Arriving at a monotheistic God

Tokyo

I greatly enjoyed reading Michael Hoffman’s masterly Dec. 25 article, “The holy trinity of religions.” But there is just one initial flaw. Hoffman goes along with the traditional misconception that Abraham came from Ur in Mesopotamia, and that he arrived at the idea — “in embryonic form” — of a single Creator God.

The Bible explicitly says that Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees — to distinguish it from the other Ur — and that his journey to Canaan took him through Haran, which is in what today is Syria, just south of the Turkish border. Also Isaac and Jacob went to Haran, described as Abraham’s “country,” to get themselves wives from among his kinfolk.

It seems most likely that Abraham’s Ur is the modern Urfa, across the border in Turkey, where there is a strong tradition associating it with Abraham, and where there are many sites named after him. This area was the original homeland of the Chaldeans; by virtue of this, their name has been given to a Syrian church.

Abraham’s God was the tribal God Yahweh (Jehovah), who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and identified himself as the God of Abraham. Yahweh was not the only God, but one of many tribal gods, each of whom looked after his own people.

The God in the story of the Creation in Genesis 1 is Elohim, which is linguistically cognate with the Arabic Allah, whereas the God of Adam and Eve in the second chapter is Yahweh. It is very likely that the first chapter of Genesis was written after the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon, when the book of Genesis was put together from various sources. So, this idea [of a single Creator God] was distinctly late in developing. It is also worth noting that the God of the Ten Commandments, who demands sole worship, is Yahweh — not the Creator God.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

hugh e. wilkinson