I remembered recently that long ago, in middle school, my history teacher told us in the class that Yahweh, the Hebrew God was a god part of a polytheistic religion, and that He wasn't even the king of gods(like Zeus from Greek religion), and that Abraham choose Him(Yahweh) from the other gods to be the all-mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, single God to his new monotheistic religion, that he passed to his son Issac and his grand-son Israel and it became the God of Israel nation and trough Jesus(who was part of the Israeli nation, kingdom of Judah), it became God-The Father for us, Christians. This sounds like a blasphemy to me, but is this based on any historical discovery, or has it any theological or historical veracity?

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    I don't have a definitive answer, but it sounds like the sort of apocryphal story you'd get from someone trying to deny Christianity. Certainly it is completely inconsistent with Scripture, and given how well Scriptural, even the very earliest parts of Genesis, matches with science and archaeology, I'd say it's extremely unlikely.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 20:09
  • @Archaeology has uncovered similar words for "god" in Canaan land (Hittite to Egypt). But I think they were El and Elohim. Will have to look up my sources. These are generic names though, and not revelatory names as that given to Moses specifically.---Note that Moses wrote Genesis, so that the use of YHWH in the early chapters would be anachronistic in a reasonable manner.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 21:05
  • So do you say that since Abraham lived before Moses, and Moses wrote Yahweh first, Abraham never used Yahweh(YHWH) because he didn't know this name?
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 21:32
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    Perhaps some polytheistic religions expressed belief in Yahweh. That does not make Yahweh a polytheistic God however
    – 007
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 14:59
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    @NigelJ, "is there any precedent/credence to this claim I came across about Christianity?" seems perfectly fine. Difficult to give a negative answer, perhaps, but I see no cause to declare it opinion-based or off-topic.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 3:04

3 Answers 3


In ancient times, to know the name of a god gave the worshipper access to its power. By calling a god's name, its presence could be assured. Yet the God of the Old Testament expressly forbade using his name in such a semi-magical way (Exodus 20:7). Neither is his name something to be discovered and manipulated by people; it is revealed by him to his people, to be revered. In Hebrew, the name of God is spelled:
יהוה In English, that transliterates as YHWH. In modern Hebrew, YHWH is pronounced "Yahweh." The English transliteration of YHWH is "Jehovah," which we get via Latin.

It's relevant to this question to know subtle differences in pronunciation of the divine name, to avoid inferring pagan ideas, or mixing it up with pagan deities. The name ‘Yahveh’ is NOT a pronunciation of YHWH. That's because according to the Talmud, Yahveh is the name of the Archangel Metatron, who because of his extreme Godliness, was given a new name by God that was almost the same as God's:
יהבה Those letters are transliterated as YHVH into English and the name is pronounced "Yahveh" in Hebrew.

The letter ו in Hebrew, the third letter in the name יהוה (YHWH) since Hebrew reads from right to left instead of from left to right, is the letter vav. Like many English letters, many Hebrew letters have more than one pronunciation. The letter vav is one of those letters and is pronounced either as a V or as a W, but in a few words, it is used to indicate the vowels O or U. Hebrew generally doesn't use vowels, but every once in a while it does, and when it does, it's some consonant that's being used as a vowel. In YHWH, the vav is always pronounced as a W: "YahWeh." It can't be construed as being pronounced as a V because of the name YHVH or "YahVeh" whose third letter is ב or bet. While the letter bet can be pronounced as either a V or a B in Hebrew, it is only ever pronounced as a B when there is a dot in the middle of it: בּ. Without that dot, it's always pronounced as a V. Since YHVH in the Talmud is stated as being very much like but still different than YHWH, the actual name of God, the vav in YHWH is always pronounced as a W and not a V or else the two names would be pronounced exactly the same and thus contradict the Talmud's teachings. These details show how easy it would be to misunderstand a name written in ancient Hebrew, thinking it was Yahweh, when it was actually that of (in this case) a created angel, Yahveh.

However, there's more to the matter of whether Yahweh was part of a polytheistic (hence pagan) religion, or not. The patriarchs are said to have worshipped a deity some think of as 'the God of the ancestors'. One Hebrew word for ancestor is rishon but only occurs once in the OT, in Leviticus 26:45, where it speaks of the covenant of the ancestors. The word aboth is quite common, meaning 'fathers, ancestors', and, as in Exodus 3:13 & 15 & 4:5 comes the phrase, "the God of your fathers" (or, 'ancestors'). Let me now quote from this scholarly book (when the author was Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Stirling, and had presented several religious programmes on television in Scotland.)

"The research of Albrecht Alt has shown that the worship of gods identified as 'the god of my father' (that is 'the god of the ancestors') was widespread among many tribes in the ancient world. We also know that the name 'El' was widely used as a name for local gods. In Canaan itself, the Ras Shamra texts depict El as the father of the gods and head of the pantheon at Ugarit..." Old Testament Faith, p. 38, Lion, 1986

Drane then says there are two ways of explaining this:

"Some (notably O. Eissfeldt and R. de Vaux) argue that worship of El and worship of Yahweh were originally quite distinct and separate... Professor F. M. Cross takes a completely different line, arguing that all these names (and others) used for God by the patriarchs referred to the one deity later called Yahweh. To speak of 'the god of the ancestors' was, in his view, just another way of referring to El, and 'Yahweh' was the way to address this one God in the context of worship. Cross's position is certainly closer to the theological stance of the Old Testament itself... (Ibid.)

Drane then goes on to say that the Israelites knew that Yahweh did much more than the Canaanite god El was ever supposed to have done. Yahweh was the God of the exodus, and had been the guiding force in their lives from the very beginning.

That what your history teacher told you sounded like blasphemy to you is unsurprising, given that Yahweh declares himself to his people to be the only true God; that all other claimants are false gods, no-gods, would-be-usurper-gods; that the idols of the nations surrounding Israel are lumps of metal, stone or wood, with no ability to see, to hear, or to do anything. The prophet Isaiah repeats that frequently, as do all the Old Testament prophets of the living God, Yahweh. So, my simple answer is, "No, Yahweh was never part of any polytheistic religion; he is utterly unique, the one and only Creator of life, light and eternity."

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    I think I understood, there is a similar situation in my language. The word we use for God is "Dumnezeu", formed from "Dumne" + "zeu", now the word "zeu" obviously comes from the ancient greek mythology, where Zeus was the king of gods. The name Zeus was transformed to "zeu" which became in my language a common noun used for any deity. For example Posseidon is a "zeu", Egyptean Anubis is a "zeu". But, when the Christianity came, with its monotheistic theology we added the "Dumne" - prefix which means "lord"(it is used as "mister" for humans) [The comment continues down]:
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 9:53
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    And the prefix "Dumne" which would translate as "Lord" or even "Mister" which individualize the "zeu", smh like: the Christian God is not any god, is The God, The Lord God. In a way this is a similar situation of what you explained, that the common cannanite god who was a god worshipped by many tribes was identified with YHWH. But that doesn't mean YHWH take the polytheism character from that common god. The situation that I explained is similar, because even if the name we use from God comes from Zeus's name, that doesn't mean we worship the Greek god, who is part of a polytheistic religion
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 10:02

It is true that there is evidence to suggest that the worship of Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, was part of a polytheistic religion in ancient times. This idea is supported by archaeological and historical evidence, as well as by the biblical text itself.

Archaeological evidence from the ancient Near East suggests that the worship of Yahweh was originally one of many gods worshipped by the Israelites and other Canaanite peoples. For example, inscriptions and other artifacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages (ca. 3000-500 BCE) indicate that the Israelites were familiar with and may have even worshipped other gods such as Baal, El, and Asherah in addition to Yahweh.

Moreover, there are several passages in the Hebrew Bible that suggest that Yahweh was not always the sole God worshipped by the Israelites. For example, in Exodus 12:12, Yahweh declares that he will "execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt." This suggests that the ancient Israelites believed in the existence of other gods alongside Yahweh.

In addition, there are several passages in the Hebrew Bible that suggest that Yahweh was not always considered the supreme God in the ancient Israelite pantheon. For example, in Psalm 82:1, God is depicted as presiding over a council of "gods," suggesting that there were other divine beings in the Israelite religious worldview.

Finally, there is evidence to suggest that the Israelites did not fully embrace monotheism until relatively late in their history. The Hebrew Bible itself contains many passages in which the Israelites are accused of worshipping other gods, suggesting that the transition to monotheism was a gradual process.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 16:56
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    The Hebrew scriptures never hide the fact that at various times the Israelites fell into polytheistic, pagan worship, trying to add to the worship of Yahweh, which they knew Yahweh forbade. At various times, Yahweh caused those idolaters to be taken captive by polytheistic nations. As for Egypt, they'd spent some 400 years surrounded by the polytheism of Egypt but when Yahweh carried out the 10 plagues against Egypt and its gods, to set them free, they knew who the one true God was, and that all the gods of Egypt were false. That contradicts the idea that they thought them to be real gods.
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 16:01
  • @Anne Yes, and because Israel has fallen into sin again, He allowed the babylonians to conquer Israel and they were polytheist, but trough the work of Daniel, God was able to prove Himself as the sole God to the pagan king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar. And prophet Elijah(which BTW for catholics and orthodoxes is celebrated today, 20th of July) fought polytheism and idolatry against king Ahab.
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 19:16
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    While Christians (and modern Jews) and Scripture assert that Yahweh is and always has been the only real deity, and while I'm not aware of Abraham (or Noah, or Noah's predecessors) ever believing in more than one deity or in any validity to claims that Judaism "came out of" some other, polytheistic religion, it is nevertheless proper to note that Israel has occasionally fallen from that path. +1.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:14
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    @Matthew Yes, just because jews fell sometimes into polytheism, this doesn't mean they have a pantheon of tens of gods like Greeks or Egypteans
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 19:26

Yes. Canaanite polytheistic religion is the precursor to Judaism, as has been shown by Archeology.

The head of the old Canaanite religion were the chief gods "El" and "Baal", who varied between some kind of echo of each other to sworn enemies. When worship of El became exclusive in some regions, worshippers of Baal became hated, and the enemy aspect between them grew. Eventually the followers of El genocided the majority of the followers of Baal.

El was the leader of a council of gods called the "El Oheim" (which literally meant Council of El), and is the origin for god's later name "Eloheim" when the religion turned monotheistic.

We can see the presence of this polytheistic view in Genesis 3:22 where God/El says, "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us'". You can also see echos of it in the pre-Noah stories of the Nephillim, which is in some ways an retcon of earlier polytheism.

The journey between its origins to present is as such:

Old Canaanite religion: Polytheistic (El is important, but not exclusively at top)

Canaanite religion: Polytheistic (El is prominent at the top)

Old Judaism: Ethnotheistic (God is the only god of Israel, other culture's pantheons are considered real for them. Gods are intrinsically tied to their cultures.)

The Judaism we're more familiar with: Monotheistic with lesser divine beings (angels)

Old Christinaity: Mostly Judaic monotheistic

Middle Christianity: - This gets really complicated -

Modern Christianity: Trinitarian (3-in-1 pseudo-monotheistic-but-not-quite)

If you want to research further, here's some useful sources:

Wikipedia: Origins_of_Judaism

Wikipedia: History of Israel

Youtube: Esoterica: Who is Yahweh - How a Warrior-Storm God became God of the Israelites and World Monotheism

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    Commented Jan 29 at 4:26
  • @ lilHar Thanks for listing some resources. However tje summary given in your answer does not accurately reflect the facts of history. E.g. "Trinity doctrines did not begin with Modern Christianity". And the "followers of El did not genocide (sic) the worshippers of Baal." It is recommended that more study of history be done before you submit more answers. Also, study the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jan 31 at 20:34
  • True, trinity actually began in western Roman Paganism wit the worship of the holy family, Mother, Father, and Child. But it's existence in Abrahamic Christianity didn't come about until after Rome adopted Christianity, the beginning of modern Christianity. And yes, the followers of El did Genocide the followers of Baal during the Bronze Age Collapse when the Jews were still known as the Habiru. Not only is it historically shown, but the book of Joshua & Judges lays out a mythologized and propagandized version of that exact same genocide.
    – lilHar
    Commented Feb 11 at 11:54

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