According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Friday, December 2, 2016

Monolatrism - Israel's Early History of One God Amongst Many gods


Virgil's Solis - God's Council

Monolatrism
http://www.peteenns.com/petes-bible-trivia-bonanza-7-in-which-im-sure-someone-out-there-is-going-to-get-upset/

by Peter Enns
November 30, 2016

Did you know that the ancient Israelites believed in more than one god?

I’m sensing I should explain that.

What I mean is that the Israelites, at least for part/most of the biblical period, assumed the existence many gods. They were not monotheists (belief that only one god exists). That would come later in their story. But neither were they polytheists (worship of multiple gods).

They were monolatrous (Greek latreuō = worship): many gods exist, but only one God, Yahweh, is worthy of worship.

That’s why the 10 Commandments begin “You shall have no other gods before me”—which is better understood as “don’t worship other gods besides me.” And if the Israelites were to bow down and worship them, then God would become “jealous”(Exodus 20:3-5).

Rather than saying, “There are no other gods, so get that thought out of your head,” they are told not to worship them.

The Israelites, after all, lived in a world where every nation around them had its own high god. The Moabites had Kemosh, the Ammonites had Milcom, the Canaanites had Baal, and on it goes.

Gods were as plentiful as fire hydrants and traffic lights.

The Israelites expressed their faith in Yahweh by way of contrast to these other gods who were understandably assumed to exist, not by discounting their existence—that would be asking too much of them.

Imagine today a decree coming down from the top saying, “You may only do your banking in one specific branch (Main Street) of one local bank (Springfield Savings and Loan). You may not bank anywhere else, neither at Wells Fargo, nor Citizens Bank, nor even Bank of America. Nor may you do your banking at the various ATM’s that dot every street and mall.”

To have told ancient Israelites that they were to worship only Yahweh because, actually, no other gods existed would have been as absurd as expecting us to believe that these other banks, branches, and ATMs don’t exist. “What do you mean they don’t exist?! We see them all over the place!” Same holds for the ancient Israelites: high places (altars), temples, and images/idols were part of their landscape, an “assumed reality.”

And so we see (to name a few more examples) Psalm 95, a psalm that calls Israel to worship Yahweh alone and describes Yahweh as “a great God, and a great king above all gods” (v. 3). It’s hard to interpret this as anything other than what it looks like: Yahweh is praised for being greater than the other gods.

Or look at the “divine council” in Psalm 82. Yahweh is the “Most High,” like the chairman of the board over the other gods and chiding them for not doing their job of ruling justly over the nations: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (v. 2; see also Psalm 58:1-2).

Next, the gods find themselves out of work.

I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.” Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you! (vv. 6-8)

This divine council shows up in Job 1-2, another “heavenly board room” scene.

One more example is Exodus 12:12. On the first Passover, just before the 10th and final plague, we read:

"For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Yahweh."

The plagues are judgments on Egypt’s gods. Turning the Nile to blood is an attack against the Nile deity; the plague of frogs is an attack on the Heqet, the goddess of fertility, depicted with the head of a frog; the plague of darkness is an attack on the sun god Ra, the high god of the Egyptian pantheon.

To say that the Israelites were monolatrous is more than simply making an academic observation. It helps us makes sense of some passages and pulls back the curtain to help us understand a bit more of Israel’s theology.

To say that Yahweh was above all the other gods and the only one worthy of worship may not mean much to us. It may even seem uncomfortably wrong for such a thing to be in the Bible.

But for the ancient Israelites such a claim was counter-cultural and odd looking. It was a bold and theologically potent declaration.

If we want to understand Israel’s theology, we need to take these and other passages at face value.

- Peter Enns
*I’ve written more about the Bible in its ancient setting in The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014) and Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker, 2005/2015).


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Amazon Link

The Origin of Elohim and Yahweh

I began reading Michener's Source several years ago and unfortunately put it down because of other projects requiring my attention. Having read a couple hundred of pages I had pleasantly discovered that Michener was attempting to piece together how a "consciousness of God" was to arise amongst Israel's earliest inhabitants. Well, of course, I was hooked right then-and-there.

At Relevancy22 we have examined the evolution of creation - a process divinely chosen by God as explained in many, many articles. But what hasn't been examined in any thorough manner (though I had began this task several times starting in the "Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve") was the idea of how evolution provided to our species a "God-consciousness." Or, when stated in a more biblical fashion, "How God provided to mankind a sense of Himself to our being."

Many Christians think this process simply "dropped out of the sky" when reading Genesis 1-3. That when God "instantaneously" created man He also "instantaneously" provided to man revelation about Himself. This is the traditional Christian view of humanity's creation unafflicted with the truths of evolutionary science. But when coming to God's divine process of creation by evolutionary means the entire ball games changes. And with it must our mental and religious "muscles" change too.

How Evolution affects Theological Thought

Let me sum up in very brief paragraphs what I know from six years of studying evolution from a Christian perspective (my apologies to first timers as we enter into this pool of infinity filled with innumerable questions). In essence, as evolution was a steady, slow process moving from the "spark of biologic life" to billions of species eventuating in the rise of our hominid species, so too did it take lots of time to evolve human consciousness (cf "conscience" interlinked with "eusociality"; and don't forget the metaphysical v. biological neuroscience/physics articles on how "consciousness may have resulted as a byproduct of the Thermodynamic Law of Maximizing Entropy"). Once these fundamental adaptations had been made within the human brain than God had the added task of developing within humanity its sense of "God-ness."

Which is where we are at today. God is still at work in our heads and our hearts, in our bodies and our spirits, pushing the evolutionary story of God-ness forward throughout mankind's narratives. But now we have the further salient foundation of Christ's atonement to help us forward towards mankind's recreation with God, with each other, and towards a new society. Typically we interpret the bible's recreation of mankind in Christ through terms like redemption, love, and eschatology. And in newer 21st Century terms like pyrotheology, process theology, relational theology, and the work of His Spirit within humanity (John Caputo's idea of insistence where he takes God to be metaphysically dead but sublimely transformed into His creation whereas I take God to be metaphysically alive but similarly transforming His creation through His atonement and resurrection back into creation). Thus my interest in developing a new language, a new hermeneutic, a new way of thinking and speaking to these incredible divine revelations. If you've seen the alien movie "The Arrival" you'll understand the need of learning a new language in order to perceive imperceptible truths. So too is the task of the Christian to speak God's God-ness to one another in ways that are healing, healthy, and renewing. But however it plays out God is pushing His agenda forward to redeem mankind in itself, in its relationships with each other, with the earth, and with Himself.

The Early Development of Religion in Humanity

And so, this is where there is a gap in Relevancy22's topical articles indexed alongside every blogpost I write or create. I simply haven't taken the time to write about the "early evolution of religion" within humanity - NOR, its specific biblical development within ancient Israel. These would be areas typically found in the university departments of the "sociology of religion," or "religion's early evolutionary development," or even, "how Israel's monolatrous religion evolved." You can imagine the many Google links which can be discovered and read on these many topics from their many points of view and then sifting through each one to find some plausible direction that can be helpful to the interested Christian. I might suggest besides my own website here that when doing the hard work of research to use the Biologos site as a good benchmark. They have many staff members compared to myself, working alone, and might eventually tag into these discussions when quitting from their continual apologetic work of helping Christians to understand the necessity of God's creation from an evolutionary framework. Another source I've recently discovered is Science Mike's podcasts and blog entries. These three web-related resources would be useful when benchmarking the wealth of material on the Internet re "the early development of religion."

Early Religious Development in Ancient Israel

But I digress, in James Michener's book he tells in very simple, easy to understand terms, how current academia think "religious consciousness" arose specifically to become a "monotheistic religion" centered on one God - rather than no gods, or many gods. Of how the ideas of "Elohim" and "Yahweh" arose concurrent with the time and place of geography amongst Israel's earliest nomads and settlers. For the time-and-effort it takes to read its opening chapters I think it is as good a place to start as any.

The storyline imagines with the reader the life of a stone age family, and specifically its members, as a sense of God-ness enters into their thoughts and breasts to transform succeeding generations. And slowly, through time, trials, and tribulations of wars and famines, these thoughts accumulate into the biblical portrayal of a monotheistic kingdom known as Israel that we read of in the First or Old Testament. Michener told a credible story - as he always does - with patience and wisdom by interviewing many academics, priests, and theologians in the development of his storyline. A storyline filled with wisdom and insight.

R.E. Slater
December 2, 2016


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Wikipedia - The Source
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Source_(novel)

The Source is a historical novel by James A. Michener, first published in 1965. It is a survey of the history of the Jewish people and the land of Israel from pre-monotheistic days to the birth of the modern State of Israel. The Source uses, for its central device, a fictional tell in northern Israel called "Makor" (Hebrew: "source"‎‎). Prosaically, the name comes from a freshwater well just north of Makor, but symbolically it stands for much more, historically and spiritually.

Unlike most Michener novels, this book is not in strict chronological order. A parallel frame story set in Israel in the 1960s supports the historical timeline. Archaeologists digging at the tell at Makor uncover artifacts from each layer, which then serve as the basis for a chapter exploring the lives of the people involved with that artifact. The book follows the story of the Family of Ur from a Stone Age family whose wife begins to believe that there is a supernatural force, which slowly leads us to the beginnings of monotheism. The descendants are not aware of the ancient antecedents revealed to the reader by the all-knowing writer as the story progresses through the Davidic kingdom, Hellenistic times, Roman times, etc. The site is continually inhabited until the end of the Crusades when it is destroyed by the victorious Mameluks (as happened to many actual cities after 1291) and is not rebuilt by the Ottomans.


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Monolatrism
Part of a series on God

Monolatrism or monolatry (Greek: μόνος (monos) = single, and λατρεία (latreia) = worship) is belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity.[1] The term was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.[2]

Monolatry is distinguished from monotheism, which asserts the existence of only one god, and henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity.[3]

Atenism
Main article: Atenism

The ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV initially introduced Atenism in Year 5 of his reign (1348/1346 BCE), during the 18th dynasty. He raised Aten, once a relatively obscure Egyptian Solar deity representing the disk of the Sun, to the status of Supreme God in the Egyptian pantheon.[4]

The fifth year of Amenhotep IV's reign is believed to mark the beginning of his construction of a new capital, Akhetaten (Horizon of the Aten), at the site known today as Amarna. Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten (Agreeable to Aten) as evidence of his new worship. In addition to constructing a new capital in honor of Aten, Akhenaten also oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt, including one at Karnak and one at Thebes, close to the old temple of Amun.

In his ninth year of rule (1344/1342 BCE), Akhenaten declared a more radical version of his new religion, declaring Aten not merely the supreme god of the Egyptian pantheon but the only God of Egypt, with himself as the sole intermediary between the Aten and the Egyptian people. Key features of Atenism included a ban on idols and other images of the Aten, with the exception of a rayed solar disc in which the rays (commonly depicted ending in hands) appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten. Aten was addressed by Akhenaten in prayers, such as the Great Hymn to the Aten.

The details of Atenist theology are still unclear. The exclusion of all but one god and the prohibition of idols was a radical departure from Egyptian tradition, but most scholars see Akhenaten as a practitioner of monolatry rather than monotheism, as he did not actively deny the existence of other gods; he simply refrained from worshiping any but Aten. It is known that Atenism did not solely attribute divinity to the Aten. Akhenaten continued the cult of the Pharaoh, proclaiming himself the son of Aten and encouraging the Egyptian people to worship him.[5] The Egyptian people were to worship Akhenaten; only Akhenaten and Nefertiti could worship Aten directly.[6]

Under Akhenaten's successors, Egypt reverted to its traditional religion, and Akhenaten himself came to be reviled as a heretic.

In ancient Israel

Some historians have argued that ancient Israel originally practiced a form of monolatry or henotheism.[7] Both Frank E. Eakin, Jr. and John J. Scullion believe Moses was a monolatrist rather than a monotheist,[8][9] and John Day suggests that angels are what became of the other gods once monotheism took over Israel.[10]

"In the ancient Near East the existence of divine beings was universally accepted without questions.… The question was not whether there is only one elohim, but whether there is any elohim like Yahweh."[11]

The Shema Yisrael is often cited as proof that the Israelites practiced monotheism. It was recognized by Rashi in his commentary to Deuteronomy 6:4 that the declaration of the Shema accepts belief in one god as being only a part of Jewish faith at the time of Moses but would eventually be accepted by all humanity.[12]

A similar statement occurs in Maimonides' 13 principles of faith, Second Principle:

"God, the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one."

Some scholars claim the Torah (Pentateuch) shows evidence of monolatrism in some passages. The argument is normally based on references to other gods, such as the "gods of the Egyptians" in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 12:12). The Egyptians are also attributed powers that suggest the existence of their gods; in Exodus 7:11-13, after Aaron transforms his staff into a snake, Pharaoh's sorcerers do likewise. In the ancient Near East, the existence of magic was generally believed[13] though the Israelites viewed it as being malign in origin and were forbidden from it. With regard to miracle and prophecy, the Bible commands the Israelites to not follow false prophets (those who compromise the law) and not to refrain from putting them to death.[14] The miracles of false prophets are, like those of the Egyptian sorcerers, regarded by the Israelites as a divine test to see if the Israelites "love the LORD [their] God with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul". Jews and traditionalist Biblical scholars interpret the mention of other gods in the Bible as references to nonexistent entities, which the Israelites were forbidden from worshiping.

The Ten Commandments have been interpreted by some as evidence that the Israelites originally practiced monolatrism.[15] Exodus 20:3 reads "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," (Hebrew:לא יהיה־לך אלהים אחרים על־פני),[16] and they argue that the addition of "before me" at the end of the commandment indicates that not only other gods may exist but that they may be respected and worshiped so long as less than Yahweh.

Most scholars agree that the Hebrew Bible describes a monotheistic religion in principle. However, there is evidence that the Israelite people as a whole did not strictly adhere to monotheism before the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. Much of this evidence comes from the Bible itself, which records that many Israelites chose to worship foreign gods and idols rather than Yahweh.[17]

During the 8th century BCE, the monotheistic worship of Yahweh in Israel was in competition with many other cults, described by the Yahwist faction collectively as Baals. The oldest books of the Hebrew Bible reflect this competition, as in the books of Hosea and Nahum, whose authors lament the "apostasy" of the people of Israel and threaten them with the wrath of God if they do not give up their polytheistic cults.[18][19]

In Christianity

Paul the Apostle, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, writes that "we know that an idol is nothing" and "that there is none other God but one" (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). He argues in verse 5 that "for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth", "but to us there is but one God". Paul distinguishes between gods that have no authority or have a lesser authority, "as there be gods many, and lords many," and the one God who has universal authority, "one God, the Father, of whom are all things" and "one Lord, Jesus Christ, of whom are all things". Some translators of verse 5, put the words "gods" and "lords" in quotes to indicate that they are gods or lords only so-called.[20]

In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul refers to "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), which is generally interpreted as referring to Satan or the material things put before God, such as money, rather than acknowledging any separate deity from God.[21]


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Related Articles

Does Evolutionary Psychology Explain Why We Believe in God? Part 1 -

Early Development of Religion (Google Search)



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