Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Like, not "to be"

Although the serpent was correct that Adam and Eve’s eyes would be opened and they would become like ʾelōhîm, his promise that they could disobey Yahweh and live was a lie. In the mouth-washing and mouth-opening rituals, the animation of the sensory organs, including the opening of the eyes, was a necessary part of the process by which the statue was transformed into the divine. In Genesis 3, the opening of Adam and Eve’s eyes did result in god-likeness (Gen 3:22), but this particular likeness to God was prohibited. Unlike the divine statue in Mesopotamia, which became an ilu by means of the mīs pî ritual, and the Egyptian mummy which was transformed through the wpt-r into a manifestation of Osiris, humans were not created to be gods. This is perhaps the most significant difference between the creation of a divine statue according to the mīs pî pīt pî and the wpt-r and the creation of humans in the Eden story.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 169 (emphasis original)

Monday, January 30, 2017

The similarities continue

In Ps 8:6, however, man is not said to be clothed with glory and honor but crowned (ʿṭr) with them. With his choice of the verb ʿṭr, the psalmist emphasizes the focal point of the kābôd and hādār as the area above the shoulders surrounding the head, precisely where signature elements, divine symbols, and the melammu were located on Mesopotamian deities and kings.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 164

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review of The Image of God

Eisenbrauns just received a review of the book we've been excerpting, The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden. The whole review is worth reading, if you can get your hands on it. Below is the final paragraph from the review, with which I heartily concur:
In final analysis, the Image of God in the Garden of Eden is required reading for any modern student of the biblical creation narratives and of biblical conceptions of the image. McDowell has elucidated many aspects of the narrative and made crucial observations in her reading of the symbolic world inhabited by its ancient author and audience. She succeeds also in her general robust contextualization and close reading against the backdrop of image animation conceptions in ancient Southwest Asia, and I look forward to seeing the future development of and reaction to her work.—Cory Crawford, assistant professor of classics and world religions at Ohio University, in Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 8 (2016): 215–29

The role of humanity in the garden

Regarding ʾbd and šmr, however, the only other place in the Hebrew Bible aside from Gen 2:15 where these verbs appear together is in Num 3:7–8, 8:26, and 18:5–6, where they describe the duty of the Levites in guarding and ministering at the tabernacle. Thus, the use of ʾbd and šmr to describe Adam’s work in the garden of Eden suggests that he functioned not only as an administrator of the kingdom but also, on some level, as a royal priest of Yahweh’s “sanctuary” in Eden.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 141

<idle musing>
I wonder if it is stretching it too much to say that we are Levites, but the priestly office is reserved for Christ? Probably; especially so because in Num 18:5–6, the Levites do the ʾbd while the sons of Aaron do the šmr. Nice thought, too bad the grammar doesn't allow it : )
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It's there!

I concluded above that ṣelem and dəmût in Gen 1:26–27 were used to describe the creation of humankind because the author was likening the divine-human relationship to that of father and son. In doing so, he was also redefining ṣelem: the divine is not manifest in a human-made statue. Rather, ṣelem denotes a living human being. A close reading of Gen 2:5–3:24 reveals that, although the terms ṣelem and dəmût are absent, the themes of kinship, kingship, and cult are present in the Eden story, as well.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 138

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And so it begins

USDA science researchers ordered to stop publishing news releases, other documents, and EPA told to freeze all grants and contracts. Because the truth might damage profits for the big corporations—and that is far more important than the health of the American people!

After all, isn't that what government is supposed to be about? Defending the rights of the corporations to rape and pillage the land so they can make their purses fatter?

Darkness is the way of lies. And lies always lead to death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


And they said it couldn't happen here...
via Jim West

Those pesky little prepositions

[T]he nature of the divine-human relationship as it is presented in Genesis 1 has three major components that are intimately related to one another: kinship, kingship, and cult. At some level, humans seem to be members of the divine species, which implies “biological relationship,” metaphorically speaking, to God, and specifically, sonship. Genesis 1 uses the terms ṣelem and dəmût to express this intimate, filial relationship, similar to the way they are used in Gen 5:1–3, where Adam begets a son, Seth, “in his own likeness and after his image.” But clearly, ʿādām is not a divine being, as indicated by the prepositions and in Gen 1:26–27.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, pages 136–37

Monday, January 23, 2017

Yes, but with a careful distinction

We must keep in mind, however, that humanity (ʿādām) is nowhere described in the Hebrew Bible explicitly as “Yahweh’s son.” However, the use of selem and dəmût to define the God/father-humankind/son relationship in Gen 5:3, the comparison between the plants and animals as made “according to their kinds” versus man who is made “in the image and according to the likeness of God” in Gen 1:11–27, and the connection between the Israelite king as the son of Yahweh and ʿm as Yahweh’s appointed king over creation in Genesis 1 may suggest that Gen 1:26–27 is defining the divine-human relationship in terms of sonship while at the same time carefully avoiding the divinization of humankind. This theory is supported not only by the biblical evidence, presented above, but it may also be reinforced by the hymn of Tukulti-Ninurta I, introduced in chapter 3, in which the Assyrian king is designated as the ṣalmu of the god Enlil.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 134

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The sacred balance

"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14 NIV

Εἰρήνην διώκετε μετὰ πάντων καὶ τὸν ἁγιασμόν, οὗ χωρὶς οὐδεὶς ὄψεται τὸν κύριον (original Greek)

<idle musing>
My translation: Pursue, chase after, peace with all and holiness, without which (holiness) no one—nobody, no matter how important or unimportant in the world's eyes—will see the Lord.

That's a tough balance, though. Being at peace with all is easy if you let holiness go, but how can you be holy without being a jerk about it? That's the sacred balance—and that's where love comes in. Not a mushy, anything goes, feel good love, but a love that genuinely cares and nurtures and hopes on behalf of others in a sacred holiness—as modeled in Jesus.

Did you know that the we have many times more ancient copies of the Gospels than we do of the rest of the New Testament? That says something about the early church and their priorities. They lived in an anti-Christian environment—far more anti-Christian than anything the U.S. has seen. Yet they lived a life of peace and holiness. May we recapture that!

Even so, come Lord Jesus! Not to "rapture away" your church, but to fill it with you that we might light the way to a better and restored world.

footnote: I'm still Premillennial, but I also believe that we can experience a good bit more of the Kingdom of God here than most either (a) believe or (b) have experienced so far!

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, January 20, 2017

According to their kind

In total, the phrase “according to its/their kind” is repeated 10 times in these 7 verses alone (Gen 1:11–12 and 1:21–25). Clearly, the author is emphasizing the creation and reproduction of each species according to its own distinctive type or class. Thus, the ancient audience may have been surprised when they heard or read the next two verses in which the creation of humans is described not as “according to his kind,” as they might have expected, but as “in the image of” and “according to the likeness of” Elohim. This juxtaposition of the oft-repeated “according to its/their kind” with “in the image and likeness of God” suggests that the author was drawing a sharp distinction between humans and the other created beings. However, it also implies that just as the plants and animals were created according to their own type, humans were made, at some level, according to Elohim’s kind, although not literally born of God. The author could have said that God made humans according to his (God’s) kind using lə + mîn, as he did with the plants and animals, but he did not. Rather, he expressed human similarity to the divine with ṣelem and dəmût. Thus, it seems that being created in the image and likeness of God is both comparable to being created “according to God’s kind,” but is distinct from it. In other words, humans are not divine, nor are they members of the heavenly host. They are their own category, type, or species, which is defined by being created in the image and likeness of God. However, at some level, humans belong to the divine class or species, that is, humanity’s kind or type is God.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, pages 132–33

<idle musing>
Pretty amazing thought, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 19, 2017

But not gods

The biblical author avoids explicit birthing language like that which appears in the mīs pî and the wpt-r texts to describe the ritual creation of a divine image, and even distances ʾādām from Elohim by describing them as made in the image (bəṣalmēnû) and according to the likeness (kidmûtēnû) of God, rather than asserting that humankind is the image and likeness of the divine.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 131

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Laying the ground work

The frequent appearance of dəmût in the descriptions of Ezekiel’s visions demonstrates that the prophet is struggling to describe what he sees. He uses the term to relate the unfamiliar to the familiar, to put into language that which defies description. He did not see a human but something like a human. He did not see a throne, but something resembling a throne. What Ezekiel observed corresponded to and resembled things that were familiar to him, but the referents themselves were foreign. Thus, dəmût refers to correspondence and likeness, but it does not seem to indicate a copy or a facsimile, as can ṣelem.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 125

<idle musing>
She's just laying the ground work here for some serious theology. Have a bit of patience : )
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

But it looks great!

Impressive, large, public buildings have power—that is why they are built. They speak to us of human power, implicitly ordained by the divine. This is why the powerful from ancient times through today invested and still invest so much money and time in building. The sheer size of our largest human constructions implies a potent mixture of human effort and divine presence or providence; an awesome confluence of divine and human power.—Nicole Wilkinson Duran in in Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement in Early Judaism and Christianity: Constituents and Critique, forthcoming from SBL Press

<idle musing>
Remind you of anyone?
</idle musing>

But not God

How, then, does Gen 9:6 illumine our understanding of what it means that humankind is created bəṣelem ʾelōhîm? It clearly demonstrates that humans are not God nor are they the ultimate lawmakers. However, it does indicate that there is a profound level of correspondence between God and humans. That is, humankind acts on God’s behalf, in the capacity of a divinely appointed judge and administrator and as one who obeys and enforces the divine law authored by God. Thus, being created in the image (ṣelem) of God has something to do with representing him in the realm of law and justice, but it is clearly distinct from being God himself.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 122

<idle musing>
And some of us forget the last part: we are not God! Or, perhaps more honestly, all of us on occasion forget that we aren't God. .thinsp;.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 13, 2017

Come, let us play God!

God is the creator of humankind, and therefore he, or one appointed by him, is the only one who can take a human life. For another man to do so is tantamount to insurrection. That is, to kill a human being is to exert oneself as Creator-God. Furthermore, because of the correspondence between God and humans, to harm them is, in some way, an attack on God.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, pages 121–22

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An implication of the imago dei

I must point out that nowhere in the Old Testament is Yahweh referred to explicitly gōʾēl haddām, but Zechariah’s cry for Yahweh “to see and avenge” (yēreʾ yhwh wəyidrōš) and the psalmist’s identification of the Lord as the avenger of shed/poured out/spilt blood (dōrēš dāmîm) indicates that Yahweh was understood to fulfill this role.

What does this reveal about Yahweh’s relationship to humanity? If he is indeed the divine blood avenger, then he is humanity’s nearest kin. Hu-man beings are members of his clan and are, therefore, kin to one another. For this reason shedding human blood (šōpek dam hāʾadam) is fratricide. Furthermore, to murder one’s kinsman is to slay a member of God’s family.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 121

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Opening the mouth in Egyptian ritual

Through the reanimation of their sensory organs, the royal deceased of ancient Egypt were revived through their cultic images so that they could live eternally in the hereafter. This ritual procedure, known as the Opening of the Mouth (wpt-r), was applied to mummies, sarcophagi, and statues of the dead. In the latter two cases, the images were constructed by human craftsmen from stone and/or wood and adorned with precious materials and/or painted details. However, like its Mesopotamian counterpart, the wpt-r indicates that the divine image was also “reborn.” This notion is communicated not only by the verb used to describe the image’s creation, msiʾ, “to give birth, bear,” but by the equipment used for the opening of the mouth (the p –kf set, particularly the p –kf knife), the overall progression of events in the ritual from birth through childhood, and through a series of explicit references in the wpt-r itself to birth and newborn care. Thus, as with Mesopotamian divine statues, Egyptian images of the deceased were “born” or “reborn” through ritual means but they were also constructed from raw materials. The end product was not simply a physical representation. Rather, it was considered to be a living manifestation of the deceased that was now able to consume the sustenance necessary in the afterlife.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 109

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A foregone conclusion

This [depicting the statue as completed before it was begun being made] would also explain why the ritual as it is recorded in Rekhmire’s tomb begins with the purification of the completed statue. The artist was not concerned to present the events in chronological order. Rather, by beginning the written and visual records of the wpt-r with a completed image of Rekhmire, the very sequence itself declares the success of the ritual acts: that this image will be transformed into a manifestation of its referent is a foregone conclusion.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 104

Monday, January 09, 2017

Well then, what is it?

I have sought to demonstrate that, according to the mīs pî pīt pî, the creation of a divine statue was not primarily a ritual of purification, although clearly purity was of utmost concern. Nor was it modeled exclusively on the analogy of human procreation and birth. Rather, the creation of the divine image was achieved through two complementary and requisite processes. The image was born through ritual means, as Ebeling, Jacobsen, and Boden have recognized, but it was also physically constructed from wood, precious metals, and gemstones. Manufacture did not preclude birth, nor did birth preclude manufacture. The two modes of creation functioned concurrently to produce not a representation of the divine but, as indicated by the birthing language and imagery in the pīt pî, as well as by the animation of the image’s sensory organs and the offerings of food, drink, clothing, and shelter (in the temple), what was considered to be a physical, living manifestation of an otherwise invisible reality.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, pages 84–85 (emphasis original)

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Paradigm break, anyone?

Recent studies have demonstrated that the act of bringing sacrifices to a deity is in several respects analogous to gift-giving, which can be seen as an essential ingredient in social interaction between humans, in all known cultures. The keyword, in both cases, is reciprocity. In a reciprocal relationship, one is never forced to accept a gift, but refusing to do so could signal dissatisfaction with the relationship. According to the biblical authors, human beings did not have the power to control YHWH, or to determine the actions of the deity. Hence, the possibility of rejection would seem to be a corollary of ancient Israelite sacrificial logic. Contrary to a widespread opinion, therefore, declarations to the effect that the deity does not accept what is being offered may in fact be perfectly compatible with a positive attitude to sacrificial cult.—Göran Eidevall in Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement in Early Judaism and Christianity: Constituents and Critique, forthcoming from SBL Press (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Interesting idea, isn't it? The whole book seems fascinating...
</idle musing>

In the garden

The Mesopotamian mouth-washing and mouth-opening ritual was a two-day event that was carried out in several different locations, each of which represented in physical form a mythological space within the divine sphere. The human craftsmen’s workshop was, ultimately, the workshop of the craft deities Ninkurra, Ninagal, Kusibanda, Ninildu, and Ninzadim, and of the patron deity of craftsmen, Ea, who was named in the mīs pî pīt pî as the father of the image under construction. The riverbank stood at the gateway to the Apsû, Ea’s subterranean watery abode, and granted the priests access to the holy water and to Ea himself. The attached garden, known [in Babylon] as “the garden of the Apsû,” was also Ea’s domain. This was where most of the animating acts took place, including the opening of the statue’s eyes. It was in the garden that the image was fed with fruit and clothed with divine regalia and insignia, which included an exalted crown radiating divine splendor in all directions. Once created, born, fully animated and adorned, the image was then installed in its temple home and fed its first full meal.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 84

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Take it on faith

When the ritual texts and incantations are viewed as a whole, they present the “god” as both born and manufactured. The mouth-washing texts do not explain how these two modes of creation functioned in tandem. Rather, birth and manufacture are simply presented as the means by which the physical manifestation of a god comes into being.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 83

<idle musing>
That answer certainly wouldn't fly today, would it? We want to know how and why. Take all the mystery out of it. Reduce it to cause and effect, a mechanistic view of everything.

I read an interesting take on the prequels and sequels of the Star Wars movies yesterday. I confess I haven't seen any of them. I was a big fan of the original three, but didn't even watch the second set, so I can't judge first-hand what he is saying, but maybe you can?

Star Wars is—or should be—a religious franchise. The Jedi are a monastic order trained in contemplating and manipulating an omnipresent Force, and in fighting against those who use the Force for evil ends. The crucial question for every character is always spiritual: whether one will choose the “light” or the “dark” side of the Force. Their character arcs involve taking a religious stance toward this mystical energy field.

At least that's how it was in the three original Star Wars films (1977-83). In the originals, access to the Force occured on the basis of faith and asceticism. Luke Skywalker had to cease trusting his physical eyes and take on the eyes of faith; he had to train his body and mind extensively before he was capable of the same feats of Force as Yoda.

By contrast, the Star Wars prequels (1999-2005) departed from this religious heart, by making the Force something embedded in the natural world….

In the prequels, the Force is a part of the biological world. It is accessed not by the mind or spirit but by microscopic organisms. This view renders the Jedi religion superfluous—one either has a “high midi-chlorian count,” or one does not. The prequels rewrite the Jedi’s disciplined access to the mystical life as something determined by a blood-test.

This secularization of the Force coincides with its most grotesque, irreverent use. …

If the prequels scooped the sacred from the Force by biologizing and technologizing it, Rogue One returns it by spiritualizing and refusing to use the Force. Physical sight can no longer behold the Force.

So maybe the ancients were right? Maybe there is something beyond us? What a radical thought!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Not by human hand, kind of

Although the materials are said to be pure and of divine origin, the divine statue, three times referred to as an alam/ almu rather than an ilu, is manufactured by the craft deities who form its wooden body with carpenter’s tools and provide it with eyes of paint or inlaid precious stones. Although the role of human craftsmen is ritually denied, as we have seen, the mouth-washing and mouth-opening texts do not attempt to hide the fact that the divine statue was constructed from raw materials. On the contrary, the contribution of the craft deities as manifestations of Ea, the divine craftsman par excellence, is a prominent theme. As with the “birth” of the statue, the manufacturing process is also imagined as undertaken by the gods.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 81

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Open my eyes...

Unique to the Babylon version, however, is the specific instruction to open the image’s eye (īn ili šuāti tepette). Although the text does not explain or elaborate on why this was done, it was, presumably, intended to animate the statue’s eyes, just as the other sensory organs and limbs had been activated. Despite the lack of an explicit reference to this act in the Nineveh version, the repeated commands to set the image’s eyes toward the rising sun suggest that the opening of the eye(s) may also have been a feature of the pīt pî at Nineveh.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 65

<idle musing>
Think of some of the ramifications for some of the prophetic texts if—as I think probable—the prophets were aware of these rituals...
</idle musing>