THIS ISN'T SUNDAY SCHOOL
Each study is provided in a format to help non-trained Bible scholars understand scholarly studies of the Bible (From a historical perspective). My goal is to make you think. Please leave your questions and comments.
(God) All In The Family?
Brett A. Todd
September 26, 2022
In 1947, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts in caves near the Dead Sea in Israel. Perhaps you have heard of them, they are called the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are an astounding 1000 years older than Hebrew manuscripts used in most of our English Bibles. If you want to get a closer look at what the original Old Testament Hebrew might have read, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a one in a million.
One of the surprising nuggets scholars found in these ancient Dead Sea Scrolls has to do with whether or not God had a family, you know, a father, mother, and yes, of course, sibling. I know, I know, you may be gasping for air at this moment. Who would have ever thought that the God of Israel, the very God Jews and Christians worshipped had a family, right?
Here in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, the Dead Sea Scrolls give us a much more original reading of these two Bible verses, it states:
When the Most High God (El-yon) apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of god (beney ’el [im]); the Lord’s (Yahweh) own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.
***Once again, most English translations incorrectly read, “sons of Israel”.
In the passage above, the most High God (El-yon) divides the people of the earth into nations according to the number of sons of god (beney ’el [im]). Interestingly, one of those sons of god, as noted in verse 9, is Yahweh, the God of Israel, the people of Jacob. According to this earlier reading found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Yahweh, the God of Israel and the God who Christians worship was a part of a larger divine pantheon (family) in which the Most High God (El-yon) is the ruler, or one could say, the father of the sons of god, including, Yahweh, the God of Israel.
*Side note: Every time you see the capital letters spelling out the name, “LORD”, it is referring to Yahweh, the God of Israel.
It is worthy to note, the Scripture above, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is not unlike some of the ancient Canaanite literature (Jews are distant ancestors of the Canaanites), where the Most High god (the sky god), El, and his wife, the goddess Asherah, had seventy sons who were his divine council who he could summon at any time. Is this what Deuteronomy 32:8 is referring to? All early evidence seems to point in this direction.
Another Scripture in the Hebrew Old Testament that seems to refer to this same pantheon of gods is found in Psalm 82:1,
God (Elohim) has taken his place in the council of the God (EL); in the midst of the gods (Elohim) he holds judgment…”
In this ancient reading of the Bible, a reversal of power takes place and Elohim, the God of Israel and Christians, brings judgment on the Canaanite High God El’s and his assembly of the gods (Elohim). As one can see, it is all in the family with some family disputes: El, Yahweh/Elohim, and the sons of God.
In our next study, we will ask and answer the question, “Was Jesus a carpenter?