Council of gods before the Deluge. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid's Metamorphoses Book I, 162-208. Fol. 4v, image 7.
The Council of Gods (Sketch for the Medici Cylce)No.14, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), Alte Pinakothek
This seal depicts a favorite scene of the Old Babylonian period in which a worshiper stands among a number of gods. The worshiper, in a long robe and cap, offers an animal to the sun-god Shamash, who rests one foot on a stool and holds the saw of justice in his outstretched hand. The sun disk, nestled in a crescent, floats between the two. The goddess Lama stands with her hands raised in supplication. Behind her, a male figure in a kilt holds a curving weapon at his side, and another figure behind Shamash holds the bucket and "sprinkler" associated with fertility.
A meeting of gods on the Tablet of Shamash, British Library room 55. Found in Sippar (Tell Abu Habbah), in Ancient Babylonia ; it dates from the 9th century BC and shows the sun god Shamash on the throne, in front of the Babylonian king Nabu-apla-iddina (888-855 BC) between two interceding deities. The text tells how the king made a new cultic statue for the god and gave privileges to his temple.
Divine council in Olympus: Hermes with his mother Maia, Apollo playing kithara, Dionysos and a maenad. Side B of an Attic red-figure belly-amphora, ca. 500 BC.
A Divine Council is an assembly of deities over which a higher-level god presides.
The concept of a divine assembly (or council) is attested in the archaic Sumerian, Akkadian, Old Babylonian, Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Caananite, Israelite, Celtic, Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman and Nordic pantheons. Ancient Egyptian literature reveals the existence of a 'synod of the gods'... Some of our most complete descriptions of the activities of the divine assembly are found in the literature from Mesopotamia. Their 'assembly of the gods,'headed by the high god Anu, would meet to address various concerns." The term used in Sumerian to describe this concept was Ukkin, and in later Akkadian and Aramaic was puhru.
One of the first records of a divine council appears in the Lament for Ur, where the pantheon of Annunaki is led by An with Ninhursag and Enlil also appearing as prominent members.
The divine council is led by Anu, Ninlil and Enlil.
In the Old Babylonian pantheon, Samas (or Shamash and Adad chair the meetings of the divine council.
The leader of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon is considered to either be Thoth or Ra, who were known to hold meetings at Heliopolis (On).
Marduk appears in the Babylonian Enûma Eliš as presiding over a divine council, deciding fates and dispensing divine justice.
Texts from Ugarit give a detailed description of the structure of the divine council, where El and Ba'al are presiding gods.
In Celtic Mythology, Lugh holds presidency over a divine council of the Tuatha Dé Danann with members including Ogma, the Dagda, Dian Cecht and a divine blacksmith called Goibniu. The council is later joined by various ranks of craftsmen and druids.
Zeus and Hera preside over the divine council in Greek Mythology, which is attended by nymphs. The council assists Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey.
Jupiter presides over the Roman pantheon who prescribe punishment on Lycaon in Ovid's Metamorphoses, as well as punishing Argos and Thebes in Thebaid by Statius.
Odin is mentioned in the Prose Edda presiding over a divine council of twelve gods who determine the doom of mortals.
The Council of Gods, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582–1647), Galleria Borghese
Loggia di Psiche, ceiling fresco by Raffael and his school (The Council of The Gods), Villa Farnesina, Rome, Italy, by Alexander Z., 2006-01-02
In the Bible, there are multiple descriptions of Yahweh presiding over a great assembly of Heavenly Hosts. Some interpret these assemblies as examples of Divine Council: "The Old Testament description of the 'divine assembly' all suggest that this metaphor for the organization of the divine world was consistent with that of Mesopotamia and Canaan. One difference, however, should be noted. In the Old Testament, the identities of the members of the assembly are far more obscure than those found in other descriptions of these groups, as in their polytheistic environment. Israelite writers sought to express both the uniqueness and the superiority of their God Yahweh."
Others interpret the heavenly hosts as angels. They argue that angels are creations of God and not deities; therefore the verses are not Biblical examples of Divine Councils.
The Book of Psalms (Psalm 82:1), states "God stands in the divine assembly; there with the gods, he judges". However, Psalm 82:1 is more accurately translated as "God (elohim) stands in the congregation of the mighty to judge the heart as God (elohim)." The next verses describe how God judges the heart.
In the Books of Kings (1 Kings 22:19), the prophet Micaiah has a vision of Yahweh as the leader over spirits in a meeting of the multitudes of heaven. This has been interpreted as an example of a divine council. However, others argue that verse is in reference to angels created by God and not deities.
The first two chapters of the Book of Job describe the "Sons of God" assembling in the presence of Yahweh. Like "multitudes of heaven", the term "Sons of God" defies certain interpretation. This assembly has been interpreted by some as another example of divine council. Others translate "Sons of God" to "angels", and thus argue this is not a divine council because angels are God's creation and not deities.
"The role of the divine assembly as a conceptual part of the background of Hebrew prophecy is clearly displayed in two descriptions of prophetic involvement in the heavenly council. In 1 Kings 22:19-23... Micaiah is allowed to see God (elohim) in action in the heavenly decision regarding the fate of Ahab. Isaiah 6 depicts a situation in which the prophet himself takes on the role of the messenger of the assembly and message of the prophet is thus commissioned by Yahweh. The depiction here illustrates this important aspect of the conceptual background of prophetic authority."
- ^ a b Sakenfeld, Katharine ed., "The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible" Volume 2, pg 145, Abingdon Press, Nashville.
- ^ Freedman, David N. ed., "The Anchor Bible Dictionary" Volume 2 pg 120, Doubleday, New York
- ^ E. Theodore Mullen (1 June 1980). The divine council in Canaanite and early Hebrew literature. Scholars Press. ISBN 978-0-89130-380-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=ko0SAQAAIAAJ. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ a b Leda Jean Ciraolo; Jonathan Lee Seidel (2002). Magic and Divination in the Ancient World. BRILL. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-90-04-12406-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=VJ-kv9ueQREC&pg=PA47. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Virginia Schomp (15 December 2007). The Ancient Egyptians. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-0-7614-2549-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=Fj_V0k_URowC&pg=PA71. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Alan W. Shorter (March 2009). The Egyptian Gods: A Handbook. Wildside Press LLC. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-1-4344-5515-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=xRxTOSQ865kC&pg=PA42. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Leo G. Perdue (28 June 2007). Wisdom Literature: A Theological History. Presbyterian Publishing Corp. pp. 130–. ISBN 978-0-664-22919-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=AN9lxYT0ZGUC&pg=PA130. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Mark S. Smith (2009). The Ugaritic Baal Cycle.. BRILL. pp. 841–. ISBN 978-90-04-15348-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=in1lCQ0yF40C&pg=PA841. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ J. G. Oosten (1985). The War of the Gods: The Social Code in Indo-European Mythology. Routledge & K. Paul. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-0-7102-0289-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=PK89AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA122. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Sharon Paice MacLeod (30 October 2011). Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs. McFarland. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-0-7864-6476-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=7-bTUV3Iq0cC&pg=PA64. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Bruce Louden (6 January 2011). Homer's Odyssey and the Near East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-0-521-76820-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=AKDfiWrXAx8C&pg=PA17. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Randall T. Ganiban (8 February 2007). Statius and Virgil: The Thebaid and the Reinterpretation of the Aeneid. Cambridge University Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-521-84039-2. http://books.google.com/books?id=y1qV2wyyxFAC&pg=PA54. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1831). Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. W. and A. Smellie for W. Creech, Edinburgh, and T. Cadell, London. pp. 178–. http://books.google.com/books?id=SRFaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA178. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Viktor Rydberg. Teutonic Mythology, Vol. 1 of 3: Gods and Goddesses of the Northland. Library of Alexandria. pp. 243–. ISBN 978-1-4655-0771-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=-uJRw32enFQC&pg=PT243. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
- ^ Freedman, David N. ed., "The Anchor Bible Dictionary" Volume 2 pg 123, Doubleday, New York