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Mapping Monotheism: Modes of Monotheistic Rhetoric in the Hebrew Bible

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image of Vetus Testamentum

AbstractSeveral biblical traditions give expression to Yhwh’s sole divinity in ways utterly unlike the “classic” expressions of monotheism in Deuteronomy, Deutero-Isaiah, or Jeremiah. Priestly literature, for example, does not deny explicitly the existence of other gods, or assert Yhwh’s sole existence. Instead, priestly writers portray a world in which none but Yhwh could meaningfully exist or act. While some biblical scholars have recognized this “implicit” mode of monotheistic rhetoric, the implications of this and other modes of monotheistic rhetoric for a broader understanding of biblical monotheism have gone unappreciated. In this article, I create a taxonomy of various “explicit” and “implicit” modes of monotheizing in the Hebrew Bible. Then, I consider several implications of these diverse modes for understanding the variegated shape of biblical monotheism, and for using the Hebrew Bible to reconstruct monotheism’s history.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster Theological


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