JulianUgaritica 141015 ss.pdf


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Jewish Writings, actually argues textually that Yahweh is not the supreme GOD of the
Mosaic writings, but only one of the subordinate national or tribal gods (angels or sons of
god, MyIhølTaDh y´nV;b), who received Jacob or Israel as his heritage from the hand of the Most
High. In addition to arguing that the Jewish Yahweh occupies a problematic, because
inferior, position in the hierarchy of gods, Julian will also argue, based on biblical texts,
that it is impossible for any reasonable person to accept the angry, fearful god depicted in
the Mosaic writings as the archetypal Moral Being held up for example by the followers
of Jesus.
It is indeed a curious irony of history that the text of Julian’s Contra Galilaeos is
extant only reactively—it exists uniquely in fragments dialectically encased in the
writings of his bitterest Christian enemies. So it is in the bosom of Christian polemical
writings that Julian’s Contra Galilaeos is transmitted to posterity; contained for us today
in the very heart of Christian exposition is one of the most compelling challenges to the
Christian use, interpretation, and indeed appropriation and utter transformation of the
Hebrew Scriptures. In Proverbs (6:25) it is written: “Shall any one bind fire in his bosom,
and not burn his garments?” The proverb is all the more piquant because Julian’s
interpretations and analyses of the Jewish Scriptures will receive unexpected support in
1929 from the stunning archaeological findings at Ugarit (Ras Shamra, Syria).
The Ras Shamra findings have had a significant impact on helping late twentieth
century scholarship to identify more exactly specific gods in the hierarchy of divine
beings of the ancient Near East. These are ancient Near Eastern gods with personal
names who have been long lost—long suppressed—behind metaphorical translations in
the Hebrew Writings, but who continue nonetheless to be present in those writings,
having been absorbed into the Hebrew stories via the more ancient Ugaritic or early
Canaanite framing of those later stories. For, “[i]n fact, both centers”, represented by
Ugarit and Jerusalem, “grew out of a common cultural background.”6 Indeed, Julian’s
interpretations of the Mosaic writings, including his henotheistic framing and logically
consequent subordination of Yahweh, are sustained by nothing less than the accumulated
mythological weight of the entire ancient Near East.
Scholarly literature in the area of ancient Near Eastern archaeology and the Bible
clearly shows that our understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures has been enormously
enriched as a result of the discovery of the Ugaritic archives in Syria in 1929. Smith
(2002, 25 & 28), for instance, writes: “The evidence of the similarities between Canaanite
and Israelite societies has led to a major change in the general understanding of the
relationship between these two societies. Rather than viewing them as two separate
cultures, some scholars define Israelite culture as a subset of Canaanite culture.” And:
Israel inherited local cultural traditions from the Late Bronze Age…
Although one may not identify the local deities prior to and during the
emergence of Israel by equating Ugaritic religion with Canaanite religion,
the Ugaritic evidence is pertinent to the study of Canaanite religion since
inscriptions […] indicate that the deities of the land included El, Baal,
Asherah, and Anat, all major divinities known from the Ugaritic texts.

6

Fisher, 1972, xvii.

Contra Galilaios
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10/14/15