Readers familiar with me and my work know that I think our theology needs to derive from the text, not tradition. This applies pointedly to the Old Testament — the three-quarters of our Bible upon which our New Testament theology ought to be erected to have any hope of understanding the apostles in context. Readers also know that, for reasons they could not control, early church writers were predominantly ignorant of Hebrew and centuries, even millennia, removed from the worldview and cognitive framework of the Old Testament writers. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any inkling of Old Testament theology in its own context — things like the divine council.

I was working on the final editorial pass of The Unseen Realm today. I decided to include the following book in a footnote. It relates to the points I just raised:

God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church

McDermott is professor of religion and philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. He is familiar with the idea of the divine council (he mentions it on page 16 and his third chapter should resonate with readers of my material: “The Lord of Hosts: The Old Testament and the Real Existence of Other Gods”). I had a short correspondence with the author when the book came out in 2007.

The book is about how early Christian thinkers / “church fathers” parsed certain Old Testament ideas about other gods with respect to why God would allow other gods to exist and hold sway over the nations. Opinions varied in their writings. McDermott does a nice job of surveying who said what on the issue. It’s an interesting read. Here’s a review to acquaint you more with the content: Michael S. Jones in Philosophia Christi 12.1 (2010).

Again, the book isn’t a divine council theology. Rather, it shows how early church writers sensed something was going on with that whole “Yahweh vs. the gods” thing that arose in the wake of Babel. It’s a good introduction to their efforts (and struggle) to parse the issue. For my part, I’m going to leave early church interaction with the sorts of things I write about in The Unseen Realm to another book.