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The Origins of Biblical MonotheismIsrael's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts$
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Mark S. Smith

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195134803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019513480X.001.0001

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(p.3) Introduction
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism

Mark S. Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The first part of this introduction discusses the scope of the study presented in the book, starting by examining the different approaches to divinity that may be taken--regarding it as distinct from human, looking at it etymologically, listing and studying individual deities, and taking a large-scale comparative approach that ventures a typology. The book attempts to combine all four of these approaches in examining the major indigenous conceptual structures that ancient Ugaritic and Israelite societies used to construct their religious reality. An outline is given of the contents of the ten chapters before going on to address various issues in discussing monotheism and polytheism, problems with the use of the term “Canaanite” (which is used widely in scholarly studies but largely avoided in this book as it is thought to be misleading), and the cautions that are needed when considering highly specific historical statements concerning what deities were and did and what ancient peoples believed and acted upon.

Keywords:   Canaanite, deities, divinity, Israelite society, monotheism, polytheism, religious history, Ugaritic society

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