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I am thinking of before Christ kind of ancient. Also it's difficult to differentiate Judaism with other religions. Other religions have lesser gods below the supreme gods. Jews' god have angels beneath him. Yet, those angels are called elohim too, which means gods. So yea, it's not going to be simple.

Ancient Jews may have been henotheistic rather than monotheistic. In any case, they only worship one God. Did the Jews have neighbors that were henotheistic?

For example, Ugarith worshiped El. However, El had children, some of whom are also gods.

Note: I am thinking of another ancient culture that Judaism might have borrowed monotheism/henotheism from. Maybe ancient midianites? Modern Judaism sects, Christianity and Islam are just "branches" of Judaism. Modern Judaism may be the branch that differ most from the original depending on how you see it.

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good question, but maybe you should change cultures to religions in your title. –  Jeroen K Apr 2 at 7:50
    
Henotheistic is a good definition of the ancient Jews, but I think the main issue is the abstract God, as opposed to the many gods as specific characters of the surrounding religions. –  Carmi Apr 2 at 8:16
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Ancient jews may be henotheistic rather than monotheistic. This ignores evidence that ancient Jews worshiped a pantheon, including Asherah, the wife of Yahweh. –  andy256 Apr 2 at 9:40
    
Ah yea, ancient jews have many different religions. The one that predates christianity and islam is pretty henotheistic. –  Jim Thio Apr 2 at 10:16
    
I think you may need to establish the time period. All religions change over time. –  Mark C. Wallace Apr 2 at 11:17

4 Answers 4

Zoroastrism is probably the only monotheistic neighbor of Judaism that i know of, and since it originated from the 7th century BC it is about 2 centuries older then Judaism. I don't know whether it was henotheistic though.

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At least during the days of the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism was henotheistic in the sense that gods and deities from other religions were acknowledged and their worship was permitted, but it was believed that they were manifestations of either Mazda or whatever the truth-flame god was known as. –  568ml Apr 2 at 11:40
    
manifestation of mazda. So that does look like monotheism. Everything is just a manifestation of that one god. –  Jim Thio Apr 4 at 0:11

Atenism appeared (although briefly) before either Judaism or Zoroastrianism.

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Christianity and Islam

The obvious candidates are Christianity and Islam, both of which are clearly monotheistic. However, both of those religions can be said to have "learned" their monotheism from the Jews.

For Christianity, we have Jesus, who grew up as a Jew in Israel, and was brought up montheistic.

Islam, for its part, recognizes both Moses and Jesus as prophets of God (Allah).

For true parallel development, I would nominate the religions of the Indian sub-continent. Though, in all honesty, I'm not quite comfortable calling them religions at all.

Hinduism

Calling Hinduism a religion is a little misleading, as it is a set of schools of philosophies and practices. Some of these believe that all spirits are part of Bhrama, which is close to the Western concept of God. Trying to use the terminology of Western theology, they would have one God, and many saints and prophets.

Of course, other schoold of Hinduism are fully polytheistic, having many and various gods. However, there are some who see all of these gods as avatars or incarnations of the same single God, basically having a properly monotheistic religion.

Buddhism

Once again, there are many schools of Buddhism. I think there are at least some schools which can be fairly defined as monotheistic, and others which are basically atheistic.

Mostly, Buddhism teaches that there is a divinity (which can be thought of as God in Western terms) of which everyone is a part. It also has various Buddhas, who are indeed worshipped. However, there is no dogma that requires this, and becoming a Buddha is something to aspire to become through enlightenment. I would equate the worship of Buddhas in Chinese Buddhist culture more to the worship of Saints in Christianity than to believing them to be gods. It is clear that Buddha was indeed a person, not divine.

In other schools of Buddhism (perhaps the Japanese Zen Buddhism is a good example), there isn't really a divinity as such, merely the universe in its entirety as a singularity. This is, in my opinion, quite close to the oxymoron of an atheistic religion.

Others

Unfortunately, I do not know enough about other religions and belief system in the world to make any further actual knowledgable comments.

However, I do think that the Australian aboriginal beliefs of Dreamtime are an interesting candidate for this. Perhaps someone with a better understanding can add something in a comment or a separate answer.

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WRT monotheism in Hinduism, you are probably referring to the "qualified monism", not quite the same. Take a look at this. –  Rajib Apr 2 at 11:26

Sikhism ..... they believe in One God, the True Guru, or Teacher

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikhism

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not ancient. most likely influenced by judaism, christianity and muslim. in fact, it's a syncretic religion. –  Jim Thio Apr 4 at 0:09
    
Sikhism came from Hinduism –  Glowie Apr 4 at 12:26
    
oh it's not syncretic? I thought one religion is syncretic. –  Jim Thio Apr 4 at 16:18
    
oh that's bahai, another religion –  Jim Thio Apr 4 at 16:20

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