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Original Research

Yhwh, the Goddess and Evil: Is 'monotheism' an adequate concept to describe the Hebrew Bible's discourses about the God of Israel?

Thomas C. Römer

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 34, No 2 (2013), 5 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v34i2.841

Submitted: 13 February 2013
Published:  05 September 2013

Abstract

The concept of ‘monotheism’ has become a matter of debate in Hebrew Bible scholarship. This article investigates whether the concept should still be used, starting with Second Isaiah, who in the early Persian period elaborated a discourse that presented Yhwh as the only god. Therefore he had to integrate into this deity functions traditionally attributed to goddesses and to demons or evil gods. However, this attempt did not succeed. The goddess, whose elimination is probably reflected in Zechariah 5, returned in a certain way through the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, and the ‘dark sides’ of the gods were materialised in the figure of Satan, who experienced an impressive career in the following centuries. The question of evil is not resolved in the Hebrew Bible. Some texts admit the autonomy of evil, whereas Isaiah 45 claims that Yhwh himself is at the origin of evil. This diversity makes it difficult to characterise the Hebrew Bible as the result of a straightforward evolution from polytheism to monotheism.

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Author affiliations

Thomas C. Römer, Milieux Bibliques, Collège de France, France; Institut romand des sciences bibliques, University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Department Old Testament, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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

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