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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2003
Ugarit, the ancient name for modern Ras Shamra, is in northern Syria on the Mediterranean coast. In 1928 a local farmer discovered--stumbled upon--the site, and in the following years thousands of cuneiform (wedge writing) texts were unearthed by French archaeologists. The languages of these cuneiform tablets is primarily Akkadian, Sumerian and Ugaritic (the last being an unknown language before 1928). The tablets all date to a time before 1200 B.C. (the approximate date when Ugarit was conquered and destroyed). The texts are "diplomatic correspondence, legal records, remedies for horses' ailments, long lists of gods, offerings, supplies, and personnel, dictionaries of word equivalents in the various languages used in the city, and the oldest complete alphabet, with an order substantially the same as that of our own."
Dr. Coogan's book is a translation of fifteen tablets recovered from the library of the priest Ilimilku from Shubbani, who was the chief priest of Baal in the city's main temple complex. The texts were commissioned under King Niqmaddu II (c. 1375-1345), and four stories from that commissioning are here translated and published by Dr. Coogan.
The first translated story is titled Aqhat, which is the story of a man, Danel, who wants a son. After entreating the chief god El, Aqhat is born to Danel. The story then traces Aqhat and his struggles with the gods, which ends in his death.
The second story is called The Healers, and is quite fragmentary and only takes up a page of translated text.
The third story is the story Kirta (Keret). King Kirta is a sort of Job figure who entreats El for children and then receives a dream and instructions. He follows the instructions of the dream and has children. However, in the process of carrying out the instructions, he makes a vow to the goddess Asherah which he fails to keep. Kirta is punished with disease, and the rest of the story is about his ability or inability to be a king (challenged, as he is, by his son).
The fourth and final story in Dr. Coogan's book is of the well known Baal cycle, which I will not summarize here.
Dr. Coogan provides introductory material to the whole book and to each chapter, and often has an eye to relating the Ugaritic stories to the Hebrew story. For example, he shows the relation of El to Yahweh, providing ample scriptural references (following through with the OT references is quite enlightening). Another profitable discussion is where he shows the connection of Mt. Zaphon (the abode of Baal) and the usage of Zaphon and mountain imagery in the Hebrew Scriptures. I suggest that even further study on this matter should lead one to Dr. Meredith G. Kline's 1996 article which, in part, traces the usage of Mt. Zaphon in Isaiah: "Har Magadon: The End of the Millennium" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society #39 (June 1996): pp 207-222.
Dr. Coogan writes from the perspective of the Harvard school of L. Stager, E. Bloch-Smith, etc., which is not intimidated by the minimalist schools, and therefore not afraid to locate the Hebrew ideas in the context of Canaan. Thus, this short and accessible book is a handy guide for students of Israel and the Bible.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 6, 2002
Michael Coogan has offered in this volume a translation of four of the stories from Ras Shamra, ancient Ugarit. These he calls Aqhat, The Healers, Kirta, and Baal. Each is preceded by a introduction. So for example, the introduction to The Healers notes that it may be a sequel to the story of Aqhat.
For a comprehensive study these and other religious texts found at Ras Shamra, see _Religious Texts from Ugarit_ by Nicolas Wyatt.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2005
This is a fine book. Nonacademics will not be intimidated by this slim volume. There is a nice introdction offering information about the area, religion, the tablets and such. The Myths consist of three or four stories, The Healers being a one page fragment that may well be a continuation of Aqhat. Before each story there is an brief introduction that sometimes relates it to biblical concepts. I found the Glossary of names to be quite useful. There is no index.

As for the myths themselves . . . I didn't care for them. Their primary concerns seem to be the nature of authority and/or kingship. This is useful information for understanding what was important for some of these folks back when this was written. I just don't find this to be as compelling as Gilgamesh or even some of the liturgical poetry of mesopotamia, and the language certainly did not sing to me the way that liturgical poetry does.

One cool thing that struck me about this stuff is how it can remind you of aspects of the big three monotheistic franchises:

"And if Baal the Conqueror lives,

if the Prince, the Lord of the Earth, has revived,

in a dream of El the Kind, the Compassionate,

in a vision the Creator of All,

let the heavens rain down oil,

let the wadis run with honey;

then I will know that Baal the Conqueror lives,

that the Prince, the Lord of the Earth has revived."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2005
This is a nice slim book for those wishing to familiarize themselves with the main themes of Canaanite mythology and how the mythology of the Canaanites influenced that of their neighbors and successors the Hebrews, and therefore that of the modern West. The translations are great and readable, and the commentary is good, if a bit light.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2011
This book is quite useful for beginners and laypersons who are intimidated by intensely academic works on Canaanite and Ugaritic literature. As such, I feel it trades accuracy for approachability. If you're looking for an easy-read version of Canaanite literature, this book is perfect. If you'd like a deeper, more solid foundation, and you have no fear of footnotes, you might prefer Parker's Ugaritic Narrative Poetry.
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on July 23, 2014
will return, book all in English, not interested
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
This book gave me exactly what I was looking for which was a portable means to prove to people that the concepts and names of God as found in the Tanakh/Bible were based upon and interacted with preexisting Canaanite mythology.

I found the introduction to the book to be the part that helped me the most in my comparison with certain aspects of the Bible. Between this book, the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh containing the story of the flood from Babylon and the comparison of Psalm 104 to the Hymns of Akhenaton, I now have the platform I was looking for to better understand the roots of western religion.
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on October 1, 2015
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