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Author Topic: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?  (Read 6976 times)

Yei

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2014, 08:31:33 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;141191
Ah!  Yes, I was responding to a different understanding of your question, some, though also saying that that shift toward strict monotheism wasn't all the way baked before interaction with the Romans.
A lot of the scholarly theories about the Jewish shift from henotheism toward monotheism--because before it's henotheistic, maybe the people who would eventually be what we'd call Jews were polytheistic, but you can't really call them Jews and it's not clear who and what they were that far back--really are about adversarial interaction with polytheist neighbors.

You see some of this in the triumphal aspects of the older portions of Jewish scripture, like the Canticle of Miriam in what we now call the book Exodus, where YHVH triumphs over the Gods of Egypt in a way that makes it explicit that this is a real God beating other real Gods.  You see it, too, in both places the Commandments (ten or otherwise) show up--a distinction between "don't worship false Gods" and "don't worship other (real) Gods, or at least not before Me" where it's clear the mindset is one where only one God is to be worshipped, but other peoples have their other Gods, and those are real too.

(Some of this may also be related to some scholarly theories that suggest that "Hebrews" weren't really an identifiable people before Judaism, that they were essentially a diverse confederation of people who escaped slavery in Egypt or liberated their territories from Egyptian control, since there's almost no written Egyptian record of enslaving a particular ethnic group or taking in a huge slave population or of a people called "Hebrew," and "almost no written Egyptian record" is a really rare thing.  So the whole group of people who became Jews may have primarily formed as an identity based on "we escaped from the control of these powerful polytheists, and were rescued by this one particular God who decided to adopt us as a nation," and then developed into a more cohesive, distinct identity over time.)

Part of the big shift--and I know I've posted about this in other conversations--comes from the Babylonian Captivity.  Roughly, the Jews who were in Babylon had to police the borders of their identities much more while in diaspora, and in reaction against polytheistic conquerors, and formed a much more...sharply-defined-apart? community identity.  They had to fight to hold onto who they were and learned to see themselves as very different from their oppressors, who worshiped other Gods.  When they returned home to Canaan, they were horrified to discover that the Jews who had been able to stay had adapted differently--among other things by integrating and adopting some of the religious practices of their neighbors, like doing honor to Asherah and Ba'al Hadad. So there was a push, in part motivated by the pain of being conquered and taken away from home, to sharpen the lines between "us" and "them" that resulted in the purging of honoring Gods other than YHVH from Jewish practice, which made messes especially in a lot of familis where there was intermarriage.  And a lot of what we now recognize as the Hebrew Bible was codified in that aftermath period, and by the people invested in the purging.  (Consider the story of Abraham smashing the (Mesopotamian) idols of false Gods before heading to Canaan to worship El Shaddai.)

As to when the increasingly strict ban on worshiping other Gods became the notion of other Gods being false--when that sort of changed over--there's not a lot of good hard information on it.  It may have just been a natural progression from refusing to honor other Gods to refusing those Gods the honor of being considered real.  Some of it happened after the occupation recorded in the Hanukkah story, where the Temple was defiled and the followers of the Maccabees rebelled against being required to worship foreign Gods, and after their rebellion they were the ones restoring the Temple and its rites.  Some of it happened with the Roman occupation.  It's hard to pinpoint it as a moment.

Is that...more along the lines of what you were asking about, or am I aiming in the wrong direction again?

 
This is exactly the explanation I was looking for. It makes much more sense now. Thank you.

Elizabeth

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2014, 08:43:19 pm »
Thanks to those who added their own, more in-depth questions to this thread. I can never seem to find the right questions!

Quote from: Valentine;141191


Part of the big shift--and I know I've posted about this in other conversations--comes from the Babylonian Captivity.  Roughly, the Jews who were in Babylon had to police the borders of their identities much more while in diaspora, and in reaction against polytheistic conquerors, and formed a much more...sharply-defined-apart? community identity.  They had to fight to hold onto who they were and learned to see themselves as very different from their oppressors, who worshiped other Gods.  When they returned home to Canaan, they were horrified to discover that the Jews who had been able to stay had adapted differently--among other things by integrating and adopting some of the religious practices of their neighbors, like doing honor to Asherah and Ba'al Hadad. So there was a push, in part motivated by the pain of being conquered and taken away from home, to sharpen the lines between "us" and "them" that resulted in the purging of honoring Gods other than YHVH from Jewish practice, which made messes especially in a lot of familis where there was intermarriage.  And a lot of what we now recognize as the Hebrew Bible was codified in that aftermath period, and by the people invested in the purging.  (Consider the story of Abraham smashing the (Mesopotamian) idols of false Gods before heading to Canaan to worship El Shaddai.)


 
I really appreciate this breakdown, Valentine. It gives me another "jumping off" point to research. I am kind of looking for the "shift". The backslide to polytheism is seen many times in the OT, so it is nice to have a more specific time to see the more solid shift.

Perhaps things lined up just so for the progression of Judaism.
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2014, 09:22:28 pm »
Quote from: Elizabeth;141195
Thanks to those who added their own, more in-depth questions to this thread. I can never seem to find the right questions!
 
I really appreciate this breakdown, Valentine. It gives me another "jumping off" point to research. I am kind of looking for the "shift". The backslide to polytheism is seen many times in the OT, so it is nice to have a more specific time to see the more solid shift.

Perhaps things lined up just so for the progression of Judaism.

 
A lot of Bible scholars look at Jeremiah--which was written post-Captivity about a period pre-Captivity in large part for polemic purposes--and II Kings, if that helps.  I find that the whole Babylonian period is something Jewish scholars of Judaism rarely fail to consider, but that a lot of Christian and Christian-drived scholars often forget to account for beyond "this is sort of why the Noah story looks like that thing from the Epic of Gilgamesh."
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2014, 09:28:35 pm »
Quote from: Elizabeth;141195
Thanks to those who added their own, more in-depth questions to this thread. I can never seem to find the right questions!


 
I really appreciate this breakdown, Valentine. It gives me another "jumping off" point to research. I am kind of looking for the "shift". The backslide to polytheism is seen many times in the OT, so it is nice to have a more specific time to see the more solid shift.

Perhaps things lined up just so for the progression of Judaism.

 
Also, there's a lot of interesting work done specifically on the way religions in general behave in diaspora, especially in terms of how they can sometimes be more conservative about preserving some aspects of their beliefs and identities as a way of holding onto something precious while under the power of surrounding cultures--you can see some interesting parallels in African diaspora religions in Brazil vis-a-vis the way their root religions in West Africa developed differently over time, for instance.  (And, tellingly, when the Abrahamic context gets mapped on, a whole lot of oppressed and diasporic people, over the years, have hung their hats on the "by the waters of Babylon" psalm.)
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2014, 04:07:58 am »
Quote from: yewberry;141187
There are far, far better history books on the subject that don't indulge in specious reasoning and outright fabrication.  Sefiru's recommendation is a good, accessible one.

Brina

 
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2014, 04:34:00 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;141163
I know I have said this to you in other threads but IT IS A JEWISH BOOK IT IS A JEWISH BOOK IT IS A JEWISH BOOK
(Okay, it is a compendium of numerous Jewish books.)
Your bizarre anti-Jewish quasi-scholarship is consistently divorced from fact.

Repeating yourself doesn't make things true, not does SHOUTING.

The idea that the Jewish scriptures were (unsuccessfully) edited to remove evidence of Israelite polythesism and to back-date beliefs is not my theory, but a commonplace. See the Origins of Judaism article in Wikipedia. For that matter, see some of the other posts in this thread.

I also find it odd that there are many criticisms on this site of Christianity and Islam, yet my repeating views that are widely-held in academia brings complaints of my being "anti-Jewish". Not that I particularly care :p
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Yei

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2014, 05:05:31 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141254
Repeating yourself doesn't make things true, not does SHOUTING.

The idea that the Jewish scriptures were (unsuccessfully) edited to remove evidence of Israelite polythesism and to back-date beliefs is not my theory, but a commonplace. See the Origins of Judaism article in Wikipedia. For that matter, see some of the other posts in this thread.

I also find it odd that there are many criticisms on this site of Christianity and Islam, yet my repeating views that are widely-held in academia brings complaints of my being "anti-Jewish". Not that I particularly care :p

 
Criticisms of Christianity and Islam? I don't recall reading many of those. This site is not particular anti-Christian, at least not from what I have seen.

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2014, 05:15:29 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141254
Repeating yourself doesn't make things true, not does SHOUTING.

The idea that the Jewish scriptures were (unsuccessfully) edited to remove evidence of Israelite polythesism and to back-date beliefs is not my theory, but a commonplace. See the Origins of Judaism article in Wikipedia. For that matter, see some of the other posts in this thread.

I also find it odd that there are many criticisms on this site of Christianity and Islam, yet my repeating views that are widely-held in academia brings complaints of my being "anti-Jewish". Not that I particularly care :p

 
Ah yes, the legions of Christian bashers and Islamophobes that frequent TC's boards. Truly a menace; we have to sweep them out every other week or they start bringing in bugs.
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2014, 05:22:45 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141254
Repeating yourself doesn't make things true, not does SHOUTING.

The idea that the Jewish scriptures were (unsuccessfully) edited to remove evidence of Israelite polythesism and to back-date beliefs is not my theory, but a commonplace. See the Origins of Judaism article in Wikipedia. For that matter, see some of the other posts in this thread.

I also find it odd that there are many criticisms on this site of Christianity and Islam, yet my repeating views that are widely-held in academia brings complaints of my being "anti-Jewish". Not that I particularly care :p

 
Repeating that the Hebrew Bible is a Jewish book doesn't make it true?  Do you even listen to yourself?  
Yes, Jewish scripture was edited by Jews and later by Christians to scrub polytheism out--that's not in dispute.  But your continual positing of some true real faith in true real God that was corrupted and Judaized, and later restored by Christians is, in fact, supersessionist and anti-Semitic.  So is your regular implication that in some way Jewish scripture and tradition doesn't belong to Jews to do whatever the hell they want to do with it.  It de-Judaizes Judaism, de-Judaizes Jesus, treats Jews as a dead end of history made superfluous by Christianity, suggests Jews are wrong about their own religion, and is spectacularly ahistorical.

Is that better?
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2014, 05:27:11 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;141258
Repeating that the Hebrew Bible is a Jewish book doesn't make it true?  Do you even listen to yourself?  
Yes, Jewish scripture was edited by Jews and later by Christians to scrub polytheism out--that's not in dispute.  But your continual positing of some true real faith in true real God that was corrupted and Judaized, and later restored by Christians is, in fact, supersessionist and anti-Semitic.  So is your regular implication that in some way Jewish scripture and tradition doesn't belong to Jews to do whatever the hell they want to do with it.  It de-Judaizes Judaism, de-Judaizes Jesus, treats Jews as a dead end of history made superfluous by Christianity, suggests Jews are wrong about their own religion, and is spectacularly ahistorical.

Is that better?

 
Like, just because many Christians believe that the whole of Hebrew scripture is a roman-a-clef and the secret code is that it all means Jesus, and now is finished, doesn't mean Jews are required to put down their entire religion and affirm that they really didn't understand what it meant in the first place, their bad, whoops.
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Nyktelios

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #25 on: March 01, 2014, 12:03:37 am »
Quote from: Rob;141167
The thing is though, how was YHWH able to become the only god. Few other priesthoods went so far. Those that tried failed, like Akhenaten.

The political motives must have been broadly similar, so what allowed YHWH to take over, but not Aten?

I've heard that the Jewish people decided to follow one god exclusively in order to distinguish themselves from the polytheistic Babylonians, who they thought of as savage and barbaric because of the way they were treated by that culture. Christianity grew out of the Jewish worship of the tribal god of the Hebrews, and when Roman emperors decided it was politically beneficial to adopt the Christian religion, the god of the Hebrews became a universal deity worshiped throughout the vast empire.

Aten monotheism didn't really give a group of people a tribal identity, it was just the idea of Akhenaten, and only the royal family really could participate in the religion. It was pretty aloof to everyone else. The traditional gods had more popularity with the people, so Atenism didn't have much political pull. Once Akhenaten died, worship of the traditional gods was quickly restored. A god like Amun, on the other hand, could just be identified with other gods who were patrons of kingship, like Horus and Ra, and no major reforms were needed.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2014, 12:11:48 am by Nyktelios »

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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #26 on: March 01, 2014, 08:22:56 am »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141254
Repeating yourself doesn't make things true, not does SHOUTING.

Are you claiming that the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) isn't a Jewish document written and edited by the Jews and for the Jews. (Its later adoption and "editing" by the Christians dopesn't change that.)

Quote
I also find it odd that there are many criticisms on this site of Christianity and Islam, yet my repeating views that are widely-held in academia brings complaints of my being "anti-Jewish". Not that I particularly care :p

This site has never been particularly anti-Christianity or anti-Islam. While the kernel of your views may come out of academia, the way you are stating them and using them really doesn't. Yes, even most Jewish scholars agree that the people who became Jews were likely originally polytheist and went though a henotheist stage on the way to monotheism, but their positions lack the anti-Jewish overtones of your arguments. The only places I see the tone you are taking is from a few hard atheists and, of course, from many fundamentalist Christians.
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2014, 12:55:26 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;141295
Are you claiming that the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) isn't a Jewish document written and edited by the Jews and for the Jews.

The pentateuch is hardly Jewish, since it's shared (with a few variants) by the Samaritans. The earlier historical books contain much material that predates the establishment of Judaism as a distinct religion. Thus the OT is partly Jewish in origin and adopted and adapted for Judaism.

It's also worth noting that the original poster (sorry Elizabeth: we've rather hijacked your thread) is Orthodox, so she won't be using the Hebrew Bible, but the Septuagint. The passage she quoted in Deuteronomy is significantly different in that version (and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, if my memory is correct),

Why you, as a Hellenic, as getting so excited is beyond me, but this will be my final word, so you can get a nice glass of something and calm down :)
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2014, 01:08:57 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141307
The pentateuch is hardly Jewish, since it's shared (with a few variants) by the Samaritans. The earlier historical books contain much material that predates the establishment of Judaism as a distinct religion. Thus the OT is partly Jewish in origin and adopted and adapted for Judaism.

I am confused by how something that by your definition is "partly" Jewish is also "hardly" Jewish.

The Pentateuch is the Torah, which is pretty thoroughly Jewish. Sharing something does not invalidate its origins. Further, your claim that because the books were compiled before Judaism was a thing would also require that the Bible is hardly Christian, as it contains material that predates the establishment of Christianity as a distinct religion.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2014, 01:09:57 pm by Juni »
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Re: How did a tribal god (YHWH) become God of All?
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2014, 01:11:10 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;141307
The pentateuch is hardly Jewish, since it's shared (with a few variants) by the Samaritans. The earlier historical books contain much material that predates the establishment of Judaism as a distinct religion. Thus the OT is partly Jewish in origin and adopted and adapted for Judaism.

It's also worth noting that the original poster (sorry Elizabeth: we've rather hijacked your thread) is Orthodox, so she won't be using the Hebrew Bible, but the Septuagint. The passage she quoted in Deuteronomy is significantly different in that version (and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, if my memory is correct),

Why you, as a Hellenic, as getting so excited is beyond me, but this will be my final word, so you can get a nice glass of something and calm down :)

If you were more familiar with the Samaritans, you'd know that they claim to be descendants of those left behind during the Babylonian exile. I.e., that they're of the Israelite tribes of Ephraim, Mannaseh, and Levi. As in, the reason they share the same data is that they're an offshoot of Judaism. In fact, the term Samaritans prefer for themselves translates as "Israelites."
« Last Edit: March 01, 2014, 01:14:32 pm by stephyjh »
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