What evidence is there that Jesus died for the sins of the world?

Good question.

My answer: This is a meme (an idea), so what we should look for is how this meme came into existence, not attempt to prove the idea itself true or false. It is a metaphor, one which may or may not speak to you. But we can be sure of one thing, when this meme was born, it resonated with those who first hear it.

Res-o-nate
1) Produce or be filled with a deep, full, reverberating sound.
2) Evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.

The idea (or meme) that Jesus died for our sins has been accepted as symbolic truth for 2000 years. The question is where did this idea get started? My answer: the Book of Hebrews. At least that was the 1st written “authority” that made this claim. It was written before the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and the theology therein is quit complex. This book is a remarkable achievement for the fledgling Jewish cult who’s founder died only a few decades prior. The author is unknown, but the ideas being advanced are themselves very advanced.

‘And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood is no remission.’ ~ Heb. 9.22 (KJV)

In first century Palestine the Rabbi’s taught that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. It was believed that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.Naturally, after Jesus died, it didn’t take long for a theology to develop that he was send by God to die for our sins, that his blood was required to pay our debts.

Jesus was a Jew living in the Second Temple period who spoke the local language. One area where the difference between biblical and Second Temple Hebrew is rather dramatic is that of sin. During the Second Temple period it became common to refer to the sins of an individual or a nation as the accrual of a debt. This explains the diction of the so-called Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:12).

The metaphor of sin as a debt is rarely attested in the bulk of the Hebrew Bible. But as soon as it became a common place to view a sin as a debt—and this took place early in the Second Temple period—it became natural to conceive of virtuous activity as a merit or credit. This logical move was advanced significantly in rabbinic literature by the fact that the words for debt and credit (ḥôb and zĕkût) are logical antonyms. It should come as no surprise that the rabbis were fond of telling stories in which a person’s credits (zĕkūyôt) were weighed against debits.

It was out of this world-view, that the Book of Hebrews was written, and the Christian meme/religion was born. People needed to believe in God and they needed to believe forgiveness of sin was possible. These two things were linked in the Jewish mind as surely as the linkage between debt and credit is linked in our mind. Debt was their sin, and credit was the grace of God. Put this idea together with the idea of blood sacrifice (the Jewish tradition) and soon the “good news” of Jesus Christ (i.e, that “the Kingdom of God is near”) takes on a new and deeper meaning. Now the refashioned gospel message of Jesus Christ those early adopters were eager to preach was this: Jesus did for you, what you could never do for yourself, he died for your debts (sins) and by his blood (grace/credit) you are now debt free.

in early Syriac Christianity a similar construal of debits and merits exists—even though Syriac lacks the noun zĕkût meaning “credit” or “merit.” This can be seen from the way in which St. Ephrem, in the fourth century, characterizes the victory won by Christ.

Blessed is [Christ] who endured, withstood, and triumphed (zākyâ’);
his head is held high with its crown.
He is like a creditor (mārē ḥawbâ’) who demands his payment with a bold voice.
He is not like me, too weak to fast, too weary for the vigil,
The first to succumb (ḥāb). My enemy is skillful.
When he overcomes me, he lets me rise only to throw me down once more.
O Sea of Mercies, give me a handful of mercy,
so I can wipe out the note of my debt (̉ešṭar ḥawbāty).

The picture drawn here is that of Christ’s encounter with Satan in the wilderness just after Jesus’ baptism. There he is tempted by Satan and emerges as the victor (zākyâ’). In Ephrem’s view, both his fast and his obedience in the face of temptation allow Christ to accrue enormous credit. He becomes, in Ephrem’sterms, a creditor, or more literally, “a possessor of a bond (mārē ḥawbẩ),” who can boldly demand his wages. Ephrem, however, laments his own condition. Unlike Christ, he is so weak that he would be the first to succumb in such a test (ḥāb).His only hope is that Christ will have mercy on him so as to wipe out his bill of indebtedness. 0 Ephrem must rely on the merits that his redeemer has secured.

http://www3.nd.edu/~ganders2/Theo_83102/Redeem_sins.pdf

The Greek philosophers developed their “God meme” independent of the Jewish idea. Socrates clearly understood the dilemma involved with a Holy and just God forgiving sin without eternal consequence, he once remarked, “It may be that the deity can forgive sins but I do not see how.”

Socrates knew well enough for a perfectly just and righteous God to forgive sin without eternal consequence it would deny His own nature of justice and a righteous God could never deny Himself or His own nature. The new Christian meme solved this quandary.

The author of Hebrews make the case that Jesus death matched the prophetic hallmarks of a Passover lamb. Particularly the one sacrificed during the advent of the 10th plague in Egypt whose blood had to coat the posts and lintel of Hebrew homes, symbolizing Christ’s blood being on the doors of our hearts. Like the Passover lamb he had to be without blemish (sinless) and his bones could not be broken. Like the High Priest would do when the sacrifice was complete, Jesus was said to yelled out “It is finished.”

The author of Hebrews is brilliant. The problem was this: there was no man to intercede in heaven, so God had to become our intercessor Himself. God had to become flesh and “tabernacle” among us, and then He would return to heaven as our High Priest to finish the job once and for all time. According to the earliest Christian theology, this was the logical reason that Jesus came to Earth. By using details from the history of the Jewish religion and mixing them with this idea that Jesus died for the sin/debts of mankind, the outcome was that the Kingdom of God he preached had indeed come. Jesus was our new High Priest now seating at the high hand of the Father as his Holy Spirit dwelt in the hearts of every believer. 

As brilliant as this new theology was, there was one problem. Those disciples in Jerusalem who followed Jesus didn’t get it. After Jesus died, they followed his legalistic brother “James the Righteous” who declared himself the new High Priest of Israel and modeled the Jerusalem church after the Jewish Sanhedrin. This was the first “false authority” to set it self up over the new faith, and it marked the first false step that become the Christian religion we know today.

Over the centuries many more priesthoods were set-up to usurp the power of the mystical High Priest in Heaven. These religious hierarchical structures assumed they had authority over all men on Earth, including Kings. Soon these ecclesiastical societies become political structures and their undue influence endures to this day. 

Where you believe in Jesus or not, this quote from Buddha seem fitting:

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.”

“Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion.”

“Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good.”

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What the Bible teaches about Satan may surprise you

In the Bible, satan is used as an Adversary and in the first usage it is God who sends his angel to be the satan (adversary). The truth is that in Hebrew the word “satan” is not a proper noun, any more than the usage of the word “lucifer” is a proper noun. There is no mystical Lucifer who rebelled against God and any one who has truly studied the etymology of the word would know this…

In Num. 22:22 which tells how an Angel (described as ‘the satan’ or adversary) is dispatched to deal with Balaam the rebellious prophet. It describes how an Angel of God stood in a narrow, walled path before Balaam, so that his donkey fell down beneath him. In consider how Job comments that his sufferings which ‘the satan’ brought upon him was God ‘walling up my way that I cannot pass’ (Job 19:8). The connection is clear – and surely indicates that Job’s satan was an Angel. This satan-Angel was acting as an adversary to Job just as such an Angel did to Balaam. Job and Balaam have many such similarities – both were prophets, both had genuine difficulty in understanding God’s ways, but they to varying degrees consciously rebelled against what they failed to understand; both thus became angry with God (in the Angel), and were reproved by God.

In that oldest of Hebrew poetry ‘the LORD’ asks ‘the Satan’ where he came from. Here is the Young’s Literal Translation: “And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary, ‘Whence camest thou?’ And the Adversary answereth Jehovah and saith, ‘From going to and fro in the land, and from walking up and down in it.’”

Yhovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) = (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God — Jehovah, the LORD. To learn more, read this and this.

Satan (saw-tawn’) = an opponent; especially (with the article prefixed) Satan, the arch-enemy of good — adversary. To learn more, read this.

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Harry Torczyner (author of ‘The Book Of Job’ Kiryat-Sefer, 1981) interprets ‘the Satan’ as being in God’s service, and not in opposition to Him: “The figure and role of the Satan derives from the Persian secret service… We now understand that there are in God’s service, as in that of any earthly king, secret roving officials, who go and come and report to him on the doings of his subjects.”

The references to ‘wandering about on the face of the earth’ have great similarities with the language used to describe the Persian empire’s spies, called “The King’s Eye”- a kind of agent of the King who wandered around picking up information and reporting back to him. But of course, “The King’s Eye” was on the King’s side and not working against him! Satan’s walking / running “to and fro in the earth / land” and reporting back to God about an individual is thus very much taken from the Persian idea of the King’s “evil eye”, “the eye of the King”, a kind of agent provocateur, a secret police-type agent, travelling around the Kingdom and reporting back to the King about suspect individuals.

It also has an evident connection with the Zechariah passages which speaks of the Angels in the time of the exile and restoration from Persia “running to and fro in the earth” on God’s behalf (Zech. 1:10,11; 4:10). The implication of course was that God and His Angels, and not the Persian King and his agents, were the ones really in control of the land. It’s maybe significant that the Septuagint translates “going to and fro” in Job 1:7 with the word -peripatei- and we find the same word in 1 Pet. 5:8 about the adversary of the early Christians ‘going about’ seeking them – a reference to the agents of the Roman and Jewish systems.

Much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten in Babylon, to bring out relevant issues for the Jewish exiles. This includes the book of Job. It can be understood as an allegory – Job, the suffering servant of the Lord, thus becomes a type of Israel.

In Job 2:5 the satan asks God: “Put forth Thine hand” . The hand of God is a phrase often used concerning what God did through the Angels. God agrees- ” he is in thine hand” (v.6). Thus satan’s hand is God’s hand, which is an Angel. This is proof enough that satan is not in any way against God- they work together.

If the satan refers to a righteous Angel, it is likewise easier to understand why all the problems which the satan brought are described as God bringing them (especially as Job may have conceived of God in terms of an Angel). It is also understandable why there is no rebuke of the satan at the end.

Is there a powerful person in the Universe called Satan who is the arch-enemy of God? While most Christians accept this without question, based on this passage in Job there is much room for doubt. It has been said, “If God did not chain up the roaring lion, how soon would he devour us!” Well, on second thought, maybe not. It seem more correct to say, God does both good and evil in the world and he often uses agents, somethimes those agents are men, and sometimes those agents are his angles.

Polytheistism, God, and the Ugarit Text

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The Stoic philosophers debated the nature of God without the “authority” of a scared book, so for them the idea of God was just that–an idea (or evolutionary meme) that was ever-changing and open to personal interpretation.  Then along came the Christians and their claim to authority was not just the words of their Jewish Messiah but also the Hebrew scripture and letters of the Apostles. From that time to this, people have hotly contested the idea of God found in “Holy Writ” because what is written down is thought to have only one correct, right and true meaning–for the Apostle Peter states there should not be any “private interpretation” of scripture. As a result people have been quick to adopt denominational teachings of their church and slow to dispute the “authority” of their spiritual leaders. Without scholarly knowledge, few stop to question this authority of the Bible itself.

But what if the book that believers call “the Holy Word of God” is no more authoritative than a collection of Stoic philosophy? It would be rather silly to think a collection of writing by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the complete Stoic wisdom for all ages without including Epictetus, Eratosthenes, or Marcus Aurelius. No one would make the claim yet this is exactly what Christian’s believe about the books of Bible. Sure, this is what people have been taught to believe, but what if that is wrong. What if the Bible didn’t just fall out of the sky? What it is was the product of a cultural progression in mythical story telling–the evolution of human ideas.

When most people use the word “God” they are implying the creator of heaven and earth, the all powerful, all knowing and all present Supreme Being. But as this idea of God having a perfect knowledge of the future is largely a Stoic invention and not one found in the Hebrew scripture. Many times the God of the Bible is said to repent, change His mind, become frustrated, angry, and surprised. This doesn’t sound like the God that the Greeks imagined, but that is the Elohim from the Jewish scripture.

Theological filters will cause an individual or group to read a passage and interpret it according to their predetermined Biblical view. A classic example is Genesis 1:26 which states, “Let us make man.” When a Christian reads this they will automatically, without any investigation, simply say, “The ‘us’ is the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” However, there is nothing in the text to support this view (learn more).

If you want to experience the Bible from a whole new perspective, remove your filters; don’t come to the text with any preconceived ideas. Challenge your beliefs by reading the text for what it says. Ask yourself, where did this Jewish idea of one supreme God come from? Have you ever asked your self that question? There is an answer, albeit one that remains largely unknown, but the answer (written in stone) was uncovered in 1928 but not deciphered until 1932.

In the 1928 a Syrian farmer was plowing his field when his plow struck a slab of stone. Though initially assuming it to be a flagstone, he noticed that it had square corners. Upon extracting it from the soil, he discovered a huge, underground vault containing vases, jugs, tablets, gold, silver, and pieces of ivory. Unknowingly, he had unearthed the ancient Canaanite city-state of Ugarit. What was found there has become of utmost importance or those who study the Old Testament and indeed monotheism in general.

Basic PremiseThe idea of God is an evolutionary idea. One which has had a cultural progression from polytheism to monolarity in various places throughout human history, from Kemet (Egypt) to Levant (Canaan). The religion of ancient Israel is a product of this same process. They borrowed not only their neighbor’s architecture but the name of their god as well, then the nature of this tribal deity changed over time.

Before you reject this out of hand, you should know that archaeology is revealing that the Israelites were merely nomadic Canaanites, and there is much evidence that they were originally polytheistic. Indeed, Yahweh was only one of the gods in their pantheon, but being their national god he became the prominent figure and eventually the only one to survive in the Jewish tradition.

All this was mere speculation on the part of a few “conspiracy theorists” until eighty years ago. Before that, and even to this day, the vast majority of Christians look to the Hebrew scripture as their authority and thus their single source of faith. Even those who uphold the authoritativeness  of “Holy Writ” will admit polytheism in Israelite history had a long run until under Hezekiah and then later Josiah destroyed the temples, idols and altars of other gods. Josiah’s reign is one of monolarity pushing towards monotheism which doesn’t fully take root until after the Jewish exile.

The Biblical word for God is “EL” and that word is not Jewish in origin, but rather it traces back to older Levant (Canaanite) religion. The patriarch Abraham is known as the father of the world’s three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For centuries his faithfulness to one god (at a time when people worshiped many deities) has been regarded as a monumental break with the society around him. However, an archaeological discovery known as the Ugaritic texts is opening a window onto a different cultural context for Abraham’s story and it is turning most assumptions about “god” on their head.

EL is the supreme creator god of the Canaanites who lives with the other gods on Mount Zaphon (similar to Mount Olympus of the Greeks but located at the mouth of the Orontes river near the border between Turkey and Syria). He is the father of all the gods and men and is often addressed as such by the Canaanite gods. He is the god of the earth and the air who is represented by a bull. He is derived from the Sumerian god AN. In the Bible EL is translated as God. Elohim is the plural form of EL yet in most places in the Bible it is used in the singular sense so it is also translated as God instead of gods. Strict monotheism was not fully developed in Israelite thought until their exile to Babylon. Before then Yahweh (translated as Lord in the Bible) was the god of Israel and Judah (officially their only god) whose principle power and characteristic was that of justice and righteousness. Because he judged other peoples and gods he soon came to be seen as the supreme God (the equivalent of EL), and finally as the only God for all people.

According to the Hebrew scripture, Abraham first encounters EL (or rather a priest of EL Elyon) in the city of Jerusalem, which was known in antiquity as Salem. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham rescues his kidnapped nephew, Lot, from the Mesopotamians, and on returning from battle he meets Melchizedek, king of Salem, who gives him bread and wine and blesses him in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”). Until the Ugaritic texts were decoded, it was just assumed this was the same God to whom Christian pray–but was it? Or was this EL the Canaanite “Father of gods” and YHWH one of his many sons who the Jews would later claim as their own?

God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai) but by my name the Lord (YHWH) I did not make myself known to them.” – Exodus 6:2-3

The greatest discovery made at the Ugarit site was a collection of tablets carved with (a then) unknown cuneiform script. In 1932 some of the tablets were deciphered. The literature of the city and the theology contained therein go a very long way in helping us to understand the meaning of various Biblical passages as well as aiding us in deciphering difficult Hebrew words, phrases, concepts, and ideas.

No less than seven different scripts were in use at Ugarit: Egyptian and Luwian hieroglyphs, and Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian, and Ugaritic cuneiform. These “Ugaritic texts” contain detailed descriptions of the Canaanite religion that Abraham encountered after he left his native Ur. Most interesting among these details are references to a god named EL or Elohim, which translates loosely as “the Lord.” From these inscribed clay tablets we learn that while many gods were worshiped, in the Canaanite Pantheon it was EL who reigned supreme over all the deities.

Christian and Jewish apologists tell us the religion of Ugarit and the religion of ancient Israel were not the same, but there were some striking overlaps. For example, the name of the ultimate divine authority at Ugarit was EL, one of the names of the God of Israel (e.g., Gen 33:20). EL was described as an aged god with white hair, seated on a throne. However, at Ugarit, EL was sovereign, but another god ran things on earth for EL as his vizier. That god’s name was Baal, a name quite familiar to anyone who has read the Old Testament.

It turns out that that while EL was called the “creator god” it was believed this “father of all gods” had as many 52 sons, Baal and Dagon being chief among them. Then were were the lesser gods, Mot, Ashtar, Astarte, Lotan, Melqart, Resheph, and others. Most shocking of all is the name Yahweh. This son of El  does more than make an appearance in the Hebrew scriptures, he become the central character. However, 100 years before Abraham was born EL and Yahweh were written about by pantheist and preserved in clay at Ugarit.

The Akkadians had a pantheon similar to that of the Hebrews and the Canaanites. The Akkadian god Marduk corresponded to the Canaanite-Hebrew god EL. In the Akkadian Creation Epic the god Marduk was king of the secondary gods called Anunnaki: “Marduk, the king of the gods divided all the Anunnaki above and below … three hundred in the heavens he stationed them as guard.” The Anunnaki correspond to the “host of heaven” or “sons of God” of the Hebrews. Marduk allotted portions to the Anunnaki: “To the Anunnaki of heaven and earth (Marduk) had allotted their portions.” Likewise, the Canaanite-Hebrew god EL Elyon allotted portions to his sons:

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you; When the Most High (El Eloyn) gave the nations their (portions of) inheritance, when he set up the boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (EL). For the Lord’s (YWHY) portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” – Deuteronomy 32:7-9

The plural form EL, “Elohim”, originated when the sons of EL were considered separate beings yet it was still used after the functions of the various gods were seen to be simply differing characteristics of the same one God. This development is similar to the transition in usage of the phrase “United States.”  Today we say the United States “is” (singular) instead of “are” (plural) despite its plural form and its original meaning as a combination of states. Again, this is an example of cultural evolution not unlike what we find with the nation of IsraEL and their worship of the one God with many names.

Yes, the Bible was edited and monotheism evolved from Canaanite paganism. Knowing this can liberate you from Chirstian cultism, but it should not mean you stop seeking meaning found in that religous tradition. Why did Jesus say, “You must hate your father and mother?” He was saying you must break free from ALL false authority, and worship the Divine in spirit and truth.” The Bible need not be literally true for Jesus message is true. Always remember: Faith is real, even if most people’s object of faith is false.

Learn more:
Understanding the Hebrew word most often translated as “God” 

Understanding Elohim, the Hebrew word most often translated as “God”

The most common Hebrew word translated as “God” in the Old Testament is the word אלהים (Elohim). This is the plural form of the word elo’ah. If you do a cursory study on this word, you will find that this word is used 2606 times, but it is not always translated as “God.” In fact this very word is translated a variety of different ways.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ASV)

And Rachel said, With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. (Genesis 30:8, ASV)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3, ASV)

Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:6, KJV)

For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. (1 Kings 11:5, ASV)

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalm 8:5, KJV)

The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. (Psalm 80:10, KJV)

So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city, of three days’ journey. (Jonah 3:3, ASV)

And did he not make one, although he had the residue of the Spirit? And wherefore one? He sought a godly seed [literally in the Hebrew: seeking the seed of Elohim]. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. (Malachi 2:15, ASV)

In order to fully comprehend the real meaning of the word Elohim we will need to understand its grammar and use within a sentence. The “iym” at the end is a suffix that identifies this noun as a masculine plural and therefore literally means “ones of power and authority.”

In Hebrew, a plural does not have to be more than one though, it can mean a “great one.” Other words associated with this noun will help to identify if the noun is being used in a singular or plural sense. For instance, in Genesis 1:1 the word Elohim is the subject of the verb ברא (bara, usually translated as “create”). Each verb identifies the gender and number of the subject. In the case of the verb baraidentifies the gender as masculine and the number as singular-he created. Therefore, the word Elohim must be understood in a singular sense.

And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-El; because there God [Elohim] was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. (Genesis 35:7, ASV)

In this verse the word God is again the Hebrew Elohim, but this time preceded by the definite article ה (ha, meaning “the”) – “the Elohim.”  “The Elohim” is the subject of the verb niglu, which identifies the subject as masculine plural. Therefore the correct translation of this verse is “And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-El; because there the gods were revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.”

So that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: Verily there is a God [Elohim] that judgeth in the earth. (Psalm 58:11, ASV)

Because the verb shophtiym (judges) identifies the subject, which is the word Elohim, as masculine plural, this verse should be translated as “So that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: Verily there are gods that judgeth in the earth.” When the translators ignore the grammar of the sentence and translate the text according to their theology, they are deceiving the readers and preventing them from seeing what the text actually says.

The plural noun Elohim, when used in a singular sense such as we saw in Genesis 1:1, does not always apply to the Elohim of Israel, it can also be used in a singular sense for a god of another nation such as in the passage below.

Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god [Elohim] giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever Jehovah our God [Elohim] hath dispossessed from before us, them will we possess. (Judges 11:24, ASV)

In Genesis 31 Jacob wrestles with, what is called, a messenger of Elohim. This messenger then tells Jacob “I am the El of Beytel.” Beytel is the name of a city in Canaan and therefore, this messenger is claiming to be the El (mighty one) of that city. In Deuteronomy 33:26 we read, “There is none like the El of Yeshrun.” Yeshrun is a symbolic name for Israel and this El is claiming to be the El of that nation.

The monotheistic view that there is only “one” God forces the reader to assume that every occurrence of “the god of” some city or nation is the same God and prevents us from seeing what the text is actually telling us, there are many gods of different cities and nations. And the translations don’t help either as they are being translated from a monotheistic view as well. But when we remove the veil of the translations and look at the Hebrew text for what it says, we find that there is more than one El.

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3, KJV)

This translation supports the monotheistic view that there is only one God, but if we examine the Hebrew for what it says, we find a very different opinion of what God or gods are being identified in this verse.

And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with the El of Shaddai, and my name is Yahweh, I did not make myself known to them.

The “I” that is speaking is Yahweh and claims to have appeared to Abraham with the El of Shaddai. All of the translations ignore the grammar of the Hebrewb’El shaddai which can only be translated as “in the El of Shaddai” (which contextually does not make sense) or “with the El of Shaddai.” The King James Version actually inserts the words “the name of” in an attempt to “fix” the text. “Shaddai was an Amorite city on the banks of the Euphrates river in Northern Syria and this El who is with Yahweh, is identified as the El of that city. Could this Yahweh and the El of Shaddai be two of the three “men” that “appeared” to Abraham in Genesis 18:2? Most translations use “angel” but the Hebrew word literally means “messenger.” It is pretty clear from the text that Yahweh was one of the three as only two of the men, later identified as messengers in Genesis 19, arrived in Sodom, while Yahweh remained with Abraham.