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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Albright-Cross-Waltke “cult” and the use divine name

Currently preparing a post on the divine council or the council of El with help of a small pile of books by W. F. Albright, F. M. Cross, John Day, J. A. Fitzmyer to name a few. Got to thinking about the use of the divine name in popular christian culture, when it started and why. This is just a personal account, not a definitive history so take it cum grano salis.

In 1973 I attended a winter “retreat” for college and post-college but still young people at a ski chalet near Mt Baker, in the north Cascades. The featured speaker was Ralph H Alexander, Th.D. The topic of the lectures was biblical covenants. One thing that struck me as passing strange was Ralfh Alexander's constant use of the divine name YHWH complete  with the vowels that were popular back then. I can't  tell you why, but this constant use of the divine name grated on the ear. It struck me as flippant even though R. Alexander was anything but flippant.

A few years later I discovered that other biblical studies professors were doing the same thing. There was one thing that tied several of these people together, they had all at one time or another been under the influence of Bruce Waltke who had been under influence of F.M. Cross who had been ... W. F. Albright,  I didn't figure that out for decades. It was a picture that came together gradually over time.

Fast forward to the early 1990s, I was doing some reading in F. M. Cross, principally  Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel, Harvard University, 1973, a book which was foundational to Waltke's 1974 lectures Creation & Chaos[1]. Now twenty years later I reading the same book along with John Day, “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan”[2]. I find that my long term policy for using HaShem as a means of avoiding the vocalization of YHWH is starting to break down under the strain of constantly seeing YHWH vocalized in print. I am not particularly happy about this but what can I do?

[1] title borrowed from Hermann Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos, 1895.
[2] John Day, “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan”, Sheffield 2000.


Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

So, is it just the printing of the divine name with the vowels that you don't like or someone actually pronouncing it when speaking?

12:29 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Hello Mike,

The reading of YHWH vocalized and morphed into adjectives and other non-substantives makes it difficult to substitute HaShem since you end up with monstrosities like HaShemist. It can be done but it slows your reading down.

I don't listen to much audio so I don't here it but when I was in school the biblical studies profs were using it constantly and there seemed to be a connection with those profs who at one time another had either studied or taught at the same institution with Waltke. The biblical studies adjunct lecturer didn't use the divine name and he had no history with Waltke.

I really don't to upset about it these days but back then I found it annoying, not really sacrilegious, more like a speech impediment, the word was used constantly, hundreds of occurrences per 50min lecture.

2:05 PM  

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