Divine Presence In Deuteronomy -- By: Ian Wilson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: Divine Presence In Deuteronomy
Author: Ian Wilson


Divine Presence In Deuteronomy1

Ian Wilson

I. Introduction

The concept of divine Presence in Deuteronomy and related writings is frequently represented by the term ‘Name Theology’. It is derived principally from two sets of texts (references to YHWH’s Name at the sanctuary and to the location of YHWH himself in heaven), and is related to a perceived emphasis on divine transcendence. While published discussion has generally attempted to elucidate the significance of the various ‘Name formulae’, usually by means of an appeal to other Ancient Near Eastern material, little attention has been paid to the possibility that the biblical data in relation to divine Presence may have a further contribution to make to the discussion. In particular, the occurrences in legal contexts of the expression לפני יהוה (‘before YHWH’) have frequently been cited against Name Theology, but have been ignored by advocates of the theory and inadequately expounded by its opponents.

This dissertation neither proposes a new interpretation of the Name formulae nor evaluates any of the already-existing proposals. Rather, by examining possible references to divine Presence in the historical and legal sections of Deuteronomy, it queries the adequacy of the aforementioned twofold biblical foundation upon which many such proposals have been predicated.

II. Divine Presence in the Historical Material

Much of the historical material is considered to derive from the Deuteronomists, biblical writers generally held to have espoused Name Theology. Assuming, therefore, that at least in their own writings such authors would display a measure of consistency, one would expect their views on divine Presence to be reflected not only in their treatment of the cult, in terms of a commitment to divine

transcendence, but also in their version of Israel’s history.

A number of Deuteronomy’s historical sections are therefore examined by means of a series of ‘synoptic’ comparisons with parallel narratives from Exodus and Numbers. Each passage selected comes from one hand, i.e. according to a source-critical consensus, though no assumptions are made as to relative priority. Hence, the deuteronomistic accounts are compared with J, E and P material, that from the Tetrateuch being viewed purely as a control. In addition, each pair of passages contains at least one expression referring to the earthly Presence of YHWH. Justification for such an interpretation (frequently on the basis of what appears to be a common OT idiom) is generally offered vis-à-vis such expres...

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