Thursday, May 14, 2020

An inadequate response

The first inadequate response is to posit YHWH as just one of the ANE “gang,” no more and no less. In this perspective, YHWH looks like “Chemosh and Com- pany” (and vice versa) simply because he is, like them, a deity from ancient southwestern Asia, and that’s just the way things were back then and over there. Strong and extensive family resemblances between the various Semitic gods exist, therefore, because these deities are of a piece geographically and chronologically, at the very least, in the same way that Norse gods or Greek gods are of a piece and, as such, not of a piece with the other types or with the Semitic variety. We can, of course, parse the gang out more finely: YHWH is not just Semitic, he is southern Levantine and also strongly northwest Semitic. And so it is that he looks a whole lot like Ugaritic Ilu and Balu, but also like Moabite Chemosh and Edomite Qaus, and maybe Ammonite Milkom to boot. Insofar as YHWH controls the storm, he favors that specific branch of the divine family tree, which includes Balu but also others, especially as one moves further north into Hatti and eastward into Mesopotamia. Insofar as YHWH is sometimes said to come from desert climes, he reveals his relationship to other family members; as a god of the mountains, he favors still others. Maybe even YHWH’s seriously depopulated pantheon—the fact that he often appears to be an austere bachelor mountain god—is further evidence of his affinity to certain regional subgroups.—Brent A. Strawn in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, pp. 141–42

<idle musing>
As he said, an inadequate response. I would say a lazy response—and reductive. But, in the early part of the 20th century that type of research was rampant via the history of religions approach. The approach has merit, but at that time some of the caveats we now have weren't in place. For an example, read James Frazer's Golden Bough. It's great fun to read—as long as you realize that a serious reductionism is going on. The same with most of Joseph Campbell's stuff, and to a large extent Mircea Eliade, as well. Fun stuff to read and provocative thinking. But usually wrong.

Just an
</idle musing&gr;

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