Ugarit, Canaan, And Israel -- By: Peter C. Craigie

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 34:1 (NA 1983)
Article: Ugarit, Canaan, And Israel
Author: Peter C. Craigie


Ugarit, Canaan, And Israel

Peter C. Craigie

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between the Old Testament and one part of its ancient environment, namely Syria-Palestine, or the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard. To be more precise, the basic interest of the paper is in the discipline that is now commonly called Hebrew-Ugaritic studies, but because that discipline is fraught with a variety of theoretical difficulties, a third element is introduced, namely Canaan. In theory, one might suppose that the general difficulties involved in comparative Hebrew-Ugaritic studies would be reduced by introduction of Canaan into the equation.

At the outset, it may be noted that the three terms in the title are not precisely the same in nature. (i) Ugarit refers to both a city and a kingdom; it designates a small nation state, located on the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean, that came to an end early in the 12th century B.C. (ii) Canaan, on the other hand, does not refer to a single unitary state; it refers rather to a geographical area occupied over time by a variety of different states, located on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean.1 Chronologically, the term Canaan continues in use after the demise of Ugarit. (iii) Israel designates a nation state, and before that, a people.2 Geographically, it is located in Canaan; chronologically, it comes into existence, as a state after the demise of Ugarit. From this brief description of the terms, a part of the problem under consideration is immediately evident. A comparison of Ugarit and Israel involves the comparison of two states, and hence two national

cultures and all their component parts. On the other hand, the one kingdom ceased to exist before the other came into national existence, and the one was located on the northern Mediterranean seaboard (near the East Semitic and Hittite civilizations) whereas the other was situated on the southern Mediterranean seaboard (adjacent to the great Egyptian Empire). Such divergencies of chronology, geography, and context comprise the difficulties of comparison, and in the attempt to resolve such difficulties, resort may be made to Canaan.

A common assumption in the introduction of Canaan to the area of comparative studies is that it may form a kind of cultural bridge between the two poles, providing the missing link and overcoming the difficulties. The assumption has become so deep-seated that it is rarely questioned. Thus Ugaritic myths and legends are commonly labelled Canaanite myths and legends, to use the most obvious example.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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