Evolution of Monotheism
Dr. Ali Sina
January 20, 2009
Today’s Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic and their followers assume that this has been so since their inceptions. But a more in dept study of the Bible reveals another reality.
We should understand that oneness of mankind, is relatively a new concept. Our ancestors who lived thousands of years before us had no use for such oneness nor they could comprehend it. Tribalism was the name of the game. Love of one’s country was part of the religion. Respect for human rights had no meaning for them. They considered themselves superior to the rest of humanity and their god more powerful than other gods. Of course each people had their own god and protector who defended them during the wars and they made sacrifices to him. The polytheism is even reaffirmed in one of the Psalms.82
1. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods
2. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
3. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
6. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
7. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
8. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
Here YHWH (Yahweh) is addressing other gods, supposedly the gods of other nations admonishing them for being negligent and unworthy of their duties as gods. The interesting part is the verse 82:6 where YHWH reminds all the gods that they are the children of the Most High. Who is this Most High? Who is YHWH talking to? Are there many gods? Who is this father of all of the gods? Is there another god superior to YHWH and other gods who has begotten all of them? It is not clear whether YHWH considers himself also to be the son of the Most High or not, but apparently he (YHWH) must regard him (the Most High) with respect as he mentions his name with much reverence.
The bible assures that YHWH is the god of the Hebrews (Exodus 7:16) and warns them not to worship other gods. In fact many verses in the Bible acknowledge the existence of other gods. Judaism and even Christianity were not originally monotheistic religions. There is a paragraph in the New Testament that shows that even Christ thought that YHWH is only the god of the Jews and his own mission was restricted to the children of Israel.
25: For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him (Jesus), and came and fell at his feet:
26: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
27: But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meant to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
28: And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.
29: And he said unto her, for this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
30: And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed."
See also (Matthew 15:26)
There are a lot of verses in the Old Testament that show YHWH was only the God of the Jews and that other nations had their own gods. Obviously these other gods compared to YHWH were the underdogs. Here are some examples:
"He assigned to each nation a god but Jacob’s descendents he chose for himself"
"The Lord alone led his people without the help of a foreign god:”
"Lord who among the gods is like you"?
"The Lord the God of the Hebrews…"
"Listen to everything that I, the Lord, have said to you. Do not pray to other gods; do not even mention their names"
If there is no other god what is the fuss?
"I will live among the people of Israel"
So God is not Omnipresent, he is not to be found in the rest of the word and he plays favoritism.
"…. the god is with us and has defeated the gods who protected them"
How can he defeat someone who does not exist and how that nonexistent being would be able to protect anybody?
"… Your god let the men become refugees… "
"By doing this, the Lord showed that he was more powerful than the gods of Egypt"
How can one be more powerful than something that does not exist?
"There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done"
If there were no other gods the first part of this sentence would have sufficed.
"Has any god ever dared to go and take a people from another nation and make them his own?"
Implying that other gods are weak, or care not for their believers.
"Do not worship other gods, any of the gods of the people around you"
"The Lord your God is supreme over all gods…"
Here Jehovah is being compared again to other gods, so there must be other gods, or there can be no comparison.
See also (Deut. 11:16, 28; 12:30; 13:6, 12, 28:10)
So it is clear that the early Jews were not monotheists. The reason behind this obsession of worshiping one god and not the others becomes clear from the following verses.
“Never come to worship me without bringing an offering”
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the people of Israel, each man is to pay me a price for his life, …Everyone must pay this in an offering to me” .
Hence, the Israelis had to relinquish the worship of other gods and worship just YHWA. And they had to make some material offerings to him so their prayers gain acceptance. Then there were rituals for cleaning the impure objects, marriage, birth etc that required the believers to make offerings to god.
“The first born of an animal already belongs to the Lord,… A calf, a lamb, or a kid belongs to the Lord, but the first born of an unclean animal may be bought back at the standard price. Plus an additional 20%.”
"One-tenth of all the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, belongs to the Lord.”
But who is going to benefit from all these offerings? Of course the vicegerent of god on Earth, who else?
“…Lord’s permanent property; it shall belong to the priest”
The whole religion was invented by the priesthood to milk the gullible and ensure their dominance and hegemony over the foolhardy believers. You can find plenty of verses in the Bible where the author makes sure the priests are well fed and well paid. There was nothing an individual could do without paying the clergy their lion’s share. When a believer had to slaughter an animal for his household consumption. He could not do it anywhere else but in the “tent of the Presence of the Lord”. He had to bring it to the altar and sacrifice it there. And the priest would keep the best part of it. “Then, when the shoulder of the ram is boiled. The priest shall take it and put it, together with one thick loaf of bread and one biscuit from the basket, into the hands of the Nazirite, Next the priest shall present them as a special gift to the Lord: they are a sacred offering for the priest, in addition to the breast and the leg of the ram which by law belongs to the priest." (Num. 6:19,20) also (Num. 7:5)
This is how and why religions were invented. Similar rituals and costumes can be found in today’s primitive societies where the shaman, the witch or the medicine-man have their hold on the simple minded believers.
Moses is a mythological figure. Some doubt even his historical existence. But what is certain is that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament that are supposed to be his revelation are not the work of Moses. This has been demonstrated by many Jewish and Christian scholars A simple proof for this statement is that all the five books of Pentateuch are narrated by a third person. The speaker is neither YAHWEH nor Moses. Another obvious proof is that at the end of Deuteronomy. 34:1-12, there is an obituary of Moses that reads,
1. And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,
2. And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,
3. And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
4. And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
5. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
6. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.
7. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
8. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
9. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.
10. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
11. In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land,
12. And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.
How is it possible for someone to write his own obituary centuries after his own death? The above shows that these books that are allegedly written by Moses were actually written many centuries after his death when even no trace of his tomb was left. The fact that no one knew of the exact place of his burial is also an indication that he was either a legendary mythological figure or was not important enough for Israelis to keep track of his tomb or make him a shrine. Even if there ever existed a person with the name of Moses, all the stories attributed to him are fabrications of the later priests who forged the entire Bible as it has been demonstrated by many modern Biblical scholars.
So neither Judaism nor Christianity were originally monotheistic religions. Then who is the father of monotheism? To whom shall we give the credit for this new theology that inseminated intolerance and is responsible for many wars amongst the nations as each claimed to be the chosen people of the most-High and the only ones with the truth?
If you guessed Muhammad you are wrong. The father of monotheism is Paul. This man was a true believer with an unshakable faith that Jesus was the Son of God, (perhaps because he never laid eyes on him and did not know him personally to be aware of his weaknesses). He became determined to preach the message of Christ that was rejected in his own homeland, amongst the rest of humanity. But this was a tough sell. Other nations had their own gods and would not listen to the preaching of a foreign cult. Many had customs that were different from those of the Jews and those that Jesus practiced. What Paul did is what any good salesman would do. He changed his product to make it more attractive to his western clients. Paul was clever enough to realize that if he had to convert the Gentiles into Christianity, he had to re-invent a new Christianity palatable to their taste and liking.
He soon dropped the requisite of circumcision, belittled the importance of Sabbath, undermined Jesus’ preference of the Jews and even claimed that he is preaching the messages of a pagan "unknown god". This is reported in the following verses.
"Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
The temple dedicated to the unknown god was built because of the Athenian's concern not to leave behind any god, very much the same concept when we dedicate a monument to the memory of the Unknown Soldier. The unknown god was certainly the least of the gods and not as Paul wanted to believe the Creator of the universe.
It looks like by then many had come to see the similarity and the oneness of humankind. And therefore it was unreasonable to believe that each nation had a separate creator. It is interesting to observe that, as we saw in the above episode, apparently Jesus was less aware of this oneness than his disciple Paul. The reason is obviously circumstantial. Jesus was born and raised in a closed and dogmatic society. He, like his contemporary compatriots believed that the Jews are the chosen children of God. He was not concerned for the Gentiles and even rejected to assist them when they came to him. On the other hand, Paul was a more sophisticated and learned person. He had traveled extensively, was familiar with many cultures and had been in touch with great civilizations. His views were more cosmopolitan than those of Jesus. In his opinion, if Christ was the Son of God, his message should not be reserved only to the Jews but must spread to all the nations of the world. He, unlike his master, did not believe that God would play favoritism. But like Peter believed that,
“God is not respecter of persons”
Thus, monotheism owes its popularity to the clever and more universalistic views of the disciples of Jesus and not to his own teachings. The spread of Christianity in the West, forced the early believers to adapt the teachings of Jesus and make it more appealing to the new converts. In this way, a local and obscure cult of a few Jews became the religion of choice for Romans who eventually made it the religion of the entire continent.
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