Deity in the Biblical Communities and among their Neighbors
John H. Hayes
The Apostle Paul, offering instructions to the Corinthians on the subject of eating consecrated meat derived from pagan sacrifices, quoted those to whom he writes: “‘A false god has no real existence, and there is no god but one.’ ” Paul responded, agreeing with their basic premise: “Even though there be so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—and indeed there are many such gods and many such lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for him” (1 Cor. 8.4–6 ).
This text epitomizes the basic difference between biblical theology and practically all other theologies of the biblical world, namely, a monotheistic versus a polytheistic understanding of the divine. Simultaneously, the text alludes to the issue of the relationship between the biblical understanding of deity and those of the surrounding nations and communities.