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Bible author accepts polytheism

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  • Bible author accepts polytheism

    Biblical authors tell stories of Israel and others engaging in idolatry, but did you know there are texts in which the bible author himself is the one espousing polytheism?

    King Jehoram wants to fight the Moabites, and is told by prophet Elisha that the Lord will give Jehroam victory:

    18 'And this is but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD; He shall also give the Moabites into your hand. (2Ki 3:18 NAS)
    Jehoram fights against the Moabites, and when Moabite King Mesha sacrifices his son to his pagan god, "great wrath" comes against Israel.
    26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not.
    27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land. (2Ki 3:26-27 NAS)
    This is a notoriously difficult text for fundamentalist Christians to reconcile with their theory that the biblical authors (during their writing of scripture) espoused only monotheism. If Elisha the prophet says God will give Jehoram victory, then how exactly could pagan King Mesha's sacrifice of his son to a pagan god cause 'great wrath' to come against Israel?

    "wrath" in Hebrew is qetseph, and means wrath, indignation, the same Hebrew word signifying the bible-god's wrath in 2nd Kings 22:13.

    Why is the biblical author crediting a pagan human sacrifice as the source of the 'great wrath' coming against Israel, if the biblical author believed that the pagan god in question was nothing more than wood and stone?

    Can wood and stone cause great wrath to come against Israel?

    If you are allowed to read into the text something or other about how disgusted the Israelites were at this pagan sacrifice, or how the Moabites were emboldened to fight harder, do you approve of other people using speculation to help interpret bible verses?

    This is such a problem that not even inerrantist scholars can figure out what precisely happened, but this doesn't slow them down from assuring themselves that the correct solution is the one that happens to agree with their own monotheism:

    3:26–27 Despite its initial success the victory proves to be temporary. To win the battle Mesha sacrifices his firstborn son, a practice that was common in other places at this time.34 Jones states that this offering “was intended to pacify Chemosh, the Moabite deity, because the disasters that befell Moab were attributed to his anger, ‘for Chemosh was angry with his land’ (Mesha Inscription l.5).”35 After the sacrifice is made, “great fury” forces Israel to withdraw. Grays thinks the “fury” is that of Chemosh, which means the text preserves remnants of polytheistic theology.36 Given the nature of the author’s theology, however, it is much more likely either that the action inspired Moab’s army to fight more fiercely37 or that it caused Israel such indignation and sickness of heart that they lifted the siege.38 Though the exact meaning is unclear, the result is the same: Israel withdraws without further disaster yet also without control of a former vassal.
    House, P. R. (2001, c1995). Vol. 8: 1, 2 Kings (electronic ed.). Logos Library System;
    The New American Commentary (Page 264). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
    Of course, the NAC here is simply blindly presuming that there was a single author of 2nd Kings, and even if there was, that this author was consistent in his beliefs, when theological inconsistency is rather popular among sinners in general and the Israelites in particular. The fact that the author leaves "great wrath" unexplained despite its causing Elisha's prediction to fail (3:18) seems to indicate the author knew that the correct explanation, if expressed, would create more questions than answers.

    The Word Bible Commentary tries to limit "great wrath" to either the battle suddenly going against Israel, or Israel feeling "disgust" for the pagan king and withdrawing from battle:

    27 The sacrifice of the first-born son of Mesha on the walls of Kir Haresheth was the turning point for the campaign. The meaning of the “great wrath” which came upon Israel is uncertain. Either the battle suddenly went against them or they withdrew from the field in disgust. The campaign ends in a similar way as that earlier one undertaken by Ahab and Jehoshaphat (1 Kgs 22).
    Hobbs, T. R. (2002). Vol. 13: Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Kings.
    Word Biblical Commentary (Page 38). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
    The interpretation that the fundamentalists will insist on, is one, any one, that doesn't require them to admit that the bible author believed Chemosh, the pagan god in question, was real.

    Does the "great wrath" mean that the Moabites, upon learning that their King sacrificed his own son, started fighting more fiercely solely out of naturalistic outrage?

    First, this is unlikely, since Mesha had already discovered that Israel was fighting too fiercely for him (v. 24, 26), and in his first act of desperation, he could not even accomplish the smaller goal of breaking through to the king of Edom (v. 26). If the King's military was already enduring such weakness, it is highly unlikely that news of him sacrificing his son to Chemosh would have infused new strength of unbearable outrage in those already doing their best to defend him, and come against Israel with greater wrath than they were already able to muster previously, such as when they feared losing the battle and tried to access the King of Edom, but couldn't.

    Second, there is no more recorded about the battle after the words in v. 27 about Israel withdrawing from battle. That is a problem for fundamentalists who say biblical prophets always correctly predicted the future. Elisha specifically predicted "He shall also give the Moabites into your hand. (2Ki 3:18 NAS)", but in v. 27, the Moabites do not go into the hand of Israel, Israel instead withdraws from the battle. It appears that the great wrath was so great, it ended up preventing fulfillment of Elisha's prophecy that Israel would win. The already-weakened Moabites likely would not have found new vigor in their outrage over the news of their king's sacrificing of his son, so if they did, then the vigor renewal would have to be sourced in the pagan god Chemosh. The bible god is the one who promised Israel victory in a war that carried typically large doses of death and bloodshed, so it is highly unlikely that renewal of Moabite vigor was the work of the bible god in response to the pagan king's human sacrifice to an idol. So if adrenaline and the bible god cannot account for the "great wrath", then it remains that the biblical author genuinely thought increase of battle power was given by Chemosh to the Moabites as a result of the human sacrifice.

    Third, one is on dangerous territory to say this polytheism interpretation is ruled out by the uniform monotheism of the rest of the bible, for there are other sections of the bible where an Israelite speaks of Chemosh as a true living god that works wonders for those that worship this idol:
    23 'Since now the LORD, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it?
    24 'Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the LORD our God has driven out before us, we will possess it. (Jdg 11:23-24 NAS)
    You may say Jephthah was only appealing to what these pagans already believed, he was not implying he personally believed Chemosh was real.
    Unfortunately, for you, inerrantist-commentaries agree with me that the speaker, Jephthah, displays contempt here for his own alleged monotheism:

    But in this comment Jephthah also displayed contempt for his own theological traditions. Orthodox Yahwism acknowledges only one God, who is also Israel’s covenant Lord. Yahweh alone determines the boundaries of the nations. More specifically, the same tradition that recalls how the Israelites negotiated their way around Edom and Moab to the promised land also explicitly credits Yahweh with giving the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites the land they now occupy. But, as the next episode indicates, despite Jephthah’s pious reference to “the Lord our God” in v. 24, his theology is fundamentally syncretistic, so ideological compromises like this are not surprising.
    Block, D. I. (2001, c1999). Vol. 6: Judges, Ruth (electronic ed.). Logos Library System;
    The New American Commentary (Page 362). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
    So if you say it is "obvious" that Jephthah was only appealing to what pagans beleived without implying he believed it himself, you are calling the more educated people on your side of the theological camp stupid. If you have enough sense to use a computer, you probably realize how irresponsible it is to insist somebody is stupid, even if they are experts, solely because they don't agree with a non-expert like you.

    So don't be too certain that the monotheistic explanation of "great wrath came against Israel" is the only reasonable possibility.

    That bastion of conservative scholarship, Keil & Delitzsch, agrees with me that the great wrath is not sourced in Mesha's military being outraged that their king was pushed to commit the ultimate sacrifice:

    2 Kings 3:27. But when this attempt failed, in his desperation he took his first-born son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice upon the wall, i.e., in the sight of the besiegers, not to the God of Israel (Joseph. Ephr. Syr., etc.), but to his own god Camos (see at 1 Kings 11:7), to procure help from him by appeasing his wrath; just as the heathen constantly sought to appease the wrath of their gods by human sacrifices on the occasion of great calamities (vid., Euseb. praepar. ev. iv. 16, and E. v. Lasaulx, die Sühnopfer der Griechen und Römer, pp. 8ff.).—“And there was (came) great wrath upon Israel, and they departed from him (the king of Moab) and returned into their land.” As הָיָה קֶצֶף עַל is used of the divine wrath or judgment, which a man brings upon himself by sinning, in every other case in which the phrase occurs, we cannot understand it here as signifying the “human indignation,” or ill-will, which broke out among the besieged (Budd., Schulz, and others).
    Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament.
    (Vol. 3, Page 217). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
    However, K & D then give the absurd interpretation that it was Israel's fault, in battling against Mesha, that Mesha felt constrained to do something forbidden by OT law: human sacrifice (!?):

    The meaning is: this act of abomination, to which the king of the Moabites had been impelled by the extremity of his distress, brought a severe judgment from God upon Israel. The besiegers, that is to say, felt the wrath of God, which they had brought upon themselves by occasioning human sacrifice, which is strictly forbidden in the law (Lev. 18:21; 20:3), either inwardly in their conscience or in some outwardly visible signs, so that they gave up the further prosecution of the siege and the conquest of the city, without having attained the object of the expedition, namely, to renew the subjugation of Moab under the power of Israel. (Ibid)
    Unfortunately, there is nothing in the text or context of 2nd Kings 3 to indicate that Israel, after being promised victory in this battle by God himself (2nd Kings 3:18), committed some type of immorality or war-crime that left them to blame for Mesha's idol-sacrifice or for God deciding not to give them victory. Worse, what could it possibly have been? If Israel was promised victory, they would have done the normal thing and either continued slaughtering everybody at full power until Mesha gave up, or just slaughtered everybody wholesale regardless. What war-crime could Israel possibly have done to become responsible for a pagan king committing an idol sacrifice, if it wasn't their justifiable fierceness to win this battle?

    For that matter, when is the last time you ever read in the bible that Israel was responsible for causing pagans to to trust in idols? Never. So Keil & Delitzsch insist upon a highly improbable interpretation merely because their conservativism forces them to exclude hypotheses that would question the doctrine of inerrancy.

    Fourth and finally, 3:27 says that after great wrath came against Israel, Israel withdrew from the battle. That is exactly what we would expect if the Moabites had received renewed vigor in a supernatural way from Chemosh. When you start losing in battle, you don't just stay in place, it is standard procedure to retreat. Yet once again, naturalistic theories for how these Moabites, twice weakened already in the same battle, could summon such strength from outrage at their king being pushed to the ultimate sacrifice, that they start winning, don't work. The naturalistic possibilities are unlikely, only supernatural sources of strength remain on the table, and having already disposed of Keil & Delitzsch's attempt to credit the bible-god with the supernaturally restored battle strength in the Moabites, the only supernatural explanation left is that the biblical author believed Chemosh to be a living deity.

    In summary then, the fundie view that the King of Mesha's sacrifice to Chemosh merely caused naturalistic outrage in his men to fight even harder, does not explain "great wrath" against Israel, since Mesha's military was already weakened and experienced two specific forms of defeat already. The fact that the great wrath motivated the Israelites to withdraw, despite the promise of prophet Elisha that the Lord would give them victory, suggests the wrath was of supernatural source which is the only type that could falsify a prediction of a biblical prophet, and other bible texts show that the Israelites sometimes took the view that a pagan deity was real though different from their own god.

    For all these reasons, it seems that the author of 2nd Kings 3 believed that the pagan idol Chemosh was a true living god.

  • #2
    Well, at least this one isn't about sex.

    You would do well to acquaint yourself with the concept of progressive revelation. Jewish worship of only one deity predated their belief that only one God existed, and that doesn't pose a particular problem for most Christian theologians.
    Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

    Comment


    • #3
      I just lost more brain cells from processing your "argument" than from the beer I'm drinking while doing so.

      If you have to twist a text so blatantly in order to pose a conundrum, you have already lost.
      Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

      Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
      sigpic
      I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
        Well, at least this one isn't about sex.

        You would do well to acquaint yourself with the concept of progressive revelation. Jewish worship of only one deity predated their belief that only one God existed, and that doesn't pose a particular problem for most Christian theologians.
        Of course. There's only one Elohim, but there can be plenty of elohim. There's even a video about elohim.

        B&H is not allowed to watch it. Because I'm not debating him.
        If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Christianbookworm View Post
          Of course. There's only one Elohim, but there can be plenty of elohim. There's even a video about elohim.

          B&H is not allowed to watch it. Because I'm not debating him.
          Dumb cartoon answer of the month!
          Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
          Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
          But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

          go with the flow the river knows . . .

          Frank

          I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
            Dumb cartoon answer of the month!
            Can't refute it? I understand; it goes beyond your mental abilities.
            "The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."
            GK Chesterton; Orthodoxy

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
              Well, at least this one isn't about sex.

              You would do well to acquaint yourself with the concept of progressive revelation. Jewish worship of only one deity predated their belief that only one God existed, and that doesn't pose a particular problem for most Christian theologians.
              It is convenient to acknowledge Progressive Revelation to explain the changes in the concept of God, Divine Law through Biblical history, but not acknowledge Progressive throughout history. Ancient religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may acknowledge Progressive Revelation up to a point of their own scripture, Doctrine and Dogma, but not beyond. Most of traditionally Christianity, particularly the Roman Church, clearly still accepts the concept of polytheism in the Trinity and lesser Gods like Mary, angels and of course the Devil.
              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

              go with the flow the river knows . . .

              Frank

              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                It is convenient to acknowledge Progressive Revelation to explain the changes in the concept of God, Divine Law through Biblical history, but not acknowledge Progressive throughout history. Ancient religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may acknowledge Progressive Revelation up to a point of their own scripture, Doctrine and Dogma, but not beyond. Most of traditionally Christianity, particularly the Roman Church, clearly still accepts the concept of polytheism in the Trinity and lesser Gods like Mary, angels and of course the Devil.
                If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                  Dumb cartoon answer of the month!

                  Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                  It is convenient to acknowledge Progressive Revelation to explain the changes in the concept of God, Divine Law through Biblical history, but not acknowledge Progressive throughout history. Ancient religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may acknowledge Progressive Revelation up to a point of their own scripture, Doctrine and Dogma, but not beyond. Most of traditionally Christianity, particularly the Roman Church, clearly still accepts the concept of polytheism in the Trinity and lesser Gods like Mary, angels and of course the Devil.
                  You going to bat for a triple screwball award?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cerebrum123 View Post
                    You going to bat for a triple screwball award?
                    When you can't refute what was said; mindlessly ponificate and hope others buy the crap you are selling.

                    Shuny is just following this advice.
                    "The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."
                    GK Chesterton; Orthodoxy

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Apparently Shuny thinks Mary has abilities and powers beyond those of mortal men.
                      If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                        It is convenient to acknowledge Progressive Revelation to explain the changes in the concept of God, Divine Law through Biblical history, but not acknowledge Progressive throughout history. Ancient religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may acknowledge Progressive Revelation up to a point of their own scripture, Doctrine and Dogma, but not beyond.
                        Prior to the Gospel, it's progressive revelation. After the Apostles, it's development of doctrine

                        Most of traditionally Christianity, particularly the Roman Church, clearly still accepts the concept of polytheism in the Trinity and lesser Gods like Mary, angels and of course the Devil.
                        lol
                        Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Why would one expect Christian revelation to continue indefinitely? The Old Testament sets a trajectory that culminates in Jesus. We're not Mormons who need new prophets to give constant updates.
                          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                            Why would one expect Christian revelation to continue indefinitely? The Old Testament sets a trajectory that culminates in Jesus. We're not Mormons who need new prophets to give constant updates.
                            Nah, but a magisterium helps us understand the revelation of God in Jesus. That's why stuff like Nicaea matters.
                            Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Christianbookworm View Post
                              Apparently Shuny thinks Mary has abilities and powers beyond those of mortal men.
                              He thinks Catholics think that, and the way you put it (as opposed to his phrasing), it's true. Mary is more closely united to God than any of us are; she is further along in the process of deification (because God wants to show the Church her destiny through Mary), and so God can work through her more efficaciously than through any man now on Earth. Or that's how I understand it, anyway. There are some more traditional articulations of marian devotion, but I've had trouble really buying into that logic.
                              Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                              Comment

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