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Author Topic: "No Other Gods Before Me"  (Read 849 times)

Donal2018

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"No Other Gods Before Me"
« on: August 19, 2019, 07:42:18 pm »
So the Commandment states that "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". This seems to admit that there ARE other Gods, just that the Israelites should not worship them by command of Yahweh, their National God. Since this was part of the Covenant between Yahweh and the Tribes of Israel, does it actually apply to peoples and gods who are not Israelites and outside of this Covenant?

It seems to admit a polytheistic reality, but demands monotheistic worship. Since there are "other gods" in this view, then who are they and where do they come from? If One God created these beings, then what is their purpose? It has been said by some Irish Folk that the Tuatha De Danann, the Irish Pagan deities, were later viewed by some Irish as Angels that were not Fallen, but not Celestial either. They were viewed as sort of midway between the two worlds, Spirits not of Heaven or an Infernal Realm. Rather, they were viewed as Spirits of this World and Earth. Nature Deities/Spirits. This seems to me to be some Irish trying to reconcile old Pagan realities with the newer Judeo-Christian reality.

I am acting a bit as devil's advocate here, but if these beings were created by the Judeo-Christian God, then what did He create them for in the first place? I am sorry if this line of thinking is a bit strange, but this issue has been bothering me since I was a kid, and I have never seen it dealt with effectively anywhere, online or in books. The implication in the Old Testament is that there are, in fact, other Gods, but that they are at best subordinate to Yahweh.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2019, 09:43:16 pm »
So the Commandment states that "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". This seems to admit that there ARE other Gods, just that the Israelites should not worship them by command of Yahweh, their National God.
I'd agree with you. This passage seems to suggest henotheism or monolatry (most likely the latter, because of course My God Can Beat Up Your God, and my God wants All The Attention).
I believe the arrival at monotheism was a process, not an event.

Quote
Since this was part of the Covenant between Yahweh and the Tribes of Israel, does it actually apply to peoples and gods who are not Israelites and outside of this Covenant?
At the time, probably not. I think YHVH was pretty much just a tribal deity at that point, and a main point behind their orthopraxy was to distinguish them as Chosen People from any rival tribes (and their gods).

Quote
It has been said by some Irish Folk that the Tuatha De Danann, the Irish Pagan deities, were later viewed by some Irish as Angels that were not Fallen, but not Celestial either. They were viewed as sort of midway between the two worlds, Spirits not of Heaven or an Infernal Realm. Rather, they were viewed as Spirits of this World and Earth. Nature Deities/Spirits. This seems to me to be some Irish trying to reconcile old Pagan realities with the newer Judeo-Christian reality.
Quite possible. Christian theology makes room for angels and saints, and I suppose the Tuatha de Danann could be adapted to one or the other (or a mixture of both). Wasn't Brighid something of a folkloric figure before she was maid into a saint?
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2019, 09:56:04 pm »
I'd agree with you. This passage seems to suggest henotheism or monolatry (most likely the latter, because of course My God Can Beat Up Your God, and my God wants All The Attention).
I believe the arrival at monotheism was a process, not an event.
At the time, probably not. I think YHVH was pretty much just a tribal deity at that point, and a main point behind their orthopraxy was to distinguish them as Chosen People from any rival tribes (and their gods).
Quite possible. Christian theology makes room for angels and saints, and I suppose the Tuatha de Danann could be adapted to one or the other (or a mixture of both). Wasn't Brighid something of a folkloric figure before she was maid into a saint?

So only a limited response at this moment as I am on my tablet and with a slow connection.

Yes Brigid was a Goddess before she was a Saint. I am particularly interested in how Pagan cultures transitioned to Christianity and sometimes mixed the two. This especially with Celtic Pagans, my area of interest.

I need to look up henotheism and monolatry before I address that part of your comment. I have seen the terms before, but do not have a strong grasp on them.

I wonder how someone who is Christian might deal with the fact that Yahweh was at one point not the only God around.

Anyway  thanks for the response. I will be back to check this thread later if my wi fi holds out.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2019, 10:03:29 pm »

It's not like this is an uncommon perspective in the ancient world - pretty much every cultural pantheon operates under the "our gods are the correct gods for our people" paradigm.  One of the core ways that this worked is that you can tell other people are not your people because they have different gods.

And some cultures carried this on to sports-team theology "and our gods are obviously the best gods", which included things like declaring other pantheons lesser or subordinate; of constructing mythologies of conquest and defeat (this is one of the theories I've seen about Zeus's tomcatting around: it was a way of proving he had "conquered" local goddesses as various empires expanded to absorb those territories); of adopting gods as being "actually" the offspring of the pantheon or actually members of the pantheon wearing different hats/names.  The Roman Empire's cultural expansion basically ran on "Oh, you call Mercury that and Jupiter this?  Cool!  So rename your icons Mercury-That and Jupiter-This, and we won't kick your asses."

A lot of moderns assume that an allegiance to a pantheon is necessarily exclusive/thou shalt not, and that's certainly not often the historical case - you see a whole lot of border areas where people nick gods from each other entirely peacefully. A statue of Khonsu left Egypt to perform a mystical healing and it was a pain in the ass to get him back because they wanted to keep him; some people in the Germanic tribes cheerfully adopted the White Christ and parked him on altars with Thor, utterly horrifying missionaries who were under the delusion that of course someone who took up their god would drop their covenantal relationships with others.

Keep in mind that in the ancient world gods were often very regional, and travellers would pay heed to the shrines of the gods that were in the places they were. It's not good to be rude to the host.  My understanding is Judaism only developed a strong sense of a non-local god after the Babylonian captivity, because otherwise Psalm 137 makes very little sense.  ("How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?")
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2019, 10:23:17 pm »
It's not like this is an uncommon perspective in the ancient world - pretty much every cultural pantheon operates under the "our gods are the correct gods for our people" paradigm.  One of the core ways that this worked is that you can tell other people are not your people because they have different gods.

And some cultures carried this on to sports-team theology "and our gods are obviously the best gods", which included things like declaring other pantheons lesser or subordinate; of constructing mythologies of conquest and defeat (this is one of the theories I've seen about Zeus's tomcatting around: it was a way of proving he had "conquered" local goddesses as various empires expanded to absorb those territories); of adopting gods as being "actually" the offspring of the pantheon or actually members of the pantheon wearing different hats/names.  The Roman Empire's cultural expansion basically ran on "Oh, you call Mercury that and Jupiter this?  Cool!  So rename your icons Mercury-That and Jupiter-This, and we won't kick your asses."

A lot of moderns assume that an allegiance to a pantheon is necessarily exclusive/thou shalt not, and that's certainly not often the historical case - you see a whole lot of border areas where people nick gods from each other entirely peacefully. A statue of Khonsu left Egypt to perform a mystical healing and it was a pain in the ass to get him back because they wanted to keep him; some people in the Germanic tribes cheerfully adopted the White Christ and parked him on altars with Thor, utterly horrifying missionaries who were under the delusion that of course someone who took up their god would drop their covenantal relationships with others.

Keep in mind that in the ancient world gods were often very regional, and travellers would pay heed to the shrines of the gods that were in the places they were. It's not good to be rude to the host.  My understanding is Judaism only developed a strong sense of a non-local god after the Babylonian captivity, because otherwise Psalm 137 makes very little sense.  ("How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?")

Yes, and also it is a matter of power, empire and conquerors, as you point out. The Romans were able to absorb Greek Gods into their pantheon  because they had the cultural and political power to do so. Likewise how Caesar just labelled the Gaul's deities as different versions of Jupiter and Mercury.

The prevailing Christian Church in power during the Medieval Age literally demonized some Pagan Deities. This still persists today with some modern Christians.

Some solace can be taken in that Rome eventually fell, and the Medieval Church lost much of its power from Reformation to Renaissance to Enlightenment. It is kind of amazing and hopeful to me that new versions of Paganisms exist after all of that history.

Anyway sorry if I did not address some of your points more directly. I have a bad Internet connection. I will maybe write more later. Thanks for your post.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2019, 10:32:01 pm »
It's not like this is an uncommon perspective in the ancient world - pretty much every cultural pantheon operates under the "our gods are the correct gods for our people" paradigm.  One of the core ways that this worked is that you can tell other people are not your people because they have different gods.

And some cultures carried this on to sports-team theology "and our gods are obviously the best gods", which included things like declaring other pantheons lesser or subordinate; of constructing mythologies of conquest and defeat (this is one of the theories I've seen about Zeus's tomcatting around: it was a way of proving he had "conquered" local goddesses as various empires expanded to absorb those territories); of adopting gods as being "actually" the offspring of the pantheon or actually members of the pantheon wearing different hats/names.  The Roman Empire's cultural expansion basically ran on "Oh, you call Mercury that and Jupiter this?  Cool!  So rename your icons Mercury-That and Jupiter-This, and we won't kick your asses."

A lot of moderns assume that an allegiance to a pantheon is necessarily exclusive/thou shalt not, and that's certainly not often the historical case - you see a whole lot of border areas where people nick gods from each other entirely peacefully. A statue of Khonsu left Egypt to perform a mystical healing and it was a pain in the ass to get him back because they wanted to keep him; some people in the Germanic tribes cheerfully adopted the White Christ and parked him on altars with Thor, utterly horrifying missionaries who were under the delusion that of course someone who took up their god would drop their covenantal relationships with others.

Keep in mind that in the ancient world gods were often very regional, and travellers would pay heed to the shrines of the gods that were in the places they were. It's not good to be rude to the host.  My understanding is Judaism only developed a strong sense of a non-local god after the Babylonian captivity, because otherwise Psalm 137 makes very little sense.  ("How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?")

I also wanted to agree with your point that a lot of cultures peacefully adopted other people's gods and idols. I am particularly interested in how Pagan cultures absorbed and adopted Christ.

The presence of the White Christ on an altar next to Thor is particularly striking to me. I think you can have a legitimate pagan view and include Christ in pagan way, but that is maybe a topic for a different thread.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2019, 10:44:29 pm »
Yes, and also it is a matter of power, empire and conquerors, as you point out. The Romans were able to absorb Greek Gods into their pantheon  because they had the cultural and political power to do so. Likewise how Caesar just labelled the Gaul's deities as different versions of Jupiter and Mercury.

The prevailing Christian Church in power during the Medieval Age literally demonized some Pagan Deities. This still persists today with some modern Christians.

Some solace can be taken in that Rome eventually fell, and the Medieval Church lost much of its power from Reformation to Renaissance to Enlightenment. It is kind of amazing and hopeful to me that new versions of Paganisms exist after all of that history.

Anyway sorry if I did not address some of your points more directly. I have a bad Internet connection. I will maybe write more later. Thanks for your post.

Just a quick note- the historical order is- Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment. I transposed two of them in my post.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2019, 11:32:37 pm »
So the Commandment states that "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". This seems to admit that there ARE other Gods, just that the Israelites should not worship them by command of Yahweh, their National God. Since this was part of the Covenant between Yahweh and the Tribes of Israel, does it actually apply to peoples and gods who are not Israelites and outside of this Covenant?

It seems to admit a polytheistic reality, but demands monotheistic worship. Since there are "other gods" in this view, then who are they and where do they come from? If One God created these beings, then what is their purpose? It has been said by some Irish Folk that the Tuatha De Danann, the Irish Pagan deities, were later viewed by some Irish as Angels that were not Fallen, but not Celestial either. They were viewed as sort of midway between the two worlds, Spirits not of Heaven or an Infernal Realm. Rather, they were viewed as Spirits of this World and Earth. Nature Deities/Spirits. This seems to me to be some Irish trying to reconcile old Pagan realities with the newer Judeo-Christian reality.

I am acting a bit as devil's advocate here, but if these beings were created by the Judeo-Christian God, then what did He create them for in the first place? I am sorry if this line of thinking is a bit strange, but this issue has been bothering me since I was a kid, and I have never seen it dealt with effectively anywhere, online or in books. The implication in the Old Testament is that there are, in fact, other Gods, but that they are at best subordinate to Yahweh.

My understanding is that other cultures at the time were not thought to be bound to worship only Yahweh.

I'll have to get back to you, but Deuteronomy somewhere implies that the hosts of heaven or deities are delegated to other nations.

Regarding other gods as non-celestial, non-fallen angels, I have a theologian friend who considers this a possibility and acceptable theological opinion.

I have a Jewish study bible with lots of information on this stuff.  I'll again have to get back to you on the exact name.

As far as Christians who are more conventional and monotheistic-- if trinitarianism is purely monotheistic-- they tend to say that revelation at the time was progressive, so it took time for the truth of monotheism to be revealed.

That's what I've gathered by discussion with others on the matter.  But this is not a universal opinion among those identifying as Christian, as with just about any theological opinion.
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2019, 02:23:17 am »
My understanding is that other cultures at the time were not thought to be bound to worship only Yahweh.

Other cultures are still not bound to worship the Jewish God. They are bound only to the Noahide Laws, seven commandments supposed to be given to "the children of Noah" (i.e. all humanity that is reborn after the Flood). These include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, various forms of "sexual immorality," theft, and the consumption of flesh "torn from a living animal," as well as a positive injunction to establish courts of law.

So as long as you don't bow down to statues of them, you may worship whatever gods you like as a righteous gentile.
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2019, 03:13:19 am »
Other cultures are still not bound to worship the Jewish God. They are bound only to the Noahide Laws, seven commandments supposed to be given to "the children of Noah" (i.e. all humanity that is reborn after the Flood). These include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, various forms of "sexual immorality," theft, and the consumption of flesh "torn from a living animal," as well as a positive injunction to establish courts of law.

So as long as you don't bow down to statues of them, you may worship whatever gods you like as a righteous gentile.

Thanks for the clarification. 
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2019, 04:20:00 am »
I wonder how someone who is Christian might deal with the fact that Yahweh was at one point not the only God around.

Very easily, actually. There are other passages which imply the existence of other divine beings...Psalms 82, anyone?

How I deal with it in my own mind is distinguishing between "GOD", the concept, and Jehovah/Jesus/the Spirit, the personalities. I believe that each and every one of the personalities, even my own Girlfriend, has had at least one, "Oops!" moment along the way, and in most cases even a, "You know, I really screwed that up" moment to boot...Job 38-41 comes to mind. So I do believe that the individual personalities can and do err...although they're getting a lot better over time.

But I see "GOD", the concept, as the summation of those individual personalities...and more besides; even you and I may have a bit part in that summation. As the various timelines are brought together, and as their awareness extends throughout all of time and space, that summation grows until it truly does represent ultimate perfection. Jehovah the person may have had an origin somewhere in "time" or "space" (in quotation marks because I believe that time and space are constructs which have been created to organize events in a logical and accessible manner), but as "Satan" (not necessarily the Big Nasty as a person, but, again, another summation) has tried to escape justice by retreating to far corners of space and time he and his family have chosen to follow...uncovering new events in the process which have had to be placed into the matrix and thus increasing the total summation of their knowledge and experience.

And at some point along the way that knowledge and experience has coalesced into perfection. You can't put a time or a place stamp on it, because as perfection it touches all times. Even the "Oops!" moments and the mistakes have been able to be fit in and work for the ultimate good. And, at some point, I believe that the other divine beings...not to mention we humans, ourselves...are going to recognize that. And, when we do, we will realize that the only way to justice, peace, and joy is to accept those same foundational premises and recognize that, yes, they got there first... "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11)."

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2019, 04:39:26 am »
So the Commandment states that "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". This seems to admit that there ARE other Gods, just that the Israelites should not worship them by command of Yahweh, their National God. Since this was part of the Covenant between Yahweh and the Tribes of Israel, does it actually apply to peoples and gods who are not Israelites and outside of this Covenant?

You have a few different questions in your post - who should obey the "Thou shalt have no strange gods before me" commandment; the nature of the Tuatha De Danann; the purpose of the other gods.

I don't know if this will help, but there was an interesting podcast some time back with Pete Enns (of The Bible for Normal People site) about Yahweh and where he came from. I'll link it here in case it's something you want to listen to. https://thebiblefornormalpeople.podbean.com/e/episode-60-mark-smith-who-is-yahweh-where-did-yahweh-come-from/

It's been some time since I listened to it, but there are a number of other gods mentioned besides Yahweh, and it looks at how Yahweh came to prominence.
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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2019, 12:56:45 pm »
Very easily, actually. There are other passages which imply the existence of other divine beings...Psalms 82, anyone?

How I deal with it in my own mind is distinguishing between "GOD", the concept, and Jehovah/Jesus/the Spirit, the personalities. I believe that each and every one of the personalities, even my own Girlfriend, has had at least one, "Oops!" moment along the way, and in most cases even a, "You know, I really screwed that up" moment to boot...Job 38-41 comes to mind. So I do believe that the individual personalities can and do err...although they're getting a lot better over time.

But I see "GOD", the concept, as the summation of those individual personalities...and more besides; even you and I may have a bit part in that summation. As the various timelines are brought together, and as their awareness extends throughout all of time and space, that summation grows until it truly does represent ultimate perfection. Jehovah the person may have had an origin somewhere in "time" or "space" (in quotation marks because I believe that time and space are constructs which have been created to organize events in a logical and accessible manner), but as "Satan" (not necessarily the Big Nasty as a person, but, again, another summation) has tried to escape justice by retreating to far corners of space and time he and his family have chosen to follow...uncovering new events in the process which have had to be placed into the matrix and thus increasing the total summation of their knowledge and experience.

And at some point along the way that knowledge and experience has coalesced into perfection. You can't put a time or a place stamp on it, because as perfection it touches all times. Even the "Oops!" moments and the mistakes have been able to be fit in and work for the ultimate good. And, at some point, I believe that the other divine beings...not to mention we humans, ourselves...are going to recognize that. And, when we do, we will realize that the only way to justice, peace, and joy is to accept those same foundational premises and recognize that, yes, they got there first... "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11)."

It is an interesting position. I still wonder if you might address why God created multiple other gods and what their purpose is in Creation from a Christian point of view.

Every knee will bow I am sure would apply to these deities. Anyway, I would like to know what a Christian thinks about say Athena. "Thou Shall Not Have Any Other Gods Before Me" implies that there are other gods (as I have said in the OP). Athena is one of them.

I just wonder how monotheist people feel about other deities. I use Athena as an example because she seems like a very good, powerful, wise and capable Deity. You would think that Yahweh would want her on His side. This versus other gods who might not be so compatible with Yahweh.

I thought it was interesting that you point out the different personalities of your Godhead- Jehovah, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. It sort of nods to polytheism, but maybe escapes that by pointing out that these are different aspects of One God. So what are other Gods? Athena, Thor, the Morrigan, etc. Surely they are not aspects of the Old Testament God. Can you reconcile these Pagan Deities with the Biblical God at all?

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2019, 01:00:54 pm »
Other cultures are still not bound to worship the Jewish God. They are bound only to the Noahide Laws, seven commandments supposed to be given to "the children of Noah" (i.e. all humanity that is reborn after the Flood). These include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, various forms of "sexual immorality," theft, and the consumption of flesh "torn from a living animal," as well as a positive injunction to establish courts of law.

So as long as you don't bow down to statues of them, you may worship whatever gods you like as a righteous gentile.

I had not heard of that before. Very interesting. Do you have any sources about righteous gentiles and their worship of other gods? It is good information and I would like to look into it a bit more. Thanks!

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2019, 01:02:22 pm »
You have a few different questions in your post - who should obey the "Thou shalt have no strange gods before me" commandment; the nature of the Tuatha De Danann; the purpose of the other gods.

I don't know if this will help, but there was an interesting podcast some time back with Pete Enns (of The Bible for Normal People site) about Yahweh and where he came from. I'll link it here in case it's something you want to listen to. https://thebiblefornormalpeople.podbean.com/e/episode-60-mark-smith-who-is-yahweh-where-did-yahweh-come-from/

It's been some time since I listened to it, but there are a number of other gods mentioned besides Yahweh, and it looks at how Yahweh came to prominence.

I will check out that podcast when I have more time. Thanks for the link.

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