Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Key notions defined series: 10. Monotheism

Having completed my main review of the New Testament (and some Old Testament) texts, cataloguing almost 500 passages, I am "celebrating" that milestone by publishing a part of the paper that helps me in the processing and weighing of these texts, which is currently entitled Chapter 2: Key Notions Defined. It is also is an opportunity for me to tidy up these definitions. Here is the next one:

9. Monotheism

Nathan Macdonald shows that our modern understanding of monotheism is quite different to the expression and commitment required in First Century Judaism to the One True God, maker of Heaven and Earth. Even the word monotheism, our English word derived entirely from Greek words, was never used back then. We can only trace it back in English to Henry Moore (17th century), although a single mention of μονόθεον in Greek is found in a Byzantine hymn, of unknown date (but definitely a few centuries earlier, since the Byzantine empire finishes decisively in 1453). 

Monotheism today forgets the dynamic and life in the ultimate God, it forgets the praise that is for him alone, and instead intellectualises. Or as Chiara Peri puts it in her brief essay The Construction of Biblical Monotheism: an Unfinished Task: “In its historical development, monotheism is a dynamic process rather than a static reality.” The “mono” also can distract our focus – and translators’ focus – from the plurality of heavenly beings. God’s angels can be extremely powerful and awesome, even speaking on His behalf. The biblical authors speak of multitudes, and of course the “Heavenly Host” and the “Lord of hosts”, akin also to a heavenly (good) army. In the Torah, the Israelites are instructed that they shall have no other gods before YHWH, which clearly presupposes a belief in their existence. Modern translations have tended to squash this emphasis perhaps in light of a more rationalistic monotheism. It is more than a little interesting to note that Jesus himself seems to re-address wrong thinking about what we call monotheism when he is accused of blasphemy in John 10:34.

Please also see my brief presentations of "God" and "Deity":  

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