How do we make sense of monotheism elsewhere in the ANE?

It would seem to me as though Israelite monotheism was not unique in the Ancient Near East. Alongside the obvious examples of Atenism and Zoroastrianism, we also have a Babylonian text, (pointed to us by Irving Finkel) which would suggest that all other gods are mere aspects of the god Marduk, rather than distinct entities in their own right. From South Arabia, we also see the god Athtar, whilst the Sabaeans did not deny the existence of other gods, they saw them as mere intercessors for Athtar, the most high god. (See Hoyland: Arabia and the Arabs)

So it would seem to me as though all advanced societies eventually lapse into monotheism, it needn’t be the result of divine intervention. You could even suggest that monotheism is the logical end of religious speculation. In China, India and Greece we also find monotheistic ideas.

I was wondering why this may be? Is the Bible the result of divine revelation or simply good philosophy?

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While it would make sense for many religions to eventually go down to the worship of one deity who could sustain the people and cosmos, in my view is that while there were other monotheist religions in the ANE, we are to understand that the One True God, Yahweh revealed Himself to the Hebrew people. The divine revelation that separates the Judeo-Christian monotheism from the religions of the ANE is that the LORD sought a relationship with His people not merely out of service, but out of companionship.

“Lapse”? Interesting word choice. haha. I think it’s self-evident that polytheism collapses upon itself when anyone begins to think hard about it. So, yes, monotheism is the only theism that makes sense.

If the Bible were the result of good philosophy, it wouldn’t be so messy, and YHWH would never have instructed Abraham to bind Isaac.

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I said good philosophy, not perfect philosophy. I also don’t see how divine inspiration alleviates these problems, if anything it makes them worse.

But at the end of the day, I don’t know or care, what really matters to me is that the Bible is the most coherent path to God and guide to life, and a beautiful book which I want to be part of.

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This depends how one defines divine inspiration. Word-for-word dictation is ruled out. Other models allow more room for the human side of inspiration, but I’m not sure I want to swim in those deep waters without floaties on my arms.

Well said. As I Christian, I prefer to read it backwards. The Lord has given us an example to imitate, not a philosophy to comprehend.

Eastern philosophy is different from Western philosophy. I do not think that Eastern philosophy leads to monotheism. Nor does Western philosophy lead to monotheism as Christians know it.

The genius of the Biblical tradition is that it maintains that God established a covenantal relationship with first the Jews and then all people. None of these other traditions including Islam does this. The God of philosophy does not communicate with humans and is unknowable.

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Why can’t he?

Because the God of Philosophy is Absolute, that It Is devoid of relationships. Theoretically It might be able, . but by communicating with humans It would violate Its Absolute nature. I did not say it could not, but only that It does not.

The God of Philosophy has nothing in common with humans, so what can It communicate. .

One interesting observation is related to the rise of moralizing religions. These tend to appear somewhat worldwide in approximately the same era of the so-called axial age. So it is a question that many are aiming to understand as to why this was the case. Sometimes the answers proposed are just as simple as an increase in wealth:

There are also some really interesting studies related to the size of a local population group and the type of gods that they have. It turns out that certain types of gods and beliefs actually can limit the ability of a population to grow beyond a certain point. I’ll have to dig up some references for that.

And at the end of the day there are studies like this one that claim these ‘big gods’ don’t tend to follow after complex societies are developed:

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All theologians were classical theists until the 18th century. Why is this?

In the West the Roman Church was dominant and under the influence of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

Cart before the horse?

If God in heaven can intervene on earth in one place, then God could intervene in any place

If God especially revealed Himself to the Hebrews, perhaps He partially revealed himself to their immediate surrounding neighbors as well?