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August 29, 2008

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William Dever, in What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, does much the same thing this guy did in his blog.

Basically they dredge up all the evidence that ancient Israel was awash in idolatry (just like the Bible says) and call it signs of "polytheism." They need to get over themselves.

Why would God be angry with people for serving the gods to whom they were given?

Different Scriptural authors have different things they might want to emphasize, so what's written in one place may not be entirely consistent with what is written in another. One writer might explain how it is that neighboring places worship other deities. Another might spend a lot of time talking about how YHWH is superior to all the others, and how the others all stink.

Take the story of the Philistines capture of the ark of the covenant in I Sam 5. The ark is placed in the temple of Dagon, and every morning the priests of Dagon come in to see their god fallen on the floor broken in pieces. Kind of a trojan horse thing going on.

But if this is historical you have to wonder what YHWH is up to. Kind of reminds you of Captain Kirk's question "What does God need with a starship?" If you're really the God of the universe, why the need to go through all these theatrics and trojan horse methods? Why not just wipe the Philistines and their god out already? Well the answer is that it's not enough to just wipe them out. We have to humiliate them to make for a good story to show that our deity is better. So it appears that the authors are trying to portray their deity as superior, which is kind of what you might expect.

There's nothing outrageous about suggesting that this evolution did occur. It's not as if it is unprecedented. Islam follows the same patter. I understand that Mohammed's tribal deity started as one among many, then he was better than the rest, then he's the only one. If getting everyone to go along with the change is so implausible, how did it occur in Islam, which is of course fiercly monotheistic today? The victors write the history. That's how.

The polytheism of the Hebrews is not the starting point of an argument to prove the polytheism of the Hebrews. This is based upon an examination of the data. Just look at the way God is treated in the early texts. He's a guy that walks around, gets mad, can have a good day or a bad day. Just think about what it means to say "Bless the Lord." Blessing someone basically means that you wish well for them, just as cursing them means you wish bad things for them. Why bless the unmoved mover? Are you hoping he has a good day? Why are you sacrificing things to him? Is he hungry? Does he need food? Is he offended by human excrement (Dt 23:12-14). Are you really finding in the bible exactly what you expect to find from a monotheistic standpoint? Slap a polytheistic paradigm on to these data points and see how it fits. Seems to go pretty far in my view.

Also note the strength of a good theory is its predictive capability. A polytheist paradigm will say that the older the texts are that we find, the more polytheism we would see. So here's our earliest copy of Deutoronomy and it's showing a text that far more easily can be seen within the polytheistic framework. That's the mark of a good theory.

Kind of like evolution. It predicts the existence of the first tetrapods in the Devonian period. So in Canada there was some rock exposed that was from that period, so they dug within that rock to find an animal with both fish and reptilian characteristics. And they found it. Tiktaalik. That's the mark of a good theory.

The ancient Hebrews worshiped the YHWH(singular) God(plural.) They worshiped the Existence deity. There is only One for which all things are, and He was plurality of might and power. Everything is do to Him. The heathen worshiped created things. The Hebrews understood Existence as a Personage to be the Creator of all things in it.

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