Deuteronomy And Ugaritic Studies -- By: Peter C. Craigie

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 028:1 (NA 1977)
Article: Deuteronomy And Ugaritic Studies
Author: Peter C. Craigie

Deuteronomy And Ugaritic Studies*

P. C. Craigie

* Delivered at Tyndale House, Cambridge, on July 16th, 1976.

The discovery of the Ugaritic texts proved to be of great importance for Old Testament Studies. During the last forty- five years, as the first texts have been studied in detail and as new discoveries have been made, more and more light has been brought to bear upon difficulties and obscurities contained in the Hebrew text. But, as is often the case, there has been a tendency in the wake of new discoveries to overestimate their importance and to go to extremes in their application in comparative studies. There have been recently renewed warnings concerning the danger of “pan- Ugaritism”;1 the purpose of the present paper is to assess that danger on a very limited basis.2 A number of topics in Deuteronomy, which have been discussed in the light of Ugaritic Studies, are examined critically in this paper, and some provisional conclusions will be drawn as a result of the investigations. In no sense, however, is this paper to be taken as a comprehensive evaluation of all the parallels proposed between the Ugaritic texts and the Hebrew text; such an evaluation would require at the very least a lengthy monograph. The topics which have been chosen reflect to a certain extent the potential wealth and diverse value of the Ugaritic texts for Hebrew studies.

I. Cooking A Kid (Dt. 14:21b)

The short biblical prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk has always been a source of curiosity. The context of the prohibition in Deuteronomy, provided by the laws concerning permitted and prohibited foodstuffs, might suggest that the legislation is concerned in some sense with diet, yet the precise significance is still not clear. Maimondes had this to say:3

Meat boiled in milk is undoubtedly gross food, and makes overfull; but I think that most probably it is also prohibited because it is somehow connected with idolatry, forming perhaps part of the service, or being used on some festival of the heathen . . . This I consider the best reason for the prohibition; but as far as I have seen the books on Sabean rites, nothing is mentioned of this custom.

Maimonides’ suggestion made good sense, though from his time until the early twentieth century, there has been no solid external evidence to support the suggestion. Soon after the first discovery of the Ugaritic texts, however, it appeared that a parallel had been found at last.

In 1933, Charles Vi...

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