I just got an email from someone who asked very sincerely if Mormons are using my divine council material responsibly. Apparently the answer is (predominantly) “no” so I thought I’d post on this.
Many of you are aware that my academic specialty is the divine council in Israelite religion / biblical theology. It was the focus of my dissertation (along with the matter of divine plurality and monotheism in Israelite religion). I focused on late canonical material and Second Temple Jewish material (the two powers in heaven theology in Judaism also figured in my dissertation).
I answered the above question negatively since the emailer informed me that some Mormons on the web are thinking that I believe Yahweh had a father distinct from Himself. Nope. No idea how anyone who’s read my material could come away with that one. I also do not believe that humans will become gods (like Yahweh) or that Yahweh was once a human. Those denials pretty much disqualify me as a Latter Day Saint.
What I actually think about Mormonism and the divine council is readily available online. A few years ago a Mormon friend of mine who teaches at BYU asked if I would publish a paper of mine in their journal. The paper was a critique of Mormonism’s use of Psalm 82, a key divine council passage. I agreed. A Mormon scholar, David Bokovoy (whom I think is nearly done with his dissertation at Brandeis – divine council in the book of Amos) wrote a response to my paper, and then I was allowed to write a response to David. All of these papers are available for free in that journal issue (they appear consecutively). The prefatory material in that issue (the Introduction) also made it clear that I am an evangelical, not a Mormon.
All in all, the folks at the FARMS journal and Maxwell Institute were very gracious and handled this very well. I’d certainly write another exchange with David again (or someone as capable) for their journal. It’s too bad “lay” Mormons apparently are misrepresenting me. So if you have a Mormon friend or acquaintance and you hear them claiming me too enthusiastically, send them this link.
But then again my views have been distorted by evangelicals, too, so I can’t complain too loudly.
For other posts on Mike’s work on the divine council, click here for the archive.