Child Sacrifice, A Traditional Religious Practice in Ancient Israel?

Scholars continue to debate a number of important issues concerning the nature of human (child) sacrifices in the ancient Near East, including the origins of the rite, to whom these sacrifices were intended, and by whom they were performed.  A number of books dedicated to the topic have appeared in recent years,[1] and many scholarly books pertaining to the history of Israelite religions have included discussions of these issues as well.[2] Especially vexing as pertains to the biblical material is the question of whether there was in fact a god named Molech/Molek to whom these sacrifices were being performed, and whether or not the biblical phrase “to make pass through the fire” refers to child sacrifice or simply a ritual of dedication.  [Read more...]

Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark, written c. 65-70 C.E., is the earliest of the four gospels (even being edited and reused as a source text for the Gospels of Luke and Matthew), and offers a unique perspective among the gospels on the meaning of discipleship and following Jesus. [1]  Mark places heavy emphasis on the suffering(s) and death of Jesus, and understands true Christian discipleship in terms of literally following Jesus’ example through experiencing and enduring suffering and persecution for the gospel (Mark 8.34; 10.28). [Read more...]

A Feminist Interpretation of Jesus’ Sayings Concerning (no?) Marriage in Heaven

Introduction

LDS Christians proudly proclaim that woman and man may be joined in marriage through the power of God both for this life and the life to come.  For Mormons, the marriage covenant does not necessarily have to end when “death do[es] you part,” but may potentially exist “for time and all eternity” when “sealed” by God’s power, provided that both partners of the marriage relationship persist in faithfulness to each other and to God.  LDS Christians usually make reference to uniquely Mormon sources, such as Doctrine and Covenants 132.15-19, when attempting to clearly delineate the source for this theological understanding.  The relevant portions of D&C 132.15-19 read: [Read more...]

Wait, that’s in the Bible?! Celestial Sex

Background/The Divine Council

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Wait, that’s (not) in the Bible?! Creation Ex Nihilo, Israelite Cosmology, and Science

As I have discussed in a series of posts on creation in Genesis 1-3 (see: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the vast majority of biblical scholars now recognize that the ancient Israelites viewed the cosmos as being formed from a primeval chaotic state, and not ex nihilo.  This may be best understood, perhaps, by taking a closer look at their worldview of the order and structure of the cosmos. Biblical scholar Bernhard Anderson briefly summarizes their cosmological world-view as follows:

The Bible takes for granted a three-storied structure of the universe: heaven, earth, and underworld (Ex. 20:4). According to this Weltbild, the earth is a flat surface, corrugated by mountains and divided by rivers and lakes. Above the earth, like a huge dome, is spread the firmament that holds back the heavenly ocean and supports the dwelling place of the gods (Genesis 1:8; Ps. 148:4). The earth itself is founded on pillars that are sunk into the subterranean waters (Ps. 24:2; 104:5), in the depths of which is located Sheol, the realm of death. In this view, the habitable world is surrounded by the waters of chaos, which unless held back, would engulf the world, a threat graphically portrayed in the flood story (Genesis 7:11; c.f. 1:6) and in various poems in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 46:1-4; 104:5-9). [1] [Read more...]

Wait, that’s in the Bible?! Israelite Polytheism or Monotheism?

God ['elohim] has taken his place in the divine council ['adat 'el];

in the midst of the gods ['elohim] he holds judgement.

Ps. 82.1 (NRSV)

References to a divine council or heavenly assembly are found frequently throughout the Hebrew Bible [1]. Simply, the divine council is the heavenly royal court over which Yahweh, the God of Israel, presides as heavenly king. The members of this heavenly court or assembly are referred to in the Hebrew Bible by such terms as: bene (ha)’elohim “sons of God” (Gen. 6.2, 4; Deut. 32.8-9; Job 1.6, 2.2, 38.7), ‘elohim “gods” (Ps. 82.1, 6), bene elim “sons of gods” (Ps. 29.1, 89.7), and bene ‘elyon “sons of the Most High” (Ps. 82.6). Moreover, the council itself is referred to by such appellations as the adat ‘el “council/assembly/congregation of ‘El/God” (Ps. 82.1), sod qedoshim rabbah “great council of the holy ones” (Ps. 89.8), sod YHWH “the council of Yahweh” (Jer. 23.18), and sod eloah “council of God” (Job 15.8). [Read more...]

Wait, that’s (not) in the Bible?! Satan and Evil

In much of the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, including LDS Christianity, Satan is seen as the personification of evil, a being who purposely defies God and attempts to thwart his plans for the world.[1] Because Satan is such a prominent figure in especially the Christian tradition, it is quite shocking that the notion of this archenemy to God is not really found anywhere in the Hebrew Bible, and doesn’t clearly appear until the intertestamental period (i.e., the period between the writing of the Old and New Testaments).

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Wait, that’s (not) in the Bible?! God’s Omniscience

There is an interesting tradition found in many biblical texts that affirms that Yahweh, the God of Israel, genuinely consults with others and considers their voice despite the fact that he is eminently more powerful and knowledgeable than they. This is especially evident in those texts where Yahweh reasons or dialogues with a prophet and, at times, even changes his intended course of action after hearing their argument(s) and opinion(s). As one example, consider Exodus 32.7-14 (NRSV) which records a dialogue between Yahweh and Moses after the people of Israel–whom Yahweh had just powerfully delivered from the land of Egypt–worshiped and offered sacrifices to a golden calf: [Read more...]

El Shaddai

This important title, often found in connection with name ‘El, is found in several biblical passages in reference to Israel’s God (e.g., Gen.17.1; 28.3; 35.11;49.25; Ex. 6.3; Num. 24.4, 16; Ps. 68.15; Job 8.3,5, etc.). [1] ‘El-Shaddai is P’s favored title for God before the revelation of the divine name to Moses. But what is its meaning, and what is its historical derivation? Traditionally, following the LXX (i.e., the Septuagint, or ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), which uses pantokrator, and the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome), which uses omnipotens, the term has often been rendered in English translation as “Almighty,” but it is now generally considered that this interpretation is fallacious, and possibly stems from a similar sounding Hebrew root $-d-d, meaning “to destroy.” Some modern scholars have suggested several other possibilities, such as connecting it with the Hebrew word $ad, meaning breast. However, since ‘El-Shaddai was a male diety, this seems somewhat unlikely. Another suggestion is that it is related to the Hebrew word sadeh, meaning “field.” However, this root uses a different sibilant (sin) in its root than does Shaddai (shin).

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“Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” Does the Bible Teach Radical Monotheism?

Deuteronomy 6.4-9, also known as the Shema because the first word of the passage in Hebrew is the imperative shĕma‘, meaning “Listen,” is probably one of the most well known passages in all of biblical literature. In Jewish tradition this passage is frequently recited as a prayer, a practice that goes back at least to the early rabbinic period [1]. The broader Judeo-Christian tradition, moreover, has often taken the first verse of this passage as a statement of Israel’s (and its own) radical monotheistic faith. This verse reads: “Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” However, this common Judeo-Christian interpretation which claims that Israel maintained a radical monotheistic stance, or a belief that there is only one G/god in existence (in this case, Yahweh, the God of Israel), has been subject to severe criticism by modern biblical scholars.

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