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Beyond monotheism? Some remarks and questions on conceptualising ‘monotheism’ in Biblical Studies

Christian Frevel

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 34, No 2 (2013), 7 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v34i2.810

Submitted: 29 October 2012
Published:  20 September 2013


In the first part of this article I outline serious objections against the concept of monotheism. I will ask whether the ambiguity and the problem discredit the concept of monotheism as inappropriate for Biblical Studies, or whether it calls for differentiation. In the argument following thereupon, the concept is found to be more useful to describe certain stages of the conceptual and linguistic development of Israelite religion. The term and concept of monotheism in Biblical Studies is necessary, but not sufficient, if we want to reconstruct the religious history of Israel, Judah, Yehűd and Early Judaism or Judaisms. In this article I propose categories such as implicit monotheism, intolerant monolatry, implicit exclusion, explicit uniqueness, monotheism as implication et cetera, which are especially useful if we want an accurate description of the statements. This makes the category of monotheism useful as heuristic and relational category.

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Author affiliations

Christian Frevel, Faculty of Catholic Theology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany; Department of Old Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Monotheisms; Polytheism; Monolatry


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1. “The Lord Your God is God of Gods and Lord of Lords”: Is Monotheism a Political Problem in the Hebrew Bible?
James W. Haring
Political Theology  vol: 18  issue: 6  first page: 512  year: 2017  
doi: 10.1080/1462317X.2016.1263028

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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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