Monday, April 20, 2020

What's a believer to do?

Growing up in the church, I was taught from a young age that there is only one God. I was aware that other peoples in the Bible worshipped other gods, but I knew them only as “fake” and “bad.” They did not warrant any attention because they were not real. To the extent that we did discuss the gods of other peoples in the Bible, we contrasted them to the one true God. There was no room for acknowledging similarity between, say, the (“little g”) god of Moab and the (“big G”) God of Israel. One was fake and one was real. End of story.

I am still a person of faith grounded in my belief in one, true God. However, I no longer feel that beliefs about other deities in the ancient world are irrelevant to my faith. Beliefs about the God of Israel did not emerge in a void. The ancient world was full of ideas about the gods and how they interacted with the human and natural world, and the Israelites were clearly familiar with these other peoples and their deities.

Whether the earliest Israelites themselves worshipped one god or many—a question debated among scholars of the ancient world—we know that they lived in a world where the existence of multiple deities was assumed. Moreover, examination of these other gods and the beliefs and practices associated with them reveals many similarities with the beliefs and practices of the earliest Israelites.— Josey Bridges Snyder in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, p. 115

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