Blogger is really playing up today – deleting posts and doubling them, so I'll keep this short.
I noted in my previous post on monotheism that Paula Fredriksen argues that: "In antiquity, all monotheists were polytheists". I think such a conclusion is simply the result of a sickly intellectualised version of monotheism anachronistically thrust back on the ancient texts, and, not finding its modernist counterpart, cries 'polytheism'. MacDonald (in Deuteronomy and the Meaning of 'Monotheism')
shows clearly why modernist intellectualised notions of monotheism fail to deal with the 'monotheism' of Deuteronomy – and implicitly also the rest of the OT. Modern notions of 'monotheism' banded about among much OT scholarship represent a call 'to recognize the objective state of metaphysical affairs'. Deuteronomic 'monotheism', on the other hand, emphasises '"love" as the appropriate human response to the oneness of Yahweh' (210).
'The essential element in what I have called Jewish monotheism, the element that makes it a kind of monotheism, is not the denial of the existence of other "gods", but an understanding of the uniqueness of YHWH that puts him in a class of his own, a wholly different class from any other heavenly or supernatural beings, even if these are called "gods". I call this YHWH's transcendent uniqueness ' ("Biblical theology and the problems of monotheism," in Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation, eds Craig Bartholomew, et al., [Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2004], 210)
I would prefer to define biblical 'monotheism', and certainly that of the Pauline variety, along these lines – as transcendent uniqueness, albeit with a strong relational spin (which has ontological implications when such questions are raised). To say that second Temple Judaism is monotheistic is to say something about the uniqueness of the one God in terms of his relationship to his people and all creation. Jewish monotheism, and Paul's too, states that 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ...', that this one true God is to be related to in an utterly unique way. It is a claim upon life and devotion, not merely an intellectual insight. It is to say that 'yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist' (1 Cor 8:6).
If I write another post in this little series, I may try to show how insights in both Bultmann and Barth strongly collaborate these arguments.