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The following verses do not say that there is only one God, they say there is only one God "for us".

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 (NIV)
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Can this passage therefore be interpreted in favor henotheism?

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The NIV isn't exactly the most rigourous translation with which to examine this sort of issue but even the puntuation (which you left out of your quote and I have fixed) leave a pretty strong clue about the intention of the author. You could do well to review other translations to see how they have rendered Paul's words—his intent becomes pretty clear when you see how he comes across to various translators. – Caleb Dec 24 '13 at 9:53
up vote 0 down vote accepted

First, in the KJV it does not say "so-called" but simply says "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth...." To me it seems in verse 4 Paul condemns idols as nothing. Then in verses 5 & 6 it seems like he's saying "And even if there are other gods that do exist, there is only one God for us." This seems consistent with his statement "as there are many gods and many lords," which seems to be a statement of fact.

Looking back in Genesis 1:26 (again KJV), we read, "And God said, Let us make man in our image...." This seems to imply more than one (ie, the Godhead?). But even if this is the case, I think Paul is teaching his readers in verses 5 & 6 that despite that fact, at the end of the day, the Christian God is the one and only God that ought to be worshipped.

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. This is not a discussion forum. Answers should fully answer the question and show their work. Please describe your perspective without prescribing it. Please keep in mind that not all of your readers here are Christians. – Dan Oct 23 '14 at 19:28
+!. Not sure which answer is the correct one. Looks like Paul doesn't know how many gods are there. – Jim Thio Oct 24 '14 at 5:48
Let me get this straight. This answer support henotheistic interpretation and the other answer support monotheistic interpretation. Am I wrong here? – Jim Thio Jul 2 '15 at 7:54

Paul, in context, leaves no doubt about his monotheism.

1 Cor 8 deals with food offered to idols. As such, we expect the text to deal with "so-called gods". Moreover, I find it interesting that you chose not to include v4 in your quote:

4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.
5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords),
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge...

After having emphatically stated that their is only one God, Paul goes on to talking about "so-called gods" (calling them "nothing" in v4), saying that these so-called gods comprise "many gods and many lords." Moreover, v7 refers to "our" understanding of God as "knowledge" - Paul and his companions know that "there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things." To others it might seem that there are many gods and many lords, but Paul and his companions know otherwise.

If we take v5-6, out of context, we might conclude that they teach henotheism. Alternatively, we could simply take the clause "there are many gods" in v5 out of context and say that the Bible teaches polytheism. But in order to understand what the author meant, we must leave his words in the original context.

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I missed verse 4 through honest mistake. Sorry. That being said it's still strange. Is Jesus not God? Is God not Lord? What does vs 6 really mean? – Jim Thio Nov 30 '13 at 16:22
@JimThio Are you asking whether Paul's omission of "God" to describe Jesus and "Lord" to describe God, means that Jesus is not God and God is not Lord? If omission of an identity/description is to be taken as proof of its non-existence, Mt 18:20-21 is really weird: First it says that Peter spoke to the Lord, and then says that it was Jesus (not the Lord) who answered him. – Niobius Nov 30 '13 at 17:14
@Niobius Actually, this verse is much easier to explain if you believe Jesus is not God, like I do ;-) – Jan Dvorak Dec 24 '13 at 9:47
@JanDvorak Then answer the question and explain the verse in context (and per site guidelines show your work). – Caleb Dec 24 '13 at 9:55
(as there are many gods and many lords). Why is this phrase in parentheses anyway? – Jim Thio Oct 24 '14 at 5:47

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