Whose God (god)? : The Misleading Metaphysical Capital

In English versions of the Bible, the “metaphysical capital” tells readers that a pronoun (“He”, “Him”) or what could be called the generic “divine noun” (“God”) refers to YHWH, the true god, the god of ancient Israel. This capitalization would have been culturally incomprehensible to the biblical authors, because even when elohîm referred unambiguously to YHWH as the only true god, phrases such as “Israel’s god”, “my god”, “your god”, “our god”, “our fathers’ god”, &c., do not merely identify or refer to YHWH, but do so by distinguishing his as this god in particular—my/your/our personal, familial, or national god—from someone else’s god or gods.
Using examples from, e.g., Genesis, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, and Jonah, this paper argues that rendering elohîm with the metaphysical capital (i.e., as “God”) misleads readers of the Bible in two ways: (1) it reflects [our] monotheistic culture rather than the polytheistic culture of ANE; and (2) it encourages readers to understand Israel as being truly monotheistic, which is denied by their incessant reversion to polytheism. Rendering these occurrences with lower-case “god” is cuturally valid and should be normalized in English versions of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

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