I’m posting this here because I’m not looking for a debate or anything like that. I just have a question that I’ve not been able to get an answer to.
The First Commandment is that “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” We see instances of God showing Baalites what-for. So, my question is this:
Does The Bible flat-out say that there are no other gods, or does it just emphasize the fact that YHWH is the baddest mutha out there?
Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, G-d created heaven and Earth.
Implication - there was no other creator. Shall we accept the notion that the Biblical definition of a diety is one who was involved in the creation of all else?
Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear, O Israel, G-d is the Lord, G-d is One.
Sounds to me like it means there’s only one such being out there.
Sure, you just want the Straight Dope on an issue of belief! Hah!
The traditional answer is that there has always been knowledge that only one God exists and that the other gods of other peoples were false images, probably created by those peoples in the way that the Hebrews created a golden calf at Sinai when they grew weary of waiting for Moses to return with the Law.
In the last couple of hundred years, a slightly different idea has been proposed:
In it, the God of Israel is simply the local, tribal god who is worshipped by His people, alone, and whom they come to regard as the most powerful. Other gods do exist, but they are not the appropriate gods for His people. As the Hebrews gained understanding of the true reality of their God, they came to recognize that He was not merely the most powerful god, but that He was the only God.
This second way of looking at the situation is known as henotheism (wordhip of one god, without denying the reality of others).
There is a certain amount of linguistic evidence to support the more recent notion, (otherwise no one would have come up with the idea), but it is not a clear choice to place possible linguistic constructions against tradition–especially when the linguistic evidence is merely suggestive, not concrete evidence.
Beyond that point, we begin wandering into the realm of Great Debates.
You have to recall the context and timeframe when the Israelites were given the ten commandments. They had just left the land of Egypt which is littered with idols, etc… God wanted to set the record straight from this point forward. Hence, the golden calf was quite an abomination in Moses’ eyes.
In a nut shell…
For earlier consideration of the topic, check out:
Was Judaism always a monotheistic religion?