Interview with Benjamin Sommer on Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition

What is a Biblical theologian as opposed to a Biblical historian? Biblical theology shows the unfolding of God’s revelation in the text and thereby “seeks to discover what the biblical writers, under divine guidance, believed, described, and taught in the context of their own times.” Prof. Benjamin D Sommer, Professor of Bible in the Department of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America is one of the few Jewish academic for whom that definition is the focus of his writing.

Revelation & Authority

Sommer’s recent work, Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition deals with the role of revelation in the Bible and how that creates obligation within a Jewish understanding. Sommer argues for the idea of a participatory revelation, in which those who receive a divine command participate in creating the resulting sacred texts and laws- and that participatory revelation has long been accepted in Jewish tradition. And as a liberal theologian, he allows for a robust human role with the creation of the Biblical texts. Sample chapter here.

Sommer also vigorously argues that one can combine academic historical study together with a sacred approach to scripture, Bible as historical artifact and Bible as scripture can be combined. Five years ago, Sommer wrote a lengthy response to James Kugel who as an Orthodox scholar believes that the two realms have to be kept separate and distinct. Kugel treats the Torah as a sacred text, to be read reverentially and approached with devotion reflecting the will of God. Much of Kugel’s career has been devoted to studying how the Bible has been read over the ages as scripture by religious communities. Yet as an academic, Kugel teaches that the academic approach to the Bible yields a Bible as a product of the Ancient Near East, full of contradictions, flawed and imperfect.

In contrast, Benjamin Sommer accuses Kugel of having a bifurcated soul. Sommer argues that scholarship can and should inform religious life. The academic showing the human hand in the Biblical text does not undercut religious life, rather, it enhances it. Kugel, Sommer claims, does his readers a disservice by insisting that one cannot treat the Bible as an artifact and as sacred scripture at the same time. Sommer also rejects Rosenzweig’s overriding concern with the scriptural and devotional and his downplaying the relevance of the historical.

Sommer does follow Rosenzweig in rejecting verbal revelation, but unlike Rosenzweig he uses in defense of his argument against verbal revelation, a moral argument that the Bible seems immoral in parts and in other parts the personality of God is capricious or immoral, so those parts must reflect a human element and a human hand. Sommer also rejects the approaches of treating the Bible metaphorically or as an accommodation to the times, even when such approaches are already found in the Talmud.

Six years ago, Sommer wrote a widely received work The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2009) discussing the role of God’s body in the conceptions of the Biblical authors. (Reviews of the book are available here.) Hence, while I was in India, I found myself in email contact with him in that he had presented a paper at a conference comparing Vedic Hinduism to the Bible and I wanted to ask him a few questions.

This blog has covered some basics in contemporary criticism such as David Carr, and then I posted a wide gamut of Orthodox approaches to deal with the problems of Biblical history including James Kugel, Joshua Berman, Tamar Ross, Sam Fleishacker and Jacob Wright, now we look at the topic from a liberal perspective. Hence- Warning: Orthodox reader discretion is advised. This interview contains ideas that are from the perspective of liberal religion (which may be unsuitable for some Orthodox readers). Secular Warning- this interview contains revelation by God, an event at Sinai, binding mizvot, and a God’s ongoing guidance (which may be unsuitable for some new-atheists who went from one extreme to the other).

Sommer, is similar to Zechariah Frankel, in that the Oral law, and much of Biblical law, is not directly from Sinai; similar to Franz Rosenzweig, in that revelation was not in words or statements; and similar to Louis Jacobs in that historical criticism needs to be integrated within the synagogue and scriptural reading of the Bible. Prof. Sommer offers a fine window in the world of a liberal Jewish thinker and Biblical scholar of the 21st century. This is a very long interview that you may want to print out.

Note: Comments have died a natural death. Tablet and Forward have basically removed comments and most blogs no longer have lively comment conversations. However, discussion of blogs is still robust but has traveled to social media. Most of my posts get 400-500 Facebook comments so posting a stray comment here is now out of discussion, without respondents, and out of context. This may be only a beginning. Let’s wait and see the many other changes there will be in social media in another six years.

1) What is the tension of Bible as scripture and as artifact?

For religious people — both Jews and Christians — the Bible is scripture, not just another fascinating ancient book. The Bible relates to religious Jews and Christians at an existential level; its teachings demand a response, and not just a response on the level of the intellect, but a response involving actions, belief, self-definition and participation in a community. Religious people view the Bible as connected to a divine source in one way or another. For some people, that connection is more direct, and in the minds of others, it is circuitous. But the fact of the connection makes the Bible holy, different from other great texts.

People who regard the Bible as a cultural artifact, on the other hand, look at it the way they would look at any collection of ancient texts. It is an anthology of Northwest Semitic texts from the Iron Age and shortly thereafter. These texts furnish insight into a particular culture that existed near the eastern edge of Mediterranean over the course of several centuries. This anthology called the Hebrew Bible is interesting for the same reasons that any cultural expression produced by human beings is interesting: because it contains attempts by human beings to explore fundamental questions. Further, it has a central role in Western culture, in Judaism, and in Christianity. Thus a humanistic thinker, a student of Western culture may find the Hebrew Bible to be of vital concern without, however, regarding it as scripture: that is, without attributing to it some ontological status or connection with God that differentiates it from other cultural artifacts.

To my mind, the core project of modern biblical criticism — and by that term I mean academic biblical scholarship going back to the 18th century, and really even back to Hobbes and Spinoza in the 17th century — has been to read the Bible as an artifact within its own cultural world. Some, though not all, biblical critics have assumed that to read it as artifact precludes reading it as scripture. Others have attempted to do both, whether simultaneously or serially. A core question of my own work has been to examine the tensions between these two approaches and to ask whether that tension is inevitable or not.

2) Why do you reject those who think the two approaches of historical artifact and scripture are mutually exclusive?

There are two reasons I reject the assumption that it is impossible to read the Bible as both artifact and scripture. First, empirically speaking, it’s just not true that one can’t do both at the same time. It is possible to read the Bible as an anthology of Northwest Semitic writings that presents us with certain teachings; contemporary religious communities can use those teachings to draw themselves closer to God, to each other, and to God’s will.

Using modern critical tools such as history and philology to understand the Bible’s teachings doesn’t somehow render those teachings irrelevant to religion; using those tools simply means that I am able to get much closer to understanding biblical texts and their teachings the way their first audiences understood them. Why understanding the Bible more deeply and more authentically on its own terms should be thought inimical to accepting the Bible as sacred is utterly beyond me. I really disagree with Rosenzweig in his emphasis on reading scripture as a scriptural unity paying short shrift to the artifact reading.

Second, for me as religious Jew, it seems inauthentic to separate what I know about the Bible intellectually from the ways I employ it religiously. It will not do to read the Bible serially, sometimes as artifact and at other times as scripture. Such a choice would require one to partition oneself, so that one has a secular mind and a religious soul co-existing uneasily in a single body but not communicating with each other.

The Shema commands us to serve God with all our mind, with all that makes us alive, with all that we are (Deuteromomy 6.5). A person whose intellect believes that biblical criticism makes valid claims but whose religious self pretends otherwise renders service to God that this verse regards as fragmented and defective. An intellectually honest modern person convinced by a particular theory about the Bible must read the Bible in a way that integrates that knowledge.

Let me say something more about why it is religiously imperative to read the Bible in its own cultural context as an ancient Near Eastern anthology. We Jews have always conducted dialogues with our sacred texts; this dialogical aspect of sacred study has become especially important for modern liberal Jews. Now, if I am going to have a dialogue with anyone, I need to keep in mind that mine is not the only voice in the dialogue. I need to be quiet for a while so that I can listen to the dialogue partner, and only after I really hear what the other is saying can I begin to respond. It can be hard sometimes, when you’re really passionate about something, to be quiet long enough to hear the other. That’s the case when we’re dealing with the voice of another person from our own culture, but it’s even harder when the voice comes not from a living person but from a text, and not from a contemporary text but one that took shape twenty-five or more centuries ago.

To hear biblical texts speaking in their own voices, I need to know how texts worked in the ancient Near East: I need to know, first of all, the grammar and syntax of biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, and the ways these texts produced and conveyed meaning. In order to know all that, I need to understand the world that produced the Bible and how the texts were created there, how scribes composed the texts in the Bible, transmitted them, read them or chanted them to their audiences, and how those audiences were likely to have heard them.

And that’s what biblical criticism allows me to do. Fundamentally, we biblical critics attempt to help biblical texts speak to us in their own voice and not in a voice that we impose on them. What this means is that biblical criticism is all about a core religious value: humility. It’s incredibly easy for religious people just to impose their own values onto a sacred text. That happens all the time, both on the religious right and the religious left.

3) Why do you reject God speaking in direct words since it is equally problematic for God to reveal imperatives in words or without?

Following many modern theologians, I tend to think that there is something limiting in having the Master of the Universe become bounded by the confines of human language; surely God can communicate in vessels more subtle, more complex, and less frail than words. Granted, an omnipotent God can communicate however God wants to communicate, and words are one option. But the more ambiguous media that some biblical texts imply underlie the reports of revelation have a variety of advantages. A non-verbal revelation forces the human recipient to be active, to enter into the process of creating torah, in the sense of teaching or guidance. And as my friend, the outstanding Catholic scholar Gary Anderson, put it when he summarized my approach, revelation conceived this way puts a premium on human agency; thus it gives witness to the grandeur of a God who accomplishes a providential task through the free will of human subjects under God’s authority.

There is another reason that I just cannot believe that all of the Pentateuch’s words come directly and literally from heaven. There are biblical passages that cannot be reconciled with a God who is merciful or just, much less a deity who is both. The Bible sometimes appears to be all too human not simply because it has trouble deciding whether Noah took two or seven of the clean animals onto the ark, but more importantly because it describes a God who sweeps away the innocent along with the guilty–if not in the Noah story (which tells us that all humans other than Noah were blameworthy), then surely in the exodus narrative, in which God slays first-born Egyptians who had no say in Pharaoh’s labor policies.

Even more disturbingly, the Bible commands Jews, if only in a few specific cases, to imitate God in disregarding both justice and mercy: all Amalekites, even children, are to be slaughtered (Deuteronomy 25.17-19); genocide or expulsion is the fate of all Canaanites who do not submit to Israel (for example, Deuteronomy 7 and 20). It helps only a little that rabbinic commentators through the ages have ruled that the laws regarding Canaanites applied only to the time of Joshua and not in perpetuity, so that nobody living after Joshua’s era has the right, much less the obligation, to apply them to anyone at all. (I’m thinking here, for example, of m. Yadaim 4:4, t. Qiddushin 5:6, b. Berakhot 28a, b. Yoma 54a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Laws of Kings,” 5:4.) The law, even if no longer applicable, is still there.

Similarly, I receive only a little comfort from the suggestion that these laws don’t mean what they seem to mean but are to be construed metaphorically. (The Talmud proposes this idea when it grapples with the disturbing law in Deuteronomy 21.18-21 that allows parents to execute a rebellious son. In b. Sanhedrin 71a and t. Sanhedrin 11:2, the rabbis maintain that this law is in the Torah only so that we can receive a reward for interpreting it away.) This well-known teaching does not fully solve the moral problem that passages such as these raise. The fact remains that the Torah at the very least gives the appearance of encouraging cruelty and injustice in these verses (or, in the case of the Canaanites, the Bible appears to have done so for a single generation).

These texts diminish my ability to accept the notion that the Torah in its entirety was composed by God: a just and merciful God would not write a Torah that seems unjust, even in a small number of passages, even on a surface level. I can understand how non-verbal commands from a just and merciful God were in rare cases misunderstood; I can’t understand how the words in those specific verses came literally and directly from God. By acknowledging that the Bible combines human and divine elements, that it contains human reactions to non-verbal divine commands — that is, by adopting the view of revelation found in the writings of Franz Rosenzweig and Abraham Joshua Heschel — I can continue seeing the Bible as scripture, and not only as artifact. There really was an event at Mount Sinai that involved all Israel, and Sinai is not just a metaphor. However, it is scripture not because all its words came from heaven, but because it contains the nation Israel’s response to God’s real but non-verbal commands that came to Israel at Sinai.


4) Do you define yourself as liberal theologian?

I define myself as a liberal theologian, because my work on revelation is nothing more than a long footnote to the work of liberal theologians like Heschel, Rosenzweig, and Louis Jacobs, and in other respects a footnote to Solomon Schechter and Zechariah Frankel.

But the term liberal might be misleading in reference these thinkers and to me, because, thinkers of this school (myself included) embrace a robust notion of halakhic obligation. I believe that a divine command is at the core of the revelation at Sinai.

Of course, there have been diverse articulations of that command in human language; we see this diversity not only in differences of Jewish law within rabbinic tradition over time, but already in the Bible itself, as J, E, P, and D disagree on many specifics of the law. But the centrality of the command remains through all these differences. Consequently, it seems to me that no authentic Jewish response to revelation can dispense with the observance of a law.

5) Is there a serious difference in practice between Biblical practices and also with Rabbinic conceptions?

Do you mean do I acknowledge that there were serious differences in ritual practice between them? Of course. There were serious differences of ritual practice between D and P. Within the priestly schools, there were some important differences between the older Priestly Torah and the new Holiness texts. Qal vachomer there major differences between the various ancient Israelite and Judean practices of the first millennium BCE reflected in the Bible and the first millennium CE practices reflected in tannaitic and amoraic texts. But I think that many modern scholars have overstated the innovative nature of the rabbis, and there are surely areas of great continuity between biblical and rabbinic Judaisms, even if there are also areas of difference.

There were many temples prior to the time of King Josiah, and these temples were probably not identical in their practices (different Levitical and priestly families or groups were in charge of different temples, and they all probably had their own practices), and because even at one temple like the Jerusalem Temple practices probably changed over time. (Thus the influx of northern refugees, including northern Levites, after 722 probably influenced the cult at the Jerusalem temple, as did the smaller but deeply influential influx of southern Levites at the times of the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah.) There were differences in ritual practice between D and P. Within the priestly schools, there were some important differences between the older Priestly Torah and the new Holiness texts. But all these schools held core practices and beliefs in common, for instance, the centrality of the covenant between God and Israel and some form of monotheism.

6) Is you view Biblicalcentric? I do not see much Talmudic or halakhic thinking?

Actually, my view is not biblical-centric at all; quite the contrary. By suggesting that the Bible contains human and divine elements, and that the Bible is to some degree fallible because of the human elements, I am saying that the Bible is very similar to the Talmud and later halakhic literature. My view of the Bible, even the Pentateuch, as a human response to God’s real commands at Sinai, implies something that is the very opposite of a biblical-centric approach: it implies that there is no Written Torah; there is only Oral Torah, which starts with Genesis 1.1.

Given the centrality of the doctrine of two Torahs in rabbinic religion, this conclusion may seem shocking. In the fourth chapter of my book I propose that it need not be. Many of the rabbinic texts that introduce the distinction between Written and Oral Torahs also subvert it. They teach that all torah, whether from the Pentateuch or midrash or repeated oral traditions or discussions of them are a unity (see, e.g., Sifre Deuteronomy §306); that the original or default value of all torah was Oral Torah and that some parts became Written Torah subsequently and for contingent, non-essential reasons (see Shemot Rabbah §47 and its many parallels in other midrashic collections and the Yerushalmi, as well as b. Gittin 60a and its parallels); that Oral Torah is more beloved than and takes precedence over the Written (y. Peah 4a [2:6] and its many parallels). Consequently, I think rabbinic Jews may legitimately regard the Bible as but one manifestation of Oral Torah. The sort of theology I put forward teaches that God’s will comes to the Jewish people through a tradition that includes but is not limited to the Bible.

In some sense you might say that my book seems to demote the Bible to the level of the Talmud. But someone attune to the norms of rabbinic culture will understand that this shift is really a promotion, not a demotion; in either case, it has the salutary effect of showing us that the elements of the Bible that are amiss, whether morally or historically, need not shake our commitment to Judaism and its law. We all agree that all the works of the Oral Law, whether the Mishnah from the second century or the Mishneh Torah from the twelfth century or the Mishnah Berurah from the twentieth were written by human beings. They all preserve elements going back to God’s revelation at Sinai, but their wording is human in origin. Now, I’ve never heard of a frum person saying, “Oh my gosh! I just found out that the Shulchan Arukh was written by a human! I can’t be frum any more! I’m going out to get a cheeseburger right now.”

Jews are perfectly capable of accepting the authority of the mizvot even while realizing that its specific verbal formulations in the Talmud and the law codes were crafted by fellow humans. As Rosenzweig put it, the command, in the abstract, really comes from God; but the specific laws through which we fulfill the divine command from Sinai are formulated by the nation Israel over the generations.

To be sure, people brought up on the theory that every word of the Pentateuch was written by God often suffer a wrenching loss if they become convinced that the Pentateuch includes, or consists entirely of, human words. The adherent of what we might call the stenographic theory of revelation might object to the theory I am putting forth: “Yes, the laws we observe involve human formulations; yes, they were debated in the Talmuds and are laid out in the medieval and modern law codes. But these human formulations are based on and exegetically derived from a genuinely heavenly text; they are rooted in God’s own words.” To this I respond: the idea of revelation I suggest entails essentially the same structure of thought, and it merely pushes the heavenly origin back by a single step. Instead of an earthly Talmudic law based on a heavenly Pentateuch, I believe in an earthly Talmudic law based on an earthly Pentateuch that is in turn based on a genuinely heavenly but non-verbal command. In either theory, Jewish law as we practice it ultimately but imperfectly reflects a divine revelation.

The loss involved in recognizing that even the Pentateuch is Oral Torah is less momentous than one initially assumes. But the gains that follow from acknowledging the human and thus at times flawed nature of the Pentateuch are considerable. A flawed scripture shouldn’t surprise or upset religious Jews so much, because religious Jews have long had a category of sacred and authoritative literature that is to some degree human and imperfect: the Oral Torah. So I am not just demoting the Tanakh when I say it’s Oral Torah. I am preserving it as scripture, and not just historical artifact.

7) If the Bible is a 6th-century Assyrian period work (and possibly even more recent), how can it be used as a record of anything?

Biblical texts crystallized over a period of many centuries, but the bulk of the Bible was probably written in the period from the eighth through the fifth centuries. What was written down at any point, however, usually included material that had been passed down in one form or another for a long time previously, and what was written down sometime continued to be altered, added to, or combined with related texts. One cannot say that the Bible dates specifically to any one period.
Further, most attempts to date biblical texts with any precision (and by this I mean within, say, a century) are, to my mind, so speculative as to be of almost no scholarly value; the most we can usually say is whether a text is exilic or pre-exilic, based on its linguistic profile. (I should note that in that last sentence I stake out a position that puts me at odds with most of my colleagues in the field, who tend to be more confident about our ability to date ancient texts. I discuss this in a lot more detail here.)

But you’re right that some biblical texts describe events, such as the exodus, that almost certainly happened long before the texts describing them took the shape in which we know them. In the case of the exodus, there are quite a number of elements of the late Bronze Age or New King-dom Egypt that the Bible gets right in ways that were highly unlikely or just impossible for writ-ers in the Iron Age, and this strongly suggests that even though the accounts of the exodus in the Bible were written centuries after the events, they preserve some genuine historical memories. My friend Josh Berman from Bar Ilan University discussed this issue in Mosaic recently, and I wrote a reaction to Josh’s excellent piece there.

8) If someone said to you that Biblical criticism is a speculative field with no clear proofs or evidence, what do you say?

I would say yes: biblical criticism is a humanistic discourse, and like all fields in the humanities, it doesn’t achieve or aspire to the sort of empirical evidence you get in the hard sciences or the clear proofs you get in geometry. It is, as you say, a speculative field, just like history or comparative literature or most branches of philosophy. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes; evidence and reasoning, carefully applied, provide us with more likely conclusions and less likely conclusions and conclusion that, examined carefully, turn out to be just bunk. New evidence (such as the Dead Sea scrolls, or the discovery of Canaanite myths, poetry, ritual texts at Ugarit and elsewhere) can disprove some theories or bolster others.
The great German biblical critic Julius Wellhausen argued in the 1880’s that the P document of the Pentateuch (which includes, among other texts, all of Vayiqra) was written very late in Ju-dah’s history, during the exilic period. He had a number of arguments on behalf of this dating, one of which was that P presents us with complex classes and subclasses of sacrificial rituals, and he thought that this complexity must have resulted from a long evolutionary process. When archaeologists found texts that describe Canaanite and Phoenician sacrifices, it turned out that similarly complex classifications of sacrifices existed among Israel’s neighbors, and they used some of the exact same terms as Vayiqra to describe them. So we now know that even before the Israelites settled in Canaan rituals as complex as those found in Vayiqra existed. Thus we have empirical evidence that at least that one part of Wellhausen’s reasoning doesn’t hold water.
When a given hypothesis explains a very great deal of data (which is the case, for example, with some versions of the Documentary Hypothesis), that hypothesis comes to be appreciated as more and more likely. But it’s the humanities, so it’s likely to remain a hypothesis. Humans are not computers, and hence the humanities will always remain a wonderful realm of speculation and interpretation, not an area with defined inputs and unquestionable outputs.

Bodies of God

9) In your earlier work, you show that God in the Bible had various bodies. Is that useful for the 21st century?

In The Bodies of God, I uncover a debate among biblical authors regarding God’s body. It’s not a debate between those who think God has a body and those who don’t; until Saadiah, all Jewish thinkers, biblical and post-biblical, agreed that God, like anything real in the universe, has a body. Rather, it was a debate between those (like J and E) who thought that God has many bodies and those (like P and D) who thought that God has only one body. Now, in recovering this ancient Israelite debate, I do not mean to suggest that a Jew must believe that God literally has at least one body, that God is (as J and E believed) physically present in this rock or that bush, and not in some other one. Rather, I insist that the J and E texts are still torah, still guiding voices that have something to teach religious Jews. They help me to realize how uncanny, strange, incomprehensible, yet nearby, or potentially nearby, the God of Judaism is.

10) How do you reject the Jewish philosophic tradition by returning to a god with a body?

What I am doing in that book as a theologian is not so much rejecting Saadia and Rambam but recovering and embracing a side of biblical thought that leads to kabbalah, just as the D authors lead towards Rambam.

Torah in its broad sense (by which I mean the traditions of Catholic Israel through all the generations) has been a long discussion and debate about the nature of God, Israel, the world, and the relations among them. What I am trying to do as a biblical theologian is to restore the varied voices of the biblical authors to that debate and to show the continuities between various biblical authors and later Jewish thinkers: D and Rambam on the nature of God, E and Heschel on the nature of revelation, P and Elliott Dorff on the evolution of Jewish law.

In this theological model, modern Jews will turn to the Bible for the same reasons they turn to rabbinic literature: not with the expectation that it always gives me statements that convey accurate knowledge but with the knowledge that it constitutes the beginning of a discussion.

For Jewish theology, specific propositions are of less import than the process of discussing these propositions. The discussion itself is sacred, is a form of worship.

For that discussion to be the fullest Jewish discussion it can be, should include Israel’s earliest voices. This does not mean that a religious Jew must accept everything the Bible says as true (any more than it means we should accept Rambam’s physics), but it does mean that everything the Bible says must be considered and demands a response. The Bible, like the Mishnah or The Guide of the Perplexed or The Star of Redemption, is torah, guidance. These works point us in specific directions, but they are not sources of dogma. Indeed, they cannot be, since they present so many mutually exclusive ideas. As a Jewish biblical theologian, I devote attention to the whole of Jewish thought, including but not limited to the Bible. My project is to notice elements of conversation and continuity that go beyond the artificial boundaries that the various anthologizers over the ages have created.

11) Does your approach of portraying the biblical God as having several bodies bring Judaism closer to Hinduism?
The classical Hindu idea of an avatara provides an apt word for describing how J and E perceive divine embodiment. Those parts of the Pentateuch, along with a number of other biblical texts, sometimes use the word מלאך to refer not to an angel, a messenger who is on a mission from God, but to a small-scale manifestation of God. The מלאך ה’ in this sense is not sent by God but actually is God, just not all of God; this מלאך is a smaller, more approachable, more user-friendly aspect of the cosmic deity who is Hashem. That idea is very similar to what the term avatara conveys in Sanskrit. So in this respect, we can see a significant overlap between Hindu theology and one biblical theology. But P and D completely reject the idea that God can become manifest on earth in a partial form.

Further, there are philosophical trends in Hinduism that use the idea of avataras to make what amounts to a monotheistic argument: these trends regard all gods and goddesses as manifesta-tions of one ultimate deity or force. Still, even in J and E we don’t quite see that sort of theology. Neither J nor E would regard Marduk or Ashur or Zeus or Ishtar as a manifestation of Hashem, as the same being as Hashem in some smaller or more local form. So I think these trends in Hindu monotheism are different from any form of biblical monotheism.

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