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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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Anthropomorphic Deities and Divine Monsters

Anthropomorphic Deities and Divine Monsters

(p.27) 1 Anthropomorphic Deities and Divine Monsters
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism

Mark S. Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This first chapter diagrams the basic contrast between anthropomorphic deities and monstrous divine creatures. Here the Assyriologist F. A. M. Wiggermann has provided a very helpful typology, which, modified for Ugaritic literature, helps to sketch the religious mapping of the cosmos; based on this typology, three zones are proposed--centwe, periphery, and beyond the periphery, which are primarily expressed in terms of space and place. These correspond, respectively, to home and foreign, what is experienced by humans and what is beyond human experience; in accordance with this scheme, deities inhabit “near” places whereas monsters and demonic forces do not. There is also a division between home (and foreign) deities who meet human need and functions, and divinities or monstrous forces on the periphery, who pose a threat or destruction. Further, benevolent deities are often rendered anthropomorphically or as domesticated animals, whereas destructive divinities appear as monstrous or as undomesticated species.

Keywords:   anthropomorphic deities, cosmos, deities, divine monsters, domesticated animals, religious history, religious mapping, typology, Ugaritic texts

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