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It seems upon course consideration that God has always taught that he is the only actual God. But upon closer inspection, it appears that God reveals himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as "El Shaddai" which is "God Almighty" or "The Almighty God", El being the general word for "a god" in the Canaanite language. He is also referred to as "El Elyon" which is "Most High God" or "Uppermost God."

He says to Moses in Exodus 6:3,

"I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHWH, I did not make Myself known to them."

These names from Genesis, as well as much of the dialogue in the narrative that forms a context for them, seem to me to suggest that the patriarchs revered YHWH as the greatest of the gods or the god of gods, but not necessarily the only real God.

Later, the Spirit of Prophecy reveals through Isaiah that YHWH is the only true God.

Isaiah 43:9-13 (NASB)

9 All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
11 “I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
12 “It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
13 “Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.

I can't find any references before Isaiah that clearly state that there are no other gods, without qualifiers like "before me" or "like me". Where in the biblical narrative is it first made clear that YHWH is not only the most powerful and greatest God, but he is the One True God, and that all other beings or objects that might be called "gods" are false?

  • I went ahead and answered before clarifying these points, so sorry about that, but could you make it a bit more explicit how you are judging precedence in the biblical narrative (what does "first" mean?) and who is the revelation supposed to be to - the reader or subjects in the narrative? – bruised reed Oct 23 '17 at 18:41
  • I mean earliest with respect to the chronology of the narrative. – Andrew Oct 23 '17 at 22:51
  • I don't usually like verse identification questions, but you seem to have done your homework and have a specific and interesting enough search task that I'm inclined to leave it open. – 3961 Oct 26 '17 at 19:28
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I think you are missing something by eliminating verses that contain the qualifiers along the lines of "there are no gods like me." I think these are very strong statements for God being the only living god.

What you seem to be saying is that a statement like this is comparative in nature, i.e. "No god is like me in what I am able to do" or "No god is as great as I am." I would posit that God is actually talking about his nature in statements like these. So what God is saying is more along the lines of "No god is of the same nature as I am." In other words, no other gods exist.

That being said, to specifically answer your question, I would say Deuteronomy 6:4 is a strong statement for God being the one true god:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (NIV)

The footnotes in multiple translations note that this could also be translated as

The Lord is our God, the Lord alone

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  • Thank you for your answer. I think these sources are weak arguments, as the first translation says that God is one, and the second says that only he is "our" God. – Andrew Oct 23 '17 at 22:50
  • I think the first translation says exactly what you are asking for. If the Lord is God and the Lord is one, then there cannot possibly be more than one God. – Matt Oct 24 '17 at 1:49
  • @Matt not hardly. Even in a pantheon a god can claim to be the god of a people and himself a single being without claiming that he is the only god in the pantheon. In short, these statements are necessary but not sufficient. – Andrew Oct 31 '17 at 0:10
  • @Andrew To say that the Lord, God, is one is not to say that he is just one in a pantheon, it is to say that there is one God. This is the Shema, it has been recited daily by Jews for centuries as an explicit statement of monotheism. This is why Jesus lists it as the most important commandment in Mark 12. – Matt Nov 1 '17 at 19:58
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Deuteronomy provides much of the early "one true only God" motif. Here are some references.

Deut. 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

Deut. 4:35 Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.

Deut. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

1

The first documented revelation of God in scripture is in the book of Job which preceded the Pentateuch. In the first chapter is the account of the sons of God, Satan among them, presenting themselves before God.

It is clear from the account that the beings called 'sons of God' are subservient, in that they are sons. And it is clear from the narrative that Satan only has power within the limitations that God sets upon him.

I would say therefore, in answer to the question, that it is first made clear in Job chapter one that God is above all other who might be called 'god'.

God who is revealed in the book of Job is he who, later, reveals himself to Abraham and to Moses as Jehovah, (Genesis 15:2, 15:8), (Deuteronomy 3:24, 9:26).

[Edit Note: Job refers to God as Adonai in 12:9; as El in 16:11; as Elohim in 2:10 and as Eloah in 6:9.]

[Reference : Young's Analytical Concordance.]

  • I'm not sure I understand how "beings called 'sons of God' are subservient" differs from the OP's "the patriarchs revered YHWH as the greatest of the gods or the god of gods, but not necessarily the only real God." . – bradimus Oct 22 '17 at 21:31
  • Moses wasn't the first person to know God's name. Abraham knew God's name was Jehovah (see Genesis 12:8 and 15:7). It was the meaning of God's name which they had not yet appreciated. – 4castle Oct 23 '17 at 0:06
  • @4castle Yes, I agree. There was revelation to Abraham and to Moses. – Nigel J Oct 23 '17 at 0:33
  • 1
    Hi Nigel. Thank you for answering, but this doesn't address my question. The last line of your penultimate paragraph says "God is above all other who might be called god", which is exactly what I've stated that I'm not asking about. I am interested in statements that reveal that God is the "only"- not the "highest"- from before the Babylonian exile. – Andrew Oct 23 '17 at 11:08
  • @Andrew What do you make of the description 'the god of this world' in 2 Corinthians 4:4 ? – Nigel J Oct 23 '17 at 13:02
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Genesis 1:1 -

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - NIV

This sets the context of the narrative. False gods are introduced incidentally much much later in the narrative (after the confusion of Babel). The fact that there is absolutely no mention of the presence or creation of other gods at the beginning is significant - it stands in contrast to all the polytheistic creation myths.

  • Except the weird part where he later has a conversation with himself and uses plural pronouns to refer to himself. – 3961 Oct 26 '17 at 19:30
  • Are there not a number of pantheons in which "the creator" is not synonymous with "God", but only means "the god of creation" as opposed to "the god of destruction" or "the god of death? How does this passage in particular eliminate that possibility? – Andrew Oct 31 '17 at 0:15
  • @Andrew Whether or not there is just one creator god to start with, in polytheistic systems, the multiplicity of gods is established before the creation myth finishes. In early Genesis, there is just God and his creation. – bruised reed Oct 31 '17 at 5:57

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