#3. Which god is the creator of the heavens and the earth: Yahweh OR El? (Gen 2:4b vs Gen 14:19)

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Creation myths abound in just about every culture that has conceived of a national deity or deities. The ancient Near East is certainly no exception. A vast number of creation myths exist from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan.1 And many of these creation accounts display cross-fertilization of ideas and influences. This is especially true concerning the influence that both Canaan and ancient Mesopotamia exerted on Israelite culture and the emergence of its literary traditions, including the imagery used in depicting its national deity, Yahweh. The influence of Mesopotamian creation myths on the composition of both creation accounts in the book of Genesis (P’s and J’s) was already discussed in #1. And in #2 we saw that both Mesopotamian and Canaanite creation myths depicting the creator god, Marduk and Baal respectively, forming the heavens and earth from the creative act of separating and dividing the remains of a slain primordial water serpent, had left their mark on biblical writers who sought to depict Yahweh slaying Leviathan in a similar creative effort (e.g., Ps 74: 13-17; Job 26:12-14). There are a number of Egyptian parallels and creation myths as well.

Thus an array of deities were viewed and proclaimed creator of the heavens and the earth in the ancient Levant. Such claims, furthermore, often passed in non-exclusive terms. The claim that Baal created the heavens and the earth, for example, or that Marduk created the heavens and the earth, or El, etc., were not perceived as mutually exclusive claims. Many of these gods shared similar features and functions and were often depicted as merely contending manifestations of one another—the beauty behind the polytheistic imagination. For an unknown period in early Israelite culture, when it had not fully separated itself from its Canaanite roots, Yahweh too was depicted in similar fashion. Both the archaeological and biblical record preserve remnants of this theistic syncretism.2

The Priestly creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3 uses the generic neuter plural Hebrew noun elohim to render its storyline: God creates. J’s account in Genesis 2:4b-3:24, although confining the creation to plants, animals, and the human pair, speaks of Yahweh (yhwh) making or fashioning the things of the earth, and 2:4b accredits Yahweh with the creation of earth and heaven. Additionally, there are other biblical references to Yahweh as creator of the heavens and the earth, especially in the Psalms and second Isaiah. This comes as no surprise. Yet Gen 14:19, uses this same epithet, “creator of the heavens and the earth,” when speaking about the god of the mysterious figure Melchizedek, which in the Hebrew is literally El the most high (’el ‘elyōn).3

And Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of El the most high. He blessed him, saying: “Blessed be Abram by El the most high, creator of the heavens and the earth. And praise be El the most high, who has delivered your foes to you.”

The passage, in its Hebrew, clearly presents El as “creator of the heavens and the earth,” which is one of El’s epithets. Although the Hebrew el can also be translated as the generic term for “god,” there are good grounds for reading el as a proper name. For this is not the only place in the Pentateuch where El appears (see #27). And as a growing number of scholars contend, El was most likely “the original god of Israel.”4

We are additionally informed in this bizarre story that Melchizedek is king of Salem, that is ancient Jerusalem. The archaeological record as well as biblical passages such as the one above have confirmed that Jerusalem, prior to David’s conquest was a Canaanite city and its cultic activity was centered around the worship of the high Cannanite and/or proto-Israelite deity El. How is it then, that this story (Gen 14:1-24), whose source is still unidentified by scholars, and which proclaims the Canaanite deity El as creator of the heavens and the earth, is preserved in the biblical tradition? And furthermore, in the same story, how can the author also have Abram apparently proclaim that Yahweh is El the most high, creator of the heavens and the earth? “But Abram replied to the king of Salem: ‘I have sworn to Yahweh, El the most high, creator of the heavens and the earth . . .’” (14:22). One reply might be to assert that the biblical record itself is making the bold claim that Yahweh and El are the same god! Could the biblical text be making such an assertion? And if it were, why?

The inherent relationship between Yahweh and El and the question concerning whether they were conceived as the same god or different gods is addressed in fuller detail in #27. Here, we might limit the discussion by briefly noting a couple of other passages that fuel further thought on the topic. First, contrary to J’s assertion that the name Yahweh was invoked, and thus Yahweh was known by name to the patriarchs (Gen 4:26, 12:8, 15:7), both P and E assert otherwise (see #7). For example, P has the god of Israel say to Moses in Exodus 6:2-3 “I am Yahweh; but I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, and I was not known to them by my name Yahweh!” Thus according to the theological convictions of this author (P), Yahweh did not make himself known to the patriarchs, but instead revealed himself as El Shaddai, that is “El of the mountain.” Gen 17:1 affirms this same conviction, again from the pen of P: “And Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai; walk before me and be unblemished.” J, however, makes no such claim: Yahweh makes himself known as Yahweh to Abraham. The P narrative thus seems to suggest that the patriarchs knew Yahweh as the Canaanite or proto-Israelite El—indeed, that El was Yahweh! Outside the realm of theology, and more inline with the historical and archaeological record, this translates to the possibility that over a period of time in early Israelite culture, which shared the same material culture as the Canaanites, imagery and aspects of the god El were transferred to Yahweh, so that eventually El, known to the patriarchs, become Yahweh at Sinai! In the current passage we either have represented an assimilation between Yahweh and El the most high such that the epithet “creator of the heavens and the earth” refers to the two which are one (Christians like these kinds of “mysteries” as they call them). Or, the text preserves a remnant of an earlier period in ancient Israelite religion when the Israelites recognized and worshiped El as the creator god. Biblical scholars and archeologists alike are apt to choice the later option here. And as we shall see (#27), the biblical record also seems to support this. The ancient tale of Jacob building an altar at Shechem and invoking “El, god of Israel” (Gen 33:20) is one such remnant.5 Finally, along this line of reasoning Frank Cross suggests rather convincingly that the name Yahweh derives from the Canaanite yahwé which means to create, and thus the name Yahweh “is a causative imperfect of the Canaanite-Proto-Hebrew verb hwy, “to be.”6 Thus originally the word yahwé might have been an epithet of the deity El as creator of the heavens and earth. In fact, it is still quite possible to read Genesis 14:22 in this light: “I have sworn to he who creates (yhwh), El the most high, creator of the heavens and the earth.”7

Footnotes    

  1. Thare a various anthologies that exist: J. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East. Volume I. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Princeton Univ. Press 1958); S. H. Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology: From the Assyrians to the Hebrews (Penguin 1963); M. Coogan, trans, & ed., Stories from Ancient Canaan (Westminster 1978).
  2. For a more comprehensive treatment of this fascinating subject see especially: M. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (HarperCollins, 1990); and W. Dever, Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Eerdmans, 2008).
  3. The Hebrew original ’el ’elyon is often translated as “God most high.” Although like the Hebrew ’elohim, ’el can be translated as “god,” Hebraic philologists contend that a generic understanding of ’el as “god” is a rather late development in biblical Hebrew. More accurately, ’el without a definite article is to be rendered simply as “El,” the name of a pan-Canaanite (by this term I mean to include a proto-Israelite culture) deity—a remnant of an older Israelite/Canaanite tradition to which a few biblical passages still attest. Mention of El is also found in Gen 17:1, 28:3, 35:10, 48:3, 49:25. See #27 where this will be treated in greater detail.
  4. Smith, ibid, 32.
  5. More so see Deut 32:8-9: “When the Most High (’elyôn) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated humanity, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of divine beings. For Yahweh’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.” The tradition preserved here is an old Canaanite lore. It detaisl when the High god distributed to the other gods their portions. In other words the text speaks of two deities. El, here portrayed as the “Most high” assigns to the gods in his counsel their particular peoples. To Yahweh, one of the gods in El’s counsel (see also Ps 82:1, 29:1, 89:6-7; cf. Gen 1:26!) Israel is assigned. Similarly, to the Moabites, Chemosh is assigned (see Num 21:29). See also #27.
  6. F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Harvard University Press, 1973), 65.
  7. Cf. Yahweh Sabaoth as “he who creates the divine hosts.”

29 thoughts on “#3. Which god is the creator of the heavens and the earth: Yahweh OR El? (Gen 2:4b vs Gen 14:19)

  1. Dear Smack&Yack—I have waited to see if anyone even knows you exist. Obviously you are being ignored here. So I will give you a chance to shine. The character you mention was forcibly removed by Dr. DiMattai. So in answer to your question: From what I read (say his comment on May 22): “In Hebrew there is no present tense of the “to be” verb. There is no written “is”. It is always understood to be there in the context, almost like an “=” sign. Do you follow me? As the “full disclosure” (i.e. there in the book of Genesis) begins to unfold for everyone to read and understand, the Creator makes a simple statement of truth: YHVH is Elohim.” He is God.

    From my perspective his Hebrew is impeccable. His problem here was his refusal to play the game. See his last comment on this #3 blog. While he manages to stay on this site for another few months or so, here he is obviously mocking Dr. DiMattai. While that will also obviously prove fatal, I have to admit that I like his choice of music. I have always loved my parent’s “Woodstock/British Invasion” stuff. Maybe I could disagree if he claimed that Bob Dylan, the Jew, was already converted to x-tianity when he made his 1960’s TV appearance singing “Blowing in the wind.”

    But quite honestly as a Jew who does know Jesus, seeing that song reminded me of John 3 and especially the verses (7-8 if memory serves me) that talk of wind, and the Spirit, like a breeze which is life (Book of James-read it and find—chapter 5?— where it talks about how we are like a vapor):
    Lynyrd Skynyrd – Call Me the Breeze (live ’75)

    I also remember seeing some of my folk’s era TV adult cartoons. There at the end of his comments Sabba AbuShy’s choice of this re-worked Yogi Bear episode is classic. Any art work is always interpreted by the one who beholds. I think the guy’s choice here of this cartoon nonsense was to compare it to the validity of this website and Dr. DiMattai’s perspective and his first published book. In other words, Sabba AbuShy was comparing it to being about the same as nothing but a bad trip on LSD.

  2. Ok…if Sabba AbuShy is trying to convert people…he is failing miserably. Does anyone even know what the hell he is talking about?

  3. “The ancient tale of Jacob building an altar at Shechem and invoking ‘El, god of Israel’ (Gen 33:20) is one such remnant.”

    What’s interesting is that Genesis 33:20 is from the Elohist, but so is Genesis 28:20-21:

    20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God.

    1) Why would the Elohist have Jacob promise that Yahweh, not el or elohim, would be his god?
    2) Who was Jacob’s god before this?
    3) How could the Elohist have Jacob build an altar to “El, God of Israel” after having him promise that Yahweh would be his God? It doesn’t seem that the texts try to equate Yahweh and El as Exodus 6:2-3 does, because otherwise why have Jacob promise that Yahweh *would be* his god if the author meant to suggest that Yahweh and El were just different names for the same deity?”

    kesseler, i asked ehrman on this and he says that jacob CHOSE yhwh as his elohim

    i quote

    Bart October 24, 2014
    He is choosing which God (Elohim) to make his own, and chooses YHWH from among them.

    kessler, this logically means, as you have said, yhwh was not his elohim before he chose him.

    strange.

    1. Ricard, These are good questions. I’m not necessarily convinced by Ehrman’s reply, and there are other ways to look at this passage.

      Fist, source critics observe that Gen 28 is composed of 3 sources: P, J, and E passages. And while the Priestly source is pretty easily recognizable (vv. 1-9), distinguishing J and E is more challenging. So while verse 20 is traditionally identified as E, one could draw that assessment into question. However, even labeling this as J or J/E combined doesn’t easily answer your questions.

      Second, many source critics of more recent times have proposed other models for understanding E material, such as for example a collection of oral traditions from the north—so not a once separate document as Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis dictates. So the interplay between expressing devotion to Yahweh or El that is typical of the cultural context of the north, might be expressed here in the interplay between using elohim and Yahweh. Levine in his Anchor Bible commentary to Numbers, discusses the interweaving of El and Yahweh in the context of the Balaam pericope (Num 22-24) in this manner.

      Third, this passage might hint at a cultural pantheon such as that expressed in Deut 32:8-9, where Yahweh is still seen as a god in “the High God’s” (El’s) court. So the choice is not really between El/elohim or Yahweh as if the two were competing, but rather a recognition, following Deut 32:8-9 that El charged Yahweh with the protection of the land of Canaan and its people—here seen as Israel. As an extension of this line of reasoning, in P’s classic text, Exodus 6:2-3, the Priestly writer is basically claiming that not only is Yahweh El, but for those who in the past worshiped El and sought El’s protection were really worshiping Yahweh! This type of theological syncretism may also be present in Gen 28:20-21.

      Forth, there is something more happening here at the level of the Hebrew. In the original Hebrew, the author composed a chiasma that also doubles as a pun on words. Jacob asks: “If God will be. . .” (אִם־יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים), which transliterated becomes: im yhwh elohim. And Jacob ends his vow with these words: “Yahweh (will be) for me my God (יְהוָה לִי לֵאלֹהִים), transliterated: yhwh li lelohim. Or visually:

      If God will be . . .
      יהוה אלהים

      Then Yahweh for me my God.
      אלהים יהוה

      This didn’t come out as I formatted, but you get the idea.

  4. Dear Steve,
    I just got back from vacation. Congratulations on joining the stratosphere of published authors. Most people can’t read. You can’t do “evangelical Jesus freakism” like I can but who cares? The fact that you have put up with me for so long tells me about your character and ability to put up with strangers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRAr354usf8

    Anyway, please feel free to include any comments I have made. You can put them in context or out. You can stand them on their head if you wish. I don’t care ‘cuz it is not about me anyway. It is about you, boo boo! (re: yogi bear).

    You can even put my review of your website when I recommended it back in March on my facebook page (re: Sabba AbuShy march 23/2015) where I said the following as I invited people to visit contradictionsinthebible.com:

    Bible Contradiction #292 Who comes forth against Balaam as a satan: an angel of Yahweh or…
    contradictionsinthebible.com
    .
    Dr.Steven Dematti, as you can vividly see by the title of his website, contradictionsinthebible.com, is no stranger to controversy, Take his opening line and some of his other comments for this latest post, intending to draw people in as he talks about Satan and YHVH from his “higher critical” perspective that will challenge your faith in the Bible: “I throw this one out there for its provocative effect—to allow us to think about the relationship between 3 figures: Yahweh, Yahweh’s angel, and satan (literally without definite article, ‘an adversary’). OR: “At any rate, it is important to note that “Satan as a proper noun is a feature unattested in the Hebrew Bible” OR: ” this satan took on these now seen as undesirable traits of Yahweh by these later religious thinkers. Eventually he became the Satan of later Christian thinking. But again, no such concept or “Satan” existed in the Hebrew Bible!

    Bottom line, if you are weak in your faith as a Christian, or a new believer, BEWARE! In fact, stay away. But if you are looking for a place to sharpen the double edged “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” I invite you to join in the discussion. In fact, the spirited Comments section is probably the better part of this site and even the more provocative and insightful…AS I DO SAY SO MYSELF! (;~))

    ANY RATE, DON’T THINK I AM DOING THIS TO “BUTTER YOU UP” BECAUSE I WOULD BE FAMOUS LIKE YOU NOW ARE! HA! THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM DOING! I want my review to make the back page, the cover of your book! Or at least the inside pages up in the front…

    That and the fact that I am honestly amazed that you have put up with me for so long, even though I came here sometime towards the end of January. I have only been here about 1/2 a year and I bet (from your perspective maybe) that it all ready seems like an eternity! (;~))

    At any rate, the last place I called home was Samson Blinded http://samsonblinded.org/blog/the-30-party-program.htm and it appears that since I was about the “last man standing” that I managed from the time I started during the first week of March of 2009 until this last post by Obadiah Shoher—I have to admit that it looks like I personally managed to just run all the Israeli Jews and those from around the world, either “slap-dap” crazy enough to run them all off—or Obadiah just got too old and just died.

    Who knows? As this born again jew would say: (well, I’ll let him talk for himself) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWwgrjjIMXA

    Steve, you’re still a young man. I’m not planning to leave anytime soon. You can use me as a contrast if you like, (to quote Elvis: “slander my name all over the place, do anything that ya wanna do, but uh-uh honey” don’t forget to put me in your book!~

    Once again with everyone else, let me give you a heart felt “attaboy boo boo buddy!

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9ytz_yogi-bear-boo-boo-in-jellystoned-pa_fun

  5. Steve,

    KW expressed (and not the first time by him) a difficulty in understanding what I was saying. I hinted that I was “speaking in parables” a technique that Jesus used and was intended to reach only those who “had ears to hear”. He was reaching out to a select audience and there are several instances in the NT where it is commented that those who wished to destroy him (because of the influence he displayed on the common people; an influence that they perceived vied with their own power and control/influence) realized in hearing his commentary that Yeshua was actually speaking about them. Even using them as a bad example in his teaching methods which used common, often examples of agricultural knowledge to portray spiritual truth. And it agitated them even more because he was obviously “speaking over their heads” to an audience avidly listening; thus it gave them an even greater determination and conviction that they needed to destroy him. And eventually they did succeed…until He rose from the dead.

    Up until that last phrase about the resurrection, I think you and I can agree.

    BUT AT THIS POINT ON THE NEED FOR A SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION NOW TO BE FOLLOWED BY THE ONE IN THE FUTURE—THE ONE WHICH STARTS IN THE SPIRIT AND HERE AND NOW— you and I will just have to agree to disagree.

    But back to Jesus and why I use his technique.

    Sometimes he was direct: he called his spiritual adversaries hypocrites. He did so repeatedly in the first gospel and yet acknowledged their authority as representatives of Moses and the biblical authority of Torah at the same time. Talk about contradictions in the Bible!

    KW alluded to this in part when he made the statement: “… This is the same man who said that not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass away, after all.” KW, the full quote includes Jesus’ conclusion: “until all is fulfilled”. Steve, KW not every jot or tittle has been fulfilled and hence the Torah is still in effect. It still can and must be observed, and people do, and like me, that doesn’t make them Jews or limit them to that category. I am included, no longer excluded. Read Ephesians chapter 2. For how could Jesus tell anyone, then or now, that to enter the Kingdom of YHVH Elohim, that your righteousness “must exceed that” of his adversaries that I described above. As I said, he even acknowledged the authority of this Mosaic Torah that he said his adversaries represented, “so do as they say, not as they do!”

    Steve, elsewhere on this site I have read your comments concerning how impossible this is to do. Certainly it is impossible, and always has been for the basic human nature of men, for example to NOT LOOK ON AN ATTRACTIVE WOMAN, without even briefly veering off into thoughts of lust. That is unless he/she/it is LGBTBFDS…(;~))

    Jesus’ goal in morality is a much higher standard than that listed for this “do not” category mentioned in the Decalogue on adultery. Thoughts are one thing, actions are another, but actions are enervated by our thought life. So get a life! And in the “for what it is worth” department, that is why Jesus said that to even qualify for the opportunity to carry out this “mission impossible”, you must be born again. Or to use my example of Carmen, “yah gotta know dah code!”

    https://www.google.com/#q=carman+sunday+school+rock

    “The argument of “closer proximity” is simply incorrect. People living 5,000 years ago were closer to the creation of the world than we were, thus should we take their “knowledge” that the sun revolved around the earth as true? Knowledge, thank God, is one of those things that has progressed. We know much more today about ancient literature because we posses more of it and can read more of it… this is just 1 of hundreds of instances were current archaeological discoveries from the world that produced these texts has shed light on their compositional natures. Furthermore, you don’t need to pit knowledge/science against religion, which you are doing here—refusing to acknowledge the knowledge we have obtained cumulatively over the last century about these ancient documents…”

    Steve you bring up science here, and archaeological discoveries that shed light and bring revelation and then accuse me of being in the mindset that still thinks the earth is flat. KW, one of the reasons I “speak in code” is that I am refuting a worldview that I find presumptuous, arrogant, and ignorant, and spiritually dead. One in which you can’t intellectualize your way out of it and into the, well let me quote from Steve here:

    “…. Shame “God’s species” couldn’t do anything with the gifts granted them! But I rant here. . .

    It seems that humans are not ready to step forward into that abyss, spiritually and intellectually, that comes when we as a culture start becoming honest to these ancient texts and recognize their authors’ beliefs and the compositional nature of the text itself as revealed through a culturally-contextualized reading of the text itself.”

    I FIND THAT TELLING, ESPECIALLY THE ABYSS STEVE INSISTS WE NEED TO STEP INTO TO FIND LIGHT. HE MAKES STATEMENTS LIKE THAT ALL THE TIME.

    ” And this certainly doesn’t paint the human spirit in any positive light”, HE INSISTS. IT IS FUNNY HOW I AGREE AND THAT IS MY POINT. THERE IS NOTHING POSITIVE FOR US TO WORK WITH. IT STARTED WITH GENESIS 3 AND THE FALL.

    I confess, KW, that I was lampooning GW. You may have missed that; which speaks of your goodness that I like. If I was going over your head, it was only to reach others. But you as I and all who read this have this in common. We all have a sin nature…

    1. It’s not even worth reading this comment. Like so many of yours, it fails to address anything that I said, and more so it continues to fail to address the texts. It’s all about the texts—not later reader’s beliefs about the text, nor your beliefs. But what the texts themselves tell us about their own compositional nature, authorship, beliefs, worldviews, competing ideologies, etc. But you turn this into a conversation abut me. Pathetic really.

  6. KW,

    Imagine that the Flood really did take place. And that the Bible’s account of it is true. After all, this flood is mentioned in other cultures; in fact, I think, in all cultures that were literate.

    Anyway, “some sort of higher knowledge” would then include the fact that in their Mesopotamian cultures, speaking of those alluded to and directly mentioned by the Bible, it would include the fact that they were much closer than we are to the facts of this incident. That is a higher knowledge than anything we with our self perceived “higher intelligence” have, plain and simple.

    You said, “Why did we only “discover” them in the last couple centuries? Because people were finally willing to acknowledge them. Because they didn’t have to fear being stoned or burned at the stake for pointing them out.”

    Maybe it was more than finally acknowledging what you insist is and has been so obvious. Tell Josephus that. I bet he could run circles around you and me and everyone on this website, for that matter. Intellectually, culturally, also being closer chronologically to the mindset that passes for the gospel according to GW that you say has always been there. His record says, if indeed he was a brilliant man, and he obviously was, and over-qualified to be a witness to us of the truth that endures— “where’s the bacon? What no beef?” He either was aware and dismissed it out of hand, or was totally ignorant. Failed to acknowledge the truth. Hell, he was working for your crowd! Yet he didn’t even hint at this “necessary acknowledgment”.

    That is your vulnerable heel. No witnesses to this revelation in the observable historical record.

    I do agree with you that when with the Reformation, everyone could believe what he wanted without fear of the Catholic Church burning you as a heretic or a witch or a Jew or a bible thumper or an evolutionists or naturalist like the originators of the GW theory. It is a theory without basis in empirical reality. Circumstantial evidence that would not stand the court system but be thrown out as a fraud. I can even give you an example of how this form of (I call pseudo intellectual) thinking actually was thrown out of court as a fraud that the thinking process (the GW theory was not on trial, just it’s method of thinking) was convicted of by the court.

    Not everyone, in fact most people did go “your way”. I have mentioned this a time or two before on this site. Most went mine and the civilized world came out of the Dark Ages as a result. Your mindset will send us back, if carried to it’s illogical and arrogant conclusion. While you seem like an exceptionally decent and nice person, your system of theology is pernicious, IMHO.

    1. Sabba, you’re imposing your beliefs and assumptions about these ancient texts onto them—-once again—with no concern nor care for the historical and literary worlds that produced these texts.

      Imagine—my challenge to you—that these texts were products of their world! and expressed the beliefs, stories, experiences, and limited empirical knowledge of the authors who penned these texts. Why is it that their stories, messages, and beliefs are discarded and replaced always by your beliefs about them? So that you can legitimate your beliefs? Fine, and in fact I understand that. But at the expense of these ancient texts, their authors, and their beliefs is something I cannot support.

      The argument of “closer proximity” is simply incorrect. People living 5,000 years ago were closer to the creation of the world than we were, thus should we take their “knowledge” that the sun revolved around the earth as true? Knowledge, thank God, is one of those things that has progressed. We know much more today about ancient literature because we posses more of it and can read more of it than say Josephus could ever had dreamed of. And in certain case we can actually see how, for example, the author of Deuteronomy, molded his covenant document on Assyrian vassal treaties of the 8th and 7th century, verbatim in many instances! No biblical scholar today refutes this because the empirical data it rests on is solid. We simply know! And, barring the author of Deuteronomy himself, this is knowledge that no one else in the ancient world had at their disposal, not the scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls, not Josephus, certainly not Jesus, and not the early Christian church fathers, not even Erasmus and his pals. And this is just 1 of hundreds of instances were current archaeological discoveries from the world that produced these texts has shed light on their compositional natures.

      Furthermore, you don’t need to pit knowledge/science against religion, which you are doing here—refusing to acknowledge the knowledge we have obtained cumulatively over the last century about these ancient documents, just because it clashes with—not the texts!!!—but your beliefs about the texts!

      And in general this is done to substantiate—not religion or faith or belief in God in general, all of which I do not write against—but to substantiate your/our culture’s beliefs about these ancient texts, beliefs that were carved by readers living centuries after these texts were composed and who like most modern “readers” were ignorant about these texts’ historical and literary worlds, authors, audiences, individual messages, ideologies, etc.

      My challenge: Can you be honest to these ancient texts and the beliefs of their authors? That does not mean advocate their beliefs or believe what they do. But acknowledge their beliefs as their beliefs, and competing and contradictory beliefs at that. There is so much excellent and genuine knowledge about this material available now. So you select to ignore this knowledge so that you may believe what you want? Isn’t this pitting faith (belief) against knowledge? And I might add a very primitive or immature view of faith. But if your beliefs about the Bible stand only because you have refused to acknowledge knowledge about these texts then that is what your doing. I might encourage you to have faith in God, and let the biblical texts be what they are—ancient documents that express the views and beliefs of 60 some different authors. But since you, like many others, have erroneously defined faith in God via these texts, you’ve pitted yourself not only against modern knowledge about these texts but also against the texts themselves (which modern biblical scholarship attempts to support) in favor of a centuries-later belief about these texts as dictated through a later (mis)interpretive framework—“the word of God”—which merely represents the beliefs of these later readers. And you have as of yet engaged me on this topic which I have repeatedly brought to your attention.

      Why is it that that which is implied in the centuries-later label “the Holy Bible” should wipe out the beliefs and messages of these once individual authors? This question can be answered objectively by studying the stages of this theological development and the texts before they were co-opted into this later framework.

      Again, I realize the sensitivity in these questions and issues. But I’m still searching for, and perhaps God is too (!?), a human species that can be honest to these ancient texts and ultimately to themselves. So, what if what we believe as a culture is not legitimated by these ancient texts written 3,000-2,000 years ago and which represent the beliefs and views of ancient peoples and cultures? What if what you/our culture believes is vastly different from what these authors and the Yahweh of their texts that they composed believed?—which any honest study of these texts would reveal.

      Why do we need to substantiate our beliefs to the point of neglecting theirs and then hypocritically claim that their beliefs and the beliefs of the god of the texts that they composed are ours? Modern, current, and genuine study of these texts before such later interpretive ideas were imposed upon them reveals that these centuries-later beliefs and perceptions about these ancient texts are not supported by the ancient texts themselves. “Imagine that the flood is true” ?? You’re already taking the text out of its own historical and literary context and placing it in yours! That’s like an individual from a different culture, different language, different worldview, and living 3,000 years in the future were to say about a fragment of an Iron man movie that survived: “Imagine if this really did happen; for its author was closer to the event it purports to speak of.” A silly example, but it serves my purpose—you continuously decontextualize these texts and place them into your context and belief system, rather than attempting to enter into their worldview and belief system—and not hypocritically believe what they do—but objectively with an honest spirit understand their beliefs and why they believed what they did.

      So to come back to my initial query: Here at the crossroads, what is more valuable to you? What later tradition dictates about these texts OR what the texts themselves reveal on their own terms? You have forsaken knowledge about these texts, obtained through the archaeological excavation and study of these texts over the last century, for traditional beliefs about these texts forged from positions of no knowledge. Why must you shackle the human spirit and intellect in chains? Let us as a human species face, proudly, the challenges that come from out current centuries knowledge about these texts. And part of that challenge is realizing that part of being human is creating narratives that provide and give meaning to our lives, and life in general. And it is perhaps human propensity to legitimate these subjectively and culturally created narratives by making appeals to divine objective origins and massive authoritative traditions, which when studied on their own reveal that they do not in fact substantiate our culture’s beliefs. We have created a nation of hypocrites, who apparently prefer that the human species wallow in the muck and mire of faith now defined as lack of knowledge. Shame “God’s species” couldn’t do anything with the gifts granted them! But I rant here. . .

      It seems that humans are not ready to step forward into that abyss, spiritually and intellectually, that comes when we as a culture start becoming honest to these ancient texts and recognize their authors’ beliefs and the compositional nature of the text itself as revealed through a culturally-contextualized reading of the text itself. That we as a culture still need to substantiate our beliefs by creating a god that, not coincidentally, believes exactly what our culture believes, or hypocritically having recourse to an ancient text viewed through a centuries-later authoritative tradition that “legitimates” our culture’s beliefs by claiming that they are the believes of the author of this text—now God himself! What blatant arrogance frankly speaking. And this certainly doesn’t paint the human spirit in any positive light. I might say it’s actually quite pathetic! And this is the same narrative that “Abraham’s seed” on the other side of the globe is doing! And you want to keep the human spirit in shackles? With any honest study we can understand this phenomenon and start to pick ourselves out of the mire and acknowledge that this is part of what it is to be human, and then we can as a culture move into having a meaningful, if indeed disturbing, conversation about this, ourselves and what it is to be human.

      Indeed the above narratives are comforting ideas, but worlds away from actually being human, standing erect, and being honest to these ancient texts, the tradition that eventually made them into “the word of OUR God,” and understanding ourselves and what it means to be human in this world and the narratives we create to legitimate meaning for us.

  7. Sabba, it’s difficult to understand you when you use such roundabout phrasing. But I get your point that Josephus was closer to the writing of these texts than we are, by about 2,000 years. That doesn’t mean that he knew better than us, though. No Jew of the time would have been inclined to question their people’s holy writings. The seams in the text have always been there, but no one wanted to see them. Why did we only “discover” them in the last couple centuries? Because people were finally willing to acknowledge them. Because they didn’t have to fear being stoned or burned at the stake for pointing them out.

    The secular interpretation of Jesus is that he was simply a man of his time, perhaps a rabbi, who believed in the writings of his people. This is the same man who said that not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass away, after all. While he may have had his differences with the Pharisees and Sadducees, he still zealously upheld a form of his people’s traditions. I think you already understand that, from a secular standpoint where one does not assume that Jesus was divine, there is no reason to take Jesus’ references to the OT as telling us anything more than what Jesus himself believed. There’s also an alternative way of looking at his references, which is that he was simply supporting tradition by reminding people of the story of the first marriage, using the Flood as a sort of parable in order to make a point, etc.,; this approach did not require these things to be literally true, any more than we might today use an Aesop’s fable (“Remember what happened to the boy who cried wolf?”) to make a point without requiring the audience to believe that the fable was a true story.

    Anyway, I doubt anyone here would say Jesus was “dumb” for believing whatever he believed. There’s no point in judging people from a past time for believing in gods and demons. If I lived back then, I’m sure that I would believe in all sorts of supernatural things myself. But we simply can’t learn anything about the writing of the Bible from those people of 2,000 years ago; not without proof that they had access to some sort of higher knowledge than we do.

  8. KW,

    Josephus was a cohen and from royal lineage at the same time. As a Roman historian and an expert in Jewish religious history, he knew about intrigue in the royal, priestly, and secular world were he was, in effect, a not too “hidden” member of what we call today “the 4th estate: the 5th column”. I share in this realm (personally, myself: Jewish Telegraphic Agency; and a not too hidden missionary to Israel) and Josephus was considered by his people as a sell out. He was captured by the Romans and when they realized what an “asset” (think in today’s so called ‘Middle East Intel’ for the 007 concept of that term) they had in someone gifted in the ability to research and re-write history, they basically offered him the chance to live in luxury and fame while working for them, the resident “Big Brother” of the world that then was. Or die, maybe even crucified on a cross of some kind or other.

    I’m speaking in parables that I think you have the capacity to “feature” (hey dude, can you feature it?:~)). Feel free to deconstruct this as you see fit. My point? Poor, over-qualified Josephus, who in every other way would fit in perfectly with the “power struggle politics/backstabbing pragmatism of secular revisionist history” that not only was evident nearer our time in your example of the contested author(?) to, among other works, “the “Merchant of Venice”—- BUT UNDOUBTEDLY DOMINATED HIS WHOLE VIEW OF THE ROMAN DOMINATED WORLD—like I said, following your perspective, this guy was over qualified to know something about the Graf/Wellhausen (GW) revelation. After all, he was much closer to it than we are. Of course, we have figured it out and have been living with this “bible, scholarly” insight for almost 150 years or so (probably less). But we are father up the evolutionary chain too. That would greatly balance the scale in our favor even though we’re about (depending on what exactly we are measuring here, using the “GW”) somewhere circa 2-3 millennium in arrears.

    So how come this guy, of all the ‘turn-coats’ and ‘spooks’ in the world, turned out to be a bible thumper like me? Obviously the ability to obscure history and cover it tracks and completely deceive the world in such a short period of time (in comparison from then till now—as I said, our day in which this GW revelation has come to light)—obviously these people who are front and center on this website for all insight and understanding to the true message and meaning of the Bible were unparalleled to just “disappear”! And we must be the greatest Sherlock Holmes of all time. Or at least GW were. And they didn’t even have the internet at their disposal! All they had to go by was their hero! Charles Darwin. Imagine that! Brilliant!

    Or let’s take/use the main goal of this website, and mention the deception that either Jesus entertained since he was the Son of God and as such endowed with omniscience and hence “knew better” when he claimed that marriage was between a man and a woman and “proved” it by quoting from two sources in Genesis, at the end of chapter 1 and then again at the end of chapter 2. He either knew, like Josephus should have (they were contemporaries) that using Genesis to promote this controversial position was hypocritical, at the very least in the sense that he failed to let the original author (s) who was/were greatly influenced, btw, by pre-existing cultures of the Mesopotamian world in which the author{s} lived and actually plagiarized his so-called ‘original’ message) “speak” and say what he/they originally intended to be understood. Instead, Jesus, of all people (I mean, He was YHVH in the flesh! And as I shared with John Kesler —YHVH is ELOHIM!)—and what chutzpa! He either knew he was misrepresenting these two authors (of Genesis 1 and of Genesis 2) by making them seem to be one voice, in the way he used them to make his point about marriage (see Matthew 19, who probably only understood this in Aramaic) OR, BETTER YET, he was just dumb as a stump and like we all know in many other examples of a “fundamentalist mindset”, honestly was dumb enough to think he knew what he was talking about. Because, IN REALITY, HE WAS ‘INTERPRETING’ EVERYTHING instead of letting the original authors say what they really wanted to say.

    You can believe in him/Him? if you want, but who, of all the people who regularly (or who were attracted by the title of this websit/blog) would?

  9. Sabba, your first post of 5/22 is an elaboration of what you were saying earlier, but it doesn’t address my point that too much time had passed before the creation of the DSS. Yes, the DSS was a thrilling discovery, and the scrolls are incredibly ancient to us, but at the time they were written, the texts they copied were also incredibly ancient. A few hundred years back then was a vast chasm of time, without the clear line of records that we are used to today.

    Today, you can pick up a copy of Shakespeare’s plays in a book, and the text will likely not differ from what you would read in a 50-year-old printing of the same works. But when you look back at the time of Shakespeare, you see incredible confusion in determining exactly what Shakespeare wrote (and some would say he didn’t write anything at all!). You’ll notice that the article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Folio looks a lot like textual criticism of the Bible, with attempts to understand where the texts came from and how they were conveyed to us, along with variant textual traditions.

    If we have this much trouble figuring out what happened 400 years ago, then we can’t expect that the copyists of the Isaiah scroll found in the Dead Sea collection had any knowledge of the origins of the text they were copying. Copyists often did not even read what they were copying, as it would slow them down, so there is no reason why, if two “Isaiah” texts were combined in an earlier century, we would expect to see this reflected somehow in the way the Isaiah DSS is physically written.

    By the time of the production of the DSS, it was apparently a fairly standardized text, as Shakespeare’s writings are today. And by the time of Josephus, even later, there’s no reason to think that Jews understood the origin or time of composition of their ancient texts any more than we know the history of Beowulf. Many Jews at that time were also estranged, physically, from their homeland, and had their own offshoot cultures. Thus we see “Matthew”, for instance, probably living in Syria, and having trouble understanding the language of his OT source while trying to apply its messianic prophecies to Jesus.

  10. As I find time to wade through this and other articles written by Steve, I came across a question from John Kesler:

    20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God.

    1) Why would the Elohist have Jacob promise that Yahweh, not el or elohim, would be his god?

    When you read back in Genesis 2:4 “in the day that the Lord God…” this is the first time in Scripture that this arrangement of YHVH ELOHIM shows up. In Hebrew there is no present tense of the “to be” verb. There is no written “is”. It is always understood to be there in the context, almost like an “=” sign. Do you follow me?

    As the “full disclosure” begins to unfold for everyone to read and understand, the Creator makes a simple statement of truth: YHVH is Elohim. This is the same God that Jacob is contemplating. Jacob is making a vow, depending on what happens. It is not very complicated!

  11. KW here are some pull quotes from one of your URLs:

    Furthermore, the scrolls did not utterly transform our image of the original Hebrew Bible text. Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the scrolls is that they have demonstrated the relative stability of the Masoretic text.

    But in a few cases, such as where the readings of Deuteronomy 32:43 do vary in ancient copies of the Hebrew text, it is not fair to say that the Septuagint translators were simply making things up as they were doing their work. Some scholars are even suggesting that perhaps the Septuagint translators were relying on Hebrew texts that predate what we currently have in the standard Masoretic text!

    If this is the case, it is quite possible that the New Testament writers were perhaps more accurate in quoting the “original” Old Testament texts than what we typically find today in most modern Bible translations of the Old Testament . Therefore, to charge that the New Testament writers were sloppy or fraudulent simply lacks the evidence.

    Bottom line: there is a strong possibility that the “original Bible” (a text going back even further than what we have at this time) has not been found. Yet, the other conclusion is that, when and if it comes to the surface like the Dead Sea Scrolls did,

    IT WILL NOT GREATLY DEVIATE FROM THE MANUSCRIPTS WE RELY ON TODAY.

    My take on the Deut. 32 differences is that it basically concerns whether “gods” or “angels” are correct. In other words, in how one comes up with theology: are there indeed other “gods” or are they angels (like all the fallen ones who followed Lucifer/hasatan)?

    Anyone can read the point the writer of Hebrews was making: worship Jesus

  12. KW, I found the material which I saved as a draft. I went into “over kill”, into great detail, to the point that my stuff was probably considered too long and thus didn’t make it past the “editor”. I submitted the material back in the middle of March of this year.

    I’ll edit it now myself and can bring the points up in more detail but only if requested.

    http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah

    This website enables anyone to view and read the entire book of Isaiah. It is on two scrolls. I’m now quoting from my draft: “Go to this site that has the actual Isaiah Scroll on display. Using the search tools, go to chapters 33-34. You will clearly see where the two scrolls have actually been stitched together—the column with the end of the first scroll and the 33rd chapter stitched together with the beginning of the next scroll and the first of it that begins with chapter 34.”

    One point I was making concerned the fact that this scroll was “stitched” together many years after the so-called “2nd Isaiah” is purported to have shown up on the scene. Yet the natural break in the middle of the book (chapters 33-34) and the place where Isaiah 4o begins (the one attributed to another author or two) belies any “textural” evidence. You can see where the “2nd Isaiah” ‘starts’ his material—at the bottom of the page!

    If, as the hypothesis goes, there was another author who showed up on the scene hundreds of years before this copy of Isaiah which we have today sitting in a museum in Israel (which confirms ALMOST VERBATIM that what we read in our bibles today is COMPLETELY ACCURATE—as it concerns this book—and confirms the “traditional way” the Bible is read by people like me) and hundreds of years after the actual author of Isaiah,

    THERE WOULD BE EVIDENCE OF THIS IN THE WAY THE SCROLL WAS WRITTEN.

    Alas, for the perspective of this website, that is not the case. In fact, the guild of people who have this website’s view on the Bible, were one of the most prominent of the worldwide groups (including not just atheists who anticipated the same conspiratorial theories which dominate this site, but also had the ranks of the “bible thumpers” too. Both groups and many others “could not wait” while the Dead Sea Scroll experts patiently took their time with this scroll over the years and all the other fragments that were found in the caves of Quran) that agitated and complained about how long the true biblical scholars back in Israel were taking as they perused and did their job of not only analyzing but also preserving the ancient manuscripts. If I remember right, it was somewhere around 40 years or more until the whole world was given access.

    If indeed this 2nd or 3rd (yes, I am aware of your position for just #2) Isaiah was not just some pseudo-intellectual construct of the last 100 years or so, THEN CERTAINLY THERE WOULD BE AMPLE EVIDENCE OF THIS PROCESS THAT IS HELD AS SACROSANCT around here when your little “guild of experts” along with everyone else was able to study and analyze the Isaiah Scroll along with everyone else.

    But as I said, there was no evidence whatsoever. Just for the “bible thumpers” like me, and so, on this issue, the Wellhausen histiograhers faded into the background for the “proof” they were looking for was just histrionic.

    Like I said, we could go into this little deeper if you want. But you also have more proof of my perspective from people who lived at the same time as when this particular scroll was “stitched together”. Josephus comes to mind. He referenced both Isaiah 19 and some of the chapters starting after Isaiah 40 “in the same breath”. In other words, he was not only COMPLETELY UNAWARE of this 2nd and 3rd Isaiah premise, but when he mentioned the second reference, he did so to make a point: Isaiah, according to Josephus, predicted the advent of Cyrus.

    Here is how I put it, quoting from my draft: “Josephus, saw in the erection of a temple and an altar in Egypt by the high priest, Onias, the fulfillment of “an ancient prediction made by (a prophet) whose, name was Isaiah” (apparently referring to Isa. 19:19-25) “about 600 years before.” He also referred directly to the Cyrus prophecy of Isaiah 44, 45 and stated that this prophecy belonged to Isaiah. Not the second or the third, just Isaiah. He also stated that these prophecies were uttered “one hundred and forty years” before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. In other words, since Isaiah actually lived in the mid 800s and wrote into the beginning quarter of the 8th century, these declarations from Josephus are important for two reasons. First, they form a part of the universal tradition that was and still is in place now for twenty-six centuries, established over a century before the first Jewish exile into Babylon. One that understood that the entirety of the book of Isaiah was written by him. Not him and someone and/or someone else as well.

    I haven’t looked at your sites you offered but I promise I will. As always though, my outlook on the Bible is that of learning to know the One who created everything “ex nihilo”, I don’t just blindly believe in miracles, I live in that realm as a missionary and know personally that the prophets are valid for even our day, not just back in the past.

    That is in stark contrast to this website. While reading some of the comments that Steve has made (such as the purpose for contradictionsinthebible.com being, in part, to provide a forum for “atheists and theists” to interact) without looking up the exact definition, I would guess that I am here because I’m not even properly a “theist”. Somebody has to represent the vast majority of us who actually read and study the Bible everyday as a way of life!

  13. “I certainly trust that you are not seriously worried about me losing my faith.”

    No, I’m not :-) I simply meant that in the same vein as my earlier remarks in various places, that being a Christian does not require a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, so these observations are not an attack on faith in general.

    ” I dealt with the Isaiah scroll specifically and showed from the scroll how the two author idea (others of your persuasion would say you’re wrong—there are at least three!) is bunk. The scroll clearly makes no break at the prescribed time for the 2nd Isaiah”

    Unfortunately I can’t find where you said that, because the Google search results for the site are clouded by our recent comments on Isaiah, which appear in the sidebar next to every article. So searching for mentions of the Isaiah scroll returns every article on the blog, until our comments leave the Recent Comments area.

    However, I think you missed the point I was making that hundreds of years passed between the writing of the texts of the book of Isaiah and the time that the DSS were produced. So we wouldn’t expect to see a physical break in the DSS Isaiah scroll because the texts had already been merged — only a “break” in the language and setting of the writings. The observation that the scroll abruptly changes POV is what led to the theory that there was more than one writer (again, please see that Wikipedia link, if you haven’t yet). Whether there were two or three writers is less clear, but the minimum number of writers is definitely two.

  14. KW,

    let me respond briefly to your comment:

    ” So there was plenty of time for different writings to be composed and eventually merged before the scribes of the DSS ever got anywhere near the Isaiah text. I encourage you to look at the evidence for Isaiah having at least two authors (one of whom could certainly have been Isaiah himself): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah#Authorship. Plenty of Christians have accepted this evidence and still held onto their faith.”

    (;~)) I certainly trust that you are not seriously worried about me losing my faith. I would have to find the post somewhere. It is on this contradictionsinthebible.com site somewhere. You’re better at finding your way around than I am and if I didn’t thank you before for your advice on how to find your stuff, which I have used and (it works!), you might use it to try and find the post I made that I am referring to. I dealt with the Isaiah scroll specifically and showed from the scroll how the two author idea (others of your persuasion would say you’re wrong—there are at least three!) is bunk. The scroll clearly makes no break at the prescribed time for the 2nd Isaiah, as per this sites’ thoughts on a later Isaiah. I show the exact place where the scrolls are physically stitched together and it is totally in the WRONG PLACE!

    Maybe later (I have a guy coming over to help me build a deck, stairs, and a roof over it) I can come back and try to find it and put it up again here. Feel free to do so if you so choose.

    Any rate, gotta go. Good talkin’ w’ ya, guv-nah!

  15. Yes, the Dead Sea Scrolls are very helpful in seeing how little Isaiah changed over some centuries, but they only go back to around the 2nd century BCE. Even the latest date assigned to the original writing of any part of Isaiah is the 6th century BCE. So there was plenty of time for different writings to be composed and eventually merged before the scribes of the DSS ever got anywhere near the Isaiah text. I encourage you to look at the evidence for Isaiah having at least two authors (one of whom could certainly have been Isaiah himself): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah#Authorship. Plenty of Christians have accepted this evidence and still held onto their faith.

    And while Isaiah may be mostly unchanged since the time the DSS were composed, there are significant variations in other DSS texts from what we will read in our modern Bible, as mentioned here: http://jur.byu.edu/?p=3703, and here: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/dead-sea-scrolls/the-masoretic-text-and-the-dead-sea-scrolls/. An example is the text of Deut. 32:8, 9. This was the passage which we previously discussed, and I tried to show you how the DSS version of the text referred to the 70 sons of El, one of whom was YHWH (that discussion was here: http://contradictionsinthebible.com/genesis-1-not-a-creatio-ex-nihilo/).

  16. KW,

    you do have the complete Book of Isaiah, just as we have it, verbatim, and it is sitting in a museum in Israel. Dead Sea scroll par excellance! Many other fragments of other OT scriptures were also found. Indicating that what we have today is what was written way back in the days of yore…that we can depend on and live by and be transformed into the very image of the One who inspired them in the first place.

  17. I think the question of whether the text is inspired or not, not to mention what it means for the text to be inspired, is a matter of faith. As far as I know the phrase only appears once in the Bible and it’s not clear to me what Paul or whoever wrote 1 Timothy meant by it except that it’s good to study the Scriptures. Do we believe that a text being divinely inspired means it is true in every sense and equally meaningful at all times? There was still a person writing the text, and that person had a background, a point of view, and a reason for writing.

    For me the Documentary Hypothesis is not about those issues at all. I’m not an expert on it by any means, but I think it explains a lot. I remember reading the story of the spies in Numbers and wondering why sometimes the faithful spies are Caleb and Joshua and sometimes there is only Caleb. Joshua is rather important, so it doesn’t seem likely the writer would forget about his involvement — unless there was an earlier version of the story in which Joshua does not appear. Another thing I wondered about is the Jubilee year. In the Pentateuch there is detailed instruction about setting slaves free and forgiving debts every 50 years, and yet there is never any mention of such a thing happening that I am aware of. Not only that, there isn’t even a mention of such a thing not happening, as if the writers of Judges, Samuel, and Kings were unaware there was even supposed to a Year of Jubilee.

    Anyway, I am enjoying Dr. Dimattei’s analysis even as I think his polemic against Christians is unfair. I hope he will post more frequently in 2015.

  18. Hello again. You mentioned that “while this is raw information I don’t consider it to be knowledge and understanding because that only comes with the synthesis of the raw information.” Very true. Seeming contradictions in one passage do not make for convincing evidence of a large assertion like the one the Documentary Hypothesis makes. But when we look at different accounts and see unique phrases being used alternatingly as if by two writers, and can separate the interleaved statements into separate stories that remain coherent and complete, it gradually gives more weight to the the hypothesis. I think the entries Dr. DiMattei wrote on the Flood and Red Sea accounts were particularly convincing for me. Have you looked at those?

    “Dr. Dimattei believes that the priestly account is accurate and the Yahwist account isn’t while I view the two accounts as different but complimentary”

    I believe his response would be that he does not view any writing as more accurate than any other, but simply the product of a different time or school of thought. I am pretty sure he has stated that he is not a believer, so he is not trying to “pick a side” between P and J — only to illuminate what sides they took, what beliefs they held.

    “I have posted my rationale against his first list of contradictions – 1 a to e which I would appreciate your comments on.”

    I don’t really have any arguments against the point you made there, but I think you may not realize the degree of literalness which Dr. DiMattei is applying to the text when he lists “contradictions”. He is not asserting that these contradictions cannot be reconciled by additional explanation; the goal of the exercise is simply to note that there is a contradiction when the text is read as strictly as possible, word for word.

    I don’t personally agree with every contradiction that he lists on the site, and I think that some of the contradictions are easily explained away. But I have found that a larger picture emerges when one takes this approach, which supports the idea that different ancient writings were being preserved by a respectful scribe whose job was to edit the writings together into a single piece that would be copied all together in the future.

    “I believe that we can separate the inspired and uninspired text and books of the Bible, but not without research and careful study. […] What this teaches us is that finding the truth isn’t as simple as picking up a book and reading or attending a church service. We have to dig way deeper than that because of the breadth and depth of deception that engulfs the entire world.”

    With all respect, this seems to be an unorthodox approach to the Bible, and a slippery slope. Does the Bible anywhere warn that some of its own scriptures might be false? Didn’t Paul say that all scripture (presumably he meant Jewish scripture, the OT) was inspired? Or was this verse a lie someone inserted later? Would God have allowed his Word to be corrupted accidentally in order to test people (contra James 1:13)? Did Jesus say that people needed to diligently study the scriptures in order to be saved? Of course you realize that most of those people could not read at all, let alone study their own personal copies of the scrolls. Probably 99% of all humans who have ever lived were illiterate and had to rely on others to read and interpret for them, so such a message would have been rather cruel.

    It’s true that we can see evidence that some verses in the New Testament were inserted later. We can see this partly because we can compare copies of the same writings from different periods to see which parts might have changed. This is not as true of the Old Testament because those writings are simply so old. There’s no telling how much they might have changed over the early years which have no surviving MSS and scarcely any “alternate routes” through which those MSS were preserved by generations of copyists.

    We do have the Samaritan Pentateuch as one alternative copy of the first five books, and indeed we see some significant differences there, some of which seem quite ancient and may be the correct versions of corrupted words in the Masoretic text that we traditionally rely on. But if salvation depends upon solving the mystery of which text is “correct”, then all hope is lost. What are people to do who can’t read today, don’t have a Bible in their language, or have no access to information about the original languages of the texts?

  19. I appreciate your comment KW!
    I was surprised with the information presented by Dr. Dimattei about the possibility of different authorship of the Genesis creation accounts, however in hindsight I see there are some clues like the different references to God – one general the other specific, and the different viewpoint – one heavenly the other earthly. While this is raw information I don’t consider it to be knowledge and understanding because that only comes with the synthesis of the raw information. Dr. Dimattei believes that the priestly account is accurate and the Yahwist account isn’t while I view the two accounts as different but complimentary. I have posted my rationale against his first list of contradictions – 1 a to e which I would appreciate your comments on.
    I believe that we can separate the inspired and uninspired text and books of the Bible, but not without research and careful study. There is so much information available today with computers and the internet, but it needs to be approached with caution because not everything we read is “the gospel truth” so to speak. I know some source and textual critics believe that the oldest text is the inspired I try to assess each case myself to avoid being misled. I have and continue to use a varied approach – developing an awareness of which text and books have a higher chance of being uninspired – and testing the doctrine myself against what I see as foundational truths proven throughout scripture.
    One example of uninspired scripture is found in changes made to diminish the status of women. 1 Timothy contains the most damaging scripture to the status of women, but there is evidence that the Pastoral Epistles were written in the second century and that Paul was not the author. If we combine this with evidence that the verses in 1 Cor 14: 34 & 35 were not part of the original document of which there is a good summary on this site: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/1156/is-1-corinthians-1433-35-an-interpolation , a major false teaching can be discarded so it doesn’t leaven our understanding of scripture. I am aware of other changes made to support false doctrine which shows us how careful we need to be.
    What this teaches us is that finding the truth isn’t as simple as picking up a book and reading or attending a church service. We have to dig way deeper than that because of the breadth and depth of deception that engulfs the entire world. It’s not like we weren’t warned that this would be the case as there are plenty of warnings about false prophets and deception in both the Old and New Testaments leaving us with no excuse.
    In the Old Testament God warned his people over and over again not to let their prophets deceive them because many prophesy falsely in his name, but he has not sent them (Jeremiah 29: 8 & 9, Zechariah 10: 1 & 2). In Deut 13: 1 to 4 we see that even when a prophet gives a sign or wonder that comes true we must test everything the prophet says to ensure we keep on the narrow road to salvation and not be lured off to the broad road to destruction. In Jeremiah 23: 16 & 17 Yahweh says “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, “You will have peace “‘; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say calamity will not come upon you.’” God’s people must have a deep understanding of scripture to ensure they aren’t seeking something that is not in God’s plan.
    There are many warning in the New Testament about false prophets that will deceive many (Mark 13:22, Matthew 24:11 & 24) which is why we need to “test the spirits” as it says in 1 John 4:1. Those who don’t take this advice can unknowingly receive an evil spirit as Paul warns us in 2 Cor. 11: 3 & 4 to not “be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ” lest we receive another spirit “For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.” We can see that those that are “led astray” won’t be aware as Jesus states in Matthew 7: 21 to 23 they will be saying “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ and in Matthew 15:9 “BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.”
    This is why we have to dig deep, read scripture AND pray for understanding because the wisdom of God doesn’t come from any worldly education, but God freely distributes it to those who seek it with all their heart and soul as they would a precious treasure.

  20. Kate E, I appreciate your interest in getting to the bottom of the matter when it comes to truth in the Bible. Unfortunately, personally I do not believe that it’s possible to find the inspired scriptures amongst the uninspired, separating the wheat from the chaff as it were. If you look at Dr. DiMattei’s summary of the four theorized sources, J, E, D, and P, in the Essential Reading sidebar, you’ll see that the textual evidence points to different schools of writers with different agendas.

    One could argue that perhaps the oldest writing is the most authentic, but the problem with that viewpoint is that, the older the writings we look at, the more they resemble the beliefs of the Canaanite/Ugaritic culture that the Israelites are considered as having emerged from. We see descriptions of Yahweh as a limited god-like man, for instance, making Adam and Eve by hand, and as part of a heavenly council of gods. And the creation language also resembles other cultures’ myths and makes allusions to their primordial creatures like Yamm.

    The later writings, more uniquely Israel’s, and which paint God as being all-powerful, are actually what modern Jewish and Christian beliefs tend to be based upon, but if we assume those are the correct passages, then that begs the question of why the later writings would be more inspired than the earlier writings. The picture that many of us see, when we look back in time, is of an evolving belief system that changed in response to influence by powerful nations (especially Babylon), and that became more sophisticated over time, but at the cost of re-interpreting the earlier writing in ways that its writers did not intend.

    That’s not to say that one can’t believe in God and also accept the Documentary Hypothesis, as some scholars are in fact believers, like Tryggve Mettinger, who has written about the evolution of the Jewish concept of God under His different names in the Hebrew writings, but who still counts himself a Christian.

  21. I appreciate your insightful analysis of the possible contradictions in the creation account found in scripture, and the information respecting the authorship and its implications. Please correct me if I’m wrong – in reading this article I get the impression that you consider the biblical creation account to be a myth like the creation stories from other cultures. What do you see as the true account of creation given the scriptural contradictions and myths?
    Personally, I believe Yahweh did create the heavens and the earth and that this is evident from the absolute awesomeness of it. I believe that the account of it was verbally spoken of well before it was written down and thus was subject to being plagiarized. I believe that Satan, being the liar that he is, would ensure there were multiple accounts of creation to confuse us and lead us to question the very existence of an eternal, all powerful creator. In Psalm 74:13 & 14 I believe it is referring to the parting of the sea in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt not speaking of creation, the sea monsters were part of God’s creation (Genesis 1:21) whether they are serpents or whales, and a leviathan similarly means a sea monster or serpent. Whatever these creatures are, I am certain they were created by Yahweh because everything was created by him.
    With respect to the theme of this article – Yahweh or el – I believe the term “el” is a general term that means strong or mighty and can be applied to men, Yahweh, and gods in general. For example in Ezekiel 31:11 it is used in reference to “the mighy one of the heathen” KJ, “mighty nation” NLT, or “ruler of the nations” NIV. In Ezekiel 32:21 refers to strong/mighty men in the grave which can’t be referring to Yahweh because he is eternal. In Daniel 11:36 el appears to be used generally where it says “the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god (el)” and to Yahweh as the “God (el) of gods (el)”. So in Genesis 14: 19 where it says “the most high God (el), possessor of heaven and earth” I see the adjective “most high (elyown)” as confirming this sentence as being specifically about Yahweh because while there are other gods no other god is the most high god.
    I am not surprised that there is a significant amount of archaeological evidence of pagan activity and little of Yahweh’s worshippers because there were so few. Throughout the entire Old Testament the Israelites would do what was evil/go whoring, then they were afflicted or destroyed, then return to Yahweh and have a period of peace. If are beliefs require archaeological evidence I’m afraid we are lost because so few stayed loyal to Yahweh thus there is little or no evidence that he was worshipped. Logically evidence will be found to support popular customs which means the worship of other gods, not Yahweh.
    We must be so careful and stay strong spiritually through studying the Word and prayer because there is so much deception in the world. I have been looking into source and textual criticism to identify what scripture is inspired and what isn’t and it is very challenging. I am trying to keep a solid foundation of faith otherwise I fear I will become spiritually lost – apart from the very God I am seeking to be close to. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of putting all of our questions, concerns and doubts to God so he can bless us with understanding and we don’t fall away. Be careful children because the deception is broad just as the road to destruction is, and many will not find the narrow road to salvation.

  22. John,

    I just noticed this comment, since I am going through earlier contradictions and preparing the book form of the contents of this site. You ask some interesting questions here. I might attempt a response by drawing on some other older traditions preserved in the Bible (Psalms 29:1, 89:6-7, etc. & Deut 32:8-9; see #27) where Yahweh is still understood as a god among El’s court, and specifically the god allotted to the Israelite people. So maybe texts such as Genesis 28:20-12 represent the “real” historic progression from the inhabitants of Canaan worshiping El to specifically Yahweh. If this were plausible, then Gen 28 might be providing an answer to Israelites of how and when did Yahweh become the patron god of Israel.

  23. “The ancient tale of Jacob building an altar at Shechem and invoking ‘El, god of Israel’ (Gen 33:20) is one such remnant.”

    What’s interesting is that Genesis 33:20 is from the Elohist, but so is Genesis 28:20-21:

    20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God.

    1) Why would the Elohist have Jacob promise that Yahweh, not el or elohim, would be his god?
    2) Who was Jacob’s god before this?
    3) How could the Elohist have Jacob build an altar to “El, God of Israel” after having him promise that Yahweh would be his God? It doesn’t seem that the texts try to equate Yahweh and El as Exodus 6:2-3 does, because otherwise why have Jacob promise that Yahweh *would be* his god if the author meant to suggest that Yahweh and El were just different names for the same deity?

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