An interview on Alternet includes a link to my “Astrotheology of the Ancients” article about ancient astral religion and mythology. The person below responding to Valerie Tarico’s question is “Dr. Tony Nugent, scholar of world religions [and] symbologist, an expert in ancient symbols [who] taught at Seattle University for fifteen years in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.”
Rev. Dr. Nugent has stated definitively that the biblical Elohim אלהים – a word meaning “gods” and taken to refer to the Jewish tribal god Yahweh but in reality representing the Canaanite pantheon – are “angels” and the gods of Mesopotamia and Egypt. He then asserts that these Elohim/angels/gods “come from the stars.” Hence, they are astrotheological.
What are angels in these stories? Who are they?
Nugent: The Bible calls them the sons of God, the Divine Council. The word used for God in parts of the Hebrew Bible, Elohim, is plural implying a family of deities. Angels are the lesser gods of the deposed pantheon of ancient Israel. They are under the rulership of Yahweh. Together with Yahweh they are part of Elohim, a plural word that we translate “God” in the book of Genesis. Elohim/God says “Let us make humans in our image.” Christians understand this to refer to the trinity, but that is a later interpretation. These angels came from the ancient pantheons of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many of these gods come from stars. There is a strong astral dimension. “Heavenly Hosts” are stars.
In my “Astrotheology of the Ancients” article and many places elsewhere, I discuss the very ancient and common worship found in numerous places globally that revolves around nature, including celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, planets, stars and constellations. In this regard, I demonstrate in my books Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ and Did Moses Exist? that Yahweh too is highly solar in nature. In any event, it is refreshing to see the biblical astral religion, solar mythology or astrotheology acknowledged by a theologian.
Almah and Parthenos
Previously in the Alternet article, Nugent had stated:
The Hebrew word in Isaiah is “almah,” which means simply “young woman.” But the Greek word parthenos can mean either a virgin or a young woman, and it got translated as “virgin.” Modern Bible translations have corrected this, but it is a central part of the Christmas story.
Here Nugent is referring to Isaiah 7:14, which is taken by Christians to be a “messianic prophecy” predicting the virgin birth of Jesus Christ:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The rendering of the original Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14 as parthenos or “virgin” in the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint/LXX evidently was not a mistake, however, as it was based on a very ancient mythical motif of the virgin mother that had been floating around the Levant for thousands of years. Like the starry Elohim, this mythical motif revolves around celestial phenomena, including the myth of the virgin Dawn goddess giving birth to the sun, renewed in her purity each morning.
While the Hebrew word bethulah does mean “virgin,” so too can almah refer to a “virgin.” The Septuagint translators were Greek-speaking Jews, and they likely knew exactly what they were doing, based on this ancient archetype.
1. virgin, young woman
Comparing the Greek of Isaiah 7:14 with that of Matthew 1:23, we can see that the latter has copied the former almost verbatim, revealing that the evangelists were quite certain parthenos or “virgin” was the correct meaning of almah:
Isaiah: διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ
Matthew: ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός
If the LXX rendering of almah had been considered a “mistake,” the compiler of Matthew surely would not have repeated it. It seems clear the intent was to make of the almah a parthenos.
In his Latin translation, Church father Jerome uses the word virgo – “virgin” – to describe the almah, but his rendering would follow the New Testament, which was in existence by his time. Jerome’s Latin of Matthew 1:23 has an almost verbatim phrase as Isaiah 7:14:
ecce virgo in utero habebit et pariet filium et vocabunt nomen eius Emmanuhel quod est interpretatum Nobiscum Deus (Mt)
propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium et vocabitis nomen eius Emmanuhel (Is)
Jerome was a very erudite individual, and if he had believed that parthenos was erroneous, he surely would have corrected it. But he did not, following the evident intention of the original translators of the Septuagint.
Prophecy or Blueprint?
Moreover, the passage is not a “prophecy,” as the original Hebrew evidently intends present tense, not future: “The virgin is conceiving and bringing forth a son.” Also, it appears that the later scripture at Isaiah 9:6 is a “fulfillment” of the activity in Isaiah 7:14:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Hence, the passage at 7:14 is not a “messianic prophecy” predicting Jesus centuries later. In reality, it is evident that the gospel writers used the LXX and such “messianic prophecies” as a blueprint in order to create their fictional messiah.