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robert_boylan

As this is not on amazon.com at the moment, here is my brief review of this text--

Coming from the Republic of Ireland, and as one who holds a BATh, and pursuing a M.Th from a Catholic University, I was rather intrigued to see what Jimmy Akin, a noted Catholic apologist, had to say about the topic of “Mormonism,” being also an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sadly, I was disappointed by how poorly researched this booklet is, and how Akin exploited the fact that those reading the text are those who know next to nothing about Latter-day Saint scripture, history, and theology. I cannot possibly detail all the mistakes contained in this small booklet; a huge review would be needed to disentangle the misrepresentations of “Mormon” belief. Notwithstanding, here are just a few places Akin reveals how little he knows about the LDS Church:

 

Akin refers to “reformed Egyptian” as a “language,” (p. 18, 35) notwithstanding the fact that the Book of Mormon refers to it as a *script* (Mormon 9:32-34). The majority of Book of Mormon scholars believe that the underlying language was Hebrew. Indeed, northwest Semitic scripts written in Egyptian characters are well attested in the Old World, such as those found at Kardesh Barnea; Tel-Arad; Sinai and Papyrus Amherst 63, dating to the forth century B.C.E. Critics, such as Martin Thomas Lamb in 1887, lambasted the Book of Mormon on this point, though the tables have been turned on critics, and the Book of Mormon’s reference to “reformed Egyptian” serves as evidence for the volume’s authenticity, notwithstanding the ignorant claims of Akin and other critics. This has been well-discussed by LDS scholars such as John A. Tvedtnes; Steven D. Ricks; Matthew Roper and John Gee. Indeed, Akin ignores the growing body of scholarly evidences in favour of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, such as John L. Sorenson; John Clarke; David Palmer and Brant Gardner's work on the culture and geography of pre-classical Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon; the discoveries of Nahom and Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula; the Asherah motif in the Book of Mormon; the complexities of King Benjamin's Speech, such as it fitting the Feast of Tabernacles in liturgy and ancient farewell discourses, covenant renewals, etc; non-KJV Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon; the onomasticon of the Book of Mormon, etc. Akin either does not know of the existence of such materials, or, more likely, glosses over them so that his target audience, ignorant of "Mormonism," will be lead to think that there is no evidence whatsoever for the Book of Mormon volume.

 

Akin cites Jacob 2:24-28 and 3:5 (p. 19) as evidence that the Book of Mormon refutes polygamy (or, to be more correct, polygyny). However, he ignores a number of things, such as the intertext with the kingship laws of Deuteronomy 17 (cf. column 5 of the Cairo Genizah document) that prohibits kings having *many* wives, with the Hebrew using a verb denoting an exponential, not a lineal growth, in the number of wives a king has, mirroring the “many” wives of David *and* Solomon had (Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines; combined with Bethsheba, David and Solomon did have *many* wives per Deuteronomy 17). Also note Jacob 2:30 that states that God allows, in certain circumstances, plural marriage. Indeed, in Alma 10:11, we read of Alma blessing “[Amulek’s] *women*.” In Hebrew, “woman” is `ishah and is the same word for “wife,” so the use of the plural is conducive to Amulek having plural wives, notwithstanding it not being condemned by the Book of Mormon.

 

Akin also claims that Mosiah 15:1-4 teaches Modalism, wherein the Father and Son are simply manifestations or modes of the one person (p. 19). However, Jesus is referred to as the “Father” in that He is the creator of all (Mosiah 3:8). Furthermore, among ancient Israelites, Yahweh was the Father of mortals, while the Children of Elohim (Bene Elohim [cf. DSS Deuteronomy 32]) was the Father of the members of the Heavenly Court. Understood in light of this ancient context, there is no real problem with Jesus being referred to as the Father and the Son, as such, in its cultural context, is not conducive to Modalism, especially in light of the fact that God the Father and Jesus Christ are treated as two separate persons throughout the Book of Mormon volume.

 

In addition, for Mosiah 15, it becomes an interesting exercise is to substitute the terms "immortal God" for “father” and “mortal man” for “Son”, yielding this:

1 AND now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of immortal god, being immortal god and mortal man
3 Immortal god, because he was conceived by the power of God; and mortal man, because of the flesh; thus becoming immortal god and mortal man
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the mortal man to immortal god, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the mortal man being swallowed up in the will of the immortal god.
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the mortal man power to make intercession for the children of men

What the Mosiah text does not do is make a clear case for Modalism. The theology involved far exceeds the simple question of being Father and Son at the same time. This is not about “modes” or “offices” of the Godhead, but rather the dual-nature of Messiah.

This statement in the Book of Mormon has always reminded me of the statement of faith at Chalcedon:

 

*Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; "like us in all things but sin". He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.*

In other words, the Mosiah text seems concerned with trying to demonstrate the dual nature of Jesus Christ--and isn't referring to that being that we distinguish as God the Father.

 

Akin reveals that he is not up to scratch on the topic of biblical scholarship and exgesis when he cites Isaiah 43:10 and Isaiah 44:5-6 as “proof texts” for monotheism (p.42). At this moment, I should note that Mormons do not believe in polytheism, Akins’ ill-informed claims notwithstanding. Latter-day Saint theology falls under the category of Monolatry, the belief in the worship of one God, but the belief that there are (true) gods in His midst, which is a view many non-LDS scholars (e.g., Michael Heiser; Mark S. Smith; Margaret Barker) believe the biblical texts teaches.

 

As for the Isaiah passages themselves, firstly, one should note that creation out of nothing is not part of the original language texts. For instance, the verb translated as “[he] created” in Genesis 1, bara, is used throughout the Hebrew Bible when pre-existing materials are clearly necessitated for the passages to make sense. For instance, Psalm 102:18 says that “the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord,” but no one understands this to mean that God would “create” these future inhabitants of the earth out of nothing. In Isaiah 43:1, 7, 15, we read of God as “the creator of Israel,” yet Israel was not “created” out of nothing, but out of a people God chose from among the nations (cf. Ezekiel 21:30). And though several passages indicate that God created mankind, we read elsewhere that the first man was shaped from the ground (Genesis 2:7) and his wife from his own body (Genesis 2:21-23), not from nonexistent matter. The Lord says that he “create[d]” Jerusalem (Isaiah 65:18), yet we know that the city was built of rock and mortar. When God will, in future, “create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17), will he use existing matter, or will he need to create more elements?

 

Much more could be said on the topic of creation in the original language texts, but the above should be enough to prove my point.Creation ex nihilo is necessitated for strict monotheism; if something exists side-by-side with God eternally, God is not absolutely sovereign, and strict monotheism cannot exist.

 

For Isaiah, the point of his screed against the idols and gods was that of comparing Isaiah’s theology with that of both popular Isaiah (which at the time had groups worshipping Yahweh and Baal alongside an Asherah in the temple in Jerusalem) and that of the Canaanite religion in general. One of the problems of many who use Isaiah, Akin included, is that they don’t have a grasp of the necessary elements one needs to exegete Isaiah, such as knowledge of the Ugaritic Tablets; Asherah; Baalism vs. Yahwehism; the religion prior to the Deuteronomic Reformation in 622 B.C.E., etc.

In Isaiah 43:10-11, we read the following:

 

*You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart form me there is no Saviour.*

 

Verse 10 is not a statement of monotheism, but a comparison drawn between Baal and Yahweh. Verse 11 is a comment on the Asherah. Verse 10 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the strict monotheism expounded by errant writers on this topic:

 

Before me? After me? When is before God and when is after God? What about the in between (which, in Orthodox Christian theology, is “always”)? Is one willing to assert a “before God” or an “after God”? Clearly, simply suggesting that it talks about being created before God is nothing more than suggesting that something was created before God was created (which is incompatible both with Orthodox Christian and Latter-day Saint theology). But after God implies and end to God--not that something was created after God was created. Such a view, of course, is not well thought out. The text does not support such an interpretation. Baal assumed his position as chief among the elohim (Hebrew: Gods) after he defeated Yaam (“Sea”). Later, while he was dead, after a confrontation with Mot (“Death”), there was a succession crisis when `Athar attempted to sit in the throne of Baal (which is discussed in Isaiah 14). In this sense, for Baal, there is both a “before” and a possible “after.” But for Yahweh, there is no succession. Yahweh did not overthrow another divinity to become the chief among the elohim. Nor can he be displaced from his throne. There is no denial of the host of elohim in this passage, nor is there any denial of the existence of El there either. Canaanite theology places Baal as king/god of the gods but El is the God of the Cosmos. Both exist, and the exist, and the existence of one does not threaten the existence of the other. Likewise, Israel’s chief elohim, Yahweh, does not threaten, nor is threatened by the existence of El.

 

In verse 11, we get this statement: “apart from me, there is no Saviour” (NIV). This is translated as “beside me there is no saviour” in the KJV, and as “besides me there is no saviour” in the NRSV. In fact, most translations, including the modern ones, follow the language of the NRSV and the KJV against the NIV. The phrase, “besides me” in these three chapters (43-45) is a reference to Asherah - claimed by some as a consort for Yahweh, and claimed by others as a consort for Baal. Asherah was claimed by those who worshipped her as a Saviour - as a deliverer. This is explicitly stated in Jeremiah, when the remaining Jewish aristocracy was fleeing to Egypt following the assassination of Gedaliah. They dragged Jeremiah with them and complained to him in Jeremiah 44:17-19:

 

*“We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”

The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes like her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”*

 

One should compare the above with 2 Kings 22-24, where the Asherah is removed from the temple and the wooden poles depicting her (Asherim) which were on the outside of the First Temple were destroyed by Josiah during the Deuteronomic Reformation.

 

Essentially, Isaiah is claming that salvation comes from Yahweh alone--not from an Asherah or from Baal.

 

But there are other interesting things in chapter 43. Yahweh, in verse 3, states that “For I am Yahweh your elohim.” Then in verse 12, Isaiah explicitly discusses the fact that he is comparing Yahweh to other divinities: “I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign gods among you.” Isaiah is polemically addressing the problem of “foreign gods among you.” It should be noted that nowhere does Isaiah ever claim that it is sinful for foreigners to worship other gods. This doesn’t appear in the text until the post-exilic portions of Jeremiah (Jeremiah was pieced together by a number of individuals, thus the unusual chronology, among other things) while Deuteronomy 4 seems to suggest that the foreign gods were driven to the foreign nations so that they would worship them (cf. Deuteronomy 32:7-9). The notion here is clearly that Yahweh is superior to these foreign gods--independent of the question of whether or not they are real divinities.

 

This brings us to Isaiah 44. The primary alleged monotheistic proof-text of Isaiah 44 is that of verse 6 and 8:

 

*This is what the LORD says - Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God….Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.*

 

It should be noted that the NIV misses the chance of some consistency. In verse 6, the “apart from me” is the same as the “besides me” of verse 8. This section of Isaiah is essentially a polemic against Asherah worship. I note that some time later, around 622 B.C.E. during Josiah’s reform, the Asherah is removed from the temple in Jerusalem. This is described in 2 Kings 23:

 

*The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah.*

 

This description relates to what follows verse 8 in Isaiah 44. Here is some more of that chapter:

 

*The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?*

 

Notice  the similarity to Psalm 82:5 here--

Psalm 82: They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness;
Isaiah 44: They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

In any case, We have in Isaiah 44 a description of how the carpenter takes the tree, and creates an image from it. The remainder of the tree is burned as ash (it was a public burning and scattering of the ashes in the Josian destruction of the Asherah). Here is a description of the people mistakenly worshipping a tree. And then later the specific imagery of the forests and the trees worshipping Yahweh. A polemic against Asherah worship - the castigation of the worship of the tree.

These same issues apply to Isaiah 45. But that chapter starts off with a peculiarity. In the very first verse we read:

 

*This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut*

 

Here, Cyrus is called the anointed one of Yahweh - his salvific agent, his messiah. Go figure.

 

The question, though, ultimately is whether or not Isaiah’s point of view is similar to that of Psalm 82. Psalm 82 does not deny the existence of other elohim, nor does it claim that they are not divinities. It simply imputes to them impotence--they cannot save, they are incapable of granting salvation. If this is the case (which is seems to be), then Isaiah is not the great voice of monotheism as many errantly portray the text to be, but, instead, a voice of the supremacy of Yahweh as the only divinity who is capable of doing these things--and only for Israel.

 

On this topic, Akin claims that the “gods many and Lords many” in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 is only about idols and pagan gods, not real beings (p. 48).

 

It is true that Paul is discussing false gods and idols. However, he makes an interesting comment, in that there are gods “in heaven.” False idols, made by human hands, cannot possibly be in heaven, so Paul must be discussing gods in the sense LDS understand this passage.

 

Indeed, readings of the Greek text reveals Paul's sentence structure and use of existential verbs indicate that the gods in heaven and earth to which he speaks are quite real. I think part of the problem is caused by the fact that the term now often translated "so-called" is just one of the meanings of the word in question. In some Greek texts this refers to something's title, or meaning "titled" or "to have the appellation of" and think it most likely the meaning in this passage. Thus Paul was referring to those who have the appellation or title of gods in both heaven and earth. It speaks nothing as to their nature. It also speaks not to idols for there are no idols or false gods in heaven. Additionally, Paul did not say, “there are people who believe that there are many gods and many lords in heaven and on earth” or “there are people who falsely believe that there are many gods and many lords in heaven or on earth” but he said, “There ARE many gods and lords in heaven or on earth.”

 

Overall, while much, much more could be said about the errors in this booklet, the above should convince readers that Jimmy Akin is not a trustworthy source for information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

I do welcome questions or feedback at IrishLDS87@gmail.com.

 
 
robert_boylan
05 March 2008 @ 05:17 pm
(Hat tip to Benjamin McGuire)

There is a short note in JBL Vol. 110, no. 3 (Autumn 1991) which deals with this issue:
 
"On the Origins of the 'Council of Javneh' Myth" by D. E. Aune.
 
The article starts with:
 
"There is now widespread agreement that the notion of a "Council of Javneh" at which the third division of the Hebrew canon of scriptures was closed is a distortion of the evidence found in rabbinic sources. Joseph Blenkinsopp once observed that there is no evidence that Judaism ever officially established the contents of the canon of Hebrew scripture and "that such a decision was made by the Jewish leadership at Javneh (Jamnia) at the end of the first century of the era is a myth of Christian scholarship without documentary evidence. Blenkinsopp traces the origins of this Christian myth back to H.E. Ryle, the scholar whose work, together with that of Frants Buhl, makrs the beginning of the modern critical discussion of the canon."
 
The article talks about how it appears that Ryle and Buhl independantly took this idea from the writings of Heinrich Graetz. 
 
 
robert_boylan
30 January 2008 @ 10:25 am

Well, not really. Anyone who knows me knows that I think that Calvinism is abhorrent in any event, and beyond biblical proof-texting, has got to be the silliest thing imaginable. Why do you think James White never debates the merits of Calvinism using Philosophy with the likes of Sanders (an Open Theist) or George Potter (Mormon)? Take away the proof-texts (no early Christian would agree with the interpretation Calvinists bring into the text, anyway) and they have nothing.

However, I do have a weird fascination with Fred "God Hates <Insert anything and I mean ANYTHING here>" Phelps. You know, I personally feel touched that, in his schedule of condemning gays; Heath Ledger; George Bush; Dick Cheney; dead American soliders; Mexicans; the Swedish; and Arminians to hell, he would find the time to damn little old me (among 13 million others) to hell. Ah, bless.

By the way, a Hyper-Calvinist is one who rejects the biblical commandment to preach, as God will save the elect, and there really is no need to preach (i.e., the logical conclusion of Five-Point Calvinism).

 
 
Current Mood: amusedamused
 
 
robert_boylan
15 January 2008 @ 10:26 pm
In a previous post, I discussed Isaiah 43-46 and how the passages do not teach monotheism. It should be noted that the King James Version provides an extremely poor translation of Isaiah 44:8. The Hebrew does not read “there is no God; I know not any,” like many critics of "Mormon" theology state. The text states “there is no Rock that I know of;” (see Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966, p. 138).

I love being a theology nerd...:P
 
 
robert_boylan
05 January 2008 @ 01:41 am
Can't I?
 
 
 
robert_boylan
31 December 2007 @ 10:05 pm
"Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." (Austin Farrer).
 
 
robert_boylan
25 December 2007 @ 01:02 pm
For those who stumble across this live journal, Merry Christmas!
 
 
Current Mood: contentcontent
 
 
robert_boylan
25 December 2007 @ 12:54 pm
As one who is engaged in a study of biblical scholarship, both on an academic level and as a hobby (in this way, I am one of only a few people who do what the love on a full-time basis; now only for Maynooth College to introduce “Mormon Studies,” and I will be sorted forever), one often learns things unavailable to the public. One interest of mine is that of the Ugaritic Tablets,[1] which depict the Canaanite religion of the time and its pantheon (e.g., Baal; Anath; Asherah; El, etc) and the relationship the Canaanite religion has with the Old Testament and Israelite theology.

One of the most common claims made by those ignorant of biblical scholarship (e.g., Desmond Ferguson, Witnessing to the Mormons) is that Isaiah 43-45 teaches monotheism. However, for such to be the case, it necessitates, a priori, ex-nihilo creation, which the original language texts of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament simply does not allow for.[2] Therefore, God is not absolute sovereign over all things, as matter is co-existent and co-eternal with God. Furthermore, regardless of the dating of Isaiah 40-55 (Deutero-Isaiah), monotheism, according to most scholars (e.g., Albright; Bokovoy; Heiser; Dever; Barker; Patai) did not come about until after the exilic period, and even then, it was not as strict as modern Judaism and Islam is, let alone the Trinitarian theology of “Orthodox” Christianity.

This post will examine the passages from Isaiah 43-45, exegeting them in their proper cultural context, and not the eisegesis we see individuals such as Robert Morey; Ron Rhodes; Richard Abanes, and many others engage in.

For Isaiah, the point of his screed against the idols and gods was that of comparing Isaiah’s theology with that of both popular Isaiah (which at the time had groups worshipping Yahweh and Baal alongside an Asherah in the temple in Jerusalem) and that of the Canaanite religion in general.

In Isaiah 43:10-11, we read the following:

*You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart form me there is no Saviour.*

Verse 10 is not a statement of monotheism, but a comparison drawn between Baal and Yahweh. Verse 11 is a comment on the Asherah. Verse 10 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the strict monotheism expounded by errant writers on this topic:

Before me? After me? When is before God and when is after God? What about the in between (which, in Orthodox Christian theology, is “always”)? Is one willing to assert a “before God” or an “after God”? Clearly, simply suggesting that it talks about being created before God is nothing more than suggesting that something was created before God was created (which is incompatible both with Orthodox Christian and Latter-day Saint theology). But after God implies and end to God - not that something was created after God was created. Such a view, of course, is not well thought out. The text does not support such an interpretation. Baal assumed his position as chief among the elohim (Hebrew: Gods) after he defeated Yaam (“Sea”). Later, while he was dead, after a confrontation with Mot (“Death”), there was a succession crisis when `Athar attempted to sit in the throne of Baal (which is discussed in Isaiah 14). In this sense, for Baal, there is both a “before” and a possible “after.” But for Yahweh, there is no succession. Yahweh did not overthrow another divinity to become the chief among the elohim. Nor can he be displaced from his throne. There is no denial of the host of elohim in this passage, nor is there any denial of the existence of El there either. Canaanite theology places Baal as king/god of the gods but El is the God of the Cosmos. Both exist, and the exist, and the existence of one does not threaten the existence of the other. Likewise, Israel’s chief elohim, Yahweh, does not threaten, nor is threatened by the existence of El.

In verse 11, we get this statement: “apart from me, there is no Saviour” (NIV). This is translated as “beside me there is no saviour” in the KJV, and as “besides me there is no saviour” in the NRSV. In fact, most translations, including the modern ones, follow the language of the NRSV and the KJV against the NIV. The phrase, “besides me” in these three chapters (43-45) is a reference to Asherah - claimed by some as a consort for Yahweh, and claimed by others as a consort for Baal. Asherah was claimed by those who worshipped her as a Saviour - as a deliverer. This is explicitly stated in Jeremiah, when the remaining Jewish aristocracy was fleeing to Egypt following the assassination of Gedaliah. They dragged Jeremiah with them and complained to him in Jeremiah 44:17-19:

*“We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”

The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes like her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”*

One should compare the above with 2 Kings 22-24, where the Asherah is removed from the temple and the wooden poles depicting her (Asherim) which were on the outside of the First Temple were destroyed by Josiah during the Deuteronomic Reformation.

Essentially, Isaiah is claming that salvation comes from Yahweh alone - not from an Asherah or from Baal.

But there are other interesting things in chapter 43. Yahweh, in verse 3, states that “For I am Yahweh your elohim.” Then in verse 12, Isaiah explicitly discusses the fact that he is comparing Yahweh to other divinities: “I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign gods among you.” Isaiah is polemically addressing the problem of “foreign gods among you.” It should be noted that nowhere does Isaiah ever claim that it is sinful for foreigners to worship other gods. This doesn’t appear in the text until the post-exilic portions of Jeremiah (Jeremiah was pieced together by a number of individuals, thus the unusual chronology, among other things) while Deuteronomy 4 seems to suggest that the foreign gods were diven to the foreign nations so that they would worship them (cf. Deuteronomy 32:7-9). The notion here is clearly that Yahweh is superior to these foreign gods - independent of the question of whether or not they are real divinities.

This brings us to Isaiah 44. The primary alleged monotheistic proof-text of Isaiah 44 is that of verse 6 and 8:

*This is what the LORD says - Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God….Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.*

It should be noted that the NIV (a favourite among Evangelical Protestants outside the KJV-only movement) misses the chance of some consistency. In verse 6, the “apart from me” is the same as the “besides me” of verse 8. This section of Isaiah is essentially a polemic against Asherah worship. I note that some time later, around 622 B.C.E. during Josiah’s reform, the Asherah is removed from the temple in Jerusalem. This is described in 2 Kings 23:

*The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah.*

This description relates to what follows verse 8 in Isaiah 44. Here is some more of that chapter:

*The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?*

Did you notice the similarity to Psalm 82:5 here? -

Psalm 82: They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness;
Isaiah 44: They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

In any case, We have in Isaiah 44 a description of how the carpenter takes the tree, and creates an image from it. The remainder of the tree is burned as ash (it was a public burning and scattering of the ashes in the Josian destruction of the Asherah). Here is a description of the people mistakenly worshipping a tree. And then later the specific imagery of the forests and the trees worshipping Yahweh. A polemic against Asherah worship - the castigation of the worship of the tree.

These same issues apply to Isaiah 45. But that Chapter starts off with a peculiarity. In the very first verse we read:

*This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut*

Here, Cyrus is called the anointed one of Yahweh - his salvific agent, his messiah. Go figure.

The question, though, ultimately is whether or not Isaiah’s point of view is similar to that of Psalm 82. Psalm 82 does not deny the existence of other elohim, nor does it claim that they are not divinities. It simply imputes to them impotence - they cannot save, they are incapable of granting salvation. If this is the case (which is seems to be), then Isaiah is not the great voice of monotheism as many errantly portray the text to be, but, instead, a voice of the supremacy of Yahweh as the only divinity who is capable of doing these things - and only for Israel.

Footnotes:

[1] The Ugaritic Tablets were discovered in the northern Syrian port of Ras Shamra in 1928. They were written in the Ugaritic language which died out in the 12th c. B.C.E. and is related to Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages.
[2] See my paper discussing ex nihilo creation at http://uk.geocities.com/irishlds87/icmsummer2007.pdf where I discuss a number of passages in the biblical texts and the apocrypha.
 
 
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robert_boylan
02 December 2007 @ 03:19 pm
Those who know me tend to know that I am a practicing "Mormon." One of the things typically expected from Mormon males my age is that they cease everything they are doing and serve a full-time (i.e., two years) mission for the Church. However, I just discovered (though, to be fair, not surprising) that I really am precluded from serving a mission. After all, it is not cool for someone who often suffers from nervous break-downs and very bad bouts of depression to serve a mission (not to mention the fact that I cannot possibly keep to a rigid schedule of 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM day in and day out for two straight years due to my medical conditions). I have *very* bad social anxiety issues, and prone to very bad episodes, so it is perhaps fortunate that I learn now that I cannot do such instead of being disappointed at the very last minute. This, of course, will come as a blow to a few people who desperately wanted me to serve a mission. I am not sure how to relate such to non-Mormons, but trust me, not the coolest things to happen to any Latter-day Saint.
 
 
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robert_boylan
22 November 2007 @ 10:51 pm
I am back in Kerry *shivers* for a few days. I have not been feeling the best; my OCD and depression, among other things (e.g., annoying parents) are causing me a lot of problems. *Fingers crossed* that I will get better; I don't want to suffer from my typical social anxiety issues I have in large crowds that I will encounter in the theology ball next week.

One of my chief hobbies in LDS apologetics; something I have been involved with for over three years now, just before I started university. Knowing a heck of a lot about the Bible and its redaction and canon; ancient religious texts (e.g., Old Testament pseudepigrapha); 19th c. American religious issues (e.g., anti-Masonry after Morgan's disappearance; 19th c. Universalism) and a lot of other things many might find nerdy (I am a nerd, okay, happy?) which I honestly love to read, my interests overlap with my faith, allowing me to give others (not always "Mormons") insights to religion.

I will hopefully get to a detailed discussion of Isaiah 43:10 and Mormon "monolatry" before Monday; before then, here is something worth considering -

In his 2004 book, "Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet," alongside his essay in the 1993 anthology, "New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology" (ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe), Dan Vogel claims that the Book of Mormon reflects the anti-Universalistic rhetoric from the 19th c. The Tanners, in the chapter, "The Hereafter" in Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (5d. ed [1987]) point out that Joseph Smith's grandparents (esp. his paternal grandfather, Asael Smith [see Anderson's book, "Joseph Smith's New England Heritage" [1971/2003]). However, such alleged figures such as Korihor (Alma 30) who are said to be Joseph Smith's depictions of Universalists emphatically denied the universal and definite atonement of a then-future Messianic figure; 19th c. Universalism, however, did not. Indeed, like Calvinism, Universalists at the time (I have not done major research into modern Universalism) believed that Christ's atonement was definite (i.e., all those he died for *would* be saved). In addition, unlike Calvinism's Limited Atonement, the atonement was universal in scope. This is a major difference between 19th c. environmentalism (in this instance, Universalism) and the Book of Mormon.

Further, and of more importance (IMO) is the fact that such was not a 19th c. debate; Origen, for instance (late 2nd-early 3rd c. CE) held to a belief very similar to Universalism, wherein all would eventually be saved after being cleansed (this has, to some degree, some parallels with the Latter-day Saint belief of the Spirit Prison [D&C 138; cf. 1 Peter 3 and 4], though "Mormons" do believe certain people will go to hell for eternity [see D&C 76]).

There is either a hell or not, so discussion of its existence is not unusual. Indeed, when I was 14, I remember a Jehovah's Witness was debating a Muslim friend of mine over hell (JW's believe that death is hell spoken about in the Bible). This was about two years before I heard about the works of Vogel, the Tanners, and others on this subject. Also, remember, verbal and thematic parallels are the weakest forms of inter-textual evidence, though the Tanners and Vogel, among others, engage in such faulty methodology in their texts. The Tanners discussion of the Mormon Temple Ceremony with Morgan's expose of Freemasonry or their comparison with the Tree of Life Vision in the Book of Mormon with a purported 1811 dream of Joseph Smith snr. (ignoring the ancient elements in the two Tree of Life visions, such as the appearance of the Asherah motif) are other examples.

I will admit that, being *the* biggest introvert in the world, this perhaps will not be the most "typical" journal people will encounter on L.J. However, religion is the most important thing in my life; I love researching topics, especially if they are even in the smallest way related to "Mormonism," and love discussing them with others, so a heck of a lot of my posts will be like this. Just a warning.

Well, for those who stumble across this page, I hope this was interesting. Remember, I am tired and ill, so I could not go into the great detail as I wish I could; also, this is a live journal, so to hell with length. The above proves that I am nerdy, something I pride myself on :)
 
 
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