Job 38:1-7: Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me… Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding…. Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Exodus 20: 1-3: And God spoke all these words: “I am [Jehovah] your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”


Psalm 82: 1-7:
God takes His stand in His own congregation;
He judges in the midst of the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked?

Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
They do not know nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
“Nevertheless you will die like men
And fall like any one of the princes.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth!
For it is You who possesses all the nations.

John 10:31-39: The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.

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Posted by Keith E. Buhler

16 Comments

  1. Here goes:
    “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Is 44:6

    “Know this day, and take it to heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is none else.” Deut 4:39

    Less directly, the Bible constantly brings up the gods of other nations in order to illustrate their impotence. This is a recurring theme of the OT from Exodus to Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. I guess you could argue that the Bible teaches that there is one big chief god with bunches of little demi-gods running around, but taken as a whole, it seems far more logical to come to the conclusion that Scripture only addresses these gods in order to prove their non-existence.

    The first two verses you cite are pretty easy to deal with. “sons of God” is a term used throughout scripture for a variety of purposes. Even we are referred to as “sons of God”. Unless anyone reading this blog has delusions of godhood, that should pretty much settle the idea that the phrase necessitates believing in other gods. As for Exodus 20:1-3, it’s merely dealing with the historical reality that after 400 years in polytheistic Egypt, virtually all of the Israelites worshipped a myriad of gods, and needed to be ordered not to.

    The Psalms reference is trickier, and since I haven’t had an opportunity to really study it, I won’t try to tackle it for fear of missing the mark. Since it’s the reference Jesus is referring to in John, it seems that unlocking the meaning of the Psalm will answer John as well.

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  2. Are impotent people not people?

    Are impotent animals not animals?

    Are impotent gods not gods?

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  3. I wonder if one of the variety of purposes for which the term sons of God is used in the scriptures is to refer to the multiplicity of divine beings.

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  4. Can you prove the non-existence of something?

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  5. I get the Old Testament verses marshaled to establish the impotence of idols, which are wood and stone, made my man. It is possible (and it’s been done) to show that no physical statue is a god.

    But it also seems that, with the Pharoh’s magicians (Exodus 7) and the signs done by pagan people’s, that some kind of divine being is also present and real, though perhaps relatively insignificant compared to the Most High God.

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  6. Impotent animals are still animals, impotent people are still people (unless you’re Peter Singer), but that is because people and animals aren’t defined by any special powers. A “god” is by definition abeing with certain special powers. Therefore, an impotent god is really a contradiction in a way that an impotent human isn’t.

    Fine, then change that sentence to say “assert” their non-existence. Although, I would argue that if God is divine and omniscient, and he says that there are no other gods, that is proof of non-existence. The reason people argue that you cannot prove non-existence is because we are finite, with a finite ability to measure the universe. God doesn’t have that problem.

    I think you’re kind of changing the rules partway through the game. We’ve gone from discussing gods to discussing divine presences. If you want to loosely define god so as to include anything not of the physical world, then yes, the Bible is polytheistic because it deals with a whole spiritual realm of angels and demons. If you want to use it in the classical sense of the word, i.e. an immortal spiritual being (or beings) of transcendent power, then no, the Bible is polytheistic.

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  7. The Old Testament is the Tanak of Judaism and the God of which it speaks is arguably a different God than the Triune God of most Christian denominations. I realize that this observation is an aside from your main point but it seems salient.

    With regard to the monotheism of the Bible [sic] your use of the term “most high God” and its appearance in both the Old and New Testaments speaks to your point.

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  8. Matthew Lee Anderson June 3, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    “The Old Testament is the Tanak of Judaism and the God of which it speaks is arguably a different God than the Triune God of most Christian denominations.”

    Arguably, indeed.

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  9. Hey, I qualified it. Since it’s arguable, what is your argument? Just curious.

    My thought is this: When the characteristics that one ascribes to God changes to the extent that it redefines His essential nature, can that person really claim to be referring to the same Being? In this case, it could be argued that God was Three-in-One all along but it was just not revealed to the Jews.

    The Moshiach of Judaism is not the Messiah of Christianity, Jesus Christ. This point is not as arguable as my last but you could contend that the Jews–the Chosen People–were simply mistaken about the nature of G-d and the Messiah.

    One’s head spins.

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  10. “The Old Testament is the Tanak of Judaism and the God of which it speaks is arguably a different God than the Triune God of most Christian denominations.”

    It’s not a good sign when changing one word reverses the conclusion without effecting the overall plausibility of the assertion.

    Watch:

    “The Old Testament is the Tanak of Judaism and the God of which it speaks is arguably the same God as the Triune God of most Christian denominations.”

    A new word, a new conclusion!

    Let’s try it again:
    “The Moshiach of Judaism is not the Messiah of Christianity.”

    “The Moshiach of Judaism is the Messiah of Christianity.”

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  11. “The Moshiach of Judaism is not the Messiah of Christianity.”

    First of all, Christianity doesn’t have a Messiah. It turns out the Jewish Messiah (or “the Christ”) is also the Anointed One and Saviour of all the world, including gentiles. Those of use who realize our former way of life was pretty much death and so choose to follow Jesus Bar Joseph of Nazareth are called Christians, and are forever indebted to Abraham and the Son of David for salvation, life, peace, and hope of eternal life.

    Gentiles are, after all, “grafted in,” to use one Jewish Christian’s words.

    Second of all, the question of whether Jesus is THE Messiah or not, whether he is just another false messiah (though the most famous, deceptive, and destructive in all human history) is a very interesting question. I think it’s the right question to ask. Even if I didn’t buy Jesus’ claims, and Christians’ claims about Him, I would know there is something special, something uncanny, something superhuman about the Jewish people. Their own law tells them that they are to be a priesthood to the rest of the world, and that through them God will bless all nations. That is eeirily likely enough that I recommend people look to the Jews for direction and support.

    As for the claims of the so-called Messiah, some Jews accepted him, and some rejected him. Paul, Peter, James, John, after all were Jews who saw the coming of the Messiah, or thought they did, and did the most natural Jewish thing to do: they followed him.

    Others, the High Priest among them, rejected him, and hated his uprising of fanatically zealous followers, and resent his work.

    The descendents of each group remain. Some are now called Christians, though, they believe themselves to be “sons of the promise” given to Abraham; others are still called Jews or Isrealites or sons of Abraham. The first look for the second coming of Christos; the second look for the first coming of Messiah.

    I accept that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah ben David is, for many reasons. 1. I trust him, and he claims that he is. He is the leader of my life, my boss, my mentor, my general and commander and my God… So I tend to believe him, and (as it is written) when his first disciples said, “I think you’re the Christ,” he said, “Blessed are you… For God in Heaven has revealed this to you.” 2. He fulfilled a bunch of prophecies about the Messiah, especially the “suffering servant” type prophecies, though he remains to fulfill many of the “triumphant king” type prophecies. 3. He did a bunch of miracles that seem to indicate he is either of the devil or of God. Some of those miracles included opposing the devil, and death, so it seems most reasonable to conclude that he is of God. 4. His disciples did a bunch of miracles. 5. His disciples still do a bunch of miracles.

    http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/212177.aspx?option=print
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/october/42.80.html

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  12. I can’t put my finger on it but it seems that we are always arguing past each other, Keith.

    Regarding your other point, any assertion is or is not correct so I do not quite understand why you felt it necessary to make it.

    The Mosiach came, was not duly recognized by the Jews, and a new religion, named after the unacknowledged Messiah, was formed. Christianity is based on the belief that Christ was the Messiah and was spurned by those He came to save. Without the supposed messianic coming of Christ, there would be no Christianity.

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  13. “The Old Testament is the Tanak of Judaism and the God of which it speaks is arguably a different God than the Triune God of most Christian denominations.”

    As you acknowledge, it can also be argued in the reverse. For example, in the light of Christian trinitarian doctrine, one could argue that the Genesis account provides a veiled reference to the Trinity. It also makes logical sense that some aspects of God’s nature would not be fully revealed right away. After all, the Torah was written as the Jews were leaving polytheistic Egypt. Moses was trying to guide them towards monotheism (and not having too much luck). Can you imagine if God had further muddied the water by trying to introduce Trinitarian monotheism at that point? “Unlike all the Egyptian gods, our God is one.” “But you said he was three.” “Yes, but he’s also one.” Heck, it screws me up if I think too hard about it now, I can’t imagine trying to wrestle with it under those circumstances.

    Another example are the appearances of the “angel of the Lord”. This angel appeared as a limited being, yet was worshipped and even recognized as God by Abraham. To someone who has the revelation of Christ, how is this not a clear forshadowing of the incarnation? The question is not whether some is “arguably” possible, the question is which argument is the stronger one.

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  14. That should read “Genesis CREATION account”

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  15. “The Mosiach came, was not duly recognized by the Jews, and a new religion, named after the unacknowledged Messiah, was formed.”
    I think it’s a better characterization to say he was not recognized by ALL of the Jews. After all, the majority of the early church was Jewish. Remember, they had to have a whole stinkin’ council to decide whether Gentile converts would have to adopt Jewish practice in order to become part fo the church. Good thing they said no. I REALLY like bacon.

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  16. A majority of the early Christians were Jews but a majority of Jews were not believers in Christ as Messiah.

    The phrasing of a statement is almost superfluous to the biases that affect the way a reader regards it. These biases are especially significant when one is evaluating the strength of a given proposition.

    Concerning bacon, I do not eat it because it clogs the circulation system of my Temple. Thanks for the levity.

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