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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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The Traits of Deities

The Traits of Deities

Chapter:
(p.83) 5 The Traits of Deities
Source:
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism
Author(s):

Mark S. Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/019513480X.003.0006

This chapter asks what characteristics deities generally share, or, put differently, what terms do the texts use to express what deities are? It collects and analyzes labels and statements about deities to answer the fundamental question of what a deity was considered to be. Ancient Middle Eastern literatures generalize about the characteristics and actions of deities abstracted from religious tradition and experience (“second-order discourse”), and chapter 3 has already shown how the Ugaritic texts stress the idea of the deities as a divine royal family bound by social hierarchy and family ties. This chapter examines four other common features of deities: strength and size, body and gender, holiness, and immorality. Each of these traits is addressed in turn, first in Ugaritic literature and then in Israelite texts.

Keywords:   body and gender of deities, divinity, holiness of deities, immorality of deities, Israelite deities, Israelite texts, religious history, strength and size of deities, traits of deities, Ugaritic deities, Ugaritic texts

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