I’m reading Baruch Halpern’s “‘Brisker Pipes than Poetry’: The Development of Israelite Monotheism” (Judaic Perspectives on Ancient Israel [Fortress Press, 1987], 77–115), and I came across an interesting quote from Yehezkel Kaufmann’s toledot ha’emuna hayyisra’elit (translation is from Moshe Greenberg, The Religion of Israel [University of Chicago Press, 1960], 137):
Even the worship of other supernatural beings . . . cannot be considered in necessary contradiction to monotheism . . . The One is not necessarily “jealous” in a cultic sense. There is room in monotheism for the worship of lower divine beings—with the understanding that they belong to the suit of the One. Thus Christianity knows the worship of saints and intercessors, as does Islam. . . . I sraelite monotheism tended toward cultic exclusivism and was crystallized in this form in the Bible. But during the pre-exilic period Israel was still moving from the basic monotheistic idea to its extreme cultic consequence.
I think this is an interesting perspective, and given the word “monotheism” was coined as an antonym to atheism and not polytheism, there may be some merit to it. James McGrath uses sacrifice as the act that is unequivocally identifiable with worship in the ancient period, but in modern times what does worship mean? Most Christians would object to the notion that they worship saints and intercessors, but is the difference between devotion and worship a meaningful one? What are your thoughts?