Documentary Hypothesis – The Name of God

ImageOn my six month visit – work attempt in Britain last year I happened to go to the outdoor museum for Welsh history in Cardiff.  In amongst the various industrial, pre industrial and celtic round houses was a small little church.

While disassembling the St. Telios church the museum discovered that the building which was over 600 years old had original paintings underlying the protestant white wash.  These paintings were not fantastic designs and creations of a wealthy class or church where money was not an object.

These paintings as the one on the right demonstrates were more like sacred attempts by local artists to point to the divine.  Simplistic in tone but not in message.  In fact this painting is of the Trinity encapsulating the Father on the throne, the Holy Spirit on the top of the cross in a form of a dove and God the son upon the cross.

In each case this manifestation of God as three while in one in some ways is found in the modern bible in the old testament.  Yahweh is just one name for God.  There is also El, Elohim, El-Shaddai and Adoniah which is translated often as LORD (though literally means master) in the English language versions.  Each of these names means something slightly different to Biblical era Israelites and the Jewish exiles.

For scholars these names were the first hint that maybe the Torah or the first five books of the Old Testament was not the work of a single writer but a mash up of various writers. For the Documentary Hypothesis these names of God meant different things. Much like how we identify the Trinity as three separate personages to use Joseph Smith’s dated term.

The difference with scholars is that they see each of these as different because in large part they are taking from different writers.  Each with a different historical and political reason for their viewpoint.  In some ways that would seem easy, but even with these names there is more confusion as each so called group uses all of them.  So not so straight forward and obvious.  In fact after Moses received the name of God as Yahweh they converge and use either Yahweh or Adonai.

So what to make of this idea.  Well you can look at it two ways.

1. The reasons for the various names is that before Moses the Patriarchs did not know Yahweh by that name so for narrative purposes it was not mentioned.

2. Or is it a case of different writers using different conventions or traditions J writes about God = Yahweh throughout while E, and P only bring the name in after Moses.

If 2 is correct then how do we view these naming conventions and do they make a difference.  A scholar may say that it points to the Canaanite origins because El was the head of their gods and Yahweh was a storm god who was not as important.  If that is the case then how do the reconcile the eventual merger of the two names.

One reason argued is that E was a Northern Israeli version of the Torah while J is the Jewish version.  What seems odd then is why did the P or Priestly version then adapt the E version of the story.  So much so that some argued at times that there is no E and that what we think of as E is really P.

In a Mormon perspective then we are left with some interesting ideas.

 Multiple names for deity

If one looks at archaeology and other sources scholars like to point to multiple deities of Canaanite gods make up the the beginnings of the monotheistic Israelites.  For many Christians and Jews that would be a difficult argument and for most Mormons as well.  Yet if we believe in a idea of becoming gods ourselves than it would be logical that there would be more than one God.  In fact we make that statement quite clearly.

So the concept that there may be some bleed over about the names of God and the names of gods seems to be less problematic in some ways for us.  Not a perfect fit I grant you but it might be something to explore as others have done with Asherah.  In some ways the alternative message might be that as Mormons we are ready to keep an open mind rather than close ourselves off on a book that we believe the word of God as far as it has been translated correctly.

I have more thoughts on all of this later specifically is E real, if it is real does it represent the brass plates?  Also what are we to make of the academic retrenchment arguing against the Documentary Hypothesis but now to bed.

5 Responses to Documentary Hypothesis – The Name of God

  1. Bradley says:

    Cecil B Demille answered this question.
    Charlton Heston: “What should I call you?”
    God: “I AM”

    You have to be able to understand the deep base voice.

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  3. Eliza Gray says:

    I’m a reporter at The New Republic and I just wanted to share my most recent piece about the LDS community in Washington D.C. It includes some history!

    Thanks for reading:

  4. Stephen Bennett says:

    Please pray regarding the memorandum.

    Grant H. Palmer, historian and author of “An Insider’s View of Mormonism” and “The Incomparable Jesus” provides a memorandum of the three meetings he had with a general authority in 2012/13.

  5. umer says:

    In the name of Allah,the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful.

    Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah.” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].”
    O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?
    Here you are – those who have argued about that of which you have [some] knowledge, but why do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows, while you know not.
    Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah]. And he was not of the polytheists.
    Indeed, the most worthy of Abraham among the people are those who followed him [in submission to Allah] and this prophet, and those who believe [in his message]. And Allah is the ally of the believers.
    A faction of the people of the Scripture wish they could mislead you. But they do not mislead except themselves, and they perceive [it] not.
    O People of the Scripture, why do you disbelieve in the verses of Allah while you witness [to their truth]?

    Holy Quran 3:64-70

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