Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Was Paul a Monotheist?

The Blog-father, Mark Goodacre, opens up the discussion, apparently initiated by Paula Fredrickson [See also Gods and the One God] about monotheism in antiquity. Dr. Goodacre quotes Fredrickson's article, Gods and the One God, where she states:
The world was filled with other gods, and ancient Jews knew this. Paul complains about their negative effect on his mission. Astral forces (stoicheia) previously enslaved his formerly pagan converts in Galatia (Galatians 4.8). "The god of this cosmos" blinded believers so that they cannot see "the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4.4). Paul writes, "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth -- as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' -- yet for us there is one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 8.5-6). Paul and his Gentile readers do not doubt the existence of many gods. They just do not worship them.
My own question in this discussion is a clarification of terms. Yes, monotheism designates the belief in one god. But surely within the Judeo-Christian worldview it designates loyalty or worship to one god, not just belief in one god. What made Paul a monotheist, was not just his belief but his adherence, allegiance and devotion. Every other god was a demon or demonic allusion [this appears to be what Paul is suggesting in 1 Cor 10:20: No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God.]
Paul appears to be a monotheist because his loyalty and devotion was to the god of Israel revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, and not to others. There apparently were other gods, forces, demons, emperors who claimed the title of GOD within Paul's world[view], but none of them amounted to Paul's identification of GOD as Creator and Sovereign of the universe - revealed in and through the crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus our LORD.
It will however, be fascinating to see if Fredrickson develop this thesis, and if so how... Stay tuned...
For more on this topic, see Richard Bauckham's Paul's Christology of Divine Identity.

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