Original Research

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

Christian Frevel
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 34, No 2 | a810 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v34i2.810 | © 2013 Christian Frevel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 October 2012 | Published: 20 September 2013

About the author(s)

Christian Frevel, Faculty of Catholic Theology, Ruhr-Universit


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, Yehûd 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.


Monotheisms; Polytheism; Monolatry


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Crossref Citations

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