Harry McCall on God, Yahweh and Elohim

Harry wrote:
The word θεὸς “Theos” (God) in the major Liddell & Scott, et. al., Classical Greek Lexicon published by Oxford University Press: "God is defined by the deities of ancient Roman and Greece. As such, the Greek Classical textual tradition links “God” directly with the Classical Gods and not with the Christian pagan god Yahweh. When Rome left the Gods that had made them great and became Christian, the mighty Roman empire began its decline until it was sacked. It was Christianity and its god that ushered in the Dark Ages at the end of this great Classical period."
Brad Haggard responds to Harry,
1. You know you are not using lexical information correctly. Barr should have already warned you about context and semantics.

2. I don't suppose that, oh, economics, social dynamics, politics, and military tactics had anything to do with the fall of Rome. Or, I guess then Christianity really can take credit for the Renaissance and the scientific/industrial revolution.
Harry responds to Brad,
Would you agree that אלהים (Masoretic text) is masculine plural?

Would you also agree that ὁ θεὸς (LXX) is masculine singular?

So, in Genesis 1:1, did an assembly of male gods create the heavens and the earth or did one god create? (If you want to play the Trinity card, then I’ll let your explain the other names of אל + prefixes in the MT text.)

Can you show me why the divine name יהוה does not occur in the entire New Testament? Could it just be that “son of god” fit the Hellenic context of the Greek would while יהוה would have been an abhorrent pagan name for them, especially after the Jews were expelled from Rome in 46 CE?

Secondly, my view is in line with that of Edward Gibbons The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Weather or nor Gibbons was anti-Christian, his views of the end of the Roman Empire agrees with mine.

Another insider's look at how Christianity really worked in the late Empire is discussed in G.W. Bowersock’s award winning book: Julian the Apostate.

Julian, the grandson of Constantine, gives a horrific story about members of his own Christian family were murders and why he remained a non-Christian ("pagan", a derogatory term
Brad Haggard said...
Harry, this makes me reminisce about our knock downs from a while ago.

I just want to talk about your first point now. Are you getting this from mythicist literature?

Elohim is not cut and dry, because the "oh" is an additive. The basic 3mp form would be "elim", which is attested in the OT. Elohim is also used for plural, but not uniformly (don't forget Barr's warning on lexical information). But the way to distinguish is really pretty simple. In Ge. 1:1 the main verb, "bara" is the 3ms form. So in this sentence, the subject is singular. This is consistent throughout Genesis 1 until 1:26, where the 1st person plural is used (you know, with the nun on the front). This is where echoes of the divine council are seen, not in 1:1. If you hold to the Documentary hypothesis, which I assume you do, I have no idea how you would make sense of the Priestly writer in Genesis 1:1 allowing for a pantheon. The divine council is more of a literary device, with most of the rest of the evidence for it coming from wisdom literature.

Next, as to why there is no mention of "yahweh" in the NT. All you have to do is pick up a LXX and read Psalm 1. There YHWH is translated as the Greek "kyrios". This is consistent in the LXX and makes sense because YHWH is pointed in the Masoretic as the Hebrew word for "lord", "adonai." Fast forward to the "Hellenistic" gospel of John, and what is Thomas' confession at the climax of the book upon seeing the resurrected Jesus? "Ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou!" (My Lord and my God!)

I have no idea why you bring up the Jews' expulsion from Rome in 46 AD, and it sounds like you're getting farther out on the branch here. "Son of god" is widely attested in 2nd Temple literature, so I also can't see how that would be anachronistic (don't believe me, as Thom Stark).

If you want to keep this argument up, it's going to need some serious revision.
Harry H. McCall, CET said...
Hi Brad,

First up is Elohim.

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD, E.J. Brill; p668) states: The usual word for ‘god’ in the Hebrew Bible is ‘elohim, a plural formation of ‘eloah, the latter being expanded from the Common Semitic noun ‘il (=Eloah). // Since the Israelite concept of divinity included all praeternatural beings, also lower deities (in modern usage referred to as ‘spirits’, ‘angels’, ‘demons’, ‘semi-gods’, and the like0 maybe called ‘elohim. (p.669)

What follows in DDD are numerous examples of uses where אלהים is not the Judeo-Christian God, but false gods or teraphim (Gen. 31:30,32), or anonymous heavenly creatures (Ps. 8:6) and spirits of the dead (1 Sam. 28:13)also called אלהים.

While ‘el and ‘eloah are use as proper nouns in the Hebrew Bible, ‘elohim is not.

Your claim that ברא makes אלהים understood a 3rd person singular carries no real weight until the time of the Massoretes (600CE -750CE) when the text was standardized as drawn both from the LXX and rabbinic traditions. This is easily verifiable by photos of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Most Hebrew Lexicons will list verbs in their Qal / three letter roots, thus ברא is defined as “to create” and not as "he (god)created” as the late 7th century vowel pointing would have it read. (On this see: Williams Holladay’s discussion of the qal in his: A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament; Introduction, p. VIII. Plus, “to create” is not an infinitive either since it would have had the “ל” prefix to the root.)

What you have not considered in your apology is that אלהים, based on its etymology, could be anything from angles to demons doing the creating here, but I contend it means some type of “gods” for whatever reason the Temple scribe meant here.

Secondly, considering Genesis 1 & 2 are late stories (God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea: Echoes of a Canaanite Myth in the Old Testament, by John Day (Cambridge University Press 1985)) even if it is of the Temple / Priestly authorship, you have not attempted to explain why a monotheistic religion would have used a plural form of a Semitic language when their nearest and older neighbors at Ugarit (1300 BCE)list their main god ’il (who is the head of the Ugaritic pantheon) as well as the younger ba’al as singular!

Even older Akkadian cuneiform texts from where these mythical stories of creation and Eden are set, list their gods in the singular, be they male or female (An Illustrated Dictionary: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, University of Texas Press, 2006).

So again, if Yahwehism is really monotheistic, why even use an undefined plural term in Genesis 1 that can carries with it numerous meanings?

Moreover, the use of יהוה אלהיםbeginning in 2:4 adds even more to the confusion in trying to identify this vague term with the Israelite creator god Yahweh.

Both the terms אלהי השמים (Ugaritic: “Ba’al shamem” and Phoenician 10th century BCE) along with Yahweh are singular terms and much older than the vague and confused term used in

Thirdly, the LXX is a running commentary on the Hebrew text (See John W. Wevers' Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

The fact that the term Yahweh is not used in the New Testament points to the fact of a severe break with the original Jesus Jewish movement (represented by Peter and James) and Paul’s radical revision of Judaism which the Hellenists preserved.

Both Paul’s authentic letters and the Gospels have anti-Jewish interpolations in them (See Birger Pearson’s The Emergence of the Christian Religion: Essays on Early Christianity (Trinity Press International, 1997) especially Chapter 3: 1 Thessalonians 2:13 -16: A Deutero-Pauline Interpolation, pp.58 – 74).

This anti-Jewish polemic is placed on the lips of Jesus in the hash woes of Matthew 23:29 – 24:2 where the Jews and not just the Romans, “will crucify” (σταυρώσετε) prophets of god as if the Jews killed Jesus: “And all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!" Matt. 27: 25.

My point about the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 46 CE is the matrix of the anti-Jewish polemics interpolated into the New Testament.

As such, the old Jewish Hebrew god Yahweh is replaced with the Greek pagan term "θεὸς" and the more genetic term “κύριος” used in the N.T. for both men and god.

Finally, as to your claim that “υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ” is “wildly attested in 2nd Temple literature” is vastly over stated:

See υἱὸς in Albert-Marle Denis, Concordance Grecque Des Pseudepigraphes D’ancien Testament (Universite Catholique De Louvain, 1987, pp 755 -758) where, in a quick scan, I counted only 5 or 6 references.