The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts
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 Ugaritic deities, Mark Smith examines the meaning of "divinity" in the ancient near East and considers how this concept applies to Yahweh.
discourse, although on purely grammatical grounds it would be possible to render it so ("To him you will descend, O Divine Light, Shapshu"). The sense is indicated from the following clause beginning with `d (1.6 I 9). This is a subordinating conjunction that begins clauses governed by a preceding independent verb, in this case trd. Anderson (A Time t0 M0urn, 63-64) divides the lines differently, rendering: "We [Anat and Shapshu] are descending into the netherworld, to the place of Baal/The torch
GA: Scholars, 1985], 70-88 following in the main Cross, CMHE 36-39). The mountains of El and the divine assembly may not have been identified in Ugaritic tradition as is commonly claimed by Cross and others. Ezekiel 28 shows reflexes of the heavenly mountain, and Genesis 2-3 contains the element of the rivers. Israelite myth-making transformed these traditions, at least compared with the information provided by the Ugaritic texts, in amalgamating these various abodes into a single divine abode.
Elqanah, 140 E/yon, 48-49, 7 1 , 1 5 6-1 57, 2 74 n.60 Emar, 5, 10, 15-16, 44, 55, 263 n.151 Emutbal, 184 enemies. See c0smic enemies; monsters Enkidu, 6, 97 Enmerkar, 112 enthr0nement rituals, f0r kings, 56, 85, 89, 92, 159-16T, 284 n.75 Enuma Elfish Baal Cycle vs., 85, 99, 20 9 n.5 as c0nf/ict myth, 13, 16-17, 39, ,68, 208 - n. 1 59 Marduk presentati0ns in, 5t, 88, 144 Ephraim, 545 Eridu, i86 Erra, 6 eternity. See also imm0rtality as divine quality, 76, 101, 159-160, 579 ethical religi0n,
presentation of the cosmos: death is a part of life and life a part of death. 3. Pairings: Making Associations Ugaritic literature is conspicuous for its many pairings across genres. I offfer a sampling 23 from ritual and myths: The Snake-Bite Incantation, CAT I.I00 a. 'nt w`ttrt 'inbbh, "Anat and Athtart at Inbb" (1.i00.20); Anat and Athtart (1.107.39, 1.114.22-23, 26; parallel in lines 9—ia). In 1.16 II 26-28 Athtart is now read instead of Athirat (parallel with Anat, with her name
descriptions of El's abode found in the Ugaritic texts. The wisdom ascribed to Tyrian El also recalls El in the Ugaritic texts. Furthermore, M. L. Barré suggests that Phoenician Bethel is to be understood as a hypostasis of El, which would represent further Phoenician evidence for the cult of El in the Iron II period. 15 But Vander Toorn 16 has challenged this notion that Bethel is a Phoenician hypostasis of El. He argues that Bethel is an Aramean and not a Phoenician deity; this view requires