Is Monotheism not an Old Testament idea?

Consider this quote from an essay contained in The HarperCollins Study Bible, entitled Israelite Religion by Ronald Hendel:

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...
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Early biblical texts seem to acknowledge that gods of other nations exist (see Deut 32.8).  The nations each have their own god, but Yahweh is Israel‘s god.  This seems to be the earliest sense of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20.3).  Yahweh is Israel’s high god, who delivered his people from slavery and oppression, and he is entitled to Israel’s exclusive worship and loyalty.  Other national gods exist, but Yahweh is Israel’s god and is the greatest god.  This type of worship is sometimes called monolotry (the worship of one god without denying the existence of others) or henotheism (belief in one god without denying the existence of others).  A more thoroughgoing monotheism, which denies the existence of other gods, is the product of the prophetic and Deuteronomistic critique that developed during the eighth through the sixth centuries BCE.

Here is Deuteronomy 32:8 (NRSV):

When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixethe boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods.

Christians will obviously interpret this differently, and their Bibles likely contain a different translation of the above verse.  Just goes to show you how different a picture you can construct of history and religion when not confined within the boundaries of faith.

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12 thoughts on “Is Monotheism not an Old Testament idea?”

  1. Actually my Bible does read the same and I do agree that other cultures held up “other gods” sometimes I think their were real spiritual powers of demonic nature such as principalities that the Bible speaks of that they were worshiping. Sometimes it was just an aspect of nature they turned into a god like the Sun. All throughout the Old Testament it was demonstrated that God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one true God.

    It is also interesting to note if you study mythology, that even amongst polytheistic cultures with a pantheon of gods there emerged the idea of one Supreme God that was greater than the finite ones. It seems most societies acknowledge that somewhere in their religious cultural history.

  2. I guess so. It’s been hard work keeping up with the comments on my own blog and those slowed a little this week so I went exploring other blogs again.

  3. I subscribed to a post on this blog a few months back but the conversation stopped at some point and I just followed an old e-mail back to this blog to see if there were any new post.

  4. Yes I simply got bored with the subject. I feel there is really nothing more to say – belief is a matter of personal choice. A million words can be thrown around about God and religion, and they all amount to hypothesis. I tested and tried, and found the evidence wanting. So I no longer believe. And I have moved on to other arenas of interest.

    But it was fun at the time 🙂

  5. Karla, I’m not looking. My search is over. My energies are diverted in another direction. I am actually intent on enjoying this life!

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