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Old 10-22-2001, 06:42 PM   #1
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Post "in the beginning, gods"

What are some religious arguments used to try proving the early Israelites were NOT monolatrous?
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Old 10-22-2001, 08:49 PM   #2
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You just posted one, didn't you?
The word used there is Elohim IIRC and is (feminine?) plural. The application of it however is debated.
Others, and I'm working off the top of my head, include:

-The fact that pre-Temple worship included "high places" which were used for the worship of deities other than Yahweh

-The fact that God is called various names (Yahweh, El-Shaddai, etc.) might indicate a earlier tradition of different deities.

-References suggesting a heavenly court are suggestive of a pantheon of gods.

-The shared root names for God (El and Ya) and some other Palestinian deities. (Though perhaps these were titles rather than names.)

-The implicit belief that other gods exist but that Yahweh is the best one.

-Also, I just read a reference to some art object (I think it was in some Issue of Biblical Archaeology Review) which may depict Yahweh with a consort.

-The Golden Calf (unless it was meant to portray Yahweh.)

-Oops, I forgot the obvious one. The fact that idolatry is so strongly condemned in the Bible, yet it seems that the Israelites are constantly falling into it.

[ October 22, 2001: Message edited by: not a theist ]
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Old 10-23-2001, 08:51 AM   #3
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How about this one, from the Ten Commandments:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (emphasis mine).

Wouldn't this imply that YHWH knew the Israelites had other gods, but he wanted to be #1?
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Old 10-23-2001, 03:53 PM   #4
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About Elohim and primeval polytheism:

Th evidences of primeval polytheism of the Israelites abound, but I'm afraid I wouldn't count Elohim as one of them. It is true that elohim is a plural form (the suffix -im is the masculine plural; the feminine plural is -oth, as in behemoth), but there are words which have plural form and singular meaning. For example the Hebrew word for "water" is mayim, which has the same plural suffix; there is no singular form, and there is no special reason to translate mayim as "waters". That noun is akin to "news" in English - plural form (suffix -s), singular meaning ("this news is..."). Similarly Hebrew shamayim "heaven(s)" with no singular form.

It's a matter of idiosyncratic linguistic usage. Such usage varies inexplicably according to the genius of each language. Compare German eine Hose for "trousers"; the plural Hosen means "pairs of trousers". The English has no singular form in use for the word.

That said, the evidences for primeval polytheism in the Bible are numerous. The "darkness over the abyss" in Genesis 1 has tehom for "abyss", which matches Babylonian tiamat - Tiamat was the Babylonian goddess whom Marduk slew and whose body he split to create the waters and the heavens.

The commandment lo yihye lekha elohim aherim 'al panai means, literally, "thou shalt not have other gods in preference to me", hinting that other gods do exist but must not be worshipped (that is henotheism). Similarly in the Song of the Sea (of Moses), where he says mi khamokha ba'elim YHWH, which means "who is like thee among the gods, YHWH?", hinting that the others exist but YHWH is the greatest. Very similar to Allah, who was the chief god of the Arabs before Islam. Others were worshipped, though Allah was held to be the greatest. Allah, by the way, is the Arabic definite article al- plus the noun ilaah, meaning "deity". This ilaah is cognate with Hebrew eloah, the singular of elohim. The singular form eloah is occasionally used (in poetry, such as in Deuteronomy and Job), but without any fixed meaning (usually denoting "deity", any deity, in contrast to elohim, which like Arabic Allah is the greatest god and later the only one).
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Old 10-23-2001, 03:55 PM   #5
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[ October 23, 2001: Message edited by: devnet ]
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Old 10-23-2001, 04:03 PM   #6
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Interesting, devnet, esp. since I was curious and searched for "elohim" earlier today. A lot of xian sites try to use "elohim" in Genesis as a reference to the Trinity.
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