Monday, May 21, 2007

Temple Theology--II

In the previous post I introduced the basic storyline Barker outlines on the ancient royal theological tradition. And how that tradition was largely (though not totally) edited out of the Bible we have today by the Deuteronomistic Tradition.

What then was this Royal Theology?

In Psalm 2, likely a coronation Psalm recited at the King's Coronation we read:
"I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: The Lord said to me, 'You are my son; this day I have begotten you.'

That Psalm is quoted by the voice of God when Jesus arises from his Baptism.

This notion that that King was in some sense a son of God was common to the Semitic, Egyptian, Babylonian, and larger Oriental worlds.

What we have to understand is that this ancient form of Judaism was not monotheistic in the sense we are normally accustomed to thinking of that world. Ancient Jewish religion was perhaps best thought of as "henotheistic"---a series of gods but a High God over them all. It was not until the Prophet Second Isaiah writing during the Exile (i.e. barely 500 years before Jesus) that monotheism as such is clearly and explicitly announced: "I am the Lord and there is no other." Not to mention that insight did not filter down to the popular level for hundreds of years more.

The ancient Jewish world was like a V coming down from heaven to earth and an inverted V reaching back up to heaven, touching at the midpoint. Or if you prefer, given Jewish symbology two stars (i.e. Star of David).

And the two realms are paralleled. If there is chaos on earth it is a sign of chaos in heaven and vice versa.

The point at which the stars touch, the mediator between heaven and earth is the King. Or the Prophet. But for now I'll deal with the King particularly for Christian theology.

Barker's most controversial and radical claim is that Yahweh the God of the Hebrews is not the High God. That Israel in the royal theology in fact had a High God (El) and a second God, Yahweh.

El had a council of sons of God, i.e. gods/angels, each of which was an angel/god over a nation. Yahweh was the God over the Hebrews. (I'm now going to switch in the manner of Orthodox Jewish Tradition to not write the name of God but substitue Adonai for Yh.)

And Hebrew theology of course argued that Adonai was the highest of the council of the gods. Known in Hebrew as "Elohim". Read Genesis where Elohim (God's name is plural in the Hebrew!!!) says "Let us make the human in our image, male and female." The "us" is the Elohim, the hosts, the council of the sons of the High God El.

The Prophet Isaiah refers to God as "The Holy One of Israel" and the "Lord of Hosts." The Hosts are the heavenly angelic armies. And the Lord is the Lord of Israel. Emphasis on "of Israel."

The Prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Glory of the Lord in the Temple (Ch.6 Isaiah). The cherubim cover the Lord. Ezekiel had a vision of the Throne/Chariot of God. Elijah was taken up in the Chariot. When Moses returned from the mountain he faced shined for he had been enlightened by heaven.

The throne in heaven was reflected by the king sitting on the throne on earth. Psalm 2 again.

Adonai was manifested on earth in the person of the king (or the prophet or the High Priest). The titles for this manifestation included: son of God, son of man (the name used for the Prophet Ezekiel), angel of the Lord.

This "second" God was called the Redeemer (goel). Barker believes when the Angel of the Lord lead the Israelites through the Desert we should not think of a separate Angel but YHWH himself.

Christianity in many writings of the New Testament some within 20 years of Jesus refer to him as Kyrios (Lord). Kyrios is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Adonai. That is Christianity argued that Jesus was Yahweh enfleshed not the High God El.

Many a theory has been proposed that Christianity simply lost contact with its Hebraic heritage and mistook the name of God the Father (Adonai) for Christ. The idea apparently is though to be imported from Greek paganism.

But this temple theology shows that Christianity was following in one of the many different schools of Israelite religion.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity repeats this basic structure. A High God (The Father-El) who is unnameable and a second God (Christ the Son-YHWH) manifested on earth in the Son of Man/God (Jesus).

As in St. Paul: One God the Father and One Lord Jesus Christ.

El, the High God, made the universe through the Lord (Adonai).

Re-reading the New Testament the pieces start to fit. Consider the titles for Christ in the NT:

First born of creation
First born of the Dead
High Priest
Author of Salvation
Alpha and Omega
Cosmic Judge/Redeemer (Title for YHWH in OT)
Wisdom and Power of God (Two Most Prominent Manifestations of El through the Lord)
Son of Man
Word of God

In other words the NT argues Jesus is the incarnation of the Lord not the High God. The Messiah the Lord's (Adonai, Second God) own anointed.


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