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  #11  
Old 9th February 2017, 08:18 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

Quote:
SEG said View Post
... Do you think that from the get go, ancient Jews and early Christians believed in other gods?
Quote:
joele said View Post
Yes, I think it was ...
I agree. It's more likely than not that Judaism evolved from Canaanite polytheism that part of the world.

IIRC, there is a good linguistic case to the effect that the Torah/Pentateuch was not originally in the form that we see it. The verses which refer to Ashera, Baal, et al, are thought by linguists are believed to be the oldest surviving passages in those books, and they plainly appear to contemplate polytheism. It's said that those passages are written in much more primitive Hebrew than other parts of those books. It's said that the the Torah/Pentateuch was substantially edited in the seventh century BCE in an attempt to establish Yaweh as the only, or primary, god. Linguists point to the more developed features of the ancient Hebrew in which the passages giving primacy to Yaweh are written as support for their theory.

Of course, I'm no linguist!

However, later editing to give primacy to the war-like Yaweh makes much sense in the historical context of the seventh century BCE, especially as the Israelites faced the growing Babylonian threat.

It also appears that external, archaeological evidence corroborates the later editing hypothesis: It appears to be clear that several of the cities referred to in those books did not exist for centuries after the alleged dates of those books. As I understand it, linguists claim the references to those cities are written in the same, more developed, Hebrew, as the passages which give primacy to Yaweh.

I referred to some of that archaeological evidence (in a somewhat different context) during the debates in the 'Biblical interpretation' and 'Calvinsim' threads. See the summary here.
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Last edited by Blue Lightning; 9th February 2017 at 08:36 PM.
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  #12  
Old 9th February 2017, 08:39 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancien...anite_religion

A great number of deities were worshiped by the followers of the Canaanite religion; this is a partial listing:
  • Anat, virgin goddess of war and strife, sister and putative mate of Ba'al Hadad
  • Athirat, "walker of the sea", Mother Goddess, wife of El (also known as Elat and after the Bronze Age as Asherah)
  • Athtart, better known by her Greek name Astarte, assists Anat in the Myth of Ba'al
  • Attar, god of the morning star ("son of the morning") who tried to take the place of the dead Baal and failed. Male counterpart of Athtart.
  • Baalat or Baalit, the wife or female counterpart of Baal (also Belili)
  • Baal Hadad (lit. master of thunder), storm god. Often referred to as Baalshamin.
  • Baal Hammon, god of fertility and renewer of all energies in the Phoenician colonies of the Western Mediterranean
  • Dagon, god of crop fertility and grain, father of Ba'al Hadad
  • El, also called 'Il or Elyon ("Most High"), generally considered leader of the pantheon
  • Eshmun, god, or as Baalat Asclepius, goddess, of healing
  • Ishat, goddess of fire. She was slain by Anat.[1][2][3]
  • Kotharat, goddesses of marriage and pregnancy
  • Kothar-wa-Khasis, the skilled, god of craftsmanship
  • Lotan, the twisting, seven-headed serpent ally of Yam
  • Marqod, God of Dance
  • Melqart, Literally "king of the city", God of Tyre, the underworld and cycle of vegetation in Tyre
  • Moloch, putative god of fire[4]
  • Mot or Mawat, god of death (not worshiped or given offerings)
  • Nikkal-wa-Ib, goddess of orchards and fruit
  • Qadeshtu, lit. "Holy One", putative goddess of love. Also a title of Asherah.
  • Resheph, god of plague and of healing
  • Shachar and Shalim, twin mountain gods of dawn and dusk, respectively. Shalim was linked to the netherworld via the evening star and associated with peace[5]
  • Shamayim, (lit. "Skies"), god of the heavens, paired with Eretz, the land or earth.
  • Shapash, also transliterated Shapshu, goddess of the sun; sometimes equated with the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash,[6] whose gender is disputed. Some authorities consider Shamash a goddess [7]
  • Sydyk, the god of righteousness or justice, sometimes twinned with Misor, and linked to the planet Jupiter[8][9]
  • Yahweh,[10] god of weather and war,[11] later becoming consort of Asherah[12]
  • Yam (lit. sea-river) the god of the sea and the river,[13] also called Judge Nahar (judge of the river).[14][15][16]
  • Yarikh, god of the moon and husband of Nikkal
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  #13  
Old 9th February 2017, 08:54 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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Stub King said View Post
caveat: I am not a linguist, etymologist, bible scholar, but ...

The word "elohim" is used in the singular. "Bereshit bara elohim ....". "Bara" is the past form of create, or brought into being. if it had been plural it would have been "Bar'ou". moreover, the word in Hebrew is always singular, despite the suffix "im" which indeed usually denotes plural masculine.

I am speculating here but it is possible that this word was reserved by jews for their god. the standard word for just any god is "el" (with "elim" being the plural). there is no plural for "elohim", or should I say I have never read or heard it. elohim is pretty quickly replaced with either YHWH or Adonai (our lord/master) or Adonai Eloheinou (our lord, our god)
Is that just modern Hebrew where it is used in the singular Stub King?
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim
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Old 10th February 2017, 10:34 AM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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Is that just modern Hebrew where it is used in the singular Stub King?
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim
no. as I explained the verb "bara" is singular. the word may have also been used in the plural in the bible for other gods. I don't recall precisely. but whenever it is meant to be the jewish god it is singular. you can't detect it in English translations because there is no distinction in verb conjugations between singular and plural. I have no idea how other languages have translated it. I do speak French but I never read a French bible.

in modern use, elohim is pretty much reserved for the jewish god. other monotheistic gods are usually "the elohim of the muslim/christians ..." and polytheistic is usually "the elim of the Greeks/Indians ..."

I suspect you know this, but just in case, the "el" at the end of names (Israel, Ezekiel, Azriel, Samuel, Emmanuel etc.) all mean god. these are all compound words. Emmanu + el = god is with us, Isra + el = will wrestle god, etc.

modern Hebrew is essentially grammatically the same as ancient Hebrew. Eliezer Ben Yehuda was the reviver of Hebrew, and at the time, it was basically being used only for prayers. but from a day to day perspective it was a dead language. what modern Hebrew brought is a new vocab, slang and colloquialism, different flow, foreign words. there are Hebrew words for TV, ambulance, inflation, etc. but no one uses them. We use televizia, amboulance, inflatzia. curse words are quite colourful and mostly are foreign by origin. most would definitely not have been accepted in Australia , much to the chagrin of Goldenmane's avatar

as a semitic language, it shares the same grammatical constructs with Arabic (and others) and it is a very simple and structured language. everything has a 3 letter root (some 4 letters in modern words), 3 tenses, 7 verb conjugations, masculine/feminine, singular/plural and that's about it. so you get a matrix and you can account for every verb. nouns are also pretty well governed by similar rules, as are all the funny dots and lines.

however, unlike Arabic, which has a formal and a spoken flavours, there is only one form of Hebrew.

</rant>
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  #15  
Old 10th February 2017, 09:17 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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Stub King said View Post
I am speculating here but it is possible that this word was reserved by jews for their god. the standard word for just any god is "el" (with "elim" being the plural). there is no plural for "elohim", or should I say I have never read or heard it. elohim is pretty quickly replaced with either YHWH or Adonai (our lord/master) or Adonai Eloheinou (our lord, our god)
I thought elohim was the plural of elóah.. eloah is the expanded form of el which is the Canaanite name for the supreme God in their pantheon, predating Judaism.

El as the supreme God of Canaan was found in Ugarit, the Canaanite city state abandoned in 1200bce. It was established in 6000bce with two temples one to ba'al, son on El, and the other to dagon.
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Last edited by joele; 10th February 2017 at 09:48 PM.
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Old 10th February 2017, 10:12 PM
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  #16  
Old 10th February 2017, 10:23 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

Sorry one correction Ba'al Hadad is a few times called Ēl's son as El is the father of all gods though apparently litteraly he was meant to be the son of Dagan, hence the temple to Dagan and Baal.

It is interesting, to me, that the pottery I linked on page one of this thread, even though there are clearly two males and one female, the ancient hebrew inscription only said YHWH and his consort Asherah. But in the book I have on it they say the other figure (based on other pottery found with it) is YHWH and Asherah's son, Ba'al.

So it seems some early jews replaced El with the war god YHWH as the supreme god (or simply merged the two) and at least some kept Ba'al as there child and dumped the other gods. Eventually, as seen just by reading the Torah, dumping first Ba'al in Exodus and then Asherah in Kings (verse linked earlier). Leaving the Canaanite war god YHWH as the supposed one and only god.
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Old 11th February 2017, 01:37 AM
Spearthrower Spearthrower is offline
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

I think, given the long period of history in which this took place and the complexity of how it took place, it's easy to fall foul of the tyranny of the discontinuous mind here. In one sense, Judaism can't have been a different set of beliefs and still be Judaism. Instead, some proto-Judaistic base assimiliated various regional beliefs, mores, rules and ideas through cultural accretion and assimilation. I think Judaism was very clearly influenced by both Canaanite and Babylonian religions, but there was something different at the heart that cast the addition of those 'foreign' beliefs in a different light.

There's quite a lot of anthropological literature on the nature of ethno-religions, but those religions are really quite different to the more centralized and dogmatic religions we're familiar with. Instead, I think it's generally best to consider such ancient religions to have been more like the Roman religion or even Hinduism today - a set of local and particular gods worshiped by different people in society in different places at different times and for different occasions loosely held together under a declared divine hierarchy by fashions, beliefs and conflict among the clergy and rulers and occasionally merchants.

Peasants engaged in a particular task that is related with a specific god might be more likely to make offerings and pray more frequently to that one rather than to the top dog; while childbirth, death, and other pressing life issues may require propitiating deities that are only sought out at the relevant times. Across a widely distributed population, the outskirts would worship different sets than the centre or their distant neighbours, while centralizing forces under political or power struggles from higher classes may cause shifts in support for particular deities in some locations.

I expect that Judaism didn't really crystallize until it had a book. Books have an added layer of copy error resolution compared to oral traditions, and the clergy becomes a stronger force if they're all prattling off the same fairy tale song sheet thereby fixing the approved gods and forms of worship over generations and becoming something more coherent and identifiable as a larger and more organized religion.
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Old 11th February 2017, 09:01 AM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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joele said View Post
I thought elohim was the plural of elóah.. eloah is the expanded form of el which is the Canaanite name for the supreme God in their pantheon, predating Judaism.

El as the supreme God of Canaan was found in Ugarit, the Canaanite city state abandoned in 1200bce. It was established in 6000bce with two temples one to ba'al, son on El, and the other to dagon.
probably. what I was pointing out was that the word is used as a singular noun. I am not aware of anywhere where it is used to mean the jewish god and it is also used in the plural. in other words, if you replaced all occurrences of elohim in the bible with the pronoun "he", the resulting text would be grammatically correct.
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Old 11th February 2017, 10:30 AM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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probably. what I was pointing out was that the word is used as a singular noun. I am not aware of anywhere where it is used to mean the jewish god and it is also used in the plural. in other words, if you replaced all occurrences of elohim in the bible with the pronoun "he", the resulting text would be grammatically correct.
ohh I don't doubt it is used as a singular noun, at mount scopus we were always taught it was an exception, i.e. it should be the plural of Eloah but isn't despite its etymology (always felt like a case of special pleading to me). I guess it would be very inconvenient to many if they accepted the plural Canaanite origin of the word. There is a bit of weird stuff going on in those early books that is translated or explained away differently now like the Asherah pole in the temple. To be expected I guess as the core of the faith solidified from polytheistic origins/sources into the monotheistic faith we eventually saw.
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Last edited by joele; 11th February 2017 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 11th February 2017, 05:29 PM
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Default Re: Was Judaism Originally Polytheistic?

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ohh I don't doubt it is used as a singular noun, at mount scopus we were always taught it was an exception, i.e. it should be the plural of Eloah but isn't despite its etymology (always felt like a case of special pleading to me). I guess it would be very inconvenient to many if they accepted the plural Canaanite origin of the word. There is a bit of weird stuff going on in those early books that is translated or explained away differently now like the Asherah pole in the temple. To be expected I guess as the core of the faith solidified from polytheistic origins/sources into the monotheistic faith we eventually saw.
tbh, who knows. the earliest bibles we have are centuries older than the original. while jewish scribes are very disciplined and follow strict protocols, who knows what it was 1500 years ago. it could have been Eloah to start with.

though I don't think it would be inconvenient. religious jews don't care about etymology or the evolution of religion in a cultural and historical context. god revealed himself to Abraham. end of story. same as trying to point out to christians the context of xmas as a pagan ritual.
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