Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Search of the Historical Yahweh

The idea came to me while in the shower. What if we went through the Hebrew Scriptures and determined what sayings attributed to YHWH could be historical (belonging to the original, historical YHWH) and what belonged to the communities that put their words on his lips? Would everything be voted black (definitely not YHWH)? We could do the same for YHWH's deeds. The historical YHWH might have done this, definitely not that, and so on.

My guess is that historians would give the sayings and deeds of YHWH black votes on everything. The reason, I suppose, is that YHWH is a god. It would be easy to vote on the sayings and deeds of YHWH. YHWH never claims to be an historical person. He wasn't a person who became a god, like Caesar Augustus.
He was always a god. According to the literature, YHWH intervenes in historical events and does stuff to people. Sure, we could date a text or an inscription from people who claimed YHWH said or did something. But that wouldn't be evidence that YHWH really said or did it. Gods are not historical. All literature about the gods is legend or myth.

So what about Jesus? The project since the Enlightenment has been to strip away the divinity of Jesus to find the guy. He is a teacher, a sage, or an unfortunate soul who got in the way of a crucifixion. It could be that Christian orthodoxy has been right about this all along (in this sense, that is): Jesus was a god from day one. Therefore, he is not historical. Everything he did and said should be voted black as we would do for YHWH. Unlike Augustus, he wasn't a guy who became a god, he was a god from the beginning. Gods are the product of literature, legend, and myth.

The gospels are stories of the god-like Jesus set in the 1st century; but, like the stories of YHWH in the Hebrew scriptures, they are theological legend--every word. Searching for the historical Jesus is like searching for the historical YHWH. They are to be found in our ancestors' theo-mythical imagination.

That, at least, is my thought as of this moment. I could change my mind soon. Really, I could!