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Unread 03-22-2012, 09:49 AM   #1
curiosity
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A question regarding Monolatry

It's my understanding that early Jews accepted the existence of other gods (e. "the Gods of the Egyptians", "Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord" etc...).

If this is the case, I would like to know if the God of Abraham was believed to have created ALL of mankind out of clay, or if the stories in Genesis would only have pertained to the Jewish people.

In other words... did early Jews believe that (for example) the Egyptians were NOT created by their God (the God of Abraham), but that they were instead created by their own (Egyptian) God/s? (perhaps, Khnum or some other god)?
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Unread 03-26-2012, 02:33 PM   #2
FlyingAxe
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I think reading this will clarify the matter to you: http://www.chabad.org/library/articl...hapter-One.htm

In addition: As you may know, it is traditional among Jews not to say G-d's name Elo-him unless in the context of prayer, blessing, or Torah reading. In everyday speech, we replace letter hey with letter kuf and say (and write) Elokim.

But that word actually literally means "G-d" in plural. (It also means "judges".) So, what about saying the word when we say "foreign gods", "elokim acheirim"? In many communities, it is considered to be ok to say "Elo-him acheirim". But in Chabad circles, it is not. Chabad Chassidus explains that "foreign gods" are actually spiritual aspects of G-d's revelation of Himself. They are a part of the spiritual Universe which in itself, is an aspect of G-d. Therefore, they too are (in a sense) G-d, just the self-concealing aspect of Him. ("Acheirim", besides "foreign" is also related to the word "backside".)

So, all the "foreign gods" that you mention are not really separate entities or, G-d forbid, separate gods, similar to, lehavdil, G-d or Abraham. G-d of Abraham is the only G-d. Lehavdil, "foreign gods" are spiritual entities that are part of G-d's expression of Himself, which people in the ancient times erroneously decided to worship. You can say that the difference between G-d of Abraham and, lehavdil, gods of Egyptians, is the difference between looking at a person's face vs. looking at his toenails (to use an anthropomorphic metaphor).
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Unread 03-26-2012, 02:38 PM   #3
FlyingAxe
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Quote:
"Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord"
A more correct translation would be "among spiritual beings, there is none like You". It is similar to saying, lehavdil, about some person, "You can read his books and watch his Youtube videos, but there is nothing like having a dinner with him, one-on-one". (Or, "You know my father as his student in college, and other people know him as a friend, but I know him as a father, and there is no comparison.")

That verse is comparing the relationship to G-d through various spiritual intermediaries vs. through a direct connection available to Jews through their service.
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Unread 03-29-2012, 09:01 AM   #4
curiosity
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FlyingAxe - Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it very much. I read what was written in the link, and it is very interesting to read the Rambam's writings. However, (unless I'm wrong), the views and ideas expressed in that link are from the 1100's. My original question is regarding "early Jews". I'm trying to find the earliest references possible pertaining to "other gods", and to try to come to some understanding of whether or not the "early Jews" believed as Rambam did.

You bring up "elokim", literally translated as "G_d in plural". That is very interesting as well, and I meant to mention that, but forgot to. Since you bring it up now, I will ask: How are we to view "Elokim" (plural) as being compatible with the ONE G_d of Abraham?

Quote:
"So, all the "foreign gods" that you mention are not really separate entities or, G-d forbid, separate gods, similar to, lehavdil, G-d or Abraham. G-d of Abraham is the only G-d. Lehavdil, "foreign gods" are spiritual entities that are part of G-d's expression of Himself, which people in the ancient times erroneously decided to worship. You can say that the difference between G-d of Abraham and, lehavdil, gods of Egyptians, is the difference between looking at a person's face vs. looking at his toenails (to use an anthropomorphic metaphor)."
This is how I personally feel regarding the issue.
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Unread 03-29-2012, 01:10 PM   #5
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(Genesis 3:20) Chava is "the mother of all living."
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Unread 03-29-2012, 03:02 PM   #6
Iubelo
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Last edited by Iubelo; 04-09-2012 at 05:22 AM.
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Unread 04-01-2012, 01:55 PM   #7
FlyingAxe
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Quote:
However, (unless I'm wrong), the views and ideas expressed in that link are from the 1100's. My original question is regarding "early Jews". I'm trying to find the earliest references possible pertaining to "other gods", and to try to come to some understanding of whether or not the "early Jews" believed as Rambam did.
Well, Rambam is writing about what, in his opinion, Jews believed since the ancient times. Rambam wrote this basing on tradition (a continuous chain of oral and written teachings going from ancient Jews to Talmudic times to Rambam) and, as some believe, ruach ha'koidesh (Divine Inspiration). For most Orthodox Jews (including those on this forum), this version is the most authoritative.

If you think about, asking "What did ancient Jews believe?" is somewhat of a loaded question. If you find a work of a college professor who uses archeology and textual analysis to figure out what Jews "really" believed, this is simply his own opinion, based on his sources, biases, and approach to researching the question. So, if Rambam is dating to 1100, the professor is dating to 21st century.

So, yeah, there may be people who use different kind of approaches of modern social sciences and humanities to figure this out, but in my opinion (which is biased, since I am in natural science), their scientific method is quite imprecise. Plus, they suffer from bad knowledge of the Jewish sources themselves.
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Unread 04-01-2012, 02:05 PM   #8
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I've noticed this apparent monolatry too and my opinion is that the Torah indeed mentions foreign 'gods' ruling over their own Nation as HaShem ruled/s over the Jews.But it goes without saying that those 'deities' were already in those times deemed false.
There is a concept in Judaism that every nation has an angel that "rules" over the specific nation, determining its character and its path in history. The angels are not thought of as independent beings; they are tools of G-d for ruling over the nations and defining the nations' character.

Quote:
Since you bring it up now, I will ask: How are we to view "Elokim" (plural) as being compatible with the ONE G_d of Abraham?
Elokim is one of many Names of G-d. It's a somewhat complicated subject (the best source to see what Chassidus says on the topic, available in English translation, is Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas HaMaanas Elokus -- here), but basically, everyone agrees that Names do not represent the Essence of G-d.

Some people (those belonging to philosophical school) say that Names represent modes of G-d's behavior. So, when G-d is acting as the Creator of the world, He is described as Elokim. The plural number of the word hints at the nature of Elokim -- to create division and multiplicity.

According to Kabbalah and Chassidus, Names correspond to Spheroes -- aspects of G-dly Light, which is neither a creation nor G-d Himself, but more of an expression of G-d that is unified with G-d but not the Essence of G-d. (The book I referenced to above, as well as many other works of Chassidus, in particular, works of Rebbe Rashab, discusses what specifically they are and the nature of G-d's relationship with them.)

So, to answer your question very simply, G-d is one and completely singular and undefinable. At the same time, precisely because G-d is undefinable, He is also limitless and can express Himself in an infinite number of ways. Ten of those main ways are called G-d's Names and are the tools through which we relate to G-d. (Although there is much discussion in Chassidus that it is also possible to relate directly to G-d's Essence, even not through the Names.) Elokim is one of them.
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