How the Jews (re)invented God…

How the Jews (re)invented God…:

“…if he was and is the only god, why would God need a name? The Bible explicitly tells us that God has one, which indicates he had to be distinguished from other celestial beings, just like humans use names to identify different people.

What that name might be is another matter. The Jewish prohibition on speaking God’s name means that its correct pronunciation has been lost. All we know is that the Hebrew Bible spells it out as four consonants known as the Tetragrammaton – from the Greek for “four letters,” which are transliterated as Y-H-W-H*.

The existence of a proper name for God is the first indication that the history of Yhwh and his worship by the Jews is a lot more complicated than many realize.

Modern biblical scholarship and archaeological discoveries in and around Israel show that the ancient Israelites did not always believe in a single, universal god. In fact, monotheism is a relatively recent concept, even amongst the People of the Book.

Decades of research into the birth and evolution of the Yhwh cult are summarized in “The Invention of God,” a recent book by Thomas Römer, a world-renowned expert in the Hebrew Bible and professor at the College de France and the University of Lausanne.

When exactly the Jewish holy text reached its final form is unknown. Many scholars believe this happened sometime between the Babylonian exile, which began after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE (some 2600 years ago), and the subsequent periods of Persian and Hellenistic rule.

However, the redactors of the Bible were evidently working off older traditions, Römer says.

“Biblical texts are not direct historical sources. They reflect the ideas, the ideologies of their authors and of course of the historical context in which they were written,” Römer explains.

The first clue that the ancient Israelites worshipped gods other than the deity known as Yhwh lies in their very name. “Israel” is a theophoric name going back at least 3200 years, which includes and invokes the name of a protective deity.

Going by the name, the main god of the ancient Israelites was not Yhwh, but El, the chief deity in the Canaanite pantheon, who was worshipped throughout the Levant.

In other words, the name “Israel” is probably older than the veneration of Yhwh by this group called Israel, Römer says. “The first tutelary deity they were worshipping was El, otherwise their name would have been Israyahu.

…it seems that the ancient Israelites weren’t even the first to worship Yhwh – they seem to have adopted Him from a mysterious, unknown tribe that lived somewhere in the deserts of the southern Levant and Arabia…

The Bible is quite explicit about the geographical roots of the Yhwh deity, repeatedly linking his presence to the mountainous wilderness and the deserts of the southern Levant. Judges 5:4 says that Yhwh “went forth from Seir” and “marched out of the field of Edom.” Habbakuk 3:3 tells us that “God came from Teman,” specifically from Mount Paran…”

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* Being a language that has no vowels…some think that the correct pronunciation is “YOOOOO HOOOOO!…WOOOOO HOOOOO…!” (as in, is anyone out there?!?), usually shouted out in a desert cave or tunnel, rock canyon or stone cliff wall environment, and later, in a large smooth stone domed chamber…providing a lengthy echo…being the best response possible to religion’s misleading question… An echo is simply a reflection of your own noise…and, as with religion…it comes at the cost of lost intelligibility…

World’s record longest echo…now stands at 1.9 minutes…!