(156) Wed 30 Aug 95 7:53 By: LARRY SITES To: ALL Re: God of gods 1 St: @EID:3b47 1f1e3ea0

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(156) Wed 30 Aug 95 7:53 By: LARRY SITES To: ALL Re: God of gods 1 St: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ @EID:3b47 1f1e3ea0 Pages 2-4: summer 1991 YAHWEH, THE GOD OF GODS Farrell Till Many Bible fundamentalists believe that while the nations around them wallowed in the mire of polytheism the Hebrews practiced a strict monotheistic religion. Their insight into the nature of the one true God Yahweh had resulted, of course, from the personal relationships that Abraham and the other Hebrew patriarchs had experienced with Yahweh, who had routinely re- vealed himself to them in dreams, apparitions, and other manifestations. It makes good sermon material, but there's just one thing wrong with it. It isn't true. The early Hebrews believed in polytheism as much as the nations around them. They thought of Chemosh, Molech, Milcom, Baal, Dagon, and the other pagan gods as deities who were just as real as their own god Yahweh. They just thought that Yahweh was greater and mightier than the others, a sort of supergod or, in other words, the God of gods (Josh. 22:22). Monotheism or the belief that Yahweh was the only God was a late development in Jewish theology. The evidence for this is too clear to dispute. There is, first of all, the peculiar fact that the Hebrews, when not referring to him by his personal name Yahweh, generally used a plural word (elohim) to designate their god. Literally, it meant gods rather than god. In the original Hebrew, therefore, Genesis 1:1 is actually saying, "In the beginning gods created the heavens and the earth." It seems strange that a people with a clear concept of monotheism, as bibliolaters claim that the Hebrews had, would have used a plural word in referring to the one and only true god. It would be somewhat like an English writer using men to refer to a man. Bible writers did in fact often use the singular word el (god) in obvious reference to Yahweh. Genesis 21:23 states that "Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting El" (Bethel Translation). In Genesis 31:13, an "angel of God" (elohim) ap- peared to Jacob in a dream and said, "I am the El of Bethel...." Other instances when Yahweh Elohim was called El can be found in Genesis 35:1,3; 43:14; 46:3; 48:3; 49:25; Exodus 15:2; 20:5; 34:6 and numerous other places. It happened enough to indicate that Bible writers had some difficulty deciding whether to call their Yahweh elohim (gods) or el (god). To say the least, this does not indicate a clear grasp of monotheistic concepts. Bibliolaters will quickly protest that the Hebrews used the plural word elohim when referring to their god Yahweh only to show awe and respect. It was "the plural of dignity," they claim, a way of expressing the majesty and greatness of God. Some even think they see an early recognition of the triune godhead in the plural term elohim. In Genesis 1:26, Elohim said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," and after Adam and Eve had sinned, Yahweh Elohim said, "Behold the man is become as one of us" (Gen. 3:22). What could these statements be, bibliolaters ask, except the three persons in the one godhead talking? In this article, I won't get involved in discussing the absurdities of the trinity doctrine except to say that the Hebrew usage of elohim to designate their tribal god could very well have been a vestigial expression from their distinctly polytheistic days. One thing is sure: Old Testament writers often seemed confused about whether they intended the word elohim to mean their god Yahweh or gods in a definite plural sense. When Yahweh alone was meant, they usually referred to him as Elohim without the article ha (the), and if Elohim (Yahweh) was the subject of the sentence, a singular verb was used even though elohim was a plural noun. The creative god of Genesis 1, 1 for example, is called Elohim, without the article ha (the), some thirty times. In places like Exodus 12:12, however, where "the gods of Egypt" were referred to, the same word elohim was used but with the article ha, ha-elohim (the gods). In Genesis 35:7, English translations state that Jacob built an altar at Bethel "because there God was revealed to him," but the Hebrew text literally states that the gods (ha-elohim) were revealed (niglu). The addition of the u sound to a Hebrew verb made it plural much in the same way that the addition of an "s" to a verb in English makes it third-person singular, so in this case, the Bible was really saying that the gods were revealed to Jacob, not God was revealed to him. If space permitted, I could cite many examples like this where English translations have deceptively rendered ha- elohim as God and its plural verbs as singulars. Most English readers have not researched the Bible enough to be aware that these things have been done; hence, they naively believe that the Hebrews had a consistently mono- theistic concept of God all through their history when in reality monotheism was a late development in their theology. There are many passages in the Old Testament that indicate belief that the pagan deities were real gods. Jephthah said in his message to the king of the Ammonites during a dispute over territory the Israelites had taken on their way out of Egypt, "Will you not possess that which Chemosh your elohim gives you to possess? So whomever Yahweh our Elohim has dispossessed from before us, them will we possess" (Judges 11:24, BB). Since there were no capital letters in Hebrew to show the distinction the translators arbitrarily made in capitalizing elohim as it referred to Yahweh, it is obvious that Jepht- hah considered Chemosh of the Ammonites to be elohim in the same sense that Yahweh was the elohim of Israel. He was contending that Yahweh, his elo- him, had given the Israelites certain territories just as Chemosh, the elohim of the Ammonites, had given them certain lands and that the two nations should therefore be content with the arrangements of their respective gods. Furthermore, we have to wonder at this point if Jephthah intended elohim as a "plural of dignity" when he applied it to the singular deity Chemosh. If not, why not? If it expressed dignity and respect when applied to Yahweh, then why would it not mean the same when applied to another deity? So if there is any merit at all to the plural-of- dignity argument, we have in this passage a clear indication that Chemosh was considered a real god who de- served respect. Larry Sites JC's Fireman: Luke 12:49 Freq FORGERY.ZIP, Falisfy Fundi father fakery ___ * WR 1.31 # 398 * Women must be in the mood, men just in the room. --- FMailX/386 1.0g * Origin: The Open Forum SD CA (619)284-2924 (1:202/212) SEEN-BY: 102/2 138 435 752 835 837 890 943 1326 147/7 270/101 280/1 9 10 25 SEEN-BY: 280/31 45 115 135 333 378 396/1 3615/50 @PATH: 202/212 201 777 3615/50 396/1 280/1 102/2 752 943 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ (157) Wed 30 Aug 95 7:55 By: LARRY SITES To: ALL Re: God of gods 2 St: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ @EID:3a07 1f1e3ee0 That pagan gods should indeed be respected was often indicated in the Old Testament. Exodus 22:28 says, "Thou shalt not revile the gods (ha-elo- him), nor curse the ruler of thy people" (KJV). Despite the inclusion of the article ha, as shown in the parentheses, most translations have tried to hide the fact that gods in general were probably intended by rendering ha-elohim God (singular) with a capital "G" and no article. Deliberate deceptions of translation like this have kept English readers from seeing many things that would be damaging to traditional Judeo-Christian doctrines, in this case an apparent polytheistic concept in early Hebrew history. Leviticus 24:10-23 tells the story of the son of an Israelite-Egyptian marriage who had been heard blaspheming "the Name" during a fight. The man was put in ward until what should be done to him "might be declared to them at the mouth of Yahweh" (v:12). Upon inquiring, Moses was told by Yahweh to have the congregation stone the man to death. "And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying," Yahweh declared, "Whoever curses his Elohim shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemes the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death" (vv:15-16). The capitalization of elohim in this passage was a purely arbitrary interpretation of the Bethel translators, because there were no capital letters in Hebrew, so the word could just as well have been translated gods: "Whoever curses his gods shall bear his sin...." Is there any reason to believe that the plural concept of gods was intend- ed in the statement? There very definitely is. Two distinct offenses seem to 2 have been under consideration: (1) whoever curses his gods shall bear his sin, but (2) he that blasphemes the name of Yahweh shall surely be put to death. In other words, cursing one's gods was just considered a sinful offense, but cursing the name of Yahweh was an offense punishable by death. The text implies that the man who was charged in this case wasn't a Hebrew. Although his mother was an "Israelitish woman," his father was Egyptian. That he possibly believed in Egyptian gods was suggested in the last half of verse 16 when Yahweh said that "as well the sojourner, as the home- born,when he blasphemes the name of Yah-weh, (he) shall be put to death." This man may have been a sojourner (foreigner), but notice was being served by his execution that a more serious penalty would be extracted for blasphem- ing Yahweh than for cursing other gods. So whatever dubious value this fanciful little tale might have, it at least seems to be saying that the Hebrews thought pagan gods were real. If not, why would they have considered it sinful to curse gods that didn't even exist? Passages in the Old Testament that show an early Hebrew belief in polythe- ism are too numerous to examine in detail. I can cite only a few random ones. After the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, for example, they sang a hymn of praise to Yahweh in which they said, "Who is like unto you, O Yahweh, among the elohim (gods)?" (Ex. 15:11). So obviously was the word elohim intended in this verse to convey the concept of gods in general that even the biased Bethel translators have printed it with a lowercase "e," but unless the Hebrews who sang these words believed that other gods existed, it would have made no sense at all for them to ask who among the gods was like unto their god Yahweh. In Psalm 95:3, it was declared that "Yahweh is a great El (god) and a great King above all elohim (gods)." But how could this psalmist have believed Yahweh was greater than other gods unless he believed that other gods existed to compare Yahweh to? Psalm 86:8 de- clared, "There is none like you among the elohim, O Yahweh." However, if the psalmist thought that Yahweh was the only god, his words of praise were completely meaningless. It would be as if someone said of the Eiffel Tower, "There are no Eiffel Towers like unto the Eiffel Tower." To say, however, that there are no towers like unto the Eiffel Tower grants clear recognition that other towers exist, and so it was when the Hebrews said that there were no gods like their god Yahweh. They were clearly indicating their belief that other gods existed. Even as late as Solomon, belief in the reality of pagan gods still persist- ed. In declaring his plans to build a temple to Yahweh, Solomon said, "Great is our God above all gods" (2 Chron. 2:5). How could he have thought his god was greater than the other gods unless he believed other gods existed? Since in this case Solomon himself eventually resorted to idolatry (1 Kings 11:4-8), he very obviously believed pagan gods were real. In this respect, Solomon wasn't at all unusual. Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh was compared to other gods in ways that showed a belief in the realness of the others. He was called "God of gods and Lord of Lords, a great God" (Deut. 10:17), but how could he have been God of gods unless other gods existed? The same comparison was made in Joshua 22:22 and Psalm 136:2-3. To the Hebrews, Yahweh was simply "God of gods," the greatest and mightiest of many existing gods. To deny this is to make all the words of Yahwistic praise like those just quoted completely meaningless. Fundamentalists will of course point out that many Bible passages clearly teach that Yahweh was the one and only God. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon said to the people that "Yahweh is God, and there is none else" (1 Kings 8:60). (This was the same Solomon who shortly afterwards worshipped other gods, so we have to wonder just how strongly he believed what he said.) Moses also said that "Yahweh is God; there is no other be- side him" (Deut. 4:35). So no one will dispute that the Bible in many places says that there is only one God, but trying to disprove that polytheism was believed by some Bible characters and writers by just quoting passages that clearly teach monotheism is to miss the point entirely. The contention of The 3 Skeptical Review is that, contrary to what fundamentalists preach from their pulpits, the Bible is an inconsistent, contradictory book. The conflicting polytheistic-monotheistic views of its writers is just one example of its incon- sistency and contradiction, so bibliolaters can't satisfactorily explain the problem by simply referring to the passages that appear to teach monotheism. Pitting scripture against scripture in this way only confirms the premise on which this publication was founded: there are obvious contradictions in the Bible. To satisfactorily resolve this matter, they will have to show that the passages I have presented and explicated in this article don't really teach polytheistic concepts. I don't think they can do that. In Exodus 12:12, Yahweh said that on the night of the Passover he would execute judgment "against all the gods of Egypt." But how can judgment be executed against something that doesn't even exist? This is what bibliolaters must explain, because whoever wrote Exodus 12:12 clearly believed that the gods of Egypt were real gods. ******************************** FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to The Skeptical Review can be obtained by writing to P. O. Box 717, Canton, IL 61520-0717. Larry Sites JC's Fireman: Luke 12:49 Freq FORGERY.ZIP, Falisfy Fundi father fakery ___ * WR 1.31 # 398 * ػؼTAGLINEؼFROMػHELLؼػؼ --- FMailX/386 1.0g * Origin: The Open Forum SD CA (619)284-2924 (1:202/212) SEEN-BY: 102/2 138 435 752 835 837 890 943 1326 147/7 270/101 280/1 9 10 25 SEEN-BY: 280/31 45 115 135 333 378 396/1 3615/50 @PATH: 202/212 201 777 3615/50 396/1 280/1 102/2 752 943 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ (158) Wed 30 Aug 95 8:30 By: LARRY SITES To: ALL Re: Real gods justice St: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ @EID:01d6 1f1e43c0 Fundis defend the Hebrews slaughter of the Canaanites as a judgement of god. Yet Babble evidence indicates that if a god was in fact involved, he was using the booty as a bribe for allegiance to him: Deu 6:10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, Deu 6:11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Deu 6:12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Deu 6:13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. In any case, for a god to be involved, he would have to exist. In researching Hebrew ideas about their god of gods, I came accross this from _The Sheptical Review_ Pages 7-11: winter 1993. SUFFER, LITTLE CHILDREN by Farrell Till It nicely illistrates the non evidence for a god's "judgement" of the Canaanites: "When it became clear that they [the Canaanites] were past redemption," Lavender said in another of his points, "their destruction occurred." Fur- thermore, he said in still another point, "The justice of God demands punish- ment for sin." So we wonder if this is why God was constantly sending the Israelites into bondage after they displaced the Canaanites (Judges 3:7-8; 4:1-3; 6:1-6; 10:7-8; 13:1). Was God, in keeping with his perfect justice, just punishing them for their sins? If so, did he ultimately destroy the national identity of Israel and send them into Babylonian captivity because "it had become clear that they were past redemption"? If so again, then why did the inscrutable Yahweh destroy the Canaanites in the first place only to fill their land with a people equally as wicked? This last question poses a serious problem for Mr. Lavender's position that I will address later, but first let's notice that another of his points was that one would have to be "equal with God" before he could accuse God of wrong in the Canaanite massacres. This is a variation of the old God's- ways-are-higher-than-our-ways argument, which is a catch-all dodge that inerrantists use whenever their arguments make no sense. A major flaw in Lavender's application of it is the obvious fact that it assumes without proof that God was actually involved in the Israelite conquest of Canaan. A more probable interpretation of this aspect of Hebrew history is that they merely thought that their god Yahweh was directing their conquest of the land. Even today nations have a tendency to think that God is on their side in time of war. That belief was even more prevalent in biblical times. Each nation had its god(s) that the people thought rewarded them with victory when they were "good" and punished them when they were "bad." The Moabite stone, for example, contains an inscription in which the Moabite king Mesha of 2 Kings 3 told of victories that he had won through his god Chemosh who "saved me from all the kings and let me see my desire upon my adversaries." Later in the inscription, Mesha said about a victory his forces had won over Israel, "But Chemosh drove him [the king of Israel] out before me." Pavement slabs in the temple of Urta at Nimud contained an inscription by the Assyrian king Assur-Nasir-Pal in which he described the massacre of 600 warriors and 3,000 captives he had taken in battle "at the command of the great gods" (Crane Brinton, A History of Western Morals, p. 48). If one were to ask Mr. Lavender if he believes that king Mesha had actu- ally been led to victory by the god Chemosh or that the "great gods" had led Assur-Nasir-Pal in his conquests, he would no doubt openly scoff at the notion of a pagan god leading an army to victory. How then does he account for the undeniable fact that inscriptions left behind by these kings clearly do say that their gods were responsible for their victories? His answer would probably involve some application of Occam's razor. Chemosh didn't really lead king Mesha to victory. Mesha just superstitiously believed that it had happened this way. The "great gods" were not really behind the conquests of Assur-Nasir-Pal. He just thought that they were. The rule of Occam's razor says that when there are two or more explana- tions for a phenomenon, the least incredible one is probably the right one. To apply this principle to the claims of the pagan kings Mesha and Assur- Nasir-Pal, two possibilities exist: (1) They won their victories through the intervention of their gods, or (2) they won their victories by means of supe- rior military forces and tactics and merely thought that their gods had led them to win. Of these two explanations, the second one is obviously the less incredible and, therefore, the one rational people would choose to explain the military successes of Mesha and Assur-Nasir-Pal. If I were to ask Mr. Lavender to make a choice in the matter--and I am asking him to do that--I suspect he would choose the second one. If so, why can he not apply the same common-sense reasoning to the biblical claims that Yahweh led the Israelites to victory in their battles? King Mesha was a Moabite neighbor to the Israelites and was contemporary to Ahab and Jeho- shaphat. Now when the Bible says that "Yahweh was with Jehoshaphat" and "established the kingdom in his hand" (2 Chron. 17:3,5), inerrantists like Mr. Lavender unhesitatingly declare their belief that this was absolutely true, yet they scoff at a Moabite inscription that says the god Chemosh was with Jehoshaphat's neighbor, king Mesha, and established his kingdom. Why? What is the consistency in such positions as these? If the rule of Occam's razor makes it unlikely that a primitive war-god was leading Mesha to victory, why wouldn't the same rule make it just as unlikely that the god Yahweh was helping Mesha's neighbor Jehoshaphat, just a few miles away, to "establish" his kingdom? This way of looking at the situation certainly plays havoc with Mr. Laven- der's points that were based on the assumption that God directed the Canaan- ite massacres. If God had had nothing to do with these atrocities, as the rule of Occam's razor clearly indicates, then one doesn't have to be "equal with God" in order to accuse God of wrong in the matter. In fact, the ra- tional person accuses God of nothing, because he is sensible enough to realize that "God" was in no way involved in the incidents. The stories simply evolved in a primitive, barbaric society that believed God was on its side. Larry Sites JC's Fireman: Luke 12:49 Freq FORGERY.ZIP, Falisfy Fundi father fakery ___ * WR 1.31 # 398 * "Noachian Deluge"? "Ignorance inundation" is more accurat --- FMailX/386 1.0g * Origin: The Open Forum SD CA (619)284-2924 (1:202/212) SEEN-BY: 102/2 138 435 752 835 837 890 943 1326 147/7 270/101 280/1 9 10 25 SEEN-BY: 280/31 45 115 135 333 378 396/1 3615/50 @PATH: 202/212 201 777 3615/50 396/1 280/1 102/2 752 943


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