I am currently a college student and have taken several religion courses.
Often I find information that bothers me. One is that it is often very
biased due to the teacher. What has been bothering me recently is some
information that has been presented to us, and claimed as “factual.” It is
said that in the beginning very early Jews actually did worship many Gods,
and then picked out one to completly worship (Yahweh). I find this a bit
challenging to my faith and I was looking for some other information
concerning it. Also it is believed that there is much inconsistency in the
Old Testament, where God declares himself as “one” and at other times
there is plural use (Let us make Man in our image) This is due to the fact
that there were multiple gods worshipped in the beginning. I cant help but
find some of this information bothering me, and I would like to find
somewhat of a detailed response to this. Thanks for any help!


Your experience is not an unusual one at all. The vast majority of those
who teach religion courses in colleges and universities are
non-believers. You should take everything such a teacher says with a
grain of salt, although you will be able to learn a lot of interesting and
useful information even from a non-believing religion instructor.

In analyzing the viewpoint of your religion instructor, you should bear in
mind that he/she makes an assumption in analyzing the data. He or she is
assuming that there is no God and that it is impossible that a people can
have an inspired source of information. Given that this assumption is
false (and I believe that it is patently false!), it is understandable
that such theologians or historians are bound to misinterpret the
available information. If you assume that Jesus was just a human being,
then this will surely influence how you interpret the biblical account of
the feeding of the five thousand. If you assume that the Jews were just
another loose confederation of tribes who invented monotheism, this will
surely affect your interpretation of the story in Exodus of the parting of
the Red Sea. As you listen to your religion professor, remember that he
or she has a blatant bias which makes it impossible for him or her to
interpret certain information correctly.

Let me get to the specific question. Based on his/her pre-assumption that
there is no God, your religion instructor is assuming that the Jews
evolved in a way analogous to all other ancient peoples. No wonder he or
she reaches the conclusion that the Jews evolved from polytheism to
monotheism! The real question is what is the evidence? Let me be honest
about this. We do not have a lot of information from history or
archaeology about the Jews before about 1000 BC. There is an inscription
from about 1250 BC in Egypt known as the Shishak inscription. It mentions
the Hebrews, but gives us no information about their religious practices.
We know from copious archaeological evidence that by the early part of the
first millenium BC the Jews were worshipping Yaweh–that they were
formally monotheistic, but that they definitely were still involved in
idolatry. Of course, we know this from biblical references as well.

So, the question is how to extrapolate archaeological evidence of
monotheism (with remnant polytheism) further into the past. It is not at
all surprising that your religion professor speculates that Jewish
monotheism evolved from polytheism. The evidence does not prove this, but
“common sense,” in other words, comparison to other cultures naturally
leads to the logical conclusion that the very early Hebrews were

Bottom line, your professor is speculating based on a reasonable analysis
of the evidence. Now, let us bring the Bible into the equation, and let
us consider the possibility that it is in fact inspired by God. Let us at
least allow for the possibility that it is accurate history. You must
understand that you professor assumes that it cannot possibly be either of
these. He or she is extremely biased, making the final conclusion
inevitable. I believe that the Bible is by far the most accurate ancient
historical document we have. I believe that there is absolutely
overwhelming evidence that the Bible is inspired by God, including
evidence from prophecy, from historical accuracy, from internal
consistency, for miracles which happened and so forth. If you would like
to do some additional research into the evidence behind these claims, I
suggest you pick up a copy of my book, “Reasons for Belief: A Handbook of
Christian Evidence.” (www, For a person who is not
predisposed to assume that God is real and that he can work in human
history, I believe that the story of God’s people and of his calling them
since the time of Abraham is compelling truth. You do not need to be
intimidated by your religion instructor. You can probably learn a lot
from this class, but you just recognize the entire time that you are
hearing information from a person who is very biased and for whatever
reasons, rejects the obvious truth that the Bible is God’s word. If you
can listen with a wise eye to detect that bias, your experience in the
class can be worthwhile.

Oh, I almost forgot your last question. It is true and a bit
disconcerting at first that the very early part of Genesis has God using
the word “we” when speaking. If we allow for the fact that the Father,
the Son and the Spirit are all present at the creation (Genesis 1:1 “and
the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters) this makes sense. In the
rest of the Bible, it is true, God speaks of himself in the singular, so
this use of first person plural in the first chapters of Genesis is a bit
surprising, but if one applies the idea of “trinity” (not that that word
is in the Bible) it is readily explained. What we can say for sure is
that there is not a shred of evidence for polytheism anywhere in the
Bible, even with the passages in Genesis one. Most conservative scholars
recognize this fact, but, again, those who assume that the Bible is
entirely a human creation are bound to reach a different conclusion. This
is not because of the evidence, but because of a bias. Feel free to send
more specific questions my way if you need to do so.

John Oakes

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