Mark S. Smith on The Birth of Monotheism

Professor Mark S. Smith (Princeton Theological Seminary) explains the origins of monotheism in ancient Judaism, in an address to the Tangier Global Forum, University of New England, Tangier Campus Auditorium, Morocco, on January 19, 2017 (the talk begins at 5:13).

Monotheism (the belief in only one god), given birth in ancient Israel and known from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, has been a topic of fascination for centuries. In the modern times, monotheism functioned to advance Christian claims to “western” superiority as colonialist powers came into contact with “non-western” societies. Thus, monotheism has been a colonializing discourse. By contrast, the monotheistic discourse found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament served as a means to preserve and assert Israelite identity in the face of the colonizing power of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. This monotheistic discourse was grounded in traditional Israelite practice and thought and developed fully under the impact of both internal socio-political stresses and external influence from the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. This lecture will address the various factors that contributed to Israel’s vision of one god for the world.

Christopher Hays on the Divine Suckling

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Professor Christopher B. Hays (Fuller Theological Seminary) delivered a lecture at the College de France, on April 15, 2016, entitled, “Imagery of Divine Suckling in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East“.

The video may be downloaded or watched online in mp4 format.

Daniel Boyarin: Enoch or Jesus? The Quest of the Historical Metatron

Professor Daniel Boyarin (University of California, Berkeley) presents the 2016 Shaffer Lecture in Theology, at Yale Divinity School, in three parts, on March 8, 9, and 10. The topic of his series is “Enoch or Jesus? The Quest of the Historical Metatron”.

In the series, Professor Boyarin furthers his defence of the ancient roots of a greater and subordinate second god within Judaism, the “two powers in heaven”. In the lectures, he lays out the development of a complex binitarian theology in both early Judaism and early Christianity. He also disagrees with Peter Schäfer.

While there is nearly incontrovertible evidence for the interchange between Christian and Jewish circles in late antiquity, there is also good evidence for the circulation of apocalyptic traditions among Jews through the rabbinic period, independent of specific Christian contexts.

  • Daniel Boyarin, 2016 Shaffer Lecture 1, 23:55ff

Lecture 1 (March 8, 2016)

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Lecture 2 (March 9, 2016)

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Lecture 3 (March 10, 2016)

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Zlatko Plese on the Gnostic Myth, Apocryphon of John

On May 21, 2014, Professor Zlatko Plese (University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill) lectured on the Gnostic myth, with special reference to the Apocryphon of John and including discussions of negative theology and Sophia.

Zlatko Plese is the author of Poetics of the Gnostic Universe: Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John (Brill, 2006).

 

 

Representing gods and men in the ancient Near East and in the Bible

Representing Gods and Men

The Collège de France hosts the videos of papers delivered at the 2015 Seminar in Thomas Römer’s series The Hebrew Bible and Its Contexts, May 5-6, 2015:

Representing gods and men in the ancient Near East and in the Bible (Représenter dieux et hommes dans le Proche-Orient ancien et dans la Bible)

The videos are available for download in *.mov format.

La question des images est un élément central pour l’intelligence des religions anciennes et modernes. Les religions monothéistes se basent toutes sur le Décalogue qui interdit la fabrication des images. Mais comment comprendre cet interdit : s’agit-il d’un refus de toutes sortes d’images ou « seulement » de la représentation du divin ? Et quelle est la raison d’être d’un tel interdit ? Pourquoi considère-t-on illégitime de représenter des dieux et des hommes, ce qui fut pratique courante dans le Proche-Orient ancien ? Le colloque s’efforcera d’apporter des éclaircissements sur plusieurs questions : Quelle est la fonction des représentations du divin mais aussi des hommes ? Quelles sont les différentes manières de représenter des dieux  et quelle est la fonction de ces représentations ? Les représentations permettent-elles de mieux comprendre les cultes officiels et les cultes privés ? Quel est le rôle des images dans le culte royal ? Le roi est-il l’image des dieux ? Y a-t-il des religions aniconiques ? Pour quelles raisons décide-t-on d’interdire des images ? Y a-t-il des précurseurs au commandement biblique dans le Proche-Orient ou ailleurs ?

The question of images is a central element in the understanding of ancient and modern religions. The monotheistic religions are all based on the Decalogue, which prohibits the making of images. But how should we understand this prohibition: is it a rejection of all kinds of images or “only” of the representation of the divine? And what is the purpose of such a prohibition? Why it is considered improper to represent gods and men, which was common practice in the ancient Near East? The symposium will seek to clarify several questions: What is the function of the representations of the divine and also of men? What are the different ways of representing the gods and what is the function of these representations? Do the representations provide insight into official and private worship? What is the role of images in the royal cult? Is the king the image of the gods? Are there any aniconic religions? For what reasons does one decide to prohibit images? Are there any precursors to the biblical commandment in the ancient Near East or elsewhere?

Mardi 5 mai 2015

9 h 30 Introduction to the Symposium (Ouverture du colloque): Thomas Römer

Pause

Présidence : Thomas Römer

13h00 Discussion

Déjeuner

Présidence : Michaël Guichard

Pause

Présidence : Christophe Nihan

17h45 Discussion

Mercredi 6 mai 2015

Présidence : Nele Ziegler

Pause

Présidence : Dominique Charpin

12h45 Discussion

Déjeuner

Présidence : Jean-Marie Durand

Pause

16h45 Discussion et clôture du colloque

Larry Hurtado on Early High Christology and the New Testament God

Larry-HurtadoProfessor Larry Hurtado (University of Edinburgh) discusses his views on the development of Christology and the concept of God in the New Testament, in two podcasts on Trinities.org.

1. (Podcast 99) “Dr. Larry Hurtado on early high christology” (begins at 10:50)

mp3 Stitcher iTunes

Dr. Hurtado explains the term “early high christology” and what it means when applied to his own work. He discusses various angels and men who in various ancient Jewish writings are in some way exalted and honored in God-like ways, and how these cases differ from that of Jesus. Dr. Hurtado has argued that in the early years of Christianity we suddenly see a distinctive pattern of Jesus-worship, as evidenced by the earliest books in the New Testament. Such practices don’t derive from a second or third century, Gentile Christian context, but rather from the earliest, largely Jewish Christian context.

Hurtado discusses this in light of various passages in the gospel according to John, and also the statements of 1 Timothy that God is immortal. (1:17,6:16) The New Testament, he observes, emphasizes that Jesus was a genuine human being, a man, although in his view it also presents Jesus as existing even when the world was made, in a pre-human phase of his existence. God and Jesus, in his view, are closely linked, but also distinguished in the New Testament. God exalts Jesus to divine glory, which is why we must worship Jesus, according to early Christians. Worship of Jesus, he argues, has a theocentric (God-centered) justification or basis.

He also comments briefly on James Dunn’s Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, the idea that “worship” by definition can be given only to God, and whether we should start our christological thinking with fourth century or with first century sources.

2. (Podcast 100) “Dr. Larry Hurtado on God in New Testament Theology

mp3 Stitcher iTunes

I talk with Dr. Hurtado about his book God in New Testament Theology. He talks about

  • the theocentric basis of New Testament christology
  • what the New Testament adds to the theology of the Old Testament
  • God as “Father”
  • the way Christians view God in relation to Jesus
  • whether we need to interact with God through a mediator
  • the New Testament picture of God as love and yet as dangerous, and of Jesus as both savior and judge – and both as sources of agape love
  • how the NT picture of God differs from the theologies of pagan deities
  • how recently, and even in ancient times, in popular thinking Jesus can eclipse God in Christians’ minds, becoming a friendlier, less threatening god than the Father
  • ho theos vs. theos in early Christianity, and how the NT and early texts distinguish between Jesus and the one God (aka the Father)
  • whether or not the NT authors rethink how Judaic monotheism should be understood
  • the “dyadic devotional pattern” we see in NT-era worship practice, and whether this violated the first commandment
  • the sense in which Yahweh is unique, according to the Bible
  • whether Dr. Hurtado would agree with the suggestion that Jesus is “a part of” God
  • how the NT as it were “redefines” God with reference to Jesus
  • whether or not in his view Dr. Hurtado’s work supports “social” (three-self) Trinity theories
  • that contemporary theology has tended to neglect the literature of the first three Christian centuries in favor of the “classics” of the 4th and 5th centuries
  • Dr. Richard Bauckham’s “christology of divine identity” as an attempt to make sense of the NT apart from later “ontological” ways of approaching the matter

Paula Fredriksen on Paul in the Pagan, Polytheistic Ancient World

Professor Paula Fredriksen (Boston University; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) discusses the pagan background of Paul’s audience in three lectures available on YouTube.

The lecture “Paul, Pagans, and the God of Israel” was given at the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, Stanford University, on October 28, 2010 (the lecture begins at 5:30), and discusses polytheism and monotheism:

The lecture “Gods Run in the Blood, or, Why Paul’s Pagans were not ‘Converts’?” was given at the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters at Ben Gurion University, on March 18, 2014, and discusses the ethnic basis for ancient “religion” and the concept of conversion.

The lecture “Paul, Practical Pluralism, and the Invention of Religious Persecution in Roman Antiquity” was given to the Critical Thinkers in Religion, Law and Social Theory at the University of Ottawa, on October 24, 2013 (the lecture begins at 3:40), and discusses gods and religious persecution.

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Q&A, part 1:

Q&A, part 2:

Yair Zakovitch – The Concept Of Miracle In The Bible

Professor Yair Zakovitch (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) delivered a talk on “The Concept Of Miracle In The Bible” as part of the Orange County Community Scholars Program (OCCSP), podcasted January 21, 2005.

The talk is available in m4a audio format:

Zakovitch_Yair

Did God Have a Wife? William Dever on Mrs God

Professor William G. Dever (Lycoming College; University of Arizona) presented the 2014 Tenenbaum Lecture on February 3, 2014 at Emory University.

His illustrated lecture showcases recent archaeological evidence that reveals the differences in beliefs and practices of ordinary people in ancient Israel compared to the elitist, idealist portrait in the Bible, particularly the ongoing veneration of the Canaanite Goddess Asherah.

The lecture begins at 16:05.

Thomas Römer on the Evolution of Yahweh and the Invention of God

Professor Thomas Römer (Professor at Collège de France and Universitè de Lausanne) lectures at Brown University, on Feb 10, 2015, on the evolution of Yahweh in biblical and extra-biblical traditions. Römer is also the author of L’Invention de Dieu [The Invention of God] (Seuil, 2014).

We all think of the Bible as a book proclaiming that there is only one God, who is the God of Israel and the God of the universe. Looking more closely, though, we find texts which admit the existence of other gods and which also indicate that Yhwh has not always been the god of Israel. Biblical traditions as well as archeology seem to agree that the origins of Yhwh are to be found somewhere in the “wilderness”. This lecture reconstructs the origins of Yhwh in the wilderness, his encounter with Israel and his transformation into the only God.

Nb. Although, in the YouTube preview, Thomas Römer appears to be delivering his lecture to only one person, there are in fact more people in the audience.

h/t: Jim West

Nathan McDonald on why the Old Testament is not Monotheistic

On April 6, 2009, Dr Nathan MacDonald, lecturer in Old Testament at the School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, delivered this lecture at Harvard Divinity School, examining “Israel’s religious history and assumptions of its monotheism”.

 

Benjamin D. Sommer on God’s Body

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Benjamin D. Sommer presents four lectures on the body or bodies of God, as understood in the Bible and in ancient Near Eastern, Jewish and Christian traditions. The lectures are available in mp3 and on iTunes and were originally delivered at the Dr. Harvey H. Ammerman Memorial Study Retreat, September 2010.

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel: Part I

Yesh Lo Demut Ha-Guf? Does the Bible’s God Have a Body? Can a human see God? Part one will utilize texts from Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1-3, Exodus 33-34, Jeremiah 1, Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Exodus 24, and Amos 9 to explore these questions.

mp3 iTunes

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel: Part II

How Many Bodies Does God Have? Part two will utilize selected Babylonian and Canaanite texts and selections from Genesis, Exodus, and Hosea to explore this question.

mp3 iTunes

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel: Part III

Just One! Just One! Part three will examine The Shem and the Kavod: the Shema, Solomon’s Prayer, other deuteronomic texts, Exodus 39-40, and Ezekiel 8-10.

mp3 iTunes

The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel: Part IV

God’s Body and Our Own Judaism: Part four will utilize selected New Testament texts, kabbalistic texts, the Anim Zemirot, and the Yigdal.

mp3 iTunes

Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and author of The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (CUP, 2009).

John J. Collins on The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence

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John J. Collins delivers the Presidential Address at the 2002 AAR/SBL Annual Meeting, entitled “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence”, available as a real audio file. The Address was delivered at the first AAR/SBL Annual Meeting following 9/11.

Collins presented a “geneology of the concept of ‘the wrath of God'” and offered scriptural passages where God condones the obliteration of peoples and where “ritual violence” is connected to ideas of religious purity, land rights, and “chosen-ness.” While Collins pointed out that most likely none of these violent events ever occurred, he did underline the ethical implications of their status as part of the Bible especially in the current context of September 11 and possible war in Iraq. Collins’ advice to the Bible scholar was to note the diversity of approaches in the Bible (to relativize it); to admit the unethicalness of certain passages; and to show that certitude is an illusion. Collins offered the warning of another Irish luminary, Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Certitude leads to violence.”

– Eric Daniel Barreto and John Huehnergard, “Annual Meeting Toronto 2002 Highlights”, SBL Forum, n.p. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=115

The Address was later published as John J. Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence“, Journal of Biblical Literature 122, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 3-21 (subscription required).