In Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey, Richard S. Hess provides an accessible account of the discovery of archaeological and textual materials and the debates that have arisen over their importance for biblical studies. After a general introduction to the study of religion, he surveys the field with regard to ancient Israelite and pre-Israelite western Semitic religious traditions. Hess then turns to consider the biblical literature and how other documentary evidence might enlarge our understanding of ancient Israelite religious practices and beliefs. One of the central scholarly debates concerns the question of when the Israelites developed their monotheistic impulse. After examining the evidence, Hess argues for the early establishment of the monotheistic tradition in ancient Israel.
Hess brings a wealth of knowledge to this study, and scholars, students, and clergy interested in the contemporary study of the ancient Near East and the Old Testament will welcome the expert guidance provided in this illustrated volume.
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“Only at a later time did the stories of the different tribal ancestors, originally” (Page 148)
“First, it is clear that ancient Israel was home to a variety of religious beliefs and practices that developed from earlier West Semitic beliefs and practices attested in Bronze Age archives and cult centers.” (Page 349)
“In Ugaritic mythology and in Canaanite iconography, the calf was associated with Baal.42” (Page 156)
“Fundamental to the assumptions of these scholars is that the various texts of the Bible can be understood only in terms of a historical development wherein original writings have undergone additions and other editorial processes that have cumulatively altered their form and content to meet the political, theological, and other concerns of later bearers of the traditions.” (Pages 60–61)
“‘We now have direct Bronze and Iron Age parallels for every single feature of the ‘Solomonic temple’ as described in the Hebrew Bible; and the best parallels come from, and only from, the Canaanite-Phoenician world of the 15th–9th centuries.’” (Page 232)
An even-handed work. . . . This is a good, up-to-date survey which is easy to use, well illustrated, clearly written, and thoroughly indexed. It will be of use for any courses on Old Testament religion.
—Richard S. Briggs, Theological Book Review
Writing from a tradition with high regard for what the Bible knows about ancient Israel, Richard Hess puts Scripture in dialogue with the full range of evidence for Israel's religious life. In a lucid, accessible text for students, Hess also pushes forward a crucial conversation among scholars about the Bible and the ancient world.
—Daniel E. Fleming, professor of Hebraic and Judaic Studies, New York University