Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What is Yhwh?

This is from Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog about John Goldingay's "The Old Testament: Israel's Theology." One of the things I love about Scot's blog is the chance to participate in scholarly discussion. I am (thanks to Scot) on the brink of working my way through Goldingay's first 800-page book on the Old Testament. Here goes Scot on the second volume. There are some wonderful points here to ponder from Goldingay, a scholar who has made the Old (or First) Testament his life's work:

"The assumption of the First Testament is that there is one God and that God’s name is YHWH. The often-made point that God is unknowable — apophatic theology and its variants — is not quite the way we find it in the Bible: this God is knowable and becomes known in what is said and what is done. Holiness in the FT [=First Testament] does not create dread so much as does God’s majesty. Majesty is the outward expression of God’s holiness.

The “eternality” of God is about God spanning history more than speculation about foreverness. God as “Creator” is more about God’s ongoing creation than just about God making things all at once long, long ago.

Monotheism is Enlightenment stuff; the FT teaches Mono-Yahwism. Yhwh alone is the deliverer and liberator. The big issue is not arithmetical — there is only one God — but “Whom are you treating as God?” (40).

Anyone who reads the FT carefully will see Yhwh’s aides and representatives and rivals, and this is one of the only books you will find that deals with this theme — doesn’t Goldingay like that which cuts across the grain? — as thoroughly, interestingly, honestly, and carefully as does Goldingay. These other deities, he says, exist but they don’t count as God. Deut 32:8-9 teaches the reality, sees these lesser deities as appointed by God, and sees them as governing other nations. [For our readers, Gerry McDermott’s book, God’s Rivals, dealt with this in the context of world religions.]

God’s gender? “The FT avoids bringing sexuality into its portrait of Yhwh. ‘He’ is neither ‘man’ nor ‘woman’ (Deut 4:6) [citing Gerstenberger]” (47).

Yhwh frequently is embodied in representatives."

What do you think of these points?

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