Quotable: Benjamin D. Sommer

I’m thoroughly enjoying Benjamin D. Sommer’s book The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel. I hope to review it shortly, but many other things are on the table right now. His appendix on monotheism is a good distillation of the broader discussion, and I love the following statement:

It is important to emphasize that the biblical texts largely portray the Israelites as polytheists, because many modern scholars somehow assume that the biblical texts must have said that Israelites were monotheists. A depressingly large amount of scholarly writing on this subject consists of an attempt to debunk the Bible by demonstrating something the Bible itself asserts—indeed, something the Bible repeatedly emphasizes: that Israelites before the exile worshipped many gods.

Preceding this is an interesting discussion of monotheism, polytheism, monotheistic monolatry, and polytheistic monolatry that identifies some of the complexities of the definitions of these terms that are too often overlooked in scholarship that deals with monotheism. Check it out.


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