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Are Jews and Christians Monotheists? Mailbag October 15, 2017

I will be dealing with an unusually important question in this week’s mailbag:  is it right to consider Judaism and Christianity monotheistic?

 

QUESTION:

Aren’t Judaism and Christianity really henotheistic rather than monotheistic? For example, even in the 10 Commandments it merely says YHWH is the only god to be worshiped, not that He is the only god. And in Christianity there is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, Satan, angels and demons, and in some sects, Mary the queen of heaven. And I would think all the pagans coming into the church would bring along their polytheistic thinking – perhaps that is part of the reason Jesus was elevated to the status of God.

 

RESPONSE:

This is a very good question, and as you might imagine, a lot of it comes down to how one defines one’s terms.   One set of definitions involves the actual terms themselves.  Normally “Monotheism” is understood to be the belief that there is only one God, no other; “Henotheism” is the belief that there are other gods, but only one of them is to be worshiped.   The other set of definitions is more a matter of categories: what constitutes a “god”?  Are all supernatural and superhuman beings who dwell in heaven to be considered gods?  For example, are archangels a kind of god?   Some people (ancient and modern) would say yes, others would say no.

And so, is it better to call Judaism and Christianity monotheistic or henotheistic?

My view is …

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How Do We Know What Jesus Said or Did? The Criterion of Dissimilarity in Practice
Were the Disciples Martyred for Believing the Resurrection? A Blast From the Past

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    jdub3125  October 16, 2017

    Can we presume that the idea that there are multiple gods lead to acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity, illogically that Three equals One, and the further absurdity that the simple woman Mary became “Mother of God” ? Who’s kidding whom?

    • Avatar
      godspell  October 19, 2017

      I’m not sure how her presumed simplicity has anything to do with anything? If she were rich and educated, you could believe it?

      My understanding is that the idea of the Trinity evolved over time, to explain how Jesus could be both wholly human and wholly divine.

      St. Patrick reportedly used to explain it to the pagan Irish (who had innumerable gods) by comparing it to the Shamrock–three leaves, one plant (I’m not sure that’s a sound theological argument, but botanically speaking he was on solid ground).

      So really the problem when preaching to pagans was not explaining the three part, but the one part. How you were only worshiping one God, even though you were praying to Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit (though I’ve never met anyone who claimed to have prayed directly to the Holy Spirit in my life–he/she/it isn’t very personable, and if you can talk to the boss, or the boss’ son, why would you bother with a mere messenger?).

      Since Jesus addresses God as a separate and distinct entity in the gospels, and there are references to the Holy Spirit, all three have to be justified, and yet monotheism must still be reinforced.

      Not everything in Christianity can be explained away as paganism calling itself something else. Judaism was the primary influence, and it was mainly a question of adapting Jewish beliefs to a pagan audience.

  2. Avatar
    dragonfly  October 17, 2017

    It seems to me henotheism is just a special case of polytheism, since you still believe there are a number of gods, you just only worship one. And true monotheism is where you get the devil and demons from, since in polytheism these would simply be thought of as other gods.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 17, 2017

      Similar but also very different. Not worshiping all the other gods was a really big deal.

  3. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  October 17, 2017

    Philo writes of Moses preexistence. Many moderns speak, whether they mean it literally or not, of babies being sent from heaven. Did early Christian writers ever claim that all human souls are preeexistent?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 17, 2017

      Most famously, Origen of Alexandria did.

      • Avatar
        Apocryphile  October 17, 2017

        I have to admit, this idea holds a certain appeal for me as well, being a Platonist at heart. Unless we take a completely materialist, positivist view of reality (in which everything not conducive to experimental falsification is simply ignored and labeled ‘unscientific’), we have to keep an open mind about everything. Positivism is actually rejected by most scientists these days as being a philosophical relic of the post-Enlightenment past, especially since Gödel’s Incompleteness theorem. I don’t wish to sound overly ‘spiritual’, but if consciousness is fundamental to the universe in any sense, it’s as difficult to imagine it coming into existence in each of us at our birth as it is to imagine it ceasing to exist upon our death. So perhaps Origin was onto something, and William Blake similarly inspired when he poetically speculated that we each come into this world ‘trailing clouds of glory’. This universe is already showing itself to be far stranger than we imagined even a few decades ago, and is likely to prove to be stranger than we even *can* imagine in the coming years.

        (As a postscript, I would suggest that we can’t even form an educated opinion on these larger issues without having a basic knowledge of theoretical physics and cosmology. Unless we know the bare bones of what Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle says, and understand the basic ideas behind the fine-tuning problem and anthropic argument in cosmology, we’re groping in the dark philosophically)

        • Avatar
          godspell  October 19, 2017

          I agree to this extent–to talk in ‘common sense’ terms about the order of the cosmos presupposes we know enough about the cosmos to do that.

          We don’t. We never will.

          Extreme rationalism is a logical fallacy–like every other extreme in human belief.

          • Avatar
            Apocryphile  October 21, 2017

            We know that the cosmos (the literal Greek work for ‘order’) is indeed ordered to the extent that the laws of physics are so finely tuned that were they even, in most cases, merely 1% different from what they actually are, this universe would look vastly different, and certainly wouldn’t include us or any other form of life. This is even more true when one considers the fine-tuning required of the cosmological constant – as the physicist Leonard Susskind points out, this is impossible to explain in any other way except by evoking either an intelligent designer or an infinite multiverse. There is no third option, unless you are prepared to throw logic and intellect out completely. If you’re unclear on this, I could suggest several books (sans equations) that would be helpful in understanding what I’m talking about. I agree with you that we may never *totally* understand the universe or why it is exactly the way it is through logical analysis alone (see my reference to Kurt Gödel above), but we must start somewhere, and proceed from what we can reasonably ascertain or hypothesize using our (admittedly) limited intellects.

          • Avatar
            godspell  November 1, 2017

            Worshiping the laws of physics is never going to appeal to anyone, and all it takes is one Einstein and we’re talking about different laws.

            We know nothing.

            Logic is only useful when you have concrete data.

            We still know next to nothing about the universe we live in. And if we knew a thousand times as much, we’d still know next to nothing.

            But enjoy the delusion of 99% omniscience.

            😉

  4. Avatar
    BillJ  October 18, 2017

    In light of Old Testament passages such as Psalm 95:3 depicting other gods, would it not seem better to understand the commandment in Exodus 20:3 in a more literal sense, “no other gods before my face” or even “no other gods in my presence?” This would correlate well with ancient texts from the site at Ras Shamra and the divine assembly found therein. Many Old Testament passages relate such an assembly. This would explain why the Philistine deity Dagon cannot stand in the presence of “the ark of God” (I Sam. 5:1-5) as well David having a household god (I Sam.19:13). In I Samuel 26:17-20 David speaks of being sent to serve other gods as well as being driven from the “presence” of YHWH. Can one worship the god of Israel anywhere but in “the land” itself? (cf. II Kings 5:17, Ps. 137:4) If Israel fought in the land of Moab could not the Moabite god take the upper hand? (cf. II Kings 3:27) Perhaps does this not emphasize the significance of being sent into exile? The early Israelite religion was clearly not monotheistic but such a belief was to develop in time.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 20, 2017

      I’m afraid I’m out of town and don’t have my Hebrew Bible with me to look up “the literal” meaning of the verse.

      • Avatar
        BillJ  January 17, 2018

        I was viewing a part of one of the Great Courses where you were discussing gods in the ancient world. Psalm 82 entered into the dialogue. If you get a chance you might wish to check the Hebrew text of Psalm 82. Of all the dozen or so translations that I looked at only the NET gives you the more literal reading, “God stands in the assembly of El.” Obviously this would not be a popular translation but the influence of the Canaanite culture cannot be neglected, one of the strongest being the infiltration of the royal ideology. It would seem that God in the Old Testament moves from being the God of a tribal league to taking the status of an ancient near eastern monarch where access to his presence would be an important issue.

  5. Avatar
    anthonygale  October 20, 2017

    Philo’s ideas about Moses sound a lot like peoples ideas about Jesus (who some thought of as the new Moses), including the idea of the second person of the trinity. I find that especially interesting considering that he lived about the time of Jesus. Do you think Philo himself may have been a source for Gospel writers, maybe not about the life or Jesus but a literary source? I suppose it might just reflect that similar ideas were already floating around, but if so, does that suggest that ideas in John, such as the concept of Jesus’ divinity, might date back to the first half of the first century?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      Yes, in How Jesus Became God I argue that the belief in Jesus’ divinity was early.

      • Avatar
        anthonygale  October 22, 2017

        Does that weaken the case that John must have been written later, considering that more developed theology is one of the reasons it is believed to have been written later?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Good question. But the case for John being later is complicated — it’s not just that it has a high Christology but the *kind* of high Christology it has. John 1:1-18 is far more advanced than anything one finds in Paul or the Synoptics, e.g.

          • Avatar
            anthonygale  October 23, 2017

            Is the prologue believed to likely be a part of the original gospel? I am not trying to make a case that John was necessarily written earlier. I just find it fascinating how it’s possible to change one’s mind about an issue (e.g. a Christology existing earlier than previously believed or deciding that Jesus really told the story about the sheep and the goats) and then have to reconsider other issues (e.g. the dating of John or when the idea of heaven and hell originated). It seems like one of those sliding puzzles. By arranging some pieces you might put others out of place.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 24, 2017

            It is often thought that hte prologue was originally composed separately and incorporated into the Gospel, but yes, probably before the Gospel was published.

  6. Avatar
    quiringwalt@gmail.com  December 10, 2017

    I am a marginal Mennonite. are you and I at all related?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 10, 2017

      Yes, we both derive from Adam. 🙂 (would my not being a Mennonite mean we are unrelated??)

  7. Avatar
    barryjones  December 18, 2017

    Somebody mentioned 2nd Kings 3:27.

    The Christian attempts to find something other than a real live Moabite god as the source of the “great wrath” which came against Israel, are abortive:

    1 – This great wrath likely isn’t the Hebrew god, since in the context, the Hebrew god is instructing them through Elisha to destroy Moabite land and thus force harsh misery on the Moabites…and that they would win the battle to boot (18-19). Hence God should have known that destroying the crops and land of the pagans who sought refuge from battle in their own city, would eventually drive some of them to desperate measures.

    2 – The great wrath likely isn’t the Moabites themselves, with renewed rage in battle after having seen the terrible sight of the king sacrificing his eldest son, since in the context, the Hebrew god promised that the Jews would win the battle (v. 18). God is presumably more powerful than the rage of the heathen.

    Of course, nobody can prevent Christians from dreaming up speculations to offer as a gift at the altar of inerrancy, such as that perhaps the Jews did something to offend God during this battle, so God ceased giving them victory therein. Unfortunately, v. 27 portrays the pagan human sacrifice as the point at which the “great wrath” came against Israel. One would think that if that pagan sacrifice wasn’t the real reason for this great wrath, the author, not wishing to mislead the reader, would have qualified his words or put things a bit differently.

    Hence, the ancient Jews did a less than perfect job of sanitizing their scriptures of all evidence that the bible authors themselves sometimes espoused henotheism.

  8. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 3, 2018

    If Christ is part of a Trinity then why does Colossians 1:15 say “he is the firstborn of all creation” or, as some translations put it “the firstborn of every creature.”

    Also why does Revelation 3:14 say he is “the beginning of the creation of God.”

    As a businessman uses a secretary to write a letter, in the same way way didn’t God use Christ as his instrument of creation. In this case who would receive credit for writing the letter and isnt the same true for YHWH and pre existing Christ?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      The doctrine of the Trinity did not develop until long after the NT itself was written.

    • Avatar
      barryjones  June 4, 2018

      “If Christ is part of a Trinity then why does Colossians 1:15 say “he is the firstborn of all creation” or, as some translations put it “the firstborn of every creature.””
      ——In Genesis, Ephraim was the second person born:

      51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
      52 He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Gen. 41:51-52 NAU)

      But in Jeremiah 31:9, God says Ephraim is the first-born:

      9 “With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.” (Jer. 31:9 NAU)

      Apparently, “first-born” also had the connotation of “preeminent” more than “first person to be created”. Sol Paul could refer to Jesus as a “first-born” without necessarily implying he thought Jesus was the first person God created.

      “Also why does Revelation 3:14 say he is “the beginning of the creation of God.”
      ——–“Beginning” takes the sense of “source”. The Greek word is ἀρχή/arche. Of course, nobody says biblical theology is the least bit consistent or clear, but it is also true that the famous arguments put forward by Jehovah’s Witnesses can often be refuted, so that the passage they cite does not necessarily say Jesus was created.

      If you want to refute the Trinity, cite to Matthew 26:39, where Jesus makes it clear that his will isn’t always 100% aligned with God the Father’s will 100% of the time. He would never ask to be relieved from enduring his “cup of suffering” if his will and the will of the Father were always in perfect alignment. This also proves that Jesus wasn’t perfect, lest we adopt a watered down concept of “perfection” by which pretty much any nice mature educated civilized adult can be considered “perfect”. The Trinity can still be true if one ratchets down one’s high view of God’s perfection so that God is like a committee whose members are in “essential” agreement, but then this would contradict the bible’s high view of God’s perfection, and disallow the Nicene Creed’s “light from light” idea.

      Once again, you should be careful to avoid trying to adopt some interpretation that causes all of the biblical data to harmonize. The presupposition of bible inerrancy interrupts the cause of truth the way a washed out road interrupts a Sunday drive. Matthew’s corrections to Mark’s gospel statements exhibit a pattern of replacing a lower Christology with a higher one, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that the NT contradicts itself on just how close to being deity Jesus really was.

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

        But didn’t Arius at the Council of Nicaea and several historical figures before Arius argue Colossians 1:15 meant the pre-existing human Christ was created earlier than the angels, His first creation.

        Was Arius wrongly declared as a heretic at the Nicene Council.

        Remember Emperor Constantine was baptized on his deathbed by a disciple who held Arius’ views.

        So was Emperor Constantine influenced by erring presbytery at Nicaea and the Roman
        Emperor
        might have later regretted the Nicene Creed

        That could explain some of the reason his successor went against the Council’s decisions

        or Eusebius may also have had some influence

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

        Actually it doesn’t if its translated correctly with the correct and right systematic
        hermeneutics.

        Systematic hermeneutics and theological differences affect the translations sometimes

        I’ve learned another system of hermeneutics also

        Some of it should be interpreted by look for the type and looking at how it prefigured the ante-type and the similarities in modern day historical fulfillment.

        Other scriptures have a literal sense

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

        How did Matthew correct
        Mark’s gospel?

        What Scriptures are you referring to
        in the two accounts of Matthew’s and Mark’s

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

        Didn’t some of Origen’s predecessors have some form of interpretation that caused the Bible to harmonize.

        There was some truth in the Alexandrian school of theology but it was watered down
        and misused.

        He had another system of interpretative hermeneutics
        similar to what JW have today

        • Avatar
          truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

          The pagans also brought in their teachings originating in ancient Babylon and has grown into the monstrosity known today as Babylon the Great

          Also some others have this systematic hermeneutics today

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

        Eʹphra·im

        Son of Joseph by his wife Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera the priest of On. Ephraim, the younger brother of Manasseh, was born in Egypt before the seven-year famine began. The name Ephraim was given to him by his father “because, to quote [Joseph], ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my wretchedness.’”​—Ge 41:50-52.

        On his deathbed, Jacob, in effect, adopted his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh and appointed them to be the equals of his direct sons. (Ge 48:5) Their father Joseph, who received the right as firstborn among Jacob’s sons, received two parts of his father’s inheritance by means of the tribal inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh. (1Ch 5:1; compare Ge 48:21, 22; De 21:17; Jos 14:4.) In blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, the patriarch Jacob gave the preference to Ephraim and prophetically indicated that he would become the greater.​—Ge 48:13-20.

        First Chronicles 7:20-27 provides a genealogical listing of Ephraim’s sons and later descendants, concluding with Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Ezer and Elead, who were likely sons of Ephraim, were slain by the men of Gath. Sometime after the death of these sons, Ephraim fathered Beriah.

  9. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

    If Jesus was exalted to a higher position after his ascension wouldn’t that make him higher than God if he was already equal to God prior to his ascension?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2018

      Yes, that’s the problem with thinking that Paul understood the pre-incarnate Christ as fully equal with God.

      • Avatar
        GregLogan  June 7, 2018

        Bart

        Your terms often are unclear (as are many writers on this subject). “Equal with God” has more than one sense – so the issue is “equal” in WHAT SENSE??

        In the sense of pre-eminence??

        vs

        In the ontological sense?

        Comment?

        Thanks

        Greg

        • Bart
          Bart  June 8, 2018

          I’m not sure what you’re asking. I spell this out as clearly as I can in my book How Jesus Became God. If you haven’t read it yet, that would be the place to go. (I explain the various senses in which Christians have thought Jesus was / is God).

  10. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

    True Christianity is monotheistic and has always been persecuted like Christ said it would but the Church that triumphed at the Council of Nicaea isnt the true Christianity.

    The Devil did it. The “tares” Christ foretold

    There are two forms of Christianity, one is false, one is true.

    Decide which one is true and which one is falsely

    The false church came to power at the Nicene Council.

  11. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

    Please research the immortal soul doctrine
    too.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10

    Psalm 146:4

    Job 14:14

    John 11:11

    AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY” (John 6:40).

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

      Christ taught the resurrection of the dead, not the immortality of the soul.

      How can the wicked have an “immortal soul” since immortality is a gift God bestows on the righteous

  12. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 6, 2018

    The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

    Chapter XLIV.-The Ordinances of the Apostles, that There Might Be No Contention Respecting the Priestly Office.

    Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office(188) of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions,(189) that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them,(190) or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate(191) those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.(192) Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.

    Chapter XLV.-It is the Part of the Wicked to Vex the Righteous.

    Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe(193) that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There(194) you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them. Exposed to such sufferings, they endured them gloriously. For what shall we say, brethren? Was Daniel(195) cast into the den of lions by such as feared God? Were Ananias, and Azarias, and Mishael shut up in a furnace(196) of fire by those who observed(197) the great and glorious worship of the Most High? Far from us be such a thought! Who, then, were they that did such things? The hateful, and those full of all wickedness, were roused to such a pitch of fury, that they inflicted torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose [of heart], not knowing that the Most High is the Defender and Protector of all such as with a pure conscience venerate(198) His all-excellent name; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. But they who with confidence endured [these things] are now heirs of glory and honour, and have been exalted and made illustrious(199) by God in their memorial for ever and ever. Amen.

    Chapter XLVI.-Let Us Cleave to the Righteous: Your Strife is Pernicious.

    Such examples, therefore, brethren, it is right that we should follow;(200) since it is written, “Cleave to the holy, for those that cleave to them shall [themselves] be made holy.”(201) And again, in another place, [the Scripture] saith, “With a harmless man thou shalt prove(202) thyself harmless, and with an elect man thou shalt be elect, and with a perverse man thou shalt show(203) thyself perverse.”(204) Let us cleave, therefore, to the innocent and righteous, since these are the elect of God. Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars(205) among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ?(206) Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another? “(207) Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how(208) He said, “Woe to that man [by whom(209) offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones.(210) Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continueth.

    Chapter XLVII.-Your Recent Discord is Worse Than the Former Which Took Place in the Times of Paul.

    Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached?(211) Truly, under the inspiration(212) of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos,(213) because even then parties(214) had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved. But now reflect who those are that have perverted you, and lessened the renown of your far-famed brotherly love. It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession,(215) that such a thing should be heard of as that the most stedfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters. And this rumour has reached not only us, but those also who are unconnected(216) with us; so that, through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves.

  13. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 6, 2018

    In the ante-nicene period was there sedition against the presbytery appointed by Christ’s apostolic successors and were they replaced by the according to their desires to
    2 Timothy 4:3 ►

    New International Version
    For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    Are the titled paid clergy and their systems of theology the teachers they gathered after the sedition against the presbrytery

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 6, 2018

      Clement, a tough it doesn’t appear he’s under inspiration, was much closer to the apostolic era and there was still mostly truth left in Christ’s congregation but gradually later the church went further and further away from the true teachings slowly but their was still no hierarchy class of clerical system yet developed until after Clement, if Clements letter is indeed authentic.

      It does appear that there is some error that already crept in at the time of Clement’s letter to the Corinthians

      That is why the letter may be a forgery

      But the person who wrote it may have been a Christian who deviated in some of Christ’s teachings.

      • Avatar
        truthseekerofallthings  June 6, 2018

        But the person who wrote Clement’s letter evidently had some knowledge of the problems within some of the congregations.

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 7, 2018

      However there are some sincere clergy but the have been misled because of the systematic theologies taught in the seminaries. The systematic hermeneutics is also a problem

      ◄ 2 Peter 3:16 ►
      New International Version
      He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  June 12, 2018

    “I completely agree with the questioner: the oldest forms of Israelite religion were clearly henotheistic, not monotheistic. When the Ten Commandments says that the Israelite is to “have no other god before me,” it presupposes there are other gods, who are actual gods. But they are not to be worshiped above (or even alongside) Yahweh himself.”

    My understanding is that these “other gods” were not gods at all, but whatever became more important to a person than the One True God.

  15. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 17, 2018

    A some say all true 1st century baptised Christians “ordained” ministers before the foretold later “apostasy” of a “clergy” and also a “laity” developed beginning in the 2nd century or possibly earlier

  16. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  September 12, 2018

    Bart, do we have any reliable evidence, or any evidence at all, indicating how many Jews (at the time of Jesus) lived outside Judea–from Babylon to Northern Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean, and other places? Do you know any figures or, if not, can you refer me to a study on this?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 13, 2018

      I’m not sure off hand, other than that there were way more outside of Judea than in it. . I’d suggest you look at the authoritative study of John Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora.

  17. Avatar
    themojofilter  December 13, 2018

    I’ve been wondering about the origins of the Hebrew God lately and would love a reference to a scholarly source where I can read up more on it. I would just Google it myself but as a lay person I wouldn’t know how to distinguish between a hack and a respected scholar. One thing that intrigues me is how the Arabs n Mecca before Muhammad worshiped the same God as the Jews, considered themselves to be descended from Abraham and Ishmael, and practiced male circumcision. When I was a Muslim this made sense but now as an agnostic I’m wondering when the Arabs borrowed these religious characteristics from the Jews. I’m thinking that if I can find the oldest sources for people who worshiped Yahweh that it might give me some insight.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 14, 2018

      Have you tried Karen Armstrong A History of God? Or Reza Aslan, God: A Human History?

  18. Avatar
    Michele  May 12, 2019

    Dr Ehrman,
    “You find this first, and most strongly, in the 6th-century writing of “2 Isaiah” ”
    The 6th-century is BCE or CE?

    Thank you,

    Michele Fornelli

    • Bart
      Bart  May 13, 2019

      BCE. None of the writings in the Hebrew Bible were written after the time of Jesus.

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