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Feb 3 16 12:06 PM

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Two interesting verses in Genesis 3 specifically describe God as being with other gods. The henotheist views of the author are apparent in these two verses, and while Christians in voke the Trinity for these views, somehow it really doesn't make much sense.
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#3 [url]

Jul 11 16 8:03 PM

Hi Anthro

Its been a while, how've you been. I have 9 more units to go for my degree. I've completed 57 units so far. Its been great though. How are your studies?

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#4 [url]

Jul 18 16 12:47 AM

I finished a while ago. On graduating I was asked to continue and write a technical journal on archaeology, so things are quite busy. Also on graduating one of the members here flew over for the ceremony and we were both invited to one of my religious studies lecturers for a barbecue. It was quite a gathering, and a lot of fun, but it looks like university life is going to get more serious,

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#5 [url]

Jul 19 16 4:15 PM

I am trying to find where I found the other instance of henotheism in Genesis 3 and it has me stumped. I am in a discussion elsewhere on Genesis 3 and the Tree of Life, so i may remember it while discussing it there.

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#6 [url]

Jul 22 16 12:40 PM

anthropal wrote:
I am trying to find where I found the other instance of henotheism in Genesis 3 and it has me stumped. I am in a discussion elsewhere on Genesis 3 and the Tree of Life, so i may remember it while discussing it there.

I just Googled up a translation of Genesis 3, and verse 22 definitely contains a henotheistic reference, "one of us", and verse 2 might also contain one if "Cherubim" are considered to be lesser deities...

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#7 [url]

Jul 22 16 4:59 PM

I guess my response to your claim depends on how you define henotheism:

"the worship of one God, without disbelieving the existence of others"

"ascription of supreme divine attributes to whichever one of several gods is addressed at the time"

"devotion to a single god without asserting that he is the only god"

"the worship of one deity of several as the special god of one's family, clan or tribe"

"a polytheism which assigns to one god of the pantheon superiority over the rest"

If you define it as the first definition, then I would agree, with that caveat that these other gods were either creatures (and thus not the Creator) or myths (falsely believed to exist).  But with the other 4 definitions which assume the presence of multiple real deities - I would have to disagree, not only on textual grounds, but historical ones as well. So maybe you can clarify your definition. 

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#9 [url]

Aug 1 16 2:38 AM

Alex, I would say it is the acceptance of the existence of other gods, but only worshipping one at a time.

Your first definition may be closer to monolatry.

I am not saying they actually existed, but that the author thought so and wrote the verses in that light. On reading the Bible there appears to be a progression from the polytheism/henotheism of Mesopotamia through the henotheism/monolatry of Ugarit/Midian beliefs and on to monotheism around the time of the Babylonian Exile, where Messianist sects of Judaism also seem to first appear.

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#10 [url]

Aug 1 16 2:41 AM

Apologies for lateness of replies, but my 93 year old father in law passed away a few days ago and was in hospital for over a week beforehand, so I have been quite busy elsewhere.

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#11 [url]

Aug 1 16 10:32 AM

I remember the verse now, it is Genesis 3:5, from the KJV - For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

I have been using the New Oxford Annotated Bible, which just says 'God', but in the notes it says 'Or gods' and the original is the plural 'elohim'.

Last Edited By: anthropal Aug 1 16 11:25 AM. Edited 1 time.

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#12 [url]

Aug 5 16 7:00 PM

My condolences for your loss of your father in law. I wish you and your family well...

Well, I would agree that the author of Genesis did accept the existence of other gods, but I would disagree that he accepted only worshipping one at a time. Do you have examples in Genesis, or anywhere in Scriptures, where the author accepted worship of anyone outside the one God, creator of all?

I don't think there's a progression from polytheism to monotheism as far as the Biblical authorship is concerned. I see it as uniformly monotheistic from start to finish. For example, even in Genesis 1, many scholars see veiled references to the Canaanite gods Tiamat and Yam in Genesis 1:2 (Tehom "deep" and Yam "sea") and the author clearly communicates that God has all these other gods in his control, making him alone God.This is in direct contrast with many of the other ANE creation accounts where multiple deities are named and partake in the creation account.

Finally, regarding your verse, Gen 3:5, yes Elohim is in the plural, and can sometimes be translated as gods, or even mighty men, but in this context it can only be translated "God".  The surrounding context helps decide this.  For example if the noun Elohim is preceded by singular verbs or adjectives, then that dictates the translation must be God.  In Genesis 3:5, Elohim is followed by the word "yada" which is a participle construct in the Qal tense which is masculine, singular.  Thus only "God" is a grammatically correct translation.  

Elohim appears 35 times in Genesis 1, and the vast majority of the time only "God" in the singular is possible translation because of the singularity of the verb associated with it.  Even within Genesis 3:5 itself, the first Elohim can only be singlular " For God knows that in the day you eat...."  Besides the grammar of the participle, it is unlikely the author meant to switch the subject from "God" to "gods" in the same sentence.  More likely its singular throughout.

Now there are several interesting passages like Gen 1:26 "God said, Let us make man"  where the "us" leaves no doubt a plurality is intended as the subject.  Yet in the immediately following verse, Gen 1:27, it proceeds to say "So God created man in his own image" which can only be translated in the singular.   What we have here is a grammatical construct that equates unity with plurality.  I say the best explanation is that the human author intended to convey a plurality or majesty of the subject, while the Divine Author (if we accept Christian Theology) was indeed giving a foreshaddowing of the latter concept of the Trinity, in line with the progressive revelation of God in the bible.  

Now, I'm aware that every generation from Abraham to Malachi had Israelites worshipping other deities - but maybe you can help me out by pointing me examples where the author condoned such behavior.  That would help me move closer to your ideas and the progression from polytheism to monotheism that you see happening.


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#13 [url]

Aug 18 16 5:30 PM

Thanks for your condolences.

Would you agree that it is not henotheistic, but more monolatrous?
We can see that Jethro, in Exodus 18:11 makes a very monolatrous statement, and with Moses spending some forty years with him, I see that as influencing Moses' theology. We can also consider Egyptian letters referring to Bedouin tribes who worshiped Yahweh, so it is quite possible that Jethro, the Midianite priest, worshiped Yahweh in a monolatrous sense. The incident with the serpent from Aaron's staff consuming the serpents of the Egyptian priests also is a monolatrous image with Yahweh being superior to other gods. God also had told Moses that he hadn't given his name to anyone else before Moses, so it might be right there with the theophany of the Burning Bush that the journey towards monotheism began with monolatry.

What this says to me is that Moses gave the Israelites the new theology of monolatry, but not monotheism.

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#14 [url]

Aug 25 16 10:30 AM

Well I think the distinction you make between monolatry and monotheism is anachronistic. The bible authors, from Genesis to Malachi, are uniform in their theology: Yahweh is the only one supreme being sovereign over all others. Since these "others" are not God, the bible is strictly monotheistic; but since these "others" are believed to exist, the bible is also henotheist, or more properly monolatrous since such worshipped is condemned. So neither term is accurate.

My point more is that the theology is consistent, from Genesis 1 through Malachi, and there is no transition from poly/heno-theism Canaanitic origins, to monolatry under Moses to strict monotheism in the post-exile. There are plenty of strict monotheistic statements in the earliest books of the OT, and plenty of monolatrous statements in the post-exilic/2nd Temple books. Most notably, the post-exilic prophets still rail against the many foreign gods, taking their existence for granted, but insisting that Yahweh alone is to be worshipped.

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#16 [url]

Aug 29 16 4:42 PM

According to this site,it was Sobek, the crocodile god:

I don't really know much about it. Which god do you think it was? You may be more knowledgeable in this area.

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#18 [url]

Sep 15 16 4:27 PM

Yes, good point. The author does indeed acknowledge the existence and power of these gods, but nowhere does the bible author ever suggest such a deity is to be worshipped. Hence I don't see henotheism, but only monolatry - if defined appropriately.  The Christian understanding is that these are demons or fallen angels, and the biblical author's view was probably similar. 

“They made him jealous with other gods, they enraged him with abhorrent idols. They sacrificed to demons, not God, to gods they had not known; to new gods who had recently come along, gods your ancestors had not known about.”‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:16-17‬ ‭NET‬‬
These entities existed, yes, but they were abhorrent, and not at all to worshipped.  

Last Edited By: alex Sep 20 16 2:24 PM. Edited 1 time.

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#19 [url]

Sep 20 16 2:35 PM

Here is a later OT "monolatrous" passage:

"I will punish the god Bel in Babylon. I will make him spit out what he has swallowed. The nations will not come streaming to him any longer. Indeed, the walls of Babylon will fall." - Jeremiah 51:44 NET

So, how do verses like this affect your thesis that "On reading the Bible there appears to be a progression from the polytheism/henotheism of Mesopotamia through the henotheism/monolatry of Ugarit/Midian beliefs and on to monotheism around the time of the Babylonian Exile"?

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