Yahweh or the highway
June 3, 2015 1:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in reading a popular but scholarly book about the development of Yahweh from one of many gods in a polytheistic system to a singular monotheistic god. A history of the peoples of Palestine from pre-history up to Christianity, which tackles the Bible in its appropriate historical context, could hit the spot as well. What's best?
posted by lewedswiver to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Source? (Or do you mean non-fiction?)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:23 AM on June 3, 2015

Karen Armstrong's A History of God is probably a good starting point.
posted by crocomancer at 3:21 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

The best that I know of that is specifically focused on this topic is The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel by Mark S. Smith. I don't know that I would call it "popular" by I think it should be understandable by interested non-specialists.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:04 AM on June 3, 2015

This is not exactly what you're asking for, but may be of interest. Jack Miles' God: A Biography follows God's character development through the old testament. Early on, there are other gods and how God deals with them and how he changes as a result of his interactions with them is explored in detail.

It's a pretty serious literary studies book, but very readable regardless.
posted by congen at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I asked a friend who went to seminary to recommend her favorite books. One of the books she recommended was Memoirs Of God. It's a scholarly work, comprehensible by a general audience but not what I'd call a "pop" book.

I treasure book recommendations like this, as they have always served me well and broadened my horizons. So here's me passing it along to you in that same spirit.
posted by billjings at 7:17 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

(This is the same author as _The Early History Of God_ mentioned upthread, btw; it's for more of a general audience, though.)
posted by billjings at 7:18 AM on June 3, 2015

The Evolution of God covers some of this too.
posted by neat graffitist at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2015

How Jesus Became God, by Bart Ehrman, is more narrow in scope than your interest (it begins after monotheism has taken hold). Still, your question suggests that you may enjoy it.
posted by John Borrowman at 9:27 AM on June 3, 2015

Karen Armstrong's 'A History of God' was good, but mostly it is comparing the similarities in monotheist traditions between Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
It kind of starts mostly from a monotheist framework, and ends in a monotheist framework, without really discussing either origins or diversions that the "Religions of the Book" have had into duotheist or polytheist frameworks/belief.

For example, there is only very glancing mention made of Satan, the belief in whom, in a number of Christian traditions, seems to verge on a Zorostrian-like duotheism, which I find really interesting. And then there's all the Saints etc in others.
It's been a really long time since I read it, I just remember feeling like I had a really comprehensive view, but on reflection, that anything that didn't really speak to common monotheistic themes across Judaism, Islam and Christianity wasn't very well covered, but it was still an impressive undertaking.
posted by Elysum at 2:08 PM on June 3, 2015

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