Monotheistic?

George Athas gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
Tue Jan 12 19:30:43 EST 1999


Hi Stephen!

Sorry if I seemed to be baiting - that wasn't my intention with the
comment I made.
I think that by the time Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah are penned,
monotheism had budded within Judahite culture. Whether or not it was
asendant at that time or whether it only gained primacy at a later stage
is debatable. However, I think we can identify monotheism within these
two works.

As for the other comments about Judah not being monotheistic, let me
explain a little further. Throughout the biblical literature, the
language and imagery used speaks as though there are a number of gods,
but that only one of those is worth worshipping or of any intrinsic
value (Yahweh). For example, "... against all the gods of
Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh!" (Ex 12:12). Or "Now I know
that Yahweh is greater than all the gods ..." (Ex 18:11). Or "I am
Yahweh your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you
dwell." (Jdg 6:10). Psalm 82 is another good example how, in a council
meeting, Yahweh stands up and sacks his cabinet of gods, essentially to
put forth the theology that Yahweh is the only God worth serving and who
can run the Universe properly.

Now, these verse, which I've just picked randomly, do not impinge in any
way on a monotheistic viewpoint. There is a lot of shared terminology
and common ground. However, much of the biblical literature reflects a
situation in which the community of Judah went from seeing Yahweh as the
best god, to Yahweh being the only god. Deutero-Isaiah is at pains to
point out the fact that all the gods of the nations were never really
anything to start with. It represents a major development away from
monolatry within a henotheistic mindset (I do not mean to be offensive
by using that term) towards monolatry within a monotheistic perspective.

A good intro to this subject is Diana Vikander-Edelman (Ed), "The
Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms," 1995. Although I don't
fully agree with many of the arguments and conclusions put forward in
this compilation of essays, it is a very good work.

As we may be opening a slightly touchy can of worms, perhaps we better
make this thread brief.

Best regards,
GEORGE ATHAS
Dept of Semitic Studies,
University of Sydney
- Email: gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
---------------------------------------------------
Visit the Tel Dan Inscription Website at
http://www-personal.usyd.edu.au/~gathas/teldan.htm
---------------------------------------------------





More information about the b-hebrew mailing list