Again, More Notes on “Civilizations of the Ancient Near East”

Myth and Mythmaking in Canaan and Ancient Israel by Mark Smith (2031-2041)

  • Three stereotypical explanations of myth from a monotheistic perspective
    • monotheistic theology equals faith, while myth is told stories.
    • holy texts of monotheism leave no room for myth, which is polytheistic
    • monotheism is based in history, but ancient religions, which had myths, are not.
  • Mythic continuity between ancient Israel, Canaan, and Ugartic texts.
  • Baal Cycle and Epic of Aqhat are major Ugaritic myths.
    • Baal Cycleenvisions of cosmic battle for political control. Expressed in terms of kingship.
      • By modern standard of course, this constitutes religious because it involved the gods.
  • Most material is inscriptions mentioning gods and names with theophoric elements.
  • Traditions of Tyrian god Melqart may reflect Ugaritic tradition
    • Namely, those of Baal and cult of divinaized royal ancestors, present at Ugarit.
    • Meqlart is the dead hero who “awakens from the dead”.
  • Best source for Canaanite myth is Phil of Byblos’s Pheonician History
    • Embedded in the work of Eusebius and Porphyry.
  • MYTHIC MATERIAL IN ISRAEL
    • Early evidence does not distingush greatly between Israel and neighboring regional religions.
    • Even with developing Israelite religion, other gods of Pheonicia, Edom, etc. existed within the Israelite-Judean religious context.
      • So, El, Ball, Yahweh, a dynastic god; divine council, Asherah, etc.
    • Held onto a sort of cult for the deceased and concept of divine council.
      • Council was at a low level.
    • Originally El was probably the name of the deity supporting the group.
    • Ex. 6:2-3
      • Identifies El Shaddy, El being the older god, with Yahweh.
      • Reflects that Yahweh was previously unknown; now, then it was El Shaddai.
    • Much language previously associated with Baal is used
      • Baal Shamem, though, is the Phoencian storm-god.
      • Israel also had old Levantine/Canaanite imagery of Baal in its memory.
    • Much shared imagery between HB and Baal Cycle
  • Mythic imagery was political
    • Mythic language was used as
      • way to tie divine and human kings
      • unite tribal groups
      • legitimize a ruler
  • People drew on the imagery found in things like the Baal Cycle because everybody knew it, the poor, uneducated, rich, and educated.
  • Canaanite literature was more anthropomorphic; our knowledge of Judean myth in that period reduced anthropomorphisms.

Theology, Priests, and Worship in Canaan and Ancient Israel by Karel van der Toorn (p. 2043-2058)

  • Dichotomy of Israelite religion vs. Canaanite religion should be rejected.
  • In the Iron Age (1200-500 BCE), “Israelite preachers labeled all non-Yahwhistic practices “canaanite.” A strict and uncompromising Yahwism, itself the outcome of a long process, was retrospectively presented as the original religion of the Israelites” (2043).
  • van der Toorn focuses on the fundamental “common theology” of the religious culture in ancient Syro-Palestine.
  • GODS
    • gods of ancient world inhabited the earth
      • Leviticus, god is in the tabernacle; Genesis, god chooses the enter the earth. Yahweh has a physicality in Israelite memory.
    • No such thing as “faith”.
    • Worldy phenomena was heavenly, the gods at work.
    • dwelt at fringes, such as mountains
      • Baal of Ugarit at Mount Zaphon.
      • Yahweh of Israel from “Mountainous area in the southeast of Palestine” (2044).
    • It is mistake to reduce gods to mere personifications of nature.
      • “reality of the Syro-Palestinian gods was not metaphorical but personal” (2044)
      • They had thoughts, emotions, will power, bodies, albeit incredibly large bodies.
    • Fundamental difference was in terms of power, longevity, authority, influence, and knowledge.
    • Deity is thought to be seated on a celestial throne
      • cf. Temple imagery of Ps. 133
      • Zion is the Temple/Palace of Yahweh.
    • Syro-Palestinian religions shared the idea of a “fundamentally unfathomable divine essence… in the notion of holiness” (2045).
  • PANHEONS
    • Oldest pantheon is from Ebla (c. 2450-2250)
      • Dagan is the leader of the pantheon, followed by Adda (Addu/Adad/Hadad)
      • Dif. Adads worshiped in near cities
    • Cthonic deities played a role in ancient Syro-Palestinian religious thought.
    • Baal and Hadad developed into distinct deities, one Canaanite and the other Aramean.
      • Different forms of Hadad based on location.
    • Phoenicia
      • Main goddess is Ashtarte, associated with Baal Shamem.
      • Baal Shamem is also associate with Baal Malage and Zaphon.
        • Seafaring gods.
    • Philistines worshiped Dagan.
    • Transjordan inhabited by Israelite, Ammonites, and Moabites, according to HB.
      • Milcom of the Ammonites, Chemosh of the Moabites
      • Both these deities are also situated at Ugarit.
      • Group of underworld deities called the Shaddayin
        • Occurs in Ps. 106.36 as the god of child sacrifice.
    • Edom
      • Regarded by Israel as kindred.
      • Religious, this was very real; Yahweh, national god of Judah and Israel, is often associated with Mount Paran and Mount Seir.
      • “it is the nearly unanimous verdict of historians of Israelite religion that Yahweh has southeast Semitic origins, whether his first worshiper were Kenites, MIdians, or Edomnites
        • Yahweh is not a traditional member of the West Semitic Pantheon
        • Although some characteristics of Baal was transferred to Yahweh, Yahweh’s origins were not in the West Semitic pantheon (p. 2047).
  • National Theologies.
    • Each communities in Syro-Palestinian region has one or two primary gods
      • For city, tribe, or nation.
      • I.e. Adad of Aleppo is not the same as Adad of Damascus.
    • Polytheism was counterbalanced by “a particularism in the dovotion”.
    • Notion of inheritance is employed outside of Israel
      • Ugaritic texts call Mt. Zaphon the “inheritance of Baal”; netherworld the inheritance of Mot, god of death” (2048)
    • Still on the notion of inheritance
      • Philo of Byblos wrote:
        • Kronos gave Byblos to Baaltis
        • Beirut to Poseidon
        • Egypt to Thoth
    • Covenant, perhaps, popularily in Israelite religion because Yahweh was not always the god of Israel
      • He had to compete with other West Semitic gods.
      • “It may be surmised that he championed this covenant theology precisely because of the actual polytheism of his day” (2048).
        • Use Deut. 6:4 as an example.
      • Yahweh was not automatically the god of Israel
        • So it had to be constructed theologically.
    • While this approach to Yahweh’s centrality, namely the aforementioned, is unique, there are other West Semitic parallels
      • Baal at Ugarit, Dagan among Philistines, Chemosh among Moabites
        • These were the main gods; other existed, but they were lesser.
    • “Devotion to the national god became a sign of political allegiance and patriotism” (2048).
      • True, but the terms van der Toorn uses have far too much baggage in the modern period.
  • Religion and politics
    • King played an important role in religion
      • 2 Kings 11:17
        • priest Jehoiada “made a covenant between Yahweh and the king and the people, that they should be Yahweh’s people; and also between the king and the people” (2049)
      • “So intricate were their links [palace and temple] that it is often difficult to say where religion stops and politics begin and vice versa.
    • wrong to say that religion was a “state ideology in disguise” (2049).
    • priests of royal sanctuaries were like civil servants.
    • Political authorities tried to maintain power through policies on religious life.
      • Saul tried to get rid of necromancers and wizards (1 Sam. 28:3).
      • David transfered ark from Kirath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6)
        • A political AND religious move.
      • King Jeroboam embellished Bethel and Dan sactuaries/changes date of autumn festival (1 Kings 12:25-33).
    • Incriptions throughout Syro-Palestinian area show that kings were divine elected.
      • Lady of Byblos made Yehawilk king of Byblos
      • Baalshamein make Zakkur king of Hamath and Lu’ash
      • We see this is Psalms through things like Ps. 2:7 and 110:3, both of which say, “I have begotten you.
        • Divine paternity legitimized his position.
      • Some double rulers as king and priest.
        • king of Byblos was also the priest of the Lady of Byblos (2049)
      • Some northern Aramiac kingdom referred king as a steward of the storm-god Hadad.
      • We see this in Israel as well when kings are reported to offer sacrifices at altars.
        • Find these references.
    • Ancient Israelite religion had a procession of the ark into the temple to commemorate creation, which prolaimed Yahweh’s kingship’
      • Also happens in LBA Ugarit and Emar.
      • And in Babylon.
  • Temples
    • Many open-air shrines throughout 1st and 2nd millennium.
    • Some cult installations were expanded into temples, or palaces for the temple.
      • E(2).KAL is a palace in Akkadian or a temple for a diety.
    • Temples typically contained images, and thus housing, for various gods.
      • Ugarit had temples for El, Baal, Dagan, and others.
      • Emar had temples for Ninurta, Adad, Ninkur, and others.
      • Iron Age Judah: Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem.
        • image of Baal and Asherah referred to as “vessels” (2 Kings 23:4)
        • Hostpilaity for worship of sun-god and Tammuz (Ezekial 8:14-160 (2051).
    • Juridical function of temples based on theology.
      • The judge was the deity.
    • “The situation at the Israelite temple at Bethel is probably characteristic of many Syro-Palestinian sanctuaries” (2051).
      • Amos encountered a priest at a temple in Bethel while prophecying against him.  (Amos 7:10-13)
    • In short, temple was central in Syro-Palestinian religion; it was the intersection of heaven and earth; the crossroads of religion, social, economic, juridical, and politics (2052).
  • Priest
    • Priests needed to be unblemished throughout Syro-Palestinian region.
      • Cf. Leviticus 21:16-24
    • In Emar, they had the sacrificer, carrier of divine statue, diviner, singer, spouse of god, etc. (2052).
  • Worship
    • Three types of offering in Israel
      • Burnt, flour, and wine.
    • These were also offerings at Ugarit and Iron Age Phoenicia (2053).
    • Also, sheep, lamb, cows, birds, cereal, fruit, libations of win/hony/ghee/milk.
    • Some meant sacrificing animals and then eating it.
      • Meat was a rarity.
      • Usually done for thankgiving for divine favor, vow payment, or spontaneous desire (Lev. 7:11-18).
    • Annual sacrifice in Autumn, sacrifice at time of plower and sowing (October and December; end of harvent (Spring) (2053).
    • Hymns considered part of temple worship.
      • Similarities between a text at Ugarit (1.101:1-4) and Ps. 29, showing a shared tradition.
      • See all other Psalms, of course.
    • Various gestures for worship, symbolic of social relations
      • bow down, bend over, etc. (2054).
    • Sometimes, fees had to be paid to priest for sacrifice (2 Kings 12:16)
      • This also happens in late examples of Punic tariffs which require payment to priest for sacrifice.
    • Go to temples to get oracles
      • Some prophets were actually paid, some were not.
  • When I am ready to write, read pg. 2056-57 on ISRAELITE MONOTHEISM. This is an incredibly important thing to focus on when I write.
Advertisements

One thought on “Again, More Notes on “Civilizations of the Ancient Near East”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s