Defining deity in the Biblical can be a complex undertaking because it will have to put into account a multifaceted God. The Bible’s view on deity can even be confusing to the uninitiated – especially if they have a conflicting view based on their religious background. In a nutshell, the definition of deity in the Bible revolves around some spiritual attributes that are considered unique to God like omniscience, omnipotence, benevolence, etc.
Deity refers to the object of worship and the Bible makes it clear that there is only one God – Yahweh. Even though there are other deities mentioned in the Bible, these are considered false gods, and worshipping them was tantamount to idolatry which God punished severely.
Deity in the Old Testament
The Old Testament gives us a good foundation for understanding deity. The Old Testament emphasizes that God is one. This was important because most of the religious practices by the communities living around God’s people were not monotheistic. The God of Israel is therefore portrayed in the Old Testament as one supreme deity.
Yahweh as the Supreme Deity
Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel. This name is regarded as holy and is often translated as the Lord in most English translations. At the heart of the doctrine of the old testament is the concept of Yahweh as the supreme deity. The Bible teaches that there is only one God – the God of Israel and any other form of deity is regarded as an idol. Here are some important attributes of Yahweh:
- Holiness- Yahweh is described as holy, an attribute that sets him apart from other beings. There are many scriptures illustrating this but one of the most prolific is the vision of Isaiah where he saw angels worshipping God as they said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
- Covenant Faithfulness: In Genesis 12, Yahweh cuts a covenant with Abraham. As part of the covenant, he promises to give possession of Canaan to his descendants. Although it took years, God kept his promise. The theme of covenant faithfulness is also seen in other portions of scripture but the example of Israel is the most prolific. In Deuteronomy 8:18, God reminds them that he would take them into the promised land because he was faithful to the covenant he made with their patriarch.
- Just and Merciful: The Old Testament portrays God as just and merciful. His attribute of justice is seen in how he punches wrongdoing. However, God is also portrayed as merciful and he often forgave those who had enough sense to repent. In Micah, the Bible says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18-19)
- Almighty: As the supreme deity, Yahweh possesses absolute power and authority over all creation. This attribute is conveyed in verses like Jeremiah 32:17, which declares, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
Deity in the New Testament
The New Testament builds on the concept of a supreme God and introduces another concept of deity in which God sends his son to die for man’s sins. Even though the New Testament focuses on this, the concept of the Trinity is also expounded.
Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Deity
Jesus is the focal point of the new testament. The first four books (gospels) narrate his life and public ministry while the rest give an account of how the early church lived by the teachings of Christ. The concept of deity in the New Testament is largely based on the fact that Jesus gave his life for the sake of mankind. Here are some important pointers:
- Divine Sonship: The Bible identifies Jesus as God’s only son who is in a unique relationship with his father. One of the many places where the divine sonship is expounded is when God the Father affirmed him during baptism by saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.” (Mathew 3:17).
- Miracles and Authority: The ministry of Jesus the incarnate was full of miracles, signs, and wonders. This affirmed his authority as the messiah and also as a member of the Godhead. In Acts 10:38, scripture summarises his ministry by saying that Jesus went about doing good and healing the sick and oppressed.
- Forgiveness of Sins: In Mark 2:5-7, Jesus made a statement that landed him in bad books with the religious leaders of his day. He told the paralytic man that his sins had been forgiven. By so doing, Jesus made it clear that he had the power to forgive sins because he was not just a preacher but a member of the Godhead.
- Resurrection: Resurrection is arguably one of the most important aspects of the life of Jesus Christ. By resurrecting from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that he had power over death as a testament to his victory over sin.
Other Deities in the Bible
As we have seen, the Bible emphasizes that there is one only true God – Yahweh. However, there are other deities mentioned in the Bible – especially in the old testament. These gods are often associated with pagan practices and idol worship, leading to warnings against engaging with such practices in Israelite religious law.
Some of the notable examples of other deities in the Bible include Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility and rain, and Asherah, a goddess of nature. God was very particular in foreboding the worship of any other God and violating that instruction would often result in judgment. For instance, when Israel was led into Baal worship by Jezebel, God punished them by releasing one of the most severe famines they had witnessed in a long time.
To sum it up, deity in the Bible can either refer to Yahweh or to the other gentile gods like Baal and Asherah. However, God is consistent in reminding his people not to worship aunty other God because according to the Bible, all other gods and religions are false. Even Jesus said that he was the only way to God and no one could access the Father through any other means (John 14:6)