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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Demanding, but insightful and rewarding, 29 May 2011
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Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah (Paperback)
This is a demanding, but insightful and rewarding, series of essays on aspects of diversity in the religion of ancient Israel and Judah. Using a binary perspective pretty much throughout, the authors, all of them biblical scholars, discuss `oppositions' such as Israelite/Canaanite, popular/official, urban/rural and royal, Jerusalem-centric/non Jerusalem-centred cultic worship and religion, as well as household/personal piety and Israelite religion beyond Israel/Judah. Setting aside, for the most part, the Jerusalem-centred word- or book-focused faith that seems to have preoccupied the Deuteronomist editors of the Hebrew Bible and many Bible scholars since, Francesca Stavrakopoulou argues that, in practice, a rigid popular religion/official religion divide is probably an unhelpful dichotomy. So too, in Herbert Niehr's view, is the idea that there exists a neat dividing line between Israelite and Canaanite religious practices. I was less convinced, given the increasing dominance of the Jerusalem priesthood in the latter history of Judah, that Philip Davies' view of a continuum between urban and rural religion could be maintained (see William Dever's 2008 work `Did God Have a Wife ?' [Cambridge: Eerdmans] for a strongly opposed view - though critiqued in this collection). Both Carol Meyers and Rainer Albertz give us intriguing insights, based on archaeological finds, of the likely nature of household worship and personal faith. They were thought to be centred around major life-events such as births and deaths, and life-sustaining substances such as grain and water, for example in harvest thanksgiving festivals, as well as being evidenced by the many theophoric personal names - that is, names that include the word for God (Yahweh).

Given this diversity, and the apparent lack of a monotheistic, word-focussed faith until comparatively late in the biblical period, it's left to joint editor John Barton to muse on why monotheism and a `religion of the book' should have emerged at all. There are, as he notes, no easy answers to this or the many other intriguing and provocative conundrums thrown up by this book. But as a thoroughly up-to-date account of the latest scholarly thinking on a fascinating, and very hot, topic in biblical studies, this collection will - the odd less interesting essay aside - take some beating.
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Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah
Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah by John Barton (Paperback - 11 Feb 2010)
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