Monday, December 7, 2015

The OT Doesn't Present Other Gods as Demons?

I don't read Enns' blog anymore, as I find his liberal apologetic of caricaturing opponents, exaggerating problems in texts, and posturing himself as the sophisticated scholar and his critics as a bunch of dishonest, backwood hillbillies who don't want to give up their clearly bad stories to be unbecoming of true scholarship. In other words, it's just a waste of time to attempt to dialogue with such a person.

But I was recently listening to a Mere Fidelity podcast and it referenced a critique he made of Andrew Wilson's review in Christianity Today concerning Enns' book, The Bible Tells Me So. And in his critique, Enns makes this rather revealing comment concerning the way the OT authors view other gods in the OT.

He states, "Wilson calmly assures his readers that the
'gods' were in fact 'demons', even though the Old Testament never says this and Israel’s cultural context doesn’t support it."

Now, this is patently false. For one thing, the OT explicitly says this in a couple places.

Deut 32:17, "They sacrificed unto demons, which are not gods, gods that they knew not, new gods that came up of late, which your fathers dreaded not."

Psalm 106:37, "They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons."

The שדים are not lesser deities, as some have said, as the text plainly states that they are not really deities at all. Instead, they are spirits/demons that can be conjured for purposes of obtaining one's desires (See the discussion in HALOTSE 1417-18). The context, then, indicates that these are "shades," but not gods, that they are worshiped as gods, and that there are a variety of them. The texts also seem to indicate that this is a blanket statement of all of the false gods Israel has worshiped from the wilderness journey to the exile, so that these texts are not referencing a small group of localized deities.

Secondly, demons are all over the place in the ANE, and so to say that it is not within the ancient Israelite mindset to think of powerful forces as demons is rather oblivious to the facts.

There is no doubt that Israelites viewed the demons they worshiped, not as demons, but as gods, but that is precisely the point the biblical texts are countering.

As for the larger view of other gods addressed in the Bible, as not every time other gods are mentioned is referencing demons, I've dealt with that elsewhere, showing that sometimes the reference is to lifeless idols, sometimes to demons, and sometimes its an expression that has lost its implicature, "others gods exist."

I just think it's odd to speak so confidently about a subject, and yet, be unaware of the different uses and basic linguistics involved in interpreting the subject, and thought it necessary to correct a dogmatic and superficial statement made by one who is trusted as an authority.