The Garments of Torah: Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview
Save to active project


It is sometimes necessary to "go to the Indies," as an old saw has it, to see oneself in perspective. The historical and comparative study of religion has taken this advice with gusto, and the results in our century are a vast revisioning of the structures of religious experience and expression. Poor Dorian Gray, the lens which catches his image is ever-changing. One must therefore be concerned that the cultural configurations reflected by scholarly study adequately approximate the phenomena at hand. And one must ask: are these patterns merely methodological projections which over-assimilate distinct data; or is there real explanatory power in the models used for analysis? Such questions become more acute as the amount of detail diminishes—which is often the case for the religions of Near Eastern antiquity. Frequently, structural polarities which seem productive from one perspective are distorting from quite another; and apparently fundamental differences are often more reconcilable than one may initially think. It is then intriguing to correlate these intersecting structures, and to trace their transformations from one "pure" type to another.

In the following, I aim to reconsider the old and vaunted polarity of ancient Israel and its pagan neighbors. Formally, it would seem, the religious structures of Israel and Canaan are at irreconcilable odds—or so one would conclude from the face-off between Elijah and the prophets of Ba'al. But let us not forget that the prophetic purism of Elijah confronted a popular attitude in which such differences were less menacing. "How long," he demanded, "will you hop between two branches? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Ba'al [is God], follow him" (I Kings 18:21). One must wonder at the structure of this hopping, and ask how two such branches might stem from one tree? In order to appreciate the dialectics involved, the broad differences between Yahwism and Ba'alism must first be drawn. Since the evidence of Canaanite religion is sparse and scat‐

A version of this essay was originally published in The Other Side of God, ed. P. Berger (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981), 28-47, and is used here by permission.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Garments of Torah: Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 155

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?