In the set of religious traditions there are two main currents: monotheism and polytheism. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are examples of monotheistic religions, as they claim the existence of a single God. Hinduism and the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions are examples of polytheistic doctrines. In both approaches there is an intermediate alternative, henotheism. It consists in believing in several deities, but at the same time in a higher order deity.
In other words, it is a polytheistic view in which there is a god with a higher hierarchical level.
The term was coined in the 19th century by the German philologist Max Muller. With this neologism reference was made to religiosity in India, where several deities were venerated, but at the same time a single god had supreme power.
Henotheism is related to the historical evolution of the religious phenomenon
Those who have studied religious beliefs from an anthropological point of view claim that human beings began to worship the forces of nature. Thus, the rain, the earthquakes and the sun’s rays had a divine character.
At another time, a polytheistic view was consolidated, in which various deities served to explain the order of the universe
The plurality of gods in the ancient world evolved and in the most varied mythological beliefs, a god with more power over others appeared. Thus, on Olympus of the Greeks inhabited twelve deities and one of them, Zeus, had supremacy over the others.
In Roman civilization the pantheon of gods maintained a very similar scheme , as the Greek gods were replaced by others with a simple change of name (Zeus became Neptune, Athena became Minerva, Aphrodite became Venus, etc.). It was in the Greek and Roman historical context that henotheism was consolidated as a religious principle.
Through the first prophets of Judaism a new paradigm was established , monotheism. There was a gradual transformation of religious beliefs in the Hebrew people: originally they were polytheistic and as soon as Abraham appeared a combination of henotheism and monotheism was consolidated, but finally an exclusively monotheistic view was imposed.
From the spread of Christianity the henotheistic view began to weaken
For the early Christians, those who believed in various gods were pagans. Christianity vigorously fought paganism in its various versions, as it understood that worshiping different deities expressed rejection of the sacred scriptures.
In the fourth century d. C, Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. From that moment on began the gradual decline of any henotheistic view.