day Saints, this estimate offered by Meservy could be greatly augmented.” Finally, I don’t know any Mormon who would mind referring to God the Father as our Savior.

    Furthermore, I have made several relevant comments to the passage(s) in Isaiah that I think is worth repeating here. I said earlier:

    “I want to address your proof-texts from Second Isaiah. Your [simplistic analysis] does not adequately address the complexity of the issues [relevant to] the passages in Isaiah which you quote, as well as their relationships to other relevant biblical texts. First, the passage(s) which you take as categorically affirming the denial of other gods have a very similar grammatical structure to other verses in Isaiah which would, by the same method of interpretation, deny the existence of [foreign] cities, armies, or rulers. For instance, Is. 47.8,10 in reference to the city Babylon (cf. Zeph. 2.15 in reference to Nineveh) reads:

    “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
    who sit securely,
    who say in your heart,
    ‘I am, and there is no one besides me…
    You felt secure in your wickedness;
    you said, ‘No one sees me.’
    Your wisdom and your knowledge
    led you astray,
    and you said in your heart,
    ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (NRSV)

    However, we know that there are other real cities in existence. The point is that Babylon is superlatively great, not that there are no other cities in existence. This is clearly not a categorical denial of the [“ontological”] existence of other cities.

    Furthermore, we read similar “denial” language in Deut. 32.39 which states that: “See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me” (NRSV); yet, as I noted above, Deut. 32.8-9 in the very same chapter clearly refers to the sons of gods/gods! [Moreover], most [biblical] scholars recognize the presence of this divine council itself in Isaiah in Is. 6 and Is. 40.1-6 and 22-26. Thus in chapter 40, YHWH himself addresses the (unseen) divine council with plural markers (as in Gen. 1.26-27, 3.22 and elsewhere). [Note: A frequently encountered traditional interpretation of these plural passages is that God is using the so-called “royal we.” This interpretation is eminently unlikely as such a usage is unattested with verbs elsewhere in the bible; moreover, the plural style here fits perfectly with other explicit references to the divine council in session, such as Isaiah 6, Job 1-2, and 1 Kings 22.19-23.]

    Many ancient Near Eastern texts often praise various kings or gods in language virtually identical to that which Isaiah uses in reference to YHWH. Yet such statements are not to be read in their historical context as categorical [“ontological”] denials of other kings or gods. The function of Isaiah’s language simply is to praise and magnify YHWH as the supreme King of the gods and the ruler of the nations. Such language is purposefully hyperbolic, and it is certainly not to be read in terms of later Greek metaphysical ontological categories. [We] must not forget that this sort of language is clearly poetic. The point in such passages as Is. 40.17, 23, 41.12 and, 44.6, 24 which mock or “deny” [foreign] armies, cities, rulers, nations, and gods is not [necessarily] that [all] those entities do not literally exist, but that YHWH is supreme and has ultimate authority, and that all others compared to him are powerless or “nothing.” As Job 38.7 makes clear, the sons of god were clearly present when YHWH laid the foundations of the earth, as is [also] implied in Genesis 1.26-27 and 3.22 (and elsewhere) as noted above.

    Thus these “denial” statements in Isaiah [fit] comfortably with other biblical passages which affirm that there are indeed other gods (“acherim elohim”) in his council. The point again is not to deny the existence of [all] other gods, kings, or princes, but to note that they are incomparable to YHWH in the sense that he is superlatively great. These passages simply must be interpreted without the [interpretive] lens of “ontological” categories [that is frequently projected back onto the texts by modern Evangelicals], but rather through the categories of kingship and covenant which were common to the ancient Near East (and to the Israelites especially[!]), and which demanded that covenant vassals extol and magnify their own king or patron as incomparably great and honorable and worthy of total fidelity and loyalty. [And Israel was the vassal of its patron deity YHWH.] Thus we read in Psalm 89. 6-8 (NRSV, adapted):

    “6For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the sons of God is like the Lord,
    7 God feared in the council of the holy ones,
    great and awesome above all that are around him?
    8 Lord God of hosts,
    who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
    Your faithfulness surrounds you.”

    Again we read in Psalm 29. 1-2 (NRSV, adapted):

    1 Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of God,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
    2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendour.

    Here YHWH is incomparably great, yet clearly the bene elohim/elim, literally “sons of God/gods,” are ontologically real and exist in his council. Again, Greek metaphysical categories of “ontology” are foreign to the biblical texts. Instead, these texts must be read through the understandings associated with kingship, covenant loyalty, political allegiance, and honor and shame that were dominant in Israel’s cultural and historical setting and throughout the ancient Near East. Such terminology and language in Isaiah simply does not fall into the discourse of [ontological statements] as has been the typical framework of interpretation [of such passages] since the Middle Ages.”

    Finally, although you may be loathe to admit it, there is an important segment (including, I would argue, Joesph Smith himself!) within the Mormon tradition that affirms that Jesus is an eternally existing person who has always been in a divine with relationship with the Father and the Son and that there is no higher God. I have already pointed you to Blake Ostler’s books to pursue such research further. (I think it is your responsibility to pursue such study further if you truly wish to engage the Mormon tradition seriously.) Moreover, many Mormon scholars additionally believe that “spirits,” or “intelligences” (which would include Jesus on your view apparently), are not literally birthed, but rather that such language is metaphorical (see D&C 93). It has been argued by Blake Ostler and others (and persuasively in my judgment) that Joseph Smith held these several positions. For instance, D&C 121.32 states that “According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the *Eternal God of all other gods* before this world was” (emphasis mine) and Abraham 3.19 notes that “And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; *I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.*” (emphasis mine). There are simply no canonical passages that I am aware of within the Mormon tradition that state that Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) was literally birthed as a spirit; and, importantly, there also has been critical scholarship in recent years in respect to textual research on the King Follett Discourse and the Sermon on the Grove that seriously call into question simplistic amalgamations of the text and those interpetations (based on the incorrect amalgamations) that suggest that Joseph Smith ever taught that there is a God “above” the Father. Again, since these texts are so important, I recommend Blake Ostler’s works which discus these issues in depth (however, this introduction to the issues by Mormon historian J. Stapley might also be worth your time:http://www.splendidsun.com/wp/a-textual-history-of-the-kfd-part-i-sources-to-the-history-of-joseph-smith/). Moreover, there is no direct evidence (as far as I am aware) that Joseph Smith even ever taught that there was a Mother in Heaven–a doctrine that would be essential to maintaining the notion of a literal spirit birth process. Such passages usually cited, such as D&C 93.21 (which you cited in a previous thread), were never interpreted (again, as far as I am aware) as teaching a literal spirit birth by Joseph Smith, and they were not interpreted as such until a later period; your interpretation (also followed by some Mormons) is simply anachronistic historically.

    Again, the Mormon tradition is more broad and diverse than you appear to be willing to recognize, and often times, even on important issues, there are several options available to Mormons within the Mormon tradition.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    YD,

    Thank you for coming back onto the blog and sharing your viewpoint. I am sure this will come as no surprise to you… but I do not agree with many of your comments or your conclusion.

    I know you are probably not comfortable discussing it in detail, but I believe the teachings in the temple contradict your assumptions. It is clearly taught in the temple that God the Father’s name is Elohim and Jesus’ name is Jehovah. Given the authority given to temple teachings, I find it hard to swallow that Heavenly Father’s name is anything but Elohim within Mormonism. If this is true, why has the temple ceremony not been changed to reflect this? Where is the official church announcement about it? Showing me where scholars and SLC attorneys (Blake Ostler) have discussed this carries no weight for me. I rely upon what the Official Church teaching is… and I simply believe there is nothing more official in teaching Mormonism than the temple.

    Nevertheless, one can concede, simply for purposes of discussion, that Jehovah is a name for Heavenly Father within Mormonism and MANY problems still remain with Isaiah 43:10 -11.

    1) There is still a God after the Father in Mormonism (Jesus Christ)
    2) There is still a God prior to God the Father – He was once a man who had a God and He progressed to Godhood by obedience to His God’s teachings
    3) Heavenly Father is not our Savior… his spirit born son, Jesus Christ – another God – is.
    4) There is still the teaching that man can become a god… even MORE Gods after Yahweh.

    Part of the problem we are having in our discussion is that you appear to give a lot of credit to Blake Ostler (among other Mormon scholars). I simply do not give any credence to their work because they have NO AUTHORITY to speak on behalf of the LDS Church. While I was a Mormon, I derived all of my beliefs from the scriptures and the leaders of the church. Now that I am no longer LDS I still garner all of my beliefs about what Mormonism teaches from the leaders of the Church and canonized Mormon scripture.

    You have twice stated on this blog that it is not an official teaching within Mormonism that Jesus Christ is a spirit born son of God the Father. As I pointed out in the Trinity post D&C 93:21 does teach this. In addition, I can cite numerous references from the LDS.org website and teaching manuals published by the church WHICH DO TEACH THIS. To say that Mormonism teaches that Jesus Christ was not spiritually born and that He has always eternally existed as a God with God the Father is simply false. In addition, I would submit to you that the Church HAS TAUGHT numerous times that God the Father was once a man who progressed to Godhood by obedience to His God. If you would like for me to provide references to this, I would be happy to do so.

    As for your analysis on the Isaiah passage…. The verses you cite do not give a proper comparison. In Isaiah 47: 8, 10 the Lord is showing them how their view that they are the only ones IS NOT ACCURATE. Look closely at the verses… in verse 10 He says “Your wisdom and knowledge MISLEAD YOU when you say to YOURSELF, I am and there is none besides me.” THEY are the ones who are saying there is no one besides them NOT GOD. The Lord is trying to show them HOW THEY ARE WRONG IN THIS CLAIM. Therefore, His use of the denial language in these verses in no way compares in context to His use of it in REFERENCE TO WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT HIMSELF in 43: 10 – 11. There are countless verses throughout the Bible where the Lord tells us that there is no God before Him, no God after Him and no God besides Him. Just to name a quick few…

    Isaiah 43: 3
    Isaiah 44:6, 8
    Isaiah 45: 5 – 6
    Isaiah 45: 14, 18, 21-22
    Isaiah 46:9

    Have a good afternoon.

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Just about everything in the temple ceremony points to a symbolic portrayal first and foremost.

    I would be hesitant to take it literally in the face of ambiguity in the scriptural record, or to read an interpretation in the ceremony that is contradictory to accepted scripture.

    For instance. The temple ceremony portrays Peter, James, and John visiting Adam and physically shaking his hand (with some significance to the act).

    Are we supposed to believe that this means that Peter, James, and John all had physical bodies before they were ever born on earth – even though Mormon doctrine expressly teaches otherwise?

    We are not.

    Don’t confuse ceremony for doctrinal substance Darrell.

  • Bill Pratt

    Yellow Dart,
    How can you look at Is. 43:10 and say it’s not claiming there is only one god. It says, “Before me no God was formed, nor will there be one after me.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The context of this statement is God telling Israel that He alone is their God and Savior. The text you compare in Is 47:8, 10 is God sarcastically speaking for Babylon. God is mocking Babylon and showing how ridiculous her claims are. How can she say there is no other besides her? It’s absurd.

    In Is. 43 God is confirming to Israel that there is no other God or Savior. In Is. 47 God is speaking against the arrogance of Babylon. Your interpretive gymnastics are really hard to digest. Usually you make reasonable claims, but in this case your presupposition that there must be multiple gods is getting you into hermeneutical trouble. Let the text speak for itself.

    By the way, if you could find a majority of orthodox Jewish Hebrew scholars that agree with your interpretation of Is. 43, that would make your case more compelling. I would sit up and start listening at that point.

    Best Regards,
    BP

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Bill,

    YD was never claiming that the passage states that any other being was Israel’s “savior” and master. The mere presence of a “divine council” of gods does not mean that we worship them instead of the one God manifested in Eloheim and Jehovah.

    All we are saying is that your verse does not preclude the existence of other godlike beings.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com The Yellow Dart

    Darrell,

    I have already refuted your interpretation (which is also the interpretation of some Mormons as well) concerning D&C 93.21. (Did you read anything I wrote about it?) There is no evidence that any of the earliest Mormons, including Joseph Smith himself, understood this passage as referring to a literal spirit birth in the sense that you are describing. Moreover, there appears to be no direct evidence of Joseph Smith ever even teaching the idea of a Mother in Heaven—a notion essential to the idea of a literal spirit birth. This lends a serious problem to your interpretation of the passage. Moreover, D&C 93, Abraham 2-3, and Joseph’s Smith’s discourses (on several occasions) clearly demonstrate that “spirits” or “intelligences” were thought to be eternal in early Mormonism (and at least by Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism). This again refutes your notion that spirits are being literally birthed. Finally, as I stated above, within Mormonism (as in virtually all religious traditions) there are sometimes several interpretations on any given subject. I am well aware that many Mormons and Mormon leaders have believed and taught exactly what you are suggesting. However, I believe that it is clear the Mormon scriptures, Joseph Smith himself, and other prominent Mormon thinkers have not taught that spirits are literally birthed. This goes back to my original point: you consistently claim that “Mormonism teaches so-and-so,” but you often fail to recognize the complexity of the issues and the breadth of the tradition, as well as fail to properly contextualize your sources historically. Sometimes there appears to be several “official” positions available to the believing Mormon. Thus, you say that “[I] have twice stated on this blog that it is not an official teaching within Mormonism that Jesus Christ is a spirit born son of God the Father,” but this is not correct. I have acknowledged forthrightly that this is one viable option within Mormonism–but not the only one, and I have provided some of my reasons why and pointed you to additional relevant studies that analyze the relevant sources. Please (re)read my statements and arguments more carefully. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t even appear that you are reading my comments carefully at all. (Perhaps I am antiquated, but I try to read other’s comments and arguments as charitably and as closely as I would like them to read my own.)

    Moreover, as I demonstrated above (and as your third paragraph appears to concede), the name Jehovah (YHWH) is clearly used in Mormon scripture and in other Mormon sources to refer to the Father or the Son. The use of names in the temple in no way alters this basic fact. No where does the temple ever declare that the names which they are using to refer to the Father and the Son are the only, final, and definitive statement on what names can ever be used to refer to God the Father and God the Son. Again, your analysis is too shallow.

    As pertaining to the secondary literature I have recommended (repeatedly) to you: I have referred to these scholarly studies simply because they present many relevant historical sources, contextualize them, and provide a meaningful and thorough analysis of the complex of issues that surround them–not because they are in-and-of-themselves authoritative texts for Mormons. I still recommend them to you.

    Now regarding your list:

    “1) There is still a God after the Father in Mormonism (Jesus Christ)”

    This premise simply begs the question of whether creedal Trinitarianism itself can be aligned with your proof-text from Isaiah. Moreover, it calls into question the adequacy of the logic of the creedal Trinity, which logic, as the consensus among academic philosophers recognizes (and as evinced by the Social Trinitariansm movement), is contradictory (see, for instance, E. Feser’s article “Has Trinitarianism Been Shown to Be Coherent?” in Faith and Philosophy 14/1 or Timothy W. Bartel, “The Plight of the Relative Trinitarian,” Religious Studies 24/2). I assume that you believe that the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are divine persons who are not entirely identical in all of their properties: thus, there must be three Gods in some significant sense at least. I think that David Paulsen and R. Potter (utilizing Richard Cartwright’s essay, “On the Logical Problem of the Trinity,” in Philosophical Essays [Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987]) have summarized the basic problem well:

    “Indeed, at least, the traditional doctrine of the Trinity makes the following claims:

    1. The Father is God.
    2. The Son is God.
    3. The Holy Spirit is God.
    4. The Father is not the Son.
    5. The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
    6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
    7. There is exactly one God.

    Suppose we take the ‘is’ here to be the ‘is’ of identity. Then we have got a problem with the first six claims alone (not to mention the seventh). Any beginning logic student can derive the contradiction. So, the ‘is’ here must not be an ‘is’ of identity. But it seems that claims 4—6 require the ‘is’ of identity and claims 1—3 seem to be more along the lines of an ‘is’ of predication. So, the first claim really says “The Father is a God” and the fourth, “The Father is not identical with the Son,” and so on for the rest. But then claims 1—3 clearly imply that there are three Gods, and this is a denial of 7. This is not the place for an extensive critique of the traditional concept of the Trinity. Suffice it to say that there is a problem here that is not easily solved.”

    Of course, these issues deserve a more adequate treatment, but suffice it to say for now that Social Trinitarianism, which is growing in philosophical circles, has much in common with Mormonism and is generally recognized as far more logical and coherent internally, eminently more faithful to the thought-world (or worldview) evidenced in New Testament texts, and more agreeable with modern historical-critical New Testament scholarship than are later creedal Trinitarian notions with their (patently Greek) philosophical categories (e.g., “ontology”) of thought which are entirely foreign to the biblical texts.

    Finally, as I said just above, your statement begs the question of whether creedal Trinitarianism seamlessly aligns with the very proof-text you are utilizing. The Israelites believed that their God, YHWH, was a single divine person. There is no evidence that they believed that this God was really three separate divine persons who were also together “one God” (however you define it) (and some of these authors claimed to have been present, to have participated in his heavenly council, and to have encountered him directly!). Trinitarianism simply isn’t found in the Hebrew Bible, and it appears contradictory to what the actual Hebrew Bible texts themselves state.

    “2) There is still a God prior to God the Father – He was once a man who had a God and He progressed to Godhood by obedience to His God’s teachings”

    I reject this statement out of hand on several grounds. As I argued above (and provided useful recommendations for further study), there is no evidence in Mormon scriptural texts that God the Father has a God “prior” to him, nor is there any evidence from Mormon scriptural texts that he “progressed to Godhood by obedience” to this supposed higher God’s teachings. Moreover, as scholars of Mormonism have recently argued on account of additional critical textual work has been done on the King Follett Discourse and the Sermon on the Grove, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Joseph Smith ever taught such notions in the sense(s) you are describing (again, I refer you to Blake Ostler’s chapters which delve through the sources and issues at stake here). At any rate, the King Follett Discourse directly implies that God the Father was once a man just like Jesus Christ, who, in Mormon tradition (as evidenced by numerous Mormon scriptural texts), was certainly fully divine before his mortal descent (and there are certainly no Mormon scriptural texts that assert otherwise as far as I am aware): therefore, God the Father was not “progressing” to divinity while mortal, since, like Jesus, he was already divine before his descent. Again, it is true that some other Church figures have believed and/or taught such ideas as your statement describes: however, these are not scriptural notions for Mormons, nor does it appear to have ever been taught by their founding Prophet; further, it contradicts relevant statements in Mormon scriptural texts which were published by Joseph Smith himself.

    “3) Heavenly Father is not our Savior… his spirit born son, Jesus Christ – another God – is.”

    I think this is an issue of equivocality. I don’t know why any Mormon should or does feel uncomfortable referring to God the Father as Savior. Numerous divine titles (if not all) may easily be applied to either the Father or the Son, and I see no problem in this. Mormons probably use the title “Savior” to refer to Jesus more often, to be sure, but this doesn’t seem very remarkable–I would bet most other Christians usually do as well.

    “4) There is still the teaching that man can become a god… even MORE Gods after Yahweh.””

    There are several problems of note here. First, in reference to the issue of whether the authors of the biblical texts believed that there were other genuine divine beings, I simply refer persons to the passages and analysis I have already provided above as well as to my prior post on the divine council and its historical analogues, which may be found here:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-divine-council/

    Secondly, virtually every contemporary Mormon I have ever discussed this issue with agrees that they will always still be subject to and subordinate to God throughout the eternities–simply, that exalted humans are gods with a lower case “g” (unlike your quote with a capital “G”). I am again unaware of any Mormon scriptural teaching to the contrary (although some other Mormon leaders probably have believed or taught otherwise). At any rate, this certainly seems to be the dominant position currently in the Mormon Church as far as I can tell. Moreover, I do not see why a teaching of theosis in any way compromises “monotheism,” as long as one does not define the term using ontological metaphysical categories foreign to the biblical texts (as I have noted and discussed several times), but common among many later Judeo-Christian traditions of the middle ages (and frequently thereafter) (what is sometimes called “Radical,” “Metaphysical,” or “Ontological Monotheism”. Rather, “Monarchical” or “Kingship Monotheism” more fully captures the notion of monotheism evinced in the biblical texts.

    Moreover, your analysis (and this applies to Bill’s comments and questions as well) of the Isaiah passage(s) still fails to deal with the numerous other biblical passages which demonstrate that there is indeed a real divine council whose members are properly termed gods (as the biblical texts themselves state!). I simply refer persons to the passages I have already cited, as well as to my prior post on the divine council for relevant discussion. Because of these points, to read the Isaiah texts as you assert (namely, as a categorical ontological or metaphysical denial of the existence of other gods altogether), instead of in the ways I have suggested (such as ancient Near Eastern and Israelite categories of covenant and kingship) creates a contradiction. (And, although I personally am perfectly fine with recognizing contradictions within the biblical texts themselves and between the biblical texts and the archeological record—and such examples are quite obvious in many places—I would nevertheless imagine you are probably not comfortable recognizing any contradictions; but maybe I am wrong in assuming this.)

    Furthermore, I will again note that your method of interpretation of the Isaiah passages is incoherent and implicitly utilizes philosophical categories of ontology that are foreign to the biblical texts. You claim that:

    “…the Lord is showing them how their view that they are the only ones IS NOT ACCURATE.”

    But in what sense were they claiming to be the “only ones”? Were they claiming that they are the only ones in existence? As I said before, the passage(s) which you take as categorically affirming the denial of other gods have a very similar (sometimes virtually identical) grammatical structure to other verses in Isaiah which would, *by the very same method of interpretation*, deny the literal existence of foreign cities, armies, and rulers. The point is thus not that the “denial passages” are denying the literal or ontological existence of such kings, gods, armies, or princes, but rather are denying these entities claims to ultimate loyalty, knowledge, power, authority, glory, etc.; rather they are accentuating the fact that YHWH is the one who is superlatively great and has all of these attributes—not these other entities. As I said before, these passages simply must be interpreted without the interpretive lens of “ontological” categories which are frequently projected back onto the texts by modern Evangelicals (and other Judeo-Christian traditions), but rather through the historically relevant categories of kingship and covenant which were common to the ancient Near East (and to the Israelites especially!). These categories demanded that covenant vassals extol and magnify their own king or patron as incomparably great, honorable, and alone worthy of total fidelity and loyalty. YHWH is mocking the statements of Babylon (which is a real entity!) and other foreign kings, princes, gods, not in order to say that these entities do not really exist ontologically or metaphysically, but in order to establish the point that it is only Yahweh is supreme, who has total authority and power, and who has ultimate claim on worship, fidelity, and loyalty—not Babylon, foreign (historical) kings and princes, or other gods. Again, as I said above, many ancient Near Eastern texts often praise various kings or gods in language virtually identical to that which Isaiah here uses in reference to YHWH; yet such ancient Near Eastern texts are obviously not to be read in their historical context as categorical “ontological” denials of other kings or gods. Like these texts, the function of Isaiah’s language is to praise and magnify YHWH as the supreme King. YHWH alone, according to Isaiah, is the ultimate—and only–ruler of the cosmos. Such language is purposefully poetic and hyperbolic to accentuate this critical point (as was the same type of poetic language in other ancient Near Eastern texts, and in those other poetic passages in Isaiah in which Babylon, or some king or prince, make virtually the same “denial statements,” but which YHWH refutes; it is simply not to be read in terms of later Greek metaphysical ontological categories. Yet again: the point in such passages as Is. 40.17, 23, 41.12 and, 44.6, 24 which mock or “deny” [foreign] armies, cities, rulers, nations, and gods is not that all those entities do not literally exist ontologically or metaphysically, but to contrast that YHWH is supreme and has ultimate authority—simply that all others compared to him are powerless or “nothing.”

    Finally Bill asks concerning Isaiah 43:

    “By the way, if you could find a majority of orthodox Jewish Hebrew scholars that agree with your interpretation of Is. 43, that would make your case more compelling. I would sit up and start listening at that point.”

    Bill: I have already mentioned Jon Levenson (Harvard) and Marc Brettler (Brandeis) as important Jewish scholars who agree, as part of the dominant scholarly consensus (which includes other Jewish scholars to be sure), that “radical” or “metaphysical/ontological monotheism” is not to be found in the Hebrew Bible—and especially in pre-exilic texts. Moreover, the consensus of scholars of Israelite religion (M. Smith, S. Parker, J. Day, etc.) is that “radical” or “metaphysical/ontological monotheism” does not accurately reflect pre-exilic Israelite religion. The biblical texts clearly state and/or assume the existence of other gods in numerous passages. This is well recognized. Furthermore, some important scholars in fact question whether radical monotheism even ever became established before the Middle Ages at all. Of course, the million dollar question is: what constitutes “monotheism”? What is the “proper” definition? I will provide you with some interesting quotes from Evangelical scholar Larry Hurtado and let you think about it on your own (though if you want to know my thoughts I would be happy to share them!):

    “Jewish monotheism can be taken as constituting a distinctive version of the commonly-attested belief structure described by Nilsson as involving a “high god” who presides over other deities. The God of Israel presides over a court of heavenly beings who are likened to him (as is reflected in, e.g., the OT term for them “sons of God”). In pagan versions, too, the high god can be described as father and source of the other divine beings, and as utterly superior to them. In this sense, Jewish (and Christian) monotheism, whatever its distinctives, shows its historical links with the larger religious environment of the ancient world…

    This commitment to the one God of Israel accommodated a large retinue of heavenly beings distinguished from God more in degree than kind as to their attributes, some of these beings portrayed as in fact sharing quite directly in God’s powers and even his name…

    Jews were quite willing to imagine beings who bear the divine name within them and can be referred to by one or more of God’s titles (e.g., Yahoel or Melchizedek as elohim or, later, Metatron [Enoch] as yahweh ha-katon [“the lesser Yahweh”]), beings so endowed with divine attributes as to be difficult to distinguish them descriptively from God, beings who are very direct personal extensions of God’s powers and sovereignty. About this, there is clear evidence. This clothing of servants of God with God’s attributes and even his name will seem “theologically very confusing” if we go looking for a “strict monotheism” of relatively modern distinctions of “ontological status” between God and these figures, and expect such distinctions to be expressed in terms of “attributes and functions.” By such definitions of the term, Greco-Roman Jews seem to have been quite ready to accommodate various divine beings…

    We should take as “monotheism” the religious beliefs and practices of people who describe themselves as monotheistic. Otherwise, we implicitly import a definition from the sphere of theological polemics in an attempt to do historical analysis… If we are to avoid a priori definitions and the imposition of our own theological judgments, we have no choice but to accept as monotheism the religion of those who profess to be monotheists, however much their religion varies and may seem “complicated” with other beings in addition to the one God…In fact, I suggest that for historical investigation our policy should be to take people as monotheistic if that is how they describe themselves, in spite of what we might be inclined to regard at first as anomalies in their beliefs.”

    As to your question more directly: I don’t always (maybe even usually) look up what a scholars’ religious background is when I read their commentaries and articles. All I can say is that most scholars reject or strongly question (for many of the reasons I have discussed above) whether Isaiah (and, actually, this section critical scholars usually date to the Exile or later, since the consensus is that these texts which contain the “denial statements” are written by a later author [known as Deutero-Isaiah] who added them to the earlier oracles of Isaiah of Jerusalem) can really be taken as referring to radical monotheism; and the vast majority seem to recognize that Isaiah strongly affirms the existence of the divine council and its members throughout. If you are really interested in finding out more concerning these issues I recommend you just start reading scholarly commentaries on (Second) Isaiah.

    I conclude then by requesting that you carefully and charitably read over my comments and arguments. As on the prior post we conversed on, I feel that I have said what I wanted to say, and so (since it is your blog and post) I offer you the final comment if you wish to have it. Moreover, these comments are becoming too time consuming, involved, and lengthy for my schedule as well. I think, then, that this will be my last comment on this post unless others begin contribute to the conversation, since it doesn’t seem like you are willing to publicly concede any of the points I have argued (and, on the flipside, I don’t believe your comments have refuted anything that I have discussed) and because it seems like we will probably continue going around in circles on these issues.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

    P.S. Perhaps this is a matter of personal taste or preference, but I am fully capable of reading and understanding the significance of your comments and arguments without large quantities of capitalized words and clauses. For me at least, such extensive pointing is distracting, irritating, and demeaning. It makes me feel like you think I am so unintelligent that I would not be able to understand your points without these pointers.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    YD,

    Honestly… your posts are getting too long. I am happy to have a discussion with you. However, I do not have time to read and respond to such long posts. If you would not mind, please confine your comments to shorter posts. You have mentioned that the posts are getting to time consuming. The best way to combat that is simply to shorten them by sticking to discussing one point at a time.

    Now, to address a few of your points. Despite what you claim, you have not refuted my interpretation of D&C 93:21. Nor have you addressed the fact that LDS church leaders have taught and continue to teach today that Jesus Christ is the First Born Spirit Son of God the Father. Once again, I am very happy that you deny this false teaching. I sincerely think that is wonderful. Unfortunately, the position you hold is NOT the position the LDS Church espouses as a whole. Here are a few quotes from LDS.org which prove my point.

    “Mankind’s greatest need today is a sincere conviction that Jesus Christ was and is in very deed the Savior and Redeemer of the world; that he is the Son of the Father, the firstborn in the spirit” Joseph Anderson, “A Testimony of Christ,” Ensign, Nov 1974, 101

    “He is Jesus the Christ, the Firstborn of the Father”
    Gordon B Hinckley, Do Ye Even So To Them

    “Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother.”
    I Have A Question, Ensign, June 1986

    “The Lord Jesus, whose witnesses we are, is the Firstborn of the Father, the Firstborn of every creature.”
    Come Know The Lord Jesus, Bruce R McConkie Ensign, May 1977

    “Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit”
    Mary and Joseph, Robert J. Matthews, Ensign, May 1974

    “He was the Firstborn of the Father”
    The Living Christ: The Testimony Of The Apostles Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, January 2002

    “It seems clear that our Heavenly Father intends for us to remember and honor Jesus Christ as his Firstborn Son. With this understanding provided by modern revelation…”
    Larry E Dahl, Ensign April 1997

    “It was there our elder brother Jesus, the firstborn in the spirit of our Father’s children”
    Ezra Taft Benson, New Era, April 1986

    “We rejoiced in heaven when Christ, the Firstborn of the Father and preeminent among His spirit children”
    Carlos H. Amado, Ensign, August 1995

    “Display the picture of Jesus Christ and tell the story of Jesus’ volunteering to be our Savior. (For suggested ways to teach the scripture account, see “Teaching from the Scriptures,” p. vii.) Help the children understand the following ideas:
    1. In the premortal life we were spirit children and lived with our heavenly parents
    2. Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father (D&C 93:21) and is the older brother of our spirits.
    3. Lucifer, who became Satan, was also a spirit child of Heavenly Father.
    “Lesson 2: Jesus Christ Volunteered to Be Our Savior,” Primary 7: New Testament, 5

    “Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors. Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for he is one of them.”
    Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F Smith

    “Jesus Christ: The Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh and the Firstborn Son in the spirit; our Redeemer and Savior.”
    Gospel Principles Glossary

    “The firstborn spirit son of our Father was Jesus Christ.”
    The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 1

    “Tell the children that each of them has two fathers: an earthly father and a Heavenly Father. Our earthly father is the father of our physical bodies. Heavenly Father is the father of the spirits inside our bodies. Jesus has only one father, because Heavenly Father is the father of Jesus’ spirit and his physical body. That is why Jesus is called the Son of God.”
    Lesson 5: Jesus Christ Is the Son of Heavenly Father,” Primary 1: I Am a Child of God, 13

    It is pretty clear from these quotes (and believe me there are hundreds more that I could list here if I had the time) that the dominant teaching of the LDS Church is that Jesus Christ is a Spirit Son of God the Father.

    It has also been taught in the Church that God was once a mortal man, just like you and I. In addition, just as God the Father made it to Godhood, it is taught that we may do the same. Again, it appears that you may not fully believe this false doctrine… that is great. However, the church has clearly taught this. Here a few quick quotes by Mormon Leaders to show this.

    “God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.”
    Teachings of the Presidents of The Church: Joseph Smith 2007

    “God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are perfect. Both of Them are resurrected men…”
    James E Talmage, The Fullness of the Gospel

    “By living according to every word which proceeds from the mouth of God, we shall attain to his likeness; and, as children through diligence attain to the wisdom and knowledge of their parents, so may we attain to the knowledge of our Heavenly Parents, and if they be obedient to this commandment they will not only be called the sons of God, but be gods…”
    Orson Pratt, The True Character of God and Man

    “Those of his children who prove themselves during this probation worthy of exaltation in his presence, will beget other children, and , precisely according to the same principle, they too will become fathers of spirits, as he is the Father of our spirits”
    Orson Pratt, The True Character of God and Man

    “After a period, there would be a resurrection or a reunion of the body and the spirit, which would render us immortal and make possible our further climb toward perfection and godhood. The Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, has given us our map—a code of laws and commandments whereby we might attain perfection and, eventually, godhood.”
    Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W Kimball 2006

    “What is our greatest potential? Is it not to achieve godhood ourselves?”
    First Presidency Message Relief Society -Its Promise and Potential Spencer W. Kimball

    As for your exegesis on Isaiah… I simply disagree with you. In the verses you cite, God is simply being sarcastic. He is showing Babylon how ridiculous THEIR claim is. To say that God is approaching HIS claim to be the only God in the same manner is just ridiculous. In addition, you, once again, are trying to use the teaching of the divine council to prove the existence of other real Gods. As I did on the trinity post, I will again refer you to a 2007 essay by Michael S. Heiser here. In this essay, Mr. Heiser does a wonderful job in articulating the differing views on the divine council. He also clearly points out how the Trinity is supported by the divine council and details out the numerous problems with the LDS view you espouse. The mormon view is simply not the consensus on this matter. Despite what you seem to be attempting to assert, mormons are in the minority.

    Have a good night!

    Darrell

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew

    I’ve basically skipped all of the comments, because I’m not going there,

    but the interesting thing is that your analysis doesn’t seem to discount *anything*.

    See…it seems to confirm that Jesus, Jehovah, the Lord and Savior, the Son, is speaking here. No problem. It isn’t Elohim and no one is saying that it is (when the OT uses El/Elohim, it does use that name distinctly from Yahweh/Jehovah).

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Andrew,

    It appears that you not only skipped all the comments but you also skipped the entire post. You may want to re-read it.

    “It isn’t Elohim and no one is saying that it is”

    That is the problem for Mormons. It is God the Father who is speaking and He tells us His name… Yahweh. He says… “There is No God Before Me”, “There will be no God after me”, “I am your God”, and “I am your savior”.

    Under Mormon theology, if this is Jehovah the spirit born son of God the Father you have a problem… because that would mean Elohim existed prior to Him and you have violated verse 10.

    Have a good night!

    Darrell

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew

    Nothing in your post, even as I read it 5 or 6 more times, leads me to be convinced to believe “It is God the Father who is speaking.”

    that’s really the critical gap.

    Now, it could be that this is silly Trinity-esque games you’re pulling here, but I can’t mindread the trinity games that you believe from the thin air.

    (sees last paragraph before the “Have a good night”). Yes, delicious trinity games. This one is a little bit better of a criticism to levy, but the problem is that an apologist (which I’m not going to try to do, I’m just pointing it out) would already have 10,000 ways to get around that, like Christians already do with the trinity. So, it doesn’t seem like this conclusively proves things one way or the other. In the end, you’ll believe whatever you want to believe.

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Darrell, we just have to get this clear.

    All human beings are eternal. Eloheim is eternal and uncreated. Jehovah is eternal and uncreated. So are you, so am I.

    So it just isn’t a case of anyone “preexisting” anyone else for Mormons.

    You really need to remember this. Otherwise you are misrepresenting the debate. I realize this is a hard distinction for a lot of Evangelicals to get, so I usually cut people some slack. But you’ve been debating with Mormons long enough to know this.

    You can’t use the argument that the Mormon God is “created” or “derivative” in an ontological sense without some serious qualifiers.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Seth,

    I agree that we need to be careful with definitions. Given that I would like to clarify what I am saying and correct something you pointed out.

    Mormonism does not teach that God the Father and Jesus have always existed as Gods. Rather, it teaches that the matter they are made from is eternal. This is a big defference. The teaching is clear within Mormonism that Jesus Christ/Yahweh/Jehovah was spiritually born/created/formed (whatever word you choose to use) at some point and that God the Father EXISTED AS A GOD prior to Him. In addition, there are countless quotes which teach that God the Father had a God prior to Him. These are areas where Mormonism diverges from the Biblical teaching that “there are no Gods before Him, After Him or Besides Him”.

    Darrell

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Darrell,

    I will try and keep it shorter for you Darrell, although I would still hope you would actually read what I have written. The only reason my comments have been so long is because of the number of issues you are trying to address. I simply think they deserve to be as thoroughly and adequately addressed as possible.

    You stated:

    “In addition, you, once again, are trying to use the teaching of the divine council to prove the existence of other real Gods….Mr. Heiser does a wonderful job in articulating the differing views on the divine council. He also clearly points out how the Trinity is supported by the divine council and details out the numerous problems with the LDS view you espouse. The mormon view is simply not the consensus on this matter. Despite what you seem to be attempting to assert, mormons are in the minority.”

    Darrell: what have I said about the divine council that is peculiarly “mormon”? It is the consensus of academic biblical scholarship that YHWH had a real divine council with other genuine gods in it. It is the consensus of biblical scholarship that the Trinity is not even remotely taught in the Hebrew Bible. It is the consensus of biblical scholarship that radical monotheism is not found in the Hebrew Bible. It is simply fundamentalist Evangelicals who are in the minority here. (Moreover, if you would take the time to read the relevant secondary literature on this topic, you would realize that it is Michael Heiser who is often in the minority among scholars as well. Maybe you could read the other parts of the exchange with Michael Heiser in the FARMS review for starters if you haven’t already)

    You said:

    “Now, to address a few of your points. Despite what you claim, you have not refuted my interpretation of D&C 93:21. Nor have you addressed the fact that LDS church leaders have taught and continue to teach today that Jesus Christ is the First Born Spirit Son of God the Father. ”

    I have refuted your interpretation (and the interpretation of some Mormons) on historical grounds. You simply have not interacted with any of my arguments. Furthermore, I have indeed addressed the fact that Mormon leaders have taught and continue to teach this doctrine–I have said as much several times! But, as I said before, this is not the only position on this issue known within Mormonism (Joseph Smith himself, as I argued above, is an important exception!). It simply isn’t as monolithic as you claim. Again, I recommend the studies I mentioned previously.

    Finally, I want to conclude by restating an argument I made previously concerning the use of the divine name Jehovah (YHWH) in Mormonism, but which I do not feel you have since addressed. I want to know if your position has modified at all from that asserted in the original post in light of further discussion. I said:

    “You have oversimplified the issues and the Mormon religious tradition yet again. The Mormon tradition is simply more broad, rich, and complex than you acknowledge [concerning this issue]. For instance, D&C 109 (a canonical Mormon text)–the dedicatory prayer that Joseph Smith offered for the Kirtland temple–addresses God the Father as Jehovah (YHWH) several times (see, for instance, verses 34, 42, 56, and 68)! Moreover, there have been articles in the Ensign (a Mormon publication) which have pointed out that in at least several instances the name “Jehovah” in the biblical texts most likely refers to God the Father, as well as that there are likely many other such texts. See, for example, Keith H. Meservy, “Lord = Jehovah,” Ensign, June 2002, 29. Moreover, it has been discussed in several publications that Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders used Jehovah to refer both to the Father and the Son. The distinctions between “Elohim” and “Jehovah” among Mormons currently is not a doctrinal distinction that is to be systematically projected back throughout the scriptural texts, but rather was a means of standardizing discourse in late 19th and early 20th century Mormonism. There are several articles that have discussed these issues. I simply don’t know how you missed such discussions, especially since you previously referenced to Michael Heiser’s exchange with David Bokovoy (who is currently pursuing his PhD at Brandeis under noted Jewish scholar Marc Brettler) in the FARMS Review. As David remarks:

    ‘Though Latter-day Saints view God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate divine beings, for the Saints, the biblical titles associated with these deities are clearly interchangeable. Latter-day Saints have no problem, therefore, in associating God the Father with the title Yahweh…The 1916 official declaration presented by the First Presidency of the church states “God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title Elohim, is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race.” Clearly, however, the First Presidency’s move toward designating God the Father as Elohim and Jesus, the Son, as Jehovah was primarily a move by church leaders to create uniformity in Latter-day Saint expression. In a recent Ensign article, Keith Meservy observed that “in at least three Old Testament passages it appears that LORD [i.e., Jehovah] applies to Heavenly Father, not Jesus Christ: Ps. 110:1; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 53:10.” No doubt, for many Latter-day Saints, this estimate offered by Meservy could be greatly augmented.'”

    Additionally, I stated that:

    “[T]he name Jehovah (YHWH) is clearly used in Mormon scripture and in other Mormon sources to refer to the Father or the Son. The use of names in the temple in no way alters this basic fact. No where does the temple ever declare that the names which they are using to refer to the Father and the Son are the only, final, and definitive statement on what names can ever be used to refer to God the Father and God the Son [and that such a distinction is to be projected back on to all earlier statements and texts]. Again, your analysis is too shallow.”

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    OK, that’s what I was looking for.

    That is at least debatable material. But saying that one existed before the other, or that Jesus was a created being, without more explanation is misleading.

    If you add in a qualifier like that, I have no objections.

    Of course, we can debate – as Yellow Dart suggested – whether it’s really true that either of them was ever “not God” – but now we’re into debatable material where you at least have grounds for making your assertions.

  • Brad

    It is the consensus of academic biblical scholarship that YHWH had a real divine council with other genuine gods in it. It is the consensus of biblical scholarship that the Trinity is not even remotely taught in the Hebrew Bible. It is the consensus of biblical scholarship that radical monotheism is not found in the Hebrew Bible. It is simply fundamentalist Evangelicals who are in the minority here. (Moreover, if you would take the time to read the relevant secondary literature on this topic, you would realize that it is Michael Heiser who is often in the minority among scholars as well. Maybe you could read the other parts of the exchange with Michael Heiser in the FARMS review for starters if you haven’t already).

    YD, please point me to the “consensus of Biblical scholarship” that you are referring to when making your claims. It isn’t enough to just “say” it, for anyone to believe it. By consensus, that would have to mean that at a bare minimum, the majority of Biblical scholarship would show that. I’m curious how you arrived at that conclusion yourself, or if you relied on the work of others who suggested that the “consensus of Biblical scholarship” suggested what you say it does.

    Without a way to substantiate what you’ve said, why should it be believed?

  • http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/about The Yellow Dart

    Brad,

    Have you read through my comments at all? Many of them already have relevant references for the question(s) you are asking.

    However, I will provide an introductory list of biblical scholars and some of their books or articles which discuss these issues (or other relevant issues) if that is what you are interested in. (And for those scholars whose academic affiliation I know off the top of my head I will put the name of that school in parenthesis immediately after their name.) See for starters:

    John Day’s (Oxford) book “Yahweh And the Gods And Goddesses of Canaan”

    Mark Smith’s (NYU) books “The Early History of God,” “The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts,” and “Memoirs of God.”

    O. Keel and C. Uehlinger’s book “Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel.”

    Jon Levenson’s (Harvard) books “Creation and the Persistence of Evil” and “Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible”

    William Dever’s (Arizona) book “Did God Have A Wife?”

    Saul Olyan’s book “Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel”

    F.M. Cross’s (Harvard) books “Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic” and “From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel.”

    Baruch Halpern’s (PSU) article “Brisker Pipes than Poetry': The Development of Israelite Monotheism.”

    Another book of interest might be “Aspects of Monotheism: How God Is One: Symposium at the Smithsonian Institution” which has contributions (not just about Israel, however) by such noted scholars as Donald B. Redford (PSU/UToronto), William G. Dever (Arizona), P. Kyle McCarter, John J. Collins (Yale), and Jack Meinhardt.

    Other notable scholars whose various works often touch on these issues include Jeff Tigay (UPenn) and W. Albright (Johns Hopkins).

    Moreover, these topics (or related ones) are discussed in virtually all scholarly introductions to the Hebrew Bible. See, for instance, Michael Coogan’s (Stonehill) introduction “The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures” or John Collins (Yale) “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” You can also read the relevant articles concerning the divine council, monotheism, or the gods/sons of God in the Hebrew Bible (by such scholars, for instance, as Baruch Halpern [PSU] or Simon Parker [Boston]) in such other scholarly reference works as “The Oxford Companion to the Bible” (edited by Bruce Metzger [Princeton] and Michael Coogan [Stonehill]), the “Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible” (edited by Karel van der Toorn , Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem Van Der Horst), and the “Anchor Bible Dictionary” (edited by David Noel Freedman). You might want to consult the article on ancient Israelite literature in “From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature” (edited by Carl S. Ehrlich). Moreover, this book also provides some other great introductions to the literatures of other ancient Near Eastern cultures by several well known scholars in these fields.

    Simply, there are so many scholarly books, commentaries, conference papers, and articles which discuss the divine council (and related subjects) that it is impossible to list them all. As far as I can tell the only persons who seem to question whether scholars really believe YHWH had a pantheon are those who are almost entirely unacquainted with the literature. I recommend you start with some of these scholarly works and articles and then branch out into the voluminous scholarly literature which they each cite and interact with.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • Bill Pratt

    Yellow Dart,
    I’m starting to get up to speed on the concept of the Divine Council. If, by Divine Council, you are referring to powerful spiritual beings who communicated and interacted with Yahweh in the Old Testament, I completely agree with the concept of the Divine Council. We usually refer to them as angels or demons, and they do, indeed, have great power. However, there is a big difference between the “gods” of the Divine Council and Yahweh. Yahweh is the only “god” that has always existed. Yahweh created all the other “gods”. The other “gods” are not almighty and self-existent, whereas Yahweh is.

    When you use the term “God” with most Christians, Jews, and Muslims, they are not thinking in terms of angels and demons. They are not thinking in terms of spiritual beings that Yahweh created. They are thinking of God, the creator and sustainer of everything. It would be helpful if you would clear this up as soon as you start discussions on the Divine Council (it would have saved me a lot of confusion). As I read Michael Heiser, that seems to be what he is arguing for, that these “gods” are simply angels or demons, spirit creatures created by Yahweh. Do you agree with Heiser or do you believe that the “gods” referred to many times in the Old Testament are actually almighty, eternal, self-existent beings such as Yahweh?

  • http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/about The Yellow Dart

    Bill,

    I am glad to hear that you are reading about the divine council in ancient Israel. And you have some terrific questions! However, to save time and space, I simply refer you to my post on the divine council that I have mentioned and linked to previously; it addresses many of these issues and questions. Nevertheless, I will again note (because it cannot be emphasized enough) that the Israelite texts must be read on their own terms within their social and historical context and setting. All efforts must be expended to understand these texts without utilizing categories of thought that are historically anachronistic or demonstrably foreign to the biblical texts. If you want to continue reading about the divine council in ancient Israel and related issues (such as the development of Israelite monotheism, the separation of YHWH and El in ancient Israel, or the relationship of Yahweh to the goddess Asherah in ancient Israel, etc.), I will simply refer you to the literature I cited just above. Good luck in your research should you choose to pursue it further. At the very least (and apparently unlike Darrell), I hope that you will take the time to also read in full Bokovoy’s side of the dialogue with Michael Heiser (even though he doesn’t get to reply to Heiser’s critiques) in the FARMS review. Nevertheless, I hope that you chose to read even more of the scholarly literature I recommended.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    YD,

    Thank you for shortening your post. It makes it much easier to digest and respond in the limited time I have.

    I would recommend being careful in relying so heavily on what biblical scholars assert to make your argument. It can be a double edged sword that can easily be turned against you. Afterall, many scholars are agnostic or atheist. For example, one of the scholars you cite in your list to Brad, William Dever, is well known for his lack of belief in God. He recently asserted…

    “I am not reading the Bible as Scripture… I am in fact not even a theist. My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed ‘stories’…”

    and

    “Archaeology as it is practiced today must be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories. Some things described there really did happen, but others did not. The Biblical narratives about Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the ‘larger than life’ portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence.”

    Do you want to use that to bolster your worldview as a mormon?

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe scholarly research can be beneficial to finding the truth. I would just be careful in using the sword of scholarship as it can cut both ways.

    As for my take on the divine council, I agree with what Bill said. The divine council is not a council of self-existent beings. As Heiser points out in his essay, these heavenly host are beings that were created by Yahweh. They are not self existent gods and are not of the same nature as Yahweh. They are beings that were created to bring glory to Him. The bible narrative makes it very clear that Yahweh is distinct from these heavenly host and that Yahweh, the only uncreated, self existent, eternal being is worshiped by these heavenly hosts. The one and only true God, Yahweh, being worhshiped by His creation bolsters my viewpoint and supports the Isaiah text cited in my post. I simply do not see how this creates an issue.

    You said:

    “I have refuted your interpretation (and the interpretation of some Mormons) on historical grounds. You simply have not interacted with any of my arguments. Furthermore, I have indeed addressed the fact that Mormon leaders have taught and continue to teach this doctrine–I have said as much several times!”

    What is interesting is that you may not see how you are creating a problem for yourself as a Mormon. You are actually asserting that the “Prophets” of your church have contradicted each other on doctrine!! This means that the Primary Song “Follow the Prophet” which teaches children that the Prophet cannot lead them astray is false! To say that the church teaching that Christ is spiritually born of God the Father is false means that the church is teaching false doctrine today!! It is leading people astray! YD, are you actually admitting that some of the prophets have taught false doctrine?

    The quotes I cited earlier are ample evidence that the Church does teach as a dominant doctrine that Jesus Christ was spiritually born of God the Father. Teaching that Jesus Christ was spiritually born to another God, Elohim, is a violation of the numerous verses throughout the Bible which teach that there is “no God before Yahweh, no God after Yahweh and no God besides Yahweh”.

    You said:

    “Finally, I want to conclude by restating an argument I made previously concerning the use of the divine name Jehovah (YHWH) in Mormonism, but which I do not feel you have since addressed.”

    I did address this in an earlier comment. I pointed out that even if I concede your point Mormonism still has problems to deal with on this issue. I will restate what I said earlier:

    “Nevertheless, one can concede, simply for purposes of discussion, that Jehovah is a name for Heavenly Father within Mormonism and MANY problems still remain with Isaiah 43:10 -11.

    1) There is still a God after the Father in Mormonism (Jesus Christ)
    2) There is still a God prior to God the Father – He was once a man who had a God and He progressed to Godhood by obedience to His God’s teachings
    3) Heavenly Father is not our Savior… his spirit born son, Jesus Christ – another God – is.
    4) There is still the teaching that man can become a god… even MORE Gods after Yahweh.”

    Have a good night!!

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Darrell, a lot of what you said in the comment above only applies if you hold an inerrancy view of scripture and prophets.

    Which I do not hold. Nor do I think that inerrancy is a correct paradigm to draw from Mormon doctrine.

    Just telling me that LDS prophets have disagreed with each other on doctrinal matters doesn’t impress me overly much.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Seth,

    If you can’t trust what a prophet says, I have a couple of questions:

    1) Why teach the Primary Song “Follow The Prophet” to children? Afterall, if you can’t trust them the song is nothing but a lie.

    2) Why even have Prophets in the first place… if they can lead the church astray what good are they?

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    I suppose by that same logic Darrell, when I tell my kids to “do what your mother tells you,” it’s nothing more than a shameful lie as well, right?

    Just because a prophet isn’t perfect doesn’t mean he isn’t quite useful just the same.

    100% guarantees are for sissies. ;)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Darrell,

    1) I don’t think that you have directly answered my question. I asked (after providing several substantial critiques), “Finally, I want to conclude by restating an argument I made previously concerning the use of the divine name Jehovah (YHWH) in Mormonism, but which I do not feel you have since addressed. I want to know if your position has modified at all from that asserted in the original post in light of further discussion.”

    You replied that you answered when you said: “Nevertheless, one can concede, simply for purposes of discussion, that Jehovah is a name for Heavenly Father within Mormonism…”

    “[O]ne” can concede? “[S]imply for purposes of discussion”? But have you specifically conceded this point in actuality? Your answer appears to be very vague. Moreover, I already responded to your list, so I will just refer readers back to my comment 6.

    2) Darrell, I have read Dever’s material. I know his ideological views. I also know the religious backgrounds of many of the other scholars I listed, many of whom come from Judeo-Christian traditions. I am also well aware of what scholars think are problems concerning the narratives of the Hebrew Bible. I, in fact, do think that there are significant problems with a number of the biblical stories–but that is a discussion for another time. Simply, I don’t hold inerrantist views of scripture. This fact, then, also relates to a number of other of your claims and questions, since I in fact have no problem admitting that different Mormon leaders have taught different doctrines about certain issues at different times. This situation is simply no different than the situation that is apparent among the biblical authors in the biblical texts. Jews and Christians (from many diverse traditions) have recognized this situation and been able to deal with it for a long time. Maybe it would be worth your time to read what they have written on the subject since this issue seems somewhat off topic for the post and also because I just don’t have time to relate to you my own personal theory of inspiration or methodology for determining what is truly “from God.” I will let you pursue research on that subject on your own time.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • Brad

    YD, by my count, you have cited 27 different authors or editors of books that you say speaks to the issue. However, this is FAR from a consensus, despite what you’ve heard. I know you say there are more you can list, however there are more that I or Darrell or Billy could list as well, that would speak to things opposite of what you do. I can use the word “consensus” as well, but unless I can show that what I’m saying truly represents the “consensus” view (i.e. at least more than half of all views), then I really DON’T have a consensus.

    Can you show that? If not, you may want to stop throwing around the term “consensus” so liberally.

    I don’t know much about you, so I don’t know your particular leanings, what you use/don’t use from Mormon teachings, where you get your views, etc… But I can say that often people try to outhink themselves, and in doing so falsely convince themselves that what they believe is true, when in fact the opposite, simpler truth is right in front of them. Just be careful of that.

  • Brad

    I suppose by that same logic Darrell, when I tell my kids to “do what your mother tells you,” it’s nothing more than a shameful lie as well, right?

    Depends – can your wife be trusted, and is what she’s doing or telling your kids to do in accordance with the Bible? I don’t know your wife, so I can’t answer that. Further, I doubt you or your wife have held yourselves to be prophets of God, so different criteria applies to what you do.

    Just because a prophet isn’t perfect doesn’t mean he isn’t quite useful just the same.

    100% guarantees are for sissies.

    Nobody’s saying a prophet has to be perfect in everything – the Bible doesn’t even hold prophets to that standard. However, the Biblical standard is that when a prophet speaks for God, he better get it right. So if 2 different prophets say 2 different things about a common topic, only one of 2 possibilities exists.

    Either God has changed His mind on the matter, or one of the prophets was wrong.

    What else is there?

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    “100% guarantees are for sissies”

    Seth,

    I don’t think that LDS who believe what the prophet says and what the church teaches are true are sissies. I just think they are following the LDS teaching that “a prophet speaks for God” and “the LDS Church is the restoration of the true church on the face of the earth.” The church claims that the restoration was to clear up all of the misunderstandings and different/incorrect doctrines that exist among the different denomonations. Joseph Smith himself said that there was such great confusion among all the denominations that he did not know which one to join… “So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. . . . In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” He claims that Jesus told him not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong.” The church goes on to further claim the prophets words are as good as scripture…

    1. Brigham Young said “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” JOD Vol 13 Page 95
    2. Joseph Smith stated: “God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.363).
    3. F.D. Richards confirms this: “the prophet and Apostle Brigham has declared it [the Adam-God doctrine], and that is the word of the Lord” (Millenial Star, August 26, 1854, vol.16, p.534).
    4. “if the President makes a statement it is not our prerogative to dispute it” (Minutes of the School of Prophets, Provo, UT, 1868-1871, p.38-39).
    5. Official LDS teaching documents state: “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy” (Ward teachers message, June 1945).
    6. A letter from the First Presidency (Presidents Benson, Hinckley, and Monson) to all members of the Church states: “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts [in the Bible], but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations [through them]”. (Church News, June 20, 1992, page 3, letter dated May 22, 1992).
    7. Joseph Fielding Smith declared that at every General Conference of the church, the speakers are giving forth scripture that is equal to anything in the Bible or Book of Mormon.
    8. President Harold B. Lee, referring to President David O. McKay, said: “We believe in a living prophet, seer, and revelator, and I bear you my solemn witness that we have a living prophet, seer, and revelator. We are not dependent only upon the revelations given in the past as contained in our standard works—as wonderful as they are—but … we have a mouthpiece to whom God does and is revealing his mind and will. God will never permit him to lead us astray. As has been said, God would remove us out of our place if we should attempt to do it. You have no concern. Let the management and government of God, then, be with the Lord. Do not try to find fault with the management and affairs that pertain to him alone and by revelation through his prophet—his living prophet, his seer, and his revelator” (The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator [address delivered to seminary and institute faculty, Brigham Young University, 8 July 1968], p. 13).
    9. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, p. 99; or Ensign, July 1972, p. 88).

    Add to this fact that LDS teach their children to “follow the prophet, he knows the way” and I don’t think it is unreasonable for LDS to believe that church doctrine is true. Obviously if it has changed, at some point the doctrine has been false… so what good is the prophet if he can mislead? What good is the true church if it teaches false doctrine? If it teaches false doctrine then logic tells us that it must then itself be “false”.

    Darrell

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Brad,

    Have you read any of the authors or texts I have cited? Have you even heard of most of them? If you have, then you would know just how impossible it would be to list all the relevant references and sources. All I can tell you is that in academic scholarship, it is the consensus that YHWH had a divine council whose members were gods. (And the bible says as much.) All of my experience talking with such scholars and doing research on the subject has lead to this conclusion. The numerous references I cited above say as much as well. I am just simply unaware of a serious or significant contingent of scholars publishing articles in academic journals, books at scholarly presses, and presenting articles at scholarly conferences who argue to the contrary. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, the Oxford Companion to the Bible, the DDD (Dictionary of Demons and Deities), and the introductions to the Hebrew Bible by extremely well known scholars Michael Coogan and John Collins, all reflect the current state of scholarship concerning these positions. Many of the other works are just well known scholarly monographs which I have provided for additional study for those who are interested. Maybe you should read at least some of the scholarly material I have referenced to above before making a stand, since you seem entirely unacquainted with the scholarship in this field. What academic scholars are publishing to the contrary, and in what scholarly venues? Where are they teaching? What are their credentials? Are they interacting with other biblical scholars are the issues?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Brad, there are repeated instances in the Bible of a prophet speaking something – in the name of the Lord, no less – and it doesn’t happen. I don’t think the line is half as bright as you think it is.

    Darrell, you really haven’t addressed my statement that a prophet can be very, very useful indeed – even if he wasn’t 100% correct – even in doctrinal matters.

    Heck, I’d consider even an 80% track record pretty darn fabulous. Not that I’m trying to assert actual percentages here, of course.

  • Bill Pratt

    Yellow Dart,
    I implore you to be more clear when you use the word “god.” Again, in your response to Brad you said “it is the consensus that YHWH had a divine council whose members were gods.” And, yes, I think that most Christians would agree that the Old Testament speaks of a heavenly host, spiritual beings who interact with God. And, yes, there are several passages that talk about this. But the real debate is not whether there are “gods,” but what these “gods” are. Almost every Christian believes in angels and demons, which are powerful spiritual beings who interact with Yahweh. If that is what the Divine Council is, then it is an interesting, but relatively benign topic.

    I haven’t had a chance to read your post on this subject, but I will. In the mean time, I think you are arguing in circles with Christians when you don’t carefully explain what you mean by “gods.” I think time there would be better spent.

    Thanks,
    BP

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Seth,

    I don’t think a prophet is really of any use if he is teaching false doctrine. If what YD asserts is true (Christ was not spiritually born of God the Father) than the prophet is definately teaching false doctrine.

    Darrell

  • Brad

    Have you read any of the authors or texts I have cited? Have you even heard of most of them? If you have, then you would know just how impossible it would be to list all the relevant references and sources.

    I’ve already said this. I also said that I, Billy or Darrell could, I’m sure, also cite sources that would potentially disagree with what your sources say. You’ve again missed the point I was making, which is that of you using the term “consensus” much too freely. You’ve set up a fact that you can’t substantiate, yet you continually refer to it as “consensus.” I think I may start referring to all my positions as the “consensus”, and expect others to believe it, just b/c I and a listing of 27 other authors agree on it, even if others don’t.

    All I can tell you is that in academic scholarship, it is the consensus that YHWH had a divine council whose members were gods. (And the bible says as much.)

    As Billy says a post or so down, you really have to be clear with what you mean by “gods.” If, as Billy says, you’re referring to a heavenly host (that we might refer to as angels, though I would never put them on par with God authoritatively, and hope you wouldn’t either), or to demons, that’s one thing, but certainly wouldn’t call them gods. You haven’t defined your terms really well. Or maybe you think you have, and it’s just buried in one of the novels you have posted above. Either way, to continue to call it a “consensus” position, especially in light of lack of definition, is absurd.

    Again, you are thinking too hard, YD. You’re convincing yourself right out of the issues, and you’re trying to throw so MUCH info our way that it blinds us. It’s almost like attorneys sending a paper blitz during discovery to the defense, to try to give them so much that they can’t see straight. A typical FARMS/FAIR approach. You’d be much better off – and given a bit more creedence – if you were more succinct in your approach.

  • Brad

    Brad, there are repeated instances in the Bible of a prophet speaking something – in the name of the Lord, no less – and it doesn’t happen. I don’t think the line is half as bright as you think it is.

    Seth, why don’t you give us some examples of what you are referring to, and we can discuss, instead of just empty statements.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Bill,

    I just refer you (and Brad) to the post that I have mentioned already. Here is the link again:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-divine-council/

    Another possibly relevant link is here:

    http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/the-divine-council-in-genesis-126-27/

    Additionally, I think that my comments in this post might be relevant for your comments/questions:

    http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/evangelical-scholar-larry-hurtado-on-monotheism/

    Also, I especially recommend you go to your library and read at least the basic reference articles (as opposed to the monographs) I mentioned in my prior comment. This would include the articles on “Monotheism” and “the sons of God” in the Dictionary of Deities and Demons, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, and Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. The articles are certainly manageable in length and worth the effort. Again, I will just note for now that the Israelite texts must be read on their own terms within their social and historical context and setting. All efforts must be expended to understand these texts without utilizing categories of thought that are historically anachronistic or demonstrably foreign to the biblical texts. Good luck in your research.

    Darrell,

    I would still like a clear answer to the first question I posed in comment 23 please.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Brad,

    I have provided numerous links and references for my position(s) (remember: you asked me to point you towards such scholarship in comment 15). I don’t know what more to tell you. If you don’t want to read through the literature, then that’s your choice. You clearly aren’t aware of academic biblical scholarship on the subject, so I don’t think this conversation can be any more productive. And although I won’t repeat here the comments and questions I put forth in comment 27, I think that comment is still very applicable to what you have said again in your comment 31 (in fact, I wouldn’t mind at all looking at your list of scholars [and their academic affiliations and credentials] and their articles and books [and their publishers]).

    Moreover, you apparently aren’t interested in what I have said on the subject of the divine council either (“buried in one of the novels you have posted above”), so I don’t know why you are even trying to engage me concerning it. I have provided links (several times!) to my own posts that discuss such issues. You (and Bill) are welcome to read them if you want. I just linked to some of them again in comment 33 for convenience.

    Simply, you don’t appear to want to read what I have said on the subject; you don’t appear to be aware of academic biblical scholarship at all; and you criticize my comments as being nothing but a “paper blitz” when I provide a substantial amount of relevant information, arguments, and references (some of which are often directly asked for by others!). You say that “[I]’d be much better off – and given a bit more creedence – if [I] were more succinct in [my] approach.” Forgive me for trying to adequately tackle the numerous complex of issues that are relevant to this post–it was my mistake.

    This is my last comment directed at you on these issues. Think whatever you want.

    TYD

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    YD,

    I don’t believe Bill, Brad or myself have any issues with the existence of a divine council. Despite what you claim, I have read a lot surrounding this issue… from all sides of the issue. In fact, while I was LDS, I spent about 6 months in e-mail conversation with a scholar from FARMS about the divine council. The issue I have with your approach to this specifically surrounds the nature of the heavenly host… which you use the word “Gods” to reference. The nature of these beings is precisely were the disagreement among scholars comes in. I believe I understand your’s (as well as FARMS) agenda with the divine council. If these beings are TRULY Gods of the SAME NATURE as Yahweh, it would help the mormon argument on theosis and could possibly even be used to bolster the idea of a pre-existence of human beings (mormon doctrine as well). However, I simply do not agree that these beings are Gods of the same nature as Yahweh. I do not believe this idea is supported AT ALL by the biblical text. In addition, I do not believe that there are very many scholars who agree with your’s or FARMS’ position… if so, we would likely see mass conversion to the LDS Faith… and we all know that is not true… what with about 100,000 people leaving the church each year.

    As to your request that I “directly” answer your question about the name Yahweh being used for God the Father and Jesus Christ within Mormonism. No, I am not fully convinced that Yahweh can properly be used to address the Father and Son. You cited a couple of incidents were this has apparently happened in the past. However, as I have already mentioned, the Temple Cermony carries a lot of weight in Mormonism. Receiving one’s endowment is pretty much the pinnacle of your spiritual journey in Mormonism. I tend to rely on the teaching in the temple as being more authortative than a prayer given by JS 160+ years ago. Afterall, the “current prophet trumps a dead prophet”… at least according to the church. Otherwise the LDS Church might still teach the Adam God Theory or Blood Atonement! :-) Seriously, if Monson came out and said that Yahweh can be used to address the Father or the Son than I would fully buy into what you are saying. Until then I will stick with what the Temple teaches.

    Darrell

  • Brad

    YD, you can choose not to converse, as is your right. You still don’t get it, what I’m telling you about consensus, and you still haven’t addressed mine, Billy’s or Darrell’s comments surrounding exactly WHAT you think the divince council is. Angels is one thing – other “gods” is quite another.

    You are free to sit back and think you’ve done what you can, from a scholarly point of view. You’re still going round in circles, constantly referring people to other writings, constantly writing more, always saying we don’t really study it. Whatever, YD – doesn’t really matter.

    I would ask you to consider what I said at the end of #24 and #31, however. Don’t try to outhink God.

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    “if so, we would likely see mass conversion to the LDS Faith… and we all know that is not true… what with about 100,000 people leaving the church each year.”

    Irrelevant and unnecessary Darrell. It also opens you up to retaliatory remarks about how many Protestants are leaving the faith as well. It came out just last year that the Southern Baptist Convention was hyperinflating their membership reporting. Most mega churches are doing the same thing. Not to speak of the long slow decline in membership in more traditional Protestant denominations.

    But I see no use in getting in spitting matches over irrelevant trifles like this.

    In any case, the first part of your statement is false to begin with. Even if what you say were to occur, we would not see a “mass exodus.” Less hyperbole please.

  • Bill Pratt

    Yellow Dart,
    I’ve read all the links you’ve sent me to, and I think I understand what was written. However, I want to put you on the spot before I sign off for a week. I would like for you to answer the following questions without referring to other scholars, links, books, etc. I just want you to answer. I know that as an academic that is difficult :), but please try, because I really want to know what you believe.

    1. Are there any instances in the Hebrew Bible where the “sons of god” create life?
    2. Are there any instances in the Hebrew Bible where the “sons of god” are said to exist from all eternity, or be self-existent?
    3. Are there any instances in the Hebrew Bible where the “sons of god” are called almighty or most powerful?
    4. Are there any instances in the Hebrew Bible where the “sons of god” are said to control all of heaven and earth?
    5. Are there any instances in the Hebrew Bible where the “sons of god” are said to be perfect in any of their attributes?

    I’m sure I could think of more, but these will do for now. Talk to you later!
    BP

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ The Yellow Dart

    Bill,

    You said: “I would like for you to answer the following questions without referring to other scholars, links, books, etc. I just want you to answer. I know that as an academic that is difficult :) , but please try, because I really want to know what you believe.”

    I make no such promise! :) (Also, when I quote a scholar I think it is usually easy from context to determine whether or not I am agreeing or disagreeing with them.) Nevertheless, I will attempt to answer your questions directly as best as I understand them, as well as to bring up other information or quotes which I think are important or relevant.

    Concerning numbers 1 and 2: I think that it is significant and relevant that the sons of God are present at and assist in the creation of the earth in the P account of creation (Gen. 1.1-2.4a; see specifically verses 26-27), which account includes the creation of animal and human life. In fact, humans are actually said in be created in the image of God and these gods/sons of God, as is evidenced by the plural markers. As I mentioned before, the frequently encountered interpretation that in this passage God is merely using a “royal we” is eminently unlikely on account of the fact that such usage is unattested with verbs elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible; moreover, the plural style here fits perfectly with other explicit references to the divine council in session, such as Isaiah 6, Job 1-2, and 1 Kings 22.19-23, as well as other biblical passages that note the primordial existence of the sons of God, such as Job 38.4-7. Finally, it should be noted that this reference to the divine council here during the creation narrative of Genesis 1.1-2.4a (as well as in Job 38.4-7) shows that the existence of these gods/sons of God who comprise YHWH’s council, like that of the God of Israel himself, precedes the first act of the creation of the cosmos on the first day (for my series of posts on this creation narrative, visit my blog ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com). I quote (in agreement) Harvard’s Jon Levenson (an Orthodox Jew for those who are interested in that kind of information) at length:

    ““It is true—and quite significant–that the God of Israel has no myth of origin. Not a trace of theogony can be found in the Hebrew bible. God has no nativity. But there do seem to be other divine beings in Genesis 1, to whom God proposes the creation of humanity, male and female together: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (v. 26). When were these other divine beings created? They too seem to have been primordial. Whether their existence should be interpreted as a qualification upon God’s mastery in Genesis is impossible to determine. Because they do not dissent from his proposal to create humanity in his and their image, we cannot say whether God’s authority, like Marduk’s, involved some element of collegiality. From other biblical accounts of the divine assembly in session, it would appear that these “sons of God/gods” played an active roles and made fresh proposals to God, who nonetheless retained the final say.”

    Concerning number 3: Those specific appellations do not occur as far as I am aware; but I never made the claim that they were seen by the biblical writers as more mighty or powerful than YHWH. In fact, I think that I have made it abundantly clear that they are subordinate to YHWH (Darrell’s constant [deliberate? purposely deceptive?] modifications of my term “gods” to “Gods” notwithstanding) (However, they are termed the “sons of the Most High [God]” in Psalm 82.) As I stated in my earlier post, “The members of the divine council–the “sons of god” or “gods” as they are termed–served various [important] functions. Yahweh’s heavenly council was frequently depicted in terms analogous to that of the royal court of an earthly king or monarch. Thus, just as a king presides over a body of counselors and administrators with whom he counsels and to whom he issues decrees, so too Yahweh was surrounded by an assemblage of heavenly beings with whom he counseled and to whom he issued decrees. For this reason the God of Israel is designated as ‘el elyon “the Most High God” (Gen.14.18-19; Ps. 78.35; cf. Ps. 82.6), because there are other, lower gods who serve him and praise him in his heavenly divine council. These gods obey Yahweh’s decrees and pay deference to Yahweh because he is the supreme God [and King] of the pantheon–but they too are still gods nonetheless. Like many ancient Near Eastern texts which exult a particular earthly king as supreme over all the kings or rulers of other nations, so Yahweh is suprem[ly powerful] in relation to the other gods of his council and those of other nations. The relevant issue in these texts is not one of “ontology” or species, of course, but one of power, might, and glory.”

    Concerning number 4: Again, no; nor did I ever make the claim that the gods/sons of God were seen by the biblical writers as controlling all of the heavens and the earth. In fact, I said that, as Deut. 32.8-9 specifically states, they did inherit and rule over nations just as YHWH ruled over Israel. I think this is noteworthy.

    Concerning number 5: Again, no. However, it is significant that these deities are very strongly likened to the God of Israel in such passages as Gen. 1.26-27 (which implies they are primordial like YHWH and which states that these gods have the same “image” [tselem] as YHWH) or Genesis 3.22 (which notes that they have divine knowledge and immortality just like YHWH). Moreover, the biblical authors predominately worshiped YHWH (as Israel was YHWH’s allotment), so I don’t know why anyone would really expect Psalms or praises for the sons of God/gods that utilize such language.

    Having said all of this, I think it is also worth pointing out that biblical scholars see development or evolution (sometimes in quite clear stages) in the religion of ancient Israel over time (though there are many debates on the exact processes and when certain developments took place). I agree that Israelite religion developed over time as well. This is important for our topic, because I also don’t think that all of the biblical passages concerning YHWH and the divine council are entirely consistent.

    Finally I want to add a link to a comment/e-mail discussion that Blake Ostler had with Mike Heiser (posted on another blog) regarding many of these issues. It is worth the read! It can be found here:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/03/can-humans-be-deified/345/#comment-65751

    I hope you take the time to look it over as it speaks to many of these issues. And I will note that Blake interacts substantially with Mike in his most recent (third) volume of “Exploring Mormon Thought.”

    I hope I have answered your questions (or at the very least their intent) Bill.

    Darrell,

    You said: “The issue I have with your approach to this specifically surrounds the nature of the heavenly host… which you use the word “Gods” to reference.”

    I never used the term”Gods” to describe the gods/sons of God. See my comments to Bill above.

    You further said: “I believe I understand your’s (as well as FARMS) agenda with the divine council […] In addition, I do not believe that there are very many scholars who agree with your’s or FARMS’ position… if so, we would likely see mass conversion to the LDS Faith… and we all know that is not true… what with about 100,000 people leaving the church each year.”

    I am happy to know that you think you know my “agenda.” But, yet again, you assume a lot Darrell, and your logic in the above statement (as Seth noted just above) simply doesn’t follow. For instance, if Daniel Peterson’s or David Bokovoy’s articles can be taken as representative of what the majority of Mormon scholars think, then your statement that “I do not believe that there are very many scholars who agree with…FARMS’ position” is patently false, since Peterson and Bokovoy (whose articles are both found on the FARMS website) utilize many important arguments and conclusions of the scholarly consensus I have discussed above. Moreover, David Bokovoy’s statement that “Latter-day Saint scholars acknowledge that an LDS understanding of the council does not precisely mirror the perspectives manifested in the Bible” is important as well. (And how could its “understanding” “precisely mirror the persepectives manifested” in “the Bible” since [as I and most critical scholars would argue] the biblical texts themselves have discrepancies, contradictions, and inconsistencies [just as the very word “perspectives” [plural!] which Bokovoy uses denotes]?)

    Again you said:

    “However, I simply do not agree that these beings are Gods of the same nature as Yahweh.”

    I never called them “Gods.” Again, you seem to have deliberately changed my original spelling.

    Finally you said:

    “No, I am not fully convinced that Yahweh can properly be used to address the Father and Son. You cited a couple of incidents were this has apparently happened in the past…I tend to rely on the teaching in the temple as being more authortative than a prayer given by JS 160+ years ago. ”

    Actually, what I cited was Mormon canonized scripture. Furthermore, Joseph Smith (who offered the prayer “160+ years ago”) is also the same person who established “the teaching in the temple.” Nevertheless, it is still worth noting again that before the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jehovah was frequently used by Mormons in reference to the Father.

    Guys, this has been a fun and interesting discussion. I appreciate your interaction. But I think that I am taking too much time away from my school work and other responsibilities. Thus, this will be my last comment. Maybe when I am not so busy we can continue the discussion in the future.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Bill, I think you’re forgetting where the burden of the debate lies.

    YD has not cited all this stuff in order to prove the particulars of the Mormon view of human nature from the Bible.

    He has only cited it to demonstrate that the Mormon view is not INCONSISTENT with the Bible. Which it is not.

    That’s a much different proposition that PROVING Mormon theology from the Bible.

    Neither I nor YD, nor most online Mormons give a flying fig about PROVING Mormon theology from the Bible.

    All we care about is showing that the Bible does not contradict our claims.

  • http://www.jamesrountree.com James Rountree

    First, I want to thank Darrell for his posting and everyone for taking their time to participate in this discussion.

    Second, I would like to focus the long winding road back to the key questions, “Who is God?” and “Who is Jesus?”.

    I humbly submit for your consideration the following two verses:

    Revelation 1:8
    “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,

    Revelation 22:13
    “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

    One is a statement from God and the second is a statement from Jesus.
    Help me understand how Jesus can be a spirit child of God given these two versus in the book of Revelation?

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    YD,

    It has been fun!! I appreciate your willingness to share your perspective and to discuss this in a civil manner. While I do not agree with several of your opinions or conclusions I respect you for being so well educated on this matter… especially for a college student (assuming you are in your early to mid 20’s??). When I was your age I could care less about things of this nature!! :-)

    Suffice it to say that the crux of our disagreement really boils down to the nature of the bene elohim. Bill, Brad as well as myself simply do not agree that these beings are Gods/gods (big “G” or little “g” notwithstanding). I believe that the Biblical Text shows us that these beings are not of the same nature as Yahweh. They are created beings who are very powerful but they are not true Gods/gods. They worship Yahweh and are dependent upon Him. Yahweh, on the other hand, is uncreated and self sustaining. He is the “one true God and there are no other Gods but Him”.

    I understand the FARMS/Mormon scholar position on this fairly well and simply do not agree that the Biblical Text lends any credence to the Mormon position.

    For those who are reading this who may not be aware of what Mormon Theology teaches about the divine council…

    Mormon theology teaches that all of us humans lived in the pre-mortal world (before coming to earth) as spirit children of our Heavenly Father (Elohim). We are children of our Heavenly Father and His wife/wives. The first born of the spirit children was Jesus Christ… our older brother. There was a great council in Heaven to decide how we could come to earth and receive bodies so that we could become like our Heavenly Father. We saw that He had a body and wanted to become like Him. During this great council our older brothers Jesus Christ and Lucifer had a disagreement. Jesus was willing to come to earth and do Elohim’s will. However, Lucifer wanted the glory for himself. A great war broke out among all of us and the end result was that Lucifer and 1/3 of the host of heaven (our spirit brothers and sisters who followed Lucifer) were cast out of Heaven. Consequently, they will never receive bodies and are the spirits/demons who plaque us today. You see, this divine council, in Mormon theology was actually US!!! We are the bene elohim in Mormon Theology!! That is why this is such an important subject to them. Convincing people that the Bene Elohim are REALLY gods and that WE ARE THE BENE ELOHIM will also give some support to their belief that WE CAN BECOME GODS JUST LIKE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER.

    Unfortunately, for Mormons the biblical text just does not allow for this. It violates numerous verses in the Bible which speak of there being only ONE GOD…. Yahweh!!!

    Have a good night!

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    I’m actually 34 years old this February. I run a solo bankruptcy practice in Colorado which I started fresh out of law school. Business is booming at the moment unfortunately or fortunately depending on how I look at it. In my early to mid 20s, I hadn’t discovered “Internet Mormonism.” I picked up on the “Bloggernacle” when I was in law school and got hooked.

    After reading “How Wide the Divide” and participating on a few interfaith blogs, I caught the apologetics bug. I may tire of it eventually and revert back to the bloggernacle (I’ve been a little less active there than in the past since I started playing at “defender-of-the-faith”). Since I run a solo practice my life is a flexible weird blend of bankruptcy advice, heated theological arguments, and snuggling with my 3 kids and wife (kids are 6, 4, and 2 years old – two girls and one boy). As it is, I don’t have much of a hobby life due to internet and theological stuff, so I guess you could say that internet debate is my hobby at present (though I’ve taken up swimming in the evenings and my wife wants us to try a triathlon this summer).

    Overall, life is good. But I won’t pretend I don’t overdo the internet stuff on more than one occasion.

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Oops, I misread the above comment. It was directed at YD, not me. And now I feel silly. But I don’t mind sharing the information with you guys anyway. I like my kids.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    That’s cool Seth. I appreciate the info and the interchanges with you as well. Make sure you snuggle tight with those kids!! I have 4 myself and when they come jump in bed with us at night I love it… even though it causes me to have a bad nights sleep!!

    Darrell

  • Pingback: Who Is This Jesus? « Tough Questions Answered()

  • RJF

    Jesus, the Son of God is the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is not Yahweh, as Yahweh is the Father, the first person of the Holy Trinity.

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