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Current Issues in Israelite Religion - Richard Hess

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#1 Ken Gilmore

Ken Gilmore


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Posted 24 September 2013 - 05:47 AM

The debate on the history of monotheism in Israel is lively. Richard Hess, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Denver Seminary provides an overview on this subject:

The archaeology of Israelite religions continues to evoke new evidence and approaches. Recent reassessments raise the question of monotheism in pre-exilic Israel. Put another way, did anyone believe in a single deity before the fall of Jerusalem in 587/6 BCE?

The traditional critical view has been that Josiah instituted a (Deuteronomistic) revolution that created the worship of a single deity. For some this has given way to the understanding that belief in a single deity cannot be affirmed with certainty before the deportation of Judah to Babylon, and possibly much later. This reconstruction rests on the archaeological and inscriptional remains of ancient Israel in the Iron Age. It argues that clear evidence for the worship of a single deity is absent.

The Kuntillet ͑Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom inscriptions demonstrated the existence of a belief in a divine consort, Asherah, for Yahweh.

Yet this is not the whole story. It had long been noticed that the earliest text associating a deity with Israel is the stele of King Mesha of Moab from the ninth century BCE. The Moabite king related Yahweh alone to Israel, probably as the national deity. From Judah in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE the only deity mentioned in the inscriptions is Yahweh. This includes, among other items, personal texts such as the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls (composed in the early or mid-seventh century BCE), as well as salutations and blessings on the official correspondence from the leaders of garrisons at Lachish and Arad (early sixth century BCE).

Full article is here.

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 24 September 2013 - 05:50 AM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

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