In my last couple of posts I’ve been talking about Jewish monotheism and henotheism as a backdrop to early Christianity. And now *here* is a something almost no one in the civilized universe knows any more: even among traditional pagan religions there were sometimes movements toward monotheism, or at least evidence of serious henotheism. Here is how I discuss it in my book Triumph of Christianity, in the context of why the Christian claims about their God would not have seemed completely unprecedented.
Scholars have long known of henotheistic tendencies among ancient (pagan) philosophers, who had come to think that behind all the diversity of the world, above all the manifestations of what we know and experience, there must be one ultimate reality that makes sense of it all. This principle of unity could be understood to be the ultimate divinity, and so some philosophers stressed the “oneness” at the heart, or at the beginning, of all things.
The sense of one ultimate divinity could also be found outside the ranks of the professional philosophers, among the non-philosophical, highly religious as well. In an inscription found in the city of Oenoanda in southwest Asia Minor, modern Turkey, appears the self-declaration of a god who terms himself a mere angel in comparison with the one ultimate divine being. In response to the question of who or what is God, here is how he describes that One:
What follows is a pagan description of what appears to be the One God. By a polytheist?? Keep reading. If you can’t, join the blog and you can! Won’t cost much, every penny goes to help the needy, no downside!