The term monotheism ( Greek μόνος mónos "alone" and θεός theós "God") denotes religions or philosophical teachings that know and recognize an all-embracing God . In religious studies these are distinguished from polytheism , which knows and worships many gods. The term henotheism describes religions that know many gods, but which give priority to one of them (as the only god to be worshiped) .
Examples and characteristics
Contemporary monotheistic religions are Judaism , Christianity , Islam , Sikhism , Baha'itum , Yezidism and Zoroastrianism . Zoroastrianism as a dualistic religion and the beginnings of the Jewish faith as a henotheistic religion are partly considered in historical consideration . According to most Egyptologists, there are verifiable historical pre-forms of monotheism in the 14th century BC. In ancient Egypt under the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). He raised Aton to be the only god. However, since he did not deny the existence of the traditional deities and had their cult only partially prohibited, other Egyptologists rate these early forms as temporary henotheism , which, however, represented a temporary break in polytheism. Jan Assmann describes this incision as “ implied monotheism”, but it does not yet meet the full definition of later monotheism. Another monotheistic religious community are the Mandaeans .
Monotheism is a form of theism .
Concept and theories for the genesis of monotheism
The use of the term "monotheism" was first demonstrated by the English theologian and philosopher Henry More . It can also be found with Herbert von Cherbury . There it stands in the context of an early Enlightenment model of natural religion , which is based on a primeval monotheimus; polytheism developed later.
In the 1920s, Paul Radin criticized the evolutionist view, which has been widespread since the 19th century and promoted by colonialism and Darwinism , according to which monotheism emerges from polytheism and this with its belief in personalized deities from animism , i.e. the belief in the omnipotence of the Nature. According to Radin, no one can doubt that monotheism, or at least monolatry, was also widespread in original tribal societies. Monotheism, however, requires permanent devotion and, in contrast to "intermittent" cults with their situation-specific rituals, presupposes a more contemplative-philosophical temperament of the people. As an example, he cites the mother goddess Gauteovan of the Kagaba in Colombia, who is not addressed directly in prayer and not worshiped by cults. However, the objection arises that in many tribes the influence of missionaries has brought about a state of permanent devotion.
The ethnologist Wilhelm Schmidt , on the other hand, spoke of an "original monotheism" that was widespread worldwide and tried to underpin this idea in his twelve-volume work The Origin of the Idea of God or in the Origin and Development of Religion (1930). This thesis is hardly tenable empirically. Not all religions contain belief in a supreme being. In many African religions, in which such a role plays a role today, not only does the lack of a cult indicate the influence of Christian missionaries, but a comparison of historical testimonies can also prove this in detail. An example of a monotheistic African religion (paired with ancestor cult ) can be found among the Kikuyu in Kenya .
In practice, the distinction between monotheism and polytheism is not always easy. Followers of polytheistic religions are often de facto monotheists as they worship only one of the gods of their belief system. In this case one speaks of henotheism . On the other hand, there are also monotheistic religions with polytheistic elements.
Bernhard Lang assumes that the exclusive worship of a god ( monolatry ) can be a temporary phenomenon in a polytheistic society, triggered by crises that threaten the existence of a person. The Babylonian epic Atramchasis explains the exclusive veneration of the rain god Adad through the drought decided by the gods. In Ri 10.16 is described that living in Israel stems only in war YHWH worship as a god of war, but returned after the war to the worship of the local gods. During the political crisis of increasing Assyrian pressure in the 8th and 7th centuries BC The monotheism of the Hebrews developed from this.
Recent research differentiates between exclusive and inclusive as well as universal and particular monotheism. Exclusive monotheism emphasizes a god's claim to absoluteness vis-à-vis other gods whose existence inclusive monotheism tolerates. Universal monotheism emphasizes the all-encompassing claim to recognition that is not only valid for a particular group.
- Abrahamic religions : This refers to those monotheistic religions that build on Abraham as the progenitor (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i).
- One-god belief: German for monotheism
- Revelation religions: This term is derived from the fact that the teaching of the monotheistic religions (according to the conviction of their followers) was revealed in the course of history by messengers of God.
- Book religions : In Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Islam and the Baha'i religion, there are holy scriptures that are considered God's word. Hence, they are sometimes referred to as the book or scriptural religions.
- Monolatry : worship of a deity while recognizing the existence of others.
- Jan Assmann : The Mosaic distinction or: The price of monotheism . Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-446-20367-2 .
- Claus Bachmann: From the invisible to the crucified God. The career of the biblical ban on images in Protestantism. In: Journal for Systematic Theology and Philosophy of Religion Volume 47 (2005), pp. 1–34.
- Rainer Albertz : Religious history of Israel in the Old Testament period . 2nd Edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1996/97
- From the beginning to the end of the royal era . 1996, ISBN 3-525-51671-1 .
- From exile to the Maccabees . 1997, ISBN 3-525-51675-4 .
- Walter Brugger (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary . 23rd edition. Herder, Freiburg / B. 1998, ISBN 3-451-20410-X .
- Othmar Keel , Christoph Uehlinger: Goddesses, gods and god symbols. New insights into the religious history of Canaan and Israel based on previously untapped iconographic sources . 5th edition. Herder, Freiburg / B. 2001, ISBN 3-451-02134-X (Quaestiones disputatae; 134).
- Oswald Loretz: God's uniqueness. An ancient oriental argumentation model for "Shema Yisrael". Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1997, ISBN 3-534-13276-9 (see also the extensive bibliography in the appendix).
- Walter Simonis : About God and the World. God and creation doctrine . Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 2004, ISBN 3-491-70375-1 .
- Fritz Stolz : Introduction to Biblical Monotheism . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1996, ISBN 3-534-18967-1 .
- Thomas Assheuer: Dispute about Moses: How dangerous is monotheism? In: Die Zeit , No. 51/2002 (book review)
- Thomas Römer : The Invention of God. A journey to the sources of monotheism (translated from the French by Annette Jucknat), Darmstadt 2018.
- Entry in Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
- Graduate College “Images of Gods-Images of God-World Images. Polytheism and Monotheism in the Ancient World ”. (A group of interdisciplinary young researchers based at the University of Göttingen and funded by the German Research Foundation, who deals with various ancient religions and in particular with the relationship between polytheism and monotheism)
- Current literature on monotheism
- Le monothéisme selon Freud
- Michaela Bauks: Monotheism (AT). In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (Eds.): The Scientific Biblical Lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff.
- Gerhard Krause: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Vol. 27 . 1997, ISBN 3-11-015435-8 , pp. 37-38.
- In An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness , London 1660, see R. Hülsenwiesche: Monotheismus. In: HWPh 6, Sp. 142.
- Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury: De religione gentilium , Amsterdam 1663. Reprint 1967 (German-Latin). ISBN 978-3-7728-0201-0 .
- Paul Radin: Monotheism among primitive peoples. London 1924.
- Wilhelm Schmidt: The origin of the idea of God. A historically critical and positive study . tape 1-12 (1912-1955) . Aschendorff, Munster.
- Bernhard Lang: Yahweh. The biblical god. Paderborn 2002, p. 229 f.
- Klaus Koch: The God of Israel and the gods of the Orient. Religious history studies II. (= Research on religion and literature of the Old and New Testaments 216). Ed .: F. Hartenstein, M. Rösel, Göttingen 2007.
- Othmar Keel: The history of Jerusalem and the emergence of monotheism. (= Places and Landscapes of the Bible: Volume 4/1. A handbook and study travel guide to the Holy Land. Göttingen 2007. 755f.)