Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
There are various hints in the Old Testament that the earlier Jewish authors thought that multiple gods existed, which would be in conflict with the later view that there is no god but God. There are so many such hints that I’m tempted to call this problem Serious. But there are a number of points that could be made against this view.
The easy cases
- In the case of quoted speech, where some human mentions other gods, it doesn’t necessarily follow that these gods exist, because the Bible doesn’t necessarily endorse such quoted speech as correct.
- God often commands the Israelites not to worship other gods, and other verses tell us that certain people worship different gods. But again, this doesn’t imply they actually exist. One can easily worship a non-existent god.
- There are cases where God seems to speak of himself in the plural (e.g. “let us go down“). But this could either refer to the Trinity, or to other heavenly beings such as angels. Or it could simply be the majestic plural.
- There are verses where we are told that God is greater than other gods (e.g. Psalm 135:5). But this is trivially true if God exists and other gods don’t.
- There are verses where “the gods” could plausibly refer to human-built idols made out of wood or clay. For example, Jeremiah 10:11, when read in context, is clearly of this sort.
Judgement upon the gods
There are some verses where we are told that God passes judgement or punishment upon other gods. For example, this is Exodus 12:12:
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