God throws shade on a bunch of Gods

God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the Gods — Psalms 82:1

It is interesting how most translations come to this verse and show a bias toward what is considered conventional Christian theology. Conventional Christian theology says there is only one God.  So even though the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is used for both instances of God in this verse, the translators do all sorts of contorting to distinguish between God and, well, God. They do a bunch of things like using “gods” (with quotes and a lower case g), judges, or heavenly beings when the truth of the matter is that the Bible says that Elohim was talking to the Elohim.

Using the Hebrew, this is what it actually says:

Elohim presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the Elohim.

To make it more complicated, Elohim is a plural word like the word deer: “I saw a deer” and “I saw a bunch of deer.” Both sentences properly use the word deer instead of deers which would be incorrect and isn’t even a word. Elohims (with an s) isn’t a Hebrew word.

Well, a lot of translators don’t want to confuse Bible believing readers with what the scripture actually says so they fudge the translation to make it jive with conventional theology. But once we accept what scripture actually says, then we can start asking the questions – was the Psalmist being poetic? Sarcastic? Did this Psalmist believe there were many Elohims – many Gods and that they actually gathered occasionally for an industry association meeting? There are many scholarly theories. BUT the real crime would be to get hung up with the question and discredit the whole shebang.  Because what God says to the Gods is utterly amazing:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 82:1-4

If that doesn’t speak into our world today, what does? So let’s get out there today and defend, uphold, rescue, and deliver! If we are attentive, we will find this work everywhere around us. Because if you aren’t defending, upholding, rescuing, and delivering the guy in the cube next to you, then you aren’t going to do it for the big societal issues either. And you don’t get a pass for being busy. Let’s get out there… Go!

April’s Books

 

15 Comments on “God throws shade on a bunch of Gods

  1. Genesis1:1, “In the begining God (i.e. elohim, the Gods) created…..”
    26. “…God (elohim, the gods) said, ‘Let us make man in our image…’ “

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  2. The older texts in the Old Testament use “Elohim” – which is plural. All that means is that those texts predate the emergence of true monotheism among the Hebrews. The beauty of the Old Testament is that later editors did not simply omit things with which they did not agree. Compare the two (yes, two) creation stories: Genesis 1:2 – 2:4a // The second creation story begins with Genesis 2:4b and goes on. The later editors did, however, put their own versions before the older versions. Who could blame them? The profundity of the Bible lies in its diversity. And to finish, let me put it this way: Everything in the Bible is true… and some of it actually happened!

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  3. In a Christian college, the teacher of “Biblical history and literature” and “our Christian Tradition” taught us the truth (in that case only) That the ancient Jews believed there were many Gods and that “Jehovah” was only one of many. Abraham just believed that his God was the most powerful.

    The other thing was that worship of Ba’al was forbidden because that put Ba’al as equal with their YHVH
    My belief is that since “Do not take the mane of God in vain” supposedly translates better as “Do not treat the name of God as powerless” it would work with polytheism. “Our God is stronger than all those other Gods so treat the name of YHVH as more powerful than the name of any God.”

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    • As a retired teacher in a private, religious high school – – I would explain that commandment thusly: Do not use the word God (the name of God) for things that aren’t important. Full stop.

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    • The ancients believed in the power of names. We don’t, except in my youth hearing TV shows where police said “I arrest you in the name of the law.” There seems no way to bridge the cultural distance of believing in the power of names, and using such terminology seems anachronistic and arcane.

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    • It is very interesting! Jesus uses it to explain his own relationship to God:

      Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”
      (John 10:34-36).

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  4. I get your newsletter and also check the box for notification of replies. 🙂 I’ve read three of your books and when I get some other things cleared away, I will be reading the one on St. Francis. I very much appreciate your view of the Bible and Christianity.

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  5. Thank you! That was exactly the verse I was looking for! I read about it in a blog called ‘slacktivist’ by Fred Clark and he interpreted it in exactly the same way. Doesn’t the commandment “You shall have no other gods before me” also make a case for there being “other gods”? I mean we know there are other gods because we read about them in the Bible; Baal and so on. It’s odd that people go out of their way to deny that when interpreting this verse. I know the Bible uses many metaphors, but the commandments don’t seem to be that metaphorical to me, so why slip metaphorical gods into them. Thanks again, for chasing this down. The blog in which I read about it doesn’t have a very good search function and whatever words/phrases I tried in other places didn’t pull up the portion I wanted.

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