The Stewed Owl -
The Stewed Owl -
To be fair, a religious culture can be monotheistic and still recognize the eixstence of different exclusively spiriutual beings. An angel or a demon is recognized as having sufficient manifest power to be thought of as a deity or a god if one existed in the absence of other non-corporeal spiritual beings. And this seemed to be the nature of worship in the ancient world. Religion was tied to the concept of nationalism or tribalism, with each culture or polis having its divine being it worshipped. The Jewish, and later the Christian religious leaders quite clearly recognized this from the extant writings in the Tanakh and the Bible. They did not think that pagan gods did not exist - they clearly thought that they did, and that the pagans' "false gods" were real beings, malignant fallen spirits that demanded chid sacrifice, human sacrifice, abhorrent sexual rituals, castration, etc. Jews and Christians also believed that there were orders of powerful exclusively spiritual beings - angels, cherubim, seraphim, saints, etc.- under the command of the one true God. The break between the earlier pagan faiths and the (and here the phrase is useful) Judaeo-Christian apprehension of God is ontological - the concept that God is the supreme being among any other spiritual being, omnidigerent, omnipotent, omniscient. The other pagan deities did not have all these characteristics.
This is actually the historical answer to the modern atheist argument that "You don't believe in Thor, Quetzalcoatl, Zeus, Moloch, etc. I just believe in one less god than you." Moses, Paul and other explicators of their faiths did not believe the pagan gods did not exist, they thought they were real beings and malignant. This is why the original rite of Christian baptism contained a minor exorcism - it was thought that converts from pagan religions still could be carrying the malign influnences of the fallen spirits that were worshipped in their former reigions.
Interesting question what Moses did believe....
maybe henotheism or monolatry
I believe you could boil it down to theological point on believing a God exists and believing in God.
I don't think it they would deny that Pharoah's priests had power, just that it was derived from weaker deities. The language in the conquest for Canaan wasn't our God is the only God that exists but rather our God is greater. The only God worthy of worship.
Agreed. "Your gods are just gods, ours is God." Very explicitly, the pagan gods were thought to be demons, per the early church fathers and Jewish prophets.
the Israelites were polytheists for centuries before this gave up these other gods.......
thus its not really fair to say they thought of pagan gods as demons, as they worshipped some of them too
Well, as okiebug said, the continuing thread in the Tanakh is the wavering faith of the Israelites, who seemed willing to chase after the latest pagan religious fad at the drop of a hat or a wink from a temple prostitute. Many of the strictures placed on them seemed to be designed to try to prevent them, not always successfully, from such polytheistic dalliances. Not all of the Israelites followed those practices, obviously.
Certainly, the textual evidence supports the idea that the deities of the pagans were seen as demons by Jewish doctrine:
They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood (Psalm 106:34-38)
They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known (Deut 32:16-17).
For you provoked your Maker with sacrifices to demons and not to God; You forgot the eternal God who nourished you, and you grieved Jerusalem who nurtured you (Baruch 4:7-8)