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The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's…

The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and…

by Mark S. Smith

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According to the Bible, ancient Israel's neighbors worshipped a wide variety of gods. In recent years, scholars have sought a better understanding of this early polytheistic milieu and its relation to Yahweh, the God of Israel. Drawing on ancient Ugaritic texts and looking closely at Ugariticdeities, Mark Smith examines the meaning of "divinity" in the ancient near East and considers how this concept applies to Yahweh.… (more)



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Smith is marvelous when he sticks to his specialty: Ugaritic studies. He is completely unconvincing in his comparison to the Hebrew Bible -- and he knows it. ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Smith has written a grand overview of the development of monotheism in the Jewish culture. He begins by discussing ancient Ugaritic texts in the milieu in which they were written and then, by comparison with the earliest Israelite texts, shows that the earlier Jews, even at Sinai, were polytheists, worshipping a variety of gods similar to those common in their near geography.

His position is that real monotheism did not develop until the late kingdom or even until the Babylonian exile. His view is that this development was related to the political situation in which the Jews found themselves at the time: no king, defeat, and loss of land along with the family strains that this would have imposed.

He writes the Jahweh was originally a national god, just as Baal was, and that they both were part of the council of El. He then traces what he believes was the convergence of Yahweh into the senior attributes of El with the ultimate result the elimination of all other gods.

The text itself is full of direct references to the actual texts, along with comment on what others have said of them. The level of his research is apparent not only from these citations within the text, but also that the text itself runs to 194 pages, while the following footnotes, in even smaller type, continue for another 107 pages. ( )
1 vote RTS1942 | May 7, 2011 |
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