How Many Gods are known to the Bible?

Only One Henotheism
Pagan Polytheists Finis Dake
Witnesses Origen
Elohim Interested Parties
Return to Answering the Latter-Day Saints...

Only One God

The pagans looked up and saw the skies darkened with gods mobbing about. Their population census of the heavenlies numbered in the hundreds if not the thousands. Unfortunately some modern-day organizations compile a similar census. But how many gods are known to the Bible? Only one:

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God...Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.'" (Isaiah 44:6-8).


"Stand up and bless the LORD your God Forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You." (Nehemiah 9:5-6).

And the Old Testament is not alone in teaching monotheism, so does the New:

"Jesus answered him, 'The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." This is the first commandment'...So the scribe said to Him, 'Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.'" (Mark 12:29-32);
"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!" (James 2:19).

Still not convinced?

bar

Henotheism

The Watchtower Society and the Latter Day Saints teach 'henotheism,' singling out one from their standing-room-only pantheon to worship.  'Henotheism' is a coined word meaning: "Intermediate stage between polytheism and monotheism; worship of one god by an individual, clan, or nation to the exclusion of others; term applies when worshiper has achieved this measure of unity but is not sufficiently philosophically advanced to deny the existence of other gods..." (An Encyclopedia of Religion, Vergilius Ferm).  Henotheism is most efficiently classed as a subspecies of polytheism, though the Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter Day Saints perceive it as a category unique unto itself.

The Bible does not teach 'henotheism', but 'monotheism', which is "The belief that the cosmos is a unity, that only one God exists in the universe, and that he has created and orders all things." (An Encyclopedia of Religion);


  • "monotheism...The doctrine or belief of the existence of one God only."
  • (Webster's International)

The living God is emphatic on this point:

"I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things." (Isaiah 45:5-7).

What Did the Pagans Believe?

There's a word for the doctrine that there are many real gods in existence: "polytheism, [Gr. 'polys', many, 'theos', god.] The doctrine of a plurality of gods." (Webster's International 1965).

The Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons say that 'there are many gods.'  Though this teaching meets the dictionary definition of polytheism, they insist that it's really monotheism.  According to them, the dividing line between monotheism and polytheism isn't the presence or absence of "many gods", but rather, that the "many" are in subjection to "One".

But what did the Greek and Roman polytheists believe? Were their crowded pantheons scenes of anarchistic riot? No more so than with their soul-mates of the present day. They, too, had a top dog.  Sometimes named 'Jupiter' or 'Zeus,' his supreme reign was unchallenged:

"This is Jupiter, the governor of the world, who rules all things with his nod, and is, as the same Ennius adds, -- 'of Gods and men the sire,' an omnipresent and omnipotent God. And if any one doubts this, I really do not understand why the same man may not also doubt whether there is a sun or not. For what can possibly be more evident than this?" (On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero, Book II.1).
"'In the midst of such contention, strife, and disagreement [on other matters],' wrote Maximus of Tyre, a second-century pagan intellectual, 'you would see in all the earth one harmonious law and principle that there is one God, king and father of all, and many gods, sons of God, fellow rulers with God.  The Greek says this, and the barbarian says it, the mainlander and the seafarer, the wise and the unwise' (Or. 11.5; ed. Holbein)" (The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, Robert L. Wilken, p. 107).

While in a sense Maximus of Tyre and his confreres were tending toward monotheism, it was at a leisurely pace: "For there are not only thirty thousand gods, the sons and friends of God, but the multitude of divine essences is innumerable; partly consisting of the natures of the stars in the heavens, and partly of daemoniacal essences in aether." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation I, p. 16).

"TO THE SON OF CRONOS, MOST HIGH
"I will sing of Zeus, chiefest among the gods and greatest, all-seeing, the lord of all, the fulfiller who whispers words of wisdom to Themis as she sits leaning towards him. Be gracious, all-seeing Son of Cronos, most excellent and great!" (Homeric Hymns, XXIII, (ll. 1-4).)

One can discover primitives whose pantheons are disorganized and chaotic, but the pagans of the world unto which the gospel was proclaimed were not like that. Such stories as they had inherited of warfare in heaven, they allegorized. Their pantheon was as strictly hierarchical as the Watchtower's:

"Let us explore completely this matter of the monarchy of the only God and the manifold rule of those who are revered as gods.  Your [the Christian] idea of the single rule is amiss, for a monarch is not the only man alive but the only man who rules. He rules, obviously, over his kinsmen and those like himself.  Take for example the emperor Hadrian: he was a monarch because he ruled over those who were like him by race and nature - not because he existed alone somewhere or lorded it over oxen and sheep, as some poor shepherd might do.  In the same way: the supreme God would not be supreme unless he ruled over other gods.  Only this sort of power would do justice to the greatness of God and redound to his honor...Why do we argue about names?...The one whom the Greeks call Athena is called Minerva by the Romans, and she is called other things by the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Thracians, and so on...Whether one addresses these divine beings as gods or angels matters very little, since their nature remains the same." (Porphyry, Porphyry's Against the Christians, the Literary Remains, Edited by R. Joseph Hoffman, pp. 83-84).

To my ears, Porphyry sounds very much like a Jehovah's Witness...so why is he attacking the Christians from a pagan perspective? Even at such an early date as that of Pythagoras, the pantheon shows signs of organizing itself hierarchically: "The language, too, of their philosophy is this, that men act ridiculously in exploring good from any other source than the Gods; and that their conduct in this respect resembles that of a man, who in a country governed by a king should reverence one of the magistrates in the city, and neglect him who is the ruler of all of them. For they were of opinion that such was the conduct of mankind. For since God is, and is the Lord of all things, it is universally acknowledged that good is to be requested of him." (Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, p. 53). It would stand to reason that petitioners should apply to the god-in-charge, not a lesser one.

However, while this viewpoint may be trending towards monotheism, it has by no means arrived at that destination, because a belief in a head god did not in any way render obsolete the plurality, including the golden-thighed Pythagoras himself, who let on that he was a (lesser) god and spoke to the uninitiated from behind a veil. The rights and privileges of the lower order of divinity were by no means hindered by the greater honor of the first god, who was their progenitor: "For all the Gods derive their existence as Gods from the first God." (Proclus, The Theology of Plato, Book III, Chapter III). But this is not what Christians believe.

It's undeniable there was a sharp conflict between the Jews and Christians of the ancient world and their contemporary pagan polytheists. The conflict raged over basic theology. Why would there have been any such conflict if the early believers had been Jehovah's Witnesses who joined with the pagans in confessing many gods, with one atop the heap?


Thriceholy.org


Both Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Smith would likely have read John Milton's epic poem, 'Paradise Lost,' in school. What is the theology which underlies Milton's mellifluous language? Oddly enough, it is a hierarchical polytheistic pantheon:

Finis Jennings Dake

Finis Dake is a modern author whose encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible made his Annotated Reference Bible popular with the public. Unfortunately the good things in this book are mingled with gross theological error, like,

"There is more than one Jehovah and more than one God as individuals, but they are one Jehovah and one God in unity, thus expressing the truth of 3 separate and distinct persons, beings, or individuals in the Divine Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one in this way, not one in individuality. The words Jehovah and God have a singular and a plural meaning, like our word sheep. Since there are 3 persons or beings, then the only way they can be one is in the sense of unity, as prayed for in Jn. 17:21-23." (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Compact Edition, p. 394 (235))

The doctrine denied:

The oneness of God is oneness of substance, not "unity" of agreement. The reader will have noticed the Bible proof of the Trinity is always given here in the format,

Only One GodThe Father is GodThe Son is GodThe Holy Spirit is God

These four propositions,

a.) There is only One God;
b.) The Father is God;
c.) The Son is God;
d.) The Holy Spirit is God.

...are not chosen for convenience, as if others could be substituted; they are the four pillars of this doctrine. Finis Dake shows what happens when you abandon a.) while retaining b.), c.), and d.).

Not only does count "more than one God," this author has revived the anthropomorphite heresy:

"What we mean by Divine Trinity is that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead, each one having His own personal spirit body, personal soul, and personal spirit in the same sense each human being, angel, or any other being has his own body, soul, and spirit. We mean by body, whether a spirit body or a flesh body, the house for the indwelling of the personal soul and spirit." (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Compact Edition, pp. 489 (280)).

Philosophical materialism teaches that the most real things are those things which are tangible and proportioned to the senses of man. The Bible inverts this system:

"...while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Far from being the most real things, material things are the last paper-clip hanging in the chain dangling from the magnet, which is God, immortal, invisible:

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17)

Finis Dake proposes for our belief the philosophical system of materialism, that the most real things are those material things we see and touch:

  • “Why would God tell us that all invisible things are clearly seen by visible things on earth, even to His eternal power and Godhead, if He is incomprehensible; if there is nothing on earth to resemble Him; if He is a bodiless being....if He is an invisible nothingness floating in nowhere?...If statements about God are mere figures of speech trying to convey some idea of Him, what ideas do they convey? That He does not have a body with bodily parts, or that He does? That He is less real than His creations, or that He is as real?”
  • (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Compact Edition, p. 489 (280)).

Notice that this author believes that, in contending for the materiality of God, he is contending for His reality; which is diagnostic of philosophical materialism. To this author, the conventional concept of God as a spiritual, i.e. non-material, being, portrays Him as "an invisible nothingness floating in nowhere." In fact, he tells us, God is a lot like you and me:

  • “He [God] has bodily presence and goes from place to place in a body like all other persons...He wears clothes; eats; rests; dwells in a mansion and in a city located on a material planet called Heaven; sits on a throne; walks; rides; engages in other activities.”
  • (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Compact Edition, p. 169, note on John 4:24).

This author does not tell us what God does with all the solicitations for new siding that pile up in His mail-box; perhaps He tosses them in His gilt-edged trash-can. He'll have to stretch to reach the trash-can, because He's of "ordinary size":

  • “What could Solomon mean by saying 'the heaven and heaven of heavens' cannot contain Him?...Surely the size of His body, soul, and spirit are not referred to, for He is of ordinary size as proved by the many personal appearances He has made to men.”
  • (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, Compact Edition, p. 751, note on 2 Chronicles 2:6).

This author bases his contentions upon the theophanies reported in the Bible. These theophanies are scripture and thus are wholly true. Do his conclusions therefore follow?:

Given the use he makes of God's 'feet' and 'hands,' I wonder what this author makes of His 'wings'?: "Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings..." (Psalm 17:8).

Where did Finis Dake get these ideas? Joseph Smith, the restless 'prophet'/genius who founded the Mormon church, is a great but often unstated influence. Owing to the ill repute in which the polygamous Mormons were held, few want to acknowledge him. But read Joseph's 'Lectures on Faith:'


Joseph Smith
Lectures on Faith

. . .and ask, is this distinctive set of ideas the same as, or different from, that espoused by the 'Word of Faith' movement? If these teachers do not acknowledge their debt to Joseph, they are plagiarists! In the case of Finis Dake also, many of these controversial and unusual ideas already are printed with Joseph's foot-steps, including the concept of God's spiritual body in human form:

  • "Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."
  • (Book of Mormon, Ether 3:16)
The Book of Mormon

Witnesses

The Jehovah's Witnesses assert that their "many gods" represent the understanding of the early church, whereas the belief there is only one god existing is a modern innovation. Is this factual?:

Clement of Rome
"But in order that disorder might not arise in Israel, he did it anyway, so that the name of the true and only God might be glorified, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, Section 43, p. 52, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes).
Justin Martyr
"'There will be no other God, O Trypho, nor was there from eternity any other existing' (I thus addressed him), 'but He who made and disposed all this universe. Nor do we think that there is one God for us, another for you, but that He alone is God who led your fathers out from Egypt with a strong hand and a high arm. Nor have we trusted in any other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.'" (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 11).
"And if any slothfulness or old hereditary superstition prevents you from reading the prophecies of the holy men through which you can be instructed regarding the one only God, which is the first article of the true religion, yet believe him who, though at first he taught you polytheism, yet afterwards preferred to sing a useful and necessary recantation — I mean Orpheus, who said what I quoted a little before; and believe the others who wrote the same things concerning one God. For it was the work of Divine Providence on your behalf, that they, though unwillingly, bore testimony that what the prophets said regarding one God was true, in order that, the doctrine of a plurality of gods being rejected by all, occasion might be afforded you of knowing the truth." (Justin's Horatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 36, Justin Martyr).
Aristides
"Let us come now, O King, to the history of the Jews also, and see what opinion they have as to God. The Jews then say that God is one, the Creator of all, and omnipotent; and that it is not right that any other should be worshipped except this God alone. And herein they appear to approach the truth more than all the nations, especially in that they worship God and not His works." (Aristides, Apology, XIV.)
Theophilus
"Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone." (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 3, Chapter 9).
“And having this prescience, and knowing that through the serpent error would introduce a number of gods which had no existence, — for there being but one God, even then error was striving to disseminate a multitude of gods, saying, 'Ye shall be as gods;...'” (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 28).
“But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God.” (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 34).
Athenagoras
"As regards, then, the doctrine that there was from the beginning one God, the Maker of this universe, consider it in this wise, that you may be acquainted with the argumentative grounds also of our faith. If there were from the beginning two or more gods, they were either in one and the same place, or each of them separately in his own. In one and the same place they could not be. For, if they are gods, they are not alike; but because they are uncreated they are unlike: — for created things are like their patterns; but the uncreated are unlike, being neither produced from any one, nor formed after the pattern of any one. Hand and eye and foot are parts of one body, making up together one man: is God in this sense one? And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts, just because he was created and perishable; but God is uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible — does not, therefore, consist of parts...If, then, he neither does anything nor exercises providential care, and if there is not another place in which he is, then this Being of whom we speak is the one God from the beginning, and the sole Maker of the world." (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, Chapter 8).
Ignatius
"On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased Him that sent Him." (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians, 8).
Irenaeus
"It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. . ., and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 1.1).
"How much safer and more accurate a course is it, then, to confess at once that which is true: that this God, the Creator, who formed the world, is the only God, and that there is no other God besides Him..." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 16.3
"Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it, — those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 27.2).
"Or, again, if (which is indeed the only true supposition, as I have shown by numerous arguments of the very clearest nature) He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father founding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, “by the word of His power;” and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined; nor is there a Pleroma of thirty Aeons, which has been shown a vain supposition; nor is there any such being as Bythus or Proarche; nor are there a series of heavens; nor is there a virginal light, nor an unnameable Aeon, nor, in fact, any one of those things which are madly dreamt of by these, and by all the heretics. But there is one only God, the Creator — He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom — heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the Church believes." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 30.9).
"Wherefore, as I have already stated, no other is named as God, or is called Lord, except Him who is God and Lord of all, who also said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM. [...] When, however, the Scripture terms them [gods] which are no gods, it does not, as I have already remarked, declare them as gods in every sense, but with a certain addition and signification, by which they are shown to be no gods at all. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 6.2-3).
"The Holy Spirit evidently thus declares by David to those hearing him, that there shall be those who despise Him who formed us, and who is God alone. Wherefore he also uttered the foregoing words, meaning to say: See that ye do not err; besides or above Him there is no other God, to whom ye should rather stretch out [your hands], thus rendering us pious and grateful towards Him who made, established, and [still] nourishes us." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 10.3)
“He says: 'Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.' For these words are evidently spoken with reference to the Creator, as also Esaias says: 'Heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool.' And besides this Being there is no other God; otherwise He would not be termed by the Lord either 'God' or 'the great King;' for a Being who can be so described admits neither of any other being compared with nor set above Him.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 2.5).
“But as we follow for our teacher the one and only true God, and possess His words as the rule of truth, we do all speak alike with regard to the same things, knowing but one God, the Creator of this universe, who sent the prophets, who led forth the people from the land of Egypt, who in these last times manifested His own Son, that He might put the unbelievers to confusion, and search out the fruit of righteousness.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 35.4).
“For these were two hands, because there were two peoples scattered to the ends of the earth; but there was one head in the middle, as there is but one God, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 17.3).
Tertullian
"The principal, and indeed the whole, contention lies in the point of number: whether two Gods may be admitted, by poetic license (if they must be), or pictorial fancy, or by the third process, as we must now add, of heretical pravity. But the Christian verity has distinctly declared this principle, 'God is not, if He is not one;'...That Being, then, which is the great Supreme, must needs be unique, by having no equal, and so not ceasing to be the great Supreme. Therefore He will not otherwise exist than by the condition whereby He has His being; that is, by His absolute uniqueness. Since, then, God is the great Supreme, our Christian verity has rightly declared, 'God is not, if He is not one.' Not as if we doubted His being God, by saying, He is not, if He is not one; but because we define Him, in whose being we thoroughly believe, to be that without which He is not God; that is to say, the great Supreme. But then the great Supreme must needs be unique...Whatever other god, then, you may introduce, you will at least be unable to maintain his divinity under any other guise, than by ascribing to him too the property of Godhead — both eternity and supremacy over all. How, therefore, can two great Supremes co-exist, when this is the attribute of the Supreme Being, to have no equal, — an attribute which belongs to One alone, and can by no means exist in two?" (Tertullian, The Five Books against Marcion, Book I, Chapter 3).
"If to Marcion’s god there be ascribed the blessing of the poor, he must also have imputed to him the malediction of the rich; and thus will he become the Creator’s equal, both good and judicial; nor will there be left any room for that distinction whereby two gods are made; and when this distinction is removed, there will remain the verity which pronounces the Creator to be the one only God." (Tertullian, The Five Books against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 15).
“But who is this good God? There is, He says, 'none but one.' It is not as if He had shown us that one of two gods was the supremely good; but He expressly asserts that there is one only good God, who is the only good, because He is the only God.” (Tertullian, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 36).
Clement of Alexandria
"God, that is, the only true God, is perceived not by the senses but by the mind." (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter IV, p. 117 Loeb edition).
"How great is the power of God! His mere will is creation; for God alone created, since He alone is truly God." (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter IV, p. 143 Loeb edition).
"One only, one in very truth is God, who made high heaven and the spreading earth, the ocean's gleaming wave, the mighty winds." (The poet Sophocles, quoted as "the truth" by Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter VII, p. 165 Loeb edition).
Novatian
“For we both know, and read, and believe, and maintain that God is one, who made the heaven as well as the earth, since we neither know any other, nor shall we at any time know such, seeing that there is none. 'I,' says He, 'am God, and there is none beside me, righteous and a Savior.'” (Novatian, Treatise on the Trinity, Chapter 30).

I don't quote these authors because I imagine them likely to be better informed on this score than God, who said, "...beside me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6). If He is not in a position to know, then who is? Rather I quote them because the Watchtower is ever quoting them, even though they do not agree with the Watchtower.

Origen

Once we get to the third century we encounter the Neo-Platonist author Origen, who does speak about 'many gods' in language similar to that used by the Watchtower. This brilliant man was, unfortunately, more open to pagan and Platonic thinking than he might have been:

  • “There are some gods of whom God is God, as we hear in prophecy, 'Thank ye the God of gods,' and 'The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth.' Now God, according to the Gospel, 'is not the God of the dead but of the living.' Those gods, then, are living of whom God is God. The Apostle, too, writing to the Corinthians, says: 'As there are gods many and lords many,' and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing.”
  • (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 1, Chapter 34).

This author cannot realistically be described as the originator of the Watchtower view, however, given that the gnostics were openly polytheistic; as were, of course, the pagans. The very first spokesman for this god-count is he who spoke in the garden of "gods," in the plural. Origen did, however, open a door, through which he himself did not go; but in generations to come, Arius and company did venture through and came to a bad conclusion.

Elohim

  • “If we are taken to task for believing in operating 'Gods' and 'Spirits' while rejecting a personal God, we answer to the Theists and Monotheists: 'Admit that your Jehovah is one of the Elohim, and we are ready to recognize him. Make of him, as you do, the Infinite, the ONE and the Eternal God, and we will never accept him in this character.'”
  • (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Kindle location 41334, SD Vol. 1, p. 492).

A pagan polytheist like Madame Helena P. Blavatsky has no special objection to the deity of Jehovah, provided He is understood to be one of a crowd. As she points out, there are plural references in the Bible: "Now in the original texts it is not 'god' but Elohim, — and we challenge contradiction — and Jehovah is one of the Elohim, as proved by his own words in Genesis iii. 22, when 'the Lord God said: Behold the Man has become as one of us,' etc." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, SD Vol. 1, pp. 492-493, Kindle location 41392).

What is the meaning of a plural reference like 'one of us'? Does it, indeed, as she claims, vindicate pagan polytheism? The claim is made that there are many gods, because the Hebrew word 'Elohim,' 'God,' is plural in form:

"The monotheists have taken (and are still taking) advantage of the profound esotericism of the Kabbalah to apply the name by which the One Supreme Essence is known to ITS manifestation, the Sephiroth-Elohim, and call it Jehovah. But this is quite arbitrary and against all reason and logic, as the term Elohim is a plural noun. . ." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, pp. 129-130 Secret Doctrine, Kindle location 27201.)

Why is this reference plural?

Up

Interested Parties

The inter-testamental literature of the Jews, though never counted by them in the canon of scripture, assents to the general trend:

"I, like my brothers, surrender my body and my life for the laws of our father. I appeal to God to show mercy speedily to his people and by whips and scourges to bring you to admit that he alone is God." (2 Maccabees 7:37-38).

"Have pity on us, O Lord, thou God of all; look down, and send thy terror upon all nations. Raise thy hand against the heathen, and let them see thy power. . .Let them learn, as we also have learned, that there is no God but only thou, O Lord." (Ecclesiasticus 36:1-5).

While these works are not authoritative to the Christian, they do show an unbroken chain between the revelations of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament era.

Up