Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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rgprice
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Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

In Gmrikin's recent book, Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts, he states in the introduction:

A further implication is that the origin of Jewish monotheism is to be traced to Plato’s Timaeus, a theological development facilitated by the conflation of the local god Yahweh with the cosmic Creator in later biblical texts starting in Exodus.

I agree with much of what Gmirkin has to say, but I can't agree with this. It seems quite clear that this conflation originated with Second Isaiah:

Isaiah 45:
“This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 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.”
...
24 “This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the Lord,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,
25 who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,
26 who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,


Isaiah 45:
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
...
18 For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the Lord,
and there is no other.
19 I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

20 “Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
who pray to gods that cannot save.
21 Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.

The way I see it, Second Isaiah is record of the beginnings of the monotheistic cult of Yahweh, under the tutelage of the Persians, who were Zoroastrian monotheists. Second Isaiah is pro-Persian propaganda, likely emanating from the administration of Cyrus. The point of this monotheistic endeavor was to present Cyrus as the only possible savior and leader of the people of Judah. Each god had their own priests and cults and prophets. There was a relationship between politics and gods. Multiple gods allowed for the voices of multiple priests and prophets. The priests of one god may favor different rulers and thus put forward divine commands to side with one ruler or another. Cyrus wanted to limit these voices. He presented himself as the chosen ruler of the Judahites who was selected to lead the Judahites by their God Yahweh, who was, by the way the only God that existed, so anyone claiming that other gods had chosen a different leader were false prophets.

This, in my view, was the origins of the monotheistic cult of Yahweh. It had nothing to do with the Plato.

When the Persians fell to Alexander, however, then the Judahite priesthood had to scramble to align themselves with the new world order so as not to be overthrown. This is where the creation of the Torah comes in, with its use of Greek sources, to create an account that would have enabled the Judahites to claim that they were an ancient nation of laws who were capable of self-rule. Much of the point of the Torah and the claims of the Jews was to show that they were an ancient nation with a royal line that had a right to autonomy. This is because in the region at the time, such ancient nations and administrations were given more rights and allowed to adhere more to their own traditions. Groups who could not make such claims were more thoroughly Hellenized and brought under the control of the ruling administrations. So part of the bid for political power of the priesthood lay in their ability to show that they were the leaders of an ancient nation of laws, who thus deserved the right to govern themselves. So that's why the Judahite priests would have engaged in this endeavor to develop this history of the Jewish people and to do it along Hellenistic lines, in a way that would have been approved of by Hellenistic leaders, by drawing on the works of Plato, a respected Hellenistic thinker.

But Judahite monotheism was pre-existent under the Persians. However, it is very likely that even under the Persians Jewish monotheism was never fully established among the population of Judahites. It may have been the official position of the priesthood, but it was likely not fully adopted by the populous, who continued to adhere to their polytheistic Canaanite/Israelite traditions in diminished fashion. And this struggle seemed to continue on into the Hellenistic era.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by ABuddhist »

rgprice wrote: Tue Aug 23, 2022 2:46 am But Judahite monotheism was pre-existent under the Persians. However, it is very likely that even under the Persians Jewish monotheism was never fully established among the population of Judahites. It may have been the official position of the priesthood, but it was likely not fully adopted by the populous, who continued to adhere to their polytheistic Canaanite/Israelite traditions in diminished fashion. And this struggle seemed to continue on into the Hellenistic era.
Do you think that the Jewish populace's resistance to monotheism manifested in the 2 powers in heaven theology and other forms?

And Gmirkin, if I understand him correctly, asserts that all of the prophetic literature was written during the Hellenistic period.

Being specific, in the comments to the following blog-post [ https://vridar.org/2018/11/23/genesis-t ... uthorship/ ] he wrote, "I consider all the so-called pre-exilic prophets to be pseudepigraphical, Hellenistic, post-Pentateuchal compositions. Some of the Oracles Against the Nations appear to be Hellenistic but pre-Pentateuchal, i.e. written in the period 325-270 BCE. Kings does not mention Jeremiah or writings by same. The narrative portions of Jeremiah are demonstrably intertwined and contemporary with Kings and it appears that the adventures of Jeremiah were intended as another novelistic tale, much like the prophets Elijah and Elisha or Isaiah in Kings, intended to bring the prophecies of Deuteronomy full circle and point forward to a prophesied return from exile."

Whether that applies also to 2nd Isaiah, written during the exile, I know not.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

I disagree with the view that all of the works of the prophets are post-Pentateuchal compositions. There are in fact many contradictions between the works of the prophet and the Torah, which is best explained as those works having been written prior to the Torah. For example, many works from the prophets make no mention of Moses or Twelve Tribes or of Ten Commandments, even in places where we would expect them.

When it comes to Isaiah, First and Second Isaiah show no sign of knowledge of the Torah, while Third Isaiah clearly does. Third Isaiah has many indicators that it is Hellenistic in origin, while First and Second appear pre-Hellenistic.

And why would anyone in the Hellenistic period write so much about Cyrus? No, I think Second Isaiah is authentically from the beginning of the Persian period. Also, look at the Psalms. The Psalms are clearly very old. We have found versions of them written on tablets from around 1200 BCE. Also note that none of the Psalms mention Moses or Twelve Tribes or David or Solomon (other than in introductions that we added later). So clearly the priesthood was in possession of actual ancient Canaanite/Israelite works.

Again, I think Gmirkin's work is very insightful and illuminating, but I can't go along with his view which seems to totally eliminate almost all Canaanite/Israelite heritage and put everything in the Hellenistic era. I can totally agree that the Torah as a collection of work wasn't composed until the Hellenistic era, but not that every element of it comes purely from Hellenistic sources.

I see the Torah more like, if the Cherokee had written a history of their people around 1830 in which the history said that the Cherokee had horses before Europeans arrived, and that the Cherokee had invented a banking system, and the Cherokee worshiped Jesus before Europeans came but he was called Unahlahnauhi the Great Spirit, etc., but their history also included real elements of Cherokee history and a synchronization of native Cherokee religion and Christianity, incorporating elements of Cherokee origin stories and Cherokee gods which now appeared as angels, etc.

That's sort of how I see the Torah.
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DCHindley
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by DCHindley »

I'm pretty sure that Gmirkin only thinks the Pentateuch was final-edited in the 3rd century BCE (after the rule of Alexander the Great). The books of prophets may have been floating around but were not translated at that time. Some of them, plus all the other sacred writings, had yet to be written (Ezra/Nehemiah & Daniel for example).

Not sure why this is going around as an issue, but the Lxx (named after the "70" translators) and the Septuagint (also means "70") are the same thing, and only includes the Pentateuch = 5 books of the Law.

The rest of the books (prophets & writings) are called "Old Greek" if they come from the Christian "Old Testament." Other translations (Theodotion, Symmachus, etc.) were also used by Greek speaking Jews.

The Greek speaking Jews did not use Christian versions of anything. It was the other way around. We just do not know for sure how much was changed the original Greek translations in the process of publishing the Christian "Old Testament."

That it is common for some scholars (not Gmirkin) to lump the prophets and writings into "the Septuagint" does not make for precision in discussions.

DCH
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by StephenGoranson »

Here is the current online Oxford English Dictionary entry:

Septuagint, n.
...
Pronunciation: Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˈsɛptjʊədʒɪnt/, Hear pronunciation/ˈsɛptʃʊədʒɪnt/, U.S. Hear pronunciation/sɛpˈt(j)uədʒənt/, Hear pronunciation/ˈsɛp(t)ʃəwəˌdʒɪnt/, Hear pronunciation/ˈsɛptəwəˌdʒɪnt/
Forms:
α. 1500s–1600s 1800s– Septuaginta.

β. 1500s–1600s Septuaginte, 1500s– Septuagint.

...
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin septuāgintā.
Etymology: < classical Latin septuāgintā seventy < a weakened form of septem seven (see septem- comb. form) + -gintā , suffix forming cardinal numerals from thirty to ninety, related to decem ten (see decem- comb. form).

Compare LXX n. and discussion at that entry.
In sense 1a after post-classical Latin septuaginta (4th or 5th cent. in Jerome) (short for septuaginta interpretes the seventy translators (4th cent. in Jerome)); compare Byzantine Greek οἱ ἐβδομήκοντα ἑρμηνευταί , literally 'the seventy interpreters'; compare also Greek οἱ Ο′ , i.e. ‘the Seventy‘.

The Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures (compare sense 3) was traditionally thought to have been produced by seventy-two Jews (six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel) in seventy-two days, at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt (308–246 b.c.). The number seventy-two was subsequently rounded to seventy. Doubts began to be cast on this legend in the 16th cent. and it is not generally accepted by modern scholars, but the translation of the Pentateuch does appear to have been made in the 3rd cent. b.c., probably in Alexandria.

1.
...
a. The translators who produced the earliest and most influential Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (see sense 3). Now rare.
α.
1548 N. Udall et al. tr. St. Jerome in tr. Erasmus Paraphr. Newe Test. I. Matt. f. xix Whersoeuer this Euangeliste..doethe vse any allegacions of the olde Testamente, he doeth not folowe the auctorite of Septuaginta, that is to saye, of the thre score and ten translatours: but of the Hebrue.
1587 D. Fenner Def. Godlie Ministers sig. Giiv Will you followe the Septuaginta in their whole translation?
1826 New-Eng. Galaxy 17 Nov. 1/3 Whether the Septuaginta were actually an assembly of learned men, amounting in number to seventy, or a single individual of that name.
1947 Philol. Q. July 264 Here Becket..quotes Nahum, i, 12 in the version of the Septuaginta.
β.
1560 Bible (Geneva) Job. ii. 11 (margin) Which were men of autoritie, wise and learned, and as the Septuagint write, Kings, and came to comfort him, but when they saw how he was visited, they conceiued an euil opinion of him.
1589 T. Cooper Admon. People of Eng. 50 The translation..was..according to the Septuagint.
a1656 J. Hales Golden Remains (1659) i. 91 The Septuagint, to make the sense more plain do adde another clause.
1684 T. Burnet Theory of Earth ii. vii. 251 The Septuagint, who render this word Eden.
1905 Monist 15 515 If the Urim and Thummim were not plural and were not contrasts..Philo's interpretation would have much to recommend itself. Perhaps he and also the Septuagint were under Egyptian influence.
...


†b. In plural in same sense. Obsolete.
1565 J. Calfhill Aunswere Treat. Crosse f. 70 If this be lawful, that euery noddy that commeth to a Synode, may chop and chaunge the word of God as he will: what nede we to care for Moses writing, or Esdras, restoring or Septuagints translating, or the Apostles handeling of the Scripture?
1621 R. Montagu Diatribæ Hist. Tithes 217 The Septuagints were no Grammarians, saith that bold bayard, Stenchius.
1653 T. Gataker Vindic. Annot. Jer. 10.2 36 Whether they..had studied upon the matter apart in their several cels, as the tale goes of the secluded Septuagints.
1723 J. de Daillon Δαιμονολογια 65 It [sc. the name of Dæmon] is always used to signify an evil Thing in the Translation of the Septuagints.
...

2. gen. A group of seventy persons or things. Now rare.
In later use chiefly with allusion to sense 1a.
In quot. 1564 (in plural) denoting the seventy elders of Israel who accompanied Moses to Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:1).
1564 J. Rastell Confut. Serm. M. Iuell f. 137 He [sc. the pope] continueth in his supremacie, as a Moyses aboue the septuagintes.
1652 R. Norwood (title) New errors made palpable by an old light, or a cheap and easie method to cure the dissentions of the time by a septuagint of conclusions.
1864 Athenæum 2 July 20/3 Not to mention the Iscariot which Leverrier and Adams calculated into existence, there is more than a septuagint of new planetoids.
1906 N. Amer. Rev. 182 219 With a septuagint of official men, bent on blending the East and the West, in a new translation, went five of Nippon's daughters.
2018 Times Lit. Suppl. (Electronic ed.) 16 Jan. There may now be sufficient Crime and Punishments for publishers to organize a Septuagint and produce a definitive, optimized, synoptic Dostoevsky for generations to come.
...

3. The earliest and most influential Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), including the deuterocanonical books (or Apocrypha), made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c. and adopted by the early Christian Churches; (also) a copy or edition of this text.
Represented by the Roman numeral LXX: see LXX n.
1566 T. Drant tr. Wailyngs Hieremiah To Rdr., in tr. Horace Medicinable Morall sig. I.viijv That thou mightest haue this ruful parcel of scripture, pure & sincere, not swarued or altered: I laid it to the touchestone, the natiue tongue. I waied it with the Chaldic Targum, & the Septuaginta.
1591 H. Broughton Treat. Melchisedek sig. A3v Accordying to the common Translation which is called the Septuagint.
1646 Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica vi. i. 278 As for the Septuagint, it is the first and most ancient Translation recorded.
1778 R. Lowth Isaiah Prelim. Diss. p. lxvi The Greek Version, commonly called the Septuagint, or of the Seventy Interpreters.
1854 Gentleman's Mag. Apr. 377/1 The severe condemnation which we have been compelled to pass on the Septuagints of the Christian Knowledge Society and the University of Oxford.
1887 Bible (R.V.) Pref. The Ancient Versions, the oldest of which, namely the Greek or Septuagint, was made, at least in part, some two centuries before the Christian era.
1947 Times Lit. Suppl. 18 Oct. 530/4 The narrative schemes point to a traditional cycle developed in connexion with the Alexandrian text of the Septuagint.
2007 Church Times 10 Aug. 22/5 Making a good stab along the way at describing the creation of the Septuagint and why Protestants largely ignore the Deutero-canon.
...


Compounds
General use as a modifier (in sense 3).
1582 C. Carlile Disc. conc. Two Diuine Positions f. 140 The septuaginta interpretors did for the most parte translate Sheol, by Hades.
1598 H. Jacob Treat. Sufferings & Victory Christ 109 Euen so doubtlesse doe the Scriptures speake, so write the Apostles, yea the Septuagint Translators, & all good Grecians.
1684 T. Burnet Theory of Earth i. iii. 24 If you follow the Septuagint Chronology.
1769 H. Owen (title) An Enquiry into the present state of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament.
1850 J. W. Donaldson New Cratylus (ed. 2) §100. 151 The Septuagint translators.
1903 S. Means St Paul & Ante-Nicene Church iv. 262 He not only accepted the Septuagint edition of the Old Testament, but regarded it as inspired, and the Hebrew version as incorrect.
2012 Times (Nexis) 18 Feb. (Features section) 95 The title of the volumes as an ‘encyclopaedia’ is earned by articles on the Septuagint translation of the Bible into Greek.
...
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

DCHindley wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 4:43 am I'm pretty sure that Gmirkin only thinks the Pentateuch was final-edited in the 3rd century BCE (after the rule of Alexander the Great).
No, he thinks (and I agree) that most of the content of the Torah originated in the 3rd century BCE. The narratives were invented at that time.
The books of prophets may have been floating around but were not translated at that time. Some of them, plus all the other sacred writings, had yet to be written (Ezra/Nehemiah & Daniel for example).
According to what ABuddhist quoted, he thinks that they were all written after the Torah.

As my quote in the OP states, Gmirkin is saying that Jewish monotheism is derived from Plato and developed in the 3d century. That's where I part ways with him. I think Second Isaiah pre-dates the Torah by a lot, along with other books of prophets, and that Second Isaiah marks the beginning of Jewish monotheism. That monotheism may not have been universal at that point, but its the beginning of the cult of "Yahweh alone". I think Second Isaiah does come from the time of the Persian conquest of the Babylonians. Is there reason not to think so?
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 6:21 am I think Second Isaiah pre-dates the Torah by a lot, along with other books of prophets,
What is the evidence for this relative dating of the prophets?
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 4:09 pm
rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 6:21 am I think Second Isaiah pre-dates the Torah by a lot, along with other books of prophets,
What is the evidence for this relative dating of the prophets?
The content and writing style of many of the works of the prophets is much more primitive than the Torah. Many works of the prophets make no references to anything mentioned in the Torah. This is what Morton Smith has to say about Second Isaiah:

This can only be the propaganda put out in Babylonia by Cyrus’ agents, shortly before Cyrus’ conquest, to prepare the way of their lord. It has often been recognized that II Isaiah’s prophecies of Cyrus’ triumph, if circulated in Babylonia before Cyrus took the territory were propaganda for the Persians. The present thesis adds that they were also Persian propaganda -- not only was the prophet “inspired” by Persian agents, but their inspiration provided him with the content which he shares with Cyrus’ proclamation, as well as his general them. Cyrus was famous for his use of subversion and is commonly thought to have used it for his capture of Babylon. His agents would hardly have neglected the opportunity offered by disaffected groups like Judean exiles.

Smith claims that the material from Second Isaiah matches that of Cyrus’ proclamation to the Babylonians, which referenced the Babylonian god Marduk instead of Yahweh.

Why would Hellenistic writers produce material that praises Cyrus and calls Cyrus the messiah?

And there is no question that the Psalms are ancient Canaanite material, so clearly the priests were in possession of such older material.

Why would Ezra include:

Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.

Why would Hellenistic writers state that the Jews worshiped the God of Cyrus?

Why was there a single centralized Temple built and administered under the Persians if not to promote the singular worship of Yahweh? Why wouldn't the Jews have multiple temples? It seems that the singular worship of Yahweh was promoted in order to ensure a singular set of religious authority that was loyal to the Persians. Multiple gods mean multiple voices of authority. The priesthood of the Temple was loyal to Cyrus and the Persians. Thus the Persians promoted their monopoly.

How would the Jewish leadership introduce Yahweh-only worship to the Judahite population following the collapse of the Persian empire? Why would it gain acceptance? Between the fall of the Persians and the Maccabean revolt the region was in turmoil. How would such a monopoly take hold and be able to convince the populace to adopt this radical new religion and accept all of its claims? It would seem to me that groundwork would had to have already been laid.

When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, they immediately took control of the region. They did in fact vanquish the Babylonians, which the populace was unhappy with, and they did preside over a revitalization of the region. They did construct the Temple. There is an explanation for how the worship of Yahweh only could have been established under their rule and an explanation for why the Persians would have promoted it.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

Thanks for the reply, rg. However, the points you make are ones I have only raised more questions for me, questions that have long left me in doubts ever since reading Philip Davies work in 1992 that kicked off the popular show of the minimalism-maximalism debate.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 4:09 pm
rgprice wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 6:21 am I think Second Isaiah pre-dates the Torah by a lot, along with other books of prophets,
What is the evidence for this relative dating of the prophets?


The content and writing style of many of the works of the prophets is much more primitive than the Torah.
In what way can we demonstrate that (a) content and (b) writing style be said to be "much more primitive than the Torah"?

What is "much more primitive" re content? and what is "much more primitive" re style?

The style of Isaiah in translations I have read looks fairly sophisticated to me. And does not the monotheistic content point to something other than "primitive"?
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am Many works of the prophets make no references to anything mentioned in the Torah.
But they also contain what looks like pointed references to the Torah in places. When in Isaiah we read that God did not create the heavens and earth in tohu and bohu (chaos and confusion) it looks very much like a dialogue with Genesis 1:1, for example.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am This is what Morton Smith has to say about Second Isaiah:

This can only be the propaganda put out in Babylonia by Cyrus’ agents, shortly before Cyrus’ conquest, to prepare the way of their lord. It has often been recognized that II Isaiah’s prophecies of Cyrus’ triumph, if circulated in Babylonia before Cyrus took the territory were propaganda for the Persians. The present thesis adds that they were also Persian propaganda -- not only was the prophet “inspired” by Persian agents, but their inspiration provided him with the content which he shares with Cyrus’ proclamation, as well as his general them. Cyrus was famous for his use of subversion and is commonly thought to have used it for his capture of Babylon. His agents would hardly have neglected the opportunity offered by disaffected groups like Judean exiles.

Smith claims that the material from Second Isaiah matches that of Cyrus’ proclamation to the Babylonians, which referenced the Babylonian god Marduk instead of Yahweh.
Is it really the only possible option that Second Isaiah "can only be propaganda put out in Babylonia by Cyrus' agents"? This is surely entirely speculation by Morton Smith. We have no evidence of Cyrus's agents sending propaganda pamphlets to Judeans. Did Cyrus really plot to tell the Judeans that his god Ahuramazda was really Yahweh, too, as well as Marduk, and that they only had to embrace a select few of his religious principles and had no need to accept all the tenets of Zoroastrianism, and we are expected to think the Judeans welcomed this as a liberator restoring their traditional worship? Or they were willing to change their old worship and claim their new god's characteristics and religion led by Cyrus was really their old god's characteristics and religion?

It's all guesswork. There are other scenarios that accord more closely to known evidence.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am Why would Hellenistic writers produce material that praises Cyrus and calls Cyrus the messiah?
We have Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah -- all praising Persians yet all written long after the Persian times. A messiah was any anointed deliverer. Saul was a messiah, too. The question posed is a serious one and should be explored in the context of the literature. It cannot be posed rhetorically as if there is "nothing to see here" beyond Morton Smith's conclusion.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am
And there is no question that the Psalms are ancient Canaanite material, so clearly the priests were in possession of such older material.
Psalms included older material but when we read the Canaanite texts we can see that the Psalms are a different kind of literature. There is no doubt that priests and people in Canaan had access to Canaanite ideas. That's never been a point of contention -- not even by Gmirkin.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am Why would Ezra include:

Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.

Why would Hellenistic writers state that the Jews worshiped the God of Cyrus?
Or rather why would Jews say that Cyrus worshiped the God of the Jews! ;-) --- that's the more likely option here.

We have no evidence that Cyrus issued any such proclamation re Israel's god Yahweh. That is all Jewish propaganda, not Persian propaganda.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am
Why was there a single centralized Temple built and administered under the Persians if not to promote the singular worship of Yahweh?
What of the temple in Elephantine? And the one at Gerizim? We can't take Judean propaganda at face value.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am
Why wouldn't the Jews have multiple temples?
I imagine a temple costs a lot and pulls in a lot of resources. What hard (archaeological) evidence do we have for the commencement of the building of any of the temples?
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am It seems that the singular worship of Yahweh was promoted in order to ensure a singular set of religious authority that was loyal to the Persians. Multiple gods mean multiple voices of authority. The priesthood of the Temple was loyal to Cyrus and the Persians. Thus the Persians promoted their monopoly.
Only if we accept Judean propaganda at face value. Judean propaganda had the Persians being used by the Jewish god and even worshiping the Jewish god. But if Persian religion was so influential we would expect more Ahuramazda type dualism and focus on resurrection or cataclysmic end of ages type views rather than a focus on restoration to the land, I think. Persians allowed other conquered peoples to have their own gods, so why would they not allow Judeans to have their pre-Persian gods?

Multiple gods usually had some sort of hierarchy. So the problem of authority was not extant with polytheism -- the god of the conqueror was always in charge and other gods were subordinate.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am How would the Jewish leadership introduce Yahweh-only worship to the Judahite population following the collapse of the Persian empire? Why would it gain acceptance? Between the fall of the Persians and the Maccabean revolt the region was in turmoil. How would such a monopoly take hold and be able to convince the populace to adopt this radical new religion and accept all of its claims? It would seem to me that groundwork would had to have already been laid.
I don't know that there was a dramatic revolution of everybody suddenly changing religion. One may think that the Maccabeans imposed by bloody ISIS-like force a common worship in areas they controlled, though.
rgprice wrote: Thu Aug 25, 2022 4:20 am When the Persians conquered the Babylonians, they immediately took control of the region. They did in fact vanquish the Babylonians, which the populace was unhappy with, and they did preside over a revitalization of the region. They did construct the Temple. There is an explanation for how the worship of Yahweh only could have been established under their rule and an explanation for why the Persians would have promoted it.
We only have the Persian account that the people they conquered were happy to have the Persians "liberate" them. We have no reason to take them at their word. I imagine most conquerors have said something similar about those they conquer.

The Persians mass-migrated peoples just as the Babylonians and Assyrians had done before them. I suppose they would need to put in charge of those mass migrations people who would act in the Persian king's interests and work at persuading their populations that the Persians were acting in their best interests and "restoring" them to their ancestral lands and gods.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

I see that Gmrikin states:

gods. It appears certain that Yah (Yahweh) was worshipped alongside other gods in a prosaic polytheistic cultural environment in Babylonia,9 Egypt,10 Idumea,11 Samaria,12 and, arguably, Judah,13 especially on evidence of the Elephantine papyri.14 The old idea that monotheism emerged as a result of Persian influences thus lacks credible contemporary evidence and should be abandoned (cf. the critique by Mark Smith [2001: 165–6]).

Gmirkin, Russell E.. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (p. 248)

Is the evidence really so decisive?

Within the Hebrew Bible, a true monotheism that denied the existence of other gods is found only in Second Isaiah (Smith 2001: 179–94), written sometime in the period ca. 270–185 BCE. 15

Gmirkin, Russell E.. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (p. 249).

Gmirkin's note on this claim:
15 The extensive use of the Pentateuch, especially Exodus imagery in Second Isaiah, indicates a date after ca. 270 BCE.

Evidence? Firstly, this reasoning is circular. Even if there is commonality between Second Isaiah and the Torah, how does one show that the borrowing went from Torah to Isaiah and not the other way around? Secondly, what are these supposed examples of links between the Torah and Second Isaiah?
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