The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts
Oxford University Press
, Aug 9, 2001
- 325 pages
As the Bible tells us, ancient Israel's neighbours worshipped a wide variety of gods. It is now widely accepted that the Israelites' God, Yahweh, must have originated among these many, before assuming the role of the one true God of monotheism. This work seeks to discover more precisely what was meant by divinity in the ancient near-East, and how these concepts apply to Yahweh. Part One of the book offers an examination of the deities of ancient Ugarit, known to us from the large surviving group of relevant extra-biblical texts. In Part Two, Smith looks closely at four classic problems associated with four Ugaritic deities, and considers how they affect our understanding of Yahweh. At the end of the book he returns to the question of Israelite monotheism, seeking to discover what religious issues it addressed, and why it made sense at the time of its emergence. He argues that within the Bible, monotheism is not a separate stage of religion but rather represents a kind of rhetoric reinforcing Israel's exclusive relation with its deity.