One God Versus Many - A Solitary God in the Company of Many (Part 2)
The concept of the Christian Trinity is puzzling, to say the least, but what about the Jewish/Christian god’s admittance to the existence of other gods? Here are the Old Testament instances where this god identifies, or admits, the existence of other gods. Most of the verses relate to the law as it was handed down to and recorded in the Torah by the Jewish patriarch Moses.
“For on this same night I will go through Egypt…executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord!” Exodus 12:12
“You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.” Exodus 20:3-5
“Whoever sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord alone, shall be doomed.” Exodus 22:19
“You shall no revile God (or the gods), nor curse a prince of your people.” Exodus 22:27
“Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” Exodus 23:13
“Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.” V. 24
“Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.” v.32
“For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.” Exodus 10:17
“I will pronounce my sentence against them for all their wickedness in forsaking me, and in burning incense to strange gods and adoring their own handiwork.” Jeremiah 1:16
This Hebrew god makes it clear that his followers are not to worship other gods, going so far as to threaten punishment for doing so. Sound familiar? Yet not only does this god admit to being one of many, his followers do as well (though they claim him to be better than the others).
“Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?” Exodus 15:11
“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods.” Exodus 18:11
“And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.” 1 Samuel 28:13
“The Lord ... is to be feared above all gods.” 1 Chronicles 16:25
“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty, he judgeth among the gods.” Psalm 82:1
“I have said, Ye are gods.” Verse 6
“Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord.” Psalm 86:8
“For the Lord ... is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:4
“Worship him, all ye gods.” Psalm 97:7
“Our Lord is above all gods.” Psalm 135:5
“O give thanks unto the God of gods. Psalm 136:2
“Thus you shall say of them: Let the gods that did not make heaven and earth perish from the earth, and from beneath the heavens.” Jeremiah 10:10
“The Lord will be terrible to them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth.” Zephaniah 2:11
According to these verses it appears as though early followers recognized their god as one of many. Jews and Christians believe these references are not necessarily about living gods, but rather man-made idols. This is a possible explanation, though one may assume that at least the all-knowing god would be able to confer his meaning accurately if such were the case.
Yet other verses again claim that there is only one god in the Old Testament. For example:
"This is what the Lord says — Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” Isaiah 44:6
This is only one of many similar verses that claim the existence of only one god. How is it possible that there are many and yet only one? Did only one god out of many form the heavens and the earth, or did only one exist? These scriptures seem to contradict themselves, causing one to wonder whether or not they should seriously be considered in the first place. While one cannot help but to admit that the Jewish/Christian concept of a single god is revolutionary, it is also hard to comprehend, and thus hard to get behind.