El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Ben C. Smith
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El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 01, 2019 10:23 am

Just collecting materials relating to the notion that the Israelite religion borrowed from Canaanite myths a sort of binitarianism by which El (Elyon) = Elohim was the supreme and primary divinity and Yahweh a secondary divinity in some sense.

The locus classicus comes from the Song of Moses:

Deuteronomy 32.7-9: 7 Remember the days of old; consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. 8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God [Qumran: בני אלוהים = "sons of God," Masoretic: בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל = "sons of Israel," LXX: ἀγγέλων θεοῦ = "angels of God"]. 9 For Yahweh's portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.

Qumran = 4QDtj.

It seems fallacious to relate the "number of the sons of Israel" or "of God" solely to Genesis 10.1-32 (the Table of Nations), traditionally counted as 70 nations (14 from Japheth, 30 from Ham, and 26 from Shem) corresponding to the 70 descendants of Israel who came into Egypt after Joseph. For one thing, the number of souls differs between versions:

Genesis 46.26-27: 26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, who came out of his loins, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27 and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two souls (LXX: nine souls); all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy (LXX: seventy-five).

Exodus 1.5: 5 All the souls who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy (LXX: seventy-five) as to souls, but Joseph was already in Egypt.

Acts 7.14: 14 Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five souls in all.

For another, the logic is wanting:

Michael S. Heiser, "Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God," pages 2-3: Little thought was given, however, to the logic of the correlation: How is it that the number of the pagan nations was determined in relation to an entity (Israel) or individuals (Jacob and his household) that did not yet exist? Even if one contends that the correlation was in the mind of God prior to Israel's existence and only recorded much later, what possible point would there be behind connecting the pagan Gentile nations numerically with the children of promise?

And finally, of course, the Qumranic text (which reads "sons of God") predates the Masoretic text (which reads "sons of Israel") by nearly a millennium. The Masoretes were capable of preserving texts to an amazing degree of accuracy when so motivated, but in this case there seems to have been a counter motivation to make certain that a strict Jewish monotheism be maintained against the earlier text, in which it is implied that God/Elohim divided up the nations among various divinities, and the divinity who received the nation of Israel as his portion was Yahweh; thus, Yahweh and Elohim are not the same entity, with the former being subordinate to the latter.

The idea of a divine council over which Elohim presides is preserved elsewhere:

Psalm 82.1-8: 1 A Psalm of Asaph. God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the gods [אֱלֹהִים, θεοὺς]. 2 How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. 3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes." 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

And the idea of apportioning the nations to individual deities was also known to the Greeks:

Plato, Critias, Critias speaking: "In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment. There was no quarreling; for you cannot rightly suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves by contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their own pleasure; thus did they guide all mortal creatures. Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order."

Furthermore, the source (whether proximate or ultimate) of Elohim ruling over a council of 70 deities is fairly clear:

Michael S. Heiser, "Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God," page 3: Ugaritic mythology plainly states that the head of its pantheon, El (who, like the God of the Bible, is also referred to as El Elyon, the "Most High") fathered 70 sons, thereby setting the number of the "sons of El" (Ugaritic, bn 'il).

The idea is preserved elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, even when Yahweh and Elohim are equated:

Job 1.6-12: 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 Yahweh said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 8 Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you set your heart to My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 12 Then Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand; only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of Yahweh.

In such a case, when Yahweh and El are thought of as the same entity, the "sons of God" will often be angelic powers of some kind.

To return to the Song of Moses, the Targum seems clearly to be combining the two ideas ("sons of God" = spiritual powers versus "sons of Israel" migrating into Egypt):

Targum pseudo-Jonathan, Deuteronomy 32.7-9: 7 Remember the days of old; consider the years of every generation; read the books of the law, and they will teach you, and the books of the prophets, and they will tell you. 8 When the Most High made allotment of the world unto the nations which proceeded from the sons of Noah, in the separation of the writings and languages of the children of men at the time of the division, He cast the lot among the seventy angels, the princes of the nations with whom is the revelation to oversee the city, even at that time He established the limits of the nations according to the sum of the number of the seventy souls of Israel who went down into Mizraim. 9 And when the holy people fell to the lot of the Lord of all the world, Michael opened his lips and said: Let the good portion of the Name of the Lord's Word be with Him. Gabriel opened his lips with thanksgivings, and said, Let the house of Jakob be the lot of His inheritance.

There is yet another verse in the Song of Moses in which the Masoretic text removes the other gods from consideration altogether while the LXX makes sure we understand them to be angels:

Deuteronomy 32.43 Qumran
Deuteronomy 32.43 LXX
Deuteronomy 32.43 Masoretic
הרנינו שמים עמו
והשתחוו לו כל אלהים


כי דם בניו יקום
ונקם ישיב לעריו
ולמשינאיו ישלם
וכפּר אדמת עמו
Εὐφράνθητε, οὐρανοί, ἅμα αὐτῷ
καὶ προσκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες υἱοὶ θεοῦ.
εὐφράνθητε, ἔθνη, μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἐνισχυσάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι θεοῦ,
ὅτι τὸ αἷμα τῶν υἱῶν αὐτοῦ ἐκδικᾶται,
καὶ ἐκδικήσει καὶ ἀνταποδώσει δίκην τοῖς ἐχθροῖς,
καὶ τοῖς μισοῦσιν ἀνταποδώσει,
καὶ ἐκκαθαριεῖ κύριος τὴν γῆν τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ.


הַרְנִ֤ינוּ גוֹיִם֙ עַמּ֔וֹ

כִּ֥י דַם־עֲבָדָ֖יו יִקּ֑וֹם
וְנָקָם֙ יָשִׁ֣יב לְצָרָ֔יו

וְכִפֶּ֥ר אַדְמָת֖וֹ עַמּֽוֹ׃
Rejoice, O heavens, with His people,
and let all the gods bow to him;


for He will avenge
the blood of His sons,
and will render vengeance
on His adversaries,
and will reward them that hate him,
and will atone for the land of His people.
Rejoice, O heavens, with Him,
and let all the angels of God worship Him;
rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people,
and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him;
for he will avenge
the blood of his sons,
and he will render vengeance,
and recompense justice to his enemies,
and will reward them that hate him;
and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.


Rejoice, O nations, with His people;

for He will avenge
the blood of His servants,
and will render vengeance
on His adversaries,

and will atone for the land of His people.

Qumran = 4QDeutq.

I may have more to add to this collection as time progresses, possibly from the book of Daniel (at least), given its mentions of the "princes" of various nations.

Ben.
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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:27 am

This understanding continued through to Philo of Alexandria who understood Elohim (theos) as superior to Yahweh (kurios). When Jacob sees the heavenly ladder and signs his song Philo - and later Clement from Philo - assumes he has seen or perhaps 'knows' the superior God because of the experience. Again identifying - as per our discussion in the other thread - why Philo was more influential to Christianity than the DSS. If you discount the heresies and their 'unknown' god superior to the Creator at Irenaeus's prompting it makes natural sense to see the DSS as having more influence over the development of earliest Christianity. However the heresies were only following the understanding laid out in multiple passages in Philo and presumably Alexandrian Judaism as a whole that (a) Yahweh and Elohim were separate divine names related to separate divine beings and (b) Elohim was superior to Yahweh and unknown to the Patriarchs. Interesting Lamsa argues that this is the Syriac Christian understanding of the divine names - viz. Elohim = the superior god - and Yahweh the nationalistic god of Jews. This of course gets drowned out by Yahweh-believing Jewish scholars. As unfortunate as it is to say - too many Jews in the entertainment field, law, the medical field and of course Biblical scholarship. They succeed at scaring away ideas and traditions not conducive to their own Yahweh-centered traditions. But as a Jew I can say, let's encourage Jews to get into sports (and especially contact sports every JCC you see Jewish kids playing basketball - what's up with that?), manual labor and other fields they are under-represented in.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:45 am

This is typical of what is written:
Philo seems to have been unaware that kyrios stood for the tetragrammaton, for he used theos (“God”) to indicate the gracious power of God, while kyrios describes God's kingly power. https://books.google.com/books?id=J3gzD ... hy&f=false
Why is this a problem? It's like 'Philo must be confused.' Yeah the leader of the Alexandrian Jewish community doesn't know what he is saying about his fucking religion and we know better 2000 years later! https://books.google.com/books?id=M4TNA ... 22&f=false More evidence for the Alexandrian Jewish origins of Christianity.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:38 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:27 am
Again identifying - as per our discussion in the other thread - why Philo was more influential to Christianity than the DSS.
The locus classicus for the understanding of Yahweh as a divinity subordinate to El Elyon is found in the Dead Sea scrolls (4QDtj). You are on this really weird kick right now where you are completely unable to view the evidence from a bird's eye view and everything gets filtered through your latest interest.
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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:32 pm

It is true that I am bitchy, tired and find myself suffering from memory lapses. I apologize if I have become annoying here. I think I just started posting here again to fight with someone. Sorry.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:29 am

I appreciate your posting this. Thanks.
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Re: El Elyon, Yahweh, & the divine council.

Post by Ethan » Sat Nov 02, 2019 11:48 am

El Elyon means ἥλιος ὑπερίων (Helios Hyperion), Abraham gave the priest of ἥλιος ὑπερίων a tithe of all booty acquired as a result of his victory of Lot.

Yahweh is Ζεύς Παιάν, the god associated with healing and songs.

Divine counsel, they are many for which, ἅγιος βουλῆ, ἅγιος ἀγορᾶ, ἅγιος ἔθνος that refer to political entities.
βουλῆ - Council of elders, Senate,
ἀγορᾶ - assembly, esp. of the People, opp. the Council of Chiefs,
ἔθνος - number of people living together, company, body of men

"the Most High gave the nations their inheritance"

The Qumran was written by veterans of wars occupying the Levant, that was divided and its territories disrupted among the 'children of Israel'' by drawing lots, as according to the Greek custom assigning by lot to the veterans concerned allotments carved out the occupied land.

Christians are just confusing the highly political ancient writings.
https://vivliothikiagiasmatos.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/joseph-yahuda-hebrew-is-greek.pdf

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