Thursday, June 26, 2008

El Shaddai, El Shaddai El-elyon Adonai

I appreciate the attempt of the author of this hymn to worship God using one of the many Hebrew names for him in the Bible.

If you were to examine the long and sometimes controversial history of the event where God was being called "El," and Amy Grant's live version, you might be intrigued by the results. It is not my purpose to go into all that story here. But I do find the name "El" (and it's derivatives) fascinating. And here's why...

When God is talking to Moses in Exodus 6:2-3, he says that he is revealing himself as YHWH but that he had revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as "El Shadday." (orאֵל־שַׁדַּי)

Many have sought to find out exactly what El Shaddai means, and they have come up with "God of the mountain," "God of many breasts," "God Almighty," and a few others. Mettinger follows the path of "the one of the mountain," and like most who do go down that path offers the similarity between the Hebrew word and an Akkadian word (shadu) as evidence. I am not arguing either for or against this view. I am simply exploring it along side Mettinger.

Mettinger makes note of the study of Albrecht Alt which challenged the conclusions made by another German OT scholar Julius Wellhausen. Wellhausen had assumed that the text of the patriarchs was a description of the faith of Israel during the monarchy. Alt investigated the term "God of the Fathers" (Der Gott der Väter) and noticed that this designation treats God as "nameless,(he's just the God of so-and-so)" and "site less." The deity is not defined by a certain geographical location. Therefore, wherever so-and-so goes so does his God. This lead Alt to assume that the term "God of the Fathers" was used for a nomadic people. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a term defining the one (the deity) that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e. the fathers) had put their faith in. Mettinger adds, "If this presumption is correct, then we would have in 'the God of the fathers' an example of interplay between way of life and understanding of God, evidence to the effect that the understanding of God evolves in conjunction with the challenges presented by life itself." (Mettinger, 55)

Is it not true that we write worship songs to reflect our personal understanding of God in our personal life experience?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Context

Lady R is always telling me "Life is Context." She's pretty good at reading a situation accurately because she's a great at determining meaning from the context.

I think we could take a similar approach when reading the Bible.

I've just finished one of my favorite books, In Search of God by Tryggve N.D. Mettinger. This is the first time I've read it all the way through although I was first introduced to the book in seminary. Our Hebrew professor had us read a portion of it about Job, and I was intrigued by the concept of God fighting chaos monsters (namely Leviathan and Behemoth). This started my journey towards my thesis.

Mettinger offers some thought provoking ideas of how to interpret the names of God throughout the history of the Hebrews in a Ancient Near East context. I'd like to share some his ideas on this. So, look out for those posts in the future.