In both Sinai&Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible and Creation & the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence Levenson makes use of the argument that Israel in its beginnings was not in fact monotheistic but actually affirmed the existence of other gods, of whom YHWH was supreme (henotheism).
Levenson points out several texts in the Hebrew Bible that affirm this reading:
You shall have no other gods (elohim) before me (Exodus 20:3)
Who is like you, YHWH, among the gods (ba’elim) (Exodus 15:11)
For a great God is YHWH,
The great king over all the gods (elohim) (Pslam 95:3)
Now, the purpose of this post is not to engage in the implications of these texts but to point out how amazed I am at my own situatedness in my “interpreted Bible.” In the “interpreted Bible” I have inherited from those before me, I have always read the above in light of prophetic tradition that in good orthodox fashion proclaims, “They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands” (Isaiah 37:19).
Instead of reading, “You shall have no other gods before me,” I have always read, “Of course you shouldn’t have any so-called gods before me, there is no such thing.” A huge difference. So now, ironically, I might seem like a fundamentalist here, but, I think it’s time we get back to the plain reading of the text. On the one hand, it might be that this is an unfair reading of the text. On the other hand, it might not be. But we’ll never know if we don’t ask the questions…