Gods in Psalm 86

Trinitarians and extreme Monotheists often misinterpret declarations of supremacy by Yaheweh (the name for Israel’s god) to be declarations of Yahweh’s unique existence as the only deity in the universe. This type of interpretation has been prevalent for over a thousand years, but the time has come to challenge it. Today’s scholars (excluding apologetic Christians of course) are united in declaring that ancient Israel was not quite as monotheistic as we think (see Dever, Barker, Bokovoy, Cross, Day, Smith, Heiser….)

For example, Psalm 86:8-10 reads:

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
       no deeds can compare with yours.

 9 All the nations you have made
       will come and worship before you, O Lord;
       they will bring glory to your name.

 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
       you alone are God.

Why is the psalmist declaring that God is alone in the same breath in which he is comparing God to other heavenly divinities? It sounds contradictory to our 20th century western ears. However, it is not. Most Evangelicals simply brush it aside by claiming that the ‘gods’ mentioned in verse 8 are false idols, representations of things that do not exist. I disagree. What kind of praise would that be? Imagine a child saying to his Father, “Dad, out of all of my other dads(who are non-existent) you are the best!” It is nonsensical. It is no praise at all. The author of this psalm believed, either rightly or wrongly, that there were real beings worthy of the title ‘gods’ to whom Yahweh could be compared, and whose ranks he was ‘among’.

After describing Yahweh as being “among the gods” the author turns around and says ‘you alone are God’. Well this obviously is not contradicting his first statement. Yahweh is not the only deity in the heavens, instead Yahweh is de facto the only deity. It is proclaiming the supremacy, the authority, the power of Yahweh above all other beings of the same class. It is like Babylon decaring in Isa 47:8 & 10 that she is alone, that there is no other city.

 This is but one example in which the scriptures suggest there is ‘one God’, but which clearly suggests that this one God is not the only divine being up there.

James

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