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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 Life and Death of Baal

The Life and Death of Baal

(p.104) 6 The Life and Death of Baal
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism

Mark S. Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

A particularly unusual case of divine death is examined in this chapter; this exception is the god Baal, who is considered to be a classic example of Sir James George Frazer’s category of “dying and rising gods.” The methodology and viability of Frazer’s claim is addressed as it has been applied to Baal of Ugarit. Here the author has been influenced by Jonathan Z. Smith’s massive critique of Frazer's category of dying and rising gods, as well as by recent studies on ritual and myth. The chapter also ventures a constructive step in the interpretation of Baal’s death: if Baal is not to be regarded as a dying and rising god, what is the significance of his death and return to life? Finally, it looks briefly at the mythology of death and the god of Israel.

Keywords:   Baal, divine death, divinity, dying and rising gods, Israelite deities, myth, religious history, ritual, Ugaritic deities

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