Interest in the subject of demonology in ancient Israel-Judah/early Judaism has grown in recent years, and the present work represents the most recent monograph contribution to the conversation. In Materiality Brian Schmidt, who has already made significant forays into relevant topics such as Israelite mortuary cult and religion at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (KA), returns to build upon and nuance his earlier work with a special focus on apotropaic magic as evidenced in archaeological, epigraphic, and biblical sources. The stated goal is ambitious, to establish based on historical and comparative analysis the “survival and viability of a previously unidentified, yet extant pandemonium in preexilic Israelite magic” (p. 13).
An updated form of my article “The Identity of the Standing Figures on Pithos A from Kuntillet ʿAjrud: A Reassessment” has been published with Brill at JANER 16: 121-191.
In Where the Gods Are Smith addresses the timely topic of deities in relation to space in the ancient world and the Bible. Building off and drawing on previously published material, Smith presents an admirably concise and yet broad comparative discussion on the issues of divine representation and anthropomorphism, clarifying the various strategies and means by which humans mediated divine presence in their social and political world. Continue reading
In the Invention of God, Thomas Römer tackles the perennial question of the origins and evolution of the god of Israel. Incorporating a wealth of archaeological and biblical data, Römer traces the complex and multi-layered history of the deity, showing how an obscure desert war god YHWH eventually became the singular God of monotheistic religions. Although the topic has received extensive treatment in recent decades, Römer’s discussion is fresh, accessible, and state of the art, demonstrating a broad knowledge of various disciplines and fields of study and especially critical analysis of the biblical texts.
I have now posted my article on the standing figures on Pithos A from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud here.
The question of the identity of the two standing figures at the center of pithos A continues to be a subject of vigorous debate, with the scholarly community divided over whether they should be explained in light of the inscription invoking Yahweh and his asherah that is situated above them. In this article, I review the main iconographic arguments for identifying the figures as Yahweh and his female partner and in the process respond to some of the common objections that have been raised against the hypothesis. These include the figures’ sexual dualism, overlapping pose as male and female partners, their Bes-like and bovine features, the evidence for a shared mythological compatibility between Bes and Yahweh, and the larger iconographic context of the pithos.