Sunday, May 3, 2009
The Father, Mother and the Son
About 50 years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians around 586 B.C. King Josiah implemented sweeping reforms to the religion of the Israelites which radically affected their religious practices and doctrines. Among these changes a more stringent form of monotheism was introduced.
Biblical scholar Margaret Barker has written about Josiah's reforms in her book entitled: "Temple Theology: An Introduction". On page seven of this fascinating book she talks about the old religion of Israel prior to the reforms of Josiah:
"The most important result of Josiah's reforms was the introduction of monotheism. The earlier religion had known of God Most High - the deity worshipped by Melchizedek (Gen. 14.19) - El Shaddai, the deity of the patriarchs (Exod. 6.3), and Yahweh [anglicized as Jehovah], who appeared in human form...There is no proof that these were one and the same deity. Only later were all these ancient forms said to be identical...
"In the more ancient names for the deities, however, we glimpse the Father (God Most High), the Son (Yahweh, the One who appeared in human form), and the Mother (El Shaddai, whose name means the God with breasts)."
This resonates with Latter-Day Saints who have similar theology. For example, Apostle Neal A. Maxwell taught:
"Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Red Sea and of Sinai, the Resurrected Lord, the spokesman for the Father in the theophany at Palmyra".
(Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 120)
Additionally, Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
"We know that Jesus had a Father and that he had a mother, for the scriptures tell us so...
"In Genesis we read:
"'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.' (Genesis 1:26-27.)
"Is it not feasible to believe that female spirits were created in the image of a 'Mother in Heaven'?"
(Joseph Fielding Smith Answers to Gospel Questions 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966] 3:143-44)
In transliterated Hebrew Genesis 1:1 reads: "Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets". The word "Elohim" refers to God and talks about him bringing forth the heavens and the earth. In Hebrew to make a masculine noun plural an "im" is added. The singular of Elohim is El. There is much confusion surrounding the fact that one of the names for God is a plural word.
Perhaps Margaret Barker has provided an explanation for this anomaly. The word Elohim could refer to both God the Father or God Most High (El Elyon) and God the Mother (El Shaddai), hence El Elyon + El Shaddai = Elohim. If this is true it teaches us of the exalted role of women in "the great plan of the Eternal God" (Alma 34:9) and of their inherent sacred nature.