COGaIC Reports on Monotheism Conference


Below, but in the same left-hand website column that starts off with the terms “David Hulme” “hulmevision”, COGaIC’s Peter Nathan reported the following this week:

Frederick L. Simmons opened the symposium he had sponsored with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles…

Ziony Zevit, Professor of Biblical Literature and Semitic Languages at AJU-LA, had assembled a panel under the rubric of “A Day of Archaeological Insight: What Do We Mean When We Say Monotheism?” To address the subject, Zevit had brought together several notable archaeologists and biblical studies experts from the East Coast. Drs. Barry Gittlen from Towson University and Steven Fine of Yeshiva University, New York, discussed the archaeological evidence while Mark Smith from New York University and Jeffrey Tigay from the University of Pennsylvania discussed the biblical aspects. Some three hundred people assembled to hear their deliberations as part of the Whizin Center for Continuing Education program and AJU.

Professor Zevit made it abundantly clear from the outset that we were dealing with a difficult term and that the audience should expect some surprises…

Professor Jeffrey H. Tigay’s background in Deuteronomy equipped him to address the subject of “Monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.” He noted in opening that YHWH was a personal name and that the issue of monotheism is not that of “one god,” but of “the only god.” He opined that monotheism as commonly understood had no real part in Scripture. He showed that the Shema, contained in Deuteronomy 6:4 is not a monotheistic statement. Its claim to be a monotheistic statement was post-biblical. The scriptures normally used to support monotheism in the Hebrew Bible are not philosophical statements, but rather statements of historical reality to the authors and audience…

John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament at Yale, summed up the situation described in the Dead Sea Scrolls at the start of the Christian era. This is a fitting description of the early followers of Jesus Christ as well.

[M]onotheism hardly seems the right word to describe the religion of the Dead Sea
Scrolls. To be sure, the supremacy of the Most High is never in doubt. But this is not a
God who dwells alone…(Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2000, 27).

I know that some of the above is somewhat technical, but the point is that the Hebrew scriptures do allow for the idea that there was God the Father (“the Ancient of Days” in Daniel 7:9) and God the Son (“One like the Son of Man” Daniel 7:13) and that the Hebrew does not limit the Godhead to one being.

This is a concept that unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses often seem to misunderstand.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Similarities and Differences Between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Living Church of God Both groups claim to represent the original Christian faith.  Do you know much about them? Both groups have some interesting similarities, but many major differences. Would you like information on how to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?

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