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Prophecies and Saints in the Book of Daniel. Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

I am very pleased to post this interesting and informed post by Platinum member Daniel Kohanski, on one of the most intriguing books of the entire Bible -- and as he points out, one of the most frequently misunderstood, especially today.  This post is for Platinum Members Only.  Feel free to comment and query! ****************************** The book of Daniel is one of the most influential, probably the most controversial, and certainly the most incomprehensible book of the Hebrew Bible. It is particularly famous for two things. It culminates in the only explicit expectation of personal resurrection in Scripture, and it uses a combination of mystical passages and obscure calculations to make that expectation credible. The intention was to convince the reader that Daniel (or an angel telling Daniel) had accurately predicted events hundreds of years in advance. In fact, all of them but the death of Antiochus and the promised resurrection had already happened by the time the author sat down to finish this book--because he was using a technique known to scholarship as vaticinium [...]

2021-07-16T16:11:20-04:00July 13th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Coming of the Spirit at the End of Time

Even though the Spirit of God shows up here and there throughout the Old Testament, starting of course already in Genesis 1:2, continuing on occasion through the narratives and in the prophets, it is not really a central narrational or theological theme.  That contrasts with the New Testament.  Here the Spirit of God is enormously important, on every level. The historical reason for that is that the earliest Christians believed that with the death and resurrection of Jesus they had entered into the End of the Ages.  They were living at the end times.  As we have seen, the resurrection of the dead – when God raised bodies back to live, some to face judgment and others to be given an eternal reward – was to transpire at the end of this age; in the Bible this future resurrection was first spoken of explicitly in Daniel 12:1-3, the last chapter of the final book of the Hebrew Bible to be written.  But the idea of a future resurrection became a widely accepted theological notion in [...]

More Inconsistencies in the Pentateuch

A few posts ago I more or less backed into a new thread on literary discrepancies found in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament; these discrepancies are key to understanding why the books were almost certainly not written by a single person -- Moses, for example -- but are a combination of sources put together centuries after the stories were first placed in circulation. I talk about this in my textbook: The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  Here is how I discuss the matter there: ****************************** The literary inconsistencies of Genesis are not unique to these two chapters.  On the contrary, there are such problems scattered throughout the book.  You can see this for yourself simply by reading the text very carefully.  Read, for example, the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9, and you will find comparable differences.  One of the most glaring is this: according to Gen. 6:19 God told Noah to take two animals “of every kind” with him into the ark; but according to Gen. 7:2 God [...]

2021-05-14T18:16:31-04:00May 12th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Two (Contradictory?) Accounts of Creation in Genesis?

In my previous post I began to explain why scholars have thought that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), were not written by Moses, but later, and that they represent not a single work by a single author, but a compilation of sources, each of them written at different times.  The evidence for this view is quite overwhelming, but in the context of my textbook on the Bible, as in the context here, I didn’t really think it appropriate or useful to dig deeply into all the nuances and ins and outs.  Instead, I gave some of the prominent data.   Here is how I started to do that. ****************************** The internal tensions in the Pentateuch came to be seen as particularly significant.  Nowhere were these tensions more evident than in the opening accounts of the very first book, in the creation stories of Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  Scholars came to recognize that what is said in Genesis 1 cannot be easily (or at all) reconciled [...]

2021-05-01T11:45:46-04:00May 11th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Who Wrote the Pentateuch Anyway?

A couple of posts ago I talked about the account of creation in Genesis 1 (with respect to the first two verses, the creation of the "heavens and the earth" and the "Spirit of God" hovering over the water).  One question I repeatedly get asked by blog readers is what we can say about the author of that creation account and of the Pentateuch (or the "Torah"; the first five books of the Old Testament -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).   It's been years since I've talked about it on the blog. Historically, it was always said (as it is still often said by avid Bible readers today) that these books were written by Moses, the great leader of the Israelites in the 13th century BCE, and main figure of all the books of the Pentateuch, except Genesis (the story of his birth is given at the opening of Exodus, and much of the rest of the Pentateuch is about him).   But scholars came to doubt it.  That’s what these posts will be about.   [...]

2021-05-01T11:41:13-04:00May 9th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament

I will not be giving a full account of the presence of the Spirit of God throughout the Old Testament (or the New) – just enough to give a sense of how the Spirit seems to have been widely understood in a range of authors.  The short story: biblical authors seemed to understand that one way God manifested himself and provided his power to specially chosen people was to send his Spirit upon them. In this understanding, the spirit is simply the divine force that God sends.  It is not seen as a separate “person” from God.  In an undefined sense (that probably the authors didn’t think about much), the spirit is both part of God (as your breath is part of you) and yet is separate from God (remember: spirit and breath and wind are all the same word in Hebrew). As an analogy: when you blow out a candle it is your breath doing it, and that act, the tool used to achieve it (the breath itself), and that which is actually achieved [...]

2021-05-01T11:36:49-04:00May 6th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

How Did the Holy Spirit Get Into the Trinity? In the Beginning….

Since I started this thread on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, I have received the same question over and over again:  What about the Holy Spirit?  As I’ve repeatedly answered, I can’t really deal with that question until I finish explaining how the “orthodox” view of the relationship of the Father and Son came to be settled. In fact, that view never was really settled.  There were debates for a very long time.  But I’ve taken us up through the major issues, up to the council of Nicea, where it was decided that Christ was not a subordinate divine being from eternity past who at some point long, long before the creation of the universe had been brought into being by God, but that he had always existed, along with the Father and was not subordinate to him but was equal to him in every way, “of the very same substance” as the Father. And so, we have two persons, completely equal, both fully God, distinct from one another, but in some [...]

YHWH and Jehovah: Same? Different? Where’s Jehovah Come From?

I received a number of comments on my recent posts about whether Jesus was Yahweh (Hebrew: YHWH) in traditional Christian thinking/theology.  And a number of people have wanted further explanation of the name.  In particular: how does it relate to "Jehovah"?  In fact, where does the name "Jehovah" come from?   And is it in the New Testament? I was asked this question directly years ago on the blog, and posted on it.    Here is the question and what I said in response.   QUESTION: How firmly grounded in reality is the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the ‘divine name’ (Jehovah) belongs in the New Testament?   RESPONSE So this is an interesting question, with several possible ramifications.  At first I should explain that the divine name “Jehovah” doesn’t belong in *either* Testament, old or new, in the opinion of most critical scholars, outside the ranks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  That’s because Jehovah was not the divine name. So here’s the deal.  In the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) God is given a number [...]

Other New Testament References to Books Outside the Hebrew Bible: Platinum Guest Post by Doug Wadeson

I'm pleased now to be able to post Part II of Platinum Member Doug Wadeson's two-part thread on quotations/references in the New Testament to passages not found in the Hebrew Bible.  This one has a surprising and intriguing twist, something that would not have occurred to most readers (and certainly not in this detail!). Doug will be able to respond to your comments and questions. *************************** As I stated in my previous post, the books of the New Testament make a number of references to books outside the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. We tend to think of the Old Testament as “the” Scriptures of Jesus’ day, but clearly early Christians knew and used other religious texts.  We looked at two books referenced in the letter of Jude: 1st Enoch and The Assumption of Moses.  Now we’ll consider a few more. Although not really “outside” the Old Testament it is worth mentioning the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, widely used by Greek-speaking Jews and then Christians.  Whenever I run across a quote [...]

2021-04-26T15:16:50-04:00April 26th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Nope. Jesus is Not Yahweh.

In my last post I pointed out that some conservative evangelical Christians (maybe others? These are the ones I know about) claim that Jesus, in the Bible, is actually to be understood as Yahweh.  I think that’s completely wrong, and in this post I want to explain why. Again, if someone knows better than I do, let me know.  But I’ve never even heard the claim (let alone a discussion of it) until very recently.  I wonder if there are any early Christian theologians who have this view?  Or even later ones, prior to recent times? It is not the view of traditional Christian theology, at least as I learned it once upon a time.  It was certainly not the view of the earliest Christians; and is not a view set forth in the Bible.  The Bible, of course, does not have the Trinity, but when Christianity formulated the doctrine of the trinity, the Father was Yahweh, and Christ was his son.  At least that’s what Christians who read their Old Testament said. Of course [...]

2021-04-02T13:42:30-04:00April 17th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Is Jesus Yahweh?

Increasingly over the past couple of years I have heard people say that Christians think that Jesus is Yahweh.  I suppose some do (in fact I’ve come to learn that some absolutely do).  But I don’t think that’s what Christians have typically though over the years/centuries.  I’ll be devoting two posts to the matter. First some background.  In the Hebrew Bible, there are various ways authors refer to God, just as people today speaking English might say God, the Almighty, the Creator, The Sovereign of all, The Lord God Almighty, or if you’re into 60s and 70s theology, the Ultimate Ground of our being – all to refer to the same divine entity. In Hebrew the basic term for “God” is “El” or “Elohim.”  The latter is the plural and is the much more common term.  It is much debated why the plural is used; no Jewish or critical Christian scholar, I should stress, thinks that it is because ancient Israelites thought of God as a trinity.  More likely it is a plural of majesty, elevating [...]

2021-04-01T18:34:17-04:00April 15th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

How Yahweh of the Israelites Became God of All: Platinum Guest Post by Dan Kohanski

I am pleased to be able to post a guest post by Platinum member Dan Kohanski.  As you can see from the title, it's an intriguing and, well, rather world-shattering/history-changing topic!  Please feel free to make comments: the post is for and to Platinum members only. And if you have a post you want to submit, send it along!  It can be on any topic related to what we do on the blog. **************************** The early Israelites were polytheists — worshippers of many gods — just as all the nations of the Ancient Near East were, though their pantheon may have been smaller than some. We know of El, Yahweh, Astarte (Asherah), and Baal for certain. Possibly the oldest god in the Israelite pantheon was El — the very name "Israel" can be translated as "he who strives with (the god) El."[1] Belief in the god Yahweh — who would eventually become the only god of the Israelites — may have originated in Edom or Seir to the southeast of Canaan. Sometime early on, El [...]

2021-04-14T18:46:58-04:00April 14th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

What Are the Sources of the Hebrew Bible?

Just now I was fishing around for an old post for a rerun, and thought it would be nice to do something on the Old Testament.  It's been a while!  Here is one from many years ago that deals with a question I still get regularly today.  You might have it too!   QUESTION: Do you have a suggestion for a book concerning the Old Testament's construction? I believe in the History of God (by K. Armstrong) she mentioned that there were about five distinct writers for the OT. Is this the scholarly view and do you have a book suggestion to delve deeper into it?   RESPONSE: This is an issue that has been on my mind a lot lately [I was writing this in 2012!].  Right now, my current writing project is a college-level textbook on the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation.   This seems to me to be way too much to cram into a semester, but as it turns out, something like half the colleges in the country teach biblical courses this [...]

2021-03-01T08:09:25-05:00March 11th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

God Showing Up a (Apparently) Human in the Hebrew Bible

So far in my posts on Christology I have talked a bit about pagan views of the divine realm and its relationship to the human.  There is a lot more that could be said about that – in particular with the various ways that humans could be thought of as in some sense divine in the pagan world. But a lot of readers may be wondering what any of this has to do with Christianity since obviously the original followers of Jesus were Jewish, not Gentile, and their views of divinity in relationship to humanity would have been guided by Jewish traditions, such as those of the Old Testament. Fair enough! So before going any further, I thought I should make some posts about divinity in relationship to humanity in the Christian Old Testament. If God could look like a human in the OT, is that what's going on with Jesus?  Was he God, but only looked human?  This entire thread will be dealing with that kind of question.  Interested?  Join the blog! The [...]

2021-03-04T19:02:53-05:00March 4th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Is the “Word” (Logos) of God in John the Wisdom (Sophia) of God in Judaism?

In yesterday’s post I began to discuss the Prologue of the Gospel of John, which contains a poem that celebrates Christ as the Word of God that became human. This Word of God was with God in the beginning of all things, and was himself God; through him the universe was created and in him is life. This word took on flesh to dwell with humans, and that human – the divine word made flesh – was Jesus. Some readers over the years have wondered if this celebration of the Logos of God that becomes flesh owes more to Greek philosophy than to biblical Judaism. It’s a good question, and hard to answer. One thing that can be said is that this Logos idea does find very close parallels with other biblical texts – in particular with texts that speak of the Wisdom (Greek: Sophia) of God. Sophia and Logos are related ideas; both have to do in some respect with “reason.” Sophia is reason that is internal to a person; Logos is that reason [...]

Was the King of Israel Called God??

Yesterday I showed that beings other than God could be called God in the Old Testament and other ancient Jewish literature.  It seems strange, but there it is.   I continue now with an especially important case in point: the king of Israel.  In this case there doesn't seem to be much ambiguity about the matter. Again, this is from my book How Jesus Became God. ****************************** Hebrew Bible scholar John Collins points out that the Israelite notion that the human king could be considered in some sense divine ultimately appears to derive from Egyptian ways of thinking about their king, the Pharaoh.[1]   Even in Egypt, where the king was God, it did not mean that the king was on a par with the great gods, any more than the Roman emperor was thought to be on a par with Jupiter or Mars.  But he was a God.   In Egyptian and Roman circles, there were levels of divinity.   So too, as we have seen, in Jewish circles.   Thus we find highly exalted terms used of the [...]

2021-01-18T09:29:03-05:00January 23rd, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Could Jews Consider Someone Other than God To Be God?

In order to explain how Jesus came to be seen as his followers as God – the first step to understanding where the doctrine of the Trinity came from – I have been discussing a widespread view in the Greek and Roman worlds, that other very special human beings were thought to have become divine, considered and worshiped as immortal gods, for example by being taken up to heaven at the end of their lives. You might well wonder, though, what “pagan” beliefs have to do with early Christian beliefs.  Jesus and his followers were Jews, so why would it be relevant what polytheists believed?  It’s a good question, but there’s also a good answer.  The belief that humans could be divine is found not only in ancient Greek and Roman circles (and Egyptian circles and others!), but also in Jewish. That may come as a surprise.  Jews who were monotheists thought that others could be God, along with the one God?  Uh, how does *that* work? As it turns out, you can find it [...]

2021-01-18T09:26:20-05:00January 21st, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Were Ancient Israelites Actually Monotheists?

The first thing to stress in considering the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is that even though the orthodox view (that is, the one that got declared “right”;  “Orthodoxy” literally means “right opinion”) claimed there were three persons in the godhead, there was only one God.  That is, Christians insisted they were monotheists.  No doubt they did so because they quite consciously came out of the Jewish tradition and wanted to retain its monotheistic emphasis.  But that in itself needs to be thought about for a minute. Just about everyone thinks that Jews are and always have been strictly monotheistic.  As it turns out, the matter is hotly debated and not all that simple.  There are indeed passages in the Hebrew Bible that stress there is only one God, most importantly in some parts of Isaiah, especially the parts called “Second Isaiah” (chapters 40-55); they are called this because this part of the book was not written by “Isaiah of Jerusalem,” the prophet of the 8th c. BCE, but by a later author with many [...]

2021-01-02T16:39:02-05:00January 12th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Was The Messiah Supposed to Be Born of a Virgin?

Here in the lead-up to December 25, I am discussing some issues related to Jesus' birth.  As I mentioned in my previous post, in the entire New Testament, the story of the virgin birth is found only in Matthew and Luke.  Luke has a pretty straightforward explanation of why Jesus had to be born of a virgin: it's because he was (literally) the "Son of God."  That is, God is the one who got Mary pregnant, as the angel tells her at the Annunciation:  read Luke 1:31-35, and notice the angels' explanation: the Spirit of God will "come upon her ... SO THAT" the child born of her will be called "The Son of God." Matthew, though, has a different explanation.  For Matthew Jesus had to be born of a virgin because that is what was predicted in the Old Testament. This view fits in very well with Matthew's entire birth narrative of chapters 1-2.  Everything happens "to fulfill Scripture." Why was Jesus’ mother a virgin? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes Isaiah [...]

Christianizing the Old Testament and the Museum of the Bible: Guest Post by Jill Hicks-Keeton

Here now is a final guest post on the Museum of the Bible by Jill Hicks-Keeton, one of the two editors of the recent book that contains a number of evaluative essays by a range of scholars.  Her title asks the driving question of her post and her first word answers it! Many thanks to Jill and her co-editor Cavan Concannon for providing these three posts.  If they have sparked your interest -- check out the book! Jill will be happy to respond to your comments and questions. - Jill Hicks-Keeton is the editor of The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction, and the author of Arguing with Aseneth: Gentile Access to Israel's Living God in Jewish Antiquity.   *************************************************************** Can the Bible Organize History? By Jill Hicks-Keeton No—but the Museum of the Bible makes an intrepid, though misguided, effort. By its very name, the Museum of the Bible must privilege certain literature: texts that became biblical. The institution is structurally organized around the category “Bible.” Yet, as readers of this blog will already [...]

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