Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:3 (Sep 2017)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

What Are They Saying about Ancient Israelite Religion? By John L. McLaughlin. New York: Paulist, 2016, xv + 167 pp., $17.95 paper.

Since the end of the eighteenth century, attempts to probe the development of Israelite religion have taken center stage in OT research. Studies of this nature proceed from the premise that when the various alleged strata of the OT are properly extracted, subsequently (re)dated, and compared with other texts from the ANE, the evolutionary growth of Israelite religion emerges. The present study continues in this mold, providing a survey and analysis of diachronic research related to Israelite religion.

Surveying the El-epithet passages in Genesis, along with Gen 33:20, 46:3, 49:24–26, John McLaughlin contends in chapter 1 that the deity described in such passages “was not a nameless deity, but rather the god El” (p. 8). He posits that through a syncretistic process, El and YHWH “came to be identified early in Israel’s history and that ʾēl was subsequently taken as the common noun ‘god’ designating Yahweh rather than the name of another god” (p. 6). Although he maintains that “it is impossible to establish exactly when this happened” (p. 6), McLaughlin argues for the monarchical period as the most likely scenario for such a transformation to have taken place.

In chapter 2, beginning with F. M. Cross’s proposal that the name “YHWH” is derived from a shortened version of an El epithet, McLaughlin surveys recent scholarship that has attempted to identify YHWH as El, or another deity altogether. McLaughlin summarizes the work of Joseph Blenkinsopp, Nissim Amzallag, Justin Kelley, and Jacob Dunn, whose views are in accord with the “Midianite-Kenite Hypothesis,” which regards YHWH as a deity other than El, deriving from southern origins. In opposition to F. M. Cross, Nicolas Wyatt, Scott Chalmers, and others, McLaughlin concludes that YHWH was a separate deity that later replaced El in Israelite religion largely due to YHWH’s connection to the Exodus, which offered a new aspect to Israelite worship.

Chapter 3 surveys the alleged points of correspondence between the OT and male Canaanite deities: Baʿal, Mot, Molek, Shemesh, Yariḥ, and Reshep. Since McLaughlin regards Baʿal as the “male deity found most extensively in the First Testament” (p. 48) among those he surveys, he devotes the majority of the chapter to issues related to Baʿal, overviewing the biblical data regardi...

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