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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Mar 06, 2021 8:13 am

rgprice wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:01 am
What is a good resource that clarifies the underlying names in the scriptures?
Obviously consulting the original text is the optimal way to go. I typically use BibleWorks 10 for this, but if you do not have that kind of software, you can go to BibleHub to get the Hebrew, the OT Greek (LXX/OG), and the NT Greek. For the Qumran materials which are not biblical, I use The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, by Florentino García Martínez & Eibert Tigchelaar; this handy book offers both the original text and a serviceable translation. The biblical fragments are translated in The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, by Martin G. Abegg, Peter Flint, & Eugene Ulrich. Accessing the original languages for the biblical fragments is more challenging, but I have consulted both the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series and growing online resources like the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls project (which has the Isaiah scroll).
I know that sometimes Lord really means Lord and sometimes its a stand-in for Yahweh, but its impossible to tell in most translations.
If you must use a translation, at least use one that distinguishes between "Lord" for adonai and "LORD" for Yahweh. I use the NASB, which is available at the Bible Gateway, which I seldom access directly; rather, I just google something like "Isaiah 1 nasb," and the Bible Gateway results are almost always at the top of the search.
Also, what are the differences in these representations between Hebrew scriptures and the LXX?
Not sure what you are asking here.
From what I understand, we've had the problem that most of the Hebrew scripture we have today are actually more recent than the LXX, and thus may not really be representative of Hellenistic era scriptures.
This is correct. The problem is mitigated somewhat by how faithful both the Masoretic copyists and the copyists who preceded them were, a fact driven home by how often the Hebrew text at Qumran lines up with the Masoretic text used today. However, and this is very important, there are some parts of the text which were edited at some point (I already pointed out Deuteronomy 32.7-9, for example) in between the Qumran text and our Masoretic text. Sometimes the LXX/OG will follow what seems to be the more original, and sometimes it will instead reflect the editing.
Of course we have Qumran now, but everything isn't represented there and I don't know that modern translated make use of Qumranic texts, they still derive from the MT as far as I know.
Yes, modern translations still reflect the Masoretic text, at least for the most part. But The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible can help out in this regard.

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

Post by rgprice » Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:52 am

Thanks Ben. However, even the NASB on BG doesn't seem to always distinguish what's going on. For example:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?s ... rsion=NASB

"Psalm 110: The Lord says to my Lord."

Here the footnotes indicated El Elyon, but that can't be all that's going on: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?s ... rsion=NASB
18 And Melchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has handed over your enemies to you.”

And he gave him a tenth of everything. 21 Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the possessions for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth
Here God Most High means El Elyon, but what about Lord in v22? Does v22 equate YHWH to El Elyon or is it really saying "the lord" El Elyon, i.e. does it read, "I have sworn to YHWH El Elyon" or , "I have sworn to the lord El Elyon"?
Last edited by rgprice on Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:43 am

rgprice wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:52 am
Thanks Ben. However, even the NASB on BG doesn't seem to always distinguish what's going on. For example:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?s ... rsion=NASB

"Psalm 110: The Lord says to my Lord."

Here the footnotes indicated El Elyon....
What footnotes indicate that? There is no El Elyon in Psalm 110.1. The NASB has exactly what it should have: The LORD (= Yahweh) said to my Lord (= adonai, the actual Hebrew word for "Lord"). (The NASB capitalizes pretty much all nouns which it thinks apply to Jesus or to God.) You can see the Hebrew here: https://biblehub.com/text/psalms/110-1.htm.

I am not saying that the NASB is going to get every little thing right; no translation is perfect; but when I read the NASB I am able to "hear" the Hebrew or the Greek lurking behind the translation most of the time, and Psalm 110.1 is a great example of that: the Hebrew reads exactly as I would have predicted from the English alone.
...but that's can be all that's going on: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?s ... rsion=NASB
18 And Melchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has handed over your enemies to you.”

And he gave him a tenth of everything. 21 Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the possessions for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth
Here God Most High means El Elyon, but what about Lord in v22? Does v22 equate YHWH to El Elyon or is it really saying "the lord" El Elyon, i.e. does it read, "I have sworn to YHWH El Elyon" or , "I have sworn to the lord El Elyon"?
Verse 18 has אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, El Elyon, which is why the NASB has "God Most High." Verses 19 and 20 are the same, El Elyon.

Verse 22 has יְהוָה אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, Yahweh El Elyon, in that order, which is why the NASB capitalizes LORD (= Yahweh) in the phrase "LORD God Most High."

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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:54 am

The Foreword to the NASB spells out the translational policy for the names of God in the Hebrew Bible:

THE PROPER NAME OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: In the Scriptures, the name of God is most significant and understandably so. It is inconceivable to think of spiritual matters without a proper designation for the Supreme Deity. Thus the most common name for the Deity is God, a translation of the original Elohim. One of the titles for God is Lord, a translation of Adonai. There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it has been consistently translated LORD. The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai. In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion. It is known that for many years YHWH has been transliterated as Yahweh, however no complete certainty attaches to this pronunciation. [Link.]

Please note that one exception the Foreword mentions; it is clearly marked in the translation by the capitalization of "GOD," which does not happen with Elohim. In Genesis 15.2, for example, "Lord GOD" is translating אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה (adonai Yahweh).

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

Post by rgprice » Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:20 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:43 am
What footnotes indicate that? There is no El Elyon in Psalm 110.1. The NASB has exactly what it should have: The LORD (= Yahweh) said to my Lord (= adonai, the actual Hebrew word for "Lord"). (The NASB capitalizes pretty much all nouns which it thinks apply to Jesus or to God.) You can see the Hebrew here: https://biblehub.com/text/psalms/110-1.htm.
Sorry I was referring to a different passage there, the one that was linked at the end of that line. Oh, the issue is the font they are using on BG. I didn't notice that the first LORD was all caps.

Verse 18 has אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, El Elyon, which is why the NASB has "God Most High." Verses 19 and 20 are the same, El Elyon.

Verse 22 has יְהוָה אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, Yahweh El Elyon, in that order, which is why the NASB capitalizes LORD (= Yahweh) in the phrase "LORD God Most High."
Got it, like I said, a font issue. Now I see it. So, this, then appears to be a Deuteronomist equivalence between Yahweh and El Elyon a la Exodus 6:2?
Exodus 6: 2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am YHWH; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by My name, YHWH, I did not make Myself known to them.
So then, Gen 14:22 is an anachronistic reconciliation of the names Yahweh and El. Is that how you read this?

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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:35 am

rgprice wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:20 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:43 am
What footnotes indicate that? There is no El Elyon in Psalm 110.1. The NASB has exactly what it should have: The LORD (= Yahweh) said to my Lord (= adonai, the actual Hebrew word for "Lord"). (The NASB capitalizes pretty much all nouns which it thinks apply to Jesus or to God.) You can see the Hebrew here: https://biblehub.com/text/psalms/110-1.htm.
Sorry I was referring to a different passage there, the one that was linked at the end of that line. Oh, the issue is the font they are using on BG. I didn't notice that the first LORD was all caps.
Verse 18 has אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, El Elyon, which is why the NASB has "God Most High." Verses 19 and 20 are the same, El Elyon.

Verse 22 has יְהוָה אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, Yahweh El Elyon, in that order, which is why the NASB capitalizes LORD (= Yahweh) in the phrase "LORD God Most High."
Got it, like I said, a font issue. Now I see it. So, this, then appears to be a Deuteronomist equivalence between Yahweh and El Elyon a la Exodus 6:2?
Exodus 6: 2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am YHWH; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by My name, YHWH, I did not make Myself known to them.
So then, Gen 14:22 is an anachronistic reconciliation of the names Yahweh and El. Is that how you read this?
Well, yes, kind of. I mean, bear in mind that almost the entire body of Hebrew scripture is "Deuteronomist" in the sense that it equates, or can at least be read as equating, Yahweh and El. The phrase alone, Yahweh Elohim, appears hundreds of times throughout the Hebrew text. There are clues sprinkled in various passages, as well as parallels from Canaanite religion, of what the previously understood arrangement probably was (El as the chief deity, Yahweh as one of his underlings), but the overall impression that the Hebrew scriptures give is the one found in Exodus 6.2 and in the Shema (El and Yahweh are the same guy). The final editors of the scriptures obviously were of this latter opinion, but occasionally they let glimpses of the former slip in for us.

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

Post by rgprice » Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:26 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:35 am
Well, yes, kind of. I mean, bear in mind that almost the entire body of Hebrew scripture is "Deuteronomist" in the sense that it equates, or can at least be read as equating, Yahweh and El. The phrase alone, Yahweh Elohim, appears hundreds of times throughout the Hebrew text. There are clues sprinkled in various passages, as well as parallels from Canaanite religion, of what the previously understood arrangement probably was (El as the chief deity, Yahweh as one of his underlings), but the overall impression that the Hebrew scriptures give is the one found in Exodus 6.2 and in the Shema (El and Yahweh are the same guy). The final editors of the scriptures obviously were of this latter opinion, but occasionally they let glimpses of the former slip in for us.
Yes, and what Barker appears to be saying, which I think makes a lot of sense, is that these glimpses of the original traditions kept poking through in Hellenistic and early Roman times, leading to a sense among some Jews and God-fearers that there was some hidden second God behind the scenes. There were these few passages that gave an impression that the mainstream teachings of the priesthood weren't quite right or were missing or hiding something. There appeared to be another God, a Higher God than the Lord.

The Rabbis kept saying that these were two aspects of the one God, but this didn't seem to fully make sense, because of little issues here and there. And thus was born, in the first and second centuries and going on into the third through sixth centuries with Metatron, Jewish based cults that believed there were two Gods. In some cases this was one God tied to Yahweh traditions and one higher than Yahweh. Or better this could be thought of as one God who was the God of Israel with another higher God who was the God of the universe. Mainstream Jews taught that the God of Israel was the God of the universe. Some teachings held that the God of Israel was going to become the God of the whole world, worshiped by all Nations. It seems there was confusion over whether the God of Israel was the Creator God or whether the Higher God was the Creator God. Looks like there were a variety of interpretations of this, and I'm sure I didn't capture it all here.

All of this seems to arise out of the fact that Israelite religion was actually polytheistic, worshiping mainly Yahweh and El Elyon, along with dozens of other gods. The Deuteronomist reformers who wrote the Deuteronomistic History that included the Torah, tried to unify everything to Yahweh, but a few little oversights were made, leaving behind traces of the former polytheism. Given the view of the Torah as sacred and unerring, these oversights couldn't really be acknowledged for what they were, so dubious rationalizations were used to try and explain them. Inevitably, those rationalizations were not entirely satisfactory, hence, the rise in second-god-ism, of which Christianity became the most prominent example. The Christianity of Paul is rooted in second-god-ism, but Roman God-fearing monotheists, like the mainstream Jewish rabbis, couldn't abide second-god-ism, so they had to, kind of like the original Deuteronomists, conform the scriptures to a vision of monotheism, eliminating the second god by coming up with a scheme whereby everything could be reconciled to a single God.

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

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Mar 07, 2021 9:08 am

rgprice wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:26 am
Yes, and what Barker appears to be saying, which I think makes a lot of sense, is that these glimpses of the original traditions kept poking through in Hellenistic and early Roman times, leading to a sense among some Jews and God-fearers that there was some hidden second God behind the scenes. There were these few passages that gave an impression that the mainstream teachings of the priesthood weren't quite right or were missing or hiding something. There appeared to be another God, a Higher God than the Lord.

The Rabbis kept saying that these were two aspects of the one God, but this didn't seem to fully make sense, because of little issues here and there. And thus was born, in the first and second centuries and going on into the third through sixth centuries with Metatron, Jewish based cults that believed there were two Gods. In some cases this was one God tied to Yahweh traditions and one higher than Yahweh. Or better this could be thought of as one God who was the God of Israel with another higher God who was the God of the universe. Mainstream Jews taught that the God of Israel was the God of the universe. Some teachings held that the God of Israel was going to become the God of the whole world, worshiped by all Nations. It seems there was confusion over whether the God of Israel was the Creator God or whether the Higher God was the Creator God. Looks like there were a variety of interpretations of this, and I'm sure I didn't capture it all here.

All of this seems to arise out of the fact that Israelite religion was actually polytheistic, worshiping mainly Yahweh and El Elyon, along with dozens of other gods. The Deuteronomist reformers who wrote the Deuteronomistic History that included the Torah, tried to unify everything to Yahweh, but a few little oversights were made, leaving behind traces of the former polytheism. Given the view of the Torah as sacred and unerring, these oversights couldn't really be acknowledged for what they were, so dubious rationalizations were used to try and explain them. Inevitably, those rationalizations were not entirely satisfactory, hence, the rise in second-god-ism, of which Christianity became the most prominent example. The Christianity of Paul is rooted in second-god-ism, but Roman God-fearing monotheists, like the mainstream Jewish rabbis, couldn't abide second-god-ism, so they had to, kind of like the original Deuteronomists, conform the scriptures to a vision of monotheism, eliminating the second god by coming up with a scheme whereby everything could be reconciled to a single God.
I think I agree with most/all of this.

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