Historiography and Peter
Jonathan D. Safren
yonsaf at beitberl.beitberl.ac.il
Wed Feb 17 02:34:24 EST 1999
I don't side with Ian (or the Copenhagen School) in the late dating of
the Tanakh, but I do hold a somewhat similar opinion as to the
relatively late origin - or at least flowetring - of monotheism. In
addition to the henotheistic evidence from the Torah itself (such as the
Ten Commandments). there is plenty of evidence from other books of the
Bible to demonstrate that monotheism was not the normative belief of the
majorit yof Israelites until at least the Deuteronomistic Reform, when
it began to catch on (but, as Ian pointed out, even the late 5th century
Jewish settlers at Elephantine saw nothing wrong in their henotheism - I
use the Wellhausenian term).
Many psalms indicate a henotheistic belief: 29, 95-99, and more.
"Ascribe ye to YHWH, O ye sons of the gods!"; "Bow down to him, all ye
gods"; "For all the gods of the Gentiles are but godlets, while YHWH has
created the heavens!"
In Jud. 11, Jephthah writes the king of Ammon that Chemosh has given the
Ammonites their land, YHWH has given the Israelites their land, so why
are you making trouble?
In 1 Sam. 24 (or is it 26), David accuses Saul of forcing him to leave
"YHWH's" inheritance", i.i., the Land of Israel, and is thereby forcing
him to worship other gods.
Need I adduce more evidence that monotheism, if it existed at all during
that period, was not normative?
Perhaps the earliest evidence for the existence of monotheism, aside
from the classical prophets, is the story of Elijah and the priests of
Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18, when Elijah says "Until when are you
going to skip about between two branches? If YHWH is God, go after him;
and if Baal is God, go after him!." In other words, there is only one
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
Beit Berl Post Office 44905
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