You are on page 1of 8

Thesis 4 : Election Theology

Statement: It is sometimes said that the `election theology' of Israel (Ex 19:3-8; Dt 7:6; Am
3:1-2) makes it an inward-looking religion. This does not do justice to the various strands that
are found in the Pentateuch (e.g., Gn 12:1-3). Israel consciously reflected on its place and
role in the community of nations. The prophetical writers of the Pentateuch retrojected their
views on God and the human being, on the origin of sin and of evil into the Primeval History
(Gn 1-11). The ancient Sumero-Akkadian myths which were adopted and adapted by the
Biblical authors present a marked difference in their theology and anthropology in
comparison with the biblical narratives. However, it is not without problems to call Israelite
myths monotheistic.

This thesis mainly focusses on...


i) Election theology
ii) Israelite role in the community of nations.
iii) The retrojection of Israels views on - God human being origin of sin and evil into primeaval
history.
iv) The problem of calling Israelite myths monotheistic
By YOU all the nations shall be blessed. Therefore it is an outward looking religion This is
what we try to prove.
1. It is sometimes said that the `election theology' of Israel (Ex 19:3-8; Dt 7:6; Am 3:1-2) makes it an
inward-looking religion.
The four traditions of the Pentateuch J E D P caution us not to generalize and speak of an OT
theology and make us realize that there are various theologies in it. Considering the 4 various
traditions of Pentateuch we can say that they tell us that Yahweh, the God of Israel has a
Universal plan of salvation for all nations.

4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 1

Its the Deuteronomistic religious conviction that God chose Israel out of all nations and
made of them a special people, close to his heart. He called Israel his Segulla i.e. those
who are precious to him.

The new relationship is termed as covenant. The covenant made at Sinai was the decisive
step in the creation of Israel as a people/nation.

Ex 19, 3-8 talks of the Sinai covenant which God made with Moses and Israel. God said,
If you obey my voice and keep my covenant you shall be my treasured possession out
of all the peoples.

Similarly in Dt 7,6 it is said The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples
of the earth to be his people his treasured possession.

In Amos 3,1.2 the Lord says, Brought you out of Egypt.you only have I known of all
the families of the earth.

And this special choice or election of God seemed to have implications:


i)

An Isolation from the rest (i.e from the other nations)

ii)

Ban-Holy war+devoted to destruction:Hostility towards both inside and outside the


promised land.
Two kinds of Ban:
Outside the promised land and Inside the Promised Land. Dt 20: 10ff

Deut 20: the enemies who are outside promise land-kill only the male and the enemies
who are inside promise land-kill everyone.

Theology behind this: God has chosen Israel exclusively and given the land exclusively.

This Deuteronomic theology was merely a wishful thinking born at the time of Jossiah in
the face of the waning (declining) Assyria. Suffering, made them inward looking, though
the Ban was never exercised.

2.

This does not do justice to the various strands that are found in the Pentateuch ( Gn 12:1-3).

Gn 12:1-3: By you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Therefore it is outward
looking religion.

4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 2

Israel is not chosen to receive blessings only for itself rather it is called to be channel of
blessings to all of humankind.

To understand this we need to have a closer look at the four traditions that make up the
Pentateuch- JEDP.

i). Jahwist tradition: 10 C BCE. This was written during the Golden Age. Universalism of
salvation is one of its main motifs. We see this in the second storys emphasis on the human person;
and thus broad human concerns. Also eg:

Gen 12, 1-3 God tells Abraham that in him all families will be blessed. Ancestors of Moabites
and Ammorites, Philistines and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were blessed by Abraham.

Gen 26:4 : Through Issac to Abhimalech ( King of Philitines) and Ishmaelites.

Gen 28:14: Through Jacob,Medianites( Laban ) and Armanians are blessed.

Gen 39: 5 : through Joseph, Egyptians are blessed.

ii). Elohist tradition: 9BCE. The context here was religious syncretism.

There was a crisis of faith in

Yahweh. Elijah was the prophet who says If YHWH is God

follow him, If Baal is God follow him. Why are you limping between the two? But here too we
find traces of universalism.

Eg: Joseph comes

to save the Egyptians i.e all peoples.( We find traces of universalism in this

fragmentary tradition.)

Gen 20: 7-17: Abraham intercedes for Abhimalech and his house hold. God hears his prayer and
heals him.

Joseph: Gen 50: 19-20: Dont be afraid. God can turn evil to good..as he has delivered
numerous people ( referring to Egyptians)

We see in the E Israel is called upon to share with other people the blessings it has received from
YHWH.

iii). Priestly Tradition:

This tradition emerged in the 6BCE during the dark age of the people in exile in Babylon.
4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 3

They had lost land, temple and wondered whether even God would (have) desert them.
Therefore their writing portrayed narrow nationalism yet there are traces of universalism.

Eg:

A monotheistic God as seen in the first creation account implies a God for all people.
(Universalism of

Salvation.

Gen 1: 24: Creation of human beings in the image and likeness of God (blessing for all).

Cosmic covenant with Noah and Cosmic Sin flows.

iv). Deuteronomy tradition:

Here the context was Nationalism.

That is One God, One People, and One Nation.

Importance is given to covenant and Election.

Therefore the election theology of Israel is a Duteronomistic religious conviction influenced


by Sitz- im Laben. That is nationalism. From this perspective of One God One People One
Nation Israel(religious)

This may appear to be an inward looking religion. But other strands(JEP) provide and outward/
universalistic theology.
But here too there are universalistic traditions
eg: Deut 10,19 says You shall also love the stranger for you were a stranger in the land of
Egypt.
Therefore though on one hand Election Theology of Israel seems to be inward looking, it also

clearly tends towards salvation of all. (Inward looking theology. (Yet consideration for others is found).
Israel consciously reflected on its place and role in the community of nations.

3.

Israels turbulent history and especially the experience of the exile in Babylon for 50 years from 587
BCE made them reflect on their place among other nations and also their relationship with God.
Has our God abandoned us?

4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 4

Israel is not chosen because of its own sake but to become a blessing to all the nations, which we
see in Gen 12. This role of Israel in the community of nations has never been lost sight of. ( YHWH
blesses nations through Abraham).

The election of Israel made by YHWH is an act o f love (Deut 7:3) and not because of the greatness
of Israel.

4. The prophetical writers of the Pentateuch retrojected their views on God and the human being, on the
origin of sin and of evil into the Primeval History (Gn 1-11).

Book of Geneis exposes Primeval History and it is the result of retrojection.

Genesis is an attempt to articulate their past basing themselves on their current history and
life-style.

The primeaval history gives the Israelites an idea of God human being- origin of sin and evil.

The biblical authors have taken over the ancient myths, historised them, tried to remove the
polytheistic traits and have upgraded the idea of God as a just, loving God. This is Retrojection, after
their experience of YHWH in the Exodus and in the desert wandering. In this Retrojection, the Idea of
human being is also higher and nobler.

A.

Idea of God: The Jahwist & Priestly authors retrojected Monotheism into the two accounts of
creation. The Israelites were Polytheistic in the beginning but now after their experience of Yahweh
in the Exodus and while they wandered in the desert, they saw Yahweh as a good and loving God
and the only God. Therefore they retrojected this Monotheistic idea into their primeval history.

Idea about God is not a mere idea but it arose out of experience.

Creator God - creation accountsGen 1-2.

Personal God Anthropomorphic way of describing(God talks to them, walks with


them).

Transcendent : beyond accepting sacrifice.

Forgiving and loving : God forgive Cain and makes covenant with Noah.

Just and moral God : punihes to keep order (moral order) flood acc.

B. Idea of Humans: Their idea of humans came due to the suffering and death during the exile and the
post exile period.
4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 5

Human Gods creation in his image and likeness

Human being is de-divinized.

Human as created by God.

Created in the image and likeness of God.

Free beings He a free being who can go against God but God who is forgiving lifts him
up.

C.

Sins due to weakness ( tower of Babel, the Fall) yet he is ready to face God.

Origin of Sin: Sin is seen as disobedience and breach of the moral order established by
God. Breaking the law or breaking the Ten Commandments was Sin.

D.

Origin of Evil: They perceived evil within themselves when they prostituted themselves

before other Gods-Baal and others. And this evil gets personified in the snake or serpent. God in
Genesis doesnt show mercy
back in to Genesis by the

to the snake. So evil which should be avoided is also retrojected

prophetical writers of the Pentateuch. Man and woman are forgiven but

not the snake.

5.

The ancient Sumero-Akkadian myths which were adopted and adapted by the Biblical authors

present a marked difference in their theology and anthropology in comparison with the Biblical
narratives.
Mesopotamian Myths: (Sumero-Akkadian Myths)
1. Enuma elish: (When on high) Babylonian Creation Story
2. Gilgamesh: Flood Story

These were adopted(borrowed) and adapted(modified) by the biblical authors to provide


meaning to their essential condition as seen in Gen 1 -11. Hence there is a marked difference in their
theology and anthropology.
#Theology
Enuma - Elish
4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Biblical God
Page 6

Single God one creator God.

Two gods.
Apsu (male)
Tiamet(female)
There is a struggle for creation.

No

effort

in

creation.

Just

says

word.(Polytheism to monotheism)
E E presents gods as Sun and Moon (Many God is presented as transcendental just
moral all pervading anthropomorphic way a

gods)

personal God.

Only one creator God who creates everything


through one word even Sun moon as his
creation.
Akkadian gods have many names

- Apsu One simple name Elohim / YHWH.

Tiamet -Marduk
Anthropology

Ancient Myths

Biblical

Human being is evil - made out of blood of a Human being is created in the image and
god Kingu mixed with clay: divine element likeness of God.
mixed in the human being. Kingu is evil God, Dignity( Co-creator or partner)
with his blood Marduk creates human beings.
So human beings are basically evil.
Humans are created to do dirty job.

The most significant difference is that the biblical authors tell us of how God created the world and
humans to be good; how he created the world in love and how God meant that we too as creatures
share in Gods goodness, life and love.
6. However, it is not without problems to call Israelite myths monotheistic.

4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 7

Hebrew myths presented Yahweh as one God. But then the following references pose a
problem to call these myths monotheistic.
Israelite Myth:
1. Let us create men in our image,
2. let us go down and confuse the people ... in Tower of Babel story
3. Gen 18: Three men came to visit to Abraham ... blessed them with the child etc.
Therefore, it is difficult to say Israelite myth as monotheistic
Now there are various explanations to US
1. This could refer to YHWH in majestic plural.
2. There is also a possibility as there were myths taken but the final adapting is not done fully
well.
3. This could also be seen as the traces of Trinity.
Israelite journey into Monotheism began from being polytheistic to Monolatry to implicit
monotheism and finally explicit monotheism during duetero Issiah.

4. Election Theology Rayan Lobo, SJ

Page 8