Henotheism

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Henotheism (from Greek ἑνός θεοῦ (henos theou), meaning 'of one god') is the worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities. [1] [2] Friedrich Schelling (17751854) coined the word, and Friedrich Welcker (17841868) used it to depict primitive monotheism among ancient Greeks. [3]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. God is usually conceived as being omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present) and as having an eternal and necessary existence. These attributes are used either in way of analogy or are taken literally. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence".

Deity A supernatural being considered divine or sacred

A deity is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines deity as "a god or goddess ", or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as "a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life". In the English language, a male deity is referred to as a god, while a female deity is referred to as a goddess.

Contents

Max Müller (18231900), a German philologist and orientalist, brought the term into wider usage in his scholarship on the Indian religions, [4] [5] particularly Hinduism whose scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. [2] Müller made the term central to his criticism of Western theological and religious exceptionalism (relative to Eastern religions), focusing on a cultural dogma which held "monotheism" to be both fundamentally well-defined and inherently superior to differing conceptions of God.

Max Müller German-born philologist and orientalist

Friedrich Max Müller, generally known as Max Müller, was a German-born philologist and Orientalist, who lived and studied in Britain for most of his life. He was one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of Study of religions. Müller wrote both scholarly and popular works on the subject of Indology. The Sacred Books of the East, a 50-volume set of English translations, was prepared under his direction. He also promoted the idea of a Turanian family of languages.

Indian religions The religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent

Indian religions, sometimes also termed as Dharmic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These religions are also all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, and are not confined to the Indian subcontinent.

Western world Countries that identify themselves with an originally European shared culture

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and states, depending on the context, most often including at least parts of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America disputed. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world. It is often correlated with the Northern half of the North-south divide.

Definition and terminology

Friedrich Schelling coined the term henotheism, from heis or heno which literally means "single, one". [1] [2] [6] The term refers to a form of theism focused on a single god. Related terms are monolatrism and kathenotheism. [1] The latter term is an extension of "henotheism", fromκαθ' ἕνα θεόν (kath' hena theon), meaning 'one god at a time'. [7] Henotheism refers to a pluralistic theology wherein different deities are viewed to be of a unitary, equivalent divine essence. [2] Another term related to henotheism is "equitheism", referring to the belief that all gods are equal. [8] Further, the term henotheism does not exclude monism, nondualism or dualism. [5]

Kathenotheism is a term coined by the philologist Max Müller to mean the worship of one god at a time. It is closely related to henotheism, the worship of one god while not rejecting the existence of other gods. Müller coined the term in reference to the Vedas, where he explained each deity is treated as supreme in turn.

Monism View that attributes oneness or singleness to a concept

Monism attributes oneness or singleness to a concept e.g., existence. Various kinds of monism can be distinguished:

Nondualism Mature state of consciousness transcending dualism

In spirituality, nondualism, also called non-duality, means "not two" or "one undivided without a second". Nondualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is "transcended", and awareness is described as "centerless" and "without dichotomies". Although this state of consciousness may seem to appear spontaneous, it usually follows prolonged preparation through ascetic or meditative/contemplative practice, which may include ethical injunctions. While the term "nondualism" is derived from Advaita Vedanta, descriptions of nondual consciousness can be found within Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and western Christian and neo-Platonic traditions.

Various scholars prefer the term monolatrism to henotheism, to discuss religions where a single god is central, but the existence or the position of other gods is not denied. [1] [6] According to Christoph Elsas, henotheism in modern usage connotes a syncretic stage in the development of religions in late antiquity. A henotheist may worship a single god from a pantheon of deities at a given time, depending on his or her choice, while accepting other deities and concepts of god. [5] [2] Henotheism and inclusive monotheism are terms that refer to a middle position between unlimited polytheism and exclusive monotheism. [1]

Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda is the supreme god, but Zoroastrianism does not deny other deities. Ahura Mazda has yazatas ("good agents") some of which include Anahita, Sraosha, Mithra, Rashnu, and Tishtrya. Richard Foltz has put forth evidence that Iranians of Pre-Islamic era worshiped all these figures, especially Mithra and Anahita. [9]

Ahura Mazda Highest deity of Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda is the creator and highest deity of Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda is the first and most frequently invoked spirit in the Yasna. The literal meaning of the word Ahura is "lord", and that of Mazda is "wisdom".

Anahita Zoroastrian water divinity

Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita, the Avestan name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of "the Waters" (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Aredvi Sura Anahita is Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid in Middle and Modern Persian, and Anahit in Armenian. An iconic shrine cult of Aredvi Sura Anahita was – together with other shrine cults – "introduced apparently in the 4th century BCE and lasted until it was suppressed in the wake of an iconoclastic movement under the Sassanids."

Sraosha the Avestan language name of the Zoroastrian divinity of "Obedience" or "Observance"

Sraosha is the Avestan name of the Zoroastrian yazata of "Conscience" and "Observance", which is also the literal meaning of his name.

Prods Oktor Skjærvø states Zoroastrianism is henotheistic, and "a dualistic and polytheistic religion, but with one supreme god, who is the father of the ordered cosmos". [10] Other scholars state that this is unclear, because historic texts present a conflicting picture, ranging from Zoroastrianism's belief in "one god, two gods, or a best god henotheism". [11]

Hinduism

To what is One

They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni,
and he is heavenly-winged Garutman.
To what is One, sages give many a title.

Rigveda 1.164.46
Transl: Klaus Klostermaier [12] [13]

Henotheism was the term used by scholars such as Max Müller to describe the theology of Vedic religion. [14] [2] Müller noted that the hymns of the Rigveda , the oldest scripture of Hinduism, mention many deities, but praises them successively as the "one ultimate, supreme God", alternatively as "one supreme Goddess", [15] thereby asserting that the essence of the deities was unitary ( ekam ), and the deities were nothing but pluralistic manifestations of the same concept of the divine (God). [2] [5] [6]

The Vedic era conceptualization of the divine or the One, states Jeaneane Fowler, is more abstract than a monotheistic God, it is the Reality behind and of the phenomenal universe. [16] The Vedic hymns treat it as "limitless, indescribable, absolute principle", thus the Vedic divine is something of a panentheism rather than simple henotheism. [16] In late Vedic era, around the start of Upanishadic age (~800 BCE), theosophical speculations emerge that develop concepts which scholars variously call nondualism or monism, as well as forms of non-theism and pantheism. [16] [17] [18] An example of the questioning of the concept of God, in addition to henotheistic hymns found therein, are in later portions of the Rigveda, such as the Nasadiya Sukta. [19] Hinduism calls the metaphysical absolute concept as Brahman, incorporating within it the transcendent and immanent reality. [20] [21] [22] Different schools of thought interpret Brahman as either personal, impersonal or transpersonal. Ishwar Chandra Sharma describes it as "Absolute Reality, beyond all dualities of existence and non-existence, light and darkness, and of time, space and cause." [23]

Hellenistic religion

While Greek and Roman religion began as polytheism, during the Classical period, under the influence of philosophy, differing conceptions emerged. Often Zeus (or Jupiter) was considered the supreme, all-powerful and all-knowing, king and father of the Olympian gods. According to Maijastina Kahlos "monotheism was pervasive in the educated circles in Late Antiquity" and "all divinities were interpreted as aspects, particles or epithets of one supreme God". [24] Maximus Tyrius (2nd century A.D.) stated: "In such a mighty contest, sedition and discord, you will see one according law and assertion in all the earth, that there is one god, the king and father of all things, and many gods, sons of god, ruling together with him." [25]

The Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus taught that above the gods of traditional belief was "The One", [24] and polytheist [26] grammarian Maximus of Madauros even stated that only a madman would deny the existence of the supreme God. [24]

Canaanite religion and early Judaism

Rabbinical Judaism as it developed in Late Antiquity is emphatically monotheistic. However, its predecessor—the various schools of Hellenistic Judaism and Second Temple Judaism, and especially the cult of Yahweh as it was practiced in ancient Israel and Judah during the 8th and 7th centuries BC—have been described as henotheistic.

For example, the Moabites worshipped the god Chemosh, the Edomites, Qaus, both of whom were part of the greater Canaanite pantheon, headed by the chief god, El. The Canaanite pantheon consisted of El and Asherah as the chief deities, with 70 sons who were said to rule over each of the nations of the earth. These sons were each worshiped within a specific region. Kurt Noll states that "the Bible preserves a tradition that Yahweh used to 'live' in the south, in the land of Edom" and that the original god of Israel was El Shaddai. [27]

Several Biblical stories[ which? ] allude to the belief that the Canaanite gods all existed and were thought[ by whom? ] to possess the most power in the lands by the people who worshiped them and their sacred objects; their power was believed to be real and could be invoked by the people who patronized them. There are numerous accounts[ citation needed ] of surrounding nations of Israel showing fear or reverence for the Israelite God despite their continued polytheistic practices. [28] For instance, in 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines fret before the second battle of Aphek when they learn that the Israelites are bearing the Ark of the Covenant, and therefore Yahweh, into battle. The Israelites were forbidden [29] to worship other deities, but according to some interpretations[ which? ] of the Bible, they were not fully monotheistic before the Babylonian captivity. Mark S. Smith refers to this stage as a form of monolatry. [30] Smith argues that Yahweh underwent a process of merging with El and that acceptance of cults of Asherah was common in the period of the Judges. [30] 2 Kings 3:27 has been interpreted as describing a human sacrifice in Moab that led the invading Israelite army to fear the power of Chemosh. [31]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Some scholars have written that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) can be characterized as henotheistic, but others have rejected this stance.

Eugene England, a professor at Brigham Young University, asserted that LDS Presidents Brigham Young and Joseph Fielding Smith along with LDS scholar B. H. Roberts used the LDS interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:5–6 as "a brief explanation of how it is possible to be both a Christian polytheist (technically a henotheist) and a monotheist". [32] BYU Professor Roger R. Keller rejected descriptions of the LDS Church as polytheistic by countering, as summarized by a reviewer, "Mormons are fundamentally monotheistic because they deal with only one god out of the many which exist." [33]

In their book, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, Richard and Joan Ostling, wrote that some Mormons are comfortable describing themselves as henotheists. [34]

Kurt Widmer, professor at the University of Lethbridge, described LDS beliefs as a "cosmic henotheism". [35] A review of Widmer's book by Bruening and Paulsen in the FARMS Review of Books countered that Widmer's hypothesis was "strongly disconfirmed in light of the total evidence". [36]

Van Hale has written, "Mormonism teaches the existence of gods who are not the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost" and "the existence of more than one god [is] clearly a Mormon doctrine", but he also said that defining this belief system in theological terms was troublesome. Henotheism might appear to be "promising" in describing LDS beliefs, Hale wrote, but it is ultimately not accurate because henotheism was intended to describe the worship of a god that was restricted to a specific geographical area. [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god that created the world, is all-powerful and intervenes in the world.

Theism belief in the existence of at least one deity

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.

A creator deity or creator god is a deity or god responsible for the creation of the Earth, world, and universe in human religion and mythology. In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator. A number of monolatristic traditions separate a secondary creator from a primary transcendent being, identified as a primary creator.

Supernatural Anything inexplicable by scientific understanding of the laws of nature

The concept of the supernatural encompasses anything that is inexplicable by scientific understanding of the laws of nature but nevertheless argued by believers to exist. Examples include immaterial beings such as angels, gods and spirits, and claimed human abilities like magic, telekinesis and extrasensory perception.

Hindu deities are the gods and goddesses in Hinduism. The terms and epithets for deity within the diverse traditions of Hinduism vary, and include Deva, Devi, Ishvara, Ishvari, Bhagavān and Bhagavati.

Monolatry is belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term "monolatry" was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.

Deva (Hinduism) Term in Hinduism

Deva means "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence", and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism. Deva is a masculine term; the feminine equivalent is Devi.

The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry. Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.

The gender of God can be viewed as a literal or as an allegorical aspect of a deity. In polytheistic religions, gods are more likely to have literal sexes which would enable them to interact with each other, and even with humans, in a sexual way.

God and gender in Hinduism

In Hinduism, there are diverse approaches to conceptualizing God and gender. Many Hindus focus upon impersonal Absolute (Brahman) which is genderless. Other Hindu traditions conceive God as androgynous, alternatively as either male or female, while cherishing gender henotheism, that is without denying the existence of other Gods in either gender.

Hinduism is a religion which incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism, monotheism, henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic, humanism, atheism or Nontheism.

The first Mandala ("book") of the Rigveda has 191 hymns. Together with Mandala 10, it forms the latest part of the Rigveda, its composition likely dating to the Early Iron Age.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes called Abrahamic religions because they all accept the tradition of the God that revealed himself to the prophet Abraham. The theological traditions of all Abrahamic religions are thus to some extent influenced by the depiction of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, and the historical development of monotheism in the history of Judaism.

The concept of God in Hinduism varies in its diverse traditions. Hinduism spans a wide range of beliefs such as henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, atheism and nontheism.

Polytheism worship of or belief in multiple deities

Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. In most religions which accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, and can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator deity or transcendental absolute principle, which manifests immanently in nature. Most of the polytheistic deities of ancient religions, with the notable exceptions of the Ancient Egyptian and Hindu deities, were conceived as having physical bodies.

The origins of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age amidst polytheistic ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, co-existing with a syncretization with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Iron Age I, the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions due to the unique monolatristic (proto-monotheistic) worship of Yahweh.

Yahwism worship of Yahweh in the Levant during the Iron Age

Yahwism was the historic worship of Yahweh in the ancient Israelite kingdoms of Judah and Samaria (Israel) – and thus the primitive, formative stages of Judaism.

References

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  29. Exodus Chapter 20 Verse 3
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