Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Sat Jan 26 04:59:42 EST 2002

>Dear Liz,

I appreciate that you bite, when you do it in a scolarly way, as is 
the case. Your respectful suggestion that I am colored by Christian 
conceptions is probably correct; but hardly Hellenistic conceptions 
(I have criticized several fundamental Christian concepts where NT 
and Hellenistic thoughts are fused). However, who is not colored by 
something, and is another coloring better that a Christian one? The 
main problem is not that we are colored by something, but rather that 
we do not realize that we are; and in addition, when we sacrifice our 
scholarly integrity on the altar of a certain ideology. The point I 
tried to convey to Jonathan was that atheists may be just as dogmatic 
and religious as fundamentalists, and that critical scholarship can 
be just as colored as the scholarship that use "God" as a point of 
reference. I think that many list members will agree in the following 
words of Jesus that illustrate the case (John 9:41NIV):
"Jesus said,  "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but 
now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."

>The Babylonian gods are clearly the invention of men, having all the 
>degraded characteristics of men ##., while my judgement is that the 
>God in the Genesis account is  of a completely different nature. 
>OK, I'll bite, What is the difference between the god(s) in Genesis 
>and the gods in the Atrahasis account?

I suggest that you read Atrahasis, Gilgamesh, and Inuma Elish again. 
The accounts are pure mythology. A God was slaughtered to create 
mankind, there are intrigues between the gods, some cheat others, and 
there is fighting and streaf; the great flood was caused by Enlil 
simply because mankind became so numerous and made so much noise that 
he could not sleep.

In Genesis we meet YHWH who creates the universe, the earth and 
mankind; we learn how the first men are allowed to decide their 
course, how they transgress, and how the great flood is caused 
because  of the vicked deeds of mankind. We also learn that YHWH has 
a purpose, and we learn about his sublime attributes such as love and 
compassion. This is a completely different account than Atrahasis, 
and you need not read the Tanach in the light of Christian values to 
realize that.

To bite back I ask a philological/linguistic question: Given the 
stock of phonemes and the use of consonants in Hebrew and Accadian, 
do you accept the popylar view that the Genesis TEHOM  is lent from 
Accadian TIAMAT ?

>Some years ago we read the laws of Hammurapi in class and it bacame 
>evident for the students how different these are from the laws in 
>the Pentateuch, even though there are similarities as well. So it 
>seems to me that there generally is a clear quality difference 
>between the Hebrew documents of the Tanach and other documents of 
	OK What differences do you see here
>Since I'm getting ready to teach all these subjects in a few weeks, 
>I'd like to know.

RF: Take a look at law 2;

	If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused 
go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his 
accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove 
that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had 
brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped 
into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged 
to his accuser.

Such a law where the river decided guilt is very different from the 
laws of the Pentateuch, also very different from the test for the 
adulterous woman. Please consider these other differences H= 
Hammurapi's law, M=The Mosaic law:

H."6.	If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he 
shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing 
from him shall be put to death.

M: Thief punished by making compensation to victim Ex 22:1-9

H. 15. If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male 
or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be 
put to death.

16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave 
of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the 
public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall 
be put to death.

M. "You must not hand over a slave to his master when he escapes from 
his master to you." Deut 23.15

H. 229 If a builder build a house for some one, and does not 
construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill 
its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.

230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be 
put to death.

M: "Fathers should not be put to death on account of children, and 
children should not be put to death on account of fathers." Deut 24.16

H. 154. If a man (of rank) be guilty of incest with his daughter, he 
shall be driven from the place (exiled).
M. Death penalty for incest Lev 18:6,29

H. Class distinction in judgement. Severe penalties for persons who 
harm others of a higher class. Mild penalties for harming memebers of 
a lover class Sect 196-205
M. "You must not treat the lowly one with partiality, and you must 
not prefer the person of a great one." Lev 1915

  The laws of Moses have a different quality than the laws of 
Hammurapi; I make a few excerps:

1. The life of men is holy Gen 20.13; Numb 35:9-34
2. Love your neghbor and forget offenses Lev 19:17,18
3. Take care of old people lev 19:32
4. Help vidows and orphans and those who have economic problems Lev 
25:35-37; Deut 15;7-11; 24.19-21
5. do not treat deaf and blind persons in a bad way Lev 19:14; Deut 27:18
6. Be honest when you do business Lev 19:35,36; 25:14
7. Respect the ownership of others Ex 20.15;22.1,6; 223:4,5; Deut 22.1-3
8. do not desire something that belongs to another person Ex 20:17
9. Tell the truth Ex 20:16; 23:1,2
10. do not be partial. Exodus 23:3,6 Lev 19:15

Particularly 9. is interesting. because it could not be enforced by 
men but only by God. In addition to the ten examples there are 
sanitary laws, marriage laws etc. etc. that regulated the society in 
a fine way. You may find some of these in the Law of Hammurapi as 
well, but the difference between the two laws is veery great.

>It seems to me that something like a dogmatic religion has been 
>built up around modern critical scholarship. Noth's theory of a 
>deuteronomistic history etc and many other speculative hypotheses 
>have almost been elevated to data, while the truth is that hard 
>facts regarding when the different books were written and who were 
>the writers are completely lacking. For instance,in my linguistic 
>analysis of the participles of the Tanach I found a use which was 
>uniform throughout the book of Isaiah but almost non-existent in 
>other books. I will not say that this proves that there was one 
>author of the books, but the evidence for two or three authors is 
>very weak indeed.  
>P eople do now argue for one author of the book of Isaiah but they 
>place him in the fifth century.

Could you please give me some references? Then I bite again: Isaiah 
says that he lived during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and 
Hezekiah, so the book claims to have been written long before the 
fifth century B.C.E. This post-exilic date , is it built on something 
more than academic speculation and guessing? What kind of *evidence* 
do we have for this late dating?  Or, to illustrate the problems in 
an even greater way : Genesis 17:14;24:4;34:27 tells that Moses wrote 
down what he received from God. According to the chronology in the 
Tanach Moses lived in the 15 century B.C.E. No critical scholar 
accepts that the Pentateuch was written at that time, many even 
doubt that a person by the name of Moses has existed. What is the 
*evidence* against the Pentateuch being written in the 15 century 
B.C.E. and in favor of a later date? Is the *evidence* more than pure 

>As to my position, I am very positive to the text of the Hebrew 
>documents, because of all the single data I have found to be of a 
>higher quality that that of contemporaneous documents. It is my 
>impression that the concept of God in the Tanach is sublime and 
>elevated, in stark contrast to that of other nations around. Your 
>interpretations regarding the divine suzerain and polytheism are 
>possible but hardly the only alternative. I see no conflict between 
>Isaiah 41-- and Exodus 20 because the subject is addressed from 
>different angles. Isaiah does not deny the existence of the $EDIM, 
>but he points out to those who think that carved images have 
>intrinsic life and power that this is a false view. And similarly, 
>the writer of Exodus does not say that the carved images have life 
>and power. In view of the sublime descriptions of the one Creator I 
>take the implication of the writer of Exodus of other living gods to 
>refer to the $EDIM.
>I suggest that you have a view of the god of the HB that is colored 
>by Christian and
>Hellenistic conceptions. I suggest, respectfully, that you are 
>falling into the trap
>that many fall into, and you are not reading the text that is 
>printed, but the text that is
>in your head. I give a lecture called "What does God Look Like ? the 
>view from the
>Bible." It sure does wake people up to the text.
>Liz Fried

We are all influenced by our views and beliefs. True, I have a 
positive view of the text of the Tanach, but I strive hard to study 
the text itself and not a fiction of it.



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo
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