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Chapter 3: Jewish Traditions
3.1 What is monotheism? What other ways of being religious are ‘out there’? Discuss any issues
that might arise when trying to define religion based on a monotheistic interpretation. Go to the
library website, click on E-resources, access the E-version of the Oxford English Dictionary (or
try this link here), and then find and briefly review definitions of ‘monotheism,’ ‘monolatry,’
‘polytheism’ and ‘henotheism.’ From a theoretical perspective, why is it problematic to think of
‘polytheism’ as a less-developed form of religion than monotheism?
Monotheism is the belief in one God. Other ways of being religious, is being part of a cultural
community, with artistic traditions, foods and historical stories. It is hard to sometimes define
religion based on a monotheistic interpretation, because there isn't much information on one
God. In Judaism the name of God is not spoken, therefore only "Lord" or "God" is used. It is
difficult to describe the one God and the only set of rules. Polytheism is the belief in several
Gods. Monolatry is the worship of one god, where other gods are supposed to exist. Henotheism
is a state between monotheism and polytheism. It is the belief of one God as the ruler of the
individual or family, without stating that he is the only God. It is problematic to think of
polytheism as less-developed because it involves several Gods.
3.2 As suggested on page 74, interpreters were often reluctant to change scripture even when
there appeared to be contradictions in the text. Why?
They were reluctant to change the scripture, because they believed every single thing in the
scripture. Even though at times they contradicted it, it was only their own opinion and the
inability to understand God's plans. Also different parts of the scripture may have come from
3.3 Discuss the idea of the covenant. Compare the idea of the covenant as connected with e.g.,
Abraham and Moses, with other legal codes in other cultural/religious contexts of the time.
The covenant is a promise or a contract between the Jewish people and their God. It was
the centre concept in the ancient Hebrews' religion. Abraham and Moses were one of the chosen
ones that entered into the covenant with God. Abraham was the first, God promised that he and
his descendants would have the land of Canaan, long life and peaceful death, if they obeyed. God
used animals to swear an oath. Moses was also part of the making of the covenant between God.
While the descendants were led to Egypt by Abraham, they were led back home by Moses. It
shows that God is the author of every event, and rewarding events will come to those who follow
To the Hebrew people, the covenant was a promise of a special relationship and His
chosen people, the Jews. God first made the contract with Abraham. He promised the land of
Canaan to the Hebrew people if they followed God’s will and were moral. Later on, God also
made a covenant with Moses and Jacob. When Moses and God made their covenant, God would
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