Saturday, January 20, 2018

2.3.1 The Oneness of God

Thus far in a future book.

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1a The Rule of Faith of God, part 1
2.1b The Rule of Faith of God, part 2
2.2 Progress of the Biblical Understanding of God

2.3 The Old Testament Witness
2.3.1 The Oneness of God
1. The majority of experts on the Pentateuch believe that the books we now have represent a process of collection and editing of sources that probably did not reach something like their current form until the time after the exile. [1] There is not currently a consensus on exactly what these sources were or how they came together. Meanwhile, many continue to have concerns about Mosaic authorship, not least because the New Testament books seem to operate under this assumption. [2]

In a very real sense, these issues are not of primary concern in our search for a biblical theology. We are affirming by faith that the canonical Pentateuch as it stands is the form that the church has come to see as Scripture. We do not wish to be naive about potential sources or the history of this discussion, but we have already asserted several times that the direction of revealed understanding moves forward toward Christ rather than backward toward sources.

Then God used the Church of the first few centuries to unpack the significance of Christ, who is God's final Word for his creation. And God uses the Church in every age to see the gospel incarnated in every context. Our methodology is thus to dialog with the canonical text in light of the telos of the rule of faith, yet also with an eye to the way God walked with his people through layers of history, text, and tradition.

Whatever the theory, Genesis certainly reflects some of the oldest traditions of the Old Testament about God. We might also mention Judges and 1 Samuel as books that reveal the worship and understanding of God in some of the earliest stages of Israel's history. Chiefly in these earliest stages, we find evidence of polytheism among the people of Israel and we find evidence of henotheism or monolatry.

Henotheism is the belief that there is only one legitimate God, without denying that other gods might exist. We can thus speak of "monolatry" or the belief that you should only worship one God even though others exist. The first of the Ten Commandments (by most Protestant numberings) is worded in a henotheistic way: "You will have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3).

From a Christian standpoint, we would of course deny the name "god" to any being but the one true God. However, we can use our model of increasing precision to reconcile these layers of understanding in the following way. There are spiritual forces that are opposed to God. The apostle Paul calls them demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20. We can thus suggest that the other gods that some Israelites falsely worshiped were demonic forces...

[1] See the excursus at the end of this section for a brief history of this source discussion.

[2] I have personally concluded that the New Testament books and perhaps even Jesus himself worked within the assumptions of their day on this issue. That is to say, we should not be surprised to find the assumption that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch because that was the assumption of first century Judaism in general. However, this assumption would seem to be the framework within which God revealed incarnated truths rather than the actual point of the revelations. Indeed, most of the time in the New Testament it is the quotations of Moses that are attributed to Moses rather than the authorship of the Pentateuchal books themselves.

Meanwhile, there is no inductive evidence for Mosaic authorship. For one, the Pentateuch refers to Moses entirely in the third person--the narrator of the Pentateuch is not Moses but speaks about Moses. As long observed, this speaking about Moses includes speaking of his death. Genesis never even mentions Moses. By contrast, there is evidence of varying sources of some kind being put together to form the Pentateuch, even if we are unable to determine exactly what they were.

In short, there are no historical-evidentiary reasons to argue for Mosaic authorship, only traditional and theological ones. An inductive approach will not come to this conclusion. And in fact we can show that this is a tendency in general that has taken place in regard to books like Joshua, 1 Samuel, and Jonah. Tradition had a tendency to ascribe authorship to the main characters of books of Scripture even though those books were anonymous and consistently talked about those individuals in the third person.

No comments: