Genesis 1.26-27 (NRSV) reads:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
When God proposes here in the plural to create man in his image, with whom is he talking? And with whom is God discussing when he says in later Genesis 3.22 (NRSV),”Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’”?
As biblical scholars such as Marc Brettler, Michael Coogan, and John Day have persuasively argued, this is yet another reference to the divine council in the Hebrew Bible. Continue reading
Properly demarcating the two ancient Israelite creation accounts that exist in Genesis 1-3 is additionally important because it provides the opportunity to compare structural and grammatical parallels that exist (or do not exist) between them and to analyze their possible implications. I have provided the following table of the first several verses of each account in order to facilitate comparison. Continue reading
Deuteronomy 6.4-9, also known as the Shema because the first word of the passage in Hebrew is the imperative shĕma‘, meaning “Listen,” is probably one of the most well known passages in all of biblical literature. In Jewish tradition this passage is frequently recited as a prayer, a practice that goes back at least to the early rabbinic period . The broader Judeo-Christian tradition, moreover, has often taken the first verse of this passage as a statement of Israel’s (and its own) radical monotheistic faith. This verse reads: “Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” However, this common Judeo-Christian interpretation which claims that Israel maintained a radical monotheistic stance, or a belief that there is only one G/god in existence (in this case, Yahweh, the God of Israel), has been subject to severe criticism by modern biblical scholars.
In the last segment I discussed where certain literary and narrative divisions exist in Genesis 1-3. For instance, I previously noted that the narrative section which begins in Genesis 1.1 most likely ends at Genesis 2.4a. Additionally, I noted one crucial literary feature of this first creation account, namely that it is broken into seven one-day intervals (i.e., a one week period). Furthermore, I briefly noted that there is a further significant literary division between days one through six which describe God’s physical creative activities (each of which ends with the formulaic phrase “(And) there was evening and there was morning, day…”) and the seventh (and final) day which is the pinnacle of the account and which describes God’s sanctifying the seventh day. Having noted these literary markers and narrative boundaries, I shall now further explore other literary devices which structure the first creation account’s six creative days, and analyze their implications concerning Israelite beliefs about creation.
There has been serious discussion among Mormon scholars over the past several years regarding the divine council in the Hebrew Bible and its implications for Mormon thought. For instance, very recently Blake Ostler published his third volume of Exploring Mormon Thought, in which, among other issues, he discusses at length various aspects of the heavenly council in the Hebrew Bible and what their implications might be for Mormon theology. David Bokovoy, a Mormon PhD student studying at Brandeis University under noted biblical scholar Marc Brettler, also had a lengthy exchange with Evangelical scholar Mike Heiser in a recent issue of the FARMS Review that included serious discussion of the council motif. Moreover, this exchange itself was provoked by an even earlier essay by BYU Professor Daniel Peterson that included an analysis of the heavenly assembly and its relevance for Mormonism. Kevin Barney also mentions the topic in his article “Examing Six Key Concepts in Joseph Smith’s Understanding of Genesis 1:1” for BYU studies. There has also been some discussion here at FPR regarding this topic. Given, then, the importance of this topic among Mormon scholars in recent years, I thought that in addition to pointing out these articles to those who might otherwise be unaware of them, I might also briefly describe the divine council as referred to in the Hebrew Bible, as well as some of its historical analogues. I invite any comments following that reader’s might feel to be of relevance to the divine council and/or its relationship to Mormon thought.