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.

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)

boyarin-shaffer-1

Lecture 2 (March 9, 2016)

boyarin-shaffer-2

Lecture 3 (March 10, 2016)

boyarin-shaffer-3

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

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:

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”.

 

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Jésus et les origines du christianisme (1896)

The French text of an early (and much overlooked) example of politically radical interpretations of the historical Jesus, earliest Christianity and related contexts, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), Jésus et les origines du christianisme (published 1896), is available here.

The Bible’s Buried Secrets – BBC Series hosted by Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Videos are available on YouTube from the three-part BBC production The Bible’s Buried Secrets (2011), hosted by Francesca Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter. Stavrakopoulou discusses the existence of David, the development of Jewish monotheism, and the historical background giving rise to the Garden of Eden myth.

Episode 1: Did King David’s Empire Exist?

A national hero and icon for the Jewish people, and a divine king for Christians, David is best known as the boy-warrior who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. As king, he united the tribes of Israel. But did he really rule over a vast Israelite kingdom? Did he even exist?
– BBC

Episode 2: Did God Have a Wife?

When submitted to rigorous analysis, the biblical texts actually reveal quite another story. I think that the evidence now shows that the people of the Bible believed in many gods. And the scribes who composed the Bible did their best to conceal this – but not altogether successfully.
– Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Episode 3: The Real Garden of Eden

If humankind didn’t fall away from God in the first place, we wouldn’t need a redeemer.
– A priest, Episode 3

The God Yhwh: Origins, cults, transformation into the only God – Thomas Römer’s 2012 Seminars at the Collège de France

Thomas Römer

Videos of Thomas Römer’s 2012 seminars at the Collège de France, entitled The God Yhwh: Origins, cults, transformation into the only God, are available at the Collège’s website, or for download at the links provided below (800mb+). The seminars have been overdubbed by an English translator.

Thomas Römer is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Collège de France, and author of many works, including Israels Väter (1990) on the Patriarchal traditions in the Pentateuch.

In these seminars, Römer discusses the origins of the Israelite god Yahweh, and his transformation into a single god in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

09 FEBRUARY 2012, 2:00 pm

16 FEBRUARY 2012 2:00 pm

23 FEBRUARY 2012, 2:00 pm

01 MARCH 2012, 2:00 pm

08 MARCH 2012, 2:00 pm

15 MARCH 2012, 2:00 pm

22 MARCH 2012, 2:00 pm

29 MARCH 2012, 2:00 pm