You may have noticed that the front page quotes the First Commandment slightly different than how you’re accustom. It’s because of these two words, “plēn” and “paniym”.
A great deal of Pagans, and “Christo-Pagans”, use the phrasing “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” to justify the worship of other deities. Some have even used it to justify new age concepts born from a further perversion of the Catholic Intercession of the Saints and Guardian Angels traditions. They argue, that this simply means God is “top dog” and the rest are beneath Him. They point further to the word “elohim” being a plural term, and that God is acknowledging the existence of other gods.
But “paniym”, the word used in the Hebrew version of this verse, is rooted in the word “face”, associated with the “presence”. “Plēn” is the Septuagint translation, meaning “besides”, “except” or “but”.
God’s Commandment is straight forward, and several times over confirmed by how He responds to the Israelites in the Old Testament: If you choose to follow YHWH, you can have no other gods in your life.
Those who wish to pursue a polytheistic tradition may be asking yourself “then why use that language? Why call them gods at all? It’s actually something a friend continueally asked me as I was working on how to tell my story to others- “You keep giving these demonic forces status by calling them gods, you haven’t fully accepted Christ, and it shows, you need to work on that.” (paraphrased). That actually nagged at me for a long time, I couldn’t figure out whether or not my friend was right. But as I continued reading the Bible to find a way to best convey what God had revealed to me, I found myself asking “why does God use the word ‘gods'”, why did the Apostles refer to them as such? As I dug into the Greek and Hebrew, I started to realize it’s because it’s how we communicate theologically about the topic of supernatural beings. While Demon is something we can use amongst believers, non-believers regulate the demonic to beings lesser than their own gods. They aren’t in the same category, and therefore it is simple for them to write off the statement that they follow demons.
Granted, that problem will not go away, at least not in terms of how non-believers approach the topic. But perhaps with those which proclaim they worship the Virgin Mary as a goddess, or those which adopt YHWH as a higher god alongside their own, we can work to dispell this myth that YHWH is okay with His children following other gods.
So how did the Jewish people understand the gods, in truth? I think the answer lies in a singular word that was translated poorly into the Hebrew from the original Greek. Today Christians say “You worship demons”, but we have been robbed of the verse which affirms our beliefs.
Psalm 96:4-5 For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens and the Earth.
The highlighted word is what you will find in every Hebrew-based Bible translation. But the Masoretic texts were translated in the 16th Century AD, whereas the original Greek comes from the 3rd Century BC. The difference in this single word is everything in this passage. It reads daimonia, a word which is only ever translated as devils or demons. It is my personal belief that if the original word in this Psalm had been intended to be a lifeless representation of some idea which didn’t actually exist (the Hebrew ‘eliyl [idol] translates as: of nought, good for nothing, worthless) this passage would surely read eidōlon.
Although the choice is yours to make, I feel I would be remiss if I let the lie of polytheistic Christianity persist. It may seem harsh to hear, but YHWH will not accept someone who hasn’t committed to Him alone. That’s not a decision I or anyone else gets to make, God made that decision long before we were born. I am thankful that He continues to be patient with us, but I’ll be honest: it’s better to make the decision sooner than later.