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Biblical Studies | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Ethics in Religion | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | History of Religions of Western Origin | Other Religion | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Published in Bulletin for Biblical Research, 18.1 (2008) 1–30.


Israel’s view of God and his relationship to other divine beings in the Hebrew Bible has long been the subject of scholarly debate. The dominant critical consensus since the late nineteenth century holds that Israel’s faith evolved from polytheism or henotheism to monotheism. Passages in the Hebrew Bible that assume the existence of other gods are compared to other passages that put forth the declaration that “there are no other gods besides” the God of Israel as proof of this view. Other scholars who reject this evolutionary paradigm tend to assume passages evincing divine plurality actually speak of human beings, or that the other gods are merely idols. This view insists that “monotheism” must mean that the existence of other gods is denied. Both views are problematic and fall short of doing justice to the full description of Israel’s view of God and the heavenly host in the Hebrew Bible. This article overviews the difficulties of each view and offers a coherent alternative.