The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (The Biblical Resource Series)

Author: Mark S. Smith
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by ziddina   2017-12-06

Adding these:

The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel by Mark S. Smith.

The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts also by Mark S. Smith.

Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel by William G. Dever.

by TooManyInLitter   2017-12-06

nukeDmoon, step up your game! Just say "no" to low effort posts!

> I used to be christian as well.

And what are you now? And was there a compelling argument that started you on the path to be an ex-Christian? If so, what was it?

Also, what is the most compelling argument you posit to make a Christian (sect dependency??) doubt Christianity?

Join in the debate/discussion you started.

As for me, I don't make any arguments with intent to make a Christian doubt their beliefs. Instead, I encourage them to study the history and basis for the development of Judaism, and from there Christianity, using the Socratic method.

Here is an example: What is the history of the God Yahweh, and worship of Yahweh, pre-Babylon captivity/exile? In orther words, how did the construct of monotheistic Yahwism/Yahwehism develop into what is presented in the Bible and accepted in Christianity?

Here are some references on the growth of monotheistic Yahwehism from a historical polytheistic foundation to the development of the henotheism/monolatry, and then monotheism of early Biblical Israelites (you can make your own determination of the credibility of each reference):

While limited to starting with the Hebrew Bible as a basis, and not addressing much pre-Torah scripture related to Yahweh, the following takes a look at:

While a College Senior Thesis (and the perception therefore of a less credible scholarly/appeal to authority level), the following is a good source of other reference material:

Some of the on-line summaries/arguments which related to the above argument/position are:

A recent discussion in /r/AcademicBiblical, Was Yaweh originally a member of a pre-Judaic pantheon of gods?, by /u/koine_lingua, also addresses the origin of YHWH.

Some potential additional references (which are on my "To Read" list)....

  • Diana Vikander Edelman - The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms
  • Jan Assmann - Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel and the Rise of Monotheism
  • J. C. deMoor - The Rise of Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism
  • John Day - Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan
  • Andre Lemaire, et. al. - The Birth of Monotheism: The Rise and Disappearance of Yahwism

Note: Concerning Karen Armstrong's, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a criticism of the book that I have received (and have not yet reread the relevant sections of the book), is that "armstrong spends about half a chapter on this particular topic, and in my opinion, doesn't do a very good job of it. she does stuff like assume that abraham was a real person, and anachronistically apply later theology as if it was some indicative of earlier theology -- late first temple yahweh had aspects of a war god, so early yahweh must have as well. and that just doesn't follow at all."

by ziddina   2017-08-19

> You also have teachings who's origin are not necessary Jewish but are Canaanite and mythology based beliefs showing up in Biblical prophesies.

Yup. Been there, done that:


> It can't be proved either way...

Actually, it can be - at least in the case of the Abrahamic religions and their gods.

You'll notice I used the plural term there - godSSSSSS.

There are actually several gods - deities - incorporated into the bible's forms of worship. You won't learn about this from any Watchtower Society literature, because the Watchtower Society's bible "translations" fail to use the oldest manuscripts and information available nowadays. Plus, it's in their interest to keep average Jehovah's Witnesses from knowing that there are several gods incorporated into a supposedly "one" god, in the bible.

First, "Jehovah" is a mistranslation of the YHWH consonants with the vowels of the title "Elohim".

There are two "names" for the Hebrew god, right there. Although if one traces the origins of the name/term "Elohim" back to its CANAANITE roots, one finds that "Elohim" originally was PLURAL, in the Canaanite language & polytheistic belief system.


>The Canaanite pantheon was conceived as a divine clan, headed by the supreme god El; the gods collectively made up the elohim.

Then there's the Canaanite patriarchal god "EL" - as in Isra-EL, Beth-EL, Samu-EL, Dani-EL, and so on.

The OLDER Canaanite patriarchal god EL is deeply incorporated into the Israelite/Hebrew culture - and the bible itself.

Also, "EL" and YHWH are NOT the same god...


>First, the name Israel is not a Yahwistic name. El is the name of the deity invoked in the name Israel, which translates: “May El persevere.”2 This suggests that El was seen as the chief god in the formative years of Israel’s religious practices. In fact, the etiological story explaining the origin of the name Israel occurs in Genesis 35:9-15, where Jacob obtains this name through the blessing of El Shaddai, that is “El of the Mountain.”

>Second, there exist numerous parallels and similarities between descriptions and cultic terminology used for El in the Canaanite texts and those used for Yahweh in the biblical sources (see below). At some point, it is ascertained, the cultic worship of Yahweh must have absorbed that of El, through which means Yahweh assimilated both the imagery and epithets once used of El.

And honey, that's just the tip of the iceberg. You may want to check out these two books which come at this information from two different viewpoints: ...

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Also see:

by ziddina   2017-08-19

Better feed their minds with LOTS of logic, science, & research into the REAL origins of the bible, until then...

by Erra-Epiri   2017-08-19

Šulmu, /u/KlingonLinux! I gotchoo on "Canaanite" and Israelite (they were more or less the "same" people religio-culturally for most of Antiquity, and definitely genetically/ethnically) and Punic/Phoenician (Iron Age Levantine ["Canaanite" and Israelite peoples and so on] peoples abroad throughout the Mediterranean as far West as Southern Spain/the island of Ibiza and North Africa) sources, awīlu.

Some necessary clarification : I routinely put "Canaanite" in scare-quotes, because there was no definitive, proto-national much less national identity for so-called "Canaanites" in the way that Israelites and Judahites eventually had by the 1st millennium BCE, and the people of Syro-Palestine during the Middle to Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age would overwhelmingly identify and operate by clan, by tribe, or by city-state before calling themselves and operating as Knaʿni (Ugaritic, meaning "people of Canaan"). "Canaanite" religious forms consonantly varied quite noticeably by city-state, in ways that, say, Egyptian ones did not, even taking into account "alternative" (but not competing) Egyptian local theologies and so on. Speaking in perhaps excessively general terms, there was a State religion overarching the regional ones in Egypt which, in effect, bound them together as a cooperative dynamic unit. "Canaan" as such had no such large-scale, cohesive "religious infrastructure" of Egypt's much less Mesopotamian Kingdoms' and Empires' like, and it didn't "help" that the exceptionally powerful Egyptian Empire of the Late Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Periods and contemporaneous Mesopotamian and Hittite Empires were constantly vying for control of the North Sinai and Syro-Palestine. The economic centers of "Canaan" were, indeed, frequently subservient to Egypt throughout Bronze Age history, with Egyptian Kings investing governors and mayors of its own throughout "Canaanite" territories following the Thutmosid Conquest, much to the personal danger of said governors and mayors (who were neither particularly liked nor trusted by their Levantine subjects nor by Egyptian officials) and much to the cantankerous chagrin of the Levantine peoples living under Egyptian Imperial rule. Which is to say nothing of Egyptian-mandated relocations of restive Levantine people and so forth.

Furthermore, Hebrew Biblical literature intensely confuses what "Canaanite" even means in a religio-cultural sense, using the term simply to inveigh against religious beliefs and conventions, regardless of actual origin, Deuteronomic Jews did not wish to see carry over from their ancestral religion(s)/culture(s) and from neighboring religions/cultures (e.g., Mesopotamian and Egyptian religions/cultures. See Leviticus 18, Deuteronomy 7, and Ezekiel 23 as but three illustrations of the aforementioned) into newly-minted Judaism and what had then become the Israelite-Judahite "national" identities (primarily in politically-motivated defiance, it should be noted, of their later Master, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which had made of the internally-fractured Kingdoms of Israel and Judah satellite states through rigorous opportunistic military conquest and serious economic and political strong-arming, beginning with the great and cunning King Tukultī-apil-Ešarra/"Tiglath-Pileser" III). A few scholars and especially many would-be Revivalists not academically-trained frequently, unwittingly hang their understanding of "Canaanite" upon all this confusion -- and the latter not in anything like a Jewish context nor through a Jewish hermeneutic, either, while still treating iffy Jewish accounts embedded in Scripture entirely too literally, which makes it an even more weird and defunct confusion.

Now, it's very important to form a baseline understanding of the historical circumstances of the Near East concerning "Canaan," what came out of it, its influential neighbors, and religio-cultural receptors. I know it feels like unnecessary drudgery to many people, but the religious tidbits don't make much sense and their use in/continued relevance to Modernity can't be adequately evaluated without learning and understanding their historical contexts, which is where a lot of would-be Revivalists go very wrong, in my opinion -- especially since "Canaanite" and other non-Kemetic ANE religious Revivals are still very much in their formative stages and aren't being led by people with necessary, thorough backgrounds in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. For this, I recommend beginning with Donald B. Redford's Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times , Marc Van De Mieroop's A History of the Ancient Near East: ca. 3000 to 323 BC , Amanda H. Podany's Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East , and Mark Woolmer's Ancient Phoenicia: An Introduction . They're not short texts, apart from Woolmer's that is, but they will give you a decent, fairly comprehensive understanding of the circumstances of the ANE.

Concerning "Canaanite" and Israelite, etc., religious details and developments, just about anything by Mark S. Smith, Rainer Albertz (namely, this massive text he co-authored with Rüdiger Schmitt), Daniel E. Fleming, and Dennis Pardee are quite sound.

Stories from Ancient Canaan, 2nd Edition edited by Mark S. Smith and Michael D. Coogan is probably where you're looking to start vis-a-vis "Canaanite" religion(s), as most people like to get at the mythic material first and foremost. After that, I would definitely recommend picking up The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (Biblical Resource Series) , along with Pardee's Ritual and Cult at Ugarit (Writings from the Ancient World) and Nicolas Wyatt's Religious Texts from Ugarit -- there should be a free PDF of the latter still floating around the nets somewhere.

While William Foxwell Albright has since become outdated in areas, his works are nevertheless necessary, now "classic" reads. Of particular use and importance is his Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: An Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths

Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan by John Day and the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Second Edition are handy, but relatively scarce and expensive.

Tryggve N. D. Mettinger is a much-beloved scholar of mine, though be aware that in The Riddle of the Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East -- one of the very few decent and comprehensive texts in ANE "comparative religious studies" -- wherein he addresses a few major Levantine Gods like Ba'l-Hadad, he unfortunately demonstrates a very poor comprehension of Greek, so if you ever pick that title up please do remember to take his interpretations in the chapter concerning the Phoenician God Melqart with a metric ton of salt.

Aaron J. Brody's Each Man Cried Out to His God: The Specialized Religion of Canaanite and Phoenician Seafarers was a short, widely-accessible, and enjoyable volume; he covers quite a few lesser-known and under-explored elements of Levantine religions therein.

It sounds like a lot, I'm sure, and there's so much more to read and discuss beyond all these, but hopefully this will provide a decent springboard for you into the crazy, wonderful world of Levantine religions.

I hope this helped, and if you need anything else on this, or concerning Mesopotamia and Egypt, feel free to ask anytime.