Christianity developed in a world where most religious practices were primarily polytheistic. The term polytheism, however, when applied to the ancient world is misleading. Although Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and many Near Eastern people worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses, either there was one powerful god who ruled them all or these gods were conceived of as a plurality that acted by consensus or as aspects of a single supreme god who ruled all the other divinities. Either way we understand the ancient pantheon, at its base was a single divine leader who ruled other deities, variously called angels, demons, numina, "divine essences," or gods and goddesses.
The second-century writer Celsus whose work we know only from Origen's response to it, called the Contra Celsum, "Againt Celsus," perhaps summed up most succinctly the ancient concept of pagan monotheism when he argued (Contra Celsum 1.24) that it did not matter whether the god's name was Zeus or the Most High, or Zen, or Adonai, or Sabaoth, or the Egyptian Ammon, or the Scythian Papaeus. Whatever the name, he insisted, all these deities pointed to the concept of a single divinity, the supreme god or greatest sovereign.
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