Was early Judaism polytheistic, and were "angels" originaly minor gods? It is supposedly one of the points argued for in the book "Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan". Also, is this view the currently dominant theory on the origins of early judaism, or a pet-theory of a few academics?

I just want to get some additional sources before I accidentally spread misinformation. Also, the source book has according to reviewers broken kindle version, and I don't want to pay 20$ for shipping, so no, I can't just check.

2 Answers 2


This is indeed a widely held view in academia, and has been for a while, although the angels are not always considered "gods." Other gods have been mentioned though. Asherah, for example, was mentioned in two different inscriptions as being the "consort of Yahweh." William Dever devoted a whole book to it (Did God Have a Wife?), and you can see the scholarly criticism of it actually reinforces the idea of widespread polytheism in Judaea. From Wiki:

In his book, William Dever describes archaeological findings in ancient Israel that have produced female figurines, representing female goddesses. Dever, claiming that the biblical authors never refer or allude to such archaeological facts of contemporary life, writes that the biblical authors “did not wish to acknowledge the popularity and the powerful influence of these images" (pg. 184). Benjamin D. Sommer has criticized Dever on this point, saying that "[i]n fact, however, biblical authors constantly acknowledge the widespread polytheism of Israelites, and they mention Israelite goddess worship specifically on a number of occasions (e.g., Book of Jeremiah 7.18, 44.17–19)".

Therefore, Sommer argues that the biblical authors were commonly involved in self-criticism of their nations polytheistic tendencies, from the period of Moses in the wilderness (Book of Exodus 32:4) to the monarchies of Israel and Judah (First Book of Kings 11:5, Second Book of Kings 23:13, Book of Ezekiel 8) and their writings in fact reflect a widespread polytheism in their own day. Even Solomon is reported to have worshipped other gods toward the end of his kingdom.

You can also read about the development of the Israelite pantheon, which was long a henotheistic religion where Yahweh was supreme, on Wik as well.

Notice that the "angels" are seen only as minor divinities. In this regard, their role is probably the same then as it was when it was put down in Tanakh.


Early Judaism was polytheistic, Solomon most definitely worshipped at least seven deities, as was the tradition in Levant and Mesopothamia (hypostasis of Planets). The monotheistic concept appeared in the 6th century before modern era, although the Caanite "Iah" and "Asherah" were worshipped by kings of Juda that used the suffix 'iah (apart from Mannaseh, who was a known pagan) to denote their loyalty to a tribal god. Evolution into "god of gods" was somewhat different. Yet, Even the word "Elohim" was plural and "Yahwe" was a seven-fold emenation of himself (thus the seven-fold model was compacted into one god and his names, starting with El') and was related to Sun deities. Most likely the origin of Elohim were the Assyro-Babylonian Igigi, children of Annuna, the former called Nephilim by Enoch in the 3rd century before modern era. The formation of a single god for a single tribe was formed from a embattled peoples whose "utility" was political.

The Hebrews at that time were close to extinction, after the destruction of Israel and subjugation of Juda, thus a consolidation factor emerged - that of a single deity assigned to this particular tribe. The motive is not new, in ancient China a single deity was also worshipped, way before Akhenatenism. Hellenes and Romans in their universalistic henotheistic panentheism worshipped a single God at least since Plato's times, that was the "e pluribus unum", and it did not contradict the worship of other Gods and Goddesses at all.

In neoplatonic theurgy, much later (I-II century modern era) "he" was instrumentally designated as the "Father" and was understood as an Abyss and an Idea, yet only the High Gods could understand that force. The evolution of this belief among Hebrews meant self-preservation for this peoples, while they were threatened by dilution and destruction. At first he was a lesser god of Canaan, related somehow to Ishkur (god of weather, earthquakes and storms), then the narration went that he defeated Caanite Litan/Lotan (Leviathan) also called Rahab and "in battles of gods" won, which is of course a Hebrew version of this story. This is an extremely short answer to your question.

For a Heathen/Pagan concept of unity among God/Gods check out this comparative table between Platonic - Orphic - Chaldean systems of theology, the elucidation of this complex theology is not related to this topic, so I'll just leave it like that.

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  • 1
    Any evidence for your claims?
    – Harel13
    Oct 6, 2021 at 6:09

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