In this remarkable, acclaimed history of the development of monotheism, Mark S. Smith explains how Israel's religion evolved from a cult of Yahweh as a primary deity among many to a fully defined monotheistic faith with Yahweh as sole god. Repudiating the traditional view that Israel was fundamentally different in culture and religion from its Canaanite neighbors, this provocative book argues that Israelite religion developed, at least in part, from the religion of Canaan. Drawing on epigraphic and archaeological sources, Smith cogently demonstrates that Israelite religion was not an outright rejection of foreign, pagan gods but, rather, was the result of the progressive establishment of a distinctly separate Israelite identity. This thoroughly revised second edition ofThe Early History of God includes a substantial new preface by the author and a foreword by Patrick D. Miller.
Mark S. Smith is Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary. His other books include The Memoirs of God: History, Memory, and the Experience of the Divine and Where the Gods Are: Spatial Dimensions of Anthropomorphism in the Biblical World.
Journal of Biblical Literature "Smith deserves a very careful and appreciative hearing. . . This book provides a feast for the attentive reader and concerned scholar."
The Christian Century "Smith assembles and analyzes a tremendous array of archaeological and textual evidence to challenge the notion of Israel's religious distinctiveness. . . The implications of this insight for theological reflection on Judaism are incalculable."
Catholic Biblical Quarterly "It is rare to find a book so steeped in the primary evidence of texts and history and so thoroughly conversant with the nuances of recent scholarly discussion. . . Smith's admirable erudition and discerning judgment will make this book required reading for present and future generations of biblical scholars and students."
Journal of the American Academy of Religion "The notes are a treasury of information and resources for scholars, yet the treatment is one that an informed reader can follow. . . One is left with both respect for Smith's contribution and also a clear awareness of how it cuts against the basic grain of the biblical text itself."
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