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Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel Paperback – August 8, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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)

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)

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)

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674091760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674091764
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy Dougal on January 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic" is a series of related essays on the composition of the Hebrew Bible. It is conservative in that it takes the general framework of the Biblical chronology as accurate, and Cross refers readily to "patriarchal folk", "the league" of tribes, "the empire of David and Solomon" and the "divided monarchy". Within this conservatism, Cross adheres to the relative conservatism of the Documentary Hypothesis, which is taken for granted by most scholars, but anathema to those who hold to the unity of the scriptures.
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.
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Format: Paperback
As it was written in the 70s, Canaanite Myth is a little behind the times- it assumes, for example, that monolatry was present in Israel from the premonarchic period, and that later prophetic polemics and reforms were directed against "syncretism." We now know that this is probably not the case, and that most of the gods condemned as "foreign" by the prophets and Deuteronomists- Asherah, Astarte, Baal, and the Heavenly Host- were simply pan-Levantine gods that Israel had inherited from its Canaanite ancestors. It is Cross's work that has, in large part, prepared us to deal with this however. Cross's book meticulously examines a wide variety of biblical and extrabiblical texts, early and late, and observes many continuities between Israelite and Canaanite beliefs and modes of worship; poetics, theophanic language, and so on are largely identical between the two cultures, the only real difference being that Israel's public religion was overwhelmingly focused on a single deity (but not, as Cross assumes, completely excluding others, at least until the late monarchy). Cross's reconstruction of the Judean monarchic cultus is based on a lot of evidence both biblical and comparative; the chapters on the development of apocalyptic language are where the analysis really shines. When he extends this reconstruction into the premonarchic period, however, it becomes problematic. His assumption that the Israelite league was a solid and largely unified politco-religious unit, rather than a loose, shifting coalition of tribes as even the Bible itself suggests (the list of tribes in the Song of Deborah includes ten tribes, not twelve, two of which are demoted to the status of sub-tribal "clans" in later lists) largely distorts his analysis. Nonetheless, the book is still a must-read for those interested in understanding the biblical world.
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Format: Paperback
This book treads roughly the same ground as Mark S. Smith's The Early History of God and The Origins of Biblical Monotheism. It is a tour de force of historical reconstruction from biblical sources. It deals with many of the thorny problems of the disparate historical books of the Bible (Chronicles and Joshua-2Kings). It includes the crucial paper on the dual redaction of the Deuteronomic History (Deuteronomy and Joshua-2 Kings). That paper alone is worth the purchase of the book, because it has been so influential over the years. Furthermore, he shreds the fashionable Jebusite hypothesis regarding the origins of Zadok, David's high priest, although his own theory has holes as well.

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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You won't find any value in this book unless you are really into deep scholarship. This book was written by a leading Harvard expert in the field. I found it very helpful for researching some similarties between Ancient Israel and her polytheistic neighbors.
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This book provides valid theories concerning the evolution of the JudeoChristian creed from Phoenician/Canaanite religion.It will dispel many of the misconceptions perpetrated by jewish and christian fundamentalists for many centuries.Includes phonetically translated ugaritic texts semitic names and biblicaltexts, as well as detailed grammatical and linguistc essays on semitic languages.It is a must for anyone interested in near eastern mythology and language.
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