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Henotheism

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by No*s, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    Yes. Wicca has truly deviated from Paganism for that very reason. It's really becoming a universal religion, in and of itself.
     
  2. ChrisP

    ChrisP Veteran Member

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    So we've now got UU Bahai'i and Wicca? I realise they all have their own flavours, but that's a few Universal style religions.
     
  3. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    Yes, and I think they will do quite well. People like a religion they can share with others, and it is understandable. Sometimes it is very frustrating being Heathen, because I have no one to share my beliefs with, nor people I can interact with on the same level. But I have found that Hindu's, other pagans, and Mormons are all wonderful to interact with. Mormons tend to really dislike my religious beliefs, but we seem to share so many of the same values, that we can interact quite nicely together.
     
  4. ChrisP

    ChrisP Veteran Member

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    Mormons? that really surprises me. Is it their political or social standpoint you feel aligned with?
     
  5. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    No, Nate, I'm not forgetting them. Judaism was a very heterogenous religion, and Christianity picked many of its attributes up from some of these strains. The interpretive framework I put the verses in is very Christian, and it picked up that framework from Hellenistic Judaism. Neither of these just popped their theologies out of the air.

    You're right that we won't find the angelic court and its rule of the world as prominently later, but we will still find the same hierarchies, but this time hostile to God (the quote I gave from Daniel, I think, exemplifies that, unless you have changed your mind on Daniel's dating). Other post-exilic material has the demons be fallen angels who then use their charge to deceive the peoples of the earth, and thus, the pagan gods. You cannot separate this from its predecessor (assuming, of course, there was ever a positive view of the "gods of the nations").

    I don't see how you can maintain that hard division in the face of that information. Were all these redactions done in the Babylonian era? If you think so, you have surrendered other positions I know you hold.
     
  6. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    Thanks. It doesn't have to be polytheistic in interpretation (and I don't take it that way, obviously), but I realize the data can be interpreted in a manner congenial to your position. I can see (and have read) how people can see an evolution from polytheism to monotheism (you can guess where I am on that one lol).

    The one nitpick I would make with your comment factually is that, biblically, the dichotomies you draw aren't exactly even, as they are in dualist systems. Satan, to quote Jewscout is "God's $#%@" in Scripture. There is an absolute monarchy in all the categories, even in marriage, where God has none (there certainly are scholars who see that in Asherah, but I'm a wee bit too conservative for that lol).

    Thanks again for the comments :).
     
  7. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    Jayhawker, I respect you. I respect you quite a bit, given the level of study you reflect. Here, though, I have to say "Pot, meet kettle."

    First o fall, you overlook that I have already acknowledged gradiations in meaning and interpretations of these things. In post #1 I blatantly stated "Henotheism may also be used to denote the worship of one god among many equal gods (I will not argue that way of doing it; God is supreme and alone in all His criteria, but I have no doubt someone will lol)." I acknowledged it, and I proceeded to say that I wasn't going to use that approach to interpret it. Had I been simply involved in "self-serving apologetics," then I wouldn't have acknowledged another approach to the issue. I would have tried to use the information solely as a steam-roller without giving someone who disagrees with me any clue as to where to look. I couldn't even use that to innoculate my argument in case people did know about the other approaches; I didn't discredit them (and I knew Nate, you, and a few others most certainly did).

    You can't use an article that acknowledges gradiations in the definition of the term to set up a black and white definition. When it says "According to Müller, it is "monotheism in principle and a polytheism in fact". Variations on the term have been inclusive monotheism and monarchial polytheism, designed to differentiate differing forms of the phenomenon" it is nothing but an acknowledgement of the fact that there are "variations" in the term, and unless you are prepared to assert that Wikipedia is a scholarly and exhaustive source, this is a little bit of a smoke screen.

    You were also very selective about the portion you quoted; you failed to even mention that the article mentions the definition I am using, which you have labeled "self-serving apologetics." The same article also states:

    In addition, many Christians believe in what some consider to be a "pantheon" of angels, demons, and/or Saints that are inferior to the Trinity. Christians do not label these beings as "gods", although they are attributed with supernatural powers, and are sometimes the object of prayer. When Christianity was adopted by Greco-Roman pagans or African slaves, the new converts attributed to these saints features of their previous polytheistic figures. In some cases, these beliefs have developed out of the Catholic church and form syncretisms like Santeria.
    Obviously, I wouldn't put the spin on it that it put. I differ substantially on the issue of the development of Catholic doctrine. Nonetheless, it isn't the development arguments that give this teeth. It's the classification it uses, and lo and behold, it uses the same arguments on the nature of "angels, demons, and/or Saints" that I did: that "they are attributed with supernatural powers" and even adds the point that I didn't that they "are sometimes the objects of prayer." This is my argument from the article that supposedly contradicts the definition I used in my "self-serving apologetics." I at least acknowledged views that causes problems for my statements, and in no case did I attempt to quote someone as contradicting something when they mention the view just a few paragraphs down.

    You're smarter than this, and you can do better than that. I'm not sure what gave rise to the rebuttal, but again, in my opening statements, I acknowledged the apologetic aspect: I said that I started the thread from a dispute. I think I have now vindicated my ethics in this thread, my approach to the word, and seriously called your post into question for very similar grounds to what you called mine into question for.
     
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  8. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Iron Age, meet Bronze Age. See, specifically, ...
    I overlooked nothing; I blatantly quote you.

    To say that you "acknowledged gradiations in meaning and interpretation" is a bit disingenuous. What you said, in fact, was:
    Monotheism is the belief in one God. Henotheism is the belief in one God Who made other spiritual authorities and powers. ... I would argue that henotheism is a subset of monotheism which includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.​
    Only then do you allow for other uses of the term. This is a bit too clever, not to mention historically dishonest. Far from believing in 'one God Who made other spiritual authorities and powers", henotheism implies absolutely nothing beyond the worship of one God among many.

    Far from being a subset of monotheism, henotheism was fully polytheistic. In the case of the early Israelites, this henotheism gave way to monalatry and, eventually, monotheism as El and YHWH were conflated into a single deity.

    What makes Deuteronomy 32:8 most interesting is that it evidences a stage in this process. Note, again, that the henotheism of Deut. 32:8 is not some self-serving confection about a "belief in one God Who made other spiritual authorities and powers" but, rather, a statement concerning the domain of a lesser God ...
    Although the theological differences between the polytheism of the larger Levantine culture and the evolving monotheism of the Old Testament are noteworthy, the concept of Yaw helps explain some obscure passages. For example, a fragment in Deuteronomy 32.8-9 as it reads in the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls, provides a special status to the cognate deity Yahweh.
    When the Most High (`Elyon) allotted peoples for inheritance,
    When He divided up the sons of man,
    He fixed the boundaries for peoples,
    According to the number of the sons of El
    But Yahweh’s portion is his people,
    Jacob His own inheritance.​
    The newer Masoretic manuscripts read "sons of Israel" in place of "sons of El," to conform to later Judaic theology. These manuscripts predate the oldest Masoretic texts by about 700 years. The older reading implicates an original polytheist context at the birth of Judaism. Within this framework, humanity was divided into seventy peoples, each with its own patron god. Yahweh takes Jacob as his, shedding additional light on the textual meaning of the chosen people. This older text of the passage is now used in the most current Biblical translations, including those based on the textual project led by Bruce Metzger. [Wikipedia]​
    Casting henotheism (or monolatry) as a subset of monotheism serves only to obscure its fundamental polytheistic character. It's historical revisionism and rank apologetics.

    I do not.
     
  9. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    In my opinion, a rather good discussion of henotheism can be found here.

    Also of interest is Mark S. Smith on The Origins of Biblical Monotheism found here.

    An interesting discussion of Hebrew Monotheism is available here.

    Finally, there is Ng's really excellent Introduction to Biblical Archaeology V: The Rise of God at the Elba Forum which notes ...
    At Ugarit, El presided over a divine council or family, whose characters included his consort Atherat, the storm god Baal, the bloodthirsty anti-authoritarian Anat, and a host of others. Many of the stories there will trace back to Sumerian myths, but that is beyond the scope of this piece. Mark Smith has suggested that the divine council should be better understood as originating from a divine household, with all the familial squabbles thrown in. He proposes a four-tiered structure, with El and Atherat as the heads of the household. Below them are the seventy sons of El, including Baal, and to whose number Yahweh was to eventually be included. Below them are the chief helper, Kothar wa-Hasis, and then below him, his helpers (akin to angels). However, the power of the royal metaphor took over, and El became equivalent to the king, in effect reducing the power of the other gods beneath him. With this metaphor, the stage for the rise of national identities was set, with nations adopting their god as the national god, and his supernatural contests with others as manifestations of their physical contests with neighbouring nations.

    Thus, the idea of "henotheism" developed, where many gods were believed to exist and hold real power, but only their god was to be worshipped.[4] With henotheism, the conditions for polemics against other gods were in place, to the extent of denying any powers of those other gods. The aniconic practices of the Israelites perhaps allowed people the ability to see that they could destroy the sacred places of other gods with impunity, while their god remained untouchable. During this stage then, the presence of Asherah, who was represented by her symbol, could have become uncomfortable, despite the deep-rooted tradition of her worship in Israel. Alternatively, it has been hypothesised that a collapse in the familial structure in Israel resulted in a similar collapse in the structure of the divine family presiding. Certainly later texts like Deuteronomy 24:16, Jeremiah 31:29-30 and Ezekiel 18 renege on the claims that the children may be punished for the sins of their fathers (e.g. Exodus 34:7) and some scholars have taken this to be indicative of a social change. However, it is possible that a "ditheism" existed at some point, where Yahweh and Asherah existed as the two deities looking after Israel.

    Finally, as revisions and perhaps extraneous political factors led to the removal of Asherah and the destruction of her symbols, a fully-fledged monotheism could now develop. It is in this period that Yahweh finally replaces El fully, as the ruler of the divine family (for example, Habakkuk 3:5 relates to the gods Resheph and Deber being part of his forces, though these are unfortunately translated into "pestilence" and "plague" in most translations).

    The story does not end there, however. The Assyrian and Babylonian dominance (and the resultant elevation of their gods Assur and Marduk) from the 8th centuries onward would have forced a deep reflection as to the nature of the deity, while at the same time introducing ideas about the cosmos that had not been thought of to that point. This view coincides with Karl Jaspers' "Axial Age", wherein revolutionary new understandings of the universe began to emerge.[5] The exile would have caused a move from identity based on territorial ownership to one of unique belief and practice, that would later prove to be an enduring cultural safeguard against the aliens around them. Smith again points out that, "As Judah's situation on the mundane level deteriorated in history, the cosmic status of its deity soared in its literature" (M. Smith 2001, p. 165). Thus Israel's view of equality with the other nations could no longer be sustained, but instead of lapsing into despair, they elevated their god further, viewing him as punishing them for their sins, and it followed then that he must be control the fates of all nations.​
    All of this content gets expunged and replaced with a Christian-friendly haze when we cast early Israelite henotheism as "a subset of monotheism" defined as "the belief in one God Who made other spiritual authorities and powers".
     
  10. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    The crux of the issue is what I said. So I'll use the same method you used on me in our last discussion.

    1). Did I not acknowledge at the outset that I was going to defend a belief of mine? If I did acknowledge it, then there is nothing dishonest in giving an apologetic view on the matter.

    2). If the answer to the preceding question is "yes," then when one argues his position, is it a standard or non-standard practice to put one's own position in the forefront, or does one tend to minimize one's intended argument for the sake of other views? If it is a standard, and honest, practice to do argue your own position in the forefront, then there is nothing about what I did that was "a bit disingenuous," much less "historically dishonest."

    3). Did I not acknowledge the existence of other views, even "polytheistic" ones? If I did so, then I am not hiding rival views of the issue, including yours.

    4). Since you quoted Wikipedia for an authority on the definition first, I ask you to abide by it, despite the fact that it is not the greatest of authorities. Did it not implicitly include my definition as one of the definitions it listed when it addressed henotheism and Christianity, and did it not do so for almost the exact same reasons? If it did, then your first-quoted authority on the definition of the word contradicts you, and I do believe that it had a section on "Christian" henotheism, which by definition must include a supreme "God who made all the other spiritual authorities," unless we are polytheists and do not know it. You, after all, were the one who imbued it with authority in the thread.

    5). Can two people look at the same book, the same text, the same information, and honestly come to different conclusions? I do not share your convictions, and as such, you cannot expect me to read the same data the same way.

    6). Lastly, for me to be dishonest, can you accuse me of deliberately misquoting or misrepresenting an author or fact? We aren't talking about disagreeing with you, but deliberate falsification of information. If you cannot, then you cannot accuse me of being dishonest. You cannot tell me that I am simply being self-serving.

    In questining my integrity in this manner, though, you have been dishonest. The most obvious example is your misquote of the Wikipedia article. You made it seem as if it completely disallowed my position. This, however, was most likely a falsification of information. You are a thorough fellow, and I seriously doubt you didn't read the whole article, so you most likely knew that the article actually contained the definition of henotheism that I gave. If, however, you did not read it, then you proof-texted by reading far enough to find what you wanted, then quoted it in some "rank" and "self-serving" apologetics. Either way, your own standard and accusation returns to you.

    Now, how do I approach Deut. 32:8? I assure you I am not lying, nor am I dishonest, nor am I trying to misrepresent facts. I can see the view I espoused in the text. God alloted the people. He set the boundries. He did this, and He reserved for Himself Jacob's people as His own special allotment. I do believe that it isn't too far-fetched to see God like a king or chieftan who is divying up his land and giving various portions to his underlings, but reserving his special allotment for himself. The lieutenants would then still be under his authority, but they would have their allotment.

    Now we both know those types of social structures existed. We both know that with that text, I can read it that way just as easily as you can read it your way. What you cannot do is to tell me that I have come to that conclusion dishonestly.

    You cannot simply dismiss what I said as revisionist history. Remember, we are looking at this through different metaphysical lenses. I believe in this God. I believe that He is a sovereign, much as I outlined. When I read it, then, I will inevitably see it through that lens. There is nothing dishonest about it.

    Likewise, you have a naturalist metaphysical lens. When you look at the text, you don't allow for the possibility that such a God can exist. It must, therefore, be the result of a developmental process. The worldview will not allow for the possibility that such a divine sovereign could exist. You will, consequently, always read the history behind the text with those lenses.

    In both our cases, we are basing what we see heavily on our presuppositions, and we can see things differently. That isn't dishonest. It is human. You can't even call my theological positions "revisionist history" without condemning yourself. You don't have any direct evidence of a blatantly polytheistic Judaism, it is all inference, but I can interpret the same data differently. Both of us are interpreting history. It doesn't just come up to us and say "here I am." If interpreting history this way is a revisionisst history, then we are both revising. I have, I repeat, not taken the facts out of context, just interpreted them differently from you. Neither have I outright lied. Not defining a word in exactly the same fashion you do does not constitute dishonesty.

    I will not turn this thread into a flame, either. If you choose to respond and further question my honesty that's fine. After those two accusations and my two responses, I think our mutual positions on this matter are self-evident to others. The truth should be self-evident as well. If you wish to make another post, go ahead. I won't correct a misrepresentation in this thread again. I think most people are capable of reading back through the list to see I was not misrepresenting things for a self-serving purpose. I am content with that level of exoneration.

    EDIT:
    I started writing that before you posted the second part of that post. I will read the articles, but I will not defend my honesty and integrity further. As I said, after two posts on both sides, I have no need to defend my integrity any more. The board can see for itself.
     
  11. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Agreed.
     
  12. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    Excellent dialogue. This deserves another read.
     
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