Monotheism and Henotheism

Moses and the Ten Commandments

"Moses was as much a monotheist as was Hillel." 
William F. Albright, Biblical Archaeologist

In ancient times the choice was between one God and many Gods, not between a God and no God. James Frazer in 1912 suggested that religions evolved from animism through polytheism to henotheism and finally to monotheism. Some suggest it is an invention of the Enlightenment as well. I reject this since the notion of evolving monotheism likely emerges from a Darwinian worldview.

The Scriptures suggest differently as well as preliterate tribes and artifacts such as the Ebla Tablets. The Archives of Ebla, Pettinato (pg. 259) says, "Lord of heaven and earth, the earth was not, you created it, the light of day was not, you created it, the morning light you had not made exist." See the works of John Mbiti.

Henotheism is the devotion to one God (or god) in a polytheistic setting. The difference between it and monotheism is that it does not deny the other gods. Hinduism is an excellent example of how henotheism works out today since Hindus will choose a particular god to worship but not to the exclusion or denial of others.

Concerning Israel there was only one God, and sole devotion to this one God was essential. Following or serving ‘other gods’ was a cardinal offense, emphasized early in the OT. Particularly in Gen, Deut, Job and in Isaiah. It is interesting to note also that the book of Job is the only other biblical book that is set in an ancient pre-Mosaic period and clearly has a monotheistic view of God (e.g. Job 1:1, 6, 21). While it is true that some Israelites may have backslidden or went into polytheism or henotheism I think this was the exception and not the rule since often there was polemic against polytheism within the Israelites as well. Israel always exhibited hostility to polytheistic groups especially when they were not in a backslidden state.

El Amarna tablet
The El Amarna Letters (EA), written on tablets by Akhnaton of Egypt the son of Amenhotep III, are sometimes referred to as an example of early monotheism. Conversely, some have suggested that since he did not explicitly refute or deny other gods then it may be henotheistic. I am not sure we can just draw such conclusions based off of silence either though. These letters are "manifestations of the “cuneiform culture” that was shared in the fourteenth century b.c. throughout the ancient Near East."(1) Some have suggested that these letters partially speak of the Israelites, leaving Egypt, and entering the land of Canaan. The problem is however that evidence for the Israelite Exodus is around the fifteenth century which is not in agreement with the date of the Egyptian Pharoah found in the Biblical story. The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (BECA) states this:

it may be that the conventional wisdom for Bronze Age dating, and certainly the chronology of Egyptian rulers may need to be drastically changed. More research and excavations will be needed to learn what theories come closest to describing the flow of events in Egypt and Canaan, but it appears that Bible dating is more accurate than had been suspected, even more accurate than the knowledge collected in the field of study.(2)

In The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications D.A. Courville has noted that the lists of Egyptian rulers are not to be understood in a consecutive sequence either. BECA goes on to suggest we move the date to the time of the Kings and Chronicles. If so, "then all of the names, places, and events can be located...even to the names of the generals armies." Using Israelite history a consistent picture of events emerge. W.L. Moran, a translator of the EA, reminds us that "In some sense this history [of the Amarna Letters] begins at least a thousand years before the Amarna period."(3) The language of the letters are also a fusion of old and new words or symbols that were evolving in cuneiform culture.

In EA 19 we read,

"In my brother’s country, gold is as plentiful as dirt. May the gods grant that, just as now gold is plentiful in my brother’s country, he make it even ten times more plentiful than now." (59-70) (4)

In EA 189 we read,

"I went, and with your gods and your Sun leading me," (9-18) (5)

It may not be so obvious at first but the word or symbol for god and whether it be in a singular or plural use is sometimes debatable. Moran quotes Hans-Peter Adler as suggesting the subject (he) in EA 19 is surprisingly in the singular and probably an error. One expects a plural referring to 'the gods'". Concerning EA 189 Moran notes that "Perhaps 'your god' singular is more likely.

Since The Fall man went his own way. Once outside the security blanket and provision of the Garden of Eden man had to protect and provide for himself. The book of Genesis records the evil of mankind that was eventually punished by a universal flood. It also records men who attempted to reach the heavens. Genesis 11:4 records that man wanted to "make a name" for themselves and to avoid going into all the earth as God had commanded. They refused to be scattered. Biblical anthropology indicates that man rejects God and therefore rejecting Him as One is directly associated with their rejection of His One Way to live which as the prophet Micah would declare "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8 NRSV)

The monotheism that characterizes Judaism began in ancient Israel with the adoption of Yahweh as the single object of worship. Gen. 1:1 in the beginning God created is also a testimony of early monotheism since He created our physical universe alone. The explicit statements against other Gods do come later but the devotion and object of one God is clear. Again, in all the ancient world the primary choice was not that between a God and no God, but that between one God and many gods. Syncretism and the idea of God as a unity is also devolution, a degenerate form. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." AV This passage says that God is one. 6:4 essentially means God is one and given the context of the chapter it also means that there is one way to worship God. One quickly gets the notion of one referring to "one" as in a sequence, e.g. 1, 2, 3 rather than a compound unity. God is absolutely one and He expects each of us to worship Him in singleness of heart, mind and strength to the exclusion of all others who "would be" gods in our lives.

The NT brings us more clarity as well concerning the Shema and Deuteronomy 6:4 (See also Romans 1:19-25).

Mark 12:28, "And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:" AV

Galatians 3:20, "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one." AV

In both the Mark and Galatians verses the Greek word for "one" here is εἷς which is used over 370 times in the NT. Balz and Schneider say that it is "theologically significant for ancient religion, philosophy, and politics is the influence of the distinction between the one and the many. Early Christianity shares fully in the common ancient preference of oneness and the negative evaluation of multiplicity in its various manifestations."(6) It also refers to the cardinal number one. God has been revealed to us in the Old and New Testaments as absolutely, indivisibly One. One in being, and one in person.

JN Anderson


1. Moran, W. L. (1992). The Amarna letters [EA]. Translation of: Tell el-Amarna tablets. (English-language ed.) (EA 1). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

2. Geisler, N. L. (1999). Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Baker reference library (591). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

3. ibid. pg. 591

4. EA,

5. EA, 19:59

6. Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Wr̲terbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:399). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.


Facebook | James Anderson

Join James on Facebook!

False Prophets by Billy Bass

False Prophets by Billy Bass copyright © 2009 by: Billy Bass 
To purchase email Billy Bass - billbass09@gmail.com 

False Prophets is a concise and excellent Oneness apologetic. Billy Bass from Pensacola, Fla. distills 30 years of debating and studying Oneness Theology into this work. Since 1977 he has been presenting the message of the Oneness and New Birth. In this book he presents the essentials of the Apostolic Faith which includes chapters about Baptism, The Holy Spirit, The Trinity and Common Arguments.

In the first chapter Bass refers to the “order of things” that is present in the Scriptures. Its flow and chronology. “The birth of Jesus; His travels; His teaching; the choosing and training of His apostates; and His death, burial, and resurrection are presented in historic detail.” (Bass, pg. 9) He goes on to point out the different types of books in the New Testament canon.

In the second chapter a clear “Warning” is sounded. A clear call for the reader to examine themselves to ensure that they are following The Way, The Truth, and The Life. The second call are the words of Jesus to “Beware of false prophets.” Bass denounces the frauds and charlatans of today which are not necessarily the televangelists. “Most preachers today claim that just about everyone who simply mumbles the name of the Lord shall be saved, but Jesus clearly warns us that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” shall enter in.” (Bass pg. 12)

In his chapter on “Baptism” Bass responds to those who believe being “born of water” refers to the amniotic fluid of an expecting mother by saying “Nowhere in Scripture is any reference made to natural childbirth as any birth of water.” (Bass, pg. 32) The call to turn to the Bible for our information about Baptism is made and how did the apostles follow out the commands of Christ. Bass diagrams Matthew 28:19 and reminds us that the Scriptures do not contradict themselves.

In his chapter on “The Holy Spirit” goes immediately to the Day of Pentecost. He reminds us that “speaking in tongues wasn’t a work initiated by the disciples” but it was the Holy Spirit that “caused them to speak in tongues” (Bass, pg. 49) Bass discusses theological tensions in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19. In Acts 8 the Bible does not say explicitly say that the Samaritans spoke in tongues. Here he gives 5 arguments to consider concerning the Samaritans and this occurrence.

The chapter on “The Trinity” states that “The Father was in the Son, Divinity was in humanity.” (Bass, pg. 61). Here Bass does a great job of exposing the faux pas of the Eternal Son argument. He asks, “Was He an invisible Spirit, the Son of an invisible Spirit? Was He the eternal Son, as the Trinity doctrine declares? What eternal mother would have given birth to this Eternal Son?” Bass rightly concludes that the term God the Son or Eternal Son are not found in the Biblical text. In fact, the notion of eternal and begotten runs contradictory to one another.

One of Bass’s most quotable statements is “What Jehovah was in the Old Testament, Jesus was in the New. Jehovah was the I AM, Jesus is the I AM. Jehovah was the King of Kings, Jesus is the King of Kings. Jehovah was the Redeemer, Jesus is the Redeemer.” (Bass, pg. 71) He also points to the confusion of Trinitarianism by noting the 14th Century depictions of the Trinity and quotes from the 1937 edition of the World’s Popular Encyclopedia which says that the Trinity is “the highest mystery”, “the Jews ad to learn the unity of God”, “not even in the N.T. is the doctrine of the Blessed T. found in its fully-developed form” and that its “expression owes most of all to Greek thought.”

The last chapter covers 21 common arguments with refutation. He discusses such issues as "The Thief on the Cross," "Grace Through Faith," "God Made The Worlds by the Son." and "Elohim is a Plural Word." This book is a perfect complement to any bookshelf.

False Prophets by Billy Bass copyright © 2009 by: Billy Bass
To purchase email Billy Bass - billbass09@gmail.com 


Life On Other Planets by Dr. Raymond Crownover

Dr. Raymond Crownover

The Bible tells us God created the earth to sustain human life. We are also told that God was incarnated as a human and died on the cross to redeem human life. His death for sin was a once-for-all event. He will not die to save the fallen angels nor, we can be assured, any other intelligent life that might be in need of redemption. His resurrection guarantees that He is still both human and divine. His foreknowledge and eternal plan guarantees He intended to become human from before creation. Taken together, these pieces of evidence strongly suggest that there is no other intelligent life either in the universe or beyond it. Only God, humanity, and the angels possess the fully developed consciousness, self-consciousness, and spirit being that we mean when we ask about the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

However, there seems to be no theological or biblical reason to completely reject the idea that simple life may have been created by God on other planets. In fact, part of providing humans with actual free will (rather than the illusion of free will), would be to prepare the original creation with “both doors open.” In other words, the original unfallen creation had to sustain immortal human beings at least until some point at which they reached the stage of glorification and would no longer reproduce. Even if reproduction rates were much lower (as implied by God’s statement to Eve that her conception would be multiplied), and the earth was thousands of times more fertile before the curse, with five times as much living space before the Flood, it would seem likely that an immortal humanity would outgrow the carrying capacity of the earth within a relatively short time. Thus, it can be speculated that microbes and plants, or perhaps even animal life may have been prepared on other planets to ready them for human occupation.
 we know that the entire universe has felt the consequences of the curse of sin. Thus, it should not cause any doubt concerning the historicity of the Bible, nor demonstrate any irrefutable evidence in favor of evolutionary theory if future probes of solar (or extra-solar) planets showed fossilized microbes, plants, or even animals.

Of course, the Fall has limited our population and if we did reach some planet-wide population limit it would now be self-regulating through the massive human die-off that would ensue. Had God not prepared other places in the universe to be habitable, it seems that the choice to rebel and die or stay righteous and remain immortal would not be a valid choice. In order to preserve free will in actuality rather than illusion, God had to prepare as if both alternatives were viable,even though He knew beforehand which path we would choose.

Some might object that the vast distances between planets and apparently non-traversable distances between stars precludes the human use of alternative habitats. However, even if we assume that the light-speed barrier was in place in the unfallen universe, what is a trip of a hundred-thousand or a million years to individuals who a trillion years in the future would not have diminished their lifespan by a single second? This is especially true when we recognize that the monotony of such a trip would be completely relieved by the fully satisfying unhindered communion with God Himself.

But the fact is we simply do not know how the laws of physics apply in a universe that is not groaning under the curse of sin with the very fabric of physical reality unraveling like an old garment. Even in this dying and decaying universe, recent experiments in the very strange physics of quantum entanglement have succeeded in teleporting entire atoms across a laboratory instantaneously. While an atom is an amazingly small thing, it is still many orders of magnitude larger than most scientists believed was possible anytime in the near future. Would it have been possible for an unfallen human to use the uncursed laws of physics to teleport himself instantaneously across the universe?

Here on the other side of the Fall, we know that the entire universe has felt the consequences of the curse of sin. Thus, it should not cause any doubt concerning the historicity of the Bible, nor demonstrate any irrefutable evidence in favor of evolutionary theory if future probes of solar (or extra-solar) planets showed fossilized microbes, plants, or even animals. In fact, if such fossils were discovered, and found to be identical to or very similar to current or extinct earth life, this would be sufficient evidence in favor of Creation and contrary to some form of highly unlikely parallel evolution. If future evidence points to an ancient earth-like eco-system on Mars, no radical re-interpretation of the Genesis account would be warranted.

Following this line of reasoning, we must conclude that there is a possibility, however slight, that other earth-like planets with viable eco-systems once existed somewhere in the universe. It also follows that some of these alternative habitats for mankind may still be, at least to some degree viable eco-systems with at least microbial life, or at most complex animal life.

About Dr. Crownover
Crown of Life Teaching Ministries
(636) 329-1946
45 Cimmaron Drive
Saint Charles, Missouri  63304-7298


"Image of God"

Francis Schaeffer once remarked that if he had only an hour to spend with an unbeliever, he would spend the first fifty–five minutes talking about creation and what it means for humanity to bear the image of God—and then he would use the last five minutes to explain the way of salvation.

MacArthur, J. (2001). The battle for the beginning : The Bible on creation and the fall of Adam (43). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.


Arab Festival 2010: Nabeel and Paul's Arrest in Dearborn

Peaceful witnesses of Christ arrested by Dearborn Police Dept. on lies and trumped up charges. Spread the word!

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)