Friday, August 2, 2013

Moses was a Polytheist


Many of the religions of the world have developed along very similar lines, all started with a plurality of Gods.  Many religions, over the course of the centuries, have changed to monotheism.  The Jewish religion is no exception to this trend.  Concerning this topic, Mr Meek writes, Among critical scholars today there is none who claims monotheism for anyone earlier than Moses. 
Hebrew Origins. Theophile James Meek, (Harper Torchbooks. 1960)

Later he writes, El may have been a great High God to the people of Ugarit (ancient Ras Shamra), but along with him were hosts of other deities, many of them little less important than He.

The oral traditions handed down from Adam to Moses spoke of a plurality of gods.   However, when Moses recorded the history of Israel, he emphasized the Lord of the Jews, Jehovah,
  • the God that called Abram from Ur, 
  • the God that lay claim on Jacob’s life, 
  • the God that delivered the Jews from Egypt. 
Considering the mighty deeds that Jehovah had done for them, it is not surprising that they affirmed that, for their nation, there was only one God.

In speaking about the plural pronouns in reference to God, in the opening chapters of Genesis, it is insisted by many that God is, in fact, singular, but in speaking of Himself God is using what is known as “the royal we”.  If that were the case, it would be proper for Him to say “us” although He meant only himself.  

Admittedly, this is one way of explaining the problem, but it sounds like nothing more than an easy way out of an interpretation dead end.  Concerning the problem of the plural pronoun, the well-known author, Isaac Asimov, said,  It is possible to argue that this (the plural pronoun) is not true evidence of early polytheism.  God might be viewed as using the royal “we”; ... Nevertheless, as far as we know...early beliefs were always polytheistic and monotheism was a late development in the history of ideas.  
Guide To The Bible. Isaac Asimov, (Avenol Books. New York. 1981)

It is not without importance that even the first commandment emphasizes the fact that there are other gods.  Notice that the commandment explicitly says, You shall have no other gods before Me. Ex. 20:3.   Here, again, Mr Strong says we must use the same plural word for God that we used in Genesis 1:1.  

There, obviously, the word gods did not refer to idols because it was not idols that created the heavens and the earth and so it cannot refer to idols here!  It refers to plural, real, living gods.  If these other gods were pieces of metal or stone only, surely, Jehovah would not be so hung up about it.  

In any case, Karen Armstrong in, A History of God, puts it this way, the idea of the covenant tells us that the Israelites were not yet monotheists, since it (the covenant) only made sense in a polytheistic setting.  The Israelites did not believe that Yahweh, the God of Sinai, was the only God but promised, in their covenant, that they would ignore all the other deities and worship him alone. 
Karen Armstrong, A History of God, Bellantine Books, New York.


It would seem, at a casual glance, that a good argument against the plurality of the gods would be the verse, which reads, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. Deut. 6:4. Mr Thiessen says, that there is but one God is the great burden of the Old Testament.
Lectures in Systematic Theology. H.C. Thiessen, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.

To understand that verse as Mr Thiessen does is to overlook one basic fact.  That fact is that the Old Testament is a book written by the Jews and for the Jews.  Rather than arguing for the singularity of God, this verse indicates that each nation, including Israel, has its own god or gods.  

To make his statement read right, Mr Thiessen should have written, That there is but one God, for the Jews, is the great burden of the Old Testament.  Moses, speaking to Israel only, said, Israel, we have only one God, we are not like other nations which have many gods.  The Psalmist reiterated that statement with, Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritagePsalm 33:12

The Psalmist also said For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods. Psalms 95:3. In reference to the word, gods, as used in the Bible, Mr Strong tells us that its meaning is mighty ones.  That definition does not fit the meaning of dead idols.  Asaph takes up this theme, he wrote, God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. Psalm 82:1.  

Bible students, with a traditional mindset, of course, cannot allow the thought that God judges among other gods (since they believe that there is only one God).  Therefore, in the footnotes they write words such as, gods, as it is used here, is Elohim, which means judges.  

This would mean that Jehovah arbitrates among judges.  That, then, becomes an interesting subject because, Elohim, is the word that Christ used when, on the cross, He cried out, “Eloi (Elohim) Eloi (Elohim)why have you forsaken me”?  Was Christ actually asking a judge, other than His father, why have you forsaken me?  Either this is true or the word, judgesin Psalm 95:3 refers to gods other than Jehovah.

Some modern writers claim that ancient religious books, including the Bible, speak of a myriad of gods (ET's) in the universe, and because the Bible also says so, Christians should accept that idea; at the same time, insisting that, for them, Jehovah is their only God. 

In opposition to the idea that there is a myriad of gods in the universe, or, even, in the Bible, there are verses such as. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Ps. 24:1  Or, For all the earth is mine. Ex. 19:5.  To find these thoughts in the Bible is not surprising because the Israelites were so overwhelmed with what Jehovah had done for them that they credited every awesome and wonderful thing to Him, even those things for which the Akashic field is responsible.

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