Monotheistic claim: “There is only one god.”
This is a claim made by many with varying faiths especially Christianity which arose from Judaism and the worship of the god Yahweh.
It is a statement often repeated by many followers of Christianity on Social Media who refer to Yahweh as the Lord our God. Christianity and Judaism and other offshoots of these religions have always been recognised as monotheistic, meaning it recognises one god only.
While they recognise just one god as the god most high, the Torah, and the Old Testament of the Holy Bible which is based upon the Torah, clearly indicate and recognise the presence of many other gods in their ancient stories, gods it does not claim as false.
— Donovan (@MrOzAtheist) May 9, 2013
Judaism and Christian Scripture Indicates Multiple Gods
The word monotheistic comes from the Greek word words mono, meaning one and theos meaning god. Yet the old testament of the Holy Christian Bible, from where the assumption of monotheism is often drawn does not support the monotheistic religious claim within Judaism or Christianity that there is only one god.
There are many instances in the Holy Christian Bible where god is referenced as ‘Us’ or ‘We’ and it begins in Chapter One of Genesis. The excerpt below is taken from Chapter 1. verse 26 of the Standard King James Version (Pure Cambridge):
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The English translation is derived from the Torah one of the books of Judaism. The Torah was first written approximately 3,100 years ago. Before Genesis was documented into Hebrew at the time of the rise of Ancient Israel, it was passed by word of mouth from Rabbi to Rabbi.
The direct translation into English for the book of Genesis from the Torah in Hebrew is very similar to the translation from Latin.
And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’.
ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובבהמה ובכל הארץ ובכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ
It could be argued that we and us in the above excerpts are being used in the same sense of the ‘Royal We’ also called the ‘Majestic Plural’. Yet, if you read The King James Version of the Holy Bible: Genesis 14, verses 18 to 22 it becomes more reasonable to deduct that the god in these Hebrew stories had other kin. In this passage take note of the use ‘the most God‘.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
For clarity and to void the use of conjecture emendation in this passage, it is reasonable to compare these verses of the Christian version of the Old Testament against those of the Torah, since it is the original source of the Old Testament:
14:18 – 14:22
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God the Most High. And he blessed him, and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God the Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.’ And he gave him a tenth of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram: ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.’ And Abram said to the king of Sodom: ‘I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth,
וברוך אל עליון אשר מגן צריך בידך ויתן לו מעשר מכל
ויאמר מלך סדם אל אברם תן לי הנפש והרכש קח לך
ויאמר אברם אל מלך סדם הרמתי ידי אל יהוה אל עליון קנה שמים וארץ
אם מחוט ועד שרוך נעל ואם אקח מכל אשר לך ולא תאמר אני העשרתי את אברם
בלעדי רק אשר אכלו הנערים וחלק האנשים אשר הלכו אתי ענר אשכל וממרא הם יקחו חלקם
The reference to the God Most High gives further credence to an understanding that Yahweh in these stories was not alone. The interpretation that there may have been other gods that the Jewish tribes worshiped, like Yahweh at the time Judaism developed is very easy to conceive.
Evidence against Judaism and Christianity being Monotheistic
The delivery of the Ten Commandments which were presented in the holy bible as the word of god, both in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21 also indicate the presence of other gods. The first commandment states:
Exodus 20: 3
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
When translated directly from the Torah, the first commandment is exactly the same. The emphasis here lies in that latter part of this sentence and the words before me. Why add the words before me to this commandment if there was only one true god? We have previously established that there is a God Most High. If we look at both of these statements against each other, the words ‘before me’ were deliberately placed to put Yahweh at the top of the pecking order of gods, but not alone. If it had truly meant just Yahweh, surely this statement would have been much stronger as either:
Thou shalt have no other gods.
Thou shalt have no other gods, but me.
Further Exodus 20: 5 in reference to graven images of the Heavens, Land or Sea when translated from the Torah into English states:
thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me;
Not only does the religion of Judaism recognise that there are other gods, it presents Yahweh as such a jealous god that he forbids the Jews to bow down to them or worship any of them. The story users fear to stop the Jewish tribes from worshipping other gods, yet it still doesn’t deny that there are other gods. Instead, Judaism recognises the existence of other gods. It is because of this recognition of other gods, I do not believe that Judaism is a true monotheistic religion and therefore any other religions that stem from Judaism are also not monotheistic.
Exodus tells a tale of the Jewish tribes leaving the the beginning of the decaying Egyptian empire to migrate to what will later become Ancient Israel. Ancient Egypt was one of the oldest and longest surviving civilizations of our ancestors. It is thought to have risen around 3,000 BCE before falling to the Romans in 31 BCE. Between 3,000 BCE and 1,500 BCE the Egyptian empire flourished greatly assisted by the fertile lands that surrounded the Nile. Though there is no accounting for a mass exodus of slaves from Egypt in its historical records, or even Jews living in Egypt until about 300 BCE, Jews regard the book of Exodus as the historical records of their people.
Up until the early 1900’s archaeologists attempting to find ancient digs would first try to confirm the stories within the old testament. The methodology used by archaeologists has now changed. Rather than trying to confirm the stories in the Tanakh or Ta⊂anach (Hebrew Bible), archaeologists now use a scientific method on ancient sites to uncover the history and artefacts before evaluating any evidence that might link the findings to any religion or scripture. To date, no archaeological dig or ancient historical findings have been able to confirm the story of Moses or the exodus from Egypt. There are a number of ancient ruins within the Middle East and Egypt that remain untouched, which archaeologists are not allowed to examine.
In Exodus and in Deuteronomy, a number of gods belonging to other tribes and cultures are mentioned. There is no indication in these tales that these gods are false gods, only that they are not superior to the god of Abraham. The Holy Christian Bible on the other hand is more liberal in its naming of the gods and goddesses.
Before the Tanakh was first recorded in writing, the story of Exodus from Egypt was passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth; from Rabbi to Rabbi, storyteller to storyteller. There is also much evidence that the Tanakh has also been altered like the Holy Bible. It becomes clear when comparing older versions of Jewish scripture that use of conjectural emendation was applied, especially if you also include archaeological findings discovered in temples and in other places of worship that existed during the time of Ancient Israel.
Judith M Hadley from the department Department of Theology & Religious Studies at Villanova University through her extensive research into the use of the word Asherah and its variations found in ancient Judaism was able to conclude in her research paper on “Evidence of Asherah” the following:
Therefore it is possible to trace a process by which the term asherah changed from denoting a goddess and her image to merely an object. As seen above, the passages in the Hebrew Bible which mention asherah can be attributed to the hand of the Deuteronomistic Historian or later, and are largely condemnatory. It may be, then, that religious reformers in the time of Josiah and later wanted to eradicate the worship of Asherah, whether it was the wooden cultic symbol or the goddess herself. But during the centuries before this, Asherah has appeared paired with Yahweh in positive ways. Furthermore, the early eighth century BCE prophets do not condemn Asherah worship. The worship of Asherah was evidently acceptable before the Deuteronomistic reform movement gained momentum in the seventh century BCE, but since the text of the Bible was significantly composed or edited by the Deuteronomistic school or even later, this fact is not immediately apparent. Part of this discrediting can be seen in the Deuteronomistic attempt to pair Asherah with Baal, instead of her real partner, Yahweh. Evidently this attempt worked because a gradual shift in the understanding of asherah can be seen. At first, in the tenth century BCE, as shown by the Ta⊂anach stands, Yahweh and Asherah were linked together as god and goddess in a consort relationship. Then, from the mid ninth to the mid eighth century BCE Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet ⊂Ajrud inscriptions, it is clear that Yahweh and Asherah are still positively linked, but now her cultic symbol is indicated. Although still associated with the goddess, the cultic pole appears to be being taken over by Yahweh, since it can now be designated “his asherah.” It may have become a symbol of Yahweh’s developing fertility aspects. Then, by the time of the Chronicler, it appears that the distinction between Asherah the goddess and asherah the cultic pole has become totally obscured.
Christian scripture and its treatment of the Goddess Asherah (sometimes referred to Ashtoreth and other names), appear to support the conclusions of Judith M Hadley.
Kings – Chapter 1 Verses 11:5
King James Version
For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
Basic English Bible
For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, and Milcom, the disgusting god of the Ammonites.
Good News Bible
He worshipped Astarte the goddess of Sidon and, Milcom the disgusting god of Ammon.
Scripture Clearly Recognises the Existence of Other Gods
It is clear that different versions of the Holy Bible and the Torah recognise the existence of other cultures’ religions. The current translation of the Torah reveals that Jews are forbidden to worship other Gods, but it does not nothing to quell the legitimacy of their existence except through threats, force and genocide.
Indeed the word Easter, which was applied to the christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus comes from the translation of Ashtoreth from Latin to Greek and then to English. In Greek and in Babylonian times, the Goddess is known as Ishtar an idol goddess, the Queen of Heaven. The blending of Christian and pagan cults (including Judaism) by the 1500’s was also a blending of pagan and christian beliefs in an effort to bring the two together. In Saxon in England, Eastre is the same as the Astarte, the Syrian Venus, sometimes referred to as Ashtoreth or Asherah in the Old Testament. It was the worship of this woman, Asherah by Israel that became such an abomination to their god, but in later changes to scripture.
Despite followers who believe that Judaism, Christianity and other offshoots of these religions recognise the existence of only one god, evidence in scripture concludes otherwise. Many gods are recognised within modern scripture from Genesis to Exodus, to Kings and to Acts.
Using the word monotheistic which means one god, is therefore incorrect. Even when qualified as the worship of only one god, Judith M Hadley’s in-depth research shows evidence which is contrary to this claim. It concludes that prior to the rewriting of the Hebrew Bible in favour of the Deuteronomists religious scripture on which Christianity, Judaism and other religious offshoots are founded, the worshipping of Asherah as the beloved and wife of the high god, was acceptable in ancient times and has only changed through the selective use of conjectural emendation and modern interpretation.