Ugaritic! Huh! What is it good for?! Absolutely everything…

The texts from the city of Ugarit and the language they were written in (Ugaritic) are far more important for understanding the Old Testament than the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the DSS hog all the press.
Logos is about to publish an electronic Ugaritic library. Instead of writing a lengthy post of my own, let me link to one of Logos’ academic staff, Mike Heiser, who explains why Ugaritic is so important. (See also this demo video for usage examples)

Incidentally, Mike is an Evangelical who wrote his dissertation on the Divine Council in the Hebrew Bible, and maintains, where he takes some unusual positions for an EV, uch as arguing that the Israelites were not pure monotheists.

He recently presented a paper, “You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. David Bokovoy (at Brandeis) has prepared a 44-page response, and summarizes Heiser’s paper and his response thereto on this board. (Might need to be logged in to see it.)

According to Bokovoy, “Heiser provides a list of sixteen points outlining his position regarding Psalm 82 and the divine council. Hesier divides these views into eight points with which many evangelicals would disagree, but concerning which ‘many Mormons would likely agree,’ followed by eight points ‘with which many Mormons would probably disagree, and with which many evangelicals would likely agree’.”

Good stuff.

12 Replies to “Ugaritic! Huh! What is it good for?! Absolutely everything…”

  1. Nitsav, thanks for the updates! I’ve never actually thought that anything Ugaritic could be remotely used for anything Mormon – the anachronism barrier kept me from drawing any similarities. Nice to know others have more wild imaginations than me.

    Ugaritic was actually one of my favorite classes. It was rigorous but illumined greatly the Hebrew. Most folks don’t know that it might be because of Ugaritic influence (the letter gayin if I recall) that we have the letter “G” in from of “Gomorrah,” which takes the ‘ayin in the Hebrew (and generally falls out of English). Somehow the gayin made it into the Greek pronunciation, from which the English is derived. (I might have screwed that all up – all from memory). I recall lots of other little goodies like that.

    HP, did they ever make you take it? I know the school you went to has some heavy hitter(s) in Ugaritic, and we referenced their work often in class.

  2. Ugaritic = cave man talk 😉


    How did Ugaritic “die out” or get replaced or whatever? And is this the corpus with the “twisting serpent” of Isaiah 27:1?

  3. Ugarit, like other large cities/civilizations around the Med. – Egypt, etc.- had a sudden (in some cases, final) slump during the 13th century. There’s no one factor, but the arrival of the Sea Peoples probably contributed. The Peleshet (=Philistines) were one group who arrived by sea, and the Danuna (= tribe of Dan? Jdg 5:17)were another.

    This is indeed the twisting serpent corpus. The flash video linked to above makes mention of that.

  4. As to Ugaritic “dying out,” that is hard to say. The city was destroyed in the 13th century BCE by either the Sea People invaded, a massive earthquake, or a massive fire (possibly caused by the Sea People or the earthquake).

    Ugaritic is taken to be typical of “Canaanite” even though it is well to the north of the area we now consider to be Canaan (in fact, there is a scholarly debate regarding whether or not it can be considered Canaanite at all). As the twisting serpent shows, the poetry of 13th century coastal Northern Syria had made the transition into 8th century Judah. That is a gap of 500 years wherein we don’t know what was happening with the language, including how it got down to Jerusalem. It is very similar to Phoenician and Hebrew, so it is assumed that a common culture either pervaded all three areas (Coastal Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine) or that they all derive from a common source (or a combination of these things). Pretty much all generalities made about Canaanite religion have come from Ugaritic texts since they started to be discovered in the 1940’s. This has also led some people (including me) to look to Ugaritic for clues to how 1st Temple Israelite religion might have looked.

  5. HP,
    Did you go to Ugarit when you were in Syria?

    It’s a cool place, and when I was there, we had the whole place to ourselves.

    All praise to cuneiform!

  6. I don’t think that you are aware that Mike (Heiser) did respond to Bokovoy’s response. I don’t know if FARMS has published any of the essays yet.

    You really need to check Mike’s response to Bokovoy’s response out.

  7. Hey Mike.

    I haven’t seen it yet, but William Schniedewind of UCLA just barely published A Primer of Ugaritic

    That’s probably the cheapest and most accessible entry point if you don’t have a professor or class setting to work with. Enjoy it 🙂

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