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A Discussion of Psalm 82

 


In April of 1998, James White appeared on radio station KTKK in Salt Lake City, Utah.   One of the callers to the program was Dr. William Hamblin of Brigham Young University.  Dr. Hamblin did not identify himself when he called in, but asked James White concerning the variant reading of Deuteronomy 32:8 in the Dead Sea Scrolls.   After James returned home, Dr. Hamblin contacted him by e-mail.  Below we provide the discussion that has ensued.  The same material can be found at: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_01.html.   The discussion ended May 29th, 1998, when Dr. Hamblin, in responding to the respectful use of the term "sir," indicated that it was his intention to "get to" James.  Given certain standards of civil behavior that James has always attempted to follow, the discussion was ended.

 

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 02:27 EDT
From: "William J. Hamblin" <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: Some Questions.
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

Jim,

In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night (I was the last caller on Van's show), I'd like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82.  The following is my translation, upon which you may comment as you like.  I am attempting to be as literal as possible.

1  Elohim stands/presides in the council/assembly ('adat) of El In the midst of the elohim he governs/passes judgement/enacts laws:

I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.  It certainly seems that this is exactly what is being described here.  (see, further, E. T. Mullen. The Assembly of the Gods Harvard Semitic Monographs 24 (1980)).  I pose to you the following question, to which I will give what seems to me to be the obvious answer. What is the council of El?  It is a group of gods/elohim.  Who are these elohim, in the midst of whom elohim stands? They are (in v. 6) the sons of Elyon.  How is the first elohim different from the second elohim?  He presides in the council.  He is the ruler of the other elohim.  Why does the Hebrew use precisely the same word to describe them? Because they are the same.

Then, in verses 2-4, the first elohim gives judgement, condemning the wickedness and unrighteous judgements given by the other elohim.  It continues in verse five.

  • 5  Without knowledge or understanding They wander in darkness [while] all the foundations of the earth are shaken

    6  I said: "Elohim you are, Even the sons of 'Elyon [the Most High], all of you.  Yet like Man [adam] you die And like one of the sharim [rulers/archangels] you fall."

Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of 'Elyon.  The bene elohim/bene 'elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods.  Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.  They become humans.  (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus; it is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in "Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind" forthcoming in a few months.

From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the the sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become human (like Adam), fall, and die.  (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of God to become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one with the Father, but that is another discussion.)

From an evangelical perspective this must all seem like gibberish.  I'd like to know how you explain it.

William J. Hamblin Associate
Professor of History

>Dear Jim,
>
>In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night (I was the last caller
>on Van's show), I'd like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82. The
>following is my translation, upon which you may comment as you like. I am
>attempting to be as literal as possible.
 

Thanks for writing, and I'm very sorry you didn't identify yourself when you called in. As soon as I saw the textual material in the BHS on Dt. 32, I recalled reading an article on the subject about four years ago. It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other than the Most High. Deut. 32:12 makes it plain. But note just a few examples:

 
Genesis 14:22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD
God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth,
 
Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And
will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
 
Psalm 9:1 {For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.} I will give
thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 2 I will be glad
and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
 
Psalm 21:7 For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of
the Most High he will not be shaken.

etc. and etc. A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the insertion of some "other" God into the text, as you suggested on the program.

First, I provide the comments I made on the passage in _Is the Mormon My Brother?_, pp. 156-158:

It is at this point that the Lord quotes from Psalm 82:6, which contains the important words, "I said you are gods." But when we go back to the passage from which this is taken (and surely the Jewish leaders would have known the context themselves), we find an important truth:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, "You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High." (Psalm 82:1-6)

Here we have the key to the passage, for this is a psalm of judgment against the rulers of Israel. God takes his stand in His own congregation, that being His own people, Israel. He judges in the midst of the "rulers." The Hebrew term here is "elohim," which could be translated "gods." The NASB however, recognizes that the context indicates who is being discussed, for the next verse reads, "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked." Who judges unjustly and shows partiality? Human judges, of course, human rulers amongst the people. Hence, the NASB rendering of "elohim" as "rulers." It is important to recognize the use of the term elohim in verse 1, for the very same term appears in verse 6, and is what lies behind Jesus' citation in John 10:34. Before moving on in the text, it should be noted that even at this point recognizing that this passage is talking about unjust human rulers removes this passage from the realm of possible passages to cite in support of a plurality of gods, and certainly, Jesus was not, by citing this passage, calling His accusers true divine beings.

When we get to verse six, we find that God has placed the judges of Israel in a position of being "gods" amongst the people. They were entrusted with the application of God's law. God calls them to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute (v. 3). This is their task, their duty. But they are failing that duty. They are not acting as proper, godly judges. Verse six, then, begins the pronouncement of judgment. Jesus only cites the beginning of the judgment-which was enough to make His point. But since many today do not immediately know the context the way the Jews did, we need to point it out. The rest of the phrase Jesus quotes is this: "Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes." Such is hardly the terminology one would use of divine and exalted beings! And this explains the use of the present tense verb "You are gods" in John 10:34. Jesus is saying His accusers are, right then, the judges condemned in Psalm 82. And what kind of judges were they? Unrighteous judges, who were judging unjustly. Jesus was calling His accusers false judges, and they well knew it.

I *thought* I had requested that a copy of the book be sent to you at BYU. Did you not receive a copy? I *know* one was sent to Dan Peterson.

Now, on to your own comments:

>1 Elohim stands/presides in the council/assembly ('adat) of El
>In the midst of the elohim he governs/passes judgement/enacts laws:

In context, I would say shaphat is here clearly in reference to an act of judgment.

>I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.

In the context presented by Joseph Smith and Mormonism, I would repeat the statement.

>It certainly seems that this is exactly what is being described here. (see,
>further, E. T. Mullen. The Assembly of the Gods Harvard Semitic Monographs
>24 (1980)).

Or, the passage is saying that Yahweh, as the one who established the judges of Israel, judges amongst those judges.

>I pose to you the following question, to which I will give what seems to me
>to be the obvious answer.
>What is the council of El? It is a group of gods/elohim.

Given the context (which you skipped), I would say it is the judges of Israel. This can be confirmed by looking at the use of edah in such passages as Numbers 26:9, 31:16, Joshua 22:17, and Psalm 1:5.

>Who are these elohim, in the midst of whom elohim stands? They are (in v.
>6) the sons of Elyon.

Again, if you would allow the context to stand as a unit, the answer to the question is without question:

Psalm 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked?
Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
Psalm 82:6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Psalm 82:7 "Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes."
Psalm 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.
 

Yahweh is judging the elohim. What is the content of the judgment? Verses 2 through 7. In verse 2, God brings the charge: unjust judging and partiality to the wicked. You say that this judgment comes upon "(some of?) the other elohim." Yet, the very verses you skip over demonstrate that these are plainly HUMAN matters. The unjust judgment and partiality toward the wicked are HUMAN actions:

Deuteronomy 1:17 'You shall not show partiality [note the phraseology used here, Dr. Hamblin] in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'

Proverbs 18:5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

The judges are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute:

Exodus 22:22 "You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

Job 29:12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, And the orphan who had no helper.

Zechariah 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'

These elohim are doing just the opposite. Just how, Dr. Hamblin, do you substantiate the idea that gods other than the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (in the LDS viewpoint) are somehow held responsible for passing juridicial sentences in Israelite society? Just how are these "gods" supposed to vindicate or do justice on this earth? How are they to rescue the week and needy, or deliver them from the hand of the wicked ones? I wasn't aware these other "gods" were involved in this world so as to be judged by God as having failed their task. Isn't it the common belief of Mormons that 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 *does* refer to other divine beings, but that for US there is but one God, and we don't have "dealings" with these others?

Be that as it may, a fair, contextual exegesis, then, closes the door upon the rather strange (from my view) constructs placed upon the passage by those who absolutely *must* find some way of turning the text of the Old Testament into a polytheistic text. The meaning---if the text is allowed to speak for itself---is rather plain.

>How is the first elohim different from the second elohim? He presides in
>the council. He is the ruler of the other elohim.

The first Elohim is used with a singular verb, nazav, while the second is used with cherev, "in the midst of," which indicates plurality.

>Why does the Hebrew use precisely the same word to describe them? Because
>they are the same.

Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First Presidency?), and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people. This is an established use of the term:

Exodus 22:8 "If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges [Hebrew: ha'elohim], to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor's property.

Exodus 22:9 "For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, 'This is it,' the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

>Then, in verses 2-4, the first elohim gives judgement, condemning the
>wickedness and unrighteous judgements given by (some of?) the other elohim.
>It continues in verse five.
>5 Without knowledge or understanding
>They wander in darkness
>[while] all the foundations of the earth are shaken

This would refer to the general degradation and destruction brought upon a culture by unrighteous judges---a result, sadly, we can see all around us in our own nation this day. I am sure you would not disagree with at least that assertion.

>6 I said: "Elohim you are,
>Even the sons of 'Elyon [the Most High], all of you.
>Yet like Man [adam] you die
>And like one of the sharim [rulers/archangels] you fall."

No reason for the translation rulers/archangels----given the judicial/political context already established above, the translation "princes" is just fine.

And, as I established above, the OT identifies YHWH as Elyon.

>Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of 'Elyon.

Yes, the shophtey are given a highly exalted position amongst the people of Israel.

>The bene elohim/bene 'elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods.

Rulers, yes. Judges, as clearly established above.

>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.

Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating "become like men and die." They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment. As rulers, they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty. God reminds them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die as all men die.

>They
>become humans. (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus;
>it is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in
>"Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind"
>forthcoming in a few months.)

Hopefully the proposed publication will not engage in the same kind of unwarranted leap that is presented here---there is nothing in the text that says "they become humans."

>From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the
>sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become human
>(like Adam), fall, and die. (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of God to
>become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one with the
>Father, but that is another discussion.)

From the simple perspective of the passage, there is nothing that even begins to suggest or intimate anything about these elohim "becoming human." By ignoring verses 3 through 5, and the constant use of the terms included therein, you have completely misinterpreted the passage, capping this off with the insertion of a completely foreign concept of "becoming humans" here at the end. No meaningful connection with the text, however, is provided.

>From your evangelical perspective this psalm must all seem like gibberish.
>I'd like to know how you explain it.

I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text to speak for itself.

James>>>


At this point there were a few short messages, then this full reply to the above:

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 11:04:53 -0600
From: "William J. Hamblin" <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: bene elyon are elohim
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

Dear James,

JAMES
It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other than the Most High.  Deut. 32:12 makes it plain.  [BILL: It does?]  But note just a few examples:  [Cites: Genesis 14:22; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 21:7]  A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the insertion of some "other" God into the text, as you suggested on the program.

BILL
I should explain my comments on the radio.  I was trying to read the Hebrew text, listen to you, and think of what I was going to say simultaneously.  I therefore mispoke.  (Radio shows are not a very helpful venue for discussing technical issues like this.)  I realized shortly thereafter that my statement on this matter had been confused, but by then the topic had shifted, so I decided to drop it.

At any rate, my position is as follows.
1- I am, of course, aware that Yahweh is called Elyon in some passages in the OT.  That does not necessarily demonstrate that Elyon and Yahweh must be understood as referring to same figure in Deut. 32:8-9.  You, of course, are interpreting from evangelical presuppositions, and insist that the theology of all verses in the Bible must be absolutely consistent with all others.  But to argue that, since Yahweh and Elyon are equated with some texts, he therefore must be equated with Elyon in all texts, is, of course, blatant circular reasoning.  I believe there was historical development ("line upon line") in the Biblical text and theology, and that, in fact, the OT understanding of God is quite different from the NT (as the rabbis would insist).  You cannot find the Nicene Trinity clearly described in the OT any more clearly than you can find the LDS Godhead--so the argument of your book in that regard cuts both ways.  Be that as it may, I certainly grant that it is possible to interpret this passage as saying that Elyon divided the nations among the bene elohim, and that Elyon/Yahweh's portion was Israel, and I believe I said so on the radio. (As Paul noted, this interpretation, however, conflicts with the biblical notion that Israel was Michael's portion, not Yahweh's, but that's another matter.)
2- The fact that you are "amaze[d] . . . that someone could believe Yahweh [in Deut 32] is someone other than the Most High" tells us more about you than the argument, since many very intelligent interpreters of the text see it in precisely those terms.  I can provide a bibliography if you are unaware of such studies.  The point is, then, that the text, like many others, is ambiguous, and can be interpreted in several ways.
3- If, as you claim, Deut 32 is attempting to say that Elyon took Israel as his portion, it does so in a very ambiguous and confusing way, which is precisely why latter editors changed the text from bene elohim to bene Yisrael.  If the text so unambiguously says what you claim, why did later editors feel compelled to expunge the offending line, thereby removing the possibility of reading the text as Elyon giving Yahweh a portion?  The text was clearly understood by enough early readers as saying something along those lines that the editors felt compelled to change the text. Furthermore, why would God inerrantly inspire a text in such a dreadfully ambiguous manner?
4- I should note also that, interestingly enough, to the best of my knowledge the phrase bene Yahweh never occurs in the OT.  (Do you know of any?)  If so, it is interesting to ask why?  Why are there bene elim, bene ha-elohim, bene elohim and bene elyon, but--if all of these are simple equivalents for Yahweh--there are no bene Yahweh?

But this was not my real argument.  The radio discussion was sidetracked in a number of directions simultaneously (as usual), preventing a coherent discussion.  The issue I originally tried to raise was, who are the bene elohim/elyon?  This needs to be discussed in the context of the NT use of elyon/hypsistos (LXX Greek for elyon), which we never got to on the radio.  In the NT Christ is called the son of elyon/hypsistos (Lk 1:32, 1:35, 8:28, Mk 5:7), but is never himself called hypsistos (all other passages: Lk 1:76; Acts 7:28, 16:7, Heb 7:1).  Hypsistos is thus, by accident or intention, a unique title for the Father in the NT.  The final interesting passage is Lk 6:35, which reads that the followers of Christ should "love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High (huioi hypsistou)."  Notice, then, that in the NT Christ is the son of hypsistos, and so are the followers of Christ.  This parallels Mt 5:9, where the "peacemakers . . . shall be called the sons of God."   I'm sure you are aware of the many other passages where the saved become sons of God. We can discuss them if you'd like.

Notice, then, what the combination of these texts, with a literal reading of Ps 82, implies the following:
   Christ is the son of the Most High
   his true followers can become the sons of the Most High
   Christ is the son of God
   his true followers can become the sons of God
   Ps 82:6 The sons of the Most High are gods/elohim
When Christ quoted "ye are gods" from Ps. 82:6, he was--in typical rabbinic fashion--giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, "Read Ps 82:6," but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they were referencing.  Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.  Christ was certainly aware that the very next phrase of the text he was citing to justify his claim to being the Son of God, explicitly equates the sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou with the elohim/gods.  Which is, of course, precisely what he was claiming: that he, as the Son of God, was one with the Father, i.e. he was elohim/theos.  This is precisely what the Jews understood him as saying.  There was no ambiguity or confusion.  There was no condemnation of anyone as unrighteous judges.  Everyone understood the argument and its implications.  To me the issue and argument are crystal clear, and all the nonsense about elohim = judges completely distorts the text of Jn 10, and destroys the thrust of Christ's argument.  If we are to take the scripture seriously, we must conclude that sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou are elohim/gods, and that the true followers of Christ can become sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou, or in other words, elohim/gods.  And this, of course, is the LDS Christian position.

Now, you may not like this theology, and you don't have to agree with it.  You may perform all the exegetical acrobatics you wish to try to make the text say something else.   But this is the literal sense of the text, and the only interpretation in which Christ's argument in John 10 makes logical sense.  So, though I readily grant you the right to disagree, I can't see how you can claim the LDS position on this matter is unbiblical or non-Christian, or that you are letting the text speak for itself, while I am somehow distorting it.

I won't cite your entire lengthy argument on the judges = elohim, but will make a few comments.  You have a heavy burden of proof to sustain.
1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat).  If Ps 82 meant to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn't God inerrantly inspire the psalmist to use the word for judge?  Why all this language about elohim, the council of el, and the bene elyon?
2- Your claim that humans have judging functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct.  I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).
3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement.  This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges.
4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term elohim unequivocally means judge?  You attempted to do so as follows:

JAMES
Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First Presidency?),  [BILL:  Yes I do, but it cannot be clearly found in the OT, although I believe it can be sustained from the NT, but that is a different matter.]  and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people.  This is an established use of the term:
[Cite: Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:9]

BILL
(You should also have added Exodus 21:6, which in the KJV and some other translations says the same type of thing.) 
I'm sorry, but you will simply have to do better than that.  Note, first, that these passages do not say that elohim are shaphat.  Note, second, that there is not a reason in the world to translate elohim in these three passages as judges.  The LXX has theos/god in all three cases, the Vulgate deus, and the NRSV God.  Though the NIV uses "judges", it offers the alternative "God" in a footnote.
In fact, the reason ha-elohim is occasionally translated as judges in these three passages is because of the Targum Onkelos, and similar documents.  The problem seems to be that the rabbis didn't like the literal implications of the phrase ha-elohim = the gods, and so simply changed it in translation to fit their theology, (precisely as you are doing).  At any rate, the text makes perfectly good sense when read literally.  The plaintiffs in a legal case are to appear before God, who will manifest the truth of the case through an unspecified form of revelation or divination.  There is no cogent reason, indeed, no reason at all, to translate elohim here as judges.

So, to conclude, if you want your claim that the word elohim in Ps 82 refers to human judges, I challenge you to show any passage in the OT where elohim is used in such a manner.  Not in translation, please, but based on an exegesis of the original Hebrew.

I suspect you have derived your interpretation, either directly or indirectly, from Calvin's commentary on Ps 82.  The history of the judge-elohim exegesis, however, seems to be older.  I have not tracked down the issue fully, but my suspicion is that the tradition of understanding Ps 82 as referring to judges originated with the early rabbis, and may have been, in fact, an attempt to undermine the Christian apologists' claims that the passage demonstrated the scriptural basis for Christ's claim to divinity by offering this alternative explanation to the plain meaning of the text.  At any rate, it is clear that the earliest Christian writers who discuss this passage concurs with my interpretation, and mention nothing about "judges."

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124
And when I saw that they were perturbed because I said that we are the sons of God, I anticipated their questioning, and said, "Listen, sirs, how the Holy Ghost speaks of this people, saying that they are all sons of the Highest; and how this very Christ will be present in their assembly, rendering judgment to all men.  The words are spoken by David, and are, according to your version of them, thus: ‘God standeth in the congregation of gods; He judgeth among the gods.  How long do ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?  Judge for the orphan and the poor, and do justice to the humble and needy.  Deliver the needy, and save the poor out of the hand of the wicked.  They know not, neither have they understood; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken.  I said, Ye are gods, and are all children of the Most High.  But ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes.  Arise, O God!  judge the earth, for Thou shalt inherit all nations.'  But in the version of the Seventy it is written, ‘Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes, in order to manifest the disobedience of men, — I mean of Adam and Eve, — and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent, who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve.  But as my discourse is not intended to touch on this point, but to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming "gods," and of having power to become sons of the Highest; and shall be each by himself judged and condemned like Adam and Eve.  Now I have proved at length that Christ is called God.

Irenaeus 3.6
And again: "God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods."  He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church.  For she is the synagogue of God, which God — that is, the Son Himself — has gathered by Himself.  Of whom He again speaks: "The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth."  Who is meant by God?  He of whom He has said, "God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence; " that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, "I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not."  But of what gods [does he speak]?  [Of those] to whom He says, "I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High."  To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the "adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father."

The rich irony here is that I am in agreement with the early Christians on this matter, while you are following an interpretation which seems to have been developed by rabbinic enemies of the Christian apologists, with whom I am agreeing!

JAMES
I *thought* I had requested that a copy of the book be sent to you at BYU. Did you not receive a copy? I *know* one was sent to Dan Peterson.

BILL
Yes, I got it. Thanks.

JAMES
>I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.
In the context presented by Joseph Smith and Mormonism, I would repeat the statement.

BILL
LDS Christians say there is a council of gods/elohim.  The OT says there is a council of gods/elohim.  Evangelicals say there is not a council of gods/elohim.  Which position is most consistent with the OT?

JAMES
>What is the council of El?  It is a group of gods/elohim.  Given the context (which you skipped), I would say it is the judges of Israel.  This can be confirmed by looking at the use of edah in such passages as Numbers 26:9, 31:16, Joshua 22:17, and Psalm 1:5.

BILL
Simply because the term edah/council/assembly is used to refer to human councils, does not mean that the edah of El in the midst of the elohim is a human council/assembly.

JAMES
>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.

Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating "become like men and die."  They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment.  As rulers, they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty.  God reminds them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die as all men die.

BILL
You are quite correct I overstated the case.  Let me phrase my interpretation more carefully.  The elohim in the council of el are condemned by God for their wickedness.  Though they are elohim, and thereby should be immortal, they are nonetheless condemned to die "like men."  You are correct that the text is not explicitly stating that they "become men."  However, it does state that (normally immortal) elohim will die like (normally mortal) men, which perhaps could be taken to imply some type of transition or "fall," as is mentioned in the next line.  This, of course, is how Justin understood the text.

JAMES
I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text to speak for itself.

BILL
Your claims that you are "allow[ing] the text to speak for itself" demonstrates a lack of exegetical sophistication on your part.  The text never "speaks for itself."  All texts require interpretation to be understood.  You interpret, I interpret.  We both do so based on a limited knowledge, and a set of unprovable assumptions and paradigms.  But a text can never simply "speak for itself."  Furthermore, your claim is simply absurd.  It is quite clear that I am interpreting the texts based on the literal sense of the words and phrases (although even this is not letting the text speak for itself"), while you are making unwarranted transformations.

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


Then there came a number of posts about how busy I was on Long Island, and assuring Dr. Hamblin that I would indeed be replying as time allowed.  I did so on April 24th:

>It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other
>than the Most High. Deut. 32:12 makes it plain. [BILL: It does?] But note
>just a few
>examples: [Cites: Genesis 14:22; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 21:7]
>A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the
>insertion of some "other" God into the text, as you suggested on the
>program.
>BILL
>I should explain my comments on the radio. I was trying to read the Hebrew
>text, listen to you, and think of what I was going to say simultaneously.

Yes, of course....so was I. Except you knew what you were going to toss my direction, and, as is the nature of radio programs, I didn't. Thankfully, I grabbed my BHS, not really thinking I'd need it. Providence. :)

>I
>therefore mispoke. (Radio shows are not a very helpful venue for discussing
>technical issues like this.) I realized shortly thereafter that my
>statement on this matter had been confused, but by then the topic had
>shifted, so I decided to drop it.

OK.

>At any rate, my position is as follows.
>1- I am, of course, aware that Yahweh is called Elyon in some passages in
>the OT. That does not necessarily demonstrate that Elyon and Yahweh must be
>understood as referring to same figure in Deut. 32:8-9. You, of course, are
>interpreting from evangelical presuppositions, and insist that the theology
>of all verses in the Bible must be absolutely consistent with all others.

Yes, of course. I accept the text as a body of revelation, not disparate, disjointed, self-contradictory pericopes that can be rearranged in any form or fashion we may find pleasing. While many modern "theologians" in liberal Protestantism obtain tenure by engaging in such playful re-arrangement of the divine text, I find many reasons not to do so, the most important being that I believe in Jesus Christ. Since I believe Him to be my risen Lord, I find it necessary to follow in His footsteps regarding His view of the Sacred Text. Having done a fairly thorough examination of His usage of Scripture and His statements concerning it, I am convinced that He was not merely playing rhetorical games when He said the following to the Sadducees:

But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:

Jesus considered the written word to embody the very speaking of God, holding men accountable to the Scriptures as though God had personally spoken those words directly to them (which, through the written word, He did). This is substantially the same view as that of Paul, who describes the inspired Scriptures as theopneustos, God-breathed, and that of Peter, who said holy men spoke *from* God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The nature of Scripture gives rise to its consistency. God does not contradict Himself. Hence, one can actually study the text of Scripture profitably---that is, since it is a consistent whole, one can determine its message, and apply what one learns. Liberal theology has inevitably led to the death of the denominations in which it has found a home---they have become religious social clubs, many no longer believing God is active in this world, no longer believing in the resurrection, miracles, or anything else, for that matter. But when one accepts the consistency of God's Word, one can then "hear" God speaking clearly---not in disparate and contradictory snippets, but in a symphonic unison of truth.

Now, I'd be willing to revise my view of the nature of Scripture if you could demonstrate to me that Jesus taught that the Bible is, in fact, nothing more than a heavily redacted collection of ancient Middle Eastern myths. Having been exposed to a healthy dose of such scholarship in the past, I doubt there is too much "new" out there in defense of such an idea, but feel free to suggest whatever you'd like.

>But to argue that, since Yahweh and Elyon are equated with some texts, he
>therefore must be equated with Elyon in all texts, is, of course, blatant
>circular reasoning.

On a strictly logical basis, that statement is glaringly false. If one's presupposition is that the text is inherently disjointed, of course----but if you begin with the presupposition that the text is unified, it is no more circular reasoning than assuming that any author is consistent in his own writings. I truly doubt, Dr. Hamblin, that you would appreciate someone taking one of your books, chopping it up into odd-sized bits, and then beginning the process of "interpretation" by *assuming* that you will contradict yourself on every page, indeed, in almost every paragraph. I would assume you appreciate it when people take the time to let you define your own terms, and give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to what might appear to be contradictory in your statements. It would, of course, be very, very easy to take even one of your articles and, by applying modern form critical methodology, make you appear to be completely inconsistent and absurd.

Therefore, it is not blatant circular reasoning, but simple contextual reading, that would bring me to say that Elyon is merely another term for Yahweh, and Yahweh is simply another name for Elohim.

In reality, *you* are the one reasoning circularly here. You are assuming something (the *dis*unity of the text) and allowing that presupposition to determine your usage. Yet, how do you prove disunity, since, of course, you cannot logically just presupose it? Most often it is "proven" by pointing to these very types of issues! Of course, only when it comes to studying the Bible can people get away with assuming such things. No one "assumes" disunity in other ancient documents without being challenged on it---but when it comes to the Bible, it's considered a given anymore.

>I believe there was historical development ("line upon
>line") in the Biblical text and theology, and that, in fact, the OT
>understanding of God is quite different from the NT (as the rabbis would
>insist).

Historical development is fine, if that means progressive revelation; i.e., that God did not begin His revelation with item 50 on a list of truths about God, but with item 1, then item 2, etc., each building upon the other. But, since you say that the OT "understanding of God is quite different from the NT," such would not be your meaning. You could amend that to say "the OT revelation of God is not as complete as the NT" and no one would argue the fact. There is, of course, one aspect that is completely the same in both: Yahweh Elohim is the one true and eterna God, period.

>You cannot find the NicaeanTrinity clearly described in the OT any
>more clearly than you can find the LDS Godhead--so the argument of your book
>in that regard cuts both ways.

You seem to misunderstand the argument of my book. I do not recall ever arguing that the Old Testament presents the fullness of the doctrine of the Trinity. Could you direct me to the page where you think I make that claim? In fact, my book is not about the doctrine of the Trinity. It's about monotheism. It's about the fundamental truth of the Bible that God is God, and is ontologically completely different than anything else, for He created everything else, and all things are dependent upon Him, while He is dependent upon nothing else. And it contrasts this fundamental truth with the LDS assertion that God is an exalted man. Hence, could you explain how the argument of my book "cuts both ways," since the argument of my book is that if you are not a monotheist, you are not a Christian? Since I'm a monotheist, how does that argument work against me?

>Be that as it may, I certainly grant that it
>is possible to interpret this passage as saying that Elyon divided the
>nations among the bene elohim, and that Elyon/Yahweh's portion was Israel,
>and I believe I said so on the radio. (As Paul noted, this interpretation,
>however, conflicts with the biblical notion that Israel was Michael's
>portion, not Yahweh's, but that's another matter.)

I do not have the tape with me, nor did I review it before I left Phoenix, but I do not have any recollection at all of your stating that the passage makes perfect sense seeing Yahweh as the Most High. In fact, I recall the idea that Yahweh is the son of Elyon, a secondary god, who receives as his chelek but one of the nations so divided. But, without the tape here, I will not pursue the issue.

As to Michael, I do not recall ever reading that Israel was given to Michael as chelek. Where might this be found?

>2- The fact that you are "amaze[d] . . . that someone could believe Yahweh
>[in Deut 32] is someone other than the Most High" tells us more about you
>than the argument, since many very intelligent interpreters of the text see
>it in precisely those terms. I can provide a bibliography if you are
>unaware of such studies. The point is, then, that the text, like many
>others, is ambiguous, and can be interpreted in several ways.

Indeed, if one does not believe the Bible's own testimony to monotheism, one can find in its text pretty much anything one's heart could desire. All the statement should tell you is that I continue to be amazed at the fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:15-16, issues of "intelligence" being completely irrelevant. There are intelligent people who believe all sorts of silly things----indeed, the preaching of the cross is to them who are perishing foolishness.

>3- If, as you claim, Deut 32 is attempting to say that Elyon took Israel as
>his portion, it does so in a very ambiguous and confusing way, which is
>precisely why latter editors changed the text from bene elohim to bene
>Yisrael.

Assuming, of course, your own position and the textual reading you have chosen. However, I cannot put a lot of stock in your statements regarding confusion, since you say you are confused as to how a Christian could understand Psalm 82 as well. The passage certainly does not confuse me, anymore than the simple reading of Psalm 82 does.

>If the text so unambiguously says what you claim, why did later
>editors feel compelled to expunge the offending line, thereby removing the
>possibility of reading the text as Elyon giving Yahweh a portion? The text
>was clearly understood by enough early readers as saying something along
>those lines that the editors felt compelled to change the text.

Could you provide the commentary of the alleged redactors that provides you with this certain information as to what they were thinking?

>Furthermore, why would God inerrantly inspire a text in such a dreadfully
>ambiguous manner?

I'm sorry, but such an argument is so circular as to boggle the mind. I don't believe the passage is the least bit amgibuous, nor do I believe many passages, all of which directly contradict LDS teaching, are ambiguous.

>4- I should note also that, interestingly enough, to the best of my
>knowledge the phrase bene Yahweh never occurs in the OT. (Do you know of
>any?) If so, it is interesting to ask why? Why are there bene elim, bene
>ha-elohim, bene elohim and bene elyon, but--if all of these are simple
>equivalents for Yahweh--there are no bene Yahweh?

I didn't say they were simple equivalents, of course. I said that Yahweh is Elohim and that there is only one true God in the Old Testament, such terms as Elyon likewise describing that one true God. It is illogical to take that statement and then say that I am making Yahweh a "simple equivalent." Yahweh is the covenant name of the maker of all things, including Israel. As such, it is more specific than Elohim.

>The issue I originally tried to raise was, who are the bene
>elohim/elyon? This needs to be discussed in the context of the NT use of
>elyon/hypsistos (LXX Greek for elyon), which we never got to on the radio.
>In the NT Christ is called the son of elyon/hypsistos (Lk 1:32, 1:35, 8:28,
>Mk 5:7), but is never himself called hypsistos (all other passages: Lk 1:76;
>Acts 7:28, 16:7, Heb 7:1). Hypsistos is thus, by accident or intention, a
>unique title for the Father in the NT.

I do not believe in accidents in the text of the NT. Be that as it may, since Elyon = Yahweh, and Yahweh is used of Father, Son, and Spirit (despite Van's protestations to the contrary), we find here more of the reason Christians refused to follow the path of polytheism but instead saw the truth of the Trinity.

>The final interesting passage is Lk
>6:35, which reads that the followers of Christ should "love your enemies,
>and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be
>great, and you will be the sons of the Most High (huioi hypsistou)."

NAB Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Adding the hoti clause surely indicates the context in which the phrase is being used, "FOR He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."

>Notice, then, that in the NT Christ is the son of hypsistos, and so are the
>followers of Christ.

Surely Christ is the Son of the Most High in a unique manner, for no one could ever argue that the last passage you cited has any ontological meaning whatsoever. To do so would require one to insist that Christ is only the Son of the Most High as He was kind to ungrateful and evil men, which makes no sense whatsoever. Hence, the bare statement that men and Christ are alike huioi of the Most High is highly misleading at best.

>This parallels Mt 5:9, where the "peacemakers . . .
>shall be called the sons of God." I'm sure you are aware of the many other
>passages where the saved become sons of God. We can discuss them if you'd
>like.

Matthew 5:9 parallels Luke 6:35, and refers to believers being called children of God as they imitate His behavior and goodness. None of these, however, make men the offspring of an exalted man from another planet, and none of them even begin to suggest that the relationship of Father and Son is limited to a merely moral dimension.

>Notice, then, what the combination of these texts, with a literal reading of
>Ps 82, implies the following:

The literal reading of Psalm 82, as I demonstrated, has nothing to do with your assertions regarding it.

> Christ is the son of the Most High

Ontologically and Messianically.

> his true followers can become the sons of the Most High

In the moral sense of followers of imitators of His goodness.

> Christ is the son of God

Eternally the Son.

> his true followers can become the sons of God

By faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

> Ps 82:6 The sons of the Most High are gods/elohim

As judges of the people of Israel, standing in His place, applying His law.

>When Christ quoted "ye are gods" from Ps. 82:6, he was--in typical rabbinic
>fashion--giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, "Read Ps 82:6,"
>but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
>Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they
>were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and
>to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.

Most definitely....including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4).

>Christ was
>certainly aware that the very next phrase of the text he was citing to
>justify his claim to being the Son of God, explicitly equates the sons of
>the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou with the elohim/gods. Which is, of
>course, precisely what he was claiming: that he, as the Son of God, was one
>with the Father, i.e. he was elohim/theos. This is precisely what the Jews
>understood him as saying. There was no ambiguity or confusion. There was
>no condemnation of anyone as unrighteous judges. Everyone understood the
>argument and its implications. To me the issue and argument are crystal
>clear, and all the nonsense about elohim = judges completely distorts the
>text of Jn 10, and destroys the thrust of Christ's argument.

Actually, allowing Psalm 82 to say what it says without removing entire sections that disagree with one's theories, fits perfectly in the Lord's use of the passage in John 10. There is no problem with the Lord's citation of the passage whatsoever, and to miss His own reference to "those unto whom the word of God came" and His condemnation of them as false judges is to merely close one's eyes to the text. Of course Jesus is claiming deity here...but that came from John 10:30, not from Psalm 82. The citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation upon them for accusing Him of blasphemy.

>If we are to take the scripture seriously, we must conclude that sons of the
>Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou are elohim/gods, and that the true
>followers of Christ can become sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi
>hypsistou, or in other words, elohim/gods. And this, of course, is the LDS
>Christian position.

As we have seen above, this is not taking Scripture seriously at all. It is stringing together disparate passages, ignoring their contexts, ignoring dozens of passages that completely contradict the fundamental assumptions of the argument, and coming to a conclusion that is really only provided to you by your faith in Joseph Smith, not by any meaningful form of exegesis.

>Now, you may not like this theology, and you don't have to agree with it.
>You may perform all the exegetical acrobatics you wish to try to make the
>text say something else.

The acrobatics are clearly being performed by yourself, Dr. Hamblin, not by me.

>But this is the literal sense of the text, and the
>only interpretation in which Christ's argument in John 10 makes logical
>sense.

That is completely untrue, and has been shown to be wishful thinking, not exegesis.

>So, though I readily grant you the right to disagree, I can't see
>how you can claim the LDS position on this matter is unbiblical or
>non-Christian, or that you are letting the text speak for itself, while I am
>somehow distorting it.

Since you have ignored the different uses of the phrases you string together, and have removed them form their contexts, the distortion is very, very clear.

>I won't cite your entire lengthy argument on the judges = elohim, but will
>make a few comments.

Since that was the substance of my response, I'm very disappointed that I have spent a week receiving notes about how I have failed to "answer" your points, when it is *my* points that are going unanswered.

>You have a heavy burden of proof to sustain.
>1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82
>meant to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn't God inerrantly
>inspire the psalmist to use the word for judge? Why all this language about
>elohim, the council of el, and the bene elyon?

You are ignoring the passages I provided to you that use elohim clearly for judges. Please respond to those passages I cited to you, including:

Exodus 22:8 "If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges [Hebrew: ha'elohim], to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor's property.

>2- Your claim that humans have judging functions as described in Ps 82 is
>quite correct. I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the
>supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
>human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine
>judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

Not relevant to the issue at hand, nor the plain usage at Exodus 22 or Psalm 82.

>3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust
>judgement. This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to
>mean judges.

Such usage is so firmly established as to be beyond discussion.

>4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term
>elohim unequivocally means judge? You attempted to do so as follows:
>
>JAMES
>Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you
>embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First
>Presidency?), [BILL: Yes I do, but it cannot be clearly found in the OT,
>although I believe it can be sustained from the NT, but that is a different
>matter.]

It is a different matter....but it shows that LDS teachings are derived from LDS authority, not biblical exegesis.

>and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use
>of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people. This is
>an established use of the term:
>[Cite: Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:9]
>
>BILL
>(You should also have added Exodus 21:6, which in the KJV and some other
>translations says the same type of thing.)

Possibly, but that is not necessary. The usage at Exodus 22 is plain enough.

>I'm sorry, but you will simply have to do better than that. Note, first,
>that these passages do not say that elohim are shaphat.

Nor, of course, does it need to. Anyone reading the context knows what is going on. The elohim in Exodus 22:9 "condemn" (hiphil of rasha)---and any person familiar with the term knows its legal ramifications, and its connection with shaphat. Note just one passage that again supports the exegesis I provided:

NAB Deuteronomy 1:17 'You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'

This is, of course, the positive of which Psalm 82:2-4 is the negative, even to the point of the condemnation of showing partiality. Psalm 82 uses shaphat of the action of the elohim----and then, as I showed, limits this to human affairs. You have completely ignored the entire section of my post that demonstrates this I believe beyond any reasonable doubt. Since you seem to have lost this section, I repeat it here, and ask you to respond to it meaningfully:

Again, if you would allow the context to stand as a unit, the answer to the question is without question:

Psalm 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked?

Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.

Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Psalm 82:6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.

Psalm 82:7 "Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes."

Psalm 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

Yahweh is judging the elohim. What is the content of the judgment? Verses 2 through 7. In verse 2, God brings the charge: unjust judging and partiality to the wicked. You say that this judgment comes upon "(some of?) the other elohim." Yet, the very verses you skip over demonstrate that these are plainly HUMAN matters. The unjust judgment and partiality toward the wicked are HUMAN actions:

Deuteronomy 1:17 'You shall not show partiality [note the phraseology used here, Dr. Hamblin] in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'

Proverbs 18:5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

The judges are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute:

Exodus 22:22 "You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

Job 29:12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, And the orphan who had no helper.

Zechariah 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'

These elohim are doing just the opposite. Just how, Dr. Hamblin, do you substantiate the idea that gods other than the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (in the LDS viewpoint) are somehow held responsible for passing juridicial sentences in Israelite society? Just how are these "gods" supposed to vindicate or do justice on this earth? How are they to rescue the week and needy, or deliver them from the hand of the wicked ones? I wasn't aware these other "gods" were involved in this world so as to be judged by God as having failed their task. Isn't it the common belief of Mormons that 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 *does* refer to other divine beings, but that for US there is but one God, and we don't have "dealings" with these others?

Be that as it may, a fair, contextual exegesis, then, closes the door upon the rather strange (from my view) constructs placed upon the passage by those who absolutely *must* find some way of turning the text of the Old Testament into a polytheistic text. The meaning---if the text is allowed to speak for itself---is rather plain.

>Note, second, that
>there is not a reason in the world to translate elohim in these three
>passages as judges.

There is every reason just re-cited as ignored by you in your response.

>In fact, the reason ha-elohim is occasionally translated as judges in these
>three passages is because of the Targum Onkelos, and similar documents. The
>problem seems to be that the rabbis didn't like the literal implications of
>the phrase ha-elohim = the gods, and so simply changed it in translation to
>fit their theology, (precisely as you are doing).

Or, more logically, the context indicates otherwise. A context you have yet to even attempt to address.

>At any rate, the text makes perfectly good sense when read literally. The
>plaintiffs in a legal case are to appear before God, who will manifest the
>truth of the case through an unspecified form of revelation or divination.
>There is no cogent reason, indeed, no reason at all, to translate elohim
>here as judges.

There is no cogent reason to withhold utter amazement at such confident statements in the face of such obvious error.

>So, to conclude, if you want your claim that the word elohim in Ps 82 refers
>to human judges, I challenge you to show any passage in the OT where elohim
>is used in such a manner. Not in translation, please, but based on an
>exegesis of the original Hebrew.

I have done so----Exodus 22 and Psalm 82 are so clear, and so compelling, that your unwillingness to see this is highly illustrative of what happens when one accepts an extra-biblical authority as the determining factor in one's "exegesis."

>I suspect you have derived your interpretation, either directly or
>indirectly, from Calvin's commentary on Ps 82.

Not in any way. I've not read his comments. My exegesis is derived from the text.

>The rich irony here is that I am in agreement with the early Christians on
>this matter, while you are following an interpretation which seems to have
>been developed by rabbinic enemies of the Christian apologists, with whom I
>am agreeing!

Of course, neither passage from Justin or Irenaeus can logically be used to promote polytheism---though, of course, the context of patristic citations seems to suffer as badly at your hands as the context of Psalm 82.

>>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.
>
>Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating "become
>like men and die." They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that
>though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His
>people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment. As rulers,
>they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we
>can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty. God reminds
>them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die
>as all men die.
>You are quite correct I overstated the case. Let me phrase my
>interpretation more carefully.
>The elohim in the council of el are condemned by God for their wickedness.
>Though they are elohim, and thereby should be immortal, they are nonetheless
>condemned to die "like men." You are correct that the text is not
>explicitly stating that they "become men." However, it does state that
>(normally immortal) elohim will die like (normally mortal) men, which
>perhaps could be taken to imply some type of transition or "fall," as is
>mentioned in the next line. This, of course, is how Justin understood the
>text.

Again, the eisegetical approach leads you to miss the most basic sence of the language. These are human judges, and due to their immorality and false judgment, they are condemned by God. The same is true in John 10: were the Jews who were about to stone Jesus elohim, Dr. Hamblin? The verb is present tense---were they, at that time, elohim, or false judges about to stone Jesus having passed a false judgment upon Him? Indeed, are YOU an elohim, Dr. Hamlbin? (Jeremiah 10:11).

>I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to
>anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text
>to speak for itself.
>Your claims that you are "allow[ing] the text to speak for itself"
>demonstrates a lack of exegetical sophistication on your part. The text
>never "speaks for itself." All texts require interpretation to be
>understood. You interpret, I interpret. We both do so based on a limited
>knowledge, and a set of unprovable assumptions and paradigms. But a text
>can never simply "speak for itself."

Words mean things, Dr. Hamblin. The text *can* speak for itself, and in this case, does so quite admirably. What I meant is clear in the context in which I used it: and your ability to remove words from their context has been established in this very, very long response.

>Furthermore, your claim is simply absurd. It is quite clear that I am
>interpreting the texts based on the literal sense of the words and phrases
>(although even this is not letting the text speak for itself"), while you
>are making unwarranted transformations.

I will gladly let those who read this judge who is guilty of doing that, Dr. Hamblin. I now await a meaningful response to the issue of the two verses in Psalm 82 that you have, thus far, completely ignored (3 & 4).

James>>>


Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 17:27:03 -0600
From: "William J. Hamblin" <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: John 10
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

BILL
Before I give you my contextual reading of Ps 82, let's see if we can
resolve a much more straightforward problem. Let's see if we can agree
about the meaning of John 10. If we can't achieve that, I suspect this
entire enterprise is quite hopeless. I believe we should start with John 10
since we can then use Jesus' reading of the passage as the key to
understanding Ps 82. Maybe I'm wrong, but humor me for now. Your
discussion John 10 leaves much unclear. Here is your relevant statement:

JAMES
Actually, allowing Psalm 82 to say what it says [that it is a condemnation
of human judges] without removing entire sections that disagree with one's
theories, fits perfectly in the Lord's use of the passage in John 10. There
is no problem with the Lord's citation of the passage whatsoever, and to
miss His own reference to "those unto whom the word of God came" and His
condemnation of them as false judges is to merely close one's eyes to the
text. Of course Jesus is claiming deity here...but that came from John
10:30, not from Psalm 82. The citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation upon
them for accusing Him of blasphemy.

BILL
I'm afraid I simply don't understand your interpretation. There are too
many hidden assumptions and too much rhetorical posturing, and not enough
close attention to the text. Let's move through the passage verse by verse
and see if we can get a consensus on the meaning. I'll cite the RSV. I
believe there are no significant ambiguities of translation here, but we can
quibble about translation if you'd like.

24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, "How long will you keep
us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

Jesus responds with a brief discourse on the works that he does, and that
the Jews are not his sheep or they would "hear my voice" (27) i.e.
understand and accept him as the Messiah. Those who accept Jesus will have
eternal life. Jesus concludes saying that "I and the Father are one" (30).
The Jewish reaction to this claim culminates in Christ's citation of Ps 82.

31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father;
for which of these do you stone me?"

In OT stoning was punishment for the following offenses:
apostasy (Lev 20:2; Deut 13:11)
worshiping other gods (Deut 17:2-7)
child sacrifice to Molech (Lev 20:2-5)
prophesying in the name of another god (Deut 13:1-5)
blasphemy (Lev 24:14-16)
sorcery/spirit divination (Lev 20:27)
sabbath violation (Num 15:32-36)
disobedience to parents (Deut 21:18-21)
adultery (Deut 22:21-24)
Jesus is ironically asking for which of these offenses is he going to be
stoned. (Note, at various points in the NT, Jesus is accused of blasphemy,
sabbath violation, and sorcery.) The Jews clearly understood the ironic
question:

33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but
for blasphemy; because, you, being a man, make yourself God." (I would
translate this as "make yourself a god," since theon here as no definite
article. Jesus is not making himself *the God*, but *a god*. But this
issue is not really relevant to our current discussion.)

Are we agreed so far? Quibbling aside, do you have any major objections to
my exegesis to this point? If not, then the crux of the matter is in 34-36.

34 a Jesus answered them,
b "Is it not written in your law,
c 'I said you are gods'?
35 a If he called them gods
b to whom the word [logos] of God came
c (and scripture cannot be broken),
36 a do you say of him
b whom the Father consecrated [hagiasen = made holy]
c and sent into the world,
d 'You are blaspheming,'
e because I said,
f 'I am the Son of God.'"

So, lets go phrase by phrase and see what the passage means.

I think there will be no dispute over 35a-c. Jesus is using "law"
(nomos/torah) in its broader sense of the entire Hebrew Bible, rather than
just the Pentateuch. The passage, "I said 'you are gods'" is a quotation of
Ps 82:6. Are we agreed so far?

It would seem that the center of the debate is the phrase of 34a-b, "if he
called them gods to whom the word of God came." I think there are only
three questions. I will give them, and the possible answers as I understand
the matter. If you have other possible questions or answers, please feel
free to offer them.

1. Who is the "he" who is calling someone "gods"? (Whoever "he" is, I
think "he" is clearly the "I" of 35c = Ps 82:6. Can we agree on that?) The
possible identifications I can think of are:
A. God
B. David the psalmist
C. Some other unknown prophetic author of the psalms.
Within the context of Ps 82 (which we can debate in detail later), I
personally think that the "I" of 35c and Ps 82:6 can only be God/elohim of
82:1. Thus, God himself is speaking; he is saying to someone, "ye are
gods." Are we agreed on this, or is there some other possible
interpretation?

2. Who are the "them" who are being called gods? (I suspect we can agree
that "to whom" in 35b refers to the "them" in 35a, right?) I believe that
they are the elohim of the adat El (gods of the assembly of El/God) in 82:1.
I suspect you would even agree with this interpretation. If I understand
you correctly, you think that these elohim are metaphorically referring to
unrighteous judges of the assembly of Israel. I understand the text
literally as referring to elohim/gods of the assembly of El. There are
several other possible interpretations
A. The elohim of the adat El (my view)
B. The prophets of Israel in general, unto whom the word of God came
C. The people of Israel in general, unto whom the word of God came through
the prophets
D. Any other suggestions?
For you, if I have understood correctly, the elohim of Ps 82 are human
judges.
For me, the elohim of Ps 82 are literally gods/celestial beings/bene elyon.
Have I identified the crux of our disagreement here?
(Let's not get off on a tangent now about how I have failed to contextualize
Ps 82, etc. etc. I have read your arguments, and I will return to them
shortly. For now, lets just try to identify the focus of our disagreement
on John 10. At this point, let's not debate the relative merits of our two
interpretations, let's just try to clearly identify where we agree and
disagree.)

3. What, specifically, is the "word of God" which came to the "them" of
question 2? I will await your interpretation, but to me it is the phrase
"ye are gods." "I", God, said to "them" (elohim/judges [your view] or
elohim/literal gods [my view]): "ye are gods." Therefore the "word" of God
which came to "them" is the statement, "ye are elohim, even the bene elyon,
all of you," etc. Do you agree, or do you understand it differently?

We can now turn to John 10:36, which I'll give again:

36 a do you [Jews] say of him [Jesus]
b whom the Father consecrated [hagiasen = made holy]
c and sent into the world,
d 'You are blaspheming,'
e because I [Jesus] said,
f 'I am the Son of God.'

As I understand 36a: "do you say of him = do you [Jews] say of him [Jesus]".
36b-c are thus parenthetical phrases which define "him"/Jesus, which, though
very interesting from an LDS perspective, I don't feel have a bearing on our
debate here. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

In 36d, then, the Christ is saying that Jews are saying "you [Jesus] are
blaspheming." I feel that this is quite obvious, and is an allusion back to
the express statement of
the Jews to that effect in 33. Are we agreed on this?

Thus, in light of all this, I read the argument of Jesus in 35-36 as
follows. Jesus in 30 says that "I and the Father are one." The Jews
understand him as blaspheming, and prepare to stone him. Jesus asks them
why they are going to stone him. They reply, "because you, being a man,
make yourself a god" (33). Now I understand 34-36 as Jesus' defense of his
claim to divinity. He is arguing that his claim to be one with the Father
is not blasphemy. What is the argument? As I understand it Jesus is saying
that his claim to be one with the Father (i.e a claim to be theos) and the
Son of God is not blasphemy, because in Ps 82:6 God calls others (whomever
they might be) *precisely* both god and sons of god/elyon: "ye are gods,
even the sons of the Most High, all of you." Now I know that we disagree
about who these others are, and, as noted above, I will return to that issue
in a later letter. But, no matter who they may, I think the argument being
made by Jesus is clear. Do you agree or not?

Now, if my understanding of Jesus' argument is correct, and if the word
elohim in Ps 82 is merely a metaphorical usage for human judges as you
claim, then Jesus' argument is sophistry. He is saying that his claim to be
god/son of god in the literal sense of the term is not blasphemous, because
in Ps 82, human judges are metaphorically called gods. This is blatant
equivocation on Jesus' part. A metaphorical usage in the Psalms cannot
justify the literal usage by Jesus in John 10. I am arguing that whomever
Ps 82 might be referring to (and we can discuss the specifics later), they
must be ontological gods in some meaningful sense of the word, or Jesus'
defense of his claim of being ontologically god is mere sophistry.

You, apparently disagree with my understanding of Jesus' argument, and
frankly I don't understand what in the world you are talking about. You
claim that "the citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation [as unrighteous
judges] upon them [the Jews] for accusing Him [Jesus] of blasphemy." I'm
sorry, but I simply don't see this anywhere in this passage. Could you
please provide a line by line exegesis, paralleling what I have done here,
to explain why you think Jesus is condemning his accusers as unrighteous
judges rather than defending himself against their charge of blasphemy?
Where, specifically have I gotten it wrong? (And please, no more rhetorical
posturing about how I am stripping everything from context and you are
merely letting the text speak for itself. Just evidence and analysis
please.)

It seems to me there are only two other possible options for understanding
Jesus here: 1- I am wrong, and Jesus is not trying to defend himself
against the accusation of blasphemy, but is saying something else, [and
every commentary I have read, liberal or conservative, thinks that Jesus is
defending himself against the charge of blasphemy] or 2- Jesus really was
using sophistic methods common to rabbinic hermeneutics. I've seen many
people argue #2, but I've never seen a published argument against #1. If
you have some bibliographic references on that subject, I'd like to see
them.

A final note which is not really relevant to the Ps 82/Jn 10 debate. Note
that in Jn 10:36f Jesus says that he had said, "I am the Son of God." In
fact he does not explicitly say this in this argument, nor anywhere in the
NT. What he says, in verse 30 is "I and the Father are one." This is
somehow meant by Jesus to imply his sonship. What do you make of that?

I personally don't think that 10:37-38 have any bearing on Jesus's argument
here. Jesus is simply offering a reason for the Jews to believe: that Jesus
does the works of the Father. I don't see this as providing a further
justification in Jesus's defense against the Jews' accusation of blasphemy.
If you understand it differently, please let me know.

This is how I understand this facet of our debate. Once this is clarified,
we can move on to Ps 82.


William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


My response indicates that I am unwilling to allow the removal of verses 3 and 4 from the 82nd Psalm to go unchallenged:

>BILL
>Before I give you my contextual reading of Ps 82, let's see if we can
>resolve a much more straightforward problem. Let's see if we can agree
>about the meaning of John 10. If we can't achieve that, I suspect this
>entire enterprise is quite hopeless. I believe we should start with John 10
>since we can then use Jesus' reading of the passage as the key to
>understanding Ps 82. Maybe I'm wrong, but humor me for now.

And later:

>This is how I understand this facet of our debate. Once this is clarified,
>we can move on to Ps 82.

Yet, when you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John 10----you gave me what you called a "straightforward" literal interpretation of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82 (including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm 82, onto John 10 and Jesus' disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82 existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord's use of a section of the passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why can't we deal with Psalm 82 itself?

So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context (you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments (i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my part.

James>>>


Dear James,

JAMES
[W]hen you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John
10----you gave me what you called a "straightforward" literal interpretation
of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided
you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82
(including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your
interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the
heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your
originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm
82, onto John 10 and Jesus' disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82
existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord's use of a section of the
passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the
meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was
to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why
can't we deal with Psalm 82 itself?

BILL
The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God.
Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term. I believe all
examples must be studied together to obtain as full an understanding as
possible. I also personally feel that, for Christians, Christ's exegesis of
Ps. 82 in John 10 should be very important, if not definitive for our own
exegesis of Ps. 82. I'm disappointed that you apparently don't agree. But,
if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I'm
perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence will
see this as the quintessential "when you loose, change the topic" tactics
for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.) I'll deal
with Ps 82 now if you promise to deal with the issues I raised about John 10
when we are done with Ps 82.

JAMES
So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the
meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to
address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to
skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You
established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context
(you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address
the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments
(i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage
in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements
of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my
part.

BILL
(But, obviously, you feel it would be wise on my part to engage in this
correspondence "when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you
will or will not deal with." So be it. Should I make a list of all the
issues I raised which you have conveniently ignored?)

As preliminary background, there seem to be two major schools of
interpretations of the elohim/bene elyon in Ps 82. One maintains that the
elohim/bene elyon are human judges (either from Israel or from the goyim),
who are given the title of elohim because they exercise divine authority
when judging. This is your position. The other interpretation is that the
elohim/bene elyon are, in fact, celestial beings of some sort. And that the
God of Israel is literally judging the gods. This is my position.

Just as background, let's take a look at a miscellaneous selection of
commentaries on Ps 82. I went to the BYU library and randomly selected from
the broad range of commentaries. I tried to get famous ones of which I had
heard, but I also simply took others randomly from the shelves. I also
tried to include a wide range of perspectives, from conservative to liberal,
and dates, from the Reformation to the present. Here are the results,
organized by relative date.

Calvin (16th century) = judges
Dickson (1655) = judges
Matthew Henry (18th century) = judges
Keil & Delitzsch (1880s?) = judges
Nealle and Littledale (1887) = gives both
Briggs (1907) = judges
Spurgeon (1918) = judges
Soncino (1945) = judges (Rashi) or celestial beings (Ibn Ezra)
Interpreters (1955) = leans to celestial beings, but is uncertain
Beacon (1967) = judges
Eerdmans (1970) = judges
Broadman (1971) = celestial beings
New Century (1972) = celestial beings
Anchor (1970s?) = celestial beings
Cambridge (1977) = celestial beings
Kraus (1978) = celestial beings
New Jerome (1990) = celestial beings
Word (1990) = celestial beings
Expositors (Zondervan, 1991) = celestial beings
Interpretation (1994) = celestial beings
New Interpreters (1996) = celestial beings
Goulden, Psalms of Asaph, (1996) = celestial beings

Notice that, since the early 70s, *all* commentaries I found have
interpreted this passage as referring to celestial beings. None accept the
judge interpretation, even the conservative ones. I suspect there might be
some fundamentalist modern commentaries which may still maintain the judge
interpretation, but I couldn't find any. (If you know of any, please give
me the references.)
This phenomenon cannot be attributed to liberal/agnostic vs.
conservative/believing, since the various post-1970 conservative
commentaries I listed above agree with the celestial being interpretation.
The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries, especially
the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have decisively
demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the assembly of
the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of their
gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
detailed rebuttal of his position. (I'm not expecting you to write it
yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
evidence from your perspective.) If you haven't, don't you think you should
stop pontificating on what Ps 82 and parallel passages mean until you have?

You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
beings--which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read--was quite clear
on the matter. I'm not going to waste my time writing a point by point
commentary for you, when there are many in existence. Although I disagree
with him on some details, I suggest you read Marvin E. Tate, _Word Biblical
Commentary, vol 20: Psalms 51-100, (Dallas, Word Books, 1982), pp. 328-341,
(a conservative commentary, I believe). I basically concur with his
position on vs. 3-4. He also provides a useful bibliography. If you don't
have a copy in your personal library, or available at a nearby public
library, I'd be happy to send you a xerox at my expense. If you want one,
and request it now, I can mail it today so it will be at your home when you
return from New York.

So, there is my explanation for vs. 3-4. It is really simple and
straightforward. Hardly worth all your rhetorical posturing on the matter.
Now that I have done as you demanded, shall we return to Christ's exegesis,
instead of squabbling over yours and mine?

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


>JAMES
>[W]hen you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John
>10----you gave me what you called a "straightforward" literal interpretation
>of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided
>you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82
>(including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your
>interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the
>heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your
>originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm
>82, onto John 10 and Jesus' disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82
>existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord's use of a section of the
>passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the
>meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was
>to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why
>can't we deal with Psalm 82 itself?
>
>BILL
>The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God.
>Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term.

Your words are recorded on both web pages carrying this conversation. I shall not repost them, they are self-evident. You said Psalm 82 must be "gibberish" to someone such as myself, and I have demonstrated it is anything but.

>I believe all
>examples must be studied together to obtain as full an understanding as
>possible. I also personally feel that, for Christians, Christ's exegesis of
>Ps. 82 in John 10 should be very important, if not definitive for our own
>exegesis of Ps. 82.

Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8. Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus' interpretation into Psalm 82, all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.

>I'm disappointed that you apparently don't agree. But,
>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I'm
>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence will
>see this as the quintessential "when you loose, change the topic" tactics
>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)

Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely triumphalistic rhetoric. I have not "loosed" anything, Dr. Hamblin. *You* have ignored the immediate context of Psalm 82. *You* have changed the topic away from what you originally presented to me. I could easily say that you are running from Psalm 82 because you are not able to deal with it exegetically, and of course, that's exactly what I believe. But what makes me differ from you is that I don't need to intrude that into the conversation the way you seemingly feel you must.
    It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here. Rather than dealing with the exegetical issues, you instead begin using emotionally laden and inaccurate terms like "anti-Mormon." If I were to respond to your contacts with terms like "this is the kind of tactic we expect from you and many other anti-Christians," you would scream to the highest heavens about how uncharitable we are. Yet, you don't mind engaging in that kind of tactic yourself. The double-standard is truly striking.

>I'll deal
>with Ps 82 now if you promise to deal with the issues I raised about John 10
>when we are done with Ps 82.
>
>JAMES
>So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the
>meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to
>address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to
>skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You
>established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context
>(you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address
>the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments
>(i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage
>in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements
>of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my
>part.

>BILL
>(But, obviously, you feel it would be wise on my part to engage in this
>correspondence "when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you
>will or will not deal with." So be it. Should I make a list of all the
>issues I raised which you have conveniently ignored?)

Yes, please do, since I have not ignored any of your issues at all. I responded briefly to the last message because you had skipped over a major portion of my response to you, even when I repeated it a second time. I reject the allegation that I have "conveniently ignored" (another unnecessary ad-hominem comment) anything, but I have documented that you *have* chosen to ignore segments of my replies to you.

>As preliminary background, there seem to be two major schools of
>interpretations of the elohim/bene elyon in Ps 82. One maintains that the
>elohim/bene elyon are human judges (either from Israel or from the goyim),
>who are given the title of elohim because they exercise divine authority
>when judging. This is your position. The other interpretation is that the
>elohim/bene elyon are, in fact, celestial beings of some sort. And that the
>God of Israel is literally judging the gods. This is my position.

Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back 100 years to find much of worth), I have no intention of citing commentaries as the basis of my exegesis of the passage. I provided you with an exegesis that came from the text itself----I did not open a single commentary in writing it. My exegesis is both linguistically and contextually consistent, and, it has the added advantage of being consistent with a pan-canonical view of the inspiration of the Scriptures themselves.

>Notice that, since the early 70s, *all* commentaries I found have
>interpreted this passage as referring to celestial beings. None accept the
>judge interpretation, even the conservative ones. I suspect there might be
>some fundamentalist modern commentaries which may still maintain the judge
>interpretation, but I couldn't find any. (If you know of any, please give
>me the references.)

I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a methodology of interpretation that would "buck the trends" in regards to OT studies.

>This phenomenon cannot be attributed to liberal/agnostic vs.
>conservative/believing, since the various post-1970 conservative
>commentaries I listed above agree with the celestial being interpretation.

Actually, the entire methodology of OT studies has shifted radically, leading to interpretations that are determined not by exegetical concerns, but by comparative linguistic studies and the fundamental rejection of the uniqueness of biblical literature.

>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries, especially
>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have decisively
>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the assembly of
>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of their
>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I'm not expecting you to write it
>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>evidence from your perspective.)

Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as *determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won't get anywhere without buying into that viewpoint. However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth; i.e.,     that the pagan elements of a "council of gods" should, by some magical determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry. Sadly, I have found that in many situations today, the "publish or perish" mentality is far more determinative of what ends up coming out under the guise of "scholarship" than the truth itself.

>If you haven't, don't you think you should
>stop pontificating on what Ps 82 and parallel passages mean until you have?

I'll let such a comment stand as its own refutation. I'm tempted to list works that you may not have read, but such would be to stoop to the same level of rhetoric.

>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
>skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
>no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
>beings--which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read--was quite clear
>on the matter.

You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, "Oh, I assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that," you'd rightly nail me to the wall. Why you think you can get away with that kind of comment, I do not know (perhaps it is because, obviously, you are writing more for your friends on skinny-l, and the SHIELDS web page, who will, undoubtedly, only cheer you on in whatever you say, no matter whether it is logically relevant or not?).

>I'm not going to waste my time writing a point by point
>commentary for you, when there are many in existence. Although I disagree
>with him on some details, I suggest you read Marvin E. Tate, _Word Biblical
>Commentary, vol 20: Psalms 51-100, (Dallas, Word Books, 1982), pp. 328-341,
>(a conservative commentary, I believe). I basically concur with his
>position on vs. 3-4. He also provides a useful bibliography. If you don't
>have a copy in your personal library, or available at a nearby public
>library, I'd be happy to send you a xerox at my expense. If you want one,
>and request it now, I can mail it today so it will be at your home when you
>return from New York.

I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and 4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1) He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful connection between "gods" and the obviously human act of doing justice, so, he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341). 2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet. Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the role of other "gods" in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties? How, in LDS theology, are these "gods" supposed to carry out this charge? And if you refer merely to pre-existant spirit beings who "become" mortal, why are they called "gods" when they have not been exalted? And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?

>So, there is my explanation for vs. 3-4. It is really simple and
>straightforward. Hardly worth all your rhetorical posturing on the matter.
>Now that I have done as you demanded, shall we return to Christ's exegesis,
>instead of squabbling over yours and mine?

I can only guess that what you are saying is that I can take Tate's position and ask all the questions of it that you have thus far refused to address? If that's OK, I'll be glad to do so, but I don't think that will accomplish a whole lot.

James>>>


On Monday, May 4th, Dr. Hamblin replied:


Dear James,

At 02:39 PM 5/1/98 -0600, you wrote:

>BILL
>The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God.
>Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term.

JAMES
Your words are recorded on both web pages carrying this conversation. I
shall not repost them, they are self-evident. You said Psalm 82 must be
"gibberish" to someone such as myself, and I have demonstrated it is
anything but.

BILL
I will quote them: "In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night,
I'd like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82." Our discussion on the
radio was, among other things, about the meaning of the term "sons of god."
That is the overall issue I raised. Ps 82 is merely a subset of that issue,
since it is one case where the phrase appears in the OT. I also wrote,
"From an evangelical perspective this must all seem like gibberish." Here
is the antecedent of "this."

Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of
'Elyon. The bene elohim/bene 'elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods.
Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die. They
become humans. (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus; it
is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in
"Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind"
forthcoming in a few months.
From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the
the sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become
human (like Adam), fall, and die. (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of
God to become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one
with the Father, but that is another discussion.)

Thus, I was not saying that Ps 82 was gibberish to you, but that the
*literal* interpretation of Ps 82, that the sons of Elyon are gods, is
gibberish. You have amply demonstrated, by your unwillingness to deal with
the literal meaning of the Psalm, that you do find it gibberish.
Thus, you are compelled to revert to metaphorical explanations that gods =
judges.
But, as I originally stated, the literal reading of this psalm is
unacceptable to you.

JAMES
Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to
His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8.

BILL
I note, for the record, that you are backtracking on your previous position.
I wrote:
When Christ quoted "ye are gods" from Ps. 82:6, he was--in typical rabbinic
fashion--giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, "Read Ps 82:6,"
but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they
>were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and
to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.

To which you replied
"Most definitely....including the verses you have removed from consideration
(3 & 4)."

So now that you have apparently finally recognized that your original
proposed exegesis of John 10 does not work, you are shifting your position,
and insisting that Jesus was *not* using standard citation practices of the
first century AD to refer to the passage as a whole by quoting one line of
the passage. Which is your position? That "He [Jesus] never cited verses 1
through 5, nor 7 and 8" or that "[Jesus] Most definitely [cited
them]....including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4)."
And why are you shifting ground?


JAMES
Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in
John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus' interpretation into
Psalm 82,

BILL
I am doing no such thing. I have provided a line by line exegesis of John
10. You have yet to demonstrate where this exegesis is wrong. If Jesus
said what I think he said, it should provide a key to understanding Ps 82.

JAMES
all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of
verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact
that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.

BILL
Question begging. These issues are not decided in your favor, despite your
endless repetition of claims that they are; these issues are precisely what
are in dispute. How can your assertion that your case is proven be taken as
evidence that your case is proven and therefore needs no proof.

BILL
>I'm disappointed that you apparently don't agree. But,
>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I'm
>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence
will
>see this as the quintessential "when you loose, change the topic" tactics
>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)

JAMES
Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely
triumphalistic rhetoric.

BILL
I accuse you of changing topics when you begin to "lose" (not "loose",
indeed).
This is neither rude, nor childish, it is simply an observation of fact.
Notice again, how you are changing the topic from whether or not you have
changed the topic (by refusing to deal with my exegesis of John 10), to
claiming I am rude and childish.

JAMES
I have not "loosed" anything, Dr. Hamblin. *You* have ignored the immediate
context of Psalm 82. *You* have changed the topic away from what you
originally presented to me. I could easily say that you are running from
Psalm 82 because you are not able to deal with it exegetically, and of
course, that's exactly what I believe. But what makes me differ from you is
that I don't need to intrude that into the conversation the way you
seemingly feel you must.

BILL
Please, call me Bill. All of your context questions are answered in
precisely the letter which you claim I refused to deal with the context.

JAMES
It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level
of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here.

BILL
Apparently you don't understand the ad hominem argument. I said you changed
the subject. You manifestly did. I sent you a lengthy post on John 10, you
refused to deal with it. You insisted that I deal with Ps 82 instead. I
did. It is now your turn to deal with John 10. You apparently won't. How
is this observation an ad hominem?
You, on the other hand, say that I am rude and childish. Perhaps so. I
have been called far worse before by people who are losing the argument and
want to change the subject. But even if I grant my rudeness and
childishness (for the sake of argument), what has this got to do with the
exegesis of John 10 and Ps 82, or your persistent refusal to answer my
exegesis of John 10?

JAMES
Rather than dealing with the exegetical issues, you instead begin using
emotionally laden and inaccurate terms like "anti-Mormon." If I were to
respond to your contacts with terms like "this is the kind of tactic we
expect from you and many other anti-Christians," you would scream to the
highest heavens about how uncharitable we are. Yet, you don't mind engaging
in that kind of tactic yourself. The double-standard is truly striking.

BILL
(Note: and I suppose "rude" and "childish" are not emotionally laden?) What
is this obsession you have with the term "anti-Mormon?" Why do you care
what I call you? I certainly don't care what you call me. What bearing
does it have on the issues under discussion? I feel you are an anti-Mormon.
You think I am an anti-Baptist. (Since I consider myself a Christian, I can
hardly consider myself an anti-Christian, now can I.) I have never in my
life attacked the Baptists. I do not make my living publishing books and
pamphlets attacking the Baptists. I have never picketed their meetings. I
have never attempted to prevent them from buying land or building buildings.
Peterson and Midgley (not Midgely) have made these points quite clearly.
If I am anti anything, I am anti-anti-Mormon. Quite frankly, I don't even
know which denomination you belong to, nor what your theology is–though I
get the impression you are a five point Calvinist). I don't care. You may
believe and preach what you like. Then, you attack my church and my
beliefs. I defend my beliefs. Thus, according to you, I am now
anti-Christian, while you are not still not an anti-Mormon. The mere fact
that I happen to disagree with your theology, tacitly and privately, somehow
makes me an anti-Christian (not even just anti-Baptist (or whatever), or
even anti-James White.) My mere refusal to privately assent to your
theology makes me anti-something. This may be news to you, James, but 99% or
more of the people in the world disagree with your theology. I suspect many
Baptists (or whatever) disagree with your theology. Are they all anti-James
White? You, on the other hand, can make your living as a professional
religious hate-monger, attacking the beliefs of Mormons and Catholics and
still not be anti-Mormon or anti-Catholic. This is mindless nonsense.
Quite frankly, if you made your living making these same types of attacks
against Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or Jews, I would find this type of
behavior it just as disgusting and repulsive as it is when you attack
Mormons. But none of this has anything to do arguments, now does it?

JAMES
Yes, please do [list issues James has not dealt with], since I have not
ignored any of your issues at all. I responded briefly to the last message
because you had skipped over a major portion of my response to you, even
when I repeated it a second time. I reject the allegation that I have
"conveniently ignored" (another unnecessary ad-hominem comment) anything,
but I have documented that you *have* chosen to ignore segments of my
replies to you.

BILL
Note again the utter misunderstanding of the term ad hominem.
Note, also that I said I preferred to take these issues one at a time. I
never claimed I have dealt with all the issues you raise. I can deal with
them, but I am not going to spend my entire life writing letters endless to
you. Shall we take them one at a time or not. If so, what should be the
first issue?
Anyway, here are some of the issues that you have "conveniently ignored," by
which I mean you have failed to deal with the substance of my argument.
Your rhetorical posturing will not be confused by any thinking and informed
readers for substantive arguments and evidence.
1- Everything in my recent posting about John 10.
2- The extensive arguments of Mullen on the _Assembly of the Gods_.
3- The fact that Baptists (or whatever you are) don't believe in a council
of the gods, even though one is mentioned in the OT.
4- The fact that there is no linguistic or contextual reason to interpret
the word elohim as judge in Ex 22:8-9. The text makes perfect sense when
read as bringing judgement before God.
5- The fact that humans are called sons of the Most High, Christ is called
son of the Most High, and the sons of the Most High are called gods.
6- These four questions I raised earlier have received no substantive answer
(remember, endlessly repeating an unsubstantiated assertion without
reference to evidence and analysis does not pass muster as a substantive
response):
1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82 meant
to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn't God inerrantly inspire the
psalmist to use the word for judge? Why all this language about elohim, the
council of el, and the bene elyon? 2- Your claim that humans have judging
functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct. I presume, however, that
you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in
fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will
participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt
19:28, Lk 22:29).
3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement.
This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges.
4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term
elohim unequivocally means judge?
7- The fact that the earliest Christian exegetes (Justin and Irenaeus) agree
with my position on the elohim of Ps 82 and John 10. (I can list many
others as well, if you want.) Who is the first Christian exegete who agrees
with your position?
8- The hermeneutical absurdity of your claim that you are letting the text
speak for itself.

I could go on but that's enough. Like I have said before. We must take
these one at a time. I don't have time to have this discussion degenerate
into dozens of separate issues simultaneously. I think we should deal with
John 10 first. But if you don't like that idea, let's deal with whatever
you want first. But *one* at a time, please.

JAMES
Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical
discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is
fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have
often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back
100 years to find much of worth),

BILL
I find the discoveries of the last 100 years are fundamental to
understanding the text.
Note the difference here. To maintain your position you must reject the
discoveries and advances of biblical studies of the last 100 years. While I
see these last 100 years as confirming Joseph's restoration of ancient
doctrines. Interesting distinction, no?

JAMES
I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there
were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a
methodology of interpretation that would "buck the trends" in regards to OT
studies.

BILL
This is absurd nonsense. Even if you could argue that Scholars Press (the
publishing arm of the SBL) would not publish evangelical studies (which
might be true), there are dozens of evangelical publishing houses that
would. Are you claiming that there are no conservative publishing houses in
the US? Or just not conservative enough for you? Is the Word series not
conservative?

BILL (old)
>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries,
especially
>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have
decisively>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the
assembly of
>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of
their
>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I'm not expecting you to write it
>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>evidence from your perspective.)

JAMES
Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT
publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea
that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as
*determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won't get anywhere
without buying into that viewpoint.

BILL
None of what you say here, even if true (and it is simply your
unsubstantiated opinion), deals with the massive amount of evidence
collected by Mullen.

JAMES
However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of
which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would
borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth;
i.e., that the pagan elements of a "council of gods" should, by some magical
determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally
identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry.

BILL
Here you simply assert what is or is not impossible for God to do or not do
based solely on your presuppositions. It is not argument, it is not
evidence, it is circular reasoning and bald assertion. Are you going to
deal with the evidence or not?

BILL (old)
>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
>skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
>no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
>beings--which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read--was quite clear
>on the matter.

JAMES
You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I
had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis
of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, "Oh, I
assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that," you'd
rightly nail me to the wall.

BILL
No I wouldn't, if you provided me a standard bibliographic reference, and
could demonsrate that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship,
conservative and liberal, on the issue agreed with your position.

JAMES
I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy
will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and
4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1)
He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful
connection between "gods" and the obviously human act of doing justice, so,
he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341).

BILL
He does not! He mentions that humans judge unjustly, but the thrust of his
argument is that "vv. 3-4 are composed of a set of commands to the gods" and
"the contrast [between proper judgement] and the performance of the gods is
evident; they have failed to do their duty" (p. 336). On pages 340-41, he
references your position, concluding "The interpretation [that Ps 82 refers
to human judges] is not well grounded in the exegesis of the texts." (p.
341). He concludes that "it [is] impossible to assume that the ‘gods' (who
are called ‘sons of Elyon' in v. 6) could be human beings." (341). Please
try to get it right and read the texts clearly. Although he mentions your
position, he does so to refute it, not accept it!

Let me lay out this issue in a simple syllogism. Your argument is:
Some humans judge unjustly
The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
Therefore, the beings in Ps 82 are humans.
Notice any misplaced middle there? Let's run a parallel syllogism
Some Frenchmen judge unjustly
The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
Therefore the beings in Ps 82 are Frenchmen.
Or another example:
Some humans have hair
Dogs have hair
Therefore, dogs are human
Your argument rests on a logical fallacy of the simplest sort. Just because
humans render unjust judgement, it does not follow that all unjust judges
must be humans. I hope you can grasp this simple issue so we can move on to
other more substantive topics.


JAMES
2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding
and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that
these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet.

BILL
Did I say there was? Have I argued that this Psalm contains the fulness of
the LDS understanding of the Godhead? However, he does say that the elohim
are the offspring/sons of Elyon.

JAMES
Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the
statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the
role of other "gods" in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside
from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties?

BILL
I already gave you this information. Please pay attention. To quote from a
former post, I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the
supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine
judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

JAMES
And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?

BILL
No. Are you? I am, however, a son of God? Are you?

JAMES
I can only guess that what you are saying is that I can take Tate's position
and ask all the questions of it that you have thus far refused to address?

BILL
As usual, you guess wrong. I simply offer Tate as a good example of how Ps
82 can be understood as referring to gods rather than human judges.

JAMES
If that's OK, I'll be glad to do so, but I don't think that will accomplish
a whole lot.

BILL
Why don't we take the questions one at a time.
You ask one, I'll answer.
Then I'll ask one, and you answer.
And can we please stick to the topic of who are the "sons of God" in the
Bible?
If we don't, this entire enterprise is a monumental waste of time.
If you don't want to discuss this issue, we can end this correspondence.


My reply, written 5/28/98, is in two parts:

>Thus, I was not saying that Ps 82 was gibberish to you, but that the
>*literal* interpretation of Ps 82, that the sons of Elyon are gods, is
>gibberish. You have amply demonstrated, by your unwillingness to deal with
>the literal meaning of the Psalm, that you do find it gibberish.

I reject, completely, the assertion that you are presenting the "literal" interpretation of Psalm 82. It is not "literal" to rip the Psalm from the context of the entire Old Testament, read a completely foreign idea into it that makes Yahweh a second God to Elohim (the LDS view), all the while ignoring the simple fact that the Psalm is about judgment upon judges who have judged unjustly. This is no more "literal" than the Roman Catholic misuse of John 6 and the words of Jesus about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

Secondly, I resent, and reject the assertion that I have been "unwilling" to deal with the "literal meaning" of the Psalm. Such is merely triumphalistic rhetoric that has no meaning. It assumes the conclusion of this entire conversation----and, if you assume your conclusion, why discuss the issue in the first place?

>Thus, you are compelled to revert to metaphorical explanations that gods =
>judges.
>But, as I originally stated, the literal reading of this psalm is
>unacceptable to you.

No, sir, it is the literal reading of the Psalm to keep it as one literary whole. It is the literal reading of the Psalm to recognize that the judgment of verses 6 and 7 comes about due to the sins of the judges in verses 3 and 4. That, sir, is literal reading.

>Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to
>His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8.
>I note, for the record, that you are backtracking on your previous position.
>I wrote:
>When Christ quoted "ye are gods" from Ps. 82:6, he was--in typical rabbinic
>fashion--giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, "Read Ps 82:6,"
>but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
>Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they
>>were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and
>to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.
>
>To which you replied
>"Most definitely....including the verses you have removed from consideration
>(3 & 4)."
>
>So now that you have apparently finally recognized that your original
>proposed exegesis of John 10 does not work, you are shifting your position,
>and insisting that Jesus was *not* using standard citation practices of the
>first century AD to refer to the passage as a whole by quoting one line of
>the passage. Which is your position?

Of course, I have not backtracked nor shifted positions. I simply pointed out that Jesus did not exegete the passage in John 10, He cited it. You have confused the fact of His citation of it with the assertion that He is offering an exegesis of the entire Psalm in the brief comments in John 10. No one could possibly claim to "exegete" a passage by making a mere reference to one verse. Such would not be a meaningful use of the term "exegete."

>That "He [Jesus] never cited verses 1
>through 5, nor 7 and 8" or that "[Jesus] Most definitely [cited
>them]....including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4)."
>And why are you shifting ground?

I'm not. You are confused.

>JAMES
>Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in
>John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus' interpretation into
>Psalm 82,
>
>BILL
>I am doing no such thing. I have provided a line by line exegesis of John
>10. You have yet to demonstrate where this exegesis is wrong. If Jesus
>said what I think he said, it should provide a key to understanding Ps 82.
Of course, Psalm 82 pre-existed John 10, and I have provided my exegesis of the passage as well.
>JAMES
>all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of
>verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact
>that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.
>
>BILL
>Question begging. These issues are not decided in your favor, despite your
>endless repetition of claims that they are; these issues are precisely what
>are in dispute. How can your assertion that your case is proven be taken as
>evidence that your case is proven and therefore needs no proof.

Of course, you assert that yours is the literal reading above, which is the issue in dispute, but you don't call *that* "question begging." It seems to me that the double standard upon which you are functioning is making any kind of meaningful dialogue impossible. Be that as it may, verses 3 and 4 will not go away, no matter how much effort you put into ignoring them.

>BILL
>>I'm disappointed that you apparently don't agree. But,
>>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I'm
>>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence
>will
>>see this as the quintessential "when you loose, change the topic" tactics
>>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)
>
>JAMES
>Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely
>triumphalistic rhetoric.
>
>BILL
>I accuse you of changing topics when you begin to "lose" (not "loose",
>indeed).
>This is neither rude, nor childish, it is simply an observation of fact.

It is not an observation of fact, it is a rude, childish attempt to win "points" by making unnecessary comments that only add emotional impact for your followers, little more. Your refusal to even acknowledge your own slip in behavior is truly reprehensible.

>Notice again, how you are changing the topic from whether or not you have
>changed the topic (by refusing to deal with my exegesis of John 10), to
>claiming I am rude and childish.

Of course, *you* were not changing the topic by bashing "anti-Mormons" and making silly comments about them "losing" the conversation. The childishness of the original comment is beyond dispute.

>JAMES
>It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level
>of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here.
>
>BILL
>Apparently you don't understand the ad hominem argument.

I well understand the use of ad hominem. I resent the fact that it seems to be the stock-in-trade for BYU professors. Until this round, you had mainly managed to avoid it.

>I said you changed
>the subject. You manifestly did. I sent you a lengthy post on John 10, you
>refused to deal with it. You insisted that I deal with Ps 82 instead. I
>did. It is now your turn to deal with John 10. You apparently won't. How
>is this observation an ad hominem?

Anyone who has followed this to this point can only be as amazed as I am. I now delete any further attempts on your part to get away from Psalm 82, and move back to the topic:

>Anyway, here are some of the issues that you have "conveniently ignored," by
>which I mean you have failed to deal with the substance of my argument.
>Your rhetorical posturing will not be confused by any thinking and informed
>readers for substantive arguments and evidence.

[More unnecessary ad-hominem]

>1- Everything in my recent posting about John 10.

As I said, you contacted me about Psalm 82. The record is plain. You have not yet dealt with the important elements of that passage. I believe you are not able to do so, and hence are wishing to change the grounds, all the while accusing *me* of doing that. I have refused to follow your lead.

>2- The extensive arguments of Mullen on the _Assembly of the Gods_.

I don't find such a meaningful addition to the discussion. I have refused to engage in this kind of "Oh, well, have you read MY scholars" argumentation in e-mail. It is meaningless.

>3- The fact that Baptists (or whatever you are) don't believe in a council
>of the gods, even though one is mentioned in the OT.

We believe what Psalm 82 says, and again, you assume that which is in dispute to make your point. I think you called that question begging.

>4- The fact that there is no linguistic or contextual reason to interpret
>the word elohim as judge in Ex 22:8-9. The text makes perfect sense when
>read as bringing judgement before God.

There is, of course, *every* reason for so doing, as I have demonstrated.

>5- The fact that humans are called sons of the Most High, Christ is called
>son of the Most High, and the sons of the Most High are called gods.

None of this is in dispute: what it MEANS is, of course, the very issue in dispute. You again seem to assume the very issues that allegedly prompted you to write in the first place.

>6- These four questions I raised earlier have received no substantive answer
>(remember, endlessly repeating an unsubstantiated assertion without
>reference to evidence and analysis does not pass muster as a substantive
>response):

Nor does labeling the responses of your opponent in such a manner make those responses unsubstantiated assertions, etc. I could just as easily call your assertions unsubstantiated....that does not make them so. I am, evidently, at a substantial disadvantage here, since I refuse to engage in such argumentation.

>1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82 meant
>to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn't God inerrantly inspire the
>psalmist to use the word for judge?

Such an argument begs the question, in the real sense of the term. The issue is not "why not use this term" but "what does this term mean in the passage." I remind you of the Psalm says:

Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and

destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the

wicked.

These elohim are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one "unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:35)

These elohim are commanded to do justice to the afflicted and destitute. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one "unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:35)

These elohim are commanded to rescue the week and needy. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one "unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:35).

These elohim are commanded to deliver the weak and needy out of the hand of the wicked. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one "unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:35).

Leviticus 19:15 'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.

(Deuteronomy 1:16-17) "Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. [17] 'You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.'

(Deuteronomy 16:18-20) "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. [19] "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. [20] "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

(Deuteronomy 17:9-12) "So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. [10] "You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. [11] "According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. [12] "The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.

Therefore, the logic is rather clear:

1. The *exact* same terms are used of the elohim in Psalm 82 as of human judges.

2. The term elohim is without question used of judges in Exodus 22.

3. These elohim are subject to the judgment of God, and are said to be subject to death.

Therefore, given the context in which the elohim are charged with doing what the judges do and the realm in which they are charged with doing it (i.e., the earthly realm), there is nothing obscure about what leads me, and many others, to seeing these elohim as the judges of Israel.

>Why all this language about elohim, the
>council of el, and the bene elyon?

Because God is judging those that He had placed in a tremendously important and authoritative position. There is a biblical concept: to whom much is given, much is required. These men stood in the very place of God. The judgement they delivered was to be seen as being God's judgment! Such places these men in a position of tremendous responsibility and honor. And, the more responsibility one carries, the greater the judgment when that responsibility is disregarded. They are indeed called sons of the Most High and elohim----which makes their sin against that great privilege even more devastating (v. 5).

>2- Your claim that humans have judging
>functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct. I presume, however, that
>you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in
>fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will
>participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt
>19:28, Lk 22:29).

Of course. That is perfectly consistent with what I have written thus far: that they are commanded to dispense justice and righteousness as the judges of God's people. They have failed to do so. The verdict is rendered by Yahweh: they have judged unjustly and have shown partiality to the wicked. That means they have been involved in the action of judging here on earth. They are the ones to whom the people of Israel have taken their cases. For a person taking the text literally, this ends the discussion. For the Mormon, who are these "gods"? At first you talked of them becoming gods, but then withdrew that assertion. Are there pre-incarnate spirits? When did the people of Israel take their cases to spirit beings? Who are these "elohim" in LDS theology? Where do they fall in the eternal law of progression?

>3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement.
>This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges.

Well, since verse 2 says that these elohim are condemned for rendering unjust judgment *in the human realm*, the logic is irrefutable, at least, if one takes the passage in its own context.

>4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term
>elohim unequivocally means judge?

Exodus 22:8-9.

>7- The fact that the earliest Christian exegetes (Justin and Irenaeus) agree
>with my position on the elohim of Ps 82 and John 10. (I can list many
>others as well, if you want.) Who is the first Christian exegete who agrees
>with your position?

As I recall, I disputed your understanding of both, actually. In fact, I don't recall any of them indicating they believed in a plurality of gods, nor did their interpretation of the passage indicate that they had, in fact, abandoned the heritage of God's people, that being monotheism. Hence, your question is based upon merely your own assertion that their words are commensurate with your interpretation. That has yet to be determined.

>8- The hermeneutical absurdity of your claim that you are letting the text
>speak for itself.

I will allow the facts to refute your ipse dixit.

>JAMES
>Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical
>discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is
>fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have
>often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back
>100 years to find much of worth),
>
>BILL
>I find the discoveries of the last 100 years are fundamental to
>understanding the text.

What specific "discoveries" are you referring to? The "discovery" that the Bible is not really inspired? The "discovery" that the Old Testament should be atomized and examined as any other old piece of humanly designed literature? Discoveries of texts are vitally important. The *use* of those texts takes us right back to the presuppositions of the ones doing the using.

>Note the difference here. To maintain your position you must reject the
>discoveries and advances of biblical studies of the last 100 years. While I
>see these last 100 years as confirming Joseph's restoration of ancient
>doctrines. Interesting distinction, no?

Interesting, and erroneous. I rejected no discoveries or advances. I rejected the enthronement of unbelieving scholarship and the *degradation* of biblical studies. Unless you are prepared to say that it is better to approach the text from the position of unbelief than to allow it to stand as a unitary whole, you seem to be attempting to make points that are irrelevant to what I've actually said.

>JAMES
>I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there
>were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a
>methodology of interpretation that would "buck the trends" in regards to OT
>studies.
>
>BILL
>This is absurd nonsense.

I made that comment over and over again while reading your attempt to come up with swords in the BoM, Dr. Hamblin. But I didn't think that inserting such comments into any interaction would be overly helpful.

>Even if you could argue that Scholars Press (the
>publishing arm of the SBL) would not publish evangelical studies (which
>might be true), there are dozens of evangelical publishing houses that
>would. Are you claiming that there are no conservative publishing houses in
>the US? Or just not conservative enough for you? Is the Word series not
>conservative?

No, the Word series is not conservative overall; and is much less so in the OT sections (there are a few conservative studies in the NT series). I have no interest in debating the current situation in OT studies. Anyone familiar with them knows what I am referring to.

>BILL (old)
>>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries,
>especially
>>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have
>decisively>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the
>assembly of
>>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of
>their
>>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I'm not expecting you to write it
>>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>>evidence from your perspective.)
>
>JAMES
>Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT
>publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea
>that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as
>*determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won't get anywhere
>without buying into that viewpoint.
>
>BILL
>None of what you say here, even if true (and it is simply your
>unsubstantiated opinion), deals with the massive amount of evidence
>collected by Mullen.

Which again demonstrates what I said before: there is a vast difference between the use of evidence in a meaningful context and the use of evidence in a context designed to produce certain results. You have to rely upon scholarship that would be just as negative to your claims of inspiration for LDS writings as it is of the Christian Scriptures. You have to rely upon the form-critical perspective that carries particular concepts into its work that are *directly* contrary not only to the use of the OT by the Lord Jesus, but to every use of the OT by all the NT writers. If you choose to go that direction (and your recent posts attacking the consistency of Scripture demonstrate that this is indeed your intention) I can't stop you, but I have no intention of following you down that path.

>JAMES
>However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of
>which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would
>borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth;
>i.e., that the pagan elements of a "council of gods" should, by some magical
>determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally
>identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry.
>
>BILL
>Here you simply assert what is or is not impossible for God to do or not do
>based solely on your presuppositions.

Actually, that's what you did above when asking why God wouldn't use the words YOU think He should use to communicate certain concepts. I am not doing that at all. I am making a simple statement: that it is logically inconsistent with the revelation of God in the Bible (and, of course, given the stance you've already taken, and the sources you are dedicated to, you can't deal with that revelation, since there is no meaningful way to even determine what it is, and, from that perspective, there is no unified testimony to the nature or character of God in the OT anyway) to think that God, in giving His revelation through the Psalmist, would borrow from the pagan worldview in the way that is asserted by so many in OT studies today. You have your presuppositions, and I have mine. I believe the assertion is perfectly logical in the light of the consistent condemnation of the very practices that provide the background of the Caananite "council of gods" to which you refer.

>It is not argument, it is not
>evidence, it is circular reasoning and bald assertion. Are you going to
>deal with the evidence or not?
I reject your assertion that only you deal with evidence and anyone who disagrees with you does not.
>BILL (old)
>>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
>>skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
>>no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
>>beings--which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read--was quite clear
>>on the matter.
>
>JAMES
>You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I
>had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis
>of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, "Oh, I
>assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that," you'd
>rightly nail me to the wall.
>
>BILL
>No I wouldn't, if you provided me a standard bibliographic reference, and
>could demonsrate that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship,
>conservative and liberal, on the issue agreed with your position.

The overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship....a term I often encounter in the writings of the Jesus Seminar, and find it no more compelling there than I do here. Of course, the "overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship" finds the BoM to be a work of 19th century fiction, too, but that hasn't seemed to stop you folks at FARMS from thinking otherwise. The "overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship" is inveterately opposed to a number of positions you take, Dr. Hamblin, yet, you don't seem to bow to that "consensus." Of course, the "overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship" tells me that I evolved over aeons of time from a single-celled creature, and that same consensus says that the Bible is a mishmash of ancient mythology combined with Graeco-Roman ethical treatises.

[Of course, I could, if I wanted to, say that you are here trying to "change the topic" and, if I wanted to follow your lead, say that you are "losing" so that you are attempting to cover that fact by appealing to some alleged "majority" on a topic.]

>JAMES
>I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy
>will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and
>4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1)
>He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful
>connection between "gods" and the obviously human act of doing justice, so,
>he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341).
>
>BILL
>He does not! He mentions that humans judge unjustly, but the thrust of his
>argument is that "vv. 3-4 are composed of a set of commands to the gods" and
>"the contrast [between proper judgement] and the performance of the gods is
>evident; they have failed to do their duty" (p. 336). On pages 340-41, he
>references your position, concluding "The interpretation [that Ps 82 refers
>to human judges] is not well grounded in the exegesis of the texts." (p.
>341). He concludes that "it [is] impossible to assume that the ‘gods' (who
>are called ‘sons of Elyon' in v. 6) could be human beings." (341). Please
>try to get it right and read the texts clearly. Although he mentions your
>position, he does so to refute it, not accept it!

Well thank you, again, Dr. Hamblin, for completely misrepresenting me, while quoting me at the same time. I said that in discussing the condemnation of the elohim, he focuses upon human judges. It is self evident that I am correct:

"Their commission has been to provide judgment for those who lack the wealth and power to defend themselves in HUMAN SOCIETY (emphasis mine)....The imperative verb "judge" in 3a doubtless means "judge justly," but it seems to me that it may indicate the need for ELDERS, JUDGES, KINGS, AND OTHER LEADERS (emphasis mine) to actively *intervene* in the interest of powerless people who cannot defend their rights....Yahweh expects JUDGES AND LEADERS (emphasis mine) to protect the marginalized people IN SOCIETY (emphasis mine): the poor, the oppressed, and those without family support." (p. 336)

Again, there is no meaningful way to apply these terms to your polytheistic deities, and as I said, Tate has no meaningful way to discuss the charges against them outside of human judges, elders, kings, etc. In fact, you have not provided any meaningful application, even from LDS theology (which, as you undoubtedly admit, Tate would not find in the passage), as to how non-incarnate beings of any type can be held accountable by God for judging justly in the Israeli society.

>Let me lay out this issue in a simple syllogism. Your argument is:
> Some humans judge unjustly
> The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
> Therefore, the beings in Ps 82 are humans.

< chuckle > No, the proper syllogism is presented above. To recap:

1) Doing justice, vindicating the poor, and not showing partiality, are the commandments given to the judges of Israel who stand in the place of God.

2) In Psalm 82 God judges "elohim" for failing to do these very things in the context of human society.

3) There is no commandment anywhere in Scripture given to anyone but human judges to judge justly.

Therefore, the persons addressed in Psalm 82 are the human judges of Israel.

[Dscussion of straw man argument deleted]

>JAMES
>2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding
>and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that
>these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet.
>
>BILL
>Did I say there was? Have I argued that this Psalm contains the fulness of
>the LDS understanding of the Godhead? However, he does say that the elohim
>are the offspring/sons of Elyon.

The fulness of the LDS understanding of the Godhead? Are you just looking to get a toe in the door, perhaps? Are you not asserting that these elohim are the offspring of an exalted man? If that is the case, then why choose as an example someone who would fundamentally see the Psalm, and its context, differently than you do? Will you then end up having to say that he, too, is simply blind to the "literal" reading of the text when we get around to attempting to find that "fulness" of the LDS doctrine?

>JAMES
>Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the
>statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the
>role of other "gods" in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside
>from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties?
>
>BILL
>I already gave you this information. Please pay attention.
Please drop such comments. They are meaningless and distracting.
>To quote from a
>former post, I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the
>supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
>human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine
>judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

That is not an answer, Dr. Hamblin. It is not an answer to say "All judgment is ultimately God's judgment, therefore, non-corporeal beings who have no meaningful connection with Israeli society can be held accountable for rendering justice in that society." How can God hold these beings accountable for NOT doing justice when we nowhere have a commandment upon which to hold them accountable? Who are these beings, Dr. Hamblin? How are they to vindicate the fatherless or the poor? Please answer this question. I believe there is no logical answer: and I do not appreciate your avoiding the issue while using such terms as "please pay attention."

>JAMES
>And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?
>
>BILL
>No. Are you? I am, however, a son of God? Are you?

No, I am not a god, and will never be one. Jeremiah 10:10-11 closes the door on that idea:

(Jeremiah 10:10-11) But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. [11] Thus you shall say to them, "The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens."

I have been adopted as a son of God by faith in Christ Jesus. So, if humans are not gods, we again come back to the point of Psalm 82, and even of Jesus' application of this in John 10, since He did not apply the words of Psalm 82:6 to non-corporeal beings, but to humans like you and I. You say you are not a god. Good. The men who were about to stone Jesus were not gods, either, even though Jesus applied the words of Psalm 82:6 to them. See the point?

[This ended the first e-mail.  I continued:]

Now, up to this point, I have avoided the use of commentaries and the like, since 1) you seemed to indicate, by your original e-mail, that you wanted to discuss the topic directly between us, and 2) I feel that the text is in no need to external witnesses as to what it means. In fact, outside of looking at Tate at your insistence, I have not consulted any source outside of the Scriptures themselves in responding to your posts. But, since you have made such a huge issue of what commentators say, I will now break that pattern. I would like to introduce the witness of one of the best sources on the OT, the massive work of Keil and Delitzsch. I provide here the commentary on Psalm 82:

As in Ps. lxxxi., so also in this Psalm (according to the Talmud the Tuesday Psalm of the Temple liturgy, God is introduced as speaking after the manner of the prophets. Ps. lviii. and xciv. are similar, but more especially Isa. iii. 13-15. Asaph the seer beholds how God, reproving, correcting, and threatening, appears against the chiefs of the congregation of His people, who have perverted the splendour of majesty which He has put upon them into tyranny. It is perfectly characteristic of Asaph (Ps. 1., lxxv., lxxxi.) to plunge himself into the contemplation of the divine judgment, and to introduce God as speaking. There is nothing to militate against the Psalm being written by Asaph, David's cotemporary, except the determination not to allow to the l'Asaph of the inscription its most natural sense. Hupfeld, understanding "angels" by the elohim, as Bleek has done before him, in scribes the Psalm: "God's judgment upon unjust judges in heaven and upon earth." But the angels as such are nowhere called elohim in the Old Testament, although they might be so called; and their being judged here on account of unjust judging, Hupfeld himself says, is "an obscure point that is still to he cleared up." [Note this well, Dr. Hamblin!] An interpretation which, like this, abandons the usage of the language in order to bring into existence a riddle that it cannot solve, condemns itself. At the same time the assertion of Hupfeld (of Knobel, Graf, and others), that in Ex. xxi. 6, xxii. 7 sq., 27,* elohim denotes God Himself, and not directly the authorities of the nation as being His earthly representatives, finds its most forcible refutation in the so-called and mortal elohim of this Psalm (cf. also xlv. 7, lviii. 2).

By reference to this Psalm Jesus proves to the Jews (John x. 34-36) that when He calls Himself the Son of God, He does not blaspheme God, by an argumentatio a minori ad majus. If the Law, so He argues, calls even those gods who are officially invested with this name by a declaration of the divine will promulgated in time (and the Scripture cannot surely, as in general, so also in this instance, be made invalid), then it cannot surely be blasphemy if He calls Himself the Son of God, whom not merely a divine utterance in this present time has called to this or to that worldly office after the image of God, but who with His whole life is ministering to the accomplishment of a work to which the Father had already sanctified Him when He came into the world. In connection with hagiase one is reminded of the fact that those who are called elohim in the Psalm are censured on account of the unholiness of their conduct. The name does not originally belong to them, nor do they show themselves to be morally worthy of it. With hagiase kai apesteilen Jesus contrasts His divine sonship, prior to time, with theirs, which began only in this present time.

Vers. 1-4. God comes forward and makes Himself heard first of all as censuring and admonishing. The "congregation of God" is, as in Num. xxvii. 17, xxxi. 16, Josh. xxii. 16 sq., "the congregation of (the sons of) Israel," which God has purchased from among the nations (lxxiv. 2), and upon which as its Lawgiver He has set His divine impress. The psalmist and seer sees Elohim standing in this congregation of God. The part Niph. (as in Isa. iii. 13) denotes not so much the suddenness and unpreparedness, as, rather, the statue-like immobility and terrifying designfulness of His appearance. Within the range of the congregation of God this holds good of the elohim. The right over life and death, with which the administration of justice cannot dispense, is a prerogative of God. From the time of Gen. ix. 6, however, He has transferred the execution of this prerogative to mankind, and instituted in mankind an office wielding the sword of justice, which also exists in His theocratic congregation, but here has His positive law as the basis of its continuance and as the rule of its action. Everywhere among men, but here preeminently, those in authority are God's delegates and the bearers of His image, and therefore as His representatives are also themselves called elohim, "gods" (which the LXX. in Ex. xxi. 6 renders to kriterion theou, and the Targums here, as in Ex. xxii. 7, 8, 27 uniformly, dayanaya). The God who has conferred this exercise of power upon these subordinate elohim, without their resigning it of themselves, now sits in judgment in their midst. Yishpoth of that which takes place before the mind's eye of the psalmist. How long, He asks, will ye judge unjustly? shaphat aywel is equivalent to asah aywel, Lev. xix. 15, 35....How long will ye accept the countenance of the wicked, i.e. incline to accept, regard, favour the person of the wicked? The music, which here becomes forte, gives intensity to the terrible sternness (das Niederdonnernde) of the divine question, which seeks to bring the "gods" of the earth to their right mind. Then follow admonitions to do that which they have hitherto left undone. They are to cause the benefit of the administration of justice to tend to the advantage of the defenceless, of the destitute, and of the helpless, upon whom God the Law-giver especially keeps His eye....They are words which are frequently repeated in the prophets, foremost in Isaiah (ch. i. 17), with which is enjoined upon those invested with the dignity of the law, and with jurisdiction, justice towards those who cannot and will not themselves obtain their rights by violence.

Vers. 5-7. What now follows in ver. 5 is not a parenthetical assertion of the inefficiency with which the divine correction rebounds from the judges and rulers. In connection with this way of taking ver. 5, the manner in which the divine language is continued in ver. 6 is harsh and unadjusted. God Himself speaks in ver. 5 of the judges, but reluctantly alienated from them; and confident of the futility of all attempts to make them better, He tells them their sentence in vers. 6 sq. The verbs in ver. Sa are designedly without any object: complaint of the widest compass is made over their want of reason and understanding; and yada takes the perfect form in like manner to egnwkasi, noverunt, cf. xiv. 1, Isa. xliv.18. Thus, then, no result is to be expected from the divine admonition: they still go their ways in this state of mental darkness, and that, as the Hithpa. implies, stalking on in carnal security and self-complacency. The commands, however, which they transgress are the foundations (cf. xi. 3), as it were the shafts and pillars (lxxv. 4, cf. Prov. xxix. 4), upon which rests the permanence of all earthly relationships which are appointed by creation and regulated by the Tora. Their transgression makes the land, the earth, to totter physically and morally, and is the prelude of its overthrow. When the celestial Lord of the domain thinks upon this destruction which injustice and tyranny are bringing upon the earth, His wrath kindles, and He reminds the judges and rulers that it is His own free declaratory act which has clothed them with the god-like dignity which they bear. They are actually elohim, but not possessed of the right of self-government; there is a Mast High (elyon) to whom they as sons are responsible. The idea that the appellation elohim, which they have given to themselves, is only sarcastically given back to them in ver. 1 (Ewald, Olshausen), is refuted by ver. 6, according to which they are really elohim by the grace of God. But if their practice is not an Amen to this name, then they shall be divested of the majesty which they have forfeited; they shall be divested of the prerogative of Israel, whose vocation and destiny they have belied. They shall die off c'adam, like common men not rising in any degree above the mass (cf. bene adam, opp. bene ish, iv. 3, xlix. 3); they shall fall like any one (Judg. xvi. 7, Obad. ver. 11) of the princes who in the course of history have been cast down by the judgment of God (Hos. vii. 7). Their divine office will not protect them. For although justitia civilis is far from being the righteousness that avails before God, yet injustitia civilis is in His sight the vilest abomination.

Ver. 8. The poet closes with the prayer for the realization of that which he has beheld in spirit. He implores God Himself to sit in judgment...since judgment is so badly exercised upon the earth. All peoples are indeed His nachalah, He has an hereditary and proprietary right among ...The inference drawn from this point backwards, that the Psalm is directed against the possessors of power among the Gentiles, is erroneous. Israel itself, in so far as it acts inconsistently with its theocratic character, belies its sanctified nationality...The judgment over the world is also a judgment over the Israel that is become conformed to the world, and its God-estranged chiefs.

(_Commentary on the Old Testament_, volume 5, 400-404)

You will notice, Dr. Hamblin, that in almost every single particular, I arrived at the same conclusions on the basis of the text itself. This illustrates an important point: I approach the text with the following presuppositions:

1) The text is consistent with itself (immediate context)

2) The text is consistent with the rest of revelation (canonical context)

When those two simple concepts are allowed their place, the results will be the same. However, both concepts are actively *denied* by much of modern scholarship, due to these presuppositions:

1) The text has been altered so often prior to canonization that it is most likely inconsistent with itself in its immediate context.

2) There is no canonical context or consistent revelation in the Old Testament.

This conversation, aside from demonstrating a number of other things, has surely brought out this difference in approach quite clearly.

James>>>


Dear James,

Issue 1. Sir William.
JAMES
No, sir, it is the literal reading of the Psalm to keep it as one
literary whole. . . . That, sir, is literal reading.

BILL
I note that I have been "sir-ed." How gratifying. That must mean I am
getting to you.


Issue 2. Keil and Delitzsch
BILL
Your presentation of the material from Keil and Delitzsch is interesting,
but irrelevent. I have never disputed that people have attempted to
interpret Ps 82 as referring to judges. Indeed, I sent you a list of many
additional examples. The problem is, that K&D are about a century old, and
do not deal with the archaeological and textual evidence discovered in the
past century. What would be useful is to provide a modern source which
deals with the Ugaritica, etc., while maintaining the elohim = judges
interpretation.


Issue 3. What does literal mean?
JAMES
I reject, completely, the assertion that you are presenting the "literal"
interpretation of Psalm 82. . . . Of course, you assert that yours is the
literal reading [of Ps. 82] above, which is the issue in dispute, but you
don't call *that* "question begging." It
seems to me that the double standard upon which you are functioning is
making any kind of meaningful dialogue impossible.

BILL
I reject, completely, your rejection. Apparently you do not understand the
meaning of "literal interpretation." Ps 82:6 says that the the sons of
elyon are elohim. The literal interpretation of this text is that the the
sons of elyon are gods. Now, you believe that the elohim are human judges.
If the text said the elohim were human judges, and I argued that it really
meant the elohim are the sons of elyon, I would not be interpreting the text
literally, don't you agree? You are necessarily interpreting the text
metaphorically when you claim that the elohim are judges, not gods.
God/gods is the literal meaning of elohim Now this is not to say that you
are wrong. Simply that you are not reading the text literally. The
metaphorical interpretation might be the correct one (as in Jesus'
parables), but it is not the literal one.


Issue 4. Exegesis or interpretation
JAMES
Of course, I have not backtracked nor shifted positions. I simply
pointed out that Jesus did not exegete the passage in John 10, He cited
it. You have confused the fact of His citation of it with the assertion
that He is offering an exegesis of the entire Psalm in the brief comments
in John 10. No one could possibly claim to "exegete" a passage by making
a mere reference to one verse. Such would not be a meaningful use of the
term "exegete." . . . You are confused.

BILL
If using the word "exegesis" to describe Christ's activity in Jn 10 bothers
you, I will withdraw the term and use the word "interpretation." Will you
admit Christ is interpreting 82:6 by his statement in John 10? Is there not
an implied meaning to Ps 82:6 which Christ understood by quoting it in John
10? And is that implied meaning not the key to understanding Ps 82:6? I
have pointed out my exegesis at great length. You are unwilling to respond
to that and explain where I have misunderstood or misrepresented the "plain
meaning" of the text.


Issue 5. Totally depraved.
JAMES
It [that James changed the subject] is not an observation of fact,
it is a rude, childish attempt to win
"points" by making unnecessary comments that only add emotional impact
for your followers, little more. Your refusal to even acknowledge your
own slip in behavior is truly reprehensible. . . . The childishness of the
original comment is beyond dispute.

BILL
I will admit, for the sake of argument, that I am "rude, childish," and my
"behavior is truly reprehensible." You do not need to mention the fact
again. I concede my depravity.
Now that that issue is out of the way:
It does not change the fact that you refuse to deal with John 10.
It does not change the fact that changing the subject is a standard
anti-Mormon ploy.
It does not change the fact that you are an anti-Mormon.


6. Ad Hominem
JAMES
I well understand the use of ad hominem.

BILL
Well, what is it? Ad hominem does not mean making insulting remarks, as you
seem to think. My saying you are an anti-Mormon is not an ad hominem. If I
were to say, "you are an anti-Mormon, therefore your views are wrong", that
would be an ad Hominem. Ad hominem is a logical fallacy. It occurs when
one argues as follows:
X is a Mormon
Mormons are evil
Therefore, X's argument is wrong.
It ignores the evidence and analysis of that X presents for his case. Even
if X is evil, it does not mean his evidence and analysis are incorrect.
This is the ad hominem fallacy. The classic example in the anti-Mormon
world is: "Show me a non-Mormon archaeologist who believes in the Book of
Mormon." The ad hominem is that Mormon archaeologists, *because they are
Mormon* cannot present evidence and analysis on this matter. Only
non-Mormon views are permissible. In fact, you engage in the ad hominem
when you dismiss all the analysis of modern scholars *because* they are
[allegedly] liberals.


Issue 7. What are we debating?
JAMES
As I said, you contacted me about Psalm 82. The record is plain. You
have not yet dealt with the important elements of that passage. I
believe you are not able to do so, and hence are wishing to change the
grounds, all the while accusing *me* of doing that. I have refused to
follow your lead.

BILL
Let me see here. When I accused you of losing the debate and changing the
topic, that was apparently "rude, childish," and "behavior [which] is truly
reprehensible." However, now that you accuse me of losing and changing the
topic, your behavior is, well?
But, I am teasing you. How mean. How truly reprehensible.
Why, by the way, are you fixating and hyperventilating about what the topic
is?
I believe that Jesus' interpretation of Ps 82 can provide a key to
understanding that Psalm. I have explained why in detail. You apparently
disagree but refuse to explain why.
The fact remains, you refuse to deal with John 10.
And I will be sending you a full exegesis of Ps 82 in a short while.


Issue 8. Ignoring the evidence.
BILL
I note, for the record, that you refuse to deal with the evidence presented
by Mullen in _Assembly of the Gods.


Issue 9. Exodus 22:8-9
JAMES
There is, of course, *every* reason for so doing [translating elohim as
judges in Ex 22:8-9], as I have demonstrated.

BILL
One of your letters must have bounced. I recall a great deal of posturing
and assertion, but no demonstration. Perhaps you could repost what you feel
is your best demonstration on this point.
As I said before, the text makes perfect sense if we read elohim as "gods"
or God. The accused is brought before God. Some type of unspecified
divination or revelation takes place, and God renders judgement. A similar,
but more detailed example of what I am talking about can be found in Num.
5:11-28. So, although human judges do judge some cases, in other cases (Num
5:11-28), God himself judges. So, what specific characteristics of Ex 22
necessitate us to read "judges" for "elohim" in these verses? (As I noted,
and you ignored, the Latin and Greek translations render elohim as gods.
Apparently the earliest Christians disagreed with your interpretation.

Issue 10. Does God judge?
BILL
Do you concur that God is the supreme judge, and is repeatedly described as
judging humans?
(See the following passages. Examples can be further multiplied.)
Gen 18:25
Ps 6:7-9
Ps 7:11
Ps 35:24
Ps 43:1
Ps 50:6
Ps 54:1
Ps 58:11
Ps 68:5
Ps 72:2
Ps 75:7
Ps 82:8
Ec 3:17
Jer 21:12, 22:16
Ez 18:30
Rom 2:16
Rom 3:6
Heb 12:23
Heb 13:4


Thus ends the conversation, for, obviously, there is no reason to continue it.   The reasons are rather clear:

1)  Dr. Hamblin now admits that it is his goal to "get to" me.  I do not engage in protracted correspondence with those who simply seek to "get to" me.  I engaged in this to edify others and defend God's truth.   Evidently Dr. Hamblin's motivations were different.

2)  The scholarly, contextually sound, textually-based exegesis from the commentary of Keil and Delitzsch was dismissed with prejudice simply due to the fact that it is 100 years old.  The fact that Dr. Hamblin is entrenched in the use of non-believing, secularly-oriented standards in the examination of the OT text is beyond doubt demonstrated by this cavalier attitude, and since the glaring differences between the two positions have been fully explained in the preceding dialogue, there is no reason to repeat what has already been written.

3)  The meaning of the term "literal" is too obvious for comment.   Any person slightly familiar with exegetical issues knows that the "literal" meaning of a passage is the meaning of that passage as taken in its own context.  Dr. Hamblin continues to beg the question with his replies.

4)  Dr. Hamblin, at first, avoided clear attempts at generating emotional responses.  He has chosen to drop this approach, and now begins to introduce such emotionally laden terms as "anti-Mormon" and such purely ad-hominem attacks as "anti-Mormons change the subject" etc.  This simply continues the childish comments made earlier---comments that have no place in a scholarly dialogue on important issues regarding the text of Scripture.

5)  Dr. Hamblin provides evidence of issues not in dispute, such as the long list of verses at the end.  No one disputes that God is the ultimate judge.  But it has become painfully obvious that Dr. Hamblin is incapable of dealing with the fatal flaw of his own exegesis: verses 3 and 4.  This is so plain that we need only point it out.  The elohim of Psalm 82 are judged as false judges for their failure to do what only human judges are commanded to do.

So that this thread does not end up falling under the "Nastigrams 'R Us" (which it will, eventually, do, as the temperature escalates with each round), we here end the dialogue, and leave it to the reader to determine who has dealt with all of Psalm 82 in its own context and who has not.

Additional Note:  Upon posting the final section of this dialogue, I received a number of further e-mails from Dr. Hamblin, accusing me of not posting all of his materials and various and sundry other untruths.  In other words, exactly what I predicted was about to happen, did.  Anyone who wants to see Dr. Hamblin's accusations may do so at the following address: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_01.html.

I would imagine my replies, briefly pointing out his errors, should be posted at that address as well.  Suffice it to say that any person reading this page, and then reading that one, will see that it is far better to post only the information relevant to the topic.  How anyone can even attempt to follow the actual discussion in light of all the "noise" thrown in is hard to see.  And one thing is for certain: anyone who compares the brief summary provided above with Dr. Hamblin's ad-hominem riddled "appendix" will get yet another example of how some BYU professors handle "debate" situations.


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