“strange gods”

The First Commandment of the Decalogue requires that one have “no other gods (acher elohiym)”. Jerome translated “other” as “alienus” as opposed to “alius“, giving it the meaning “strange gods”. I haven’t looked into why Jerome did this, since there is a very commonly used Hebrew adjective “naykar” which means “strange” or “foreign”. At the very least, Scripture makes clear that the “acher gods” are synonymous the “naykar gods” in many places (Gen. 35; Jos 24:20) and so at the worst, Jerome is simply using a synonym.  

(A scripture scholar told me that the Hebrew text I was quoting from was probably the 12th century “Codex 1”, which is not the critical edition of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jerome might well have had access to a text that said naykar- or even several such texts)   

The first sense of a “strange god” is the god of another nation. The true God, therefore, is of our own nation, i.e. our true nation is the one over which God rules. This is why St. Thomas did not speak of going to “heaven” (which for him was a series of crystal spheres) but of going to the “patria” (as in the familiar last line of the “Tantum Ergo”- qui vitam sine termino nobis donet in patria. “may [God] give us life without end in the homeland/ fatherland/land of our ancestors”.)

Meister Eckhart had a very profound reading of having no “strange gods”. To him, nothing strange is God- for God is subsistent existence, and existence is neither strange nor alien to anything; God is infinite, and nothing lies outside of the infinite. His most moving reason, however, is that God is innermost in all things, and what is innermost can never be alien or strange to anything.

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