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  #1  
Old Nov 16, '10, 5:35 pm
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Pieman333272 Pieman333272 is offline
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Question Early Jews were Henotheistic?

I was reading the Bible today, and in the Old Testament, I noticed a lot of the language God and company used in the Torah suggested the writers believed in other Gods but only worshiped Jehovah, which is Henotheism. Were the earliest Jews henotheistic, or is the language used differently? Of course I still would believe in Monotheism, but I'm just curious.
  #2  
Old Nov 16, '10, 5:49 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

I think this really depends on how you define your terms. If the word "god" means simply a supernatural being, then the ancient Jews and Christians today all agree - there are untold thousands of such creatures, both good and evil.
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Old Nov 16, '10, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

If you'd like to understand the arguments that are put forward to argue early Hebraic henotheism, then I would suggest beginning here.

I'm afraid that I have very little to offer to these sorts of discussions, but I've heard the henotheism claim made often enough throughout my years of religious study. Certainly, the position is not one that is without defence or is utterly absurd.

I'm also afraid that I have no resources to offer that might offer the opposing view on this; that is, that would argue against early Hebraic henotheism. I'm sure, though, that it will be quite amusing for you to critically examine my link; and perhaps, before long, you will find your own ways of disagreeing with certain conclusions.
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Old Nov 17, '10, 12:21 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

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Originally Posted by Noesis View Post
If you'd like to understand the arguments that are put forward to argue early Hebraic henotheism, then I would suggest beginning here.

I'm afraid that I have very little to offer to these sorts of discussions, but I've heard the henotheism claim made often enough throughout my years of religious study. Certainly, the position is not one that is without defence or is utterly absurd.

I'm also afraid that I have no resources to offer that might offer the opposing view on this; that is, that would argue against early Hebraic henotheism. I'm sure, though, that it will be quite amusing for you to critically examine my link; and perhaps, before long, you will find your own ways of disagreeing with certain conclusions.
Thanks for the link! I started reading it just now. As I said before, I have no beef with admitting the early Jews were henotheistic. Monotheism would still be my view of choice, but I would not let that get in the way of honest scholarship. BTW, in the article it mentions a Catholic Scholar agrees with the hypothesis, further supporting my idea you can be a monotheistic Christian while believing early Jews acknowledged the existence of other Gods.
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Old Nov 17, '10, 1:09 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

Yes...early Hebrews were "henotheistic"...YHVH is little more than a tribal deity....YHVH is the only God with which the Hebrews were to deal with.....they moved toward a true monotheism through various times Israel chose to follow after other gods....the Hebrew scriptures is full of "reform" after "reform" of Hebrew religious life and oriented back toward the "Living God"....by the time of the Return from Exile...they had become very much established as monotheistic....no longer was YHVH the first among others...but "The One True God"..."no god was formed before me...and no god after me".....the Returning tribe of Judah was influenced by Zoroastrian thought from Babylon....even a "dark aspect" of deity as found in Lucifer/Satan as the Enemy of YHVH...just as Ahrimhan is the shadow of Ahura Mazda.....Zorastrian eschatology has Ahura Mazda eventually winning out...Light against the Darkness...He conquered his Shadow Self...."Lucifer/Satan" became YHVH's "shadow self" in some later secst of Judaism.
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Old Nov 17, '10, 3:58 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

odds are they were out and out polytheists, and through revelation to Moses they became montheistic.

for evidence related to this see,

Did God have a wife?: archaeology and folk religion in ancient Israel By William G. Dever

Exodus 34:13
Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.

Deuteronomy 7:5
This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.

Deuteronomy 12:3
Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

Deuteronomy 16:21
[ Worshiping Other Gods ] Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the LORD your God,

Judges 3:7
[ Othniel ] The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.


There is evidence of literary borrowing concerning whom God is too,


http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.c...der-of-th.html

Quote:
Religious Context. The religion of Ugarit and the religion of ancient Israel were not the same, but there were some striking overlaps. For example, the name of the ultimate divine authority at Ugarit was El, one of the names of the God of Israel (e.g., Gen 33:20). El was described as an aged god with white hair, seated on a throne. However, at Ugarit, El was sovereign, but another god ran things on earth for El as his vizier. That god’s name was Baal, a name quite familiar to anyone who has read the Old Testament. At Ugarit Baal was known by several titles: “king of the gods,” “the Most High,” “Prince Baal” (baal zbl), and—most importantly for our discussion—“the Rider on the Clouds.”

Baal’s position as “king of the gods” in Ugarit, Israel’s northern neighbor, helps explain the “Baal problem” in the Old Testament. ...

“The Cloud Rider”

Throughout the Ugaritic texts, Baal is repeatedly called “the one who rides the clouds,” or “the one who mounts the clouds.” The description is recognized as an official title of Baal. No angel or lesser being bore the title. As such, everyone in Israel who heard this title associated it with a deity, not a man or an angel.

Part of the literary strategy of the Israelite prophets was to take this well-known title and attribute it to Yahweh in some way. Consequently, Yahweh, the God of Israel, bears this descriptive title in several places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 19:1; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:33; 104:3). For a faithful Israelite, then, there was only one god who “rode” on the clouds: Yahweh.

Until we hit Daniel 7, that is. You know the scene, but you likely don’t know the full context, since Ugaritic provides that for us:

9 As I looked on, the thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His garment was like white snow, and the hair of His head was like lamb's wool. His throne was fiery flames; its wheels were blazing fire. 10 A river of fire streamed forth before Him; thousands upon thousands served Him; myriads upon myriads attended Him; the court sat and the books were opened . . . 13 As I looked on, in the night vision, One like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven; he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented to Him. 14 Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; all peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.

The plurality of thrones in the passage tell us plainly that we have here what scholars of the Hebrew Bible call a divine council scene — the high sovereign in his throne room, meeting with the heavenly host. The literature of Ugarit has many such scenes, and the biblical divine council and the council at Ugarit are very similar. In point of fact, the flow of Daniel 7 actually follows the flow of a divine council scene in the Baal Cycle:


Ugarit / Baal Cycle Daniel 7
(A) El, the aged high God, is the ultimate sovereign in the council. (A) The Ancient of Days, the God of Israel is seated on the fiery, wheeled throne (cf. Ezekiel 1). Like Ugaritic El, he is white haired and aged (“ancient”).
(B) El bestows kingship upon the god Baal, the Cloud-Rider, after Baal defeats the god Yamm in battle. (B) Yahweh-El, the Ancient of Days, bestows kingship upon the Son of Man who rides the clouds after the beast from the sea (yamma) is destroyed.
(C) Baal is king of the gods and El's vizier. His rule is everlasting. (C) The Son of Man is given everlasting dominion over the nations. He rules at the right hand of God.

The striking parallels are especially noteworthy given that this is the only time in the Old Testament where a second personage other than Yahweh is described as “coming with/upon the clouds” (the preposition in Aramaic can be translated either way). The intent of the author to describe this “son of man” with a title reserved only for Yahweh was clear by virtue of how the scene followed the Baal literature — the literary cycle whose central character, Baal, held the Cloud-Rider title!
http://www.logos.com/ugaritic
  #7  
Old Nov 17, '10, 4:14 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

As one reads through Genesis, there are reference to Jacob and Rachael taking their "household gods" with them....henotheism can shed light on such passages.

The Asherah from what I remember was also identified as "God's wife" and is why the monuments...the "poles" were set along side the alter of YHVH at times....When Elijah contested with the priests of Ba'al, he didn't seem to indicate they were figments of the Ba'al priests minds...he even asked them that perhaps the reason Ba'al hadn't answered them was becauase he may be on the toilet....a mythic representation to be sure...but is indicates some of the underlying belief that the God of Israel was one among many...but the greatest of all gods to be sure....after the Exile...YHVH was the Only True and Living God.
  #8  
Old Nov 18, '10, 4:43 am
Hesychios Hesychios is offline
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieman333272 View Post
I was reading the Bible today, and in the Old Testament, I noticed a lot of the language God and company used in the Torah suggested the writers believed in other Gods but only worshiped Jehovah, which is Henotheism. Were the earliest Jews henotheistic, or is the language used differently? ...
Yes, they were officially henotheists, at least until the exile to Babylon.

Sometimes though, individuals slipped into polytheism (which is just to say that their beliefs did not change, but they had a willingness to worship more gods than strictly only Yaweh). There is evidence that even the kings of both Israel and Judah were prone to do this, because they often named their own children in honor of other gods.

I think it is fair to say that there was very little difference between the Hebrews and their Canaanite neighbors when this is taken into account.
  #9  
Old Jan 27, '11, 2:25 pm
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Pieman333272 Pieman333272 is offline
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

Friends, I apologize for raising an old thread, but I've been researching this more recently and have a question on the implications of this - if God was originally worshiped in a bigger pantheon by the Canaanites and Phoenicians, what implications would that have to the idea of God?

Would it suggest that his origin is nothing more than speculations by some Bronze-Age Early Eastern people, and that Judaism was merely another sect or reform of that religion?

This is especially a possibility if the would-be Christian God, our God, wasn't the "most high" (El Elyon) but a lesser one, for instance a lesser Canaanite God's name was an alternative form of the Tetragrammaton and is translated into "Yahweh".
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Old Jan 27, '11, 3:17 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieman333272 View Post
Friends, I apologize for raising an old thread, but I've been researching this more recently and have a question on the implications of this - if God was originally worshiped in a bigger pantheon by the Canaanites and Phoenicians, what implications would that have to the idea of God?

Would it suggest that his origin is nothing more than speculations by some Bronze-Age Early Eastern people, and that Judaism was merely another sect or reform of that religion?

This is especially a possibility if the would-be Christian God, our God, wasn't the "most high" (El Elyon) but a lesser one, for instance a lesser Canaanite God's name was an alternative form of the Tetragrammaton and is translated into "Yahweh".
YHVH was not understood in His completeness until He spoke His Final Word....."Jesus". YHVH was little more than a tribal deity when the Hebrews first claimed Him as their own God.

There is some speculation...which makes sense to me...is that Abraham and Moses are compilations of various historical figures in Hebrew belief that came to take their present form in the stories compiled and "merged" after the Exile....when the "Priestly Scholar" compiled the Jewish scriptures up to that time.

The Jewish people brought back new understandings and concepts while in Exile...a "true" monotheism was one particular belief.
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Old Jan 27, '11, 5:21 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

The Hebrews, especially the lost tribes fell away from monotheism from time to time, to say the least. The Hebrews were especially worshipful of Asherah. The Tribes of the Southern Kingdom, when in Babylon, wrote down their oral traditions in the tanakh, old testament and from that point were more solidly Monotheistic. Depending on the century and the rulers, the Hebrews ideas of god fluctuates with different sects.
The Jews tell us over and over again that the other Israelites were worshiping false gods and god punished them.

Even the Jews of Jesus' time were profoundly affected by Hellenistic and Roman culture and there were shifts in ideology at that time.

I have discussed this with many people with differing views of religion and science. A more fundamental type religious person will deny henotheism etc. But a more modern, and even biblical interpretation, is a reasonable interpertation certainly gives rise to henotheism or polytheism due to scholarship and archaeology etc.

Judaism evolved just like every other religion. The Old Testament didn't exist at the beginning of time, sorry to say. In fact it wasn't fully written down until the Babylonian captivity.
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Old Jan 27, '11, 5:25 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

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YHVH was not understood in His completeness until He spoke His Final Word....."Jesus". YHVH was little more than a tribal deity when the Hebrews first claimed Him as their own God.

There is some speculation...which makes sense to me...is that Abraham and Moses are compilations of various historical figures in Hebrew belief that came to take their present form in the stories compiled and "merged" after the Exile....when the "Priestly Scholar" compiled the Jewish scriptures up to that time.

The Jewish people brought back new understandings and concepts while in Exile...a "true" monotheism was one particular belief.
I agree with this entirely, except the Moses/Abraham story of which I am not familiar,. Otherwise, this is very reasonable from a biblical, archaeological, historical perspective, but not from an ideological Perspective because it departs from certain narratives.

I know plenty of people who would rabidly disagree with this, including some Catholics.
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Old Jan 27, '11, 5:50 pm
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

The "Jewish" religion didn't exist until the reforms of Ezra, before that it was the Israelite religion and before Moses the Hebrew Religion. The Jewish religion was monotheistic, the other two were henotheistic.
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Old Jan 28, '11, 7:00 am
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

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Originally Posted by Pax in Veritate View Post
I agree with this entirely, except the Moses/Abraham story of which I am not familiar,. Otherwise, this is very reasonable from a biblical, archaeological, historical perspective, but not from an ideological Perspective because it departs from certain narratives.

I know plenty of people who would rabidly disagree with this, including some Catholics.
The "Tanakh" with which we are most familiar didn't have it's final "revsion" until after the return from Exile when a "priest" or "priestly" scholar/scholars "combined" the various writings and stories into a single "stream" of thought.

In Genesis we find different stories concerning a figure known as "Abraham"....in time these stories became associated with a single figure "Father Abraham" and became "ensconsed" into our biblical narrative as a single figure. So too with "Moses"....multiple characters were "blended" into the single figure of Moses the Prophet by the 5th century BCE. Whether "Moses" or "Abraham" as single historical figures existed as written about is in question by some biblical scholars and historians.
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Old Jan 28, '11, 11:28 am
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Default Re: Early Jews were Henotheistic?

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Originally Posted by Publisher View Post
The "Tanakh" with which we are most familiar didn't have it's final "revsion" until after the return from Exile when a "priest" or "priestly" scholar/scholars "combined" the various writings and stories into a single "stream" of thought.

In Genesis we find different stories concerning a figure known as "Abraham"....in time these stories became associated with a single figure "Father Abraham" and became "ensconsed" into our biblical narrative as a single figure. So too with "Moses"....multiple characters were "blended" into the single figure of Moses the Prophet by the 5th century BCE. Whether "Moses" or "Abraham" as single historical figures existed as written about is in question by some biblical scholars and historians.
That according to the documentary hypothosis, which has some notable holes in it, such as the Samaritan bible not lining up as it should.
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