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Re:[John_Lit] Still on a "god" - brief follow-up

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  • gds@dor.kaiser.org
    Folks: The discussion of gods and the meanings it may or may not have had in Judaism is interesting. The fact of the matter is, elohim or god/gods has
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2001
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      The discussion of 'gods' and the meanings it may or may not have had in Judaism
      is interesting. The fact of the matter is, 'elohim or 'god/gods' has had quite
      a few different meanings and applications during the reading history of the
      canon as Susan suggests. It did not mean just "GOD" in big and bold capital
      letters as many presuppose. It always had the primary meaning of 'power' which
      is what its related term, "EL", originally meant as far back as the Early Bronze
      age. Therefore, it seemed to always be able to revert back to this primary or
      original sense of 'power', and thus, could always be semantically extended to
      refer to powerful ones, beings, persons, you name it. An excellent discussion
      of the ability of 'elohim to have a wide semantic net can be quickly seen in a
      very good article on Psalm 82 by Francis Handy. He takes the reading history of
      Psalm 82:1 and shows how multivalent this word can be. The phrase, 'God stands
      up in the assembly of God...In the midst of the el hîm he judges', has taken
      some startling meanings which range from 'gods' (its most likely original
      meaning in the ANE as also the LXX takes it), angels (Persian/Hellenistic), the
      judges of the people (Rabbinic), demons (Origen), Jews (Eusebius), Christian
      community (Luther), and worldly magistrates (Calvin). See: 'One Problem Involved
      in Translating to Meaning: An Example of Acknowledging Time and Tradition', SJOT
      10 (1996), pp. 16-27. His study more than shows how the meaning of a text, and
      especially the term 'elohim, or 'gods' in this instance, does indeed march
      through time, and that the text has different meanings according to the specific
      conventions of the particular reading community to which subsequent interpreters
      belonged. Although we have accesss to the original text (in most instances),
      that does not give us access to the original intent. (Surely John's Prologue
      would fit the bill here too!) It is also assured that most biblical
      interpreters would not give validity or creedance to all of these readings as
      'legitimate', especially those that are too local in character or admit to
      uncalled for bias (as in Eusebius). So, the issue is, given the semantic
      pliability of this word, how was it being 'plied' by the author of 4G? Or, is
      it being used precisely for its multiple levels of meanings for irony, subtlety,
      ambiguity, or something else. I don't have the answers. I'm just your normal
      scholar with a variety of interests who publishes usually in the OT area. But
      this term can be multivalent, ironically so.

      - Gary D. Salyer
      Fuller Theological Seminary of Northern California

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