‘God is One’: It wasn’t always like this in Christianity
Today followers of Christianity and Judaism have the belief that there is one God. And not only that, but the One of Christianity is the better than the One of other religions like Muslims for example. However the truth is that it wasn’t always like this. In the Early years of Judaism the existence of different Gods of different religious groups was accepted as a fact.
In an ancient cemetery near the village of Halbturn in Austria a small silver capsule was found buried with a child. Inside that capsule there was a small gold scroll which had written in Hebrew (but with the use of Greek characters) the Judaism confession text known as Shema’ Yisrael which says “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord Is one”. That was a protection against all evil amulet that was common to Hebrew people. It was apparently a ‘magic’ amulet, probably created by a magician who didn’t know how to write Hebrew. And this reference to Shema’Yisrael is one of the oldest ever found.
The Shema’Yisrael was supposed to be a strong protective device and was used at every Jewish house fixed to the doorpost, jewels etc. The text that is referred in the Shema’Yisrael is originated in Deuteronomy (6:4) where it is mentioned as “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone”. And here it is clear that it wasn’t mentioned as a statement of monotheism. At that period of time others like the Egyptians worshipped multiple gods but for Hebrews, only Yahweh was recognized as their God. And further on in the Deuteronomy it doesn’t deny the existence of other deities worshipped by other people. And so Ammonites had god Milcom, Edomites, god Qos and so on. That means that originally the Shema’Yisrael did not deny the existence of other gods.
It was later on the Jews decided that their God was not only ‘their’ God but also the only God of the World and of the Universe. Scholars haven’t decided when exactly this change happened but Andre Lemaire suggests that it happened over a period of time after the Babylonian exile while other scholars believe that it may have occurred later.
It is clear therefore to see that the belief amongst millions of people worldwide today that God is one was just a late interpretation of the Hieratic circles of the Jews which was then transferred to Christian texts too. Why this happened and how, is still to be answered.
By John Black
Eshel, Esther, Lange, Armin. ““The Lord Is One”: How Its Meaning Changed.” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 2013, 58-63, 69.