Since 2007 I have been releasing videos on youtube regarding why I believe that Judaism was more of an influence on Zoroastrianism than the other way around.  The continuing playlist can be accessed here:

As you can imagine I receive a lot of comments on these videos, but most notably from the first video I released on Sept. 9, 2007.  Today I received an encouraging complement on a comment from youtube user Netanel Yehudah. Netanel stated, “Excellant post!” After reading this it occurred to me that my response just had to be posted on my blog for more coverage.  It was originally a response to youtube user AlisherPainting on Dec. 2, 2014.  Alisher’s comment was as follows:

“As you said, it is sort of a topic where you kind of want to make your own determination of what influenced what. I would say with no doubt Judaism is influenced by the Zoroastrianism. My reasons for that are: First, you have no evidence of Judaism predating Zoroastrianism, but we have sufficient evidence to prove the other way around. Second, most importantly, I have had to work with many different Jewish communities, Bukharian Jews, Ukrainian Jews, American Jews, And Different jews who are coming from a different parts of the world. And the clear fact about all of them is they have huge cultural and spiritual influence of the region that they have lived in. And this is something that you or no jew can disagree. So, what should stop me from believing that Jews who were saved by the persians and let to live freely in a persian paradise would have not been influenced by the powerful culture of that era? I would appreciate your response.”

*My response was as follows:

“Thank you for your well spoken inquiry. First let me start by stating that I have nothing against the religion of Zoroastrianism. In fact, it is my belief that Iran should show the world how tolerant they are and promote and help the existing Zoroastrians who are still there.

I would give four reasons to consider and study:

1. Was or is Zoroastrianism truly a monotheistic religion?  Even if it was some form of monotheism it was or is not like the monotheism of the Hebrews.  While the Hebraic outlook might have acknowledged other foreign “gods” they never considered those “gods” as competing with the Lord of Creation. Furthermore there is nothing in the Hebrew scriptures which elicit the worshiper to offer praise to any other “god” except the Lord, but in the Avestan Scriptures there are plenty of Hymns of praise to many “gods” or if one interprets, “God in another form”.  The problem of course is in understanding the many gods of Zoroastric-Mazdaism as flowing from Ahura Mazda when this idea is very hard to find spelled out in the Avesta.  I think is more alluded to in Zend Commentary.

2. Was Zarathustra a religious reformer?  That is speculated by some scholars because it seems obvious by a reading of the Avesta that there existed another Persian religion which pre-existed the time of Zarathustra.  This may or may not have been the religions of King Cyrus as there is no proof that Cyrus ever mentions the name of Ahura Mazda or Zarathustra.  It could be that Zarathustra is born after the time of Cyrus as some scholars have pointed out various reasons which I mention in this video series.  If indeed Zarathustra was a reformer, the question is does he actually reform this pre-existant Mazdaism which is polytheistic into the Zoroastric-Mazdaism idea?  Or is he not a reformer at all?  Perhaps he simply reinforces the foundational principles of this idea of Ahura-Mazda flowing through all of the other various gods?

3. The issue is not in regard to general influence between cultures and religions because we know that we all influence each other in some way. It is whether the Hebraic idea of monotheism or other key doctrinal ideas which I cover in this video series were originated from Zoroastrianism.

4. Are the Avestan Scriptures dated to the right time periods?  Most scholars date the Gathas portions to a general date of 1000 BC.  Some of the Avestan scriptures are possibly older and attributed to the pre-Zoroastric time period and which probably did not have the same idea of monothesism if indeed there is some sort of monotheism in them.  The “Younger” Yashts are somewhere in the Achaemenid period but most likely about 200 years after King Cyrus. Then there is quite a bit which most likely followed the 4th century BC which was clearly after the Babylonian exile of the Jews.  We really don’t have a lot to support the dating of the texts.  Aside from some fire temples and evidence of burial techniques which can just as easily be attributed to the pre-Zoro period which most likely did not support “monotheistic” ideas until Zarathustra shows up later and possibly reforms this religion.

There is simply in my opinion just not a clear enough picture of Zoroastrianism to make the claim, for instance, that it influenced the Hebrew idea of monotheisim.

Peace be to Zoroastrians and Peace be with you.”

For those interested in understanding my positions on this topic, I would direct you to what is currently a 23 part series on youtube linked above.  Since I feel that after 23 videos I have only touched the surface, there will most likely be future videos added to this playlist. Peace continue to be with you all and keep Ceeking Truth! :-)

This is part eight of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

Daniel finishes his article with the following statement:

“In conclusion, the notion that the angel is a hypostasis of God or so closely represents him that their identities merge without comment or explanation is simply a rationalization that is subordinate to the necessity of a synchronic or univocal reading of the text. Without such a demand the only logical conclusion is that the angel of Yahweh in these early biblical narratives is a late interpolation, probably from some late- or post-Deuteronomistic writer.”

Essentially I have given alternative answers to Daniel’s claims in parts 1 through 7 of this blog series, so in my assessment there are indeed other logical conclusions regarding the Angel of the Lord, and not all of them are reliant on a synchronic reading of the text.

What Daniel refers to as a “necessity of a synchronic or univocal reading of the text” seems a rather broad brush stroke over the first seven books of the Bible. What Daniel would have everyone think is that from a radical critical viewpoint one must shun synchronic analysis in each and every instance of the ‘Angel’. This seems a far reach because first one must accept the Documentary Hypothesis then they must let go of all possible narratives that might be the products of singular writers. It’s all or nothing and nothing in between. In other words, isn’t it possible for a radical critic to see some texts from a synchronic viewpoint?

The critics are busy criticizing that no explanations are in the texts regarding the ‘Angel’, but perhaps this is because the very texts which show the characteristics of the ‘Angel’ are explained away by theories and unsubstantiated speculative hypotheses?

Let us consider again a few scriptures which Daniel sees no relevance in, and makes no comments on. There is a recurring theme of the Lord’s Messenger in which He goes before Israel to guide and protect.

Genesis 24:7, 40 מלאכו (Malacho)(His Angel).

In speaking to his head servant Abraham says that His (the LORD’s) Messenger will go before him in his search for a wife for his son Isaac. Later in verse 40 when the servant is recounting Abraham’s words he uses the same unique title, “His Messenger”. There can be no doubt that the LORD has a specific Messenger which in the Hebrew is, “Malacho”, which is the word for Messenger with the masculine possession of “His”.

Exodus 23:23 מלאכי (Malachi)(Mah-lah-kchee) (My Angel)

When Moses is recounting the LORD’s words of the promised conquest of the land of Canaan he states, “When my angel goes before you…” This is a very specific possession in the Hebrew. The LORD says, “My Angel”. In the Hebrew it is the word for “Messenger” with the possessive ending of “My”. Once again we are struck by the very specific nature of the Messenger. He is the LORD’s Messenger.

Exodus 32:34 מלאכי

In speaking to Moses after the golden calf incident, He again uses the term, “My Messenger”. The verse reads, “…behold, my angel shall go before you…”. The theme continues to play out with the Messenger going before them to provide and protect. Clearly the specific nature of the LORD’s Messenger is hard to explain away in these verses.

Genesis 1:26 The plurality of God’s Image.

Perhaps one of the most talked about scriptures regarding God’s nature in the Bible is “Let Us make man in Our image…”, but consider also the less talked about aspect of this verse. The fact that within the plurality there is an image or nature which can be understood as shared by the “Us” of the verse. Could it be possible that we are so caught up in the fact that man was made in God’s image that we have ignored that the personalities in the “Us” of God also share that same image?

Now there is no outright description of who participates in this “Us” in verse 26, and so some might call it presumptuous to think that the Messenger is one of the “Us”, but there are reasons to consider this. The critics theorize that Exodus 33:20 is alluded to in the Genesis appearances, but what if as stated previously there is something else being communicated? Isn’t it possible that Exodus 33:20 is alluding to the stories in Genesis rather than the other way around?

Consider Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob wrestles a “man” but in verse 30 he names the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (ESV) This “man” is refered to as God which seems a good reason to understand the “man” as an appearance of God. Furthermore, if we continue to consider the “Us” of Gen. 1:26 it seems likely that this “man” is in God’s image for God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Could it be that Jacob understood this “man” to have God’s Image, for he states, “…I have seen God face to face…”, so this verse could actually be a partial reference to Gen. 1:26.

Genesis 48:15,16

And he blessed Joseph and said,
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
the angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (ESV)

On a side note, Jacob’s special blessing over Joseph and his sons is a threefold pattern.

Clearly the Messenger is acknowledged by Jacob in such a way that includes Him as the provider of the blessing which he is requesting. It seems hard to ignore the obvious implications of Jacobs prayer to the Messenger of God, but rather than continue to explain these things I will leave the matter to be meditated on by the reader.

This concludes this eight part series. It has been rewarding and I pray it bless and inspire more questions and further study in these matters. Perhaps more will be lead to prepare answers to all who would question. Peace be with you all, and Keep Ceeking Truth! :-)

Part 1 Critically Conflated

Part 2 Interpretations of Interpolations

Part 3 Saying and Seeing

Part 4 Presuming Preemption

Part 5 Appearing to have Appeared

Part 6 Diachronic Deadends

Part 7 Additional or Absent?

Additional or Absent?

This is part seven of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

At this point Daniel has finished his presentation of the various texts and the reasons which he thinks the ‘Angel’ is actually the result of interpolation. He now attempts to support this theory with the following additional points:

  1. “…in Gideon’s narrative, the Septuagint has “angel of Yahweh” throughout.”
  2. The Septuagint also has additional occurrences of “messenger” all by itself in Samson’s birth narrative…”
  3. “…and in Hagar’s story,…” (additional ‘angel’ in Septuagint)
  4. “…and an additional “messenger of the LORD” at Gen 16:8.”
  5. Josephus only presents God interacting with Abraham in Genesis 22.”
  6. The Vulgate makes no mention of an angel in Exod 3:2, mentioning only God appearing.”
  7. “…in none of these instances is any self-identification or messenger formula present.”
  8. “…later versions frequently interpolate the word “angel” where they want to avoid God’s presence, visibility, or participation in something of questionable morality.”

In the Septuagint at Judges 6:14,16 the ‘Angel’ is in the text, but in the early Hebrew codices the word ‘Angel’ is missing. Daniel suggests that this is due to the ‘Angel’ not existing in the earlier texts. There are two other possibilities which he does not address. The ‘Angel’ was dropped from the latter Hebrew codices or the ‘Angel’ was only missing from verses 14 and 16 in the original texts and singularly interpolated in verses 14 and 16 at the time of the translation of the Septuagint or in a later copy of the Septuagint.

What seems painfully obvious is that both the Septuagint and the Hebrew codices agree with each other in Judges chapter 6 at verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b. Both manuscript traditions testify to the title of “Angel of the LORD” with the exception of Judges 6:14, 16.

In this case Daniel is favoring the Hebrew codices over the Septuagint because of the missing ‘Angel’ in verses 14 and 16. As stated in prior blogs, a case can be made for greater adherence to the Greek Septuagint because the LXX Manuscripts predate the Hebrew codices by 600 years. Not only do the earliest LXX manuscripts predate the both the Appello codex and the Leningrad codex by 600 years but the origin of the  LXX is dated between 300 and 200 B.C. which places its reported start date right around prior to the time of the dating of the Dead Sea Scroll Manuscripts, which are the oldest Hebrew manuscripts to date.

Furthermore, the Septuagint has been shown to agree in more places with the Dead Sea Scrolls than the Masoretic texts. On the flip side, the Masoretic texts were most likely based on older versions of the Hebrew text dating after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. To make matters more muddy  it can be shown that the Masoretic text favors “non-Christian” renderings of key verses which were heavily quoted by Christians of the first and second centuries A.D. Especially those verses which were quoted in the “Christian” New Testament. It is clear from the New Testament that the Septuagint was the standard which the majority of the Jewish world in the first century looked to.

What Daniel is implying is that the two instances of the ‘Angel’ in Judges 6:14,16 in the Septuagint somehow prove that the Angel was interpolated not just in verses 14 and 16 but throughout the whole of the story of Gideon. Does Daniel supply evidence that the Masoretic texts are more accurate than the Septuagint? Does Daniel address the fact that both the LXX and the Hebrew texts contain the ‘Angel’ in verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b? The answer to both questions is a negative.

Regarding the supposed interpolated ‘Angel’ in the story of Gideon, it can be seen as not affecting the message of the overall text. Whether the ‘Angel’ was missing does not preclude an interpretation that the LORD was speaking in verses 14 and 16 through the Messenger. This is based on the context of verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b in which the ‘Angel’ is the interlocutor.

According to Daniel, the Messenger cannot speak in the first person as YHVH, but is only allowed to speak as an individual. This assumption is based on the ‘Angel’ being simply ‘an angel’ and not ‘The Angel’, but this even assumes that ‘an angel’ would not speak as the LORD on His behalf in the first person, which is not necessarily so.

I need to state again in this blog series that the Messenger can be interpreted by the text even when what Daniel refers to as the “formula” is not present within the texts. The specific Hebrew  title, “Malach Adonai” (Messenger of YHVH), holds a prominent place in Jewish ideas about how YHVH communicates with mankind. This is primarily derived from Exodus chapter 33 but is alluded to in the Genesis accounts as well.

From a conservative approach both Genesis and Exodus were written many years prior to the book of Judges so the concepts of God in the book of Judges would logically refer to the earlier books. This is where the Documentarian gets tripped up. They don’t anchor any of the first five books of the Bible to one time period, as well as other Scriptures, and as a result they struggle to reconcile their Deuteronomic theories with the actual texts of the Bible. This is in the end why Daniel is making such a big deal about why he thinks the ‘Malach’ is an interpolation.

The whole Documentarian approach to the Hebraic concept of God assumes that the idea of a Messenger of the LORD did not exist circa 2000 BC. The Documentarian  sees this concept of God, in which no one could look upon the LORD without dying, reaching it’s “final draft” in the time period of King Josiah. Once the Documentarian is convinced of this idea they build the entirety of scriptural development upon it. The problem of course is that it remains a flailing theory which continues to lack wholistic and substantial support.

In regard to interpolation there are a couple of ways to understand what is meant by the term. The first way to understand it is by a sequence of events in various translations which lead to a word or phrase being incorporated into the text which was not original to the text. This can happen when editors are explaining the text as they translate it into another language. It also can be the result of mixing an official version with a contemporary version of the text which in time is assumed to be the official version. This is a very generic explanation of what interpolation is, but it is necessary to understand how these things occur.

The second way to understand interpolation is to think of the process as a conscious and active manipulation of the text. This is not really what true interpolation is as it is more about what occurs as a result of human error or translation variances. Daniel, however seems to reiterate that the reason for the supposed ‘Angel’ interpolations is so that the Post-Deuteronomists can make the text line up with their idea about God. In other words they hypothetically changed the text intentionality. Well, it seems this is Daniel’s  claim, but he does not state this directly.

Whether one views the ‘Angel’ as interpolated in Judges 6:14,16 or original to the text there still exists the a same understanding with or without the ‘Angel’ in verses 14 and 16. This is due to the fact of the context of verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b in which the ‘Angel’ is referenced in both the Septuagint and the early Hebrew codices. On the one hand if verses 14 and 16 were interpolations, although I believe they were probably not, but if they were, they could be seen as explaining that YHVH was speaking or acting through the ‘Angel’.

It is only when one assumes that the Documentary Hypothesis is true that the Hebrew concept of God is dated to King Josiah’s time period. The Documentarian then dates certain texts based on additional assumptions of diachronic textual origins, and they then begin to justify eliminating words from the text because they “don’t make sense” in their framework.

Clearly both the Septuagint and the early Hebrew codices of Judges chapter 6 of verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b all contain the ‘Angel’, so doesn’t that seem proof enough that the ‘Angel’ existed in these verses in the original story? Apparently not because Daniel is insisting in the face of original manuscript evidence that “another” version existed which he trusts more. The only problem is that this version only exists in the minds of Documentations.

Before conservatives are going to throw in the towel to radical critics on Judges 6:14,16 they need to more adequately explain away verses 11, 12, 20, 21a, 21b, 22a, and 22b because as it stands verses 14 and 16 could be seen as interpolations based on those verses, and not on the radical critical Interpolation Theory.

Moving on to the next claim which Daniel points out. He states that the Septuagint has an additional ‘Angel’ in the Samson birth announcement. Since Daniel didn’t identity chapter and verse I was left to examine the texts and determine that his reference was likely to Judges 13:19:

The English Translation of the Greek Septuagint (Compiled from the Translation by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton 1851)

And Manoe took a kid of the goats and its meat-offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord; and the angel wrought a distinct work, and Manoe and his wife were looking on.

This is perhaps a great exaggeration by Daniel because when one actually looks at the Greek text of the Septuagint it is clear that the Greek word for ‘angel’, ἄγγελος (ággelos) is not in verse 19, hence the italicized ‘angel’ in the English translation of the Septuagint!  It was pointed out in his previous comments that the passage is another difficult one to interpret. He stated:

V. 19 also provides an interesting problem. It states that, on the angel’s orders, Manoah offered a meat offering on a rock “to Yahweh. And [?] did wonders/wondrously.” There is no subject attached to the participle מפלא, “to be wonderful.” Many translations assume the angel is understood, since he is overseeing the sacrifice (thus, “the angel did wondrously”), while others believe the statement refers to Yahweh, and want it to act as a relative clause (thus, “to Yahweh, to him who works wonders”)…”

Daniel is addressing the Hebrew in his comment above, but later when he turns his attention to the Greek LXX he states that the ‘Angel’ is added to the Septuagint in the Samson birth narrative, but clearly he must be referring to the English translation of the Septuagint and not to the Greek. I am just a novice in the Greek but even I can see that the word ἄγγελος (ággelos) is not in Judges 13:19. If this is the case then where is the interpolated ‘angel’ in verse 19 besides in the interpretation to English?

I am no translation expert but it seems fairly clear that the Greek sentence references the pronoun ‘he’ and is translated as ‘angel’ based on the context of the previous verses. The problem of course is that if verse 19 is what Daniel is claiming as an interpolation then it fails the test simply based on the Greek text. It is pretty straight forward. No ἄγγελος (ággelos), no ‘angel’, therefore, no interpolation in the Greek!

Next Daniel points out that there is an additional ‘Angel’ in the story of Hagar in the Septuagint. He again does not cite chapter and verse, so I assume he is referring to Genesis 16:8:

English Translation of the Septuagint

And the angel of the Lord said to her, Agar, Sara’s maid, whence comest thou, and wither goest thou? and she said, I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sara.

This is perhaps a more likely interpolation but even so, it is still not verifiable because what if it was original to the story, and it was the Hebrew codices which left the ‘angel’ out of verse 8? After all both the Septuagint and the Hebrew codices agree in Judges 16:7,9,10, and 11 with the ‘Angel’ as the intermediary. Even if a conservative would agree to verse 8 as an interpolation it still does not explain away the context of verses 7, 9, 10 and 11 which would be a more likely reason for a possible interpolation of verse 8!

One more thing to state in regard to Daniel’s claim that the ‘Angel’ was interpolated in Judges 16:8, he breaks with his “rule” regarding the “formula”.  This is that the theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editors took the opportunity to insert the word “Malach” in front of the Name of God, but this pattern is missing from verse 8 as the Hebrew simply reads, “And he said,…”. There is no reference to the LORD in verse 8! It is simply a reference to “he” which is in reference to verse 7 which both the Hebrew and the Septuagint agree is the Angel of the LORD! In my opinion there is a greater case for interpolation of the ‘Angel’ based on the context of the ‘Angel’ in verse 7 and not on the absence of it in verse 8. Even so, it still is possible that the Hebrew texts dropped the ‘Angel’ rather than the Septuagint adding it.

Daniel’s next comment is a possible faux pas as he seems to indicate another additional ‘angel’, but he is likely referencing the previous comment with regard to the story of Hagar.

Daniel  states:

“The Septuagint also has additional occurrences of “messenger” all by itself in Samson’s birth narrative and in Hagar’s story, and an additional “messenger of the Lord” at Gen 16:8.”

It sounds like an additional “messenger” in Gen.16:8 except that this is likely the one in the story of Hagar of which chapter 16 contains. It looks like Daniel in his eagerness to show all these “additional” ‘messengers’ cites Gen.16:8 as another occurrence, but does not recognize that this was the one within the story of Hagar which he already referenced!

Next Daniel states:

“Josephus only presents God interacting with Abraham in Genesis 22.”

This is an interesting comment by Daniel because it appears to be an attempt to state that whatever manuscripts Josephus had at his disposal theoretically did not mention the ‘angel’ in Genesis 22. It would be a quite convincing argument except for the fact that Josephus does not consider his account of the Scriptures as an authorized version, but merely a reckoning of his origins and the histories of his people. As Josephus states in the beginning of his writings:

The Life of Flavius Josephus

Life. 1

(1) The family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one, but hath descended all along from the priests; and as nobility among several people is of a different origin, so with us to be of the sacerdotal dignity, is an indication of the splendor of a family.

Josephus does not set out to translate the Bible but clearly indicates his primary aim is in writing a history of his people in order that others would know his nobility.

The fact that Josephus does not mention the ‘angel’ when he recounts Gen. 22 most likely is due to his paraphrased approach which not only leaves out many Scriptural details but also adds a great deal more of extra non-Biblical  information either from tradition or elsewhere. Below is his account of Gen. 22:

Antiquities. 1. 13. 4

(233) And the deed had been done if God had not opposed it; for he called loudly to Abraham by his name, and forbade him to slay his son; and said, “It was not out of a desire of human blood that he was commanded to slay his son, nor was he willing that he should be taken away from him whom he had made his father, but to try the temper of his mind, whether he would be obedient to such a command. (234) Since, therefore, he now was satisfied as to that his alacrity, and the surprising readiness he showed in this his piety, he was delighted in having bestowed such blessings upon him; and that he would not be wanting in all sort of concern about him, and in bestowing other children upon him; and that his son should live to a very great age; that he should live a happy life, and bequeath a large principality to his children, who should be good and legitimate. “(235) He foretold also, that his family should increase into many nations; and that those patriarchs should leave behind them an everlasting name; that they should obtain the possession of the land of Canaan, and be envied by all men. When God had said this, he produced to them a ram, which did not appear before, for the sacrifice. (236) So Abraham and Isaac receiving each other unexpectedly, and having obtained the promises of such great blessings, embraced one another; and when they had sacrificed, they returned to Sarah, and lived happily together, God affording them his assistance in all things they desired.

It should be clear that Josephus is by no means interested in a direct word for word account of Gen. 22 but is more interested in retelling the story in a similar fashion to the Greek histories of his day.

Furthermore, while Josephus does not mention the ‘angel’ in his account of Gen. 22 he does include an ‘angel’ in the following passages:

Antiquities. 1. 10. 4: Gen.16 Story of Hagar

Antiquities. 1. 12. 3: Gen. 21 Hagar and Ishmael

Antiquities. 1. 20. 2: Gen. 32 Jacob wrestles an ‘angel’

Antiquities. 5. 8. 2 Judges 13 Story of Manoah

Are we to treat the passages in which Josephus does mention the angel as interpolations as well or perhaps Josephus is correctly citing the Bible of his day? What does Daniel state in regard to Josephus’ agreement with the Septuagint  and the Hebrew codices? Nothing.

In addition to Josephus’ agreement with the texts he includes one reference to Gen. 32 which does not contain an ‘angel’ in either the Septuagint or the Hebrew manuscripts. Either this indicates that the ‘angel’ was dropped from the texts which the Septuagint and the Hebrew codices were based on or perhaps the story is clearly understood to refer to an ‘angel’ despite the lack of the word “Malach”. In my opinion the “man” of Gen. 32 is clearly understood as an ‘angel’ or the ‘Angel’ despite the absence of the word “Malach”. Daniel himself identifies Gen.32 as an ‘angel’ passage despite his buildup of the Interpolation Theory and the fact that the word ‘angel’ does not appear in Gen. 32; hence, no interpolation of “Malach”.

Additionally Josephus equates speaking with the ‘Angel’ the same as interacting with God. Consider Josephus account of the Samson birth narrative:

Antiquities. 5. 8. 2

(284) which when they had done, he touched the flesh with the rod which he had in his hand, which, upon the breaking out of a flame, was consumed, together with the loaves; and the angel ascended openly in their sight up to heaven, by means of the smoke as by a vehicle. Now Manoah was afraid that some danger would come to them from this sight of God; but his wife bade him be of good courage, for that God appeared to them for their benefit.

This seems pretty straight forward. To see the Divine ‘Angel’ is to see God. Since Daniel seems eager to give Josephus preeminence on Gen. 22 shall we also listen to what Josephus states about the Samson narrative?

Next Daniel states:

The Vulgate makes no mention of an angel in Exod 3:2, mentioning only God appearing.”

Daniel is implying the same for St. Jerome as he did for Josephus in that Jerome in his translation of the Vulgate must have had access to manuscripts which have been lost to the winds of time. It’s possible, but even so, we are left questioning if Jerome’s theoretical manuscript was itself corrupted by the missing ‘Angel’. After all, even the Masoretic text which has been shown to favor “non-Christian” renderings includes the ‘Angel’ at Exod. 3:2.

As long as all cards are on the table shouldn’t we also consider that St. Jerome might have just accidentally left the ‘Angel’ out in the process of translating the Hebrew? As unbelievable as it might seem that a renowned translator such as Jerome could make such a blunder if we are honest with our logic then we must consider this possibility as well.

The point is that we are not bound to only one reason for the missing ‘Angel’ in Exodus 3:2 in the Latin Vulgate, but can consider the following other possibilities:

  1. Jerome translates from a corrupted Hebrew manuscript.
  2. Jerome accidentally leaves the ‘Angel’ out of the translation.

Consider also that the Vulgate contains the ‘Angel’ in many other passages as well as those which Daniel brings to question:

Gen. 16:7, 9 – Story of Hagar (angelus)

Gen. 21:17 – Hagar and Ishmael (angelus)

Gen. 22:11, 15 – Abraham offers Isaac (angelus)

Judges 6:11, 20 – The call of Gideon (angelus)

Judges 13 – Samson’s birth announcement (angelus)

Shall we dismiss the Latin Vulgate witness to every instance of the ‘Angel’ simply because the word is missing in Exodus 3:2?

Lastly, on this point, while the Vulgate is missing the ‘Angel’ at Exodus 3:2, it includes the ‘Angel’ within the same book in these areas:

Exodus 14:19 – The ‘Angel’ in the pillar of cloud

Exodus 23:23 – The ‘Angel’ goes before Israel

Exodus 32:34 – The ‘Angel’ will go before them

Instead of questioning the originality of the ‘Angel’ due to some missing instances of the ‘Angel’ in both the Latin Vulgate and Josephus, we should consider all of the other ‘Angel’ passages which are in both texts as further testimony to the existence of the ‘Angel’ in the original stories.

Daniel then states:

“…in none of these instances is any self-identification or messenger formula present. Some have claimed that the messenger was so fully identified with his patron that it was not necessary, but there is simply no evidence for this notion. The closest we get is the anomalous “says Yahweh” in Gen 22:16.”

Which are the instances that Daniel is referring to? He is saying that the additional ‘Angel’ in the Samson and Hagar Narratives as well as the missing ‘Angel’ in Josephus’ account and Exodus 3:2 of the Latin Vulgate are these instances. His line of reasoning is that none of these instances have either self-identification or a “messenger formula”, but what does this mean and does it matter in the way he thinks it does?

Daniel is tied up in the idea of self-identification within the texts. In other words at no point does the ‘Angel’ ever say directly, “I am the Angel of the LORD.”, but is identified by the writer in phrases such as, “Then the Angel of the LORD said…”. This seems a rather interesting approach to denying the existence of the ‘Angel’ in the “original” narratives because it assumes that no name in Scripture can be verified unless the actor states, “I am (insert name)”.

If we were to take this “self-identification” rule to its extreme then we would question all the players for how many are recorded as identifying themselves? Does Hagar in Gen. 16, Abram and Isaac in Gen. 22, Gideon in Judges 6, or Manoah in Judges 13 ever state who they are? No, they as most of the individuals of the Bible are identified by the writer. What the radical critics think is an important consideration doesn’t seem to hold much weight upon closer examination.

In some cases the writer identifies the ‘Angel’ and in other cases the ‘Angel’ is identified by the witness such as with Gideon in Judges 6:22. Daniel isn’t interested in third-party identification and so his answer to “fix” this issue is to explain these as interpolations. The problem with this approach is that even if such self-identification phrases did exist in the texts the radical critics would likely explain those away as “interpolations” as well.

Daniel insists that there are no “messenger formulas” in those instances but I seem to recall that he made a big deal about the narratives primarily because they did have the so-called “messenger formulas”, so what is he trying to state now? I think it is safe to say that Daniel’s point is tied up in the conflation idea in regard to the ‘Angel’ and the LORD.

Daniel is consumed with the notion that there is no evidence to support the Messenger being identified with His Patron, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of the evidence is in the very passages which Daniel has set out to discredit! He states there is no evidence because in his mind everything is explained away by theoretical interpolations by hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic editors which were concocted by the unsubstantiated Documentary Hypothesis.

As far as further evidence, there are a few other passages which Daniel does not consider. Why? Because Daniel was primarily only interested in the 36 occurrences of “יהוה מלאך”  and 6 occurrences  of אלהים” מלאך” from Genesis to Judges. All other narratives with the word “Malach” are ignored by Daniel as perhaps in his view they have no bearing.

Consider Genesis 24:7,40

v7. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. (ESV)

v40. But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house. (ESV)

In verse 7 Abraham is speaking to his head servant regarding a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham says, “…he will send his angel…”. This is a very specific way of describing the ‘angel’. It is not “an angel” or “the angel”, but “His Angel”. This is not just a messenger, but this is the LORD’s Messenger. In the Hebrew the word is “מלאכו” (Malacho)(His Angel). If that doesn’t read like a reference to The Messenger of The LORD then I don’t know what does! Daniel isn’t concerned too much about this reference because he never even mentions it.

When Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons he speaks of the ‘Angel’ who redeemed him and asks the ‘Angel’ to bless the boys. Consider Genesis 48:15,16:

v15. And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,

v16. the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (ESV)

This ‘Angel’ whom Jacob prays to and asks for blessings is, it would seem, being identified with His Patron. Again Daniel doesn’t waste his time on Gen.48:15,16 because it does not contain the “messenger formula”. Daniel is so caught up in the supposed formulas it seems that he has missed a key passage which lends evidence to the Hebraic ideas concerning the role which the Messenger plays, and how the ‘Angel’ is prayed to, just as the LORD is prayed to.

Next Daniel states:

“…later versions frequently interpolate the word “angel” where they want to avoid God’s presence, visibility, or participation in something of questionable morality. For instance, in Exod 4:24 both the Septuagint and the targums interpolate the angel to avoid the notion that Yahweh would have come down to kill Moses. In Num 22:20 and 23:4 the Samaritan Pentateuch changes “and God met Balaam” to “and the angel of God met Balaam.” He does not change Num 22:9 or another phrase in Num 23:4, however. In the Palestinian Targum God tells Moses that his angels will pass by him, not that he himself will pass by, as in Exodus 33. Numerous other examples could be brought up, but this should do.”

His reference to “later” versions of the Bible is interesting as he begins to reference the Septuagint and the Targums?  Did I miss something? Is he calling the Septuagint and the Targums “later” versions? The age of the Septuagint is more certain than any Bible version as Greek fragments of it have been found and dated to the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.  which coincides with the tradition that it was translated from the Hebrew into the Greek in the 3rd century B.C. Complete manuscripts of the Septuagint are dated to the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. That is still 500 to 600 years earlier than the Complete Masoretic Text.  The two main Targum manuscripts in question can be dated around the 5th century A.D. Recent scholarship has pushed the dating of the Targums even earlier based on Aramaic dialect, source relationships, and rabbinic citations. Rather than settle on that earlier date for the Targums I will leave that matter out of this and be satisfied with the manuscript dating of the 5th century A.D. as I believe that for this purpose it is still an early enough date to exclude the term “late version.”

With Exodus 4:24, again Daniel is comparing the Septuagint to the Masoretic Text, and he is favoring the Masoretic Text.  As I have pointed out previously if one were to favor the Septuagint over the Masoretic then they might be persuaded to think that rather than the Septuagint interpolating an ‘angel’ that the Masoretic Text is missing it. After all, both the manuscript dates of the Septuagint and the Targums are predating the Masoretic Text by at least 500 years.

On another note regarding the Targums, they were never considered official translations of the texts but understood to be paraphrases which shed meaning on the Hebrew texts. In this light it is entirely possible that the Targums explain that God could never have appeared to anyone in person and so the ‘angel’ is understood to act as the agent of the LORD; hence the ‘angel’ is used in Exodus 4:24. Most likely it has nothing to do with Daniel’s claim that, “…the targums interpolate the angel to avoid the notion that Yahweh would have come down to kill Moses,” and more to do with the Hebraic understanding of how the LORD interacts with humanity. Ironically, if the LORD did appear to Moses, he would have died from His Glory, therefore it was the LORD appearing to him in a less glorious form whether one wishes to call Him an angel or not.

Regarding the Samaritan Pentateuch, it has less footing to stand on as the earliest complete manuscript is dating to the Middle ages, but there is what is termed Pre-Samaritan texts which constitute about 5% of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I would be more likely to agree with Daniel on the Samaritan Pentateuch being a later Bible version, but possibly not in the same way he implies. He states:

In Num 22:20 and 23:4 the Samaritan Pentateuch changes “and God met Balaam” to “and the angel of God met Balaam.” He does not change Num 22:9 or another phrase in Num 23:4, however.”

Well I don’t see the issue as both the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text agree by leaving out the ‘angel’ in Numbers 22:20 and 23:4, but again, are we to understand the passage as referring to God coming down in person to Balaam? Especially in light of Exodus 33:20? Daniel does not agree as I suspect his view is that the concept of ‘dying from seeing God’ in 33:20 does not pre-date the hypothetical Deuteronomic period. Daniel refers to “He” which I presume is communicating that a translator did not differ the story of Balaam in Num. 22:9 or 23:4, but from what, I could only guess?

Lastly he states:

“In the Palestinian Targum God tells Moses that his angels will pass by him, not that he himself will pass by, as in Exodus 33. Numerous other examples could be brought up, but this should do.”

Aside from the fact that the Palestinian Targum states that God’s angels will pass by Moses, again it is clear that the Septuagint and the Masoretic text do not contain the ‘angel’. Seeing as how these texts are in agreement and the Septuagint is on better footing than either the Masoretic or the Palestinian Targum, it seems rather trite to state that the Palestinian Targum somehow proves interpolation.

This brings up my next point on what Daniel is defining as “Post-Deuteronomic Interpolation”. I assumed from the start of his article that he was possibly considering a hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic period as somewhere around the 6th century B.C. but based on his comments regarding “later versions interpolating the angel” it appears that his idea of “Post-Deuteronomic” somehow extends all the way past the Christian era? Well, he might disagree, but this would likely be based on speculative viewpoints regarding when these “later versions” originated.

This concludes part seven of this eight part series. In part eight I will be commenting on Daniel’s concluding remarks.

As always, Keep Ceeking Truth! Peace be with you all and I look forward to my next post! :-)

Diachronic Deadends

This is part six of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

Continuing in his literal interpretation of the texts and disregarding the context of the ‘Angel’, Daniel begins his presentation of the story of the birth of Samson as follows:

In Samson’s birth narrative (Judg 13:3–23) the interlocutor is described as an angel of Yahweh throughout, but when Manoah realizes to whom he has been speaking he laments, like the others, “we shall surely die, for we have seen God.” Now, the comment could be translated “for we have seen a deity,” in reference to an angel, but, again, this is not what Exod 33:20 says, and the allusion is clearly to that text.

Daniel continues to reiterate the same point he made in the previous passages. He assumes that mistakes have been left behind by a theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor. In this case he is stating that the hypothetical editor forgot to insert the ‘Angel’ in Judges 13:22. What is his main argument that this is a mistake? Primarily he continues to be confounded by the subject change from ‘Angel of the Lord’ to ‘Elohim’, for the implication seems to be that the titles are synonymous which must be a mistake because this could never make sense; could it?

Scholars with radical critical viewpoints study the various Biblical passages for years, and have a particular viewpoint of the Jewish Scriptures. For them, Hebrew words, phrases, declarations of speech,  etc. are the “evidence” left behind which apparently  points to theoretical editorial “schools”. Instead of considering the possibility that the Biblical  stories are singular original units they impose diachronic analysis upon the texts. Their understanding of how these texts came together is shaped by their hypothetical timeline of when each of these theoretical “schools” existed. In the case of the Birth of Samson narrative, Daniel is focused on the ‘dying from seeing God’ idea which he anchors to Exodus 33:20, and thereby makes a theoretical Deuteronomic connection. Is this connection a solid conclusion? Can any other possibilities be considered?

It is entirely possible that Exodus 33:20 is not the product of a hypothetical Deuteronomic school. It is also possible that the ‘dying from seeing God’s face’ idea in Exodus 33:20 predates the text of Judges 13:22 by just over one hundred years. This could explain the reference. Instead the critic is so bound by the theoretical Deuteronomic timetable that they place Exodus 33:20 somewhere around the mid to early 7th century BC during the time of King Josiah.

Daniel however is not too focused on the theoretical Deuteronomic school but more specifically on the theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editors. Based on their name, “Post-Deuteronomist”, this places them after the hypothetical Deuteronomist; this would possibly be in the 6th century BC or later. Essentially Daniel is saying that the ‘Angel’ was interpolated into all these texts in the books of Genesis through Judges somewhere around the 6th century BC or later.

Not only does Daniel claim that the ‘Angel’ was written into the text, but also claims indirectly that Judges 13:22 never existed in the original text. This is the “logical” outcome because anything labeled as a Deuteronomic idea by the critics is dated to a later period than the internal context which the story indicates. In this case the book of Judges has internal content which covers a time period from about 1367-1050 BC, so conservatively it could have been completed around 1050 BC. For the critic, however, Judges could be entirely pieced together by the theoretical Deuteronomic “school” in the 7th century BC, and then later cleaned up by the hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic editors from maybe the 6th century BC and possibly later.

It is very important to understand the timeline of this diachronic viewpoint because if we do not then we are likely to assume incongruous scenarios with regard to the Scriptures. I believe the critics themselves have lost sight of their own timeline at times, and it seems that the tail is wagging the dog in some cases. In my opinion, the critical stance on the Samson birth narrative happens to be one of these cases.

The questions regarding this conundrum are not so straightforward so they will need to be addressed one facet at a time. The first part of this issue deals with the dating of the ‘dying from seeing God’ idea which is attributed to the theoretical Deuteronomist in around the mid 7th century BC. It would have been at this time period or later which the critics claim that Exodus 33:20 is alluded to in Judges 13:22. This is one of the theoretical Deuteronomic ideas about a very specific kind of monotheism which does not allow anyone to see God’s face. In other words, for the critic, this idea never existed in Hebrew thought prior to the 7th century BC. It is possible that some critics may even feel that Judges 13:22 was inserted by a theoretical Post-Deuteronomist in the 6th century or later.

The next piece of this unsubstantiated puzzle is the ‘Angel’ in Judges 13. Daniel suggests that this ‘Angel’ was interpolated by a hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic editor which places the supposed editing around the sixth century BC or later. In other words, prior to the 6th century BC, in the mind of the critic, there was no ‘Angel’ in Judges 13.

Based on Daniel’s article the text of Judges 13 could be viewed with at least 3 hypothetical versions if not more, but for the sake of not going down rabbit trails the three are sufficient to examine. The three theoretical versions are as follows:

  1. The original without the inserted ‘Angel’ thereby showing Manoah speaking directly with God. There possibly is no verse 22 as the idea of ‘dying from seeing God’ supposedly didn’t exist yet for the Hebrews.  This version is dated by the critics some time prior to the theoretical Deuteronomic period; this is prior to the 7th century BC.
  2. There is a possible 2nd theoretical version which could have been edited during the hypothetical Deuteronomic period in which Judges 13:22 was supposedly inserted. In this version there would still be no ‘Angel’ but the theoretical Deuteronomist would be making an attempt to insert their supposed specific monotheism. This would have been around the mid 7th century.
  3. The third possible theory would be that the hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic editor inserts the ‘Angel’ or that Judges chapter 13 remained in its supposed original form, and the Post-Deuteronomist inserts both the ‘Angel’ and  verse 22. This would be dated by the critic to the 6th century BC or later.

It should be pointed out that the same verse which Daniel uses to allude to Exodus 33:20 is also the verse he uses to state:

“…the interlocutor is described as an angel of Yahweh throughout, but when Manoah realizes to whom he has been speaking he laments, like the others, ‘we shall surely die, for we have seen God.'”  

In other words,  if it was not for Judges 13:22 what other clue would we have to give us that Manoah was speaking specifically to God and not to God through a Messenger?

One implication of this critical viewpoint is that the idea of Judges 13:22 was not original to the text, but was this not the same verse used to decry of the supposed change in interlocutor? In others words, first the Angel is the interlocutor then in verse 22 God is the interlocutor, so there seems to be an assumption that verse 22 is original to the text by virtue of the mention of God. Daniel then turns around and states that verse 22 alludes to Exodus 33:20.

I submit that Daniel has placed Judges 13:22 in two different theoretical Documentarian time periods. By his assumption of it containing the original interlocutor he has dated this prior to the theoretical Deuteronomic period of before the mid 7th century. Then by his statement that it alludes to Exodus 33:20 he has indirectly dated this to the theoretical Deuteronomic or Post-Deuteronomic Period of the mid 7th century or later. If this truly is the case then which one was it because the effect does not bring about the cause and the cause should not follow the effect?

Since the claims of the critics are that editors changed the original message of the texts they tend to explain inconsistencies with more claims of theoretical modifications, but regarding Daniel’s presentation of Judges 13:22, two conclusions can be discerned. Either verse 22 was original to the text or not. There is no getting around the structure of the sentence of verse 22 in which Manoah states that he and his wife saw God (Elohim). If the critic is true to their own understanding of the structure they might be persuaded to think that the verse is actually an insertion of theoretical Deuteronomic theology which left in the supposed Elohist name of God. So which is it? Both? I don’t think so because Daniel seems to lead his argument with the “fact” that suddenly in verse 22 the interlocutor is God.

If we take the premise that verse 22 was original to the text then we are struck with the theological implications of this verse. The burden is on the critic to explain why a “Deuteronomic” theology was original to the text and pre-existed the hypothetical Deuteronomic period. If the critic states the opposite and claims that it is in fact “Deuteronomic” then we could conclude that the title ‘Elohim’ was added by the theoretical Deuteronomist or Post-Deuteronomist,  and was not original to the text.

In the first scenario verse 22 is presented as original to the text and in the very next point Daniel states:

“…but, again, this is not what Exod 33:20 says, and the allusion is clearly to that text.”

In effect by stating that the text is alluding to Exodus 33:20 it appears he is saying that verse 22 was possibly added by a Deuteronomist. Just so that I am not jumping to any conclusions about Daniel’s views I will also consider that he possibly thinks that the allusion to Exodus 33:20 was original to the story. If that is the case then the critics must ask themselves if this was original to the text then was the entirety of the Samson story produced during the theoretical Deuteronomic period? If so then why would a Deuteronomist leave so many references to the Lord as the interlocutor effectively leaving a whole section which the later theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor had to supposedly correct by inserting an ‘Angel’ into the text? One begins to have questions in regard to this hypothetical editor. Even if a theoretical Post-Deuteronomist was savvy enough to insert the ‘Angel’ 12 times between verse 3 and verse 21 the editor suddenly and supposedly has this huge lapse of concentration by forgetting to insert the ‘Angel’ in verse 22!

It is a very simple problem. If verse 22 is Deuteronomic then the reference to ‘Elohim’ could be considered added during the Deuteronomic period. In this case the claim that the original interlocutor was ‘Elohim’ is based on a Deuteronomic addition, and not on original content. It is hard to consider a scenario in which verse 22 is considered Deuteronomic without realizing that the verse could not have been just modified a tiny bit, but the sentence structure points to its cohesiveness. In my opinion, if I was a critic, it is either prior to the theoretical Deuteronomic period or after. I would not support ‘Elohim’ as the original interlocutor if it is dated after this period because then the word “Elohim” could be considered a Deuteronomic addition, and thereby invalidate it as original to the text. I only state this from a critical perspective as I believe the word “Elohim” was original to the context along with the ‘Angel’ references as well.

Moving on to another topic, Manoah realizes whom he has been speaking with in Judges 13:21. Daniel glosses over this verse as in his view he is reading a reconstructed narrative. He is so convinced of what the “original” story looked like that he is not concerned with what verse 21 actually states. Note his words again:

“…the interlocutor is described as an angel of Yahweh throughout, but when Manoah realizes to whom he has been speaking he laments, like the others, ‘we shall surely die, for we have seen God.'”

He notes that Manoah realizes to whom he has been speaking but in referencing verse 21 Daniel speaks as though Manoah realizes it is God appearing to him, but what does verse 21 actually state?

“The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.” NRSV

Manoah realizes that it is the Angel of the Lord appearing to him, but Daniel doesn’t point this out as in his view the ‘angel’ is an interpolation.  In addition,  by not mentioning that it is the Angel whom Manoah realizes appeared to him, Daniel saves himself the trouble of explaining how in the very next verse the theoretical Post-Deuteronomist forgets to insert the ‘angel’. If we compare this verse to Judges 6:22, the story of Gideon,  we see that Gideon also realizes that it is the Angel of the Lord and proclaims:

“…Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” NRSV.

Both Judges 13:21,22 and Judges 6:22 are of similar structure. In both cases the men realize that they have seen the Angel of the Lord with the difference that Manoah describes the experience as seeing God. In Gideon’s case he states:

“For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.”

In Manoah’s case he states:

“…we shall surely die for we have seen God.”

Another question for the critic might be:

If both stories were theoretically modified by a hypothetical Post-Deuteronomist then how dense could they have been to allow such “doctrinal” contradiction within each story and between each story in the very same book? Could it not also be possible that the book of Judges was written by one individual who is making a point about the nature of the ‘Messenger’?

Daniel’s whole message seems to be opposed to the idea of a theophany in the Hebrew worldview, but perhaps I am jumping to conclusions. Daniel has repeatedly stated that the ‘angel’ is nothing more than an interpolation, and that in all cases it was the Lord originally appearing and speaking, but does Daniel state anything about the Lord appearing as a man? What about the Lord appearing as fire or a cloud? Are not these appearances theophanies the same as the ‘Angel’/’Messenger’ could be considered? Instead of seeing supposed omissions of the ‘angel’, what is the grievous sin of interpreting the text from a synchronic viewpoint? Well, therein lays the critical mindset in that all texts should be subject to diachronic analysis.

There is another alternative which the critics are not considering. It is that the whole Samson Birth story is the product of one writer. Perhaps the story should be studied from a synchronic viewpoint? Even Daniel admits that in his view certain texts are considered “original”.  Cannot the critic consider that entire passages are original content? Alas, no, for in their pursuit to find more “evidence” in order to try to substantiate their Documentarian theories, they are bound to diachronic analysis, and refuse to consider what seems to be the obvious interpretations of the texts. In my opinion, the critic should not rule out the possibility that the early Hebrews understood the concept of the Lord appearing as the Messenger.

If we do not restrict our examination of the texts to diachronic analysis then the texts can be seen as evidence supporting an early Hebraic understanding of theophany. In the case of Judges 13:21,22 Manoah can be seen to understand that the Lord appeared to them as the ‘Messenger’, and his statement that they have seen God can be understood as seeing God as the ‘Messenger’. This is one of the traditional ways of interpreting the text but for the critic they only see confusion and conflation.

Regarding Daniel’s mention of the minority translation of “Elohim” as “a deity” in Judges 13:22, there is not much to comment on as I agree with his assessment that the correct translation is “God” and not “a deity”. Daniel seems to feel a need to address this issue, not because of conservative arguments, but because of a few liberal interpretations of the text. Daniel correctly points out that the allusion is to Exodus 33:20. The difference is where Daniel would date Exodus 33:20, as mentioned previously, because critical thought is bound up in Documentary theory on this text.

Daniel continues:

V. 19 also provides an interesting problem. It states that, on the angel’s orders, Manoah offered a meat offering on a rock “to Yahweh. And [?] did wonders/wondrously.” There is no subject attached to the participle מפלא, “to be wonderful.” Many translations assume the angel is understood, since he is overseeing the sacrifice (thus, “the angel did wondrously”), while others believe the statement refers to Yahweh, and want it to act as a relative clause (thus, “to Yahweh, to him who works wonders”). The most straightforward reading would probably be, “to Yahweh, and he did wondrously.” This would identify the one who commanded the sacrifice as Yahweh.”

Daniel states that if we translate the phrase as, “to Yahweh, and he did wondrously,” that ‘Yahweh’ is the one commanding the sacrifice, but this point, which he identifies as an interesting problem, is not much of an issue. Certainty the Lord is commanding the sacrifice through His Messenger and ‘Yahweh’ can do wondrously through the ‘Angel’. Only when one has come to reject the ‘Angel’ in the texts do they begin to ignore the obvious context of the story. Furthermore the context is what assists translators in coming to a consensus on what the Hebrew means. It would seem that the critics would favor translations based on hypothetical interpolations or theoretical modifications. Until these theories can be shown to be true then to speculate on possible translations still does not prove Documentarian theories. In the case of verse 19, even the translation which Daniel offers can be interpreted as the Lord doing wondrously through the ‘Angel’, so the point seems moot.

Daniel concludes this section on Samson’s birth narrative with these words:

“This is further supported by the actual command in v. 16, where the text states, “The angel of Yahweh said to Manoah, ‘If you detain me I will not eat your food, but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, offer it to Yahweh.’ (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of Yahweh).” There is only one scenario in which I can see the narrator providing the explanation if the angel is not actually Yahweh himself, and that’s if the angel is promoting sacrifices to a specific deity to which Manoah otherwise wouldn’t have offered his sacrifice (“‘Oh, and make sure you offer it to Yahweh specifically’ [and Manoah didn’t know that the guy actually worked for Yahweh]“). To me it makes much more sense that the narrator is explaining that Manoah didn’t know he was speaking to Yahweh himself, since it would sound weird for Yahweh to say “offer a sacrifice to Yahweh” if he knew he was speaking to Yahweh.”

The translation of verse 16 which Daniel is using seems to be a popular rendering. The translation in this case is a complicated combination of Hebrew words to translate. They are problematic not just from a literal rendering, but also from an approach of paraphrasing the text. In order to understand the issues, a detailed analysis of both approaches to verse 16 will need to be presented in a painstaking manner. This will prove to be rewarding for those who wish to gain a wider understanding of the text rather than the narrow view which Daniel assumes is the singular understanding.

What is Daniel’s view of verse 16? He suggests that this verse is further proof of his argument that Manoah is speaking with ‘Yahweh’ in person and that the ‘Angel’  is an interpolation. He explains why in his view that the interpretation of the verse only has a couple of possibilities. First, either Manoah is speaking with ‘Yahweh’ in person, or second, if he is speaking with the ‘Angel’ then the verse supposedly hints at Manoah being a worshiper of multiple gods. Somehow Daniel reasons that this only makes sense in the context of Manoah speaking to ‘Yahweh’ in person. These are the only two options which Daniel considers and any other views outside this matrix simply do not exist to him. Well, by this point one must realize that many other possibilities can exist for the Biblical text other than a radical critical viewpoint and I will proceed to go over some of those now.

Beginning with the literal translation of Judges 13:16 the first issue which presents itself is how the punctuation should be determined. When does one thought end and another begin? Hebrew being without lower case letters, we cannot always easily determine which word starts the sentence. There are no commas or periods in the Hebrew to guide us. There is an editorial symbol in the early Hebrew codices which designates the end of a verse. It is called a colophon which looks the same as a colon in the English language, but even with this we cannot always determine the end of a sentence as one verse can have multiple sentences and the colophon only designates the end of the entire verse. This is why the content of the text is so important in judging where the English punctuation makes the most sense.

In looking at an image of the Alleppo Hebrew codex of Judges 13:16, I can see one reason for the more popular translation.  It has to do with the spacing of the words on the page. There are three columns on each page. The verse starts at the bottom of the right column and continues to the top of the middle column. The starting word of the middle column is “La-Adonai” (לַיהוָה), which translates, “for the LORD”. The assumption is that the sentence begins with, “For the Lord…” In this case the sentence could be translated,  “For the Lord you are to offer it (the sacrifice),” but keeping in mind that since there are no small letters in Hebrew we can’t assume that this is the start of the sentence as all Hebrew letters are in capital forms. The phrase can also be interpreted to carry over to the next line and column.

The Hebrew phrase, “…if you prepare a burnt offering for ‘Yahweh’…” can be viewed as contiguous. Transliterated in my rough spelling of the Hebrew it reads:

…Veh-EEm Tah-AhSeh OhLah La-Adonai(YHVH)…

“…and if you will make a burnt offering for Adonai…”

After looking at the Hebrew I have considered the following two literal translations:

New English Translation (NET)

The Lord’s messenger said to Manoah, “If I stay, I will not eat your food. But if you want to make a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, you should offer it.” (He said this because Manoah did not know that he was the Lord’s messenger.)

Lexham English Bible (LEB)

The angel of Yahweh said to Manoah, “If you keep me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering for Yahweh, you can offer it (for Manoah did not know that he was an angel of Yahweh).”

Notice that with these two translations the thought ends with “for the Lord” rather than beginning with it. The ‘Angel’ can be paraphrased as saying, “I won’t be eating, but, if you are planning on offering a goat to the Lord, then by all means, go ahead and offer it.” This understanding of the text is just as plausible, and it excludes Daniel’s conclusion of an assumed polytheism.

The next challenge in the translation has to do with the tense of the verb. In Hebrew there are only two tenses: The perfect and the imperfect. The perfect designates actions which are complete and the imperfect shows them incomplete. In this case the verb we are focused on is “עָלָה” (alah). It means to lift up, but in the context of verse 16 it is in reference to offering up (an offering). It is also in an imperfect form so it is describing an action which has not yet occurred. In Hebrew we aren’t always clear how that incomplete action should be voiced. It could be rendered one of numerous ways. Here are a few examples:

….you will offer up…

….you should offer up…

…offer up…

…you can offer up…

Aside from these variations one must also take into account that in Hebrew the word order does not always translate into English into the same sequence. This is because in Hebrew most times the word which appears first signifies that it is to be given more importance in the sentence than the words which follow. If we make the assumption that in verse 16 “For the Lord” should begin the sentence then we can translate this Hebrew phrase various ways.

לַיהוָה תַּעֲלֶנָּה

  • Unto the LORD you should offer it up.
  • You can offer it up unto the LORD.
  • You may offer it to the LORD.
  • To the LORD, you are going to offer it.

Notice that in English the word sequence does not always follow the Hebrew.

Now let us consider some paraphrased versions of Judges 13:16.

New Living Translation (NLT)

“I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord.)

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Even if you keep me from leaving, I will not eat your food. But if you want to prepare something, offer a burnt offering to the Lord.” (Manoah did not understand that the man was really the angel of the Lord.)

Living Bible (TLB)

“I’ll stay,” the Angel replied, “but I’ll not eat anything. However, if you wish to bring something, bring an offering to sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t yet realize that he was the Angel of the Lord.)

New Century Version (NCV)

The angel of the Lord answered, “Even if I stay awhile, I would not eat your food. But if you want to prepare something, offer a burnt offering to the Lord.” (Manoah did not understand that the man was really the angel of the Lord.)

At this point one should be starting to realize the immense importance of the context and its role in translating verse 16. This is just one example of how not just a literal or paraphrased approach is fully sufficient in giving a more detailed idea of what the words mean. This is why we must consider the preceding verses to clue us in on more options for the translation. Let us consider Judges 13:15.

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” (ESV)

It seems the whole point of the context is that Manoah wishes to celebrate and feast, and he invites his guest to dinner!

In this context it becomes more plausible that the ‘Angel’ is offering one of two things:

  • A substitute activity. Rather than a feast he suggests a burnt offering to the Lord.
  • Or it could be that Manoah was already going to offer the goat as a type of fellowship offering to the Lord and the ‘Angel’ states that he will not be eating any of it, but not to let that stop Manoah from offering up the burnt sacrifice.

Moving on to Daniel’s comments with regard to the ending phrase of verse 16 which reads:

…(For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of Yahweh).

Daniel states that he can only think of one reason, if the ‘Angel’ was original to the text, that the writer of Judges would explain that Manoah did not know he was talking to the ‘Angel’. His reason, polytheism, however he quickly states that this would not be the case if the original text is only ‘Yahweh’. Well, seeing as how there are many other possible translations of verse 16, Daniel’s assertion that Manoah was a polytheist suddenly seems a far reach whether one reads the text with the ‘Angel’ omitted or not!

The argument does not seem to flow well. He seems to imply that if Manoah was only speaking with ‘Yahweh’ in person, that the comment, “…offer it to Yahweh,” would not apply in the same way? I do not see how this is so, but as there are various plausible interpretations of verse 16, I believe I have demonstrated that the implied polytheism vanishes if we understand Manoah’s guest is not specifying a choice of gods to worship, but suggesting an alternative to dinner or a fellowship offering.

Daniel’s reason why the text should not contain the ‘Angel’ seems to be that he leans toward a monotheistic interpretation, but as I have pointed out, this is only dependent on the translation of the text which in this case is doubly compounded in Daniel’s reckoning since he is trying to reason away the ‘Angel’ as an interpolation. In this light there simply is no reason to consider the ‘Angel’ an interpolation because we can still interpret the text as monotheistic based on a few other very plausible translations.

Essentially Daniel is stating that a theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor must have messed up yet again by mistakenly allowing a possible polytheistic interpretation, therefore Daniel’s claim is that the ‘Angel’ in the text does not make sense. He then states that it makes more sense if Manoah is speaking directly with ‘Yahweh’, but perhaps I am missing something? It seems that Daniel fails to adequately explain why it makes more sense that Manoah is speaking directly with ‘Yahweh’. Is this because if Manoah is speaking in person with ‘Yahweh’ that the polytheism is precluded, because clearly it is not? In the case of verse 16, just because the person speaking changes, it does not change the words being spoken. If Daniel is suggesting that because ‘Yahweh’ spoke, “…offer it to the Lord,” that because ‘Yahweh’ spoke it then somehow we can see the text as more legitimate  and implied to support monotheism, but Daniel is unclear and I cannot discern his line of reasoning here. Again, in the end, it matters little how Daniel came to his conclusion because as I have shown he bases his line of reasoning on implied polytheism which can be dismissed by a few other very plausible translations of the text.

Viewed from another angle we could understand the reason for the writer of Judges mentioning that Manoah does not recognize that he is speaking to the ‘Messenger of the Lord’ as an equating of sacrifice to the Lord with sacrifice to the ‘Messenger  of the Lord’!

Daniel then ends this section stating:

“To me it makes much more sense that the narrator is explaining that Manoah didn’t know he was speaking to Yahweh himself, since it would sound weird for Yahweh to say “offer a sacrifice to Yahweh” if he knew he was speaking to Yahweh.”

Yes, it would sound weird, but at this point Daniel has already dismissed the ‘Angel’ and is trying to justify the text without the theoretical interpolation. If the text does not seem to make sense then perhaps it has something to do with the translation and nothing to do with hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic  interpolations? The “weirdness” which Daniel refers to vanishes once we simply let go of the unsubstantiated critical guesses upon the text. The whole argument is reliant upon a translation which in all likelihood was never meant to convey any hint of polytheism in the first place!

This ends part six of this eight part response series. As always, Keep Ceeking Truth!  I look forward to my next post and Peace be with you all. :-)

This is part five of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

In this post I will be responding to Daniel’s comments on Gideon’s Call (Judges 6:11-24). As in Daniel’s previous observations he continues to categorize both the Names of God and the ‘Angel of the Lord’ as remnants of earlier or later hypothetical editors. There is really no other way in which a Documentarian can interpret scripture because they are bound to their views on source theory. This continues to be their issue as they simply will not even entertain the possibility that the texts are the result of singular cohesive units.

Daniel starts by stating, “…the angel comes to Gideon, who appears not to recognize him…“. Actually according to the chapter content it is very clear that Gideon surely does not recognize the ‘Angel’, but Daniel seems to be suggesting that Gideon possibly did recognize Him. Verse 22 of Judges chapter 6 reads:

“Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord.” ESV

All throughout the section up to verse 22 it seems clear that Gideon first believes he is speaking with a man but slowly begins to suspect a Divine Presence. At verse 17 Gideon exclaims:

“If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.” ESV

At this point Gideon wants to be sure that this ‘Man’ is who He has presented Himself to be. The point being is that verses 17 and 22 seem to adequately address that Gideon certainly did not recognize the ‘Angel’ up to verse 16. I don’t know if this was an oversight on Daniel’s part or if he is considering certain verses as possible additions by later theoretical editors, but he does not specify, and he seems to ignore the clear context of the section.

Most likely Daniel is suggesting that Gideon did recognize the ‘Man’, not as the ‘Angel’, but as the Lord. Daniel is reconstructing the section by omitting each reference to an angel but this does not account for Gideon not recognizing the ‘Man’ as ‘Yahweh’. Even if as Daniel theorizes that there was no ‘Angel’ in the original, Gideon still does not recognize the ‘man’ unless verse 17 which has no mention of ‘angel’ is also considered a later addition. What reason does Daniel give to explain verse 17? He leaves it as it is because there is no mention of an angel. The point being is that first Daniel states Gideon, “appears not to recognize him“, but later he states, “In v. 17, Gideon actually asks for proof that he is speaking specifically to Yahweh.” Daniel is stating in so many words that Gideon did not recognize ‘Yahweh’ because he asks for proof.

It would appear that Daniel’s reference to Gideon appearing not to recognize the ‘angel’ also appears to be a reference to something which Daniel appears to acknowledge after he has appeared to explain it away. Perhaps Daniel actually does understand that Gideon begins by not recognizing the ‘Man’, but uses the wrong wording to explain his position? Whether this was an ‘Angel’ or ‘Yahweh’, Gideon clearly did not recognize this person from their first meeting based on verse 17.

Next Daniel turns his attention to the interchangeably of the titles of  ‘Angel of the Lord’, and ‘Lord’. He states:

In vv. 11, 12, 21, and 22 the text has “angel of Yahweh,” but in vv. 14 and 16 Gideon is represented as speaking directly to Yahweh.

Once again we are being told in so many words that verses 14 and 16 were original to the text while all references to the ‘angel’ are likely interpolations because the text makes no sense according to the critics. It is difficult to figure which claim supports the other. Does the interpretation that the texts do not make sense lead one to consider that the ‘angel’ is interpolated or does the Interpolation Theory lead one to narrowly interpret the texts as nonsensical? Perhaps these twin claims uphold each other because without one the other cannot stand?

Daniel is held captive by the idea that Gideon is speaking directly with ‘Yahweh’ in verses 14 and 16. This is simply because he has prejudged the texts and interpreted them based on his stationary viewpoint. In his mind the reason for everyone’s incorrect interpretations are due to the imaginary ‘angel’. He has dismissed the possibility that the ‘Angel’ (Messenger) is speaking on behalf of ‘Yahweh’ and bringing a message in the first person. Instead of stating, “Thus saith the Lord”, the messenger is the mouthpiece of ‘Yahweh’ whereby whatever the ‘Angel’ speaks is the Will of ‘Yahweh’. It can certainly be the case that Gideon was speaking directly to ‘Yahweh’, that is, through the ‘Angel’.

The point of Daniel’s article was to explain away the most prevalent view of the ‘Angel’. He started his presentation by stating,  “The most prevalent view is that the angel, as a divine messenger, represents his patron so completely that he may be referred to and even described as the patron”, which Daniel quickly dismisses as most likely due to conflation or confusion. However,  couldn’t it be possible that the perceived conflation or confusion is only the result of a narrow interpretation based on the Interpolation Theory itself?

There remains a third view which Daniel ignores due to his assumption of the Interpolation Theory. This is not that the ‘angel’ is described as his Patron but that the ‘angel’ is the Lord’s Messenger and acts as His Mediator. As His vessel the ‘angel’ acts as the Lord wills and speaks as the Lord’s mouthpiece. Likewise, when speaking, the ‘angel’ is referred to as the Lord based on the ‘angel’s’ mediating nature.

It is unfortunate that the ‘angel’ passages are dismissed as interpolations because once again this points out, if true, how flipshod a job that a theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor performed in trying to align the text to their hypothetical theology.  If all they had to do was insert the word ‘Malach’ before every instance of “Lord” how hard could that have been? Also, in regard to the four letter Name of God, it seems highly unlikely that any hypothetical editor would simply miss verses 14 and 16 which contain the Lord’s Name, but the Documentary critic insists that these are mistakes which were not covered up completely.

Next Daniel states, “In v.  17, Gideon actually asks for proof that he is speaking specifically to Yahweh.” Now this of course is based on Daniel’s interpretation which springs forth from the theoretical ‘angel’ interpolation. Without this theory it can be interpreted within the larger context. Instead verse 17 can be interpreted as Gideon asking for proof that ‘Yahweh’ is speaking to him through the angel. That is not too hard of an explanation at all and one reason Daniel excludes this possibility is due to the Interpolation Theory,  and so we can clearly see how this theory affects one’s ability to consider other possibilities of the texts.

Next Daniel addresses verse 20 which uses the title ‘Malach Elohim’ which translates ‘Angel of God’. He states,

In v. 20 it is “angel of God.” This is peculiar, and the only other uses of “angel of God” in Gen-Judg also appear in places where the identity of God is mixed up with that of an angel (Gen 21:17; 31:11; Exod 14:19; Judg 13:6, 9).

His claim will need to be addressed for each of these four examples.

Gen 21:17:

“And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.” RSV

Daniel is stating that the identify of God is being mixed up with the ‘Angel of God’ but I have read Gen 21:17 in a few Bible versions and do not see how this is the exclusive interpretation.  It seems just as easily understood as the ‘Angel’ speaking on behalf of God. It seems odd that Daniel points out in the start of his article that the Hebrew for ‘Angel’, ‘Malach’, is more accurately translated,  “Messenger”, and yet Daniel is resisting the idea that the Messenger speaks the Message of God.

Gen 31:11 (12,13)

“11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that leap upon the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go forth from this land, and return to the land of your birth.’” RSV

Again the simple understanding of the Messenger of God is that He speaks God’s message. This is a very likely interpretation but it is excluded.  It should also be noted that the ‘Angel’ speaks to Jacob in a dream so another question would be what reason would a Post-Deuteronomist have in adding ‘Malach’ in front of ‘Elohim’? If this was a dream then ‘seeing’ God would not have been an issue, would it?

At this point it should be considered that the Lord never communicates without His Messenger and that the Hebrews understood this basic nature about the Lord. Even when the ‘Angel’ is not specifically mentioned in the text it could be understood that God always speaks His Message through His Messenger. Also in other passages the interlocutor is described as ‘The Word of the Lord’, such as, “Then the Word of the Lord came to…”.

The only way to arrive at the critical viewpoint is to first assume that the early Hebrews spoke directly with ‘Yahweh’ and stood ‘face to face’ with God. Then one begins to interpret the texts in light of this assumption.  As far as the ‘Angel’ passages are concerned,  they lend more evidence towards the Hebrews not ‘seeing’ God. The only way to think otherwise would be to dismiss all references to the ‘Angel’, and this is where the critic finds the Interpolation Theory fits with their assumptions. Still missing, however, is whether one can determine if their assumptions are supporting the theory or if the theory is supporting their assumptions?

Ex 14:19 (& v.24)

19 “The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.”…

“24 At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion.” NASB

This passage is different in that the Lord is not speaking through the ‘Angel’ but acting and moving in the pillar of fire and cloud. Also distinguishing this passage from others is the interchangeably of the titles, “Malach Elohim” and “Adonai” (‘Yahweh’). Now the critic must make a decision on how they think this section arose because they would never consider it a singular unit in its “original” form. Here are some questions for the critics to consider:

What reason would a Post-Deuteronomist have to insert “Malach” in front of Elohim if they were more inclined to ‘Yahwism’? Why not also simply change “Elohim” to ‘Yahweh’ along with the addition of ‘Malach’?

Why would not the Post-Deuteronomist simply insert a ‘Malach’ in front of “Lord” in Exodus 14:24? How could they simply miss the Name of the Lord thereby creating the assumed identity confusion?

These two questions would also apply to Judges 6:20, 21 with the difference that ‘Malach Elohim’ and ‘Malach Adonai’ are used interchangeably. A third question arises in Judges 6:20, 21 which is:

Why are not ‘Malach Elohim’ and ‘Malach Adonai’ considered by the critics to be two different angles due to the titles?

Daniel doesn’t discuss this but he accepts the ‘Angel of Elohim’ as another name for ‘Angel of Adonai’. It is an easy thing to gloss over but should be addressed.  The point is that Daniel refuses to interpret all these passages as the Lord speaking through the ‘Angel’ but then loosens his strict adherence to the word for word interpretations when it comes to comparing ‘Angel of Elohim’ and ‘Angel of Adonai’. They are considered both the same ‘Angel’, and they should be considered this way, but this is mostly a conservative view which Daniel accepts without considering its implications. By acknowledging that these two ‘Angels’ are the same he has demonstrated how the Names of God are interchangeable. In the end I am sure that he not interested in this as in his mind both ‘Angels’ are a made up mechanism used by the theoretical Post-Deuteronomist.

Judges 13:6, 9

6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.

9 God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. NASB

In Judges 13:6, 9 the same conditions apply as the three previous examples. What Daniel reads as a mixture of identities can just as easily be read as two identities with the ‘Angel’ acting as the intermediary. There are no clear indications of personalities being mixed except for those who would read this into the text. Yes, God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the ‘Angel’ goes to his wife again but none of the texts ever spell out the nature of the ‘Angel’ as indistinguishable from the Lord.

As a tangent, my own belief is that the ‘Angel’ is the Pre-Existent Word, and that the ‘Word of the Lord’ is His own person despite His oneness with the Lord. They are two persons yet one with each other. In no way does this belief require the texts regarding the ‘Angel’ to be interpreted as a mixture of personalities. On the contrary the texts make more sense when we interpret the personality of the ‘Angel’ as separated from God as His Messenger.

Daniel states that the title, ‘Malach Elohim’ only appears in those texts which mix up the identity of God with that of the ‘Angel’. This conclusion always excludes the interpretation in which the ‘Angel’ is the Lord’s vessel of communication or mediator of salvation. The critics seem more satisfied with viewpoints which do not make sense, but this is due to their own refusal to allow alternative interpretations of the texts within context.

Daniel states, “As with other stories, Gideon’s angel speaks as God in the first person with no messenger formula to indicate it is a mediated message.” The messenger formula which Daniel is referring to are the titles, ‘Malach Adonai’ or ‘Malach Elohim’. Daniel seems unwilling to entertain the idea of a Messenger which speaks in the first person on behalf of God. Is not this a plausible understanding of the texts? Isn’t it possible that the ‘Angel’ is the Lord’s vessel while retaining His own distinct personality? Perhaps this is why the ‘Angel’ is given the special title of ‘Malach Adonai’? Maybe it is through Him the Lord communicates all His messages? If we allow the context to influence the surrounding verses which do not contain the “formula” then we could deduce that not only does the Messenger of ‘Yahweh’ speak in the first person but also acts as a representation of the Lord to mankind by mediating His Glorious Presence.

Next Daniel comments on Judges 6:22:

Again we have the allusion to Exod 33:20, but here Gideon laments, “Help me, O Yahweh God, for I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!” Exod 33:20 does not place a restriction on seeing the angel of Yahweh, however, it explicitly states that no human can see God himself (and specifically his face, given the context).

Why is Daniel so intrigued by Gideon’s response? Apparently Gideon was wrong to be afraid of seeing the ‘Malach Adonai’ face to face because clearly Exodus 33:20 does not state that seeing the ‘Angel’ would be fatal. Despite what Exodus 33:20 states, Gideon’s response seems normal for anyone who has encountered a Being Who projects a degree of the Divine Glory and speaks as the Lord’s mouthpiece.

For the critic, Gideon is encountering the Lord in bodily form yet not as the ‘Angel’ but as Himself, and this is the reason they believe Gideon is struck with fear because he thinks he has seen God. This is problematic in that the concept of ‘not seeing God’ clearly is part of the underlying message of Gideon’s story. Gideon did not recognize the Lord when he first saw Him, but why? Certainly it is because the Lord is appearing to Gideon in the less glorious form of a mere man, so what is the difference if He appears as an angel in the form of a man or as a just a man? The texts can be understood in this way when we exclude the word “angel” from the story and so the hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic editor wouldn’t have needed any ‘angel’ to make this point if the Lord appeared not as His Glorious Presence but as a simple man.

The issue continues to be presented by Daniel as the “original” stories portraying the Lord Himself appearing rather than the ‘Angel’ and including an allusion to Exodus 33:20, but with the story of Gideon we also have his non-recognition of the Lord. This is the hard part for the critics because Gideon’s non-recognition of the Lord basically gives the theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor an explanation that the Lord did not appear in His most Glorious form and so what need is there to insert an ‘Angel’ into the story at all! Yet the story of Gideon does contain the ‘Angel’ so we could consider it original to the text based on this line of reasoning.

The problem continues to be compounded when we realize that a reconstructed version of the story of Gideon not only allows the Lord to appear as a man but that this understanding essentially substitutes for the Lord appearing as the ‘Angel’! It could be regarded as a matter of semantics in which the reconstructed narrative arrives at similar conclusions which the unaltered story does! In one case Gideon is afraid to have seen the ‘face of God’ but we understand by his initial non-recognition that the Lord appeared in a less glorious form, so this why Gideon does not die. In the other case Gideon is afraid to have seen the ‘face of the Angel of the Lord’ but we can deduce that Gideon is struck with the awesome presence of God’s Messenger and supposes that he could die if the Lord Himself speaks through this Angel.

In both cases there remains a glaring interpretive possibility. This is that the Lord appears in different forms! Wasn’t this the whole point of the hypothetical theology of the theoretical Post-Deuteronomic school? Is not this the whole reason which Daniel claims the ‘Angel’ was invented! Daniel states that an angel was needed to make the “original” stories fit with Exodus 33:20, but clearly as I have stated previously that even if the ‘Angel’ did not exist in the Biblical texts we still can come to the conclusion that the Lord appears in less Glorious forms and thereby align it with Exodus 33:20! In effect I believe I have demonstrated how the reconstructed story of Gideon can also be aligned with Exodus 33:20 despite Daniel’s insistence that the ‘Angel’ was needed to accomplish this!

Daniel concludes this section on Gideon by stating:

Gideon’s lament is completely unique, and the story fits perfectly with the other reconstructed narratives if we simply remove each instance of “angel.”

In other words Daniel is stating if we suppose that the texts are not original in context and the result of various theoretical schools then we can assume that there is conflict with the various hypothetical theologies and furthermore that in order to reinterpret these texts a theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor inserted the word “Malach” in key texts to remove the theoretical conflict of hypothetical earlier theology (catching my breath). Well, I disagree, and I do not think that Daniel demonstrated the hypothetical need for an “angel” in order to align Gideon’s story with Exodus 33:20, but you can judge for yourself.

This concludes part five of this eight part series. As always, Keep Ceeking Truth and I look forward to the next post. Peace be with you all!

Presuming Preemption

This is part four of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

In this post Daniel’s statements on the story of Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3) will be examined. Daniel starts with,

The angel is only mentioned in v. 2, and afterward God himself is the interlocutor.

There is a trend with some people to give less significance to words which appear less frequently in scripture than others. In this case the Documentarian view is focused on the one occurrence of the word, “Malach”(messenger), as if the mathematical formula of ‘less is less true’ and ‘more is more true’ is the code by which he will discern the “real” text.

Daniel has also convinced himself at this point that the ‘Angel’ is not speaking on behalf of God. It appears he has wholly excluded the possibility that the reason the ‘Messenger’ is called the ‘Messenger of the Lord’ is because He speaks a message on behalf of the Lord. Daniel has identified the words as spoken directly by the Lord based on the phrases such as, “…God called to him out of the bush…” but it is entirely possible to interpret phrases such as these as God calling out to Moses through the Messenger. This is the whole point of the Lord’s Messenger. The Angel serves as a mediator between God and man in order that the Lord’s Presence does not overcome man.

Daniel gives the following reasons for determining that only God is the interlocutor:

  1. In v. 6 God even states, ‘I am the God of your father . . .'”
  2. Moses even lowers his gaze because he is afraid to look upon God.”
  3. “…v. 2′s statement “and the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush” does not fit the narrative. It preempts Moses’ noticing the bush (which follows “and he looked, and behold!”) and his moving close enough to it for the entity to speak out of it…”

Before I answer the first reason I need to point out how easily Daniel excludes verse 2 along with other Scriptures in the Bible.  This is because he is a Biblical Minimalist. He is not really interested in all of the texts but only those which support the Documentarian worldview. At the same time he excludes texts he also vehemently defends certain narrow interpretations of others. The problem with this approach is that the Documentarian, by trying to arrive at one correct interpretation, does not consider any other interpretations.

The first reason given to exclude verse 2 is verse 6 where God states, “I am the God of your father…”. Daniel has essentially refused to reconcile these two verses by simply acknowledging that the Messenger speaks on behalf of God, and so only the strict narrow interpretation of verse 6 is considered. He has prematurely dismissed verse 2 in his consideration of verse 6, and so his interpretation of verse 6 is out of context. He is basically stating that exhibit A is a fabrication because exhibit B does not seem to line up with exhibit A but this is only if we pretend that exhibit A does not influence how we understand exhibit B. Daniel is attempting to prove away the existence of the ‘Angel’ but all he has really stated is that verse 6 does not fit into one narrow interpretation of verse 2.

The second reason he gives is that Moses lowers his gaze because he was afraid to look at God. It continues to intrigue me how devoted some Documentarians are to certain interpretations while they ignore all others. Clearly Moses was afraid to look upon God but this still does not mean that it was not the Angel which Moses was afraid of. If the Lord was using the Angel as His mouthpiece and likeness then a portion of the Lord’s Presence is manifested and Moses most certainly would have been afraid. Moses is likely afraid of the Lord no matter what form He assumes. Whether the Lord appears in a cloud or the Angel of the Lord appears in the fire. It is also entirely possible that Moses understands later after the appearance that this was the Angel of the Lord, but these interpretations are not allowed by Daniel because they include verse 2 in their consideration.

At this point I should reiterate that the existence of the ‘Angel’ as well as the idea of the ‘Angel’ is not dependent on the Hebrew word, “Malach”. It is entirely possible that even if the word never existed in Scripture that religious thinkers and men of faith would have come to understand that the Lord uses mediation and a mediator to communicate with mankind. In this case even if verse 2 did not exist in Exodus chapter 3, the entire section could be interpreted as Moses encountering God through an intermediary, but Daniel has chosen to take a hard-line on this and is suggesting that without verse 2 there is only one correct interpretation.

In his final reason for dismissing verse 2 Daniel concludes that the verse preempts the chapter. The basic definition of “preempt” is to appropriate, seize, or take for oneself before others. In other words verse 2 messes up the “correct” interpretation. Stated another way he is saying that verse 2 affects the interpretation of the chapter. Well, this seems obvious because that is what words do. They give us context and key us in on overall meaning. In this case he has only given the reason that it does not fit into the Documentarian interpretation of chapter 3, therefore it does not belong.

He continues by stating in so many words that it makes no sense because Moses saw the bush first and not the ‘Angel’ therefore it cannot be correct. If I had a nickel every time a critic said the Bible didn’t make sense I’d be a rich man. Daniel notes that the phrase, “…and he looked and behold!” does not fit with the first part of verse 2 because first Moses apparently sees the Angel and then ‘behold!‘, he sees the burning bush. Notice how tightly Daniel holds onto his interpretation that Moses saw the Angel prior to seeing the burning bush. No other understanding of verse 2 is considered! Again we are to believe that a theoretical Post-Deuteronomic editor made a glaring mistake and left a mess of jumbled non-sense. I brought this point up previously but it needs to be revisited again.

Apparently the hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic school was such an inept collection of scribes that they could not edit their theology into one coherent sentence!  Yet despite the supposed poor sentence structure, over many centuries for all to see, only now the Biblical critics have discovered this alleged mistake.

The problems are very likely not the Hebrew but how verse 2 is translated and/or interpreted. These problems can occur when a poor or a difficult translation into English is interpreted a certain way based on the most common grammar rules of English without consideration of the textual context. The majority of verses in the Bible which don’t seem to make sense can be attributed to either improper or incomplete translation or interpretation, and I believe this is the case with verse 2.

An alternate interpretation of verse 2 could be that it is an introduction to the event before it transpires.  This would be similar to the Creation accounts given in Genesis which incidentally most critics also incorrectly interpret as two creation accounts. The  New International Version of the Bible translates Ex. 3:2 with this interpretation in mind:

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.”  NIV

In this translation the first part of the verse serves as a type of explanation of the story to follow.

There is another very likely interpretation of verse 2 and that is in regard to the nature of the appearance of the Messenger of the Lord. The assumption by the critics is that the Messenger appeared in bodily form in the flames but the Hebrew text does not say this. In fact, based on the context of the story, it is clear that Moses does not see anything other than a burning bush which he turns to go investigate.

Daniel is tied to the words, “and the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush“, and he says in so many words that the Angel appeared to Moses first but the narrative conflicts by showing that Moses saw the fire first. I would suggest that it is possible that the correct interpretation is that the ‘Malach Adonai’ is not appearing in the form of an ‘angel’ but the Messenger of the Lord is appearing in a non corporeal form in the flames of the fire, and this is why Moses only sees the burning bush from a distance. This interpretation seems to line up well with the other places in Exodus where the ‘Angel’ appears as a Cloud by day and a Fire by night (Ex. 14:19). Consider also a later understanding in Psalm 104:4:

“Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:” KJV

It would seem from this understanding that angels or in this case the ‘Angel’ can appear as a spirit (wind) or a flaming fire, so it could be very likely that the ‘Angel’ in the fire of the burning bush not only appears in the fire but appears within the fire as the fire. This would certainly explain why Moses saw the fire first and seems to be a very plausible interpretation.

Daniel concludes this section by stating:

The most likely reason is that the statement is a late interpolation meant to contextualize the comments that followed. Without the statement, it is God himself speaking to Moses.

He has essentially dismissed Exodus 3:2 in this sweeping statement which assumes only one narrow interpretation of the text. Above I have offered a few plausible interpretations which reconcile verse 2. If one is to find  the Documentarian view more to their liking then they should do the responsible thing and offer reasons why the interpretations I have presented are not just as likely. If as I predict no one can fully disprove anything I have written in this post then what Daniel has presented as a likely interpolation suddenly seems not as likely.

This ends part 4 of this 8 part series.  I look forward to the next and as always Keep Ceeking Truth. :-)

Part 1 – Critically Conflated

Part 2 – Interpretations of Interpolations

Part 3 – Saying and Seeing

Saying and Seeing

This is part three of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.

The next area of focus is on the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac. Daniel is focused on one particular part of the passage. It is where the LORD is reported as speaking to Abraham in Genesis 22:16. He states, “In v. 16 we have Yahweh speaking, but the phrase ‘says Yahweh’ appears. This does not necessarily indicate reported speech, though, and is unlikely to be original.”

There are three things to address from Daniel’s statement on his perception of this phrase:

  1. The phrase taken at face value is, “Yahweh speaking.”
  2. Daniel points out that the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ can be understood as reported speech and he states in so many words that it could be the inverse, which is direct speech.
  3. Daniel concludes that the phrase is unlikely to be original whether or not it is reported speech or the LORD directly speaking.

Now in regard to the phrase, “…says Yahweh,” Daniel is not content to merely credit it as a Post-Deuteronomic addition but is driven to mention that it does not necessarily indicate “reported” speech. To state more simply, the Angel is not necessarily speaking on the LORD’s behalf (reporting the LORD’s words), and the phrase is Adonai Himself speaking. The issue which Daniel is trying to address does not seem clear. Could it be related to his possibly answering views of other critical conclusions which he does not agree with?  I could be wrong but without researching this particular passage on every Documentarian view, I would guess that at least one other critical scholar believes that the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ is original to the text. Perhaps I am giving too much weight to Daniel’s choice of words which may have been used to convey simpler ideas, but I am persuaded to give Daniel more credit for thinking about these things in broader ways.

The basic idea which Daniel is promoting is that in all these ‘angel of the Lord’ stories it was originally only the LORD (Yahweh) as the participant and later on a Post-Deuteronomic editor added the Hebrew word “Malach” into the text thereby creating the ‘Malach Adonai‘ (Malach Yahweh)(Angel of the LORD). In the case of Gen. 22:16 Daniel seems also to be suggesting that the phrase, “says Yahweh” was also an addition by a Post-Deuteronomic editor and he further seems to state that the phrase was unfortunately vague and could be understood as either direct speech or reported speech. As Daniel does not state these things directly, I could be misinterpreting his own presentation, but he seems to indicate that the “correct” interpretation of the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ could be that the LORD is actively speaking. One should keep in mind that another interpretation is possible. It is that the angel could be identified as a non-specific angel who is speaking on the LORD’s behalf and not a theophany. Daniel does not explore this perspective, but dismisses it.

In his second point he states in so many words that it doesn’t really matter if it is reported speech because the phrase is likely not original. So it would seem that Daniel is favoring an “original” theoretical Elohistic authorship which was later modified by a hypothetical Yahwist and then changed by an unsubstantiated Post-Deuteronomist. Well, I could be mistaken in this assessment but one thing is clear which is that Daniel understands that in order for the Interpolation theory to be more likely,  he needs to address the phrase “says Yahweh”.

In his radical critical approach there are certain things that don’t quite fit into a clean logic of Documentarian theories. Why would a Post-Deuteronomic editor either add or allow a verse which reads, “says Yahweh” in Gen 22:16? Daniel seems to suggest that the hypothetical editor knew they could use vague words in order for the text to match their theology.

What evidence is given that the phrase “says Yahweh” in Gen. 22:16 is likely not original? He states,  “It (the phrase) appears nowhere else in Genesis and it never appears anywhere else associated with any angel of Yahweh.” Again, it must be noted that one must first be persuaded that the Biblical texts should be interpreted by diachronic analysis in order to speculate as to why certain phrases appear in some places but not in others.

Daniel’s point seems focused on the Hebrew word pair “Naum Adonai” which in Gen. 22:16 is translated, “says Yahweh”.  The word “Naum” is more frequently translated as “declared” in most of the Scriptures such as, “declares the LORD”.  It is used mostly by the prophets. His point being that this is the only passage in which this word pair is used with the appearance of the ‘Angel’ and so it must certainly be an insertion at a later date. Well, I suppose anything is possible but again, it is all still speculation.

If we do not limit ourselves to the word pair “Naum Adonai” then there are examples to be found which also convey the same basic understanding as “says Yahweh” in connection with the ‘Angel’. For example, Gen. 16:13. This verse in context is the story of the ‘Angel’ appearing to Hagar.  It reads:

“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” ESV

The Hebrew in the first passage transliterated reads, “VaTi-keRah Shem Adonai HaDoh-bear ELeiYah Atah”.  The verb used to convey how the LORD spoke in this verse is “Dabar” which has been conjugated to “Dohbear” and preceded by “Ha”.  The words, “Shem Adonai” are translated,  “the Name of the LORD which is followed by “HaDoh-bear” which is “who spoke”.  I should point out again for the beginner student of scripture study that the Name of the LORD is the sacred four letters in Hebrew which most scholars refer to as ‘Yahweh’.  In this case I have used, “Adonai”. In plain English it reads, “The Name of ‘Yahweh’ spoke”. This is not much different from, “says Yahweh”. The exception is that instead of the Hebrew word pair, “Naum Adonai” the verb “Dabar” is used. By not limiting ourselves to counting how many times a word pair occurs we can be open to other similar verses.

The speculation is entirely dependent upon considering the phrase,  “Naum Adonai” as late hypothetical Deuteronomic language,  but this seems to be based on the number of times it occurs in each book. This is problematic as one cannot be certain if this phrase originated in Genesis earlier and then later became more frequently used in other scriptures. If this was a “Deuteronomic phrase” one could also speculate why this phrase is not used more in the book of Genesis if indeed the Book is filled with Deuteronomic theology?

Moving on to Gen. 22:14 Daniel states:

In v. 14, the explanation of the name of the mountain could be “On the mountain of Yahweh it shall be provided,” or “On the mountain of Yahweh he will be seen.” In both these stories the notion of seeing God appears to have been obscured to hide God’s own presence.

His reference to both stories is in regard to the Angel appearing to Hagar and the story of Abraham offering up his only son. Daniel states that the notion of seeing God appears to have been obscured.  I suppose one could draw this conclusion only if they first are convinced that there is a notion to be obscured in the first place. The verses in question could be translated more than one way but this does not mean that the original Hebrew writer was trying to cover something up. It simply can be the case that they are difficult to translate due to the lack of understanding we have with regard to the use of certain Hebraic context which has been lost through the sands of time.

In Gen. 22 the context makes it clear that verse 14 is echoing verses 7 and 8 which reads:

  1. “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
  2. And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” KJV

The translation is difficult as it does not literally translate “God will provide”, but “God will see”. There is a possible idea of, “God will see-to-it”. Incidentally the literal translation can line up with the Christian theology of the LORD seeing Jesus as the sacrifice because one way of translating verse 8 literally is, “…God will see him a lamb…” which is what John the Baptist so simply stated in, “Behold the Lamb of God…”. The point being is that the focus of the ‘seeing’ or the ‘providing’ is the sacrifice.

Daniel’s statement that something is being obscured in verse 14 might just be a misunderstanding on his part because the Hebrew is there for all to examine and come to their own conclusions on how to translate it. While he is setting up two ideas against each other in the ‘providing’ and ‘seeing’ most who examine the Hebrew understand the ideas as two ways of explaining the same thing. In other words God will ‘see-to-it’. This is also a theme in Scripture in which the LORD sees the suffering of His people and rescues them (Ex. 3:7,8).

The basic understanding of Genesis 22 could be expressed in the following ways:

v.7  Where is the lamb (sacrifice)?

v.8  The Lord will see it (the lamb).

v.14  Abraham calls the place, “The LORD will see (it)”.

One could also translate it in another way:

v.7  Where is the lamb?

v.8  God will see him, a lamb.

v.14  Abraham calls the place, “The LORD will see (him)”.

So in both cases we can see that the object can be the lamb. If we go with the Documentarian translation preference it might convey something like the following:

v. 7  (No comment from Daniel) Possibly remains, “Where is the lamb?”

v. 8  (No comment from Daniel). Possibly remains, “God will provide”.

v.14  “On the mountain of Yahweh he will be seen.”

This point needs to made with regard to the possible “he” who is seen on the mountain.  Many would quickly make the assumption that this “he” is in reference to “Yahweh” while it can just as easily be referring to “it”, the sacrifice, but even if it should be “he” we wonder if Abraham is referring to the Angel of LORD or the LORD Himself, and in the end this still does not change the object of chapter 22 which is the sacrificial lamb. It was the sacrifice of Isaac which was stopped by the Angel and a substitute was provided to Abraham. It was in this context which Abraham named the place. In my opinion it is a stretch to consider verse 14 related to Daniel’s overall argument having to do with ‘seeing’ God especially when we consider the clear connection to verse 8 in the same chapter.

And even if we do translate verse 14 as “he” we are suddenly struck with the implication that “he” is the sacrifice in verse 8! And maybe this is one of those times when the Hebrew means both in two different verses? Perhaps Abraham was shielding Isaac from the fact that he would be the sacrifice in verse 8?  In this case the “he” is Isaac, but Abraham answered Isaac in such a way as it could mean “it”.  In the end, in verse 14, Abraham names the place after the phrase he used in verse 8 with Isaac except now it has taken on a new meaning of hope, which is summed up in a paraphrase such as, “God will see! (it)(everything)(your heart’s sacrifice and desire)..(and will rescue you by providing).”   It is an idea which encompasses all of what God is all about. He will see all things, provide for all things, and rescue us from all things. :-)

This ends part 3 of this 8 part series.  I look forward to my next post and remember to Keep Ceeking Truth!. :-)

Part 1 – Critically Conflated

Part 2 – Interpretations of Interpolations


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