Other Gods 



Strange Gods Gods of Wood and Stone
Is a 'fake rose' a rose? Worship Him!
John Milton Counterfeit Bills
Dark Matter None Like Thee
So-called Gods God of this World
Moses El
Stars Prince of Tyre
Psalm 82 Lower than the Angels
Let Us Make Man Before the gods
The Witch of Endor



How many gods you count is a function of how you define the species. If 'gods' are 'spirit beings,' then there are many gods, angels and demons, shoving together to make room also for the living God in their midst. If however 'God' is the creator of all things, then all created things are ranged over on the other side of that divide, leaving One occupant of the divine throne. The Bible's definition mandates a God-count of One, and one only. Who, then, are all the others?:


The Idol Juggernaut
The Idol Juggernaut


Strange Gods

God commanded His people not to go after "other gods": "You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 6:14).

The Bible teaches that the gods of the peoples,— all of them, not some of them,— are "idols":

"For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens." (1 Chronicles 16:26).

An idol, in the broadest sense, is any god man makes for himself.  Since it does not fall within man's ability to make or unmake gods, the gods man makes are "no gods":

"Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?" (Jeremiah 16:20).

Though the Bible says nothing friendly nor favorable about the 'other gods,' the mere fact that they are mentioned gives encouragement to some readers. For a wide variety of reasons, groups such as the neo-gnostics, the Mormons, and the Jehovah's Witnesses, hope that if they kick the dead gods laying in the street hard enough, they will get up and fly. They find great encouragement in the fact that the Bible mentions pagan gods like Chemosh by name. What was Chemosh?: "Chemosh was a black stone in the form of a woman, that the Moabites worshipped as their god." (Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Volume 3, Kindle location 4019). Is it possible to make a meaningful statement about a non-entity, or a real entity improperly described? Say, for instance, "The great chemist Lavoisier, who was martyred by the atheistic French Revolution, discovered that there is no phlogiston." Sure, I just did! Indeed, there is no phlogiston, as Lavoisier discovered.




Gods of Wood and Stone

"You shall not make anything to be with Me — gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves." (Exodus 20:23).
"What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, 'We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'" (Ezekiel 20:32).

The Bible talks of "gods" [elohim] of gold, wood and stone.  What the Bible has to say about these nonentities, the "other gods" of the nations, is none too flattering; they are depicted as vain, empty, nugatory.  Far from being portrayed as mighty beings, albeit subject to 'Jehovah', they can seem downright inept:



"Woe to him who says to wood, 'Awake!' To silent stone, 'Arise! It shall teach!' Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, Yet in it there is no breath at all. But the LORD is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him.'" (Habakkuk 2:19-20).
"And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell." (Deuteronomy 4:28).
"Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come.  Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.  Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination." (Isaiah 41:22-24).
"For the customs of the peoples are futile;
For one cuts a tree from the forest,
The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.
They are upright, like a palm tree,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot go by themselves.
Do not be afraid of them,
For they cannot do evil,
Nor can they do any good.'" (Jeremiah 10:2-5).
"Why should the Gentiles say,
'So where is their God?'
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them." (Psalm 115:2-8).
"For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants. The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them." (Psalm 135:14-18).




The people who go in for this type of thing are not wise:

“They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, who trust in carved images, who say to the molded images, ‘You are our gods.’” (Isaiah 42:17).

Might a naive Bible-reader be forgiven for supposing that, when Isaiah says that the "gods" of the nations are "nothing", he is denying their existence? But wait!  Enter the Watchtower Society — why, he called them 'gods', didn't he? There it is — proof positive that 'there are many gods', just like the Watchtower teaches!




Is a 'fake rose' a rose?

There's an old conundrum, 'Is a fake rose a rose?'.  Noting that a 'fake rose' is called a 'rose', Jehovah's Witnesses botanists obligingly add a new species to the genus, the 'plastic rose'.  Except a 'fake rose' isn't really a rose at all! Words like 'fake', or the Bible's 'strange' and 'other', look on the surface like harmless adjectives, comparable to 'red' or 'pretty'.  But beneath the surface, they're voracious crocodiles, lethal black holes draining all the reality from the words they modify.  They are indeed privatives, taking away, not giving.  Just as a 'fake rose' is not really a rose, so a 'strange god' is not really a god, rather no god at all:

"Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit." (Jeremiah 2:11);
"And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them." (2 Kings 19:18);
"Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods." (Galatians 4:8).

So the idols — and all the gods of the peoples are idols — are not an inferior rank of second-string gods, they are "no gods." The qualifier 'strange' or 'other' negates, it does not establish, their true deity. And their future is not bright: "But the idols He shall utterly abolish...In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily." (Isaiah 2:18-21).




Worship Him, all you gods!

The gods of the nations are addressed affirmatively in scripture, even commanded to worship the living God: "Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods." (Psalm 97:7). Some say that this proves the 'other gods' are rational, sentient beings; how otherwise could they be capable of worship? One must concede they are equally sentient as other entities to whom praise is ascribed in the Bible, like the hills: "They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing." (Psalm 65:12-13). The gods of the nations will undoubtedly bow down before the living God. How do they do so?

Many of the things blindly worshipped by the nations are real beings, but not one is a real god.  Idols are nothing in the world: "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one." (1 Corinthians 8:4).

"For all the gods of the people are idols, but the LORD made the heavens." (Psalm 96:5).

At their lowest, the nations worship craft projects of wood and stone: "What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, 'We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'" (Ezekiel 20:32).  In spite of their numbing behavioral disabilities, even the idols of wood and stone worship Him, simply because it is God's good pleasure to make these deaf and dumb stocks and stones bow down to Him: "When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again." (1 Samuel 5:2-3).  These inert worshippers bow before the living God when they are carried helplessly off into captivity, unable to save the deluded souls who trusted in them: "Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast." (Isaiah 46:1).

Some of the gods worshipped by the nations are, not sticks and stones, but created beings of great magnitude and beauty, like the sun, moon, stars, planets. These real beings are not real gods, no more than is a lifeless idol. The sun is a creature of God, loyally attending to his post: "And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel." (Joshua 10:14-15).

Apostates from the faith of Israel imported sun-worship into the very Temple itself:

"And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun." (Ezekiel 8:16);
"And he did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the LORD..." (2 Kings 23:11).

Does the sun worship God? The Bible answer is, Yes! The sun itself worships God, along with every other created thing: "Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!" (Psalm 148:2-3). If the sun's worshipful stance toward the living God is to be taken as proof of his deity, the Jehovah's Witnesses will be left with an odd lot of things in their pantheon, a mooing and lowing "Divine Council," because "cattle" also praise the LORD: "Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl..." (Psalm 148:10). Even little fishes in the deep blue sea worship God and the Lamb: "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'" (Revelation 5:13). Hmmm...our pantheon is getting alarmingly crowded, and perhaps some kitty litter needs to be set out before it becomes fouled and the Health Department steps in. And wait a minute — since when is worshipping God a proof of one's own deity? Men worship God alongside the sun so futilely deified!

As to how the sun gives his testimony, it is by shining. "Things not endowed the comprehension, as e.g., minerals, may also be considered as glorifying the Lord, for by their natural properties they testify to the omnipotence and wisdom of their Creator, and cause him who examines them to praise God, by means of speech or without the use of words, if the power of speech be wanting." (Moses Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 115). All of creation, except for man and the fallen angels and demons, loyally serve God at the posts to which He has assigned them. They have fallen into futility through man's fall, inasmuch as their ordained purposes cannot be met, through no fault of their own: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:20-21). They haven't minds to formulate praises, nor tongues to express them, but neither did Paul pray with his conscious mind when He spoke in tongues: "For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified." (1 Corinthians 14:17). God accepts their testimony as they offer it.

Those who bowed to the sun, moon and stars were serving real things, but not real gods. "Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world— these they accounted gods." (Wisdom of Solomon 13:2). Hear this pagan call out to his gods: "With a heart on fire Claudius sprang up in disorder from his slumber. Then he raised both hands to heaven and prayed devoutly to Earth and Night, to the Stars that strewed the sky, and the Moon whose silent light was to lead them on their way." (Silius Italicus, Punica, Book XV, Kindle location 4673). Which of Claudius' gods is unreal? These are big, honking huge inanimate objects. And that presents a problem, as they may be somewhat lacking in empathy. Moreover, what Claudius wants from them, success in battle, may fall somewhat outside of their sphere of competence. The way the pagans visualized these objects: Apollo with his shining steeds yoked to a glittering chariot, — was fanciful and pointed to nothing real in the world. Still, at bottom, these are real constituents of the world system; there is a sun radiating up there in the sky.

Philo explains their error,

"There is an error of no small importance which has taken possession of the greater portion of mankind concerning a subject which was likely by itself, or, at least, above all other subjects, to have been fixed with the greatest correctness and truth in the mind of every one; for some nations have made divinities of the four elements, earth and water, and air and fire. Others, of the sun and moon, and of the other planets and fixed stars. Others, again, of the whole world. And they have all invented different appellations, all of them false, for these false gods put out of sight that most supreme and most ancient of all, the Creator, the ruler of the great city, the general of the invincible army, the pilot who always guides everything to its preservation; for they call the earth Proserpine, and Ceres, and Pluto. And the sea they call Neptune, inventing besides a number of marine deities as subservient to him, and vast companies of attendants, both male and female. The air they call Juno; fire, Vulcan; and the sun, Apollo; the moon, Diana; and the evening star, Venus; Lucifer, they call Mercury; and to every one of the stars they have affixed names and given them to the inventors of fables, who have woven together cleverly-contrived imaginations to deceive the ear, and have appeared to have been themselves the ingenious inventors of these names thus given." (Philo Judaeus, The Decalogue, 52-55, Chapter XII).

People are not in error to believe that the sun and moon exist, because they do exist. But it is an error to count them as gods, in spite of their great beauty, because they are created beings just as are we: "Accordingly, to one who understands how to apply himself to philosophy in a genuine, honest spirit, and who lays claim to a guiltless and pure piety, God gives that most beautiful and holy commandment, that he shall not believe that any one of the parts of the world is its own master, for it has been created; and the fact of having been created implies a liability to destruction, even though the thing created may be made immortal by the providence of the Creator; and there was a time once when it had no existence, but it is impiety to say that there was a previous time when God did not exist, and that he was born at some time, and that he does not endure for ever." (Philo Judaeus, The Decalogue, 58, Chapter XII). The true and living God has always been, while the sun, moon, and earthly sphere have all come into existence at some time; thus, they are not gods.

As the Talmud points out, while these 'gods' are no phantasms or non-entities, neither are they any real gods:

"GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: Philosophers asked the elders in Rome, 'If your God has no desire for idolatry, why does He not abolish it?' They replied, 'If it was something of which the world has no need that was worshipped, He would abolish it; but people worship the sun, moon, stars and planets; should He destroy the Universe on account of fools!" (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah 54b).

It's the same with the Persians, who worshipped fire in particular. According to Herodotus, they venerated fire along with earth and sky, and the heavenly bodies, all real entities beyond question:

"These are the customs, so far as I know, which the Persians practice:— Images and temples and altars they do not account it lawful to erect, nay they even charge with folly those who do these things; and this, as it seems to me, because they do not account the gods to be in the likeness of men, as do the Hellenes. But it is their wont to perform sacrifices to Zeus going up to the most lofty of the mountains, and the whole circle of the heavens they call Zeus: and they sacrifice to the Sun and the Moon and the Earth, to Fire and to Water and to the Winds: these are the only gods to whom they have sacrificed ever from the first; but they have learnt also to sacrifice to Aphrodite Urania, having learnt it both from the Assyrians and the Arabians. . ." (Herodotus, Histories, Volume I, Book I, Chapter 131).

The votaries of this imageless worship were not serving idols, but neither were they serving real gods when they thus served the creature in place of the creator. But fire is for real, it will burn down your house! This natural force would seem to have held center place in their pantheon: "Hence the Persians adopt fire, a diurnal statue, insatiable and voracious; and to this they sacrifice, supplying it with the aliment of fire, and at the same time exclaiming, O sovereign ruler fire, eat." (Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations, Volume II, Dissertation XXXVIII, p. 191).

We must concede to the Jehovah's Witnesses the reality of fire, yet without conceding its deity; likewise with the Romans who set up an altar to the god 'Mildew' in their city. 'Mildew' is no doubt a real, and pesky, natural phenomenon, but it is no god. The Lacedaemonian deities Fear, Death and Laughter, are unarguably real: "The Lacedaemonians have temples dedicated not only to Fear, but to Death, and Laughter, and the like." (Plutarch's Lives, Life of Kleomenes, Chapter IX., Volume IV., Kindle location 399); perhaps 'Laughter' was worshipped after the Toronto Blessing. One must wonder why the Spartans omitted 'Taxes.' These real entities worship the living God just as do all other created things, by fulfilling the function for which they were made. No doubt, those blinded worshippers who served empty idols like Baal and Astarte were serving nothing in the world, and how a nothing can worship is problematical; however, the god of the storm-cloud does inescapably have something real, a meteorological phenomenon, behind him. The blinded idolaters' turning away from the living God left them at risk of demonic imposture; but 'Laughter' is no demon, and neither is 'Fire' nor 'Mildew.'

John Milton

The idolaters left themselves open to demonic imposture, though there is not any one-to-one correspondence between pagan gods and demons, as if there were a demon named 'Athena' who had the characteristics her worshippers ascribed to her: "They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately..." (Deuteronomy 32:17).  Rather, those who unwittingly served demons would have started back in horror had they realized what they were worshipping. Demons are unclean spirits, no gods. The equation is clear: if demons, then not gods: "If, on the other hand, they are demons or angels, why, inconsistently with this, do they presume to set themselves forth as acting the part of gods? For as beings who put themselves out as gods would never willingly call themselves demons, if they were gods indeed, that they might not thereby in fact abdicate their dignity; so those whom you know to be no more than demons, would not dare to act as gods, if those whose names they take and use were really divine." (Tertullian, Apology, Chapter 23).

Demonic possession is very real, and is a feature of pagan religion to this very day. Years ago I saw a scary video of a voodoo service during which writhing worshippers certainly did seem to be possessed by. . .nothing you would ever want to know about. But certainly no god. One of the ways in which polytheism wriggles back and re-inserts itself into Christian theology is by taking comments identifying pagan gods as "demons" as if they were definitional; that, in other words, this condemnation tells us what a 'god' is, rather than explodes the pretensions of pagan theology. The Jehovah's Witnesses are offenders on this score. But the Renaissance was equally guilty; they repopulated the skies with pagan gods, under pretext that their condemnation as 'demons' vindicates their reality and their power. But this is not the case. When you say that the gods of the nations are demons, you are saying that they are no gods.

The Renaissance syncretism fails because these are not entities which have, not only real existence, but also the suite of characteristics the pagans ascribed to their gods. Demons do exist, but have nothing 'divine' about them. The reason there cannot be any demon named 'Baal' with the suite of characteristics his worshippers ascribed to him, is because those characteristics are already spoken for: the living God is the rider on the storm. Paul said that the Gentiles had an intimation of deity: "...because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts..." (Romans 1:21) — which they perverted with their own vain imaginings, parcelling out God's own attributes to a host of fictions.

The majesty and terror of the storm gives a legitimate intimation of God's presence and might: "The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: The God of glory thunders. The LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful, the voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon." (Psalm 29:3-5). The things of nature speak of Him, by their beauty and order. Intelligibility implies intelligence — and as these things are not themselves intelligent, there must be an intelligence behind them which brought them into being. The pagans did not miss that insight absolutely, but rather they divided it up inappropriately, multiplying 'gods' in the process. This is how you arrive at "many gods": "And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD." (1 Kings 20:28). One 'god' for the hills, another for the plains, one-potato-two-potato, etc...next thing you now you have a pantheon, complete with storm-god Baal.

The polytheists who worshipped Baal saw in the storm with its majesty and terror one god, in the sun in its brightness another, in the earth with its bounty another god, etc. The point isn't that there is a real plurality of demons or fallen angels, as if there really were a storm-demon and a sun-demon, but that the One God brings all these wonders about: "The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people...For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine." (Psalm 50:1-11). It's all His. The pagans began with a true intimation of deity, but lost it as their wandering imaginations pluralized it into a pantheon.




The pagans hymned their fictitious 'storm-god' with titles properly belonging to the living God: "And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire." (Psalm 18:10-13). This is part of the energy that powers paganism: there is a true and living God, and people feel this and see it, in the visible signs and manifestations He has shown in the picture-book of the world. The pagans took a legitimate intimation of God's presence in the terror and majesty of the storm and splintered it into a pantheon filled with phantasmal shapes and empty imaginations: "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Romans 1:19-23).

Thus their worship was taken captive by demonic impersonators: "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." (1 Corinthians 10:20). The reason for this isn't because the storms arise at the behest of a demon storm-god: i.e., that Baal really does exist and really does have the attributes his blinded worshippers ascribed to him; rather, it is God who holds the storm-cloud in His hand. Nor is the sun a demon, a 'god' gone bad; though the Aztecs; intending to worship the sun, committed the foulest crimes imaginable, ripping out the still-beating hearts from unwilling human victims to offer in sacrifice. Had you asked the Aztecs who or what it was they intended to worship, they'd have pointed to the sun — our sun, the very same placid disk we see in the sky. It was demons who hissed this plan of worship in their ears, because, like the Samaritans, the pagans did not know what they worshipped: "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22).

But there is no 'sun-demon' up there; the sun is a "very good" creation of God. So far from being a party to their crimes, the sun, in its brightness and constancy, serves in the Bible as an emblem of God: "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." (Malachi 4:2); "Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,..." (Luke 1:78).

Pagan theologians actively questioned how worship of their gods had originated, proposing rival theories. The anthropomorphized sky-beings they had inherited from the poets seemed to be sui generis, a species unto themselves, but there were hints they had started out as something else, before they were overlaid by story and fable. One theory was that the gods started out as features of the natural world, Demeter as the grain crop, Dionysos as wine, etc. Certainly some gods are no more than features of the natural world, supplied with a name and a personality, like Gaia, the Earth — and, yes, the earth does exist...but she is no god! Another theory was that the gods had started life as men. When you trace earthly dynasties back to their roots, you tend to bump up against a god, the first king of that nation. Men have often proclaimed themselves to be gods as did the Roman Emperors like Caligula and Domitian. And yes, men do exist. The poets of the Renaissance revived the pagan gods under the guise of poetic personifications, considering 'Venus' to be 'Love,' 'Mars' to be 'War,' etc. And yes, Love and War are real things...but not real gods.

So some of the things the nations blindly worshipped actually do exist. But not a one is really a god. There is after all only One!:

"The elders in Rome were asked, 'If your God takes no pleasure in the worship of idols, why does He not destroy them?'

"They replied, 'If men had worshipped the things which the world does not need, He would certainly have destroyed them. But they worship the sun, moon, stars and planets. Is He to destroy His world because of the fools?'" (Abodah Zarah, 54b., quoted p. 188, The Wisdom of Israel, edited Lewis Browne).

John Milton wrote several great poems synthesizing Christianity with pagan mythology, importing the pagan pantheon into the empty Christian skies under the pretext that the pagan gods were fallen angels. While the poetry is rare music, the theology is not so great. This paradigm is inconsistent with the Bible's continual harping against the pagan gods for their inutility and nullity.




Counterfeit Bills

If you have five counterfeit hundred dollar bills in your cash drawer, then how much money have you got in your cash drawer? Five hundred dollars...or none?

If you have one hundred false gods in your pantheon, then how many gods have you got?

"Moses when he is appointed to be the God of Pharaoh, was not so in reality, but was only conceived of as such in opinion. . .the wise man is called the God of the foolish man, but he is not God in reality, just as a base coin of the apparent value of four drachmas is not a four drachma piece. But when he is compared with the living God, then he will be found to be a man of God; but when he is compared with a foolish man, he is accounted a God to the imagination and in appearance, but he is not so in truth and essence." (Philo Judaeus, That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, Chapter XLIV).

La Somme le Ray, Honore

Dark Matter

To find out whether something exists in the world: say, 'dark matter,' — one first defines what is sought, then casts about to see if it can be found. Otherwise, how would one know when one had found 'dark matter' if one had no idea what 'dark matter' was supposed to be? An example:

"As Maxwell first remarked and as follows from a very simple calculation, the time required by a ray of light to travel from a point A to a point B and back to A must vary when the two points together undergo a displacement without carrying the ether with them." (Michelson's Interference Experiment, H. A. Lorentz, The Principle of Relativity, p. 3)

Applying Watchtower-approved methods of textual analysis, we conclude that the author intends to uphold the existence of the luminiferous ether. After all, he said "ether," didn't he?

But Michelson's experiment disproved the existence of the luminiferous ether, as this author reports. It's the same with the Bible's examination of the theology of the nations. If the Bible authors could not describe the nothings adored by the nations as "gods," then who would know what reality it is they wish to deny?

None Like Thee

The Psalmist said, "There is no one like Thee among the gods, O Lord; neither are there any works like Thine...For Thou art great and doest wondrous deeds; Thou alone art God." (Psalm 86:10). The Psalmist himself did not draw the conclusion the Jehovah's Witnesses try to wrest from his words: namely, that there are "many gods," "properly described" as such. Why didn't he?




He's talking about the gods of the nations, the very gods who are revealed in the Bible as nothings: "You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God..." (Deuteronomy 6:14-15). He hopes for a day when their cults will be abolished: "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord..." (Psalm 86:9). What the hearers would have understood when they heard of "the gods" were the very gods of the neighboring peoples who tempted Israel into apostasy, Baal, Marduk, Melkart, Astarte, Chemosh and company. They would not have thought of gods whose names they did not know. When the Psalmist extols the living God over the "gods," he is not placing Him in competition with His own angels. Since the only two angels known by name to the Bible, Gabriel and Michael, were not adored by rival cults to the living God, what would be the point of 'bashing the competition' against them, when they were not the competition, nor did the "nations" worship them? So this 'comparison shopping' guide must be directed against those 'gods' who were, in fact, the competition, not against the angels.

The task of the evangelist for the faith of Israel is to show that the living God was, indeed, greater than all the gods of the nations. No doubt propagandists for these other faiths were actively doing the converse. At times the competition held the upper hand: "And he said, 'I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'" (1 Kings 19:10).

Let's break the lot down one by one and see whether the claim made by the Psalmist - that God is greater than the "many gods" of the Watchtower, none of whom can be compared with Him — is true, or false.

Enter Ikhnaton, singing the praises of the sun. Show us your god, Ikhnaton. 'Why, it's right there! Are you blind? Don't tell me you're going to deny that the sun exists!' The sun does, indeed, exist; the apologist for the faith of Israel must concede. But is the sun really a god? No! — it's a lamp, a utilitarian addition to the furnishings of the world: "And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night..." (Genesis 1:16). Is God greater than the sun? Of course He is — the living God is no light fixture!

Enter Elijah Muhammad, singing the praises of Wallace D. Fard, Allah walking the earth. Show us your god, Elijah. 'Why, he's right there! I can show you my god, he's no spook.' But is Wallace D. Fard really God? No, he was just a man...who had J. Edgar Hoover on his tail. While no one has any reason to question that Father Divine, the Maharaj Ji, Yahweh ben Yahweh and other gods of that ilk really exist, it is their real deity, not their reality or real existence, which engenders controversy. Is God greater than a mere man? Yes!: "For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath." (Hosea 11:9).




Fallen man can and will worship anything, even the belly: "Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" (Philippians 3:19). No one who pulls on a pair of ski-pants can deny that the belly is a real being, but it is not a real god — God's uniqueness remains unchallenged by the belly, we do not count "many gods", because the belly falls short of true godhead. It's the same with fallen angels. Though most do not appear at liberty to delude mankind: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 1:6), any who have done so are no more true gods than was king Nebuchadnezzar or any other creature who has falsely claimed deity for himself. God in His mercy made Nebuchadnezzar, a god-king, eat grass like an ox: "And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." (Daniel 4:32). King Nebuchadnezzar repented and praised and worshipped the true God while still living: "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." (Daniel 4:37).

All self-made and self-proclaimed gods ultimately will worship the true God, because all creatures great and small will in the end fall down in worship: "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11). Their claim to deity is bogus; it's a lie.

Score two hits for the Psalmist: the sun and moon, and men, are less than God. Enter a Chaldean, worshipping the planets: "The Chaldeans say that the planets are watchful gods, two of them beneficent, and two malignant, while the other three they call midway and indifferent." (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 48). Show us your gods, Chaldeans! 'Surely you don't deny the planets are real?' They are real...planets, not real gods. Is God greater than the planets? Yes! They are mud-balls! How can the Jehovah's Witnesses be so foolish as to imagine a gas-ball, a star, is really a god?

So far we're batting a thousand; God is greater than the gods, just as the Psalmist extols Him. Enter a devotee of Baal. Show us your god, Baal-worshipper. 'Hmmm...I would...but maybe he's sleeping, or on a journey.' 'Missing-in-action' gods were common in the pagan religions, perhaps owing to the pesky but irremediable problem of non-existence: "The other gods dwell far away, or have no ears, or are not, or pay us no heed." (Greek Hymn, quoted p. 97, The Golden Bough, James Frazer).

Baal patiently endured indignities no god should have to suffer:

"But Joash said to all who stood against him, 'Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to the death by morning. If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!" (Judges 6:31).
"And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." (1 Kings 18:27).

Is God greater than a non-entity, a fiction like Baal? Yes! As the Bible says, "...surely a live dog is better than a dead lion." (Ecclesiastes 9:4). Even a dead dog would be greater than Baal, who is nothing in the world.


Mountain Top Baal
Engulf and Devour Circle of Equals
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach A Plague on Your House
Universal Longing Pearl of Great Price



So far, has the Psalmist made a false statement? Not a one! God is really and truly greater than the gods. Why would it be necessary to say this? Because not everybody knew it! That is why you tell people things, because they do not know them. To the eyes of the world, the pagan gods had their act together. Their cults were furnished with splendid temples, dazzling processions of worshippers, and even sexual perks such as the strait-laced modern religions can hardly imagine. No doubt if you measure the stature of a god by the size of his temple, the gods worshipped by the great empires, like Marduk, would eclipse the LORD in splendor and show. But it was all empty. Call upon them...and where were they? Missing in action: "So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, 'O Baal, hear us!' But there was no voice; no one answered." (1 Kings 18:26). There was nobody home in those glorious, gilded temples.

Nor does calling this odd-lot of astronomical bodies, men and constructions "gods" imply the Psalmist himself thought they really were just that. Read any travel book or art history book talking about the Parthenon, and it will say something like, 'The Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena.' Does that statement imply that the author of the travel guide or picture book believed that Athena a.) really existed, and b.) was really a goddess? No, because most all the people who write such things don't believe any such thing. The author might say, 'the Greek goddess Athena,' implying 'She is a goddess to the Greeks, but not to me,' but there is no need for the author to say 'the false goddess Athena,' or 'the alleged goddess Athena' to evade the implication that he believes in her real existence. The Athenians did, that's all it implies.

Is it really necessary to say each time, 'the non-entity vainly worshipped by the Moabites called by them "Chemosh"'? This contemporary author tried, and failed, "I toyed with trying to write this book while rigorously abstaining from any sentences of the form “Jupiter was worshipped” or “the Great Mother demanded” or “the Thracian rider god gradually spread” and have obviously given up— mostly in frustration with myself." (O'Donnell, James J. (2015-03-17). Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity (pp. 65-66). HarperCollins.) What really would have been gained by following through? The sane and rational way of interpreting a phrase like "the Thracian rider god" is, the rider god they,— the Thracians,— believed in, not the one I believe in, because there ain't no such critter. In his history of ancient Egypt, James Breasted writes,

"As in the days of the Eighteenth Dynasty conquerors, the bulk of the spoil from his wars went into the treasury of Amon. The result of this long continued policy was inevitable. Of the nearly three quarters of a million acres of land held by the temples, Amon owned over five hundred and eighty-three thousand, over five times as much as his nearest competitor, Re of Heliopolis."

(Breasted, James Henry (2017-02-07). A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (Kindle Locations 4202-4204). Calathus Publishing.)

Who knew this author was a pagan, boasting of land acquisition by non-entities like 'Amon' and 'Re'? But who would accuse him of that, really? It is reasonable to demand a degree of verbal precision calibrated to avoid foreseeable misunderstandings, but not to avoid misunderstandings no sane reader would fall into. As with the Catholic Church on the eve of the French Revolution, the Egyptian temple establishment owned a lot of land. That's all he's saying. In context, the reader of the Old Testament, who can be expected to be versed in monotheism if anyone is, understands what 'Chemosh' is, a god by reputation not achievement. The Jehovah's Witnesses, who insist 'Chemosh' must be competent and mighty, are just deluding themselves.




So-called Gods

You can call a sheep a horse...but that will not make a sheep a horse. Fallen mankind can, and have, fallen down in worship before just about anything, saying 'you are my god': "But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for thou art my god.'" (Isaiah 44:17).

Does calling this carpentry project "my god" make it be so? Of course not! Gods made by man are "no gods": "Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods!" (Jeremiah 16:20). Nor can the nations' habit of calling upon gods which are no gods transmute those "so-called gods" into the real article: "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

God of this World

The Bible calls Satan the prince of this world: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31); "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." (John 14:30); "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:11).

Satan holds his tenure in office on the soundest democratic principles; he is the people's choice. Rebellious humanity serves him rather than God. The first polytheist, Satan enticed Eve with the tantalizing possibility of a multiplicity of gods such as you claim to exist: "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5). He won his constituency as does any politician, by making promises...promises he could not and did not intend to keep.

Satan is called the God of this world: "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2 Corinthians 4:4). How did he come to be a 'god'? The Watchtower claims he is a god by right, a god at birth. But that's not what my Bible says. My Bible says Satan became a 'god' just the same way as did the Roman Emperor Caligula or Domitian: he promoted himself to the post. He deified himself; God never made Him to be a god. See the complete story:



“Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
(Behold, you are wiser than Daniel!
There is no secret that can be hidden from you!
With your wisdom and your understanding
You have gained riches for yourself,
And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;
By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches,
And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,
Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you,
The most terrible of the nations;
And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom,
And defile your splendor.
They shall throw you down into the Pit,
And you shall die the death of the slain
In the midst of the seas.
“Will you still say before him who slays you,
‘I am a god’?
But you shall be a man, and not a god,
In the hand of him who slays you.
You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
By the hand of aliens;
For I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.’”

“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
“By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within,
And you sinned;
Therefore I cast you as a profane thing
Out of the mountain of God;
And I destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the fiery stones.
“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor;
I cast you to the ground,
I laid you before kings,
That they might gaze at you.
“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”’” (Ezekiel 28:2-19).





"It shall come to pass in the day the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:
“How the oppressor has ceased,
The golden city ceased!
The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked,
The scepter of the rulers;
He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke,
He who ruled the nations in anger,
Is persecuted and no one hinders.
The whole earth is at rest and quiet;
They break forth into singing.
Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you,
And the cedars of Lebanon,
Saying, ‘Since you were cut down,
No woodsman has come up against us.’
“Hell from beneath is excited about you,
To meet you at your coming;
It stirs up the dead for you,
All the chief ones of the earth;
It has raised up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.
They all shall speak and say to you:
‘Have you also become as weak as we?
Have you become like us?
Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
And the sound of your stringed instruments;
The maggot is spread under you,
And worms cover you.’
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
“Those who see you will gaze at you,
And consider you, saying:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
Who made the world as a wilderness
And destroyed its cities,
Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’
“All the kings of the nations,
All of them, sleep in glory,
Everyone in his own house;
But you are cast out of your grave
Like an abominable branch,
Like the garment of those who are slain,
Thrust through with a sword,
Who go down to the stones of the pit,
Like a corpse trodden underfoot.
You will not be joined with them in burial,
Because you have destroyed your land
And slain your people.
The brood of evildoers shall never be named." (Isaiah 14:3-20).




These two passages begin by addressing a human ruler who had acclaimed himself a 'god,' the prince of Tyre and the king of Babylon respectively. They then pull away the curtain to reveal the power behind the throne, the genius advisor who had himself done...exactly the same thing! Created to serve and praise in heaven, Satan decided he would rather reign on earth than serve in heaven. Though no more a god by nature than the all-too-human prince of Tyre or king of Babylon, now mouldering unburied, he grabbed the same title by the same route...and like them, found sycophants willing to call him what he blasphemously called himself.

Not among the people of God, though. Christians willingly died rather than own the Roman Emperor Domitian as the 'God and Lord' he claimed himself to be. Why? Because they knew there was only One — and it wasn't Domitian, any more than it's Satan! There was no race of gods formed after God: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." (Isaiah 43:10).

What kind of 'god' is Satan? A false god! Does the Watchtower claim, if I do not join them in hymning Satan's real deity, I'm denying he exists? Let me make haste to say Satan is a real being...but he is not a real god, no more than the prince of Tyre and the king of Babylon vainly imagined themselves to be. The Watchtower Society are not the first he has convinced of his real deity; he has followers aplenty: both men and demons, the powers of the air, follow in his train: "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:..." (Ephesians 2:2). But hail him as god all they will, all demons and men his children, that will not make him a god in truth, no more than will worshipping king Nebuchadnezzar make him what he madly claimed to be.

This is why Satan's sin was the sin of pride or presumption: "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:6). A real angel, he lifted himself up to be a god, which he was not nor ever could be. His self-promotion was not a minor glitch in the Watchtower's hierarchy of gods, with one of the lesser ones raising himself a notch or two above his proper place in the ranks...but there is no hierarchy of gods, there's only One, and Satan is no more He than is Domitian or Caligula nor any other creature who exalts himself as God.




Moses

The Bible teaches that there are many things called God: "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, and indeed there are many gods and many lords..." (1 Corinthians 8:5). However, there is only one thing which can truly be God, because there is only one God: "Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that He is One; and there is no one else besides Him..." (Mark 12:32). Since there is only one God, all the other things called God must be "so-called" either falsely or in some imperfect sense, by analogy, for example, as when Moses is said to be God to Aaron: "And you are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and it shall come about that he shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be as God to him." (Exodus 4:15-16).

The Jehovah's Witnesses take that "you shall be as God to him" to mean Moses must be a god in truth, added into the god-census to produce the forbidden count: namely, more than one. But Moses is not said to be a God without qualification, and thus is not counted as such; rather, he stands to Aaron in the same relation as God stands to His prophets: Moses speaks through Aaron, his spokesman, just as God speaks through His mouth-pieces the prophets. So you wouldn't count Moses in the god-census because he is only like God in a certain respect, he is not properly categorized as a god.

Some ambitious heretic might apply Watchtower-style reasoning to the Bible and say, 'The Bible teaches that there is a race of cloud-people, who look like you and me but whose bodies are comprised of water vapor. If you don't believe that there is such a race of cloud-people, you don't believe the Bible.' Bible-believers scoff, 'the Bible knows of no race of cloud-people, what are you talking about?' And then they'd pull out the 'cloud-people' proof-text, Jude 1:12: "These men are...clouds without water, carried along by winds..." They'd demand to know, 'Do you believe the Bible or not? Are there really men who are "clouds", or is the Bible a lie?'

But it's not true that the alternatives are, either a.) there are men who actually are 'properly described' as clouds, as they claim there are many 'properly described' as gods, or b.) the Bible's a lie. That would be like saying, if the poet says, 'My love is a red, red rose,' then either the beloved is properly categorized as a rose, and would be counted as such by the horticulturist listing the roses in the garden should she happen to be sitting on a garden bench - or else the poet is lying. But he's only saying she is like a red, red rose in some respect, say beauty, not that she is in very fact properly categorized as a rose rather than a human being.

Jude is, likewise, saying that these false teachers are like clouds without water. Just as the farmer in a dry and thirsty land, looking up expectantly to the skies, is disappointed when the lowering storm clouds break up and are scattered without rain, so the people who fell for these false teachers' claims when they rolled into town were disappointed when the false teachers rolled out of town, leaving people's pocketbooks lighter, the great spiritual experiences they promised not having materialized. They promised something that they did not deliver — that's how they were "clouds without water," not because there is a race of cloud-people made up of water vapor.

Similarly, Moses is like a God to Aaron, and later to Pharaoh; he is not counted as a God.





El

In all languages, words have a range of meanings, not one constant 'essential' meaning. A word with its various shades of meaning has been likened to a family portrait: "And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail. I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances"; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, color of eyes, gait, temperament, etc., etc., overlap and criss-cross in the same way." (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Some of the Old Testament words translated 'god' have a range of meaning differing from the English word 'god' or the Greek word 'theos.' 'El,' for example, can at times mean 'power' or 'might': "It is in the power ['el' 0410] of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad." (Genesis 31:29). 'El' is sometimes translated as 'power,' and 'power' is even used as a homonym for God, as for instance in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter, "And the Lord cried out, saying, My power, (my) power, you have abandoned me." (Peter 5:5).

The correct response to this situation is, not that 'the early Hebrews identified everybody's hand as a god, thus counting as many gods as there are hands,' but rather that 'el' has a range of meanings differing from that of the English word 'god' or the Greek word 'theos,' because we don't in English say 'the god of my hand,' when we mean the 'power' or 'might' of my hand. The English word 'god' does not mean 'power' or 'might' but refers to a specific category of being. 'Elohim' is more specific. The KJV translates 'elohim' like so:

AV-God 2346, god 244, judge 5, GOD 1, goddess 2, great 2, mighty 2, angels 1, exceeding 1, God-ward + 04136 1, godly 1; 2606

Amongst the thousands of 'true god/false gods', a gleam glints in the eyes of the Jehovah's Witnesses at the KJV's five 'judges.' Could this be the longed-for way around Thomas' confession, "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (John 20:28)?

From the fact that there are many "judges" — Judge Judy, Judge Wapner, Judge Scalia — no conclusion follows as to how many "gods" there are in the world. (As we shall see, there is a reason for this usage.) A word must be used in one signification, not equivocally, for a valid syllogism: "It is clearly conclusive that there can be only one God. If there were many gods this name would be given them either univocally or equivocally. If equivocally, it is useless to continue the discussion, for there is nothing to prevent others from using the word 'god' for what we call a stone....Consequently, a number of gods is impossible." (Thomas Aquinas, Compendium of Theology, c.15). To say, 'there are many judges, therefore there must also be many gods,' is false; this is the fallacy of equivocation.



Stars

The idea that the stars and planets are powerful rulers who govern our destiny here below is a very ancient and surprising robust idea that not only informs much of pagan theology, but even governs the lives of some of our contemporaries here in America today, such as Nancy Reagan. Not like she is alone; even popes have consulted astrologers: "Pope Julius II allowed an astrologer to determine the date for his coronation." (Roland Bainton, Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, Kindle edition, location 1763). The system is premised on the idea that the stars wield influence:

"[Porphyry] 'For as to Chaeremon and the rest, they do not believe in anything else prior to the visible worlds, since they account as a ruling power the gods of the Egyptians, and no others except the so-called planets, and those stars which fill up the zodiac, and as many as rise near them: also the divisions into the "decani," and the horoscopes, and the so-called "mighty Rulers," the names of which are contained in the almanacks, and their powers to heal diseases, and their risings and settings, and indications of future events. . .And most of them made even our own free will depend upon the motion of the stars, binding all things down by indissoluble bonds, I know not how, to a necessity which they call fate, and making all things depend closely on these gods, whom, as the sole deliverers from the bonds of fate, they worship with temples, and statues, and the like.'" (Porphyry's Epistle to Anebo the Egyptian, quoted in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, Book III, Chapter IV).

Many newspapers still carry horoscopes today, living down the skeptics of antiquity, such as Augustine, who pointed out that twins, born at the same time and place and thus with almost identical horoscopes, often have very different destinies. This brings us to one of the odder entrants in the Watchtower pantheon: 'stars,' reputed by some amongst the Gentiles to be gods: "And beware, lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." (Deuteronomy 4:19). In times of apostasy, the faithless of Israel have adopted this Gentile spirituality:

"Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves." (Amos 5:25-26).

The proof-text for 'star-gods' is this: "The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera..." (Judges 5:20). One wonders whether the brook 'Kishon' must be a god as well, as it bravely did its bit in the battle, too: "The torrent of Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon." (Judges 5:21). It may be that this text was spoken in mockery of the pagan combatants, who may have numbered the stars in the pantheon, but were abandoned by their champions in the conflict: their star-gods did not save them. Why not? Loyal to their Creator, they fought on the other side. Whose are the stars? The living God's; they are not autonomous beings, gods in their own right, with whom the pagans had a special understanding, or so they imagined. They stand at attention, ready to fight in their Lord's cause, as do all other obedient created things, gifted with consciousness or not so gifted. But how do stars fight?

All of nature is in God's hands, the sun, moon, stars, rolling tide, even the sparrow that falls from heaven. He may deploy these, His creatures, as He chooses to work His will. If He had wished to annihilate Sisera's armies with a Tunguska-magnitude asteroid crash from the heavens, who could stand in His way? For purposes of ancient astronomy, 'stars' include 'wandering stars', our planets, 'fixed stars', who now lay exclusive claim to the title 'star', plus meteorites, etc. The title 'fixed', in the Ptolemaic system, means those stars whose positions relative one to another is constant, which is not true of the 'wandering' planets. When in Egypt in 1911 a falling meteorite killed a dog, 'the stars' could accurately be identified as the cause of the dog's demise.

It is doubtful anything of Siberian magnitude happened on the battle-field, because if it had, witnesses would not have come away telling stories about somebody bashing somebody's brains out with a tent-peg. The military victory was won, by the LORD, in the usual fashion, by the "edge of the sword": "And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet." (Judges 4:15). So however the stars did their bit, it was in a quieter, less obtrusive fashion. Could it have been by alarming the enemy hosts with a comet or 'nova,' a new thing in the heavens? However, if Sisera's people were students of the widespread ancient pagan study of astrology, the stars had already found their voice by doing no more than entering into conjunctions and oppositions in the normal pursuit of their courses. They had already voted, yea or nay.

It seems that, objectively, what happened is this: it rained. The brook overflowed. The enemy's iron chariots, which had seemed formidable, got bogged down, and proved a hindrance rather than a help:

"As we gather from Jdg. 5:20-22, a fearful storm swept down from heaven in face of the advancing army. . .Presently the war-chariots were thrown into confusion, and instead of being a help became a source of danger. The affrighted horses carried destruction into the ranks of the host. Soon all were involved in a common panic. . .And now the waters of Kishon had swollen into a wild torrent which swept away the fugitives!" (Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, Books One through Four, Kindle location 8007).

That's all well and good, but what have the stars, of if you're a Jehovah's Witness, the star-gods, got to do with it? It would mean different things to different people. The idea that stars are powerful gods who control our lives remains popular among neo-Pagans of the present day. Like the pagans of old, these people believe that everything stars do, and and refrain from doing, is of paramount significance, although their feeble light and faint gravitational force cannot realistically impact us here on earth:

"And evidently, again, the planets are not merely spheres, twinkling in Space, and made to shine for no purpose, but the domains of various beings with whom the profane are so far unacquainted; nevertheless, having a mysterious, unbroken, and powerful connection with men and globes. Every heavenly body is the temple of a god, and these gods themselves are the temples of GOD, the Unknown 'Not Spirit.'" (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 45098, SD p. 578).

As to how they fought, the text offers no blow-by-blow account of their battle. To take the materialist tack: was it something along the lines of a meteor shower? No, because they fought "from their courses" — no 'sky-gods' descended. The stars remained at their stations. While this may be poetic language, it is also possible there was some objective event in the heavens that impacted events on the field. The sun and moon have done their bit for Israel's military success: "O sun, stand still at Gibeon, and O moon in the valley of Aijalon." (Joshua 10:12). But the planets and the stars do not actually have to do anything that dramatic, or indeed to do much at all, to impact the outcome of the battle, if one of the combatant armies are pagan star-worshippers. Their unremarkable, non-miraculous apparent conjunctions and divergences as seen from earth's perspective are already programmed into the battle space as significant variables.

Ancient armies were easily spooked by portents in the heavens or on earth: "An ancient Greek military strategist, Onasander, writing 300 years after Hannibal, made the following observation: 'Soldiers are far more courageous when they believe that they are facing dangers with the good will of the gods; for they themselves are watchful, each man, and they look out keenly for omens of sight or sound and an auspicious sacrifice for the whole army encourages even those who have private doubt.'" (Carthage Must be Destroyed, Richard Miles, p. 251.) This skittishness is characteristic of undeniably brave pagan warriors; the pagans who met the settlers on the American plains were of a similar mind-set: "Comanches were extremely predictable. They never changed their methods. They were deeply custom-bound and equally deeply mired in their notions of medicine and magic. They reacted to a given situation — such as the killing of their war chief or medicine man — in exactly the same way, every time. In white man's terms, they were easily spooked." (Empire of the Summer Moon, S. C. Gwynne, pp. 142-143)  Here a brave soldier counsels retreat...because an bird suffered a mishap struggling with its prey:

"While they were busy stripping the armor from these heroes, the youths who were led on by Polydamas and Hector (and these were the greater part and the most valiant of those that were trying to break through the wall and fire the ships) were still standing by the trench, uncertain what they should do; for they had seen a sign from heaven when they had essayed to cross it — a soaring eagle that flew skirting the left wing of their host, with a monstrous blood-red snake in its talons still alive and struggling to escape. The snake was still bent on revenge, wriggling and twisting itself backwards till it struck the bird that held it, on the neck and breast; whereon the bird being in pain, let it fall, dropping it into the middle of the host, and then flew down the wind with a sharp cry. The Trojans were struck with terror when they saw the snake, portent of aegis-bearing Jove, writhing in the midst of them, and Polydamas went up to Hector and said, 'Hector, at our councils of war you are ever given to rebuke me, even when I speak wisely, as though it were not well, forsooth, that one of the people should cross your will either in the field or at the council board; you would have them support you always: nevertheless I will say what I think will be best; let us not now go on to fight the Danaans at their ships, for I know what will happen if this soaring eagle which skirted the left wing of our with a monstrous blood-red snake in its talons (the snake being still alive) was really sent as an omen to the Trojans on their essaying to cross the trench. The eagle let go her hold; she did not succeed in taking it home to her little ones, and so will it be — with ourselves; even though by a mighty effort we break through the gates and wall of the Achaeans, and they give way before us, still we shall not return in good order by the way we came, but shall leave many a man behind us whom the Achaeans will do to death in defense of their ships. Thus would any seer who was expert in these matters, and was trusted by the people, read the portent.'" (Homer, Iliad, Book XII).

As can be seen from this episode, the heavenly bodies do not actually have to do much of anything to produce a striking impact on the behavior of a pagan military force. If some state or conjunction is thought to presage defeat, this can induce panicked flight. This sensitivity is characteristic of pagan religion: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at thee signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them." (Jeremiah 10:2). When people of such different cultures meet each other, world views collide alongside the armed bands; according to the pagan view of the world, stars and other natural phenomena are animate, intentional, powerful, and very likely responsible for the weather. This is not necessarily the Jewish world-view, but certainly is the pagan construct. The stars are their gods.

To devotees of the astrological system, the stars do not have to do anything remarkable to deliver a message, encouraging or discouraging; their normal courses are interpreted as fraught with meaning. By appearing in a favorable conformation, they might encourage rash aggression which can back-fire, or by lining up in a baleful but still perfectly natural configuration, they can induce hesitancy and over-caution. The stars are drawn into combat, willing or not, by the beliefs of the astrologers. They have already been 'conscripted' into the military by their devotees; simply by being where they are at, they are flashing commands; but once arrayed on the battle-field, they are free to display their true loyalties. Whatever their input on this occasion, it ultimately worked to Israel's advantage. Perhaps it was 'treachery:' they 'encouraged' Sisera then played him false. Perhaps it was open warning: 'Retreat! Retreat!' (the stars do not actually say 'retreat,' but pagan astrologers 'interpret' them as saying such things. The rainstorm itself, if believed, by the pagans, to have been sent by their star-gods, is a communication of this sort, an act of taking sides.

By contrast to pagan armies, those who put their trust in the LORD are not easily spooked. Josephus retells the story of a pagan army standing around waiting...for a bird to tell them which way to go:

"As I was myself going to the Red Sea, there followed us a man, whose name was Mosollam; he was one of the Jewish horsemen who conducted us; he was a person of great courage, of a strong body, and by all allowed to be the most skillful archer that was either among the Greeks or barbarians. Now this man, as people were in great numbers passing along the road, and a certain augur was observing an augury by a bird, and requiring them all to stand still, inquired what they staid for. Hereupon the augur showed him the bird from whence he took his augury, and told him that if the bird staid where he was, they ought all to stand still; but that if he got up, and flew onward, they must go forward; but that if he flew backward, they must retire again. Mosollam made no reply, but drew his bow, and shot at the bird, and hit him, and killed him; and as the augur and some others were very angry, and wished imprecations upon him, he answered them thus: Why are you so mad as to take this most unhappy bird into your hands? for how can this bird give us any true information concerning our march, who could not foresee how to save himself? for had he been able to foreknow what was future, he would not have come to this place, but would have been afraid lest Mosollam the Jew should shoot at him, and kill him.'" (Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, Book 1).

So the Jew Mosollam was unimpressed with the bird's hesitation. Mosollam was no atheist, but his understanding of bird behavior was realistic and naturalistic, because his religion dictated such an understanding. And doesn't it make more sense for the army to advance or retreat based on its military interest, rather than to rely on the generalship of a bird? So this is one way stars can take sides and fight: it may be there was a sign, conjunction, or portent meaningful to pagan star-interpreters. Deborah's army was unimpressed by the portent in the heavens, but the facing pagan army was scared witless, because the pagans take the ordinary motions of the heavenly bodies either as portents of doom, or as harbingers of victory. So the stars did their bit in the battle: the military advantage went to Israel, when the stars alarmed their pagan devotees by an unfavorable conjunction or other unsettling phenomenon.

The stars' contribution is paired with the brook Kishon's activity, which appears not poetical but prosaic, the torrent over-flowing its normal course, impeding the movements of the enemy army. The brook Kishon does not have a mind and a will, but neither is there any such thing as coincidence; no sparrow falls from the sky apart from the Father, and the brook made common cause with Israel and 'helped' under God's command. In parallel, the stars fighting in their courses could be, not 'poetic language,' but some objective fact, something that actually happened. The pagans might have imagined their star-gods to have sent the rain which made the brook overflow; we do not need to assume Israel adopted the same system of meteorology to understand this as an ad hominem rejoinder, mockery over the enemy's panicked flight. There is, however, as we shall see, a legitimate empirical link between the movements of stars: actual stars, not star-gods,— and the rain, in those climate zones which incorporate a dry season and a rainy season: ". . .it is near autumn and the time is at hand when the sun, entering the southern signs (which are all named from showers), will send us storm and tempest." (Cassiodorus, The Letters of Cassiodorus, Kindle location 3411). This connection, which runs between actual stars and rain, and does not involve animated cartoon star-gods, is probably at the heart of this otherwise obscure Bible reference.

As it happens, there is such a usage as 'poetic language' in the Bible, and atheists who hope to discredit the Bible seize upon expressions like, "Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy..." (Psalm 98:8). Here the genre is a 'song,' so there can be no reasonable expectation that the language must be prosaic and matter-of-fact. While 'fighting stars' as 'poetic language' will never satisfy the Jehovah's Witnesses and other believers in star-gods, any sincere attempt to recover the author's original intent cannot detour totally around it.

Skeptics trumpet, 'Rivers don't have hands to clap!' But English poets say the same kind of thing, which carries the dreadful name of the 'pathetic fallacy.' Things that wouldn't ordinarily be expected to express feelings and emotions do so, like "The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wandering near her secret bower, Molest her ancient solitary reign." (Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard). The owl isn't actually complaining, nor does the moon care a whole lot whether people on earth are out and about at night. The feelings are the poets'; they do it because it 'works.' Or, "Dim moon-eyes fishes near Gaze at the gilded gear And query: 'What does this vain-gloriousness down here?'" (The Convergence of the Twain, Lines on the loss of the 'Titanic', Thomas Hardy). Fish are not noted for their inquisitiveness, nor for moralizing about "vain-gloriousness." It's the poet who is struck by the incongruity of the glittery apparition from another world that has settled down in the fishes' mud. One of the services humankind can perform for our less vocal fellow creatures is to give them a voice. While disbelieving the 'fighting stars' are a case in point, one thing of which I am sure is that no 'star-gods' put in an appearance on the battle-field...because there ain't any.

Stars are creatures: "Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created." (Psalm 148:3-5). No creature is God; the true and living God is the Creator: "And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:..." (Acts 14:15). Ergo, stars are not gods.


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Ancient peoples are known to have ascribed meteorological events, like a rain-storm, to the stars, which are literally behind the rain-charged storm-clouds; here an Arabic poetess suggests they are actually pulling the strings behind the scenes:

"All generous men in years of drought
When the stars withheld their rain." (Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume,  p. 358).

Again, a poet lamenting the losses among the Quraysh attributes the rain to the stars:

"How many noble handsome men,
The refuge of the homeless were slain
Liberal when the stars gave no rain,
Who bore others' burdens, ruling and taking their due fourth."
(Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 365).

The Biblical poet may be employing a familiar convention, ascribing a sudden thunder-shower to the stars, which caused an unexpected flash flood that scattered the enemy. While there is no causal nexus, there is in fact a bona fide association between stars and climate; ancient agriculturalists knew to coordinate their planting and sowing with risings and settings of particular stars. This association is fundamental to the pagan religion whose crowning achievement is the pseudo-science of astrology, but it is also a legitimate datum of meteorology. The Book of Jubilees gives us Abraham, while still in the house of Terah the idolater, observing the stars in order to prognosticate the rains: "Abram sat up throughout the night on the new moon of the seventh month to observe the stars from the evening to the morning, in order to see what would be the character of the year with regard to the rains, and he was alone as he sat and observed." (The Book of Jubilees, Chapter 12, Section 16). In regions where rains are seasonal, this natural phenomenon might have suggested such a connection, as implied here:

"The winds of summer and the rain of Aquarius,
The torrential cloudbringer, has effaced them;
Naught remains but the place where the fire was,
Round it on the ground are the firestones like doves."
(Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 412)

As to which constellations are particularly associated with rain-storms, with the Greeks it was the Hyades: "But the hyades, says he, are so called, ουκ απο των υων (that is, not from pigs), as our rude forefathers believed, but from the word hyein; for both when they rise and when they set they cause rainstorms and heavy showers. And pluere, (to rain) is expressed in the Greek tongue by hyein." (Tullius Tiro, quoted in Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, Book XIII, Chapter IX). While, depending upon latitude and climate zone, there may be a legitimate association between the rising or setting of a particular constellation and the advent of the rainy season, it is not actually the case that these stars are causing the rain. It is a case, rather, of joint production from the grand movements of the same natural mechanism.

The Biblical poet does not necessarily buy into a causal meteorology, but rather makes an ad hominem rejoinder, as here: "Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess." (Judges 11:24). Who thought that 'Chemosh,' a black stone, had given anybody anything to possess? The Jews? No, the pagans. This is a perfectly legitimate form of address; the messengers seek to persuade, they are not endorsing the alien system.

The pagans did not worship unknown mythological 'star-gods' who have mysteriously disappeared for the past three millenia. One might well ask the Jehovah's Witnesses, if there really are 'star-gods' as you claim, where did they go? The ancient pagans worshipped the very stars themselves, the same ones that we see in the sky (the planets only visible by telescope, Uranus, Neptune, and the recently demoted Pluto, they did not know). How the astrologers arrived at the conclusion the stars were gods controlling the world is by bad theology chasing bad science. First comes good science: ancient peoples noticed that the changing face of the night-time sky correlates with seasonal changes. Different constellations rise above the horizon at different times of year, as the earth with tilted axis orbits the sun. In the absence of a reliable written calendar, these risings and settings function as alarm-clocks, precisely timing important events of the agricultural year, like planting and harvest. This is just as God ordained: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:..." (Genesis 1:14).

Here is good science: "Pleiades rising in the dawning sky, Harvest is nigh. Pleiades setting in the waning night, Plowing is right. Forty days and nights in the turning year They disappear. When they shine again in the morning shade, Sharpen your blade." (Hesiod, Works and Days, 430-436). So long as the farmer is timing his activities by the rising and setting of the Pleiades he's doing right, in that latitude. If the farmer should start saying, 'the Pleiades by their occult virtue ripen the crops,' then he's advanced to doing bad science, reasoning 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc.' If he then goes on to bow himself down before the Pleiades, hymning them, 'O gracious Pleiades, thank you for the bountiful harvest,' he's advanced to doing bad theology, and false, idolatrous worship.

The pagan Greeks did bad meteorology, believing that Sirius, the Dog-Star, prominent in the night sky during the hottest days of summer, actually caused the 'Dog-Days' of summer by exercising some baleful influence upon the earth. This is not accurate; while there is an invariant association between (a) and (b) — Sirius, the Dog-Star, is invariably sighted in that position during the hottest days of summer in that latitude — there is no causal nexus, rather both (a) Sirius, and (b), the arrival of hot weather, are caused by (c), the earth's travels about the sun with tilted axis.

The ancient Babylonians took this logic all the way to full-fledged bad religion, basing their entire theological system on the premise that the stars, by their various conjunctions, determined every event upon the earth. Thus the stars were the high gods who determined the fates. And their stars were our stars, not hitherto unknown mythological beings; the Babylonians left exquisitely detailed records of their star-sightings: "The archives of the great cities of Mesopotamia were kept on baked clay tablets which have preserved legibly to this day a mass of records whose very existence had been quite unsuspected...one group of tablets turned up written in long columns, and headed with the names of Gods — which were also names of heavenly bodies. Deciphering these tablets has called for extreme ingenuity, but it has eventually become clear that they correspond very closely to the records of our own Nautical Almanac Office...These tablets comprise planetary observations, tables predicting the motions and eclipses of the Moon, 'procedure-texts' setting out the arithmetical steps to be taken when calculating 'ephemerides' (daily positions of the planets), and a mass of similar material." (The Fabric of the Heavens, Toulmin and Goodfield, pp. 24-25). These were the gods of the Babylonians — the planets.

It may be objected, in fact the pagans did make distinctions, for instance between the solar disc and the god associated thereto; but they made similar distinctions in the case of humanity, dissolving the soul and spirit into multiple entities entombed in the body: "For as with us, the animal is different from the man, and the visible Socrates is one thing, but the true Socrates another; much more are the Sun and Jupiter [different from the visible orbs of them] which consist of body and soul." (Proclus, Commentary on Plato's Timaeus, translated by Thomas Taylor, Book IV, p. 706). The original system, in all its simplicity, naivete, and wrongness, deified the actual heavenly travellers. It causes some awkwardness for the followers of Plato that the old gods were undeniably corporeal, because Plato devalued matter, and so, to be superior to human beings, the gods had to be incorporeal:

"If, however, the mundane as well as the supermundane Gods are incorporeal, it may be asked how the visible celestial orbs can be Gods?
"To this we reply, that the celestial Gods are not comprehended by bodies, but that they contain bodies in their divine lives and energies; that they are not converted to body, but that the body which is suspended from their essence is converted to a divine cause; and that body is no impediment to their intellectual and incorporeal perfection, and is not the cause of any molestation to them by its intervention. Hence it does not require an abundant care and attention, but spontaneously and after a certain manner self-motively follows the divinities with which it is connected, not being in want of any manuduction, but by its elevation to the one of the Gods, is also itself uniformly raised by itself." (Proclus' On the Theology of Plato, by Thomas Taylor, Volume II, Book VII, Chapter IV, p. 452).

Whatever that means, nineteenth century Neopagan Thomas Taylor evidently felt it removed the difficulty, because the earlier theology had left no doubt that the heavenly bodies were gods. We know that these are rocks, the ancients were not sure; when Anaxagoras decided they were, he had to leave town. Ultimately, however, the whole system ended up mechanized, made into clock-work, so that the star-gods become in Kepler angelic conductors of the planets, now mere orbs; they might as well be made of plastic as of quintessence! These angelic star-pushers are finally themselves pushed off the stage of history when Newton discovered gravity.

Astrology is one of the occult practices Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky reinflated to form part of her pagan revival called 'theosophy:'

"Nevertheless, the Lipika [earlier identified as 'Assessors'] are not deities connected with Death, but with Life Eternal. Connected as the Lipika are with the destiny of every man and the birth of every child, whose life is already traced in the Astral Light not fatalistically, but only because the future, like the PAST, is ever alive in the PRESENT — they may also be said to exercise an influence on the Science of Horoscopy. We must admit the truth of the latter whether we will or not. For, as observed by one of the modern adepts of Astrology, 'Now that photography has revealed to us the chemical influence of the Sidereal system, by fixing on the sensitized plate of the apparatus milliards of stars and planets that had hitherto baffled the efforts of the most powerful telescopes to discover them, it becomes easier to understand how our solar system can, at the birth of a child, influence his brain — virgin of any impressions — in a definite manner and according to the presence on the zenith of such or another zodiacal constellation.'" (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 26435, p. 105 Secret Doctrine).



To be sure distant stars send to our realm small glimmers of light, from long ago, but how this might influence the just-born child is unclear; if exceedingly dim light can wield an influence, then shining a flashlight on the child must have an overwhelming impact; but does it really? The most puissant objects in the sky, to the pagan astrologer, after the sun and the moon, were the five planets known in antiquity; these send our way only reflected light! How could these objects control human destiny on earth?

Exactly what he was looking at I don't know, but Democritus purportedly predicted the coming weather from stellar positions: "Democritus, who predicted many things from observation of celestial phenomena, was called 'Wisdom.' On his meeting a cordial reception from his brother Damasus, he predicted that there would be much rain, judging from certain stars. Some, accordingly, convinced by him, gathered their crops; for being in summer-time, they were still on the threshing-floor. But others lost all, unexpected and heavy showers having burst down." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VI, Chapter III). "Unexpected" is right; I can't imagine the astrologers are any better at predicting the weather than they are at other things:


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There are still people to this very day who believe the stars control human destiny, like Nancy Reagan. But rational folks should realize the Bible authors were right after all: these created beings, battalions in the heavenly armies, do not by their conjunctions force the living God's hand, nor do they even control human destiny. So how is it possible that our modern-day polytheists want to make the stars into gods, reversing two thousand years of science which has fully confirmed the Bible's teaching that they are not gods?

The best way of watching the stars fight is to realize that the whole world is a harmony which moves in obedience to one will. Just as no sparrow falls without the Father, no star leaves its place; every element of the whole fills its role exactly as planned:

"An ancient Hebrew view is expressed in the Song of Deborah: 'the stars in their courses fought against Sisera'. . . The will of God has imposed a certain harmony on His world. Those who resist His will find that His whole world fights against them." (W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Chapter XXII, p. 301).

On other occasions, God has used the mighty voice of the storm to scatter the faithless: "But the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel." (1 Samuel 7:10). It is His storm; all of nature is His. Nature answers to His voice, the storm is under His control.


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Prince of Tyre

When men of the present day wish to deify themselves, they say 'I am God.' No other word is needed, no other word will do. Some time ago Dr. Elissa Ely published a column in the Boston Globe reporting on a hospital patient whose presenting complaint was 'I am God.' Here is another:

"Yahweh ben Yahweh is the Grand Master of the Celestial Lodge, Architect of the Universe, and the Blessed and only Potentate. He is here to set the captives free and to cause them that are bound to stand perpendicular on the square of righteousness. For behold, one greater than Solomon is here!"
(quoted from web-site, http://yahwehbenyahweh.com/index02.htm)

Maybe it's a comfort to Mr. Yahweh, formerly known as Hulon Mitchell, Jr., to reflect, in jail, on his exalted status as the Blessed and only Potentate, I don't know. But self-deification is not a peculiarity of ancient times, there are still men who claim to be God.

It's not the lexicographer's task to make all statements true by fiddling with definitions; some statements are blatantly and irremediably false, such as the late Wallace D. Fard's claim to deity: "On Wednesday morning, November 23, Fard was apprehended while leaving his hotel room at 1 West Jefferson Street. He had probably guessed that the arrest would come and did not resist the police officers who seized him. [...] According to police and press transcripts, Fard identified himself as the 'supreme being on earth' and claimed responsibility for starting the Nation of Islam, assisted by Ugan Ali, who was also arrested." ('An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad', Claude A. Clegg, III, Part One, Chapter 2, p. 31). Wallace D. Fard's principal devotee, Elijah Muhammad, was sold on his divinity: "In one meeting, he proclaimed, 'Fard is Allah, who came to save the dark people.' To shore up support, the teacher himself made appearances before Chicago converts to show them what God looked like in person." (op. cit., p. 25). Elijah Muhammad used to like to boast that, unlike the unseen 'spook God' of the Christians, his God was one you could go up to and shake hands with: Wallace D. Fard.




So men of the present day, when they make claims to Deity, say 'I am God'. They don't say 'I am Sasquatch' or 'I am Qumquat'; there's no other English word for a man who wishes to claim to be God to make use of. So there's no reason to conclude from similar claims made by would-be god-kings of antiquity that the English word 'god' means anything different from the Greek 'theos.' Men of the present day are sometimes reputed to be gods; you just need to take a walk on the wild side to find them. Their claims are no more valid than the same claim made by the prince of Tyre:

"Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas'; yet you are a man and not God...Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you, the most ruthless of the nations. And they will draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die the death of those who are slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, 'I am a god,' in the presence of your slayer, although you are a man and not God, in the hands of those who wound you?'" (Ezekiel 28:2-9).



A pagan investigator named Euhemerus advanced the theory that all the pagan gods were once men, whose stories took on mythological characteristics in the retelling. This is certainly true of some, though not all. A surprising revival of this tendency is taking place in North Korea, where Great Leader Kim Jong Il is hymned by a grateful people with such effusive, and fearful, praise that an observer might well take him for a god. The apocryphal inter-testamental book, 'Wisdom,' offers a euhemeristic theory of the origin of the gods:

"For the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them was the corruption of life; for they did not exist from the beginning, nor will they last for ever. For through human vanity they entered the world, and therefore their speedy end has been planned.

"For a father, consumed with grief at an untimely bereavement, made an image of his child, who had been suddenly taken from him; he now honored as a god what was once a dead human being, and handed on to his dependants secret rites and initiations. Then the ungodly custom, grown strong with time, was kept as a law, and at the command of monarchs carved images were worshipped. When people could not honor monarchs in their presence, since they lived at a distance,
they imagined their appearance far away, and made a visible image of the king whom they honored, so that by their zeal they might flatter the absent one as though present.

"Then the ambition of the artisan impelled even those who did not know the king to intensify their worship. For he, perhaps wishing to please his ruler, skillfully forced the likeness to take more beautiful form, and the multitude, attracted by the charm of his work,
now regarded as an object of worship the one whom shortly before they had honored as a human being. And this became a hidden trap for humankind, because people, in bondage to misfortune or to royal authority, bestowed on objects of stone or wood the name that ought not to be shared.

"Then it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God,
but though living in great strife due to ignorance, they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, defiling of souls, sexual perversion, disorder in marriages, adultery, and debauchery. For the worship of idols not to be named is the beginning and cause and end of every evil." (Wisdom 14:12-27).



Psalm 82

The law of Moses contains this startling injunction: "In any case of disputed ownership involving ox, donkey, sheep, clothing, or any other loss, of which one party says, 'This is mine,' the case of both parties shall come before God ['elohim']; the one whom God ['elohim'] condemns shall pay double to the other." (Exodus 22:9, NRSV).  How does God judge between the contesting parties?

Moses' law set forth evidentiary standards of due process which preclude any thought of judgment by lot or oracle: "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established." (Deuteronomy 19:15). Human judges judge the matter, upon careful inquiry: "If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him in wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry..." (Deuteronomy 19:16-18). Judgment was given to men, not to divine oracle:

"And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment." (Deuteronomy 17:9);
"Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled." (Deuteronomy 21:5).

So one realizes with a start that the 'elohim' who condemn the guilty of Exodus 22:9 are, constructively, human judges. Are they so-called because, as the King James Version and the Peshitta suppose, the word 'elohim' there properly means 'judges?' Or is it because God chooses to judge His people by their means, delivering His judgments through their mouths, as the lovely old hymn has it:

"Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King,
Always, only, for my King."
(Frances R. Havergal)

God judges in the midst of His congregation, the judges: "Then he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, 'Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.'" (2 Chronicles 19:5-7).

"Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s." (Deuteronomy 1:16-17).

But sadly, men called to judge often fall short of their calling, leading to the situation described in Psalm 82. Why does Jesus raise Psalm 82 in His defense against the charge of blasphemy?:



Legal Defense A Fortieri
Polytheism Weak Link
Elohim Family Portrait
God's Hands Mighty Ones
Theoi Church Fathers
Magistrates Zeus and Hera




Lower than the Angels

There are several instances in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where 'elohim' is translated as 'angels.':

"Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels." (Brenton Septuagint, Psalm 97:7).

The first thing to notice about this renderings is that it reduces the affected passage to a non-sequitur. Why would those who boast in "idols" be left ashamed, if "angels" worship the Lord? Whatever angels are, they surely are not "idols." One might as well say, 'Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye truck drivers,' because truck drivers are no more "idols" than are "angels."

Another: "I will give thee thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; and I will sing psalms to thee before the angels; for thou hast heard all the words of my mouth." (Brenton Septuagint, Psalm 138:1). Perhaps the translators thought they were putting a hedge around the Bible teaching of monotheism, by translating 'elohim' as 'angels' where there was any possibility the reader would take a reference to false gods as implying their reality.

This would be a curiosity and no more but for the fact that one of these 'elohim' = 'angels' translations may have found its way into the New Testament, in Hebrews 2:7, "You have made him a little lower than the angels...", a quote of Psalm 8:5, "For you have made him a little lower than the angels ['elohim']..." Does this quote by the inspired New Testament author validate the translation strategy as a whole?

In any given instance, one cannot be sure how the Hebrew text which served as the exemplar for the Septuagint read. It once was assumed that the Septuagint was a free translation of text identical to the later-established Masoretic text, and under this theory, well-intentioned translators from Origen onwards sought to 'correct' the Septuagint by conforming it to the Hebrew text as supplied by the Rabbis. But the discoveries at Qumran have made clear the Septuagint is not a free translation of the Masoretic text, but a literal translation of a distinct textual tradition. For example, "And thou shalt no more have the sun for a light by day, nor shall the rising of the moon lighten thy night; but the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and God thy glory." (Brenton Septuagint, Isaiah 60:19). "The traditional [Masoretic] text here omits the phrase 'by night,' but it is attested by the Greek, Old Latin, and Aramaic versions as well as by the St. Mark's scroll." (Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 305)

To parallel the logic of employing Psalm 8:5 to establish an equation between 'elohim' and 'angels:' I say, the Bible teaches that 75 is the same number as 70. Because, Acts 7:14 says, "Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people." But Genesis 46:27, translated from the Masoretic text, says, "All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy." (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5). But the Septuagint for Genesis 46:27, from which Stephen was likely quoting, says, "And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with Joseph into Egypt, were seventy-five souls." (Brenton Septuagint). It is over-hasty to use this as proof that, in Bible arithmetic, 70=75, because it cannot be known whether the seventy were not translating from a Hebrew exemplar which, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, read seventy-five. In any case one cannot overturn a major Bible doctrine, monotheism, on the strength of a death-defying leap between languages like our equation 70=75, in the face of so many unknowns.

In some cases, the text upon which the Septuagint was based may more genuine. Flavius Josephus, who claimed to have access to the temple text, thought the law of Moses forbade abortion: "The law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind; if any one, therefore, proceeds to such fornication or murder, he cannot be clean." (Josephus, Against Apion, Book 2, 25) But where is there any such provision in the law of Moses? In the Masoretic text, Exodus 21:22 implies payment of a fine for causing a miscarriage, which is not how a "murderer" is dealt with: "If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine." (Exodus 21:22). Here it is: "And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman's husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation. But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life..." (Brenton Septuagint, Exodus 21:22-23) — a completely different text. This was taken to forbid abortion of a fetus sufficiently developed to be visibly human.

So what led the Septuagint translators to understand Psalm 8:5 as they did? Did their text read 'sons of God' rather than just 'elohim'? Elsewhere, they translate 'sons of God' as 'angels': "And it came to pass on a day, that behold, the angels of God came to stand before the Lord, and the devil came with them." (Job 1:6, Brenton Septuagint).  One cannot know for sure, and it would be undesirable to discard a major Bible doctrine like monotheism based on a conjectural reconstruction of a text not at hand.

But here is the most noteworthy point. If it is the case that 'elohim' here means 'angels,' then in the judgment of the inspired author of Hebrews, it is not to be translated 'theoi' — gods — but rather 'angelloi.' So, far from proving that angels are ever called 'gods' in scripture, this instance proves that angels are not to be called gods ['theoi'], but only angels ['angelloi.'].

Bible teaching on angels does not naturally lead to the conclusion that angels are gods. Gods are not servants, and the angels are servants. Do a people judge their gods?: "Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:3).

"Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14).
"To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into." (1 Peter 1:12).

Let Us Make Man

Genesis 1:26-27 reports a divine conversation,

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26-27).

Is this polytheism, or is there a much better way?




Before the gods

The Psalmist announced his intention to worship the LORD before the gods: "I will praise You with my whole heart, before the gods I will sing praises to You." (Psalm 138:1). Before what gods? With the greatest of naturalness, pagan peoples called their idols "gods": "Moroever you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands." (Acts 19:26). Perhaps the Psalm looks back to the time when David was in military service to the Philistines. No doubt his attendance was expected at religious ceremonies devoted to the pagan gods. What did he do there: mumble the obligatory praises to the idols? No, praise the living God! All the gods of the peoples are idols: "For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens." (1 Chronicles 16:26). Not 'some of the gods of the people are idols, others are powerful beings;' but "All the gods of the peoples are idols."

This species of god, the kind made by human hands, is highly visible, its existence empirically demonstrable; don't you see that gigantic statue? Since these things could be so big as to blot out the sun, denying their existence is not an option. Surely someone who cannot see the Colossus of Rhodes must be blind! Except, they are not really gods.

"But there are some persons who have given gold and silver to sculptors and statuaries, as people able to fashion gods for them. And they, taking the lifeless materials and using a mortal model, have (which is a most extraordinary thing) made gods, as far as appearance went, and have built temples and erected altars, and dedicated them to them, honoring them with excessive pains and diligence, with sacrifices and processions, and all kinds of other sacred ceremonies and purifications; the priests and priestesses exciting themselves to the very extremity of their power to extend this kind of pride and vanity." (Philo Judaeus, On Monarchy, Book 1, Chapter II).

Worshipping them is 'vanity.' Verdict: 'no gods.'

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The Witch of Endor

The witch of Endor is the favored theologian of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who borrow her definition of a 'god.'

"And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? . . .And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth." (1 Samuel 28:6-13).

One cannot know what infernal deities this woman, a necromancer, adored, nor how she expected to recognize them when they appeared, but it is from her cry, "I saw gods ascending out of the earth," that the Jehovah's Witnesses derive their definition that 'gods' are 'spirit beings,' and fearlessly draw the consequence that there are many gods. Unlike most in her profession, she was not a fraud, and she did succeed in communicating with the deceased Samuel, not a demonic imposter. But since adopting this professional medium's definition of a 'god' results in an unlawful god-count, it may be that they are unwise to take her as their expert authority in the theology field. Why not take Shirley MacLaine instead.




Progress

One might like to think, 'we're smart people, surely we have got beyond this now?' In fact paganism has proven to be a resilient and robust adversary for Christianity. No push-over, it keeps coming back, when you thought it was down for the count:

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