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Ugarit

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  • Ugarit

    In 1930 C.E., archaeological digs at Ras Shamra, about 5 miles north of the Port of Latakia where they are disarming the Syrian army of its chemical weapons, a whole new light was shed on the Late Bronze Age Levant, with specific ramifications for the early influences on the formation of Judaism. With these insights, we not only see what influenced the religions of Israel, but also how Israel eventually differentiated itself from the cultural milieu while still affirming parts of the religion of old. To be sure, Yahweh became the One god of Israel, but this was a formative process that can still be seen in the Bible today:

    Exodus 6:2-3 NRSV "God also spoke to Moses and said to him: "I am the Lord (YHWH). I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name 'The Lord' (YHWH) I did not make myself known to them." Richard Hess, an evangelical scholar at the Denver Theological Seminary, clarifies in his book Israelite Religions, "From the standpoint of the history of Yahwism, it is important to note that Exodus 6:2-3 confirms that Yahweh originally revealed himself as El, the traditional name of the chief god of the West Semitic pantheon. This was evident whether he was manifest as El Shaddai, El Elyon, or another El figure."

    Deuteronomy 32:7-9 "Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High (Elyon) apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the Lord's (YHWH's) *own* portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share." *own* was added by the NRSV to shy away from polytheistic connotations.

    It is my contention that monotheistic Yahwism was not corrupted by polytheistic Canaanite religion, but rather that monotheistic Yahwism is a later divergent branch of the West Semitic group of religions. This can most clearly be seen in how the Israelite writers called upon god to act as in the days of old:

    Psalms 74:12-14 "Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth. You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness."

    Isaiah 25:6-8, 26:19, 27:1 "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all the nations; he will swallow up death forever...Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a radiant dew, and the earth will give birth to those long dead...On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea."

    The endorsement, utilization (albeit reworking) of the West Semitic Combat Myth in theologically important areas like Creation (Job 26), Exodus (Exodus 14:2,9; 15 and Isaiah 51:9-10), Conquest (Exodus 15:14-18, Psalm 114) , Establishment of the Davidic monarchy (Psalm 24, 29, 89), Restoration and Resurrection (Isaiah 27:1), and Apocalypse (Revelation 12) bear evidence to just how central Canaanite religion is to both Judaism and Christianity.

  • #2
    *subscribing

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    • #3
      Premise: Abe Lincoln didn't exist.

      Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 1800's.
      Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 1920's.
      Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 2000's.

      If I make the assumption that the stories in the 1800's are not based on any real events and then assume the stories in the 1920's and 2000's are derivatives of the initial story I may have participated in an interesting historical research exercise but I'm still pre-supposing what I hoped to prove.
      Actually YOU put Trump in the White House. He wouldn't have gotten 1% of the vote if it wasn't for the widespread spiritual and cultural devastation caused by progressive policies. There's no "this country" left with your immigration policies, your "allies" are worthless and even more suicidal than you are and democracy is a sick joke that I hope nobody ever thinks about repeating when the current order collapses. - Darth_Executor striking a conciliatory note in Civics 101

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MehGerbil View Post
        Premise: Abe Lincoln didn't exist.

        Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 1800's.
        Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 1920's.
        Stories were written about Abe Lincoln in the 2000's.

        If I make the assumption that the stories in the 1800's are not based on any real events and then assume the stories in the 1920's and 2000's are derivatives of the initial story I may have participated in an interesting historical research exercise but I'm still pre-supposing what I hoped to prove.
        So your argument is that there is indeed a Storm God that is in repeated combat with a Dragon in the Sea? You do not doubt that the stories are derivative, but you assert that the initial story, i.e. the West Semitic Combat Myth, had at least kernels of historical veracity?

        Comment


        • #5
          Good Sources on the Topic. I will add more as I read more.

          Barton, John and Francesca Stavrakopoulou. Religious Divesity in Ancient Israel and Judah. New York: T&T Clark International, 2010
          Batto, Benard F., Roberts, K., eds. David and Zion: Biblical Studies in Honor of J.J. Roberts. Eisenbrauns, 2004.
          Batto, Bernard F. Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
          Bellah, R. Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.
          Burnett, J. Reassessment of the Biblical Elohim. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001.
          Clifford, Richard J. The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1972.
          Collins, Adela Yarbro and John J. Collins. King and Messiah as Son of God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008.
          Collins, Adela Yarbro. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1976
          Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
          Coogan, M. and Smith, Mark S. Stories from Ancient Canaan Second Ed. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 2012.
          Coogan, M. ed. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
          Cross, F.M. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
          Day, J. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, 2002.
          De Moore, J. C. The Rise of Yahwism The Roots of Israelite Monotheism Second Ed. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1997.
          Dever, W.G. Who were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003
          Dever, W.G. What did the Writers of the Bible Know and When did They Know it?. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001.
          Dothan, Trude and Moshe. People of the Sea the Search of the Philistines. New York: Macmillan, 1992.
          Finkelstein, I. and Silberman. The Bible Unearthed. New York: Free Press, 2001.
          Fishbane, M. Biblical Myth & Rabbinic Mythmaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
          Forsyth, N. The Old Enemy: Satan & The Combat Myth. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
          Friedman, Richard E. The Bible with Sources Revealed. New York: HarpersCollins, 2003.
          Hamilton, G. Origins of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Script. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 2006
          Hess, Richard S. Israelite Religions an Archaeological and Biblical Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
          Keel, Othmar and Uehlinger, K. Gods, Goddesses and Images of God in Ancient Israel. Herder Verlag: Fribourg, 1998.
          Kirsch, J. God Against the Gods. New York: Penguin Group, 2004.
          Levenson, Jon D. Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotene. New York: Harper & Row Publsihers, 1988
          Levenson, Jon D. Inheriting Abraham. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.
          Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry inot the Jewish Bible. New York: HarpersCollins; 1985.
          Levenson, Jon D. The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christanity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993
          Malamat, A. Mari and the Early Israelite Experience The Schweich Lectures 1984. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
          Mowinckel, S. He That Cometh. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005
          Pardee, D. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit. Writings From the Ancient World. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.
          Pardee, D. The Ugaritic Texts and the Origin of West-Semitic Literary Composition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
          Pritchard, James B. ed., The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts & Pictures. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.
          Redford, Donald B. Egypt Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
          Smith, Mark S. God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World. Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publsishing, 2008.
          Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel 2nd ed. San Francisco: HarpersCollins, 1990, 2002.
          Smith, Mark S. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism Israelís Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
          Smith, Mark S. Untold Stories. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2001.
          Tigay, Jeffery H. Thou Shall Have No Other Gods: Israelite Religion in the Light of Hebrew Inscriptions. Harvard University, 1986.
          Tov, E. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible 2nd Revised Ed. Minneapolis: Ausburg Fortress, 1992, 2001.
          van der Toorn, K., Becking, B. and van der Horst P. The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible 2nd Extensively Revised Ed. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1995, 1999.
          Van Seters The Hyksos: A New Investigation
          Watson, Rebecca S. Chaos Uncreated. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2005
          Wright, R. The Evolution of God. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2009.
          Yon, M. The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra. Wiona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2006.
          Zevit, Z. The Religions of Ancient Israel A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches. New York: Continuum, 2001.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by showmeproof View Post
            ... It is my contention that monotheistic Yahwism was not corrupted by polytheistic Canaanite religion, but rather that monotheistic Yahwism is a later divergent branch of the West Semitic group of religions. ...
            This seems like a false dichotomy to me. There's no reason why both assertions cannot both be true (or both false, for that matter). Does anyone seriously doubt that 'Yahwehism' evolved over time? Some biblical authors themselves would affirm this, would they not?
            βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον∑
            ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

            אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

            Comment


            • #7
              I highly recommend using Google Earth to look at Ras Shamra. You can see the remnants of the foundations of the city, where they have excavated, and areas that clearly were part of the city which have not yet been excavated. It is surreal to look at Ras Shamra, from a satellite no less, surrounded by modern day buildings while keeping in mind how much influence this area has had on modern theologies.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by showmeproof View Post
                So your argument is that there is indeed a Storm God that is in repeated combat with a Dragon in the Sea? You do not doubt that the stories are derivative, but you assert that the initial story, i.e. the West Semitic Combat Myth, had at least kernels of historical veracity?
                If I proved that an account written about Abe Lincoln in the 1800's was false would that invalidate every account written about Abe Lincoln in the 2000's?

                You've several things you've assumed here - that the West Semitic Combat Story is a myth is the first assumption - the second assumption is that they're linked with no additional sources (divine revelation). It is rational to make those assumptions; however, it doesn't make me irrational to make a different set of assumptions.
                Actually YOU put Trump in the White House. He wouldn't have gotten 1% of the vote if it wasn't for the widespread spiritual and cultural devastation caused by progressive policies. There's no "this country" left with your immigration policies, your "allies" are worthless and even more suicidal than you are and democracy is a sick joke that I hope nobody ever thinks about repeating when the current order collapses. - Darth_Executor striking a conciliatory note in Civics 101

                Comment


                • #9
                  robrecht,

                  I make the dichotomy because the Bible makes the dichotomy. The Deutronomistic narrative is insistent that "If anyone secretly entices you -even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend- saying "Let us go worship other gods," whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people....If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in, that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods," whom you have not known..."

                  I think it is clear that the bible asserts that Yahweh was always the only god and that any worship of other gods was a perversion of what he intended. The point I make is that Yahweh was the unknown God not the other way around. I think these two viewpoints are distinct.

                  By biblical authors are you asking about modern scholars or the writers of the books of the bible itself?
                  Last edited by showmeproof; 01-19-2014, 12:55 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    As far as explanatory historical hypotheses go, this one is pretty weak. It makes too many unwarranted assumptions, many of which are highly questionable, and the use of the term 'myth' is undefined just for starters. The evidence appealed is wholly inadequate. In fact, there exists a sizeable body of evidence that explicitly contradicts this hypothesis.
                    My Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0719RS8BK

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MehGerbil View Post
                      If I proved that an account written about Abe Lincoln in the 1800's was false would that invalidate every account written about Abe Lincoln in the 2000's?

                      You've several things you've assumed here - that the West Semitic Combat Story is a myth is the first assumption - the second assumption is that they're linked with no additional sources (divine revelation). It is rational to make those assumptions; however, it doesn't make me irrational to make a different set of assumptions.
                      It would certainly require skepticism of the later documents if they were derivative, even if reworked, of the earlier false document. A robust methodology would need to be employed to determine what nuggets, nonetheless which account, are true and which are false. It would most certainly be a historical investigation as to what is the most probable real story of Abe Lincoln.

                      More directly to our discussion, I would argue that the utilization of the earlier Myth necessitates reevaluation of subsequent documents, i.e. various parts of the bible, which employ it. If this is not myth, which literary form do you suggest that the West Semitic Combat is?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by showmeproof View Post
                        robrecht,

                        I make the dichotomy because the Bible makes the dichotomy. The Deutronomistic narrative is insistent that "If anyone secretly entices you -even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend- saying "Let us go worship other gods," whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people....If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in, that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods," whom you have not known..."

                        I think it is clear that the bible asserts that Yahweh was always the only god and that any worship of other gods was a perversion of what he intended. The point I make is that Yahweh was the unknown God not the other way around. I think these two viewpoints are distinct.

                        By biblical authors are you asking about modern scholars or the writers of the books of the bible itself?
                        I mean other authors, whose work appears in the Bible, which does not deny the evolution over time of 'Yahwehism'. The dichotomy that you point to in Deuteronomy is somewhat different than yours. It is a much better actual dichotomy to speak of what has been known and what has not been known by a distinct group of people.
                        βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον∑
                        ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                        אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by showmeproof View Post
                          robrecht,

                          I make the dichotomy because the Bible makes the dichotomy. The Deutronomistic narrative is insistent that "If anyone secretly entices you -even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend- saying "Let us go worship other gods," whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people....If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in, that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods," whom you have not known..."

                          I think it is clear that the bible asserts that Yahweh was always the only god and that any worship of other gods was a perversion of what he intended. The point I make is that Yahweh was the unknown God not the other way around. I think these two viewpoints are distinct.

                          By biblical authors are you asking about modern scholars or the writers of the books of the bible itself?
                          The verses which you quote from Exodus are consistent with God just revealing a more intimate view of Himself ie I am sure some people only know you by your surname but others who you are more intimate with are likely invited to know and call you by your first name. Further if the people of Canaan did initially have some notion of God and this had become corrupt, then the corrupt version is not God is it? Thinking simplistically, If I have the shape of a square and cut it in two, then though I originally had a square I now have something quite new - two rectangles or two triangles.

                          Abigail

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rational Gaze View Post
                            As far as explanatory historical hypotheses go, this one is pretty weak. It makes too many unwarranted assumptions, many of which are highly questionable, and the use of the term 'myth' is undefined just for starters. The evidence appealed is wholly inadequate. In fact, there exists a sizeable body of evidence that explicitly contradicts this hypothesis.
                            Please share the sizeable body of evidence that contradicts this hypothesis. Which assumptions are unwarranted, which are highly questionable? Please be precise.

                            Myth will here be defined, following Bernard Batto, "A narrative (story) concerning fundamental symbols that are constitutive of or paradigmatic for human existence."
                            In our discussion here I argue that The West Semitic Combat Myth is the fundamental set of symbols used to describe Israelite existence. This is aligned with Michael Fishbanes use of the, "word Myth to refer to (sacred and authoritative) accounts of the deeds and personalities of the gods and heroes during the formative events of primordial times, or during the subsequent historical interventions of these figures which are constitutive for the founding of a given culture..."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Abigail View Post
                              The verses which you quote from Exodus are consistent with God just revealing a more intimate view of Himself ie I am sure some people only know you by your surname but others who you are more intimate with are likely invited to know and call you by your first name. Further if the people of Canaan did initially have some notion of God and this had become corrupt, then the corrupt version is not God is it? Thinking simplistically, If I have the shape of a square and cut it in two, then though I originally had a square I now have something quite new - two rectangles or two triangles.

                              Abigail
                              El was known to be the head of the Canaanite pantheon in the Bronze Age. This is solely a polytheistic context. In your analogy, we start off historically with half the square, later a group claims they have found the whole square and that the whole square was original (i.e. predates the half square). This can be historically investigated. Your assumption is that the Canaanite's notion of God had become corrupt implies that it was originally pure.

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