Were the ancient Israelites really polytheistic?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Ilikeponies579, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. Ilikeponies579 Registered Member

    I've heard that Judaism has it's roots in ancient Canaanite religion with elements of Babylonian religion, I know that both were polytheistic, but what is their connection Judaism?

    Is the god of Judaism really called Yahweh?

    Would someone please help me see the connection?
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  3. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

    Thats actually a complex question with a complex answer.

    Ancient people were all polytheistic. Abraham was the patron of Judaism. Abraham lived in Ur in Mesopotamia, a polytheistic society, and was likely himself polytheistic. If you have read Genesis, you should be familiar with how God, or yhwh, (who was just another god among their pantheon) came to him and asked him to worship only him, and to leave Ur and go to the land that God had promised him, where god would make him fruitful and make his offspring as numerous as the stars.

    At this time, Abraham still probably believed that the other gods among the pantheon existed along side yhwh. As time went by, God began telling Abraham that he was the ONLY God. And all the other ones were fake. This is a constant theme in the Torah. There are numerous instances of the Jews worshiping other gods, and God getting very angry about this. Baal was a popular one that the Jews frequently turned to.

    It's actually pretty apparent in the Torah that the early Jews struggled with the idea of there being only one god.

    Genesis and Exodus are really pretty easy reads. Not too long, and not too complex like the rest of the bible. If you read them, it will give you a basic understanding of how Judaism came about.
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  5. The. Ring. Banned Banned

    Why did God ask Abraham to go to a desert? Where people would fight forever, for the right to use the local well? I would think that God would have known a better place.
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  7. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    It's a bit more complicated than that. But yes, Judaism has roots in ancient polytheistic religions of the Near East. By definition, Judaism is monotheistic. But proto-Judaism, or rather the ethnic religion of the Israelites, was polytheistic at one time. It's estimated by scholars that the transition occurred around the 600s BCE as a result of the conquest and mass deportation of Hebrews to Babylon. Exposed to a foreign culture, they reacted with strengthening their own cultural idiosyncrasies and ethno-religious identity. Whereas previously it might have been nigh-indistinguishable from other Near Eastern religions.

    As far as Abraham and Ur: it's highly unlikely that most of the important people from the Bible actually existed. Just like it's highly unlikely that most of the kings in Greek myths existed. But that shouldn't matter. It's a cultural origin story, a mythos, and doesn't have to be literally true in order to be relevant or important.
  8. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I think there is hints in the old testament, that they were.

    I always think the old testament is the road to darkness, and the new testament is the road to light.

    So saying that old testament jews were polytheistic, from what i heard from old testament is probably true.

    The new testament is all about sun worship, but i do not know what the dark side of human nature leads to or worships. But i am sure the new testament is the worship of the sun.
  9. Jägermeister Registered Member

  10. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    You're essentially saying that polytheism is part of the "road to darkness". Which is enormously insulting to polytheists.

    Jesus wasn't associated with the sun until a couple centuries after Christianity came about and the New Testament was written. And even that's only the most vague association. It's a later thing and isn't contributory to the origin myth of the character.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The biblical Old Testament (which contains the Jewish Torah) has a constant theme of the Israelites straying away from Yahweh and worshipping other gods. There are also many injunctions in the bible warning and commanding the Israelites to have only one God, not to worship idols and so on. The fact that the writers of the bible had to keep repeating this point over and over tells us that there was a real danger that the Israelites would turn to other gods - or more generally that there were other readily available deities to worship apart from Yahweh. In other words, the bible suggests that it was a constant struggle to try to keep the Israelites monotheistic. If they weren't actually worshipping other gods, they at least believed that they existed.

    The bible also talks in at least one place about a magic contest between one of Yahweh's prophets (I forget which one) and a priest of the god Baal. If nothing else, this tells us that the power of Baal was considered to be very real at the time.

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