Is God "All That"? Thom Stark and Michael Heiser

Pax Christi everybody!

I came across this post by the Biblical scholar/actor Dr. Thom Stark, where he responds to Dr. Michael Heiser about the Biblical authors’ view of God’s supremacy. While I am convinced that the faithful Israelite was often monolatrous, it disturbs me to consider the possibility that even so much as one of the authors thought that God was subordinate to another; despite Heiser’s accusation, Stark does not deny that some Israelites thought of Yahweh as supreme, but he believes that this view was not uniform and provides extra-Biblical evidence as such:

"> I pray to thee, O Lady of ladies, goddess of goddesses.

O Ishtar, queen of all peoples, who guides mankind aright,
O Irnini ever exalted, greatest of the Igigi,
O most mighty of princesses, exalted is thy name.
Thou art indeed the light of heaven and earth,
O valiant daughter of Sin.
O supporter of arms, who determines battles,
O possessor of all divine power, who wears the crown of dominion,
O Lady, glorious is thy greatness; over all the gods it is exalted.
Anu, Enlil and Ea have made thee high; among the gods they have caused thy dominion to be great.
They have made thee high among all the Igigi; they have made thy position pre-eminent.

Once again, Ishtar is described as the greatest of all the gods, but this clearly does not include the higher gods Anu, Enlil, and Ea, who are the ones responsible for her exaltation. They established her preeminence. Clearly that her greatness is exalted “over all the gods” does not and cannot mean that it is exalted over the higher tier of deities, which would include also her father Sin."

And here’s some more:

"> My lady, your divine powers are mighty powers, surpassing all other divine powers; Nanshe, there are no divine powers matching your powers. An, the king, looks joyfully at you, as you sit with Enlil on the throne-dais where the fates are to be determined. Father Enki determined a fate for you. Nanshe, child born in Eridug, sweet is your praise.

Clearly Nanshe is not superior to Enlil, the king. Neither is she superior to Enki, her father, who “determined a fate” for Nanshe. In other words, Enki is the one who exalted her. She, along with Enlil, determines the fate of humankind, but her own fate is determined by a higher god, her father Enki. She reigns at the top of the second tier, but the higher gods remain in position above her."

Heiser has not responded, which is odd for a scholar of his expertise.

This view is consistent with the reading that El either surrendered his throne to or had it taken by Yahweh, like Ba’al Hadad, which I’m already not too sure about. I personally can’t understand how the authors of The Bible couldn’t have thought of Yahweh as, at the very least, king of the gods, and if what Stark says is true, I’m not sure how to handle it.

You can read the post below if you want. Thoughts?

Well they do call Yahweh the God of the gods.

However, by gods I believe it’s referring to the type of being which includes the angels and I think often these gods were simply the angels who ruled over a nation or person.

Daniel 10:12-21
New American Standard Bible
12 Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was standing in my way for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the latter days, because the vision pertains to the days still future.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. 16 And behold, one who resembled a human was touching my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, “My lord, due to the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength. 17 For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.”

18 Then this one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “You who are treasured, do not be afraid. Peace be to you; take courage and be courageous!” Now as soon as he spoke to me, I felt strengthened and said, “May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am leaving, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. 21 However, I will tell you what is recorded in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who [stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.

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How exactly does this pertain to YHWH? I don’t see the connection, beyond also being from the ancient Near-East.

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Thom Stark sees this in light of his interpretation of a couple of passages from Deuteronomy and the Psalms, which he reads as Yahweh getting land from the superior god El and then judging his superior’s council and taking charge.

Besides, if hyperbolic language was used here to “elevate” the god in question, who is not to say the same might be found in The Bible?

Israel was polytheistic for a long while and then a monolatry formed. Monotheism is a late development. There will be competing ideologies/theologies in the Bible because of this.

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Totally agree with you. Most Israelites were certainly polytheists. But do you find it possible that monolatry or even monotheism was held by some before the exile, say, The Prophets or The Levites who participated in The Exodus? That’s the view that made sense to me. But if this wasn’t so, does it mean trouble?

Yes, of course it’s possible. We can’t exactly poll or obtain direct evidence of what each individual person who ever lived actually believed. We are largely in the dark and there will probably always be some diversity. The surviving record suggests monotheism developed significantly after the Exile but we have an incomplete record.

I am not sure there was an Exodus or that Moses even existed. I find meaning outside of reading it as fact-literal history. I mean on one level, God just inflicts 10 plagues, supernaturally kills all the first born of Egypt, turns a whole river red, parts a sea and swallows up the Egyptians. Ten minutes later the people start worshiping a statue of a calf. It just isn’t very plausible and there are certainly logistical problems with the account as it stands, and a complete lack of archaeological and historical evidence outside this one account. I think it’s possible some historical incident may have motivated this story as it now stands but I don’t think it means trouble. But people have different understandings of Biblical Inspiration and we all don’t agree on the genre of each work.



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