Ancient Monotheism

New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado discusses at his blog the concept that what we view as “monotheism” today is very different than how ancient Jews and Christians did.  He therefore coins some new phrases for us: “ancient Jewish monotheism” and “ancient Christian monotheism.”

These do not deny the existence of other gods, but only that the ancient Jews and Christians focused their worship only on God (or God and Christ in the case of Christians). He distinguishes these terms from a term other scholars use “pagan monotheism”, where there is a supreme God, but other gods that are also worthy of worship, or who are manifestations of the supreme God.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Hurtado’s points, but the fact that many Bible scholars are now agreeing that ancient peoples did not follow a modern view of monotheism is an important step for Christianity and Judaism today.  Things similar to those taught by Joseph Smith are only now being accepted by today’s scholars, which means it will take a generation or two for it to filter down to the masses.


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