Does God speak of other Gods?

This is very true.

Bolded, mine-- in the original text it doesn’t technically say God… it says Elohim, which is a sometimes plurality.

I guess it boils down to your interpretation of the word Elohim.

Personally, I tend to believe it refers to a pantheon in this context.

Wow. I guess this is what happens when people don’t know Hebrew… Y’all are working with translations or translations of translations. Except, it appears, C K Dexter Haven, who has it right.

For starters, references above to alleged other gods used the quote “Who among the gods is like you” (from the Song of the Sea, Exodus 15 if my memory is worth a damn), and the phrase “visit justice upon their gods”.

The Hebrew word “Elim” simply means mighty ones. It needn’t mean deities, though of course, to deal the Egyptians a massive blow could be referred to as visiting justice upon their gods (since tribal deities were supposed to protect their people… it’d discredit amon-ra quite a bit to be so utterly helpless. Not to mention the Nile, which was worshipped, and which was also raped in the first plague. Or Pharaoh, who claimed divinity, but who was thoroughly humiliated).

As for “having no other gods before me”, well, the word “l’fanai” (before me) is better understood as “before me” meaning “in my presence”. Not before Me in the rankings. It is very obvious in context, or at least I thought it was. There is no indication that other gods exist, there is merely a command not to worship them.

now, as for the “Let us make man” thing. I liked the “board of directors” comment above. Speaking from a literary standpoint, the scene conveys a certain hesitation on the part of God- consulting with whomever. Since He/She/It is about to give the reins of creation over to what any reader knows is the pinnacle of creation, the hesitation is understandable. In fact, the full sentence is “let us make man in our image and likeness”. It is not necessary to assume that God was talking to anyone at all, any more than he was when he said “Let there be light” (and there was light). It is a soliloquy, for the reader to get all excited, cause God’s hesitating and something really big must be about to happen. But still, the use of the plural is odd.

I have seen (and this is a stretch, but hey, we’re talking literature here) interpretations which claim that the other part of the plural IS man. As in, “let us, in partnership, work to elevate Man to something divine”. I can give mild textual support involving plays between the words for “image” and “likeness” in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 5, but I admit it’s not a whole lot of convincing evidence.

I have also seen the angels response. It’s also kind of problematic, simply because the Bible has said nothing yet to indicate that angels exist (though by the end of chapter 3 it is abundantly clear, and since they aren’t created earlier explicitly, perhaps it’s fair to assume that the Author is assuming we know they’re there). Still, it seems the least problematic because it explains the grammar (na’aseh adam b’tzalmeinu k’dmuteinu is all plural) and indicates God consulting with his “board of directors.” This wouldn’t be unique, by the way, the beginning of Job has a similar meeting between God and his angels.

The fact that Elohim is in the plural form (in Hebrew) is irrelevant; it’s a pluralization that denotes greatness, just like Behemoth is a plural form of “behema” (beast). Elohim still always refers to Himself in the singular (Me, not us). So that doesn’t answer the question. The word elohim (didn’t capitalize it intentionally) can also refer to other gods, in the plural, as in “you shall not have other gods” (elohim aherim). But it is always unambiguously clear from context and sentence structure whether the word you’re looking at is Elohim, the name of God, or elohim, false deities.

The existence of an ancient pantheon is a lousy response, because while the ancient Israelites pre-Bible may have believed whatever they believed, no part of the Bible assumes the actual existence of other gods. In fact it spends a good deal of time making sure Israelites don’t have other gods.

oh and it says “wayomer Elohim”, as in “God said” (said is in singular), not “gods said”. So devilsknew is way off.

:eek: Wow

  1. How do you know they had the same pantheon as the rest of the Caananites? Is it in the Bible anywhere?

  2. Does the Bible mention Asherah by name or grant her legitimacy at any point? I’m guessing not or atheists would have made more of it, but if it does that would be crazy…

  3. How do you know there’s no “royal we” convention in Hebrew?

During the time that Genesis was written there was a belief in many gods and people thought their god was the greatest, so it isn’t so unusual to think the writer was thinking in a different fashion then we do now days.

Because a human wrote the story of Genesis many centuries after the so called fact (as well as the other books) it is not surprising to have the writers think in terms of ‘We’.

No one was around when the first humans walked the earth, even if you believe the Genesis story, so it would not be unlikely that the story was built upon and distorted.

It’s not early writers, it’s God using them to write His Word, as ‘all scripture is God breathed.’ 2Tim3:16. These people were not writing about their experiences, they were just the writing implement God chose to use for His Word.

John 5:39 states that scriptures testify about Jesus, to do that you need the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). So it is God working through men, not men on their own.

Also it is my contention that some of the early (OT) writers did know Jesus, perhaps not by that name, but knew God on a personal level, and the only way to God is through Jesus. Moses, who God used to write Genesis, unquestionably knew God on a personal level, as he talked to Him.

God wanted us to know there are other gods, actually the major issue is that we all have followed other gods. He wants us to know that truth, we are not worshiping Him as we are designed to do, but other gods.

For the Us and we, I would assume either Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or He may be talking about the angels also, who are sometimes referred to as sons of God.

The royal ‘We’ is the person in power speaking on behalf of the people, regardless of the will of the people. This is not how God works, He respects our ability to chose our own path, as such He will state His will, and it’s up to us if we wish to follow, or not.

  1. Scholars are in general persuaded by the hypothesis that the oldest substrate of the Bible, including the Job 1 frame story and the passages pointed out by MEBuckner, date from a time when the Israelites were henotheistic – that is, they believed that there were a multiplicity of deities, but YHWH was (a) their own deity, (b) bigger, badder, and meaner than the rest.

  2. These passages are often explained away by the “court of Heaven” explanation advanced by several people. But it’s important to note that other passages do not have this same origin, but are simply English-language constructions translating a passage in Hebrew without the same connotations. E.g., if the President says “Let us go forth boldly” in a speech, despite the phrasing he is neither requesting anyone’s permission nor considering his leadership as in any way plural – it’s English idiomatic usage at fault if the “Let us” misleads someone with ESL.

  3. Just so it’s on record, the view expressed by kanicbird, direct verbatim inspiration by God of the whole Bible, is fairly common among the fundamentalist and related evangelical elements of Christianity – but is not held by the vast majority of believers.

Another example of a non-Jaweh based power are the Egyptian priests who turn their staffs into snakes. And then there’s the Witch of Endor, etc.

Note that an “outsider” view of Judeo-Christian beliefs would label it polytheistic itself. Angels, Satan, demons, Mary, etc. would all be considered gods if people weren’t insistent on using the term “monotheistic”. In particular, several of the angels are found among other semite groups. The “-el” ending is frequently a giveaway that it was viewed by others as a god with a certain function rather than an instrument of God with that function.

The more you read about other related religions, such as those in Ugarit, the clearer it is that Judaism in quite closely related to nearby polytheistic religions.

It is interesting that efforts by ancient editors to convert plural Elohim into singular in most contexts still left Psalm 82 the way it is.

Not neccesarilly Most of the time, when you see a sign like that, it’s not a sign of divinity at all. It’s just a human name in honor of God/a god. For instance:

Joel-Yahweh is God
Ezekiel-God strengthens
Jerubaal-Fears Baal
Meribaal-Baal loves
Hannibal-Baal gives me grace

All of these were ordinary people who’s name incorporated a divine term.

There are remnants in the Bible, but it’s mostly known from the archaeology of the region. Temples, inscriptions and other artifacts (such as carved figurines) show that the distinct culture known as the Israelites did not become centered specifically on Yahwist henotheism until around the 8th Century BCE, and not truly monotheistic until after the Babylonian exile (during which Judaism took a lot of ideas from Zoroastrianism).

It does mention her by name more than 40 times in the Hebrew Bible, and also indirectly as “the Queen of Heaven.” Most of the mentions of her name or her cult are hostile, and many English translations (like the KJV) render the translation of her name as “tree” or “pole.” This is because Trees and stylized columns (“Asherah trees”) were her standard symbol in her shrines. The Bible was a product of Yahwist monarchies, though, and reflects the desire of those kings to center political power at the temple in Jerusalem and delegitimize other cults an deities, but this is a political development that did not begin until the 8th Century. During the time of the alleged Davidic and Solomonic eras, for instance, the region was littered with Asherah shrines and figurines, and inscriptions specifically called her “Yahweh’s consort.”

Ask anyone who knows Hebrew.

I’m pretty sure ftg as talking about the use of the suffix _el specifically in regard to obviously supernatural characters or objects of religious attention. Not that any name with the suffix _el is a god, but that for clearly ]i]supernatural* deities, that suffix indicated a distinct deity, not a subordinate, non-god like an angel.

We’re also talking about different historical/lingusitic stages here. By the time the Bible was being written El (and Elohim) just meant “God,” period, but in the pre-Judaic period, it meant god with a small g, and it indicated that a supernatural entity in question was a deity.

El was also the creator god of the Cannanites. The problem with ftg’s assertion is that you don’t really see clearly supernatural beings with the suffix -el, in the bible. The only ones I can think of are Michael and Gabriel, in the book of Daniel, and Raphael in the non-canonical (unless you’re a Catholic) book of Tobit, as well as some names in the (non canonical, unless you’re Ethiopian Orthodox) book of Enoch but those books are late enough that you can’t call them pre-Judaic. If Judaism was henotheistic at the beginning, it definately wasn’t by the time those books were written.

Can you think of any other biblical supernatural -el people?

It’s because the Jews ripped that creation story from the Summerians who had a similar creation story that involved multiple gods building a “garden of Eden”.

There’s a Straight Dope article all about that. . . somewhere on here. Pretty interesting stuff:

I have a big problem with that idea. I’m not disputing the similarities between the Sumerian and Hebrew stories, I’m just saying that it’s impossible for me to believe the Hebrews would have changed the name of the deity and then forgotten to adjust the verbs and pronouns to fit. If they left it as “us” and “our” they meant “us” and “our” from their own monotheistic perspective.

Even if you don’t think the texts are divinely inspired in any way, you have to admit that the early Hebrew writers and/or compilers are not going to make a mistake like that.

You know, if there was an active thread about whether selective quoting was a bad thing or not, I’d post about this. Maybe if you had quoted my previous sentence then you would have realized that your reply was actually unnecessary.

Ok, so which angels are found in other Semitic groups? Michael, Gabriel, or Raphael?

but if we all pick the wrong path doesn’t he flood it…?

A while ago I took it on me to read the entire Bible, cover to cover (New English Bible, in case the translation is important), and one of the things that most strongly impressed itself during my reading of much of the Old Testament is the strong flavor of henotheism in the earlier books.



Yeah, but. . . I don’t know the word for this. . . but, the bible tell the tale of an evolving culture. It’s not one single document exactly. It’s several books written by many people over at least several hundered years. Plus, all the translation and no autographs of the gospels. . . I think it’s impossible to say really.

Plus, I think that all of the angels represent other gods and that the Devil is another god. . . so, really there are multiple gods within the Jewish/Christian/Islamic belief structure. So, when they wrote “us” and “our” they were right on the money!

But, I respect your faith and opions and feelings about the matter.