Henotheism

Henotheism (Greek Polytonic|εἷς θεός "heis theos" "one god") is a term coined by Max Müller, to mean devotion to a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities. [Müller, Max. (1878) "Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion: As Illustrated by the Religions of India." London:Longmans, Green and Co.] 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.

Variations on the term have been inclusive monotheism and monarchical polytheism, designed to differentiate differing forms of the phenomenon. Related terms are monolatrism and kathenotheism, which are typically understood as sub-types of henotheism. The latter term is an extension of "henotheism", from Polytonic|καθ' ἕνα θεόν ("kath' hena theon") —"one god at a time". Henotheism is similar but less exclusive than monolatry because a monolator worships only one god, while the henotheist may worship any within the pantheon, depending on circumstances. In some belief systems, the choice of the supreme deity within a henotheistic framework may be determined by cultural, geographical, historical or political reasons.

Henotheism in various religions

Classical Greco-Roman

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"Maijastina Kahlos, "Debate and Dialogue: Christian and Pagan Cultures C. 360-430", Ashgate Publishing, 2007, p.145; p.160] 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." [ Encyclopedia Britannia, 11th edition, Maximus Tryius.]

The Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus taught that above the gods of traditional belief was "The One" and Maximus of Madauros even stated that only a mad person would deny the existence of a single God.

Hinduism

Contemporary Hinduism is mostly monistic, or in some instances monotheistic, see Hindu views on monotheism. The concept of Brahman implies a "transcendent and immanent" reality, [Brahman] which different schools of thought variously interpret as personal, impersonal or transpersonal. With the rise of Shaivism and Vaishnavism in the early centuries CE, Hinduism can largely be considered monotheistic, although the monism of Advaita school following Adi Shankara (see Smartism), is generally viewed as 'inclusive' monotheism. [Smartas worship 5 deities - Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Surya, Devi, Ganesha.] [Smarta Hinduism, a contemporary “soft polytheistic” (technically,“inclusive monotheistic”) religion, recognizes thousands of gods and goddesses, each representing one characteristic of a supreme Absolute called “Brahman. [http://www.pilambda.org/horizons/v84-3/v84-3.pdf Educational Horizons] ] The Devas of the historical Vedic religion are usually confused with demigods or angels, but they are better described as "celestial gods" or deities representing personification of supernatural forces within material nature. [http://books.google.com/books?id=IhLN2I9yTTkC The True History and the Religion of India: A Concise Encyclopedia of Authentic Hinduism] ] The Rigveda was the basis for Max Müller's description of henotheism in the sense of a polytheistic tradition striving towards a formulation of The One ("ekam") Divinity aimed at by the worship of different cosmic principles. From this mix of monism, monotheism and naturalist polytheism Max Müller decided to name the early Vedic religion henotheistic. A prime example of the monistic aspects of the late Rigveda is the Nasadiya sukta, a hymn describing creation: "That One breathed by itself without breath, other than it there has been nothing."

Christianity

Many Christians believe in a pantheon of angels, demons, and/or Saints that are inferior to the Trinity. Christians do not label these beings as gods per se, although they are sometimes the object of prayer and some signs of honor. Mainline Christian churches which permit prayer to saints, however, insist that such prayer is only proper when limited to asking for the angel or saint's intercession to God. [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08070a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Intercession] ] They are adamant that saints possess no powers of their own, and any miracle able to be attributed to their intercession is the product of the power of God and not any supernatural power of the saint. Were there to be any aspect of worship toward these angelic or saintly figures, then the matter would reflect polytheism, rather than henotheism, monolatry, or monotheism. This stance and use of the acknowledgment of other heavenly beings (Saints, most often) during prayer is primarily practiced in traditional Catholicism, whereas the vast majority of Protestant denominations hold God as being the only appropriate object of worship.

Such practices could be construed, however, as acts reflecting monolatrism rather than henotheism, and it is thusly important to note that, within a religious belief system, the acknowledgement of angels, saints, or any other spiritual entities does not immediately imply their worship nor their worthiness of receiving worship. [ [http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_heno.htm Varieties of Theism: What are Henotheism and Monolatry?]

When Christianity was adopted by Greco-Roman pagans or African slaves, the new converts often attributed to these saints features of their previous polytheistic figures. In some cases, these beliefs have developed out of the Catholic Church and form syncretisms like Santeria. These beliefs are somewhat similar to modern Hinduism which distinguishes between God in the form of Vishnu or Shiva, and devas which are subordinate to God and who supervise forces of nature such as Agni (i.e., fire) or Vayu (i.e., wind).

Some non-trinitarian Christian denominations have also been labeled henotheistic:
* Gnosticism is generally henotheistic.
* Although most Latter Day Saints adamantly label themselves as monotheists, somewho lay claim to henotheism.Fact|date=August 2008 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially known as the LDS Church or Mormon church) considers the members of the Christian Godhead as three distinct beings, where God the Father is supreme, yet all three beings are defined collectively as "God". Though not mentioned in canonical scripture, somewho Latter-day Saints infer the possible existence of other gods and goddesses outside of our God's realm. However, they are neither known nor acknowledged, nor do they have any relevance to this Earth or humanity ("see" Godhead (Mormonism)). Another supposition not discussed in canonical scripture is the concept of a Heavenly Mother.
Latter-day Saints worship one god, which belief is most easily described as worshiping God the Father through the conduit of the Son, Jesus Christ. Whereas other Christians speak of "One God in Three Persons", LDS scripture speaks instead of three persons in one god. See the Book of Mormon's sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Mosiah|chapter=15|verse=4 ("they are one God"), and LDS interpretation of John 17:11 [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/17/11#11] ] (Jesus asks the Father in prayer that his disciples "may be one, "as we are").
* Jehovah's Witnesses are viewed as henotheistic because they worship the god Jehovah while viewing Jesus, Satan and angels as lesser gods. Satan in particular is referred to as "god of this system of things", that is, the invisible spirit having control over governments and other institutions of the secular and religious world, a position he has held since Adam and Eve's defection in Eden, with its implicit change of allegiance from God (Jehovah) to Satan. Jesus is referenced as sitting at the right hand of God, assisting in all acts of Creation aside from his own, hence his status as "only begotten" (cf. John 1:14, 18). It should be noted that no "god" aside from Jehovah is an appropriate object of worship for Jehovah's Witnesses. Jesus alone is accepted as an intercessor between God and man, but even he is not worshiped as such. Thus, the belief system may more appropriately be described as monolatristic rather than henotheistic, though both appellations would likely be disputed by adherents.

Canaanite and Israelite beliefs

It is generally uncontroversial that many of the Iron Age religions found in the land of Israel were henotheistic in practice. 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 Asherat 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. K. L. 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.K. L. Noll, "Canaan and Israel in Antiquity: An Introduction", Continuum, 2002, p.123]

Several Biblical stories allude to the belief that the Canaanite gods all existed and possessed the most power in the lands that worshiped them or in their sacred objects; their power was real and could be invoked by the people who patronised them. There are numerous accounts of surrounding nations of Israel showing fear or reverence for the Israelite God despite their continued polytheistic practices. [David Bridger, Samuel Wolk et al, "The New Jewish Encyclopedia", Behrman House, 1976, pp.326-7] 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. In 2 Kings 5, the Aramean general Naaman insists on transporting Israelite soil back with him to Syria in the belief that only then will Yahweh have the power to heal him. The Israelites were forbidden to worship other deities, but according to some interpretations of the Bible, they were not fully monotheistic before the Babylonian Captivity. Mark S. Smith refers to this stage as a form of monolatry.Mark S. Smith, "The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel", Eerdmans Publishing, 2002, pp.58, 183] 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. 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.Gregory A. Boyd, "God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict", InterVarsity Press, 1997, p.118]

According to the Five Books of Moses, Abraham is revered as the one who overcame the idol worship of his family and surrounding people by recognizing the Hebrew God and establishing a covenant with him and creating the foundation of what has been called by scholars "Ethical Monotheism". The first of the Ten Commandments can be interpreted to forbid the Children of Israel from worshiping any other god but the one true God who had revealed himself at Mount Sinai and given them the Torah, however it can also be read as henotheistic, since it states that they should have "no other gods before me." The commandment itself does not affirm or deny the existence of other deities "per se". Nevertheless, as recorded in the Tanakh ("Old Testament" Bible), in defiance of the Torah's teachings, the patron god YHWH was frequently worshipped in conjunction with other gods such as Baal, Asherah, and El. Over time, this tribal god may have assumed all the appellations of the other gods in the eyes of the people. The destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon was considered a divine reprimand and punishment for the mistaken worship of other deities. By the end of the Babylonian captivity of Judah in the Tanakh, Judaism is strictly monotheistic. There are nonetheless seeming elements of "polytheism" in certain biblical books, such as God's reference to himself as "us" in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22, in Daniel's frequent use of the honorific "God of gods" and especially in the Psalms. Jewish scholars were aware of this, and expressed the opinion that although the verse can be understood wrongly, God was not afraid to write it in the Torah. However, the word "God" in Hebrew ("Elohim") is also a plural, meaning "powerful ones" or "rulers". This is true in Hebrew as well as other related Canaanite languages. So "Elohim" could refer to any number of "rulers", such as angels, false gods (as defined by Torah), or even human holders of power including rulers or judges within Israel, as described in Exodus 21:6; 22:8-8, without violating the parameters of monotheism. Some scholars believe that Exodus 3:13-15 describes the moment when YHWH first tells Moses that he is the same god as El, the supreme being. This could be the recounting, in mythical form, of Israel's conversion to monotheism.

Henotheism and monolatry

Henotheism is closely related to the theistic concept of Monolatry, which is also the worship of one god among many. The primary difference between the two is that Henotheism is the worship of one god, not precluding the existence of others who may also be worthy of praise, while Monolatry is the worship of one god who alone is worthy of worship, though other gods are known to exist. Henotheism thus supposes to know less about divine matters, and Monolatry more. [ [http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_heno.htm Varieties of Theism: What are Henotheism and Monolatry? ] ]

ee also

*Hinduism
*Comparative religion
*Kathenotheism

References

External links

* [http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_heno.htm What are Henotheism and Monolatry?]
* [http://www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/henotheism.htm On Henotheism]


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Henotheism — Hen o*the*ism, n. [Gr. e i s, enos , one + E. theism.] Primitive religion in which each of several divinities is regarded as independent, and is worshiped without reference to the rest. [R.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • henotheism — 1860, from Gk. henos, neut. of eis one (from PIE *sem one, as one ) + THEISM (Cf. theism). Devotion to a single god without asserting that he is the only god. Coined by (Friedrich) Max Müller (1823 1900), professor of comparative philology at… …   Etymology dictionary

  • henotheism — [hen′ō thē iz΄əm, hen′ōthē΄iz΄əm] n. [coined ( c. 1860) by MÜLLER (Friedrich) Max < Gr hen, one (see HENDECA ) + theos, god] belief in or worship of one god without denying the existence of others henotheist [hen′ō thē΄ist] n. henotheistic adj …   English World dictionary

  • henotheism — It has been held that before Israel had reached belief in one God (Yahweh) exclusively, it conceded that other nations had their own gods whom it was proper for them to worship (Deut. 32:8–9; 1 Sam. 26:19), though Yahweh s superiority to other… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Henotheism — the view that there is one or more gods or goddesses.[13] More specifically, it may also mean the belief in God, a god, or gods, who is/are actively involved in maintaining the Universe. A theist can also take the position that he does not have… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • henotheism — noun Etymology: German Henotheismus, from Greek hen , heis one + theos god more at same Date: 1860 the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods • henotheist noun • henotheistic adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • henotheism — henotheist, n. henotheistic, adj. /hen euh thee iz euhm/, n. 1. the worship of a particular god, as by a family or tribe, without disbelieving in the existence of others. 2. ascription of supreme divine attributes to whichever one of several gods …   Universalium

  • henotheism — noun Belief in or worship of one deity without denying the existence of other deities. See Also: henosis, theism …   Wiktionary

  • HENOTHEISM —    a polytheism which assigns to one god of the pantheon superiority over the rest …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • HENOTHEISM —    from the Greek words henos meaning one and theos or God this term was coined by Max MULLER for a FORM of RELIGION which accepts the WORSHIP of one GOD by a particular individual or GROUP but does not deny the existence of different GODS… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

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