An Analytical-Critical Study of Ezekiel Kaufman's Theory on the Morphology of Monotheism and Polytheism

@ Milad A’zami Maram / PhD Student of Religion and Mysticism, University of Tehran


Mojtaba Zarvani / Associate Professor, Department of Religions, University of Tehran

Received: 2019/07/22 - Accepted: 2019/11/23



The classical scholars of Pentateuch , and at the head of them Julius Wellhausen believed that a critical examination of Pentateuch documents indicated a religious development during which Yahweh monotheism eventually led to moral monotheism. According to Kaufman, the morphological analysis of the world's religions does not confirm the theory of religious progress, and shows two different religious forms (monotheism and polytheism). Monotheism, which began with the activities of Moses, also includes other religions (Christianity and Islam), the rest of the religions fall into the category of polytheism. According to his analysis, the Hebraic religion is essentially different from the religion of the ancient world, so it cannot be a logical development; especially because historical evidence does not support such a development. He believed that despite their elements of Polytheism, the religious world of the Hebrews was the result of their own ideas, and external elements did not play a fundamental and creative role in its religious culture. However, contrary to his claim, his theory is not consistent with historical evidence and the Bible, and  has at least three main weaknesses: First, he mistakenly equates old Israel with historical Israel, second, he emphasizes differences in distinguishing the Hebraic worldview from that of their neighbors and ignores interactions, while comparative studies show the interaction of Hebrew intellectual and religious patterns with neighbors; Third, the theory of the absolute distinction of Israeli monotheism from ancient polytheism seems to reflect his theological concern.


Keywords: Pentateuch, polytheism, myths, magic, unity



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