Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One or More

When engaged in a discussion or debate with a fundamentalist Christian -- one who believes in the literal and inerrant Bible -- it's not uncommon for a non-theist to bring up Genesis 1:26.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
This verse presents a grave problem for the modern-day believer. It clearly indicates that there is more than one God by use of the words "us" and "our" instead of "me" and "my".

The biblical literalist must now perform a shuck and jive dance to try to show that what this verse clearly states is not what it means, while concurrently sticking to their mantra of a literal and inerrant document. It is often a wonder to behold!

As Robert Wright points out in The Evolution of God, the more likely explanation is that, at this point in Jewish history, religious thought had not yet evolved from polytheism to monotheism. While Yahweh may have been the chief God, it was understood by all involved that he certainly wasn't the ONLY God.

Wright expounds on this point further in a way that, frankly, I had never considered before.
The scriptures warn Israelites not to "serve other gods and bow down to them" lest "the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you." Would the Bible's authors (here and elsewhere) have warned against "serving" other gods if those gods didn't even exist? And would Yahweh have declared himself a "jealous god" if there were no other gods to be jealous of?


  1. Hi all, first post here (enjoying the blog immensely, I might add).

    I was exposed to fundamentalism as a child, and spent (wasted) 14 years of my adulthood in an evangelical "fundy-lite" church, so I know how this would be explained away. Genesis 1:26 gives fundamentalist Christians no problem, as they use it as proof of the Trinity (they don't believe the Trinity just popped up in New Testament times, but that it always existed). They also do not accept any modernist theories that monotheism developed out of polytheism. Fundamentalists believe that polytheism developed after the fall of man. They are very good at reading their beliefs into the Bible, rather than reading the Bible to determine their beliefs.

  2. Hi Joy,
    Of course, I DO realize your point is a good one. I've engaged in a great many theological debates with fundamentalists and they always seem capable of pulling an inside-out rabbit out of a hat when it suits their needs. :-)


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