Friday, September 16, 2005

God is Human.

Modern believers are accustomed to think of the Judeo-Christian God as a divine, superhuman deity, one who is no definite place, shape or form and does not "live" in the way orgainsms on our planet live. However, after much research I have realized that this is NOT the way our ancestors, the founders of our religions, though of it. Maimonedies went to great lengths to explain that whenever the bible talks about god in human terms it is metaphorical only.

Now this is understandable in light of the hosts of questions a humanlike god would inevitably raise but did our ancestors really think of these expressions as figurative or literal? There is no evidence that they meant it figuratively. Throughout the bible, Yehovah, the Israelite god is described in human like terms and there is not a single reference to clarify that this is all metphorical and god is really not a human like entity.

Therefore, the only major difference between the Hebrew god and the pagan gods is that the hebrew god is singular and does not share power with anyone else. He controlls all forces of nature, good and bad alike and activates them as he sees fit in response to human's good and bad deeds respectively. In the pagan religions of the time, common people thought that the powerful forces of nature were controlled by humanlike gods who reside in heaven and have all the basic human characteristics except that they are more powerful and less vulnerable then humans on earth are.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the word "elohim" which is generally translated as God, is really the plural form of the word "el" which means god as well. In fact "el" was one of the canaanite gods and he seems to have been adopted by the hebrews and somehow integrated with Yehovah and referred to as Yahova Elohim. But why the plural? That's because he wielded all the many forces of nature and his rule was therefore thought of as the rule of many gods who are in turn controlled by the one supergod Yehovah. This is why in general even when the Scripture mentions Elohim it refers top him in the singular but there are many notable exceptions.

When it says (Genesis 2:7) "Yehovah Elohim fashioned Adam out of dust from the ground and he blew into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam became a living being" it is meant literally. If God had not activated his frist breath using CPR then Adam and the entire human race would have never come to life. This means that God has a mouth with which he inhales and exhales.

Genesis 3:8 "They heard the voice of Yehovah Elohim, walking in the garden towards the west..." this is another example of God literally walking in the garden together with Adam.

Genesis 3:22 "Yehovah Elohim said: Behold, Adam has become like one of us to know good and bad and now lest he will put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever". And so what's the problem with that? Well, that would be a challenge to the power of the gods. Yes, it is written in plural; whenever the bible discusses an essential issue related to Elohim and his relation with man it refers to him in plural because that's what he really is: a number of gods. But if the gods were not humanlike, there wouldn't be much challenge to their power even if mankind did live forever. And so, this is another example of how those early people conceived of a humanlike Elohim. BTW: these verses are from J (c. 800 BC) which is the oldest source in the bible. P (not before c. 600 BC) would never talk about Elohim in such humanlike terms.

Genesis 5:24 "Chanoch walked with Elohim after he begot Mesushelach for three hundered years... Chanoch walked with Elohim; then he was no more for Elohim had taken him". What does this mean? the Orthodox Cheder interpretation is that "walking with Elohim" simply means being righteous but the above verses clearly show that that's not the meaning. We see that walking with Elohim is clearly associated with Chanoch's sudden disappearance for Elohim had taken him. All the other generations mentioned in the book of the "Annals of Adam" lived to over 800 years but Chanoch only lived 300 years after he begot Mesushelach at age 65 for a total of 365 years and then he disappeared because Elohim "took him". Now, whether this is simply a way of referring to an untimely death or there is more to it, the expression "elohim took him" seems to be related to the fact that he walked with Elohim. Both expressions indicate that it is possible for a human to walk with Elohim and be taken by Elohim.

6:1 "When Adam (meaning his progeny) began to increase on the face of the ground and daughters were botn to them, the sons of Elohim saw that the daughters of Adam were good and they took themselves wives from whomever they chose". Clearly, the sons of Elohim are capable of taking human wives and produce very fertile offspring as explained in the next verse: The "nefillim" were in the land in those days and also afterwards, when the sons of Elohim would come to the daughters of Adam and bear to them; they were the mighty who were men of fame from old. And so we see, that Elohim has the human quality of being able to produce sons who can consort with human daughters.

And here's the important verse: "Jehovah said: My spirit shall not judge (=reside) within man forever for he is also flesh; his days shall be hundred and twenty years". This verse is misinterpreted in most translations but this is the proper meaning of "bashagam"; it means "for also". What Jehovah is saying here is that since he is flesh just like Elohim, there will be no major if any difference between them if he lives forever and he shall therefore only live 120 years. This is in the same theme of "lest he take from the tree of life and eat and live forever". Elohim are very similar to humans and they must therefore subject humans to some major inferiority or Elohim's superiority will be challenged and Elohim is therefore keeping Adam's life down to a minimum.

6:7 Yahovah regretted having made man on earth and he was saddened to his heart. This is a very humanistic expression.

And finally in Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, with (the life of) man his blood shall be shed for in the image of Elohim he made man. It states here clearly that man is made in the image and likeness of Elohim.

There's one more matter that needs to be discussed and that is the Babylonian tower. It states that the people said "let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens. Let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered over the face of the entire earth. Yehovah descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man built and Yahovah said: Indeed, one people and one language to them all and this is what caused them to do, and now what they propose to do will not be withdeld". There are several questions. 1) what were the people trying to accomplish. 2) what was their planned action that was so feared by Yehova. According to the verse the people had no bad intentions. They wanted to build the city and tower simply as a defense mechanism against barbaric invaders, which is the natural reason why cities and tall towers are built. But Yehovah had a problem with this. The problem was that the plan called for a tall tower whose top reaches the heavens and the heavens is where Yehovah resides and so they will be in essence encroaching on Yehovah's territory. And so Yehovah descended (from heaven) after consultation with the other gods and confused the people's languages so they were unable to effectively communicate and build the tower. For our purposes what we see from this stroy is that 1) Yehovah is just one of many gods within the Hebraic pantheon called "elohim" 2) that he resides in the heaven and descends to earth when needed 3) he is concerned that humans might be trying to conquer him and so he does whatever is necessary to prevent them from encroaching onto his territory.

I know that this sounds very primitive and shallow, but you must remember that these stories are extremely old. They did not originate in J's time they were just recorded in J's time. Theses stories in the first several chapters of Genesis are legends passed down orally through the generations and designed to give meaning to all major questions of life to an extremely primitive people; we are talking about the dawn of civilization here. The stories in Genesis explain how the universe and mankind came into being. It explains how humans were created by the gods but were nonetheless their rivals and that is why they suffered so miserably in the flood when the gods regretted having created them. human vs. god rivalry is an important theme in early Western religions including the Greek and Roman religions which are closely related to the the ancient Canaanite religion from which the Hebrew religion is derived.