Early Jewish and Christian polytheism?

N.T. Wrong (who I hope will one day reveal his/her real identity) is again right. His/her question reveals that he/she knows what he/she is talking about. Here is his/her question:
Well, because you asked. I've often wondered to what extent and in what ways Christian doctrine concerning the divine was influenced by the emerging Rabbinic orthodoxy (ca. AD 200). That is, Rabbinic orthodoxy seems to have introduced a stricter monotheism to the matrix of Judaisms that included Christianities. Did that part of Christendom which is now called 'proto-orthodox' Christianity likewise, and in response, seek to 'tone down' its polytheistic understandings of divinized humanity, a divinized Christ, angelic and demonic beings, and a Most High God? How do the discussions going on in Rabbinic Judaism provide a normative influence on Christianities which previously seemed quite open to a hierarchy of divinities, even in its 'proto-orthodox' quarters, as is evidenced in the Epistle of the Apostles, or the Odes of Solomon, or Mileto, or the Gospels of John and Thomas?
I don't have a great deal of time these days since I've become involved in writing another article on the Gospel of Judas (you won't believe what I have been finding!) and trying to get prepared to fly to Amherst this weekend to give a lecture on the Gospel of Judas on Friday night to a CSSR group.

Here's my quick take on Wrong's question. It is undeniable in my opinion that Judaism and Christianity before Nicaea were not monotheistic religions (as we define it today). In fact, one can question whether Christianity ever really became monotheistic - all depends on how convinced you are that the doctrine of the Trinity actually resolves the polytheism of a Father and Son being worshiped. Of course there is absolute resistance to this idea, especially among scholars who want early Judaism and Christianity to be monotheistic. So they have come up with all kinds of ways to contort the sources and their readings of them to make it look otherwise, including playing the heresy card.

But here are the facts as I see them. The first Christians were Jews. They had no problem worshiping Jesus alongside the father god almost from the start. I think that this worship was pre-Pauline, and centered in Antioch, although I do not rule out Jerusalem (see my paper in the book Israel's God and Rebecca's Children, "How we talk about Christology Matters"). They thought that Jesus was God's great angel who came to earth as a human being and was exalted to the angelic status of the NAME angel at his resurrection. The Jews in the Second Temple period from Philo to Qumran to all the Jewish apocalyptic texts believed that God manifested himself as the NAME angel on earth. This NAME angel, because he was invested with God's NAME, was essentially GOD. The Samaritans had various sectarian movements in the first century that played on this theme. Simon the Samaritan taught that he was the manifestation of this POWER of God, and that he had been sent to earth from the father in order to save the lost soul. The Jewish gnostics in the first century were able to develop the demiurge myth because they relied on these same ideas - that God had a NAMED angel YAHWEH who was distinct from GOD yet was the GOD who created the world.

Then there are all the polemics among late first and second century Christians about who is worshiping angels, who is asking angels for intercessory favors. Christians or Jews? Then we add to this all the polemics that developed in the late second and third centuries among the rabbis about the TWO POWERS heresy and how authentic Jews only worship YAHWEH. Then we find poor Arius caught in a ferocious battle over whether or not it is desirable to continue to call Jesus an angel and worship him as second in command.

I could go on and on. My point is this. Early Judaism and Christianity were not monotheistic religions, but were at best monalotrous (=worshiped one god but allowed for the existence of other gods). It was because of this that Christianity was able to be born out of Judaism as a Jewish expression of a new form of Yahwehism, and Gnosticism could become the fancy of Jewish intellectuals living in first-century Alexandria. This must mean that the program of some of the post-exilic priests to make Judaism a monotheistic religion DID NOT WORK, as in fact the wisdom literature and Sophia traditions prove in my opinion. This had to wait until the rabbis came along and created what many consider the basis for modern Judaism, and insisted that all forms of worship other than YAHWEH be banned. Whether or not the bishops and church theologians ever really made Christianity monotheistic depends on how well one thinks that the Nicaea decision and later the doctrine of the Trinity really worked.

As an aside, this scenario is not new stuff, nor is Boyarin the first to discuss some of these issues in his book Borderlines (2004). In fact, Alan Segal in Two Powers in Heaven (1977), and Jarl Fossum in The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord (1985) and The Image of the Invisible God (1995) were the two scholars who made the case initially, and wrote about it brilliantly.