Henotheism, Monolotrism, Kathenotheism, and Summodeism


• Michiko Yusa
• Henotheism
• Encyclopedia of Religion (Lindsay Jones, ed.), 2nd edition
• Macmillan Reference

The association of henotheism with the idea of “rudimentary monotheism,” however, never completely disappeared from the minds of some scholars of religion. Thus, henotheism was sometimes confused with monolatry, a term best applied to the religion of ancient Israel before it attained monotheism, when the existence of gods other than Yahveh was admitted but their worship was strictly forbidden (see Ex. 22:20).

• Ronald S. Hendel
• Israelite Religion
• Encyclopedia of Religion (Lindsay Jones, ed.), 2nd edition
• Macmillan Reference

Early biblical texts seem to acknowledge that gods of other nations exist (Dt. 32:8). The nations each have their own god, but Yahweh is Israel's god. This seems to be the earliest sense of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods beside me” (Ex. 20:3). Yahweh is Israel's high god, who delivered his people from slavery and oppression, and therefore he is entitled to Israel's worship and loyalty. Moreover, Yahweh is superior to the other gods, as proclaimed in the early hymn, the Song of the Sea: “Who is like you among the gods, O Yahweh? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, awesome in praise, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). Other national gods exist, but Yahweh is Israel’s god and he is the greatest god. The worship of Yahweh functions as a unifying agent of Israelite culture and religion. This type of worship is sometimes called monolotry (the worship of one god without denying the existence of others) or henotheism (belief in one god without denying the existence of others). A more thoroughgoing monotheism, which denies the existence of other gods, is a product of the prophetic and Deuteronomistic critique during the eighth through the sixth centuries BCE.

N.S. Gill
• Henotheism
• About.com

Monotheism is a belief in one god. It's like henotheism, but in henotheism, one’s focus is on one god, and the henotheist doesn’t deny the existence of the other gods. Henotheism is applicable to Hinduism, Isis worship, and the worship of Julian the Apostate, among others. The Amarna period of Egyptian history, headed by Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Wife Nefertiti, is often descibed as monotheistic, but henotheism fits better since Akhenaten didn't deny the existence of the other gods.

What is Henotheism?
• GotQuestions.org

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, henotheism is the belief in one god without denying the existence of others. Hinduism is a classic example of this belief in practice. Hindus generally worship one god, yet acknowledge that there are many other gods that can be worshiped as well. The religion of the ancient Greeks and their worship of the Olympians is another well-known example, with Zeus being the supreme ruler of eleven other gods. All twelve were worshiped, each individually by a different sect or temple.

What are Henotheism and Monolatry?
• About.com

Henotheism is based upon the Greek roots heis or henos, which means one and theos which means god. This makes it sound like it should be a synonym for monotheism, but it’s not, even though it has the same etymological meaning. Coined by F. Max Müller, the term henotheism refers to the worship in a single god which does not exclude the possibility of other gods who may be worthy of worship.

The word monolatry is based upon the Greek roots monos, which means one and latreia, which means service or religious worship. It seems to have been first used by Julius Wellhausen to described a type of polytheism in which only one god is worshipped even though the existence of other gods is accepted. The reason for the difference in treatment is the premise that only one of the many gods actually deserves to be worshipped – often this may be due to a special relationship the god has with the people in question.

Both henotheism and monolatry can be regarded as types of polytheism when that concept is understood as the belief in the existence of multiple gods rather than more narrowly the worship of multiple gods....

Edward F. Wente defined henotheism thus:

...a writer, speaker, or devotee selects a god as his or her own single almighty deity, without, however, denying the existence of other gods and goddesses, any of whom might be seen by someone else as the principle deity.

Wente differentiates this henotheism from monotheism in the context of Egyptian religion by pointing out that the ancient Egyptians did not impose upon others the existence of a single, universal god - at least, not until the reign of Akhenaten.

Wente also differentiates henotheism from summodeism, which he defined as the worship of a supreme deity who sits at the head of a pantheon of other deities who exist solely or primarily as manifestations of this high god. Thus, in a summodeistic system, the existence of multiple gods only occurs because a single, high god is able to transform itself into many different gods.

Matt Slick
• What is Kathenotheism?
• Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

Kathenotheism is the worship of one God at a time. Therefore, it is possible to believe in many gods (polytheism) and focus worship and service on one of them at a time, depending on the needs and/or depending on which God becomes supreme over another.