What is a god? – Fourth Sunday of Easter
What is a god? This seems to be a blasphemous question, yet today’s reading concerns Jesus’ claim to be one with the Father. The Jews at the time took grave offence and also later there occurred divisions in the Church regarding the question, is he God or is he the Son of God?
Either way, I think, he is something higher than us which should suffice. Do we need to know the ultimate answer to this question? It says in
Prov. 25: 2: [It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.
However, since we are not to have other gods besides God, it is important to know the answer to the question ‘what is a god?’ So let us search out the matter, ‘What is a god?’’
John 10: 27 to 30:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one.
The Jews actually picked up stones to stone Jesus for saying so, because they saw it as blasphemy, since he claimed to be one with God. Jesus answered them in
John 10: 34: ‘Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?’
Does it really say so?
Yes it does in Psalm 82: 6,’I have said, Ye [are] gods; and all of you [are] children of the most High.’
So what is a god? A god is not an old man with a long white beard. As a matter of fact the Bible says we should not make an image of what is a god (Ex. 20: 4)! To get an idea though of what is a god, we can look at other Ancient Scriptures and, after developing the concept, not an image, from them, we can look for traces of the same in the Tanakh or Old Testament.
A god is what determines our actions. When Odysseus arrived on the island of the cyclops it was night. There was no light from the moon and it was foggy. Odysseus and his comrades could not even see the island. They could not even see the surf, they could only hear it. Somehow they found a bay into which they proceeded with great care. (Hom., Od. 9: 142 to 144) ‘Thither we sailed in, and some god guided us through the murky night; for there was no light to see, but a mist lay deep about the ships and the moon.’
Later when Odysseus returned to Ithaka, he went first to the swineherd Eumaeus. He pretended to be a friend of Odysseus who had fought with him before Troy. When it was time to sleep, Odysseus wanted to ask for a blanket. To deliver his request, he told of a night when he, in the guise of Odysseus’ friend, and Odysseus himself were on an advanced post in front of the city. He said that he had left his coat in the camp and that he had said to Odysseus (Hom., Od. 14: 486 to 489), ’Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, lo now, no longer shall I be among the living. Nay, the cold is killing me, for I have no cloak. Some god beguiled me to wear my tunic only, and now there is no more escape.’
Isn’t that mundane?
So, what is a god? A god is something which makes somebody do or omit to do something. As explained in Greetings from Paradise in the chapter ‘Ecstasy’, a god can take over the control of our body for example in the act of having sex, when we lose control, a god can guide us through a murky night when we ourselves cannot see and he determines what we do or omit to do, particularly when we are thoughtless, e.g. he can make us forget to take a coat. A god is something which determines the course of our lives, in particular when we do not see the way or when we act without foresight.
Could this be the god of the Western World today, the bull of whom there is an image outside the Wall Str. stock exchange?:
Is this the type of god we are not to have, a God which commands us to dream big, or in Christian language, to be covetous, a god which commands us to compete or, in Christian Language, to be greedy, and envious?! Is this god above our democratic governments?
But there is another aspect, a more divine aspect, to answer the question what is a god? This aspect concerns creation. God is the creator of our world.
However there was and still is the concept of creation as a divine act as in the creation of new human beings. Rabbi Schneerson (1902 to 1994, Toward a Meaningful Life) explains at the beginning of his chapter entitled, ‘Why is sexuality so powerful?’, ‘When G-d created man and woman, they were one human in the image of one G-d, then they were separated into two distinct parts.’ Later, the Rabbi claims, they were separated. But because of this ‘man and woman constantly feel the need to reunite. And sexuality is this union,’ claims the Rabbi. ‘Man and woman seek to “become one flesh,” thereby uniting with G-d, in whose image they were created. No wonder intimacy is such a powerful force: It is the only experience in human life in which we come face to face with G-d,’ says Rabbi Schneerson!
Some anthropologists claim, that in the very early times mankind was ruled by women. I don’t fully agree, I think, women were worshipped for their divine ability to create new human beings, bringing them forth from their bellies for no apparent reason. People did not always know how the babies got into their bellies. The recognition of the role of this one special touch was actually the Original Sin, as explained in Greetings from Paradise in the chapter on this sin.
In the Odyssey Calypso and Circe both were called goddesses (Hom., Od. 1: 14 and 10: 136 respectively). Now since he seemed to have had real encounters with these women who lived on remote islands, they might have just been the most important persons in a society in which men played a very subordinate role, due to the fact that they could not bring forth children! It may well have been Odysseus who brought this knowledge to these islands.
Just as a matter of interest, are you aware how Odysseus celebrated his release of the island where Calypso had held him captive for seven years? That’s right Odysseus did not sail across the ocean for ten years on his journey home from Troy. One year he was held by Circe on her island and seven years he was held by Calypso, if the report by Homer is to be believed. At the end of the seven years he was sitting on the beach every day longing for his fatherland and his dearly beloved bed – companion (‘respectable’ translators say wife), Penelope. His eyes were never dry of tears, Homer wrote. Then when Calypso told him she would let him go, he was so happy, that he followed her into her cave, her living in a cave is another piece of evidence that this is a very primitive society in which it might very well have been unknown how women get pregnant, so he followed her into her cave, had a meal with her and then they made love! That’s how he celebrated the news that he might see his dearly beloved bed companion (Hom., Od. 5: 227)!!!
So to answer the question, what is a god or a goddess, could it be that they were seen as creators of lives and that’s why these women were called goddesses. Later when it became known that men made women pregnant, they might have become gods or their sons!
Gen. 6: 1 to 4:  And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,  That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they [were] fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.  And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also [is] flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.  There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare [children] to them, the same [became] mighty men which [were] of old, men of renown.
If this passage is translated correctly it means that Jesus is not God’s only begotten son. However, the word for God is Elohim, which really means gods, not a single god. Everywhere in the Tanakh or the Old Testament where it says God, it says Elohim in Hebrew. This was interpreted as a plural majestatis, like when a king speaks of himself as we or us. However, if Jesus is God’s only begotten son, maybe then these are the sons of gods, of special people who were used to breed humans of particularly desirable physical properties. Ex. 22: 28 says, ‘Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.’ Other translations say God instead of the gods.
So what is a god? A god may have been people who were used to breed particularly strong and intelligent offspring. With this definition Gen. 18 can be easily understood. Who were the visitors of Abraham? In some verses it says the LORD, other verses refer to them as men. The truth might be that they were men hired by Abraham to make Sarah pregnant. There is a detailed explanation in Speculations On The Birth Of Isaac. It may very well have been Abraham who was infertile, not Sarah. Abraham might have noticed that when Sarah was taken of him during his sojourn in Egypt in Gen. 12. Sarah might well have born a child or two to the princess of Pharaoh. In the very similar account of Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar, Abimelech, the king, gave him thousand pieces of silver as an covering for the eyes, when he returned Sarah (Gen. 20: 16). Covering the eyes from what?
If Sarah had become pregnant in Egypt, Abraham might have doubted himself and maybe the circumcision in Gen. 17 was meant to facilitate an easier transfer of the sperm into the woman. But this did not solve the problem, so in Gen. 17: 15 Abraham changed his woman’s name from Sarai to Sarah, from my princess to princess only! Was that name change meant to indicate that Abraham should not keep her to himself anymore? Did this mean that he acknowledged his own infertility and hired some gods to impregnate her. Of course he wanted her impregnated by men who would produce good impressive offspring, not just by anybody. So originally these ‘gods’ might have been called elohim in Hebrew and as this word then came to mean God and people became monotheistic this word might have been changed in some parts of the chapter to the LORD, in others to men.
Does this explain the confusion surrounding Gen. 18? Does this explain what is a god?
For a more thorough explanation, please see Speculations On The Birth Of Isaac.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.