Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel Paperback – 1 Sep 1997
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Deserves to be read carefully and to be digested slowly...[This] book is full of fertile and productive theories.--P. Wernberg-Moller "Journal of Jewish Studies "
The essays in this study are all written with the complementary breadth of scope and attention to detail characteristic of Cross; each one is stimulating and several are a mine of information beyond the confines of the essay's topic.--Bezalel Porten "Journal of the American Academy of Religion "
Cross's classic work is...an essential element in the armory of any serious biblical scholar...If you haven't got it, get it! It is profound, definitive, and wonderfully readable.--J. Harold Ellens "Journal of Psychology and Christianity "
From the Back Cover
The essays contained in this book are preliminary studies directed toward a new synthesis of the history of the religion of Israel. Each study is addressed to a special and, in the authors view, unsolved problem in the description of Israel's religious development.See all Product Description
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The book is radical in that Cross isolates themes and expressions derived from Canaanite mythology, particularly from mid-2nd millenium tablets found at Ugarit, written in an alphabetic script. He delves deeply into the names, titles and attributes of God, as well as into various sources which were united in the Bible as we now know it. "The Song of the Sea" rates a special chapter in which Cross demonstrates the independence of the poem from the story that surrounds it. He also reconstructs archaic precursor poems to various Biblical texts.
The book is challenging in that it is quite difficult and detailed. When I got started reading "Canaanite Myth..." 6 months ago, I quickly realized I didn't know enough to read it, so I took a few months to acquaint myself with the rudiments of Hebrew and middle-Eastern archaeology. Hebrew text, transliterations of Ugaritic, discussions of etymology and usage, sources of scribal error, and so on, using technical terms are the stuff of the volume, so it's not nearly as simple or neat as a least one of the other reviewers has suggested.
Finally, the book is debatable in that the reconstuctions of archaic texts based on the text we now have, the oldest exemplars of which date from the Hellenistic/Roman period, and projecting them backwards a millenium, and deriving political and ritual presumed practices from them seems to me highly speculative and ultimately dubious. For instance, while Cross does successfully demonstrate that "The Song of the Sea" is independent of the J and E sources, without more data, how can anyone possibly know at what point the poem became Yahwistic? The author cites archaic usage in dating, but it does not escape me that in our own culture, which is much less conservative than ancient cultures were, right into the 20th century, virtually all religious texts were translated into pseudo-King James English, which itself was archaic in 1611. Without securely dated copies, how would any future scholars date these? At the same time the book raises a number of issues which merit further study. This is not a book to read once and put on the shelf. It has much to offer for long term study.
In order to fully appreciate this book you will need a solid grounding in Biblical Hebrew grammar, ancient Near Eastern history and mythology, and Biblical literature. Some of his discussions get extremely technical regarding paleography, epigraphy, and West Semitic grammar.
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