This is episode 2 in our series discussing the character and theme development of “God” in the Bible.
In part 1, (0-17:25) the guys discuss the meaning of Monotheism in the Bible and Ancient Judaism. Tim offers a modern definition of monotheism as - “The belief or doctrine that there is only one God” -- Dictionary.com Tim says this is different than an ancient definition because last week, we’ve already seen that the biblical authors do not believe there’s only one Elohim. Rather, Biblical/Jewish Monotheism could be defined as = “The belief that there is one supreme Elohim (Creator and Ruler) who has no rivals among all other Elohim: Yahweh the God of Israel.”
So, Tim offers resources for more accurate definitions of what the ancient Hebrews believed. William Horbury has proposed a nuanced definition: Inclusive Monotheism: Yahweh is the supreme deity in association with other divine spirits and powers. Exclusive Monotheism: Denies the existence of any divine beings other than Yahweh. However, there is no evidence that any ancient Israelites or Jews or Christians believed in that definition of “Exclusive Monotheism.”
In part 2, (17:25-end) Tim continues to express his frustration with the current definition of exclusive monotheism. Tim cites several Old Testament examples. (NIV) Deuteronomy 4:35 “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; beside him, there is no other.” In Hebrew it literally says …”know that Yahweh, he is the Elohim, there is not another besides him.” In these passages, Elohim has the Hebrew word “the” attached (ha-elohim), which means the claim being made is that Yahweh alone is the chief God, not that Yahweh is the only elohim that exists. Tim cites Michael Heiser on this point saying “ A close reading of these passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah shows… that the denials are not claiming that other אֱלֹהִים (elohim) do not exist, but that Yahweh’s has unique and incomparable qualities in relation to other gods: Yahweh’s pre-existence, his role as creator of all things, including other elohim, his ability to save, and national deliverance. The focus is on Yahweh’s incomparable status and the impotence of the other gods. It would be empty praise to compare Yahweh to beings that did not exist. The biblical authors assume they do exists, but that they are “nothing” compared to Yahweh.” -- Michael Heiser, “The Divine Council,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary.
Next week on the show, Tim and Jon discuss “The Divine Council” It will be an exciting and mind-bending episode!