By the way, I love reading the early Christian writings in The Apostolic Fathers because it reminds me of the reality of the Restoration. So much of the theology in there sounds more like something from an LDS General Conference sermon than the theology of our modern critics who claim to represent "historic Christianity." (For abundant details, see Barry Bickmore's Early Christianity and Mormonism site.)
Many early Christian writings are available on the Early Church Fathers Site at Wheaton College. One can view individual books there or download files with extensive portions of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson in a 10-volume set (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885-1896). I especially recommend downloading Volumes 1 and 2, where one can read writings from the early fathers of the Church. For study of the Apostolic Fathers in particular, I just found an interesting inline resource: the Apostolic Fathers Lookup Tool described at Ricoblog. This allows you to enter references to passages of the Apostolic Fathers and see an English translation and the Greek at the same time.
So let's take a look at the passage that caught my eye today, First Clement 29:2. The version of the text given by the online tool is slightly different than what I have in print, which follows:
For thus it is written: "When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, he fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the Lord's portion, and Israel his inherited allotment."What caught my eye is the phrase "according to the number of the angels of God." (You can also read First Clement at the Catholic site, NewAdvent.org.) I understand "angels of God" to be one of two common translations for this part of Deut. 32:8 in the Septuagint, which is often rendered as "sons of God."
I'm comfortable with either "sons of God" or "angels of God" - after all, we understand angels to be human souls, sons of God also, sent to earth to minister for God from time to time. But what makes Deut. 32:8-9 so interesting and controversial is the apparent editing that was done in the Hebrew (Masoretic) text that was used as the basis for the King James Version and most modern translations of the Old Testament. Most LDS people reading the King James version of Deuteronomy would never guess how intriguing this passage is. Here is the KJV:
8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.Apparently, this passage originally referred not to "the children of Israel," but to "the sons of God," and in so doing, may have been a reference to the ancient Israelite concept of a council of the gods where Jehovah (Yahweh) was the chief among the sons of God, subordinate to the God of gods, El (as in Elohim). You can see the phrase "sons of God" in an English translation of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomion) from the Septuagint at the CCAT site of the University of Pennsylvania, among other places.
9 For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
Michael Griffith's article, "Is the Bible Inerrant and Complete?" includes a section on this controversial passage of scripture (see the link for detailed references):
We have considered some of the many cases where the New Testament authors find it necessary to follow the LXX over the Hebrew Old Testament. Says Richard F. Smith, "at times the LXX is cited [in the New Testament] in support of Christian doctrines precisely because the Hebrew text does not support the doctrines in question" (in Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy 2:511).Similar information is provided in a brief summary of The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and Ugaritic Texts by Mark Smith.
Further proof that variant readings affect important passages comes from Deuteronomy 32:8-9. In the Masoretic Text (MT), as it is translated in the KJV, the passage reads as follows:When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD's [Yahweh's] portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.However, it has long been known from the Septuagint, and more recently from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the phrase "according to the number of the children of Israel" used to read "according to the number of the sons of God." In the RSV, which takes into account the confirming evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the passage reads like this:When the Most High [El Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LORD's [Yahweh's] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.The significance of this variation is that in ancient times the term "sons of God" frequently referred to members of a divine assembly of gods. The ancient Hebrews believed in a divine council of deities headed by the supreme father-god El (also called Elohim or El Elyon), and they often referred to the members of this council as "the sons of God." There is considerable disagreement among scholars over the council's composition, but there is no serious question that a belief in a divine assembly of heavenly deities was an important doctrine in ancient Hebrew theology (Eissfeldt; Mullen; Hayman; Morgenstern; Hanson 39; Clifford; Ackerman; Ackroyd; Seaich 1983:9-23).
By changing "the sons of God" to "the children of Israel," someone was deliberately trying to eliminate the reference to the divine council.
The LXX and Dead Sea Scroll versions of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 portray Yahweh as separate from El and as a member of the divine assembly subordinate to Him. As Niels Lemche says, "the Greek version apparently ranges Yahweh among the sons of the Most High, that is, treats him as a member of the pantheon of gods who are SUBORDINATE to the supreme God, El Elyon" (226, emphasis added). According to Harvard University's Paul Hanson,This verse no doubt preserves early Israel's view of her place within the family of nations. The high god "Elyon" originally apportioned the nations to the members of the divine assembly. . . . Israel was allotted to Yahweh (39)As the RSV puts it, Israel was Yahweh's "allotted inheritance," given (or "allotted") to Him by His Father, El.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint prove that in the original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Yahweh was portrayed as a member of the divine council under El. Therefore, those who subsequently tampered with the Hebrew text were probably Yahweh-only editors who wanted to erase the original distinction between El and Yahweh and to depict Yahweh as the one and only God.
Martin S. Tanner's book review, "Book of Mormon Christology" (FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1995, pp. 6-37) includes a discussion of the implications of Deut. 32:8,9 on the relationship between Christ and the Father, and the linkage between Christ and Jehovah, showing further support for LDS themes:
So the original form of Deut. 32:8-9, with its teachings about sons/angels of God apparently in a premortal state, provides support for LDS themes such as the relationship of God and Christ as separate Beings, the title of Jehovah that was often given to Christ before His mortal birth, the concept of there being a council of gods, the fact that we are sons and daughters of God with divine potential, the premortal existence, and, of course, the reality of human editorial changes to the scriptures. Quite a lot from a tiny verse or two. What a shame it was edited away in the Masoretic text!
In an apparent attempt to show that the Latter-day Saint idea of Jesus as Jehovah is inconsistent with the Old and New Testaments, [Melodie Moench] Charles [author of Book of Mormon Christology] claims:There is no evidence in the Old or New Testament that this doctrine was taught anciently. The use of the divine names Jehovah and Elohim in the Old Testament never supports the twentieth-century Mormon doctrine that Elohim is the father of Jehovah, that Jehovah, not Elohim, is the God of the Old Testament, or that Jehovah is Jesus Christ. . . . [T]he divine names Elohim and Jehovah are both used unambiguously to refer to the same divine being, the one god of the Old Testament. (p. 109)Where does Charles come up with this? Recognized experts on the Old Testament take a contrary position. For example, Professor Mark Smith of Yale University states, "The original god of Israel was El. . . . El was the original chief god of the group named Israel. . . . Similarly, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 casts Yahweh in the role of one of the sons of El." [Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990), 7, emphasis added.] Margaret Barker, of Oakbrook School in England, and member of the Society for Old Testament Study, explains:Yahweh was one of the Sons of El Elyon, God Most High. In other words, he [Jesus] was described as a heavenly being. Thus the annunciation narrative has the term "Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32) and the demoniac recognized his exorcist as "Son of the Most High God" (Mark 5:7). Jesus is not called son of Yahweh nor the son of the Lord, but he is called Lord. We also know that whoever wrote the New Testament translated the name Yahweh by Kyrios, Lord. (See, for example, the quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5: "You shall love Yahweh your God . . ." which is rendered in Luke 10:27 "You shall love the Lord [Kyrios] your God.") This suggests that the Gospel writers, in using the terms "Lord" and "Son of God Most High," saw Jesus as [divine] and gave him their version of the sacred name Yahweh. [Barker, The Great Angel, 4-5]Barker goes on to say that the identification of Jesus as Yahweh happened "in the very earliest period; it was in fact, what the Christians were proclaiming when they said that Jesus was Lord. Jesus was Yahweh, the second God . . . . [T]he first Christians recognized that Jesus was Yahweh, not that he was in some way equivalent but not identical." [Ibid., 221, emphasis in original.]
Other resources: the Hebrew (Masoretic) text of Deut. 32 from the Blue Letter Bible.