Monotheism

From DaynalWiki
Revision as of 00:04, 14 February 2009 by Rdavis (Talk | contribs) (Monotheistic moved to Monotheism: clarification)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Lighterstill.jpg

In theology, monotheism (from Greek μόνος "only" and θεός "God") is the belief that only one god exists. The concept of "monotheism" tends to be dominated by the concept of God in the Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Platonic concept of God as put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

The concept of monotheism has largely been defined in contrast with polytheistic and pantheistic religions, and monotheism tends to overlap with other Unitary concepts, such as monism.

Whereas monotheism is a self-description of religions subsumed under this term, there is no equivalent self-description for polytheist religions: monotheism asserts itself by opposing polytheism, while polytheism does not use the same argumentative device, as it includes a concept of divine unity despite worshipping a plethora of gods. By the same token, monotheistic religions may still include concepts of a plurality of the divine, for example the Trinity, in which God is one being in three personal dimensions (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). Additionally, most Christians believe Jesus to have two natures (divine and human), each possessing the full attributes of that nature, without mixture or intermingling of those attributes, although this view is not shared by all Christians, notably the Oriental Orthodox (miaphysite) churches. Although Christian theology reserves worship for the Divine, the distinction between worshipping the divine nature of Jesus but not the human nature of Jesus can be difficult for non-Christians (and even Christian laity) to follow.

Christians of the Roman Catholic tradition venerate the Saints (among them Mary) as human beings who had remarkable qualities, have lived their faith in God to the extreme and continue to assist in the process of salvation for others.

Origin and development

The word monotheism is derived from the Greek μόνος Monos meaning "single" and θεός Theos meaning "God". The compound μονοθεισμός is current only in Modern Greek. There is a single attestation of μονόθεον in a Byzantine hymn (Canones Junii 20.6.43; A. Acconcia Longo and G. Schirò, Analecta hymnica graeca, vol. 11 e codicibus eruta Italiae inferioris. Rome: Istituto di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici. Università di Roma, 1978) The English term was first used by Henry More.

The first monotheist in history seems to be the penultimate Hyksos King of Avaris, named Apophis, who took Sutheck (Set) to be his sole deity, and enforced this god on the population by means of banning worship of all other gods, and allowing the sacred animals of the Egyptians to be killed. Following the second intermediate period, Akhnaton replicated the monotheism of Apothis but with the Aten disk as the one-god of monotheism.

The concept sees a gradual development out of notions of henotheism and monolatrism. In the Ancient Near East, each city had a local patron deity, such as Shamash at Larsa or Sin at Ur. The first claims of global supremacy of a specific God date to the Late Bronze Age, with Akhenaten's Great Hymn to the Aten (connected to Judaism by Sigmund Freud in his book Moses and Monotheism), and, depending on dating issues, Zoroaster's Gathas to Ahura Mazda. Currents of monism or monotheism emerge in Vedic India in the same period, with e.g. the Nasadiya Sukta. Philosophical monotheism and the associated concept of absolute good and evil emerges in Classical Antiquity, notably with Plato (c.f. Euthyphro dilemma), elaborated into the idea of The One in Neoplatonism, later culminating in the doctrines of Christology in Early Christianity and finally (by the 7th century) in the radical tawhid in Islam.

In Islamic theology, a person who spontaneously "discovers" monotheism is called a ḥanīf, the original ḥanīf being Abraham.

Austrian anthropologist Wilhelm Schmidt in the 1910s postulated an Urmonotheismus, "original" or "primitive monotheism."

Varieties

Some argue that there are various forms of monotheism, including:

  • Henotheism involves devotion to a single God while accepting the existence of other gods. Similarly, monolatrism is the worship of a single deity independent of the ontological claims regarding that deity.
  • Theism a term that refers to the belief in the existence of God or a divine being.
  • Deism is a form of monotheism in which it is believed that one God exists. However, a deist rejects the idea that this God intervenes in the world.
  • Monistic Theism is the type of monotheism found in Hinduism, encompassing pantheistic and panentheistic monism, and at the same time the concept of a personal God.
  • Pantheism holds that the Universe itself is God. The existence of a transcendent supreme extraneous to nature is denied.
  • Panentheism, is a form of monistic monotheism which holds that God is all of existence, containing, but not identical to, the Universe. The 'one God' is omnipotent and all-pervading, the universe is part of God, and God is both immanent and transcendent.
  • Substance monotheism, found in some indigenous African religions, holds that the many gods are different forms of a single underlying substance.

On the surface, monotheism is in contrast with polytheism, which is the worship of several deities. Polytheism is however reconcilable with "Inclusive monotheism", which claims that all deities are just different names or forms for the single God. This approach is common in Hinduism, e.g. in Smartism. "Exclusive monotheism", on the other hand, actively opposes polytheism. Monotheism is often contrasted with theistic dualism (ditheism). However, in dualistic theologies as that of Gnosticism, the two deities are not of equal rank, and the role of the Gnostic demiurge is closer to that of Satan in Christian theology than that of a diarch on equal terms with God (who is represented in pantheistic fashion, as Pleroma.

Early history

In ancient Egypt

Ancient Middle-Eastern religions may have worshipped a single God within a pantheon and the abolition of all others, as in the case of the Aten cult in the reign of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. Iconoclasm during this pharaoh's rule is considered a chief origin for the subsequent destruction by some groups of idols, holding that no other god before the preferred deity (dually and subtly acknowledging the existence of the other gods, but only as foes to be destroyed for their drawing of attention away from the primary deity).

Other issues such as Divine Right of Kings may possibly also stem from pharaonic laws on the ruler being the demigod or representative of the Creator on Earth. The massive tombs in the Egyptian pyramids which aligned with astronomical observations, perhaps exemplify this relationship between the pharaoh and the heavens.

Zoroastrianism

Though holding a dualistic or even polytheistic worldview/cosmology, Zoroastrianism is considered by some to be one of the earliest monotheistic religions. Additionally, the Zoroastrian faith includes characteristics different from those found in purely monotheistic worldviews, including worship of subordinate nature-spirits and the use of fire-reverance.

In Zoroaster's revelation, Ahura Mazda is a transcendental and universal God, the one uncreated Creator (standard appellation) and to whom all worship is ultimately directed. However, Zoroaster also perceives Mazda to be wholly good, and that his creation is wholly good. In conflict with creation is anti-creation, evident in the created world as decay and disorder. Since anti-creation is purely destructive it cannot have been created (otherwise it would self-destruct) and hence must - like the Creator himself - be uncreated.

In the Gathas, Zoroaster does not acknowledge any divinity other than Ahura Mazda. However, the hymns of Indo-Iranian religious tradition (of which the Gathas are a part) are always addressed to a specific divinity and those closely associated with him, and in this sense the Gathas are not (necessarily) a denial of the other divinities, but the exaltation of a specific one. Although not mentioned by name (in the Gathas, Ahura Mazda is itself an epithet, not yet a proper name), Zoroaster implicitly acknowledges the existence of other Ahuras "Lords", as in "thou who art the mightiest Ahura and the Wise (Mazda) One" (Yasna 33.11). In addition to these lords that are "worthy of worship" (yazata), Zoroaster also refers to the daevas as the 'wrong' gods, or 'false' gods, or gods 'that should not be worshipped' and whose followers are to be brought onto the path of righteousness. In later Zoroastrian tradition, the daevas are demons, but this is not yet evident in the prophet's own poetry.

Zoroastrianism thus can be considered monotheistic insofar as all worship is ultimately directed to Ahura Mazda. However, unlike Zurvanite Zoroastrianism, neither revealed nor present-day Zoroastrianism is monist. At no time did Zoroastrianism preclude the existence or worship of other divinities, which are today considered to be aspects or evidence of creation and hence of the Creator. The invocation of divinities besides Ahura Mazda is however common practice in Zoroastrian tradition, and is not necessarily either a sign of henotheism (the one extreme interpretation) or the worship of pure abstractions (the other extreme): In the past it was common for an individual, household or clan to adopt a patron divinity and although several attempts have been made to define ancient Zoroastrianism on the evidence of such adoptions - for instance, in inscriptions or in theophoric names - these are inherently unsuitable for that purpose.

Abrahamic religions

The major source of monotheism in the modern Western World is the narrative of the Hebrew Bible, the source of Judaism, which was created from the 13th century BCE to the 4th century BCE. Judaism may have received influences from various non-biblical religions present in Egypt and Syria. This can be seen by the Torah's reference to Ancient Egyptian culture in Genesis and the story of Moses, as well as the mention of Hittite and Hurrian cultures of Syria in the Genesis story of Abraham. Although, orthodox Jews would dispute this based on the Jewish fundemental that the Torah was received from God on Mount Sinai in 1313 BCE (hebrew year 2448). References to other cultures are inclued to understand the specific references of the topic discussed or to give context to the narrative.

In traditional Jewish thought, which provided the basis of the Christian and Islamic religions, monotheism was regarded as its most basic belief. Judaism and Islam have traditionally attempted to interpret scripture as exclusively monotheistic whilst Christianity diverted to a more complex form of monotheism, as a result of considering the Holy Spirit to be God, and attributing divinity to Jesus, a Judean Jew, in the first century AD, defining him as the Son of God. Thus, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit".

Monotheism in the Hebrew Bible

According to the Hebrew Bible God reveals himself as the only existing God, while some modern interpretations maintain that the Hebrew Bible takes a position not of monotheism, but of monolatrism or henotheism. God reveals himself not as the only God, but rather as the God whom Abraham knows. (Gen 15:7) In such a respect, the God of Israel is not God alone, but the God who was worshipped by Abraham's clan. In this context, the God of Israel was at a time a type of tribal deity, that although was worshipped alone, did not explicitly exclude the existence of other gods, who were not relevant to them.

There are interpretations of the biblical text which hold that in the early Mosaic era, the possibility of other gods is left an open question, although by this stage Israel claims that their God is greater (Ex 18:11). Traditional views differ on this point. This same subtle shift is shown in 2 Chr 2:5, and could indicate that Israel understood that the God they recognized was God alone, and other gods were therefore false. This would be Monotheism in the proper sense of the word. By the time of the prophet Isaiah, Monotheism is solidly and explicitly accepted. “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” (Is 44:6) Thus, the development of the people of Israel to a true Monotheism, appears to be a gradual process, with the exception of Gen 1:1 - which thus casts substantial doubt on the legitimacy of that hypothesis. It is into this context that Christianity emerges, and thus Christianity was from the outset Monotheistic. (John 1:1)

A strictly literal interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:39 excludes the possibility of henotheism. The verse states: "Know this day, and take it to heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is none else." If one were to view that Deuteronomy is a late addition to the Five Books of Moses, this would reflect the later adoption of monotheism. However, if Deuteronomy is taken to be part of the original text, as it generally is among those who use it as scripture, this would indicate that the monotheistic concept existed from the time the Torah was composed.

In the west, the Hebrew Bible has been the primary source describing how and when Monotheism was introduced into the Middle East and the west. As believed by followers of some of the Abrahamic religions, it teaches that when Abraham discovered God (Genesis Chapters 12:1-9 13:14-18 15 18 and 22 ),

he thus became the world's first Monotheist. According to these, until then, in ancient history all cultures believed in a variety of multiple deities such as in idolatry, forces and creatures of nature as in animism, or in celestial bodies as in astrology, but did not know the one and only true God.

However, the Hebrew Bible teaches that, at Creation, Adam and Eve knew God (and so did their descendants) but that over the ages, God and his name were forgotten. This is how one of the most important Jewish sages, Maimonides describes the process in his work the Mishneh Torah:

In the days of Enosh mankind made a huge error...they reasoned that since the Lord created the stars and the heavenly spheres and placed them in the skies giving them great significance, and they serve before Him, it is therefore fitting to praise and elevate them and give them honor believing this to be the Lord's will to honor that which He makes great and honorable...The people then built altars to worship the stars and to praise and bow down to them...and this was the essence of idol worship (avoda zara)...After a few generations false prophets arose and said that the Lord had actually commanded people to worship the stars...and they built images in their honor...spreading these false images by building them in gathering places, under trees, on tops of hills, and in valleys, gathering people who bowed down to them declaring: 'Such and such an image brings good or bad luck and therefore fear it'...after a number of generations, the Divine Name was completely forgotten...until the mighty one (Abraham), began to question this in his mind and asked 'How could it be that the heavenly sphere moves without a Mover behind it? because it is impossible that it moves itself', and he had no teacher and no-one to inform him for he lived in Ur of the Chaldees surrounded by foolish idol worshippers...He (Abraham) subsequently arose and made it known to the people that there is only one Lord in the entire world and that only He should be worshipped, gathering people from city to city and kingdom to kingdom until he came to the land of Canaan calling out as it says: 'Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called in the name of God, Lord of the Universe (El olam) (Genesis 21:33)'|Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Mada ("Book of Knowledge"), Chapter 1, Hilchos Avodah Zarah

Jewish view

Judaism is one of the oldest known monotheistic faiths. The best-known Jewish statements of monotheism occur in the Shema prayer, the Ten Commandments and Maimonides' 13 Principles of faith, Second Principle:

God, the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one."

There has historically been disagreement between the Hasidic Jews and the Mitnagdim Jews on various Jewish philosophical issues surrounding certain concepts of monotheism. A similar situation of differing views is seen in modern times among Dor Daim, students of the Rambam, segments of Lithuanian Jewry, and portions of the Modern Orthodox world toward Jewish communities that are more thoroughly influenced by Lurianic Kabbalistic teachings such as Hasidism and large segments of the Sepharadi and Mizrahi communities. This dispute is likely rooted in the differences between what are popularly referred to as the "philosophically inclined" sources and the "kabbalistic sources;" the "philosophic sources" include such Rabbis as Saadia Gaon, Rabenu Bahya ibn Paquda, Abraham ibn Ezra, and Maimonides. The "kabbalistic sources" include Rabbis such as Nahmanides, Bahya ben Asher, Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor, and Azriel. The Vilna Gaon is usually granted great respect in modern times by those who side with both views; by the more kabbalistic segments of Judaism he is regarded as a great kabbalist; those who take the other side of the issue regard him as a strict advocate of the people of Israel's historical monotheism.

The Shema

Judaism's earliest history, beliefs, laws, and practices are preserved and taught in the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) which provides a clear textual source for the rise and development of what is named Judaism's Ethical Monotheism which means that:

(1) There is one God from whom emanates one morality for all humanity. (2) God's primary demand of people is that they act decently toward one another...The God of ethical monotheism is the God first revealed to the world in the Hebrew Bible. Through it, we can establish God's four primary characteristics:
  1. God is supernatural.
  2. God is personal.
  3. God is good.
  4. God is holy.
...in the study of Hebrew history: Israel's monotheism was an ethical monotheism. Dennis Prager

When Moses returned with the Ten Commandments, the second of those stated that "you shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3), right after the first, which affirmed the existence of God. Furthermore, Israelites recite the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O' Israel") which partly says, "Hear, O' Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Monotheism was and is the central tenet of the Israelite and the Jewish religion.

The Shema
Hebrew שמע ישראל יי אלהנו יי אחד
Common transliteration Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad
English Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!

The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:

  • Shema — 'listen' or 'hear.' The word also implies comprehension.
  • Yisrael — 'Israel', in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
  • Adonai — often translated as 'Lord', it is used in place of the Tetragrammaton
  • Eloheinu — 'our God', a plural noun (said to imply majesty rather than plural number) with a pronominal suffix ('our')
  • Echad — 'one'

In this case, Elohim is used in the plural as a form of respect and not polytheism.

Gen.1:26 And Elohim said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Elohim is morphologically plural in form in Hebrew, but generally takes singular agreement when it refers to the God of Israel (so the verb meaning "said" in this verse is vayyomer ויאמר with singular inflection, and not vayyomru ויאמרו with plural inflection), and yet in this case the "our" and "us" seems to create a presumption of plurality, though it may just be God talking to angels and not another god.

Judaism, however, insists that the "LORD is One," as in the Shema, and at least two interpretations exist to explain the Torah's use of the plural form. The first is that the plural form "Elohim" is analogous to the royal plural as used in English. The second is that, in order to set an example for human kings, Elohim consulted with his court (the angels, just created) before making a major decision (creating man).

Christian view

Christians believe in one God. Historically, most Christian churches have taught that the nature of God is a mystery; something that must be revealed by perosnal revelation rather than deduced through general revelation. Among Early Christians there was considerable debate over the nature of Godhead, with some factions arguing for the deity of Jesus and others calling for a unitarian conception of God. These issues of Christology were to form one of the main subjects of contention at the First Council of Nicea.

The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicaea in Bithynia (in present-day Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor [[Constantine I in 325, was the first ecumenical council (Ecumenical, from oikoumenikos, literally meaning worldwide but generally assumed to be limited to the Roman Empire as in Augustus' claim to be ruler of the oikoumene/world; the earliest extant uses of the term for a council are Eusebius' Life of Constantine 3.6[1] around 338 "σύνοδον οἰκουμενικὴν συνεκρότει" (he convoked an Ecumenical council), Athanasius' Ad Afros Epistola Synodica in 369[2], and the Letter in 382 to Pope Damasus I and the Latin bishops from the First Council of Constantinople[3] conference of bishops of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent 'general (ecumenical) councils of Bishops' (Synods) to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.

The purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements in the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father or merely of similar substance. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius took the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arianism comes, took the second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250-318 attendees, all but 2 voting against Arius.

Christian orthodox traditions (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical) follow this decision, which was codified in 381 and reached its full development through the work of the Cappadocian Fathers. They consider God to be a triune entity, called the Trinity, comprised of the three "Persons" God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the three of this unity are described as being "of the same substance" (ousia ὁμοούσιος). The true nature of an infinite God, however, is beyond definition, and "the word 'person' is but an imperfect expression of the idea. In common parlance it denotes a separate rational and moral individual, possessed of self-consciousness, and conscious of his identity amid all changes. Experience teaches that where you have a person, you also have a distinct individual essence. Every person is a distinct and separate individual, in whom human nature is individualized. But in God there are no three individuals alongside of, and separate from, one another, but only personal self distinctions within the Divine essence, which is not only generically, but also numerically, one."

Some critics contend that the Trinity originated in the Pagan Celtic tradition, in which many gods and goddesses were tripartite, and that its incorporation into Christianity is a corruption of the original doctrines, similar to the adoption of many Pagan gods and goddesses such as Brigid as Christian Saints. Other critics contend that because of the adoption of a tripartite conception of deity, Christianity is actually a form of Tritheism or Polytheism. This concept dates from the teachings of the Alexandrian Church, which claimed that Jesus, having appeared later in the Bible than his "Father," had to be a secondary, lesser, and therefore "distinct" God. This controversy led to the convention of the Nicean council in 325 CE. For Jews and Muslims, the idea of God as a trinity is heretical - it is considered akin to polytheism. Christians overwhelmingly assert that monotheism is central to the Christian faith, as the very Nicene Creed (among others) which gives the orthodox Christian definition of the Trinity does begin with: "I believe in one God".

Some Christian groups eschew orthodox theology, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, followers of Mormonism, Oneness Pentecostals, the Unitarians, Christadelphians, Church of God General Conference, Socinian and some of the Radical Reformers (Anabaptists), do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity at all. The Rastafarians, like many Christians, hold that God is both a unity and a trinity, in their case God being Haile Selassie.

Islamic view

The holy book of Islam, the Qur'an, asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the creation. The indivisibility of God implies the indivisibility of Allah (called Allah in Arabic) sovereignty which in turn leads to the conception of universe as a just and coherent moral universe rather than an existential and moral chaos (as in polytheism). Similarly the Qur'an rejects the binary modes of thinking such as the idea of duality of God by arguing that both good and evil generate from God's creative act and that the evil forces have no power to create anything. God in Islam is a universal God rather than a local, tribal or parochial one; an absolute who integrates all affirmative values and brooks no evil.

Tawhid constitutes the foremost article of the Muslim profession. To attribute divinity to a created entity is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Qur'an. Muslims believe that the entirety of the Islamic teaching rests on the principle of Tawhid ( Oneness of God ).

Bahá'í view

The Oneness of God is one of the core teachings of the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'ís believe that there is one supernatural being, God, who has created all existence. God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty."[4]

Bahá'ís believe that although people have different concepts of God and his nature, and call him by different names, everyone is speaking of the same entity. God is taught to be a personal God in that God is conscious of his creation and has a mind, will and purpose. At the same time the Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand him or to create a complete and accurate image of him. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that human knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are understandable to us, and thus direct knowledge about the essence of God is not possible. Bahá'ís believe, thus, that through daily prayer, meditation, and study of revealed text they can grow closer to God. The obligatory prayers in the Bahá'í Faith involve explicit monotheistic testimony.[5]

Eastern religions

Hinduism

In Hinduism, views are broad and range from monism, pantheism to panentheism – alternatively called monistic theism by some scholars – to monotheism. Advaitas, rather than entirely in keeping with essential monotheism, claims to possess the religious truth of monism. There exist many different Hindu sects devoted to different avatars, it is understood that each is really either Vishnu or Shiva. Furthermore, the Brahma Samhita states that Vishnu is like milk and Shiva is yogurt.Śrī Brahma-saḿhitā 5.45 Several other personal forms of God are elaborated in the Puranas as divine descents, aspects, incarnations, or manifestations of Brahman, the transcendent and immanent reality. All Upanishads teach that there is a supreme Absolute Reality, Brahman – the Infinite One, including all that is manifest and unmanifest.

Into deep darkness fall those who follow the immanent. Into deeper darkness fall those who follow the transcendent.

He who knows the transcendent and the immanent, with the immanent overcomes death, and with the transcendent reaches immortality. (Shukla Yajur Veda, Isha Upanishad 12-14) [6]

ISBN 0945497962

The four major sects of modern Hinduism - Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism, all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions. Smartas, who follow the Advaita philosophy of absolute monism, venerate various personal forms of God as merely multiple manifestations of the same divinity, Brahman. Absolute monists see one unity in all there is, with all conceptions and names of personal deities as no more than different aspects of the Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colors by a prism. Some of the Smarta aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesha, and Shiva. It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. Smartas are followers of Advaita who can select an "Ishta-devata" (the chosen personal deity) to be worshiped. In contrast with Smarta/Advaita, this is not the case with other predomninant sects such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, which follow an established singular concept of God, as panentheistic monistic monotheism.

Vaishnavism is one of the earliest implicit manifestations of monotheism in the traditions of Vedas. Svayam Bhagavan is a Sanskrit term for the original deity of the Supreme God worshiped across many traditions of the Vaishnavism, the monotheistic absolute deity. This term is often applied to Krishna in some branches of Vaishnavism.[7]

All Hindu scriptures (Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita) ultimately stress the oneness of the Absolute Reality and describe God as the Eternal Truth that is unborn, immortal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Many scholars interpret verses as either pantheistic monism (like in Advaita) or panentheistic monism (all other schools of thought). Pramana or epistemological dialectics are put forth by various philosophical schools of Hinduism with their views on monism and God's omnipresence.

The Rig Veda, the very first book, discusses monotheistic thought. So does Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda.

"The One Truth, sages know by many names" (Rig Veda 1.164.46) Rig Veda: A Metrically Restored Text with an Introduction and Notes, HOS, 1994

"When at first the unborn sprung into being, He won His own dominion beyond which nothing higher has been in existence" (Atharva Veda 10.7.31) Atharva Veda: Spiritual & Philosophical Hymns

"There is none to compare with Him. There is no parallel to Him, whose glory, verily, is great." (Yajur Veda 32.3) Shukla Yajur Veda: The transcendental "That"

The number of auspicious qualities of God are countless, with the following six qualities being the most important:

  • Jñāna (Omniscience), defined as the power to know about all beings simultaneously
  • Aishvarya (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara), which consists in unchallenged rule over all
  • Shakti (Energy), or power, which is the capacity to make the impossible possible
  • Bala (Strength), which is the capacity to support everything by will and without any fatigue
  • Vīrya (Vigor), which indicates the power to retain immateriality as the supreme being in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations
  • Tejas (Splendor), which expresses His self-sufficiency and the capacity to overpower everything by His spiritual effulgence [8]

The Nyaya school of Hinduism has made several arguments regarding a monotheistic view. The Naiyanikas have given an argument that such a God can only be one. In the Nyaya Kusumanjali, this is discussed against the proposition of the Mimamsa school that let us assume there were many demigods devas) and sages (rishis) in the beginning, who wrote the Vedas and created the world. Nyaya says that:

If they assume such] omniscient beings, those endowed with the various superhuman faculties of assuming infinitesimal size, and so on, and capable of creating everything, then we reply that the law of parsimony bids us assume only one such, namely Him, the adorable Lord. There can be no confidence in a non-eternal and non-omniscient being, and hence it follows that according to the system which rejects God, the tradition of the Veda is simultaneously overthrown; there is no other way open.

In other words, Nyaya says that the polytheist would have to give elaborate proofs for the existence and origin of his several celestial spirits, none of which would be logical. So it is much more logical to assume one, eternal, and omniscient God.

Sikhism

Sikhism is a distinctly Panentheistic faith that rose in northern India during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sikhs believe in one, timeless, omnipresent, supreme creator. The opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, known as the Mool Mantra signifies this:

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
Transliteration: Ik ōaṅkār(or ikoo) sat nām karatā purakh nirabha'u niravair akāl mūrat ajūnī saibhaṁ gur prasād.
One Universal Creator God. The Name Is Truth. Creative Being Personified. No Fear. No Hatred. Image Of The Timeless One, Beyond Birth, Self-Existent.

By Guru's Grace ~

The word "ੴ" is pronounced "Ik ōaṅkār" and is comprised to two parts. The first part is simply: "੧" - This is simply the digit "1" in Gurmukhi signifying the singularity of the creator. Together the word means: "There is only one creator God"

It is often said that the 1430 pages of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib are all expansions on the Mool Mantra. Although the Sikhs have many names for God, they all refer to the same supreme being.

The Sikh holy scriptures refer to the One God who pervades the whole of Space and is the creator of all beings in the whole Universe. The following quotation from the Guru Granth Sahib highlights this point:

"Chant, and meditate on the One God, who permeates and pervades the many beings of the whole Universe. God created it, and God spreads through it everywhere. Everywhere I look, I see God. The Perfect Lord is perfectly pervading and permeating the water, the land and the sky; there is no place without Him.

The Sikhs believe that God has many names - but they call God VāhiGurū. The word Guru means teacher in Sanskrit Similarly, the name Hari, Raam, Allah, Brahman, Krsna which are names of God are frequently mentioned in the Sikh holy scriptures. The same god of the Muslims, Hindus, etc is known as the Akal Purakh (which means 'the true immortal', i.e God) or Waheguru, the primal being.

It is also stated in Guru Granth Sahib ji that:

Awal Allah Noor Upaya, Kudrat kae sab bandey ek noor tae sabh jag upjaya, kaun bhaley kaun mandey

Which means that from that god we all are created nobody is above or beneath anyone.

Notes

  1. “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
  2. Assman, Jan, Monotheism and Polytheism, in Johnston, Sarah Iles, Ancient Religions, pp. 17, The Belknap Press of Harvard University (2007), ISBN 978-0-674-02548-6
  3. The Orthodox Church. Ware, Timothy. Penguin Books, 1997. ISBN 0-14-014656-3
  4. Monos, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
  5. Theos, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
  6. The compound μονοθεισμός is current only in Modern Greek. There is a single attestation of μονόθεον in a Byzantine hymn (Canones Junii 20.6.43; A. Acconcia Longo and G. Schirò, Analecta hymnica graeca, vol. 11 e codicibus eruta Italiae inferioris. Rome: Istituto di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici. Università di Roma, 1978)
  7. "Monotheism". Catholic Encyclopedia
  8. R.G.Vincent, "Monotheism (in the Bible)" in New Catholic Encyclopedia, (1967), 9:1066.
  9. Chapter 12
  10. Chapter 13
  11. Chapter 14
  12. Chapter 15
  13. Chapter 22
  14. Ecumenical, from Koine Greek oikoumenikos, literally meaning worldwide but generally assumed to be limited to the Roman Empire as in Augustus' claim to be ruler of the oikoumene/world; the earliest extant uses of the term for a council are Eusebius' Life of Constantine 3.6[1] around 338 "σύνοδον οἰκουμενικὴν συνεκρότει" (he convoked an Ecumenical council), Athanasius' Ad Afros Epistola Synodica in 369[2], and the Letter in 382 to Pope Damasus I and the Latin bishops from the First Council of Constantinople[3]
  15. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 87
  16. Vincent J. Cornell, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol 5, pp.3561-3562
  17. Asma Barlas, Believing Women in Islam, p.96
  18. D. Gimaret, Tawhid, Encyclopedia of Islam
  19. Ramadan (2005), p.230
  20. Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 139. ISBN 0877430209. .
  21. Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1851681841.
  22. Momen, M. (1997). A Short Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: One World Publications. ISBN 1851682090. .
  23. Śrī Brahma-saḿhitā 5.45
  24. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2004). Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism. Kappa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy. ISBN 0945497962.
  25. Delmonico, N. (2004). "The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: the Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant. Retrieved on 12 April 2008.
  26. Elkman, S.M.; Gosvami, J. (1986). Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Movement. Motilal Banarsidass Pub.
  27. Klostermaier, K. (1974). "The Bhaktirasamrtasindhubindu of Visvanatha Cakravartin". Journal of the American Oriental Society 94 (1): 96–107.
  28. Rig Veda: A Metrically Restored Text with an Introduction and Notes, HOS, 1994
  29. Atharva Veda: Spiritual & Philosophical Hymns
  30. Shukla Yajur Veda: The transcendental "That"
  31. Tapasyananda (1991). Bhakti Schools of Vedānta. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math. ISBN 8171202268.

Further reading

  • Dever, William G.; (2003). Who Were the Early Israelites?, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Silberman, Neil A.; and colleagues, Simon and Schuster; (2001) The Bible Unearthed New York.
  • Whitelam, Keith; (1997). The Invention of Ancient Israel, Routledge, New York.
  • Hans Köchler, The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity. Vienna: Braumüller, 1982. ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 (Google Print)

External links