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Translation of the gods

I mentioned before the "translation" of the gods in the ancient world, but I never really explained what that was. The idea is that all over the ancient world, one culture would translate another culture's deities into their own deities. The Egyptians would make a treaty with Hatti, and in the treaty would call on both sides' gods to make the pact (they believed in both sets of gods), and often they would compare their gods (Shemesh the God of the sun is the same as Re in Egypt). Many of these local deities represented international ideas, and therefore when those people clashed with other cultures, they would note that the other culture also worshipped the same kind of deity ... who is obviously the same.

We see the same thing happening in ancient Israel. Whereas God (Yahweh of the Old Testament) specifically said that there are no other gods but Him, the people (in general) didn't fully comprehend this until the time of the Exile. Instead, they would see things from the local deities (like Ba'al) and simply translate those ideas onto Yahweh. It wasn't too long before they started comparing Yahweh to Ba'al in other ways. In fact, we have inscriptions talking about Yahweh and his wife, Asherah (Ba'al's wife).

I have uploaded a picture of one of the two horned gods of Enkomi in Cyprus. Just like Ba'al, this unknown horned god is also Canaanite. The Phoenicians made it a point to not only explore the sea, but to spread their culture every where they went. They were so good at it that Ba'alism lived on outside of Canaan long after it died out inside Canaan. As a matter of fact, and I somewhat doubt the full truth to this, Philo of Byblos claims that the Roman gods who are the Greek gods were originally based on the Phoenician gods. Philo relates Chronos to El in Canaan.

It is easy to see how these gods translate between the different cultures, and it is even easier to see how Israel simply grabbed onto the world around them and made it their own. I wonder how much of this we do today in our own culture. We are, after all, supposed to live in the world but not be of it.

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