God’s ‘Name’ And God’s ‘Glory’ -- By: J. Gordon McConville

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 30:1 (NA 1979)
Article: God’s ‘Name’ And God’s ‘Glory’
Author: J. Gordon McConville

God’s ‘Name’ And God’s ‘Glory’

J. Gordon McConville

It has become fashionable in Old Testament studies to think of the book of Deuteronomy as the deposit of a ‘demythologizing’ movement whose aim, in the words of M. Weinfeld, was ‘the collapse of an entire system of concepts which for centuries had been regarded as sacrosanct’.1 Deuteronomy, it is held, rejects the older theology of the Jerusalem cult which regarded the temple as the permanent dwelling-place of Yahweh. In this tradition, Mt. Zion was the ‘mountain of Yahweh’s inheritance’ in the sense of the Canaanite-mythological idea of the god’s cosmic abode.2 God is thought of in a corporeal way. Within the tabernacle ‘sits the Deity ensconced between the two cherubim, and at his feet rests the ark, his footstool’.3 The priestly ministrations served to satisfy his physical needs, and were performed לפני יהוה, i.e. in his very presence.4 On this view, Israel’s entitlement to dwell in her land was cultic; it was guaranteed by Yahweh’s dwelling on Zion.5 This had the effect of evacuating Israel’s religion of ethical content, and led to the opposition of the prophets.6 But the most systematic rejection of the ‘official’ Jerusalem theology, it is said, is embodied in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy insisted that Yahweh dwelt, not in the temple, but in Heaven. Von Rad, followed by many others, discerns a change in the conception of the ark in Deuteronomy. No longer is it the footstool of God dwelling in the tabernacle, but merely a receptacle

containing the stones on which the law is written.7 The ark has been ‘demythologized’. But the most important weapon in Deuteronomy’s demythologizing armoury was, for von Rad and others, its use of name-theology. The question of demythologization could be treated from many angles. But our present study will concern itself only with this aspect of it.

Von Rad, whose work on name-theology has been widely accepted and followed, recognized that it was not new with Deuteronomy, but he believed nonetheless that it attained its most developed form there. Rejecting the ‘old crude idea’ of Yahweh dwelling in the shrine,8 Deuteronomy b...

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