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On God or Gods: Textual Reliability of Isaiah 43:10 vs. BOA 4

April 8, 2010

I was sharing the text of Isaiah 43:10 with some LDS members last week.  While the young missionary poured over the text and seemed deep in thought, the elder gentleman appeared to have no trouble dismissing the passage as just another one of those texts you can’t be too sure of due to the many translation errors that have crept into the Bible over the years.

He is right, of course, that scholars of Biblical textual criticism have identified some disputed passages as a result of textual variants in the manuscripts, resulting in some differences between Bible versions.  Most of these textual variants are minor differences in spelling or word order, but there are a few passages where the meaning (though not the doctrine) is affected by the variants. So this got me to wondering… Is Isaiah 43:10 one of those disputed passages?

I searched The Google and BibleGateway and an online Hebrew interlinear.  I also consulted a translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  And it appears that Isaiah 43:10 is not a disputed passage.  For your review, I will copy 5 different translations of this passage from BibleGateway to demonstrate the undisputed reading of this verse.

KJV – Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

NIV – “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.

NASB – “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 there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.

ESV – “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

YLT – Ye [are] My witnesses, an affirmation of Jehovah, And My servant whom I have chosen, So that ye know and give credence to Me, And understand that I [am] He, Before Me there was no God formed, And after Me there is none.

In addition, I reviewed the LXX/Greek Septuagint (which was translated into Greek before the time of Christ):  Be ye my witnesses, and I too am a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am he: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none.

Prior to the 1950s the oldest manuscript copies for the book of Isaiah were from the 9th century AD.  However, the preservation of the text of Isaiah 43:10 was confirmed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  These early copies of Old Testament texts (from the 2nd century BC) boosted the confidence of believers in the reliability of the Old Testament as a whole and the Book of Isaiah in particular.  Two complete copies and 20 fragments of the Book of Isaiah were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The translation I am using for the Dead Sea Scrolls includes any minor textual variants in the footnotes.  But there are no footnotes for Isaiah 43:10.  It reads like this:

You are my witnesses, says the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you might know and trust me and understand that I am the one; before me no God was formed nor will there be after me.

Now that we have established the textual reliability of Isaiah 43:10, let’s consider the reliability of the LDS Book of Abraham chapter 4.  In this chapter we find an amended version of the creation story in which the word “Gods” is used 33 times in reference to the Creator of the world. Since the plural usage of “Gods” contradicts the clear teaching of Isaiah 43:10, we need to determine which of these texts is more reliable.

First of all, we need to look at the manuscripts used for the Book of Abraham.  According to Joseph Smith, the Book of Abraham was “a translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands…purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt…written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” [1]

In 1966, the papyri that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Abraham were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  These original papyri have been examined by both Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists and the modern translation of the papyri does not retain any similarity with the original translation of Joseph Smith.  The papyri contain texts that parallel readings from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Book of Breathings.

Should we trust our theology to a purported translation that has been shown to be a false representation of the original manuscripts?  Should we not rather trust in the word of our God that will endure forever?

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth

[“translations” of men will come and go];

but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

Isaiah 40:8

__________________________________

1.  Times and Seasons, “Truth will prevail” [Vol. III No. 9.] City of Nauvoo, IL., March 1, 1842.

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53 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 9:16 pm

    Calling Scripture corrupt is nothing new. From Inenaeus Against Hrtrsies, “When they are convicted from Scripture, they turn round and accuse the Scripture, as being corrupt and having no authority.” This passage was quoted by Francis Turretin in his 1696 Institutes.

  2. April 11, 2010 11:04 pm

    The problem is that “eloheim” plural is a recurring thing throughout the Old Testament. And it’s corroborated by reference to broader Canaanite studies.

    I’m not the guy to debate it though. If Yellow Dart were here, I’m sure he could give you a lot of stuff on this.

    The obvious solution is simply to re-think the notion of “One God.”

    Just like Christians had to do to accommodate the existence of Jesus Christ.

  3. April 11, 2010 11:08 pm

    I should also note Jessica, that it’s not at all clear that Eloheim is making a statement of categorical ontology when he speaks in Isaiah 43:10 (or the Ten Commandments for that matter).

  4. faithoffathers permalink
    April 14, 2010 8:34 pm

    It is a side argument possibly, but saying that the book of Abraham is “a purported translation that has been shown to be a false representation of the original manuscripts” is simply a superficial conclusion without consideration of all (or much of) the evidences and facts.

    The list of scholars of ancient Biblical texts who have concluded that Israel was originally a henotheistic religion is too long to list here. They find clear evidence in the manuscripts to the existence of more than one God. And the texts that have been discovered in Abla and Canaan over the last 80 years or so do add support to their argument.

    I don’t think you can settle it all by referring to one verse in Isaiah (which by the way has other interpretations that are possible)

    fof.

  5. April 15, 2010 12:11 am

    FoF,

    I have never quite understood how the documentary hypothesis or the critical theory positing the evolution of monotheism fits with Mormon theology. Principally it appears that this line of thought would undercut any divine revelation (including the BoA).

    Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why the LDS would be supportive of a multiplicity of gods I just don’t comprehend how this view can be adopted without embracing a rationalist take on all supernatural revelation.

  6. April 18, 2010 10:41 pm

    Gundeck, if by “undercut” you mean it makes inerrancy less tenable as a scriptural paradigm, I guess that is true – it undercuts scripture.

    But I don’t consider the loss of inerrancy to be any big loss to begin with.

    Good riddance.

  7. April 19, 2010 1:28 am

    Seth

    No I am not referring to inerrancy at all. The problem that I have with FoF’s apologetic is not that it does not fit my theology, but that that it does not appear to be consistent with LDS theology. The presupposition behind the documentary hypothesis is that the Bible is not a product of divine revelation. The “list of scholars of ancient Biblical texts who have concluded” that the Bible is the product of any form of divine revelation is quite short. We will disagree on inerrancy but I fail to understand how basing your understanding of Bible as being totally the product of men fits within LDS theology.

  8. April 19, 2010 3:11 am

    Gundeck,

    Part of the religious role I see for myself as a believer is learning to parse arguments and take that which is useful and compelling, and sift away that which I have no use for.

    Aspects of the documentary hypothesis serve Mormon thought quite well. Just as some of what Bart Ehrman writes is useful to Mormon thought. The same can be said of Open Theism. Or the writings of N.T. Wright and other advocates of the “New Perspective on Paul.” But that doesn’t require an uncritical wholesale adoption of any of their paradigms.

    For instance, I like the Open Theist biblical arguments about the nature of God’s foreknowledge quite a lot. But most of it’s proponents are also advocates for creation ex nihilo – which I reject. I don’t have to adopt creation ex nihilo to implement Open Theism into my Mormon views though. So it’s all good.

  9. April 20, 2010 1:14 am

    Seth,

    The problem is simple if you remove the basis for the interpretation of these theories i.e. no divine revelation you are left with conclusions absent of any supporting argument. The same scholars that posit the evolutionary theory don’t start with henotheism or monolatrism. According to the evolutionary theory prior to henotheism there was polytheism and prior to that animism. The evolution from animism to monotheism is traced to various social/cultural factors having nothing to do with the existence of any gods much less the God of the Bible.

    You mention Bart Ehrman, while just about everything that he wrote in Misquoting Jesus is in the foot notes of my NASB 95, his conclusions are based on the denial of supernatural revelation. Even the Newer perspective on Paul finds support by denying that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.

  10. April 20, 2010 3:00 am

    Sorry Gundeck, I don’t get it.

    Why would any of that require me to deny revelation?

    Why would being open to the alternatives in authorship of Titus mean I can’t believe in revelation anymore?

    And why do I even need to bother with evolutionary theory? And if I did embrace it, why would it entail a denial of revelation?

  11. April 20, 2010 9:04 pm

    Seth,

    A premise underlying the evolutionary theory is that there is no god, much less divine revelation. From this the conclusion is drawn that the religious beliefs and practices have evolved from animism and panentheism all the way to monotheism, deism, or atheism of today as the cultural needs for religion have changed. FoF has glommed onto the conclusion of evolutionary theory without confronting a basic premise of the theory to support the veracity of the BoA.

    The question is not “was henotheism practiced?”, because clearly all manner of religious syncretism and idolatry were practiced throughout Israel. Both archeology and the Biblical accounts are clear on this. The question is “does the Bible allow the practice of henotheism?”

    I don’t think Pauline authorship is the sine qua non of divine revelation but if Ephesians, 2 Thesalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus are pseudepigraphical then the first claim of the author, his identity and position of authority in the Church, would have been a lie and all of the other claims in these books would have to be examined on the basis of that lie. Bart Ehrman confronted this and came to the conclusion that there is no god, divine revelation and that the claims of the bible are false.

  12. April 20, 2010 11:42 pm

    I don’t see why that is Gundeck.

    I believe in biological evolution. I believe it is how God does things.

    Nor do I see why a theory of evolving biblical text requires us to conclude no-God either. All you’ve done is assert that a particular theory requires no-God, without really telling me why this result is necessary.

    I’ve read Ehrman and I don’t see why the data he faced requires the conclusions he reached.

  13. April 21, 2010 1:24 am

    I am sorry Seth, my fault…

    I was not talking about biological evolution but religious evolution, the theory that as society advanced religion changed to match. According to this theory early man would have had an animistic or pantheistic belief in God evolving into polytheism, henothesim, monolatrism, monotheism, deism and so on. An assertion to support the evolution of religion is that there was no god revealing himself to men and that religion is a purely social construct for dealing with unexplainable. As religions “evolved” they were used as a control mechanism for societies achieving the ultimate control in ethical monotheism.
    The documentary hypothesis parallels the evolutionary theory.
    These theories are based on no god, for example, J and E write about an anthropomorphic tribal deity, D writes about a transcendent supreme deity and introduces ethical monotheism, the priests or “P” make changes and add to the text emphasizing the role of the Aaronic priesthood and the law in order to exert ethical and religious control. Throughout the entire process you have various redactors cleaning up passages so that they match the current theology. No revelation, no supernatural, no god.
    If FoF adopts the argument, that scholars of ancient Biblical texts have concluded that Israel was originally a henotheistic religion, somebody should be able to explain how this conclusion works without also adopting the underlying premise of these very same scholars that there is no god and that the religion of Israel evolved into an ethical monotheism for social and political reasons. I am sure that it can be done, but I have yet to see how this fits with LDS theology.

  14. April 21, 2010 2:56 am

    Well, that helps explain a bit, but it still doesn’t bring us to why the conclusions follow. For instance:

    “No revelation, no supernatural, no god.”

    Why does this follow from views evolving throughout the Old Testament? Because I don’t see it.

  15. April 21, 2010 8:46 pm

    “No revelation, no supernatural, no god.” is a premise used to support both the documentary hypothesis and the evolutionary theory. If someone is going to claim the support of scholars that hold these views then they need to engage the entire argument. Simply claiming that “The list of scholars of ancient Biblical texts who have concluded that Israel was originally a henotheistic religion is too long to list here.” fails to address everything else these scholars claim as well as the presuppositions that support their arguments.

  16. April 21, 2010 10:31 pm

    Yes, but why does the Documentary Hypothesis require the premise of “no revelation”?

  17. April 22, 2010 12:55 am

    Seth,

    Because the DH explains divine revelation as mythical additions used to control society.

  18. April 22, 2010 2:01 am

    Again, why does the mere idea that theology evolves require the notion that there is no revelation?

    I don’t really care what conclusions X, Y and Z scholars who are proponents of the theory have reached. If you want to convince me that Documentary Hypothesis requires no revelation, you are going to have to do more than simply find ways of restating “but that’s what the theory SAYS.”

    I’m a Mormon. We’re good at picking what we like and chucking what we don’t. So you’re going to have to show me why the connection between evolving theology and “no-revelation” is so cast-iron.

  19. April 22, 2010 3:04 am

    Seth,

    I know your a Mormon and that you are good at picking what you like. I think that we are talking past each other. My question was simply how the DH position that the religion of Abraham was animism and that that it rewritten into ethical monotheism supports the BoA? How does Melchizedek being added to the Patriarch myth during the exile fit the BoA? How does the priestly class of the exile creating the role of the priesthood work with priesthood authority? etc.

    If you want to pick and choose convenient theories and disregard the basis for those theories I am at a loss to understand FoF’s claim of support from the scholars who’s ideas have been chucked. Once you have chucked what you don’t like you no longer have the DH and how anyone can explain an academic theory absent what the academics who hold the theory think is beyond me. If your conclusion is that the DH is correct that Abraham was an animist and that ethical monotheism was the product of the Aaronic priesthood of the Exile but that there was in fact divine revelation from a personal god interacting with humanity, you just aren’t talking about the DH anymore. Wellhausen had the theory named after him, maybe you can get this one named after you.

  20. April 22, 2010 3:15 am

    That’s the thing Gundeck – you never told me WHY that is a “basis” for the theory.

  21. faithoffathers permalink
    April 22, 2010 6:20 pm

    Gundeck,

    I have been gone a while.

    I think the point, from my perspective, is that non-LDS Christians are fond of claiming that LDS theology on the Godhead or becoming like God is so contrary to the Bible and historical Judaism.

    Mine is that the artifacts and manuscripts from “historical Judaism,” things were not so neat and clear as LDS critics like to think. And there is plenty of room in the ancient revealed religion of Jehovah for the LDS theology. In fact, in my opinion, the historical concepts are more consistent with LDS theology than the trinity.

    Thanks,

    fof

  22. April 22, 2010 9:42 pm

    Seth,

    I think you should look into the DH for yourself, don’t take my word for it.

    FoF,

    I am not asking this question to be a trap or to be smug. How exactly does Asherah and Baal worship fit into LDS theology?

  23. April 22, 2010 10:21 pm

    Except now we are talking about pantheism and polytheism not henotheism is that Mormon theology?

  24. April 22, 2010 10:23 pm

    Are you responding to FoF? Or to me?

  25. April 22, 2010 10:33 pm

    Thanks for the link Seth, is it your position that Asherah is your havenly mother?

  26. April 22, 2010 10:36 pm

    I take that personal view – yes.

  27. April 22, 2010 10:46 pm

    Thank you.

  28. April 22, 2010 11:18 pm

    To summarize for those who don’t want to read the article – Asherah is mentioned a LOT in the Bible.

    Especially when you realize that the tree was her symbol. Basically, whenever you encounter the word “groves” in the Old Testament – chances are it’s referring to an Asherah shrine or symbol. The reforms under Josiah removed her from the Temple, and stamped out veneration of her pretty thoroughly. But she’s still there. Proverbs 8 is often considered to be about the divine feminine. Whenever the topic of wisdom crops up – for example – the ties to the feminine are fairly compelling.

    Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life can be basically viewed with the tree symbolizing Heavenly Mother – with Christ as the fruit of the tree.

    It’s all in the article if you care to have a look.

  29. April 24, 2010 1:19 am

    Seth,

    Prayer to Asherah is OK?

  30. Seth R. permalink
    April 24, 2010 2:23 am

    I share Kevin Barney’s concerns on the matter. But I don’t think it can hurt if you ask God the Father if it’s OK.

  31. April 24, 2010 3:44 am

    Seth,

    The prohibitions regarding the worship of Asherah are seen as corruptions of text? Or as a protection of the sanctity of Asherah?

  32. Seth R. permalink
    April 24, 2010 4:37 am

    I think I know which verses you are talking about, but I can’t recall where exactly. What cites do you have?

  33. April 24, 2010 11:18 am

    Seth,

    The easiest passages would be the Deuteronomy prohibitions Deut 12:3, 16:21, (cf Ex 34:13) but you see the same emphasis in not only the law but also the narratives (Judges 6:25; 1 Kings 15:13, 18:19 etc.) and in the prophets (Isa 17:8; Jer 17:22; Mich 5:12-13 etc.)

  34. April 24, 2010 11:25 am

    Sorry,

    Jeremiah 17:2

  35. April 28, 2010 6:11 am

    Deuteronomy 12:3 (New International Version)

    3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

    I don’t see this as a ban on proper veneration of Asherah, but as an attack on the idolatrous practices that had grown up in connection with her. Don’t forget that even the image of the serpent that Moses was COMMANDED by God to create as a symbol of Israel’s reliance on God has to be destroyed when the children of Israel started worshiping it in idolatrous fashion. In short, the problem wasn’t Asherah, but how she was being worshiped.

    Same with Judges 6:25; 1 Kings 15:13; Isaiah 17:8; and Micah 5:12-13 (I think Jer 17:22 is a mis-citation on your part).

    In 1 Kings 18, Elijah merely mentions the priests of Asherah, but then proceeds to attack… just the priests of Baal.

    Why?

    Why no mention whatsoever of Asherah after the initial mention in what is probably one of the key narratives in the Old Testament condemning idolatry? And why in verse 40 are only the prophets of Baal slaughtered? Why didn’t Elijah go after the followers of Asherah as well.

    Well, quite possibly because he wasn’t concerned about veneration of Asherah. Seems likely enough to me. Otherwise, why not mention it?

  36. April 28, 2010 8:19 pm

    Seth,

    Yes Jer 17:22 was a typo, I meant Jer 17:2.

    That is an interesting way of reading these verses and I could understand it if there was any command to worship Asherah or a statement explaining some form of a relationship between the God of the Bible and an Asherah like goddess. I am not aware of a single passage in the OT that treats Asherah, either the goddess or the idol, in a positive manner much less leads us to veneration or worship. What about the affirmative prohibitions regarding worship of other gods, (Ex 20:3; 2 Kings 17:35; Jer 25:6; 35:15 etc.)?

  37. April 28, 2010 8:36 pm

    Exodus 20:3 (New International Version)

    3 “You shall have no other gods before [a] me.

    (the footnote on the NIV reads “or besides”)

    Exodus 20:3 (New International Reader’s Version)

    3 “Do not put any other gods in place of me.

    NET Bible of the Biblical Studies Foundation has the following commentary on this verse:

    “The expression עַל־פָּנָי (’al-panay) has several possible interpretations. S. R. Driver suggests “in front of me,” meaning obliging me to behold them, and also giving a prominence above me (Exodus, 193-94). W. F. Albright rendered it “You shall not prefer other gods to me” (From the Stone Age to Christianity, 297, n. 29). B. Jacob (Exodus, 546) illustrates it with marriage: the wife could belong to only one man while every other man was “another man.” They continued to exist but were not available to her. The point is clear from the Law, regardless of the specific way the prepositional phrase is rendered. God demands absolute allegiance, to the exclusion of all other deities. The preposition may imply some antagonism, for false gods would be opposed to Yahweh. U. Cassuto adds that God was in effect saying that anytime Israel turned to a false god they had to know that the Lord was there – it is always in his presence, or before him (Exodus, 241). ”

    So it seems to me there is plenty of wiggle room in there for a Heavenly Mother figure. I’ve been careful to limit my own remarks to “veneration” of Asherah and not imply that she should be regarded as any sort of replacement or trump over God the Father. If you take the Mormon theology of man and woman being perfectly united, the existence of Asherah, and veneration of her, is hardly a problem for the decree in Exodus 20:3. In fact, you could even claim that Mother would be so united with Father that to worship one, is essentially to worship the other by extension.

    2 Kings 17:35 (New International Version)

    35 When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them.

    This is stronger, but not sufficient. I have never claimed to worship Mother independent of Father. If I worship her, it is via extension – as she would be a unified one with the Father. So I don’t see myself as running afoul of this passage. I think this passage is consistent with the demands to pull down the Asherah poles – they had become synonymous with idolatrous practice, and Asherah was being elevated by some above Elohiem – a practice just as objectionable to modern LDS as to the ancient reformers under King Josiah.

    Jeremiah 25:6 falls into the same vein as does 35:15:

    Jeremiah 35:15 (New International Version)

    15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me.

    What we see here is a command against following other gods to serve them – but it is given in the context of asserting that Israel’s loyalty lies with God the Father – Eloheim.

    But stop and think about this for a moment.

    How do Evangelical Christians reconcile Jeremiah 35:15 with their constant calls to give worship to Jesus – an “other god”?

    Well, that’s easy enough – Jesus is a fully unified being with God the Father. To worship Christ IS to worship God the Father.

    To which I say – precisely. It isn’t a problem for Jesus. And it isn’t a problem for Asherah either.

  38. April 28, 2010 8:38 pm

    Your final point of “well, why isn’t this in the Bible then?” gets a pretty simple response from me:

    Because the reformers under Josiah got carried away, and wrote her out of the record to a great degree. One of those “plain and precious things” removed from the record. But hints of her are still there – if you are paying attention.

  39. April 28, 2010 9:46 pm

    So we have come full circle, Isaiah 43:10 cannot be true because… it’s not a plain and precious thing.

  40. April 29, 2010 2:16 am

    I don’t get where you think I’m dismissing Isaiah Gundeck. Seems like a sort of hysterical overreaction to me.

    Isaiah 43:10 (New International Version)

    10 “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.

    This wiki response handles this verse quite neatly:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Nature_of_God/%22No_God_beside_me%22

  41. April 29, 2010 9:48 pm

    Seth,

    The basis of your claim for the removal of worship of Asherah is “Because the reformers under Josiah got carried away, and wrote her out of the record to a great degree.” The elder gentleman in this post dismissed the “passage as just another one of those texts you can’t be too sure of due to the many translation errors that have crept into the Bible over the years.” I don’t think that it is a hysterical overreaction to point out the similarity between these two positions when the when the Bible says, or doesn’t say something.

    First the wiki article makes the false assumption that language used to refer to God is uni-vocal with language used to refer to man. Second in the case of both Babylon and Ninevah the claim “none else beside me” is on its face false and is presented as such in the text while the claim of God for “none else beside me” is true and presented as such in the text. To claim that the usage of a false statement attributed to a city must exactly parallel the usage of a true declaration of the one true God is an odd hermeneutic.

  42. April 30, 2010 12:41 am

    “Second in the case of both Babylon and Ninevah the claim “none else beside me” is on its face false and is presented as such in the text while the claim of God for “none else beside me” is true and presented as such in the text.”

    You’re begging the question Gundeck

    According to YOU, the claim of God being ontologically alone is true.

    As for different language applying for God than for other things…

    Interesting theory. Care to back it up?

  43. April 30, 2010 3:32 am

    Seth,

    Who brought up ontology? My only claim was that to compare obvious allegorical language, Babylon’s and Ninevah’s claims, and to expect a perfect parallel with God’s description of Himself is an odd hermeneutic.

    If you think that FAIR did a bang up job in interpreting Isaiah 43:10 then I am not sure how I can prove anything to you. Besides we have two different sources of authority and you would just deny any “proof” I would offer as begging the question of Biblical authority

    “According to YOU, the claim of God being ontologically alone is true.”

    I’ll have to think on “ontologically alone”. I’m not sure I would claim that. I would prefer “ontologically one”. But if by this you mean that I understand two distinct levels of being creator/creature then ok (Gen 1; Isa 40; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17).

    “As for different language applying for God than for other things…

    Interesting theory. Care to back it up?”

    Easy.

    God is your “father”. Is He your father in the same manner that your birth father is your “father”? Of course not. The term “father” is used in an analogical fashion not univocal.

    God is called a “shepherd”. Does that mean he keeps sheep in heaven or does it mean that he watches over and protects His people in accord with His will?

    Jesus Christ is “King”? Is He “King” in the same manner of any earthly King?

    These are simple examples that we can agree on without agreeing on the underlying theology.

  44. Seth R. permalink
    April 30, 2010 4:04 am

    Nah, what I was saying is that we have some good evidence here that wording like “none other beside me” can simply be interpreted as an expression of supremacy – not necessarily as a declaration of being the only one of a type.

  45. April 30, 2010 11:22 am

    If by good evidence you mean the comparison of the language of God and the language of two cities who don’t even exist anymore, sure.

  46. April 30, 2010 11:25 am

    Seth,

    Sorry to interject in the middle of you and Gundek’s conversation. 🙂 I have to admit to being shocked at your position here. In all the Bible studies, classes and sermons on the OT I have listened to or participated in over my life I have never heard or read anyone who embraces this view. Scriptural support of Asherah worship? Are you serious?!?! Please tell me this is not a mainstream LDS view. How can a natural reading of the OT result in this conclusion? Has Judaism historically viewed Asherah worship as a positive thing?

    Stephanie

  47. April 30, 2010 12:54 pm

    Please tell me this is not a mainstream LDS view.

    No, it is not a mainstream LDS view. I have only ever heard it articulated by LDS apologists and intellectuals. It’s never been taught by a GA or anything, so you’re unlikely to hear it from someone who isn’t familiar with scholarly Mormon studies.

    It primarily comes from two sources:

    Peterson, Daniel C. “Nephi and His Asherah.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9.2 (2000): 16-25. This paper was originally published in a much longer form in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson edited by Davis Bitton (1998), available online here.

    Barney, Kevin L. “How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated).” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Though 41.4 (Winter 2008): 121-46.

    Seth already linked to the second article earlier in the thread.

  48. Seth R. permalink
    April 30, 2010 2:10 pm

    Stephanie, you know full well this reading of the Bible isn’t a mainstream view in Mormonism.

    I think often we fail to take full advantage of the power and possibilities of our own theology and position. Most Mormons are too nervous about the topic of Heavenly Mother to really explore what is there in the scriptures. Which is too bad.

    And Stephanie, if Mormonism is willing to contemplate traditional Christianity getting some things wrong for over 2,000 years, what makes you think we’d have a problem with the same possibility with Judaism?

    And don’t misunderstand me. I never said the Bible ENCOURAGES worship or veneration of Asherah (mostly, I was advocating for veneration – and “worship” only in the context of a unity with the Father). Nor did I claim it expressly supports it. I just said it doesn’t condemn it. That’s what this debate has been about.

    Always keep in mind the Mormon position. We don’t need express biblical permission for our views. All we really need is for the Bible not to forbid us doing something, and we’re golden. Mormonism’s whole founding premise is not being limited or restricted to what the Bible says. So for an Evangelical to protest “but that’s not in the Bible” is utterly irrelevant to a Mormon. Being open to God saying MORE than what is in the Bible is the entire point of Mormonism, actually.

  49. Seth R. permalink
    April 30, 2010 2:13 pm

    No Gundeck, I’m not talking about the “language of God” vs. “the language of cities.”

    There is no “language of God” in the Bible Gundeck.

    Just the language of the scribes who transmitted his message. And it is utterly unremarkable that a phrase like “there is no other” would be used with the same meaning regarding two quite different subjects. Linguistically, it’s a non-issue.

  50. April 30, 2010 7:25 pm

    Seth,

    Did Babylon say “ I am, and none else beside me”? Was this an analogy reported by the prophet and ascribed to the heart of Babylon? Or did the entire city of Babylon come together and on the count of 3 say…

    Did God say “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. “? Was that a revelation from God? Or did the scribe just make it up?

    In one passage you have generically broad declaration “I am, and none else beside me”. Leading to the question, none else what? City? King? Empire? Culture? There is a complete lack of specificity in the claim ascribed to Babylon’s heart. In the other passage you have a specific declaration “beside me there is no God” leaving no doubt about the claim.

    We have two different types of speakers, two different modes of speaking, two different contexts, two different types of claims, two different Hebrew words… I know lets demand an exact parallel of meaning, that a linguistically sound argument.

  51. Seth R. permalink
    April 30, 2010 8:18 pm

    I both cases, it was a declaration of superiority.

    In one of the cases it was true. In the other case, not so much.

  52. April 30, 2010 9:47 pm

    Why is it only a claim of superiority? Because of a supposed parallel to a totally unrelated passage that doesn’t even use the same language?

    For instance the word “no” in Isa 44:6 is a measure of quantity for the preposition meaning none, the word “no” in Isa 47:8 “no” is a compound “no one” with physical or cultural connotations.

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