Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the one God & the other gods /

Η Εβδομήκοντα,
ο ένας Θεός και οι άλλοι θεοί

Θεοὺς οὐ κακολογήσεις
καὶ ἄρχοντα τοῦ λαοῦ σου οὐ κακῶς ἐρεῖς.

You shall not revile gods,
and you shall not speak ill of your people's rulers.

Έξοδος 22:28, O' / Exodus 22:28, NETS

The most important theological point that is conveyed by the Shema' and the Ten Commandments is that Israel should worship only the one true God. Originally, the commandment to worship only the God of Israel did not constitute a denial that there were other gods. By our period, however, Jews had come to the view that the other gods were not real gods. In technical terms, Judaism progressed from henotheism (our God is God number one) and monolatry (we worship him alone) to monotheism (our God is the only real God; him alone we worship).

The first of the Ten Commandments forbids the worship of other gods, the
second the making of'graven images', or, indeed, 'any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth' (Ex. 20.3-4; Deut. 5.7-8). The Shema' specifies that the Lord God is one, which in the first century implied strict monotheism: the one Lord is the only Lord. Jewish sensitivity to these commandments was high.

Sensitivity increased as one got closer to the temple. The world was densely
populated with statues of various gods, and Jews did not go around the world trying to pull them down. Fortunately, the translators of the Septuagint provided Greek-speaking Jews with a biblical justification for tolerance of Gentile gods. The Hebrew of Ex. 22.27 means 'you shall not revile God', but 'God' is plural, as is usually the case: Hebrew distinguished the God of Israel from any other god by using the plural for the singular Israelite deity. In this particular verse (LXX and ET 22.28), the Septuagint kept the plural, so that in Greek the commandment read, 'you shall not revile the gods'. Both Philo and Josephus interpreted this to mean that Jews were forbidden to blaspheme other people's gods, and Josephus extended the law, so that it prohibited them from robbing foreign temples and taking treasure (for example, in war) that had been dedicated to other gods. Philo also construed Lev. 24.15 (do not curse God) to mean do not curse the gods of the cities. Jews tolerated temples built for other gods, both outside Palestine and in the cities of Palestine where Gentiles lived (e.g. Caesarea).

* E. P. Sanders,
Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE-66 CE
[Ιουδαϊσμός: Οι Πρακτικές και τα Πιστεύω, 63 ΠΚΧ-66 ΚΧ],
Trinity Press International; SCM Press, 1992,
p./σ. 242.

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